Delhi Sultanate
1206 Jan 1 - 1526

Delhi Sultanate

Delhi, India

The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic empire based in Delhi that stretched over large parts of South Asia for 320 years (1206–1526). Following the invasion of the subcontinent by the Ghurid dynasty, five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–1290), the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). It covered large swathes of territory in modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as well as some parts of southern Nepal.

The foundation of the Sultanate was laid by Ghurid conqueror Muhammad Ghori, who routed the Rajput Confederacy led by Ajmer ruler Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192 CE near Tarain, after suffering a reverse against them earlier. As a successor to the Ghurid dynasty, the Delhi Sultanate was originally one among a number of principalities ruled by the Turkic slave-generals of Muhammad Ghori, including Yildiz, Aibak and Qubacha, that had inherited and divided the Ghurid territories amongst themselves. After a long period of infighting, the Mamluks were overthrown in the Khalji revolution, which marked the transfer of power from the Turks to a heterogeneous Indo-Muslim nobility. Both of the resulting Khalji and Tughlaq dynasties respectively saw a new wave of rapid Muslim conquests deep into South India. The sultanate finally reached the peak of its geographical reach during the Tughlaq dynasty, occupying most of the Indian subcontinent under Muhammad bin Tughluq. This was followed by decline due to Hindu reconquests, Hindu kingdoms such as the Vijayanagara Empire and Mewar asserting independence, and new Muslim sultanates such as the Bengal Sultanate breaking off. In 1526, the Sultanate was conquered and succeeded by the Mughal Empire.

The sultanate is noted for its integration of the Indian subcontinent into a global cosmopolitan culture (as seen concretely in the development of the Hindustani language and Indo-Islamic architecture), being one of the few powers to repel attacks by the Mongols (from the Chagatai Khanate) and for enthroning one of the few female rulers in Islamic history, Razia Sultana, who reigned from 1236 to 1240. Bakhtiyar Khalji's annexations involved large-scale desecration of Hindu and Buddhist temples (contributing to the decline of Buddhism in East India and Bengal), and the destruction of universities and libraries. Mongolian raids on West and Central Asia set the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, intelligentsia, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from those regions into the subcontinent, thereby establishing Islamic culture in India and the rest of the region.