THE SULTANATE OF DELHI
MUHAMMAD GHORI AND PRITHVIRAJ
The armies of Prithviraj, the powerful Chauhan king of Ajmer and Delhi, advanced to meet him at Tarain. Muhammad's soldiers were fine horsemen, but the Rajputs were equally good. There was a great battle in which the Rajputs defeated the invaders. Muhammad Ghori fled back to Afghanistan, but he did not forget his defeat.
The following year, Muhammad came again with a larger army and met Prithviraj at the same battlefield. This time Prithviraj was defeated and he died fighting. Songs about Prithviraj's bravery are still sung by bards in Rajasthan.
Muhammad Ghori won the throne of Delhi from the Rajputs and went back to Afghanistan. He had a very clever slave called Qutbuddin Aibak whom he had made viceroy. Qutbuddin conquered many kingdoms for his master. Another officer, Bakhtiar Khalji, led armies into Bihar and Bengal. The Rajput ruling families had to surrender to the Muslims. When Muhammad Ghori died, Qutbuddin Aibak became the Sultan of Delhi. He was the first independent Muslim ruler in India. For more than 600 years after him, all the kings on the throne of Delhi were followers of Islam.
THE SLAVE KINGS
After Qutbuddin, Iltutmish became king. Iltutmish completed the famous Qutub Minar at Delhi, which was started by Qutbuddin. He ruled with the help of 40 slaves, who were his chief oflicers. Because of this and because Qutbuddin had himself been a slave, the first Muslim kings of Delhi are known as the Slave dynasty.
Iltutmish had a daughter called Razia. When he became old, he thought that after him she would be able to rule much better than any of her brothers. And so, when Iltutmish died, Razia became Sultana. She was a wise and kind queen, and looked after her people well. She dressed like a man, and rode an elephant at the head of her troops. Razia was the only Muslim queen ever to sit on the throne of Delhi. Many of her generals did not like the idea of a woman ruling over them and had Razia Sultana murdered.
After the Slave kings, four more families ruled Delhi, until Babar came and started the rule of the Mughals. These four were the Khalji, the Tughlak, the Sayyid and the Lodi dynasties.
Among the Khaljis the most famous king was Alauddin. He began his conquests even before he came to the throne. He led an army across the Vindhya Mountains to the Deccan and won much wealth.
When he became king, he gave orders that there were to be no parties, no drinking of wine and no gambling. His officers were not allowed to meet each other. This was because Alauddin was afraid they would plot against him if they got together. He did not want his nobles to become too strong lest they trouble the poor people.
Alauddin fought Rajput kingdoms and extended his empire in the south. He wanted to make sure that his kingdom remained safe from invasions from outside; so he kept a strong army. But the pay of the soldiers was small. Alauddin lowered the price of food and cloth so that they might have no difficulty in buying what they needed.
One of Alauddin's generals, Malik Kafur, invaded the south. This was the first time that a Muslim army had marched into the Tamil kingdoms. Malik Kafur returned with great riches, heaps of pearls and precious stones, many horses and elephants and 96,000 maunds of gold!
Alauddin could barely read or write, but at his court lived a great poet. This was Amir Khusro. Khusro was a great friend and disciple of the saintly Nizamuddin near whose tomb in Delhi he lies buried. Khusro composed clever pahelis (riddles) in Hindi. A typical one has been translated like this:
All twenty lost their head, No life was lost, and no blood was shed.
Can you guess the answer? It is: toenails and fingernails. Khusro also wrote in Persian, and was a very fine musician too. He invented the Sitar.
Alauddin was a fearless king and a strange mixture of good and bad. He could be very cruel, but he could also be very just. One day his Qazi told him that the bazaar of Delhi was full of dishonest shopkeepers. Alauddin was very angry that his people were being cheated. He at once appointed daroghas to keep a check on the bazaar, and passed laws against those who tried to make unfair profits.
MUHAMMAD BIN TUGHLAK
Some years after the death of Alauddin the crown passed to the house of Tughlaks. Muhammad bin Tughlak, who belonged to this dynasty, was a learned but a most impractical man. He was full of plans and ideas, but many of his ideas only led to trouble for his people.
Once he decided to shift his capital a thousand miles away from Delhi, so that it could be nearer the centre of the country. All men, women, and children, even blind and lame beggars were ordered to leave their homes and shift to Devagiri, the new capital. A year later he ordered all of them to return because the scheme did not work out.
Another time he gave orders that copper coins should be considered equal in value to coins of gold and silver. He did this so that even the poorer people should have enough money. But what actually happened was that many people began to make their own copper coins. After some time the kingdom became very poor. Gold and silver disappeared and there were so many copper coins that they were hardly worth anything at all. When Muhammad Tughlak saw this, he cancelled his unfortunate order.
The next Tughlak ruler, Firoz, tried to repair the harm done by Muhammad's wild plans. He decided not to waste money on wars. Instead he built canals, bridges, tanks, schools and colleges. The happiness of the farmers was very important to him. He also loved learning and many of the ancient Sanskrit books of India were translated into Persian by his order.
The Tughlak kings who came after Firoz were weak. Their officers plotted against each other, and there were Civil wars. Because of lack of unity India was again open to invasions from the northwest.