Slave Dynasty (Ghulam Dynasty, Mamluk Dynasty) in India

Introduction

Slave Dyansty in India is also referred to as Mamluk dynasty and Ghulam dynasty. It was founded by Qutubuddin Aibak.

Muhammad Ghori died in 1206 A.D. and his Indian kingdom passed into the hands of his slave, and general Qutub-ud-din Aibak, whom Ghori had earlier appointed as the Governor of India. Muhammad Ghori’s death brought for Aibak his formal recognition as the Sultan of Delhi from Ghias-ud- din Muhammad, the nephew and successor of Muhammad Ghori in Ghor.

Thus Qutub-ud-din Aibak ascended the throne of Delhi in 1206 and with him started a new line of successive kings in Delhi hitherto came to be known as the slave dynasty in the history of the Delhi Sultanate Qutub-ud-din Aibak and all his successors were slaves to their respective predecessors. Three families of the slaves are known in history after their founders, i.e. Qutub-ud-din Aibak, Iltutmish and Ghias -ud-din Balban. But excepting Qutub-ud-din Aibak both Iltutmish and Ghias-ud-din Balban were slaves only in their earlier career.

The slave kings ruled about eighty four years, from 1206 A.D. to 1290 A.D. Out of the ten kings who ruled during this period five kings rose to prominence and three of them rather reckoned among the greatest Sultans of history. These three greatest Sultans were Qutub-ud-din Aibak, Iltutmish and Ghias-ud-din Balban. The achievements of these three Sultans had enhanced the prestige and importance of the history of the Delhi Sultanate period.

Qutub-ud-din Aibak – Founder of the Sultanate of Delhi

Qutub-ud-din Aibak (also Qutubuddin Aibak, Qutb-ud-din Aibak) ruled for a shorter period of four years, from 1206 to 1210 A.D. He started the Slave dynasty. Virtually Qutub-ud-din Aibak is considered to be the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. It was Aibak who saved the infant state from all its impending dangers and immediate break up and also gave it its required stability.

Aibak realized that it would not be worth­while to crave for suzerainty over Gazni as that would cost him heavily. Hence he accepted the over lordship of Tazi-ud-din Yilduz in Gazni and Nasir-ud-din Qabacha (also Kubacha) on Sindh and Punjab to the west of the Indus. This action of Qutub-ud-din was indeed prudent enough as that had saved the Sultanate of Delhi from many dangers in its infancy.

Qutub-ud-din also formed matrimonial alliances with the above noted kings so that these rival powerful chiefs might not cause any trouble in future. In fact both Yilduz and Kubacha were the slaves of Muhammad Ghori and they could easily claim their right on the throne of Delhi. But Aibak cleverly diverted their attention from Delhi politics at least for a while.

It should also be remembered that the Delhi Sultanate was essentially a Muslim State System but the Muslims were the minority in number. In order to increase the number of these Muslim subjects, Qutub-ud-din lavishly bestowed munificence on the Muslim subjects and the Hindu converts. Thus Qutub-ud-din set an ideal which was blindly followed by all the subsequent monarchs of the Delhi Sultanate.

In fact Qutub- ud-din Aibak ruled for only four years. During this period he made no fresh conquests. He did not find time for establishing a sound system of administration either. His administration was purely military and rested absolutely on the strength of his army. Hence we cannot call him a constructive genius as he could not lay the foundation of a solid structure of civil administration. But he just saved the Turkish kingdom of Delhi from demise in its infancy. He subdued the revolting Bengal and Bihar. Ali Mardan, the self styled independent Sultan of Lakshanauati had to accept his suzerainty.

In fact Qutub-ud- din had been so much occupied with the politics of the north-western region and those of Bengal that he failed to pursue a policy of aggressive warfare against the Rajputs. While playing Polo, he fell from the horse and this caused his death in 1210 A.D. He was burned at Lahore and over his remains “a very unpretentious monument was raised which is hardly worthy of the first independent Turkish Sultan of Northern India.” But we shall always remember him for his greatest achievement of severing India’s connection with Gazni and “thus to put an end to Gazni’s sovereignty over Hindustan.”

Also read: Short Biography of Qutubuddin Aibak

Aram Shah

Aram Shah was the next sultan of Delhi. His reign was short lived. He came to power in 1210. He ruled for around one year and was soon replaced by Iltutmish in 1211.

Iltutmish

The next Sultan of eminence was Iltutmish who ascended the throne of Delhi in 1211 AD. He was not the rightful heir on the throne of Delhi for which some modern writers called him a usurper. But in reality he was not a usurper because at that time there was no unified Turkish State in the country.

As the Turks conquered Hindustan, they divided the land into four independent principalities—namely Lahore, Badaun, Lakhnauti, Multan and Uch. Iltutmish was selected by the nobility and the officials of Delhi who ruled practically over the rest. Iltutmish was a great military general and an able administrator too. Thus he was indeed a good choice for the throne and cannot be called a usurper in any sense of the term.

When Iltutmish became the Sultan, the Sultanate of Delhi was almost non-existent. However, he became the master of Delhi and Badaun and the outlying districts extending from Banaras in the East to the Sivalik hills on the West. Punjab was hostile. Kubachah, the master of Multan extended his boundaries up to Bhatinda, Khuram and Lahore. Ali Mardan the king of Lakhnauti (also Lakshanauati) became independent. The Rajput kings including Jalor, Ajmer, Gwalior and Doab assumed independence. Taj-ud-din Yalduz again claimed the sovereignty of entire Hindustan. Even the royal guards of Delhi allied with Aram Shah and revolted. Thus Iltutmish’s position from the very beginning became precarious.

Iltutmish was a shrewd and able king. Iltutmish pretended to recognize Yalduz as his sovereign master so as to avoid all controversies and tactfully put down Aram Shah’s party at Delhi who were creating menace for him. Thus making himself free from internal troubles he turned to settle his scores with Yalduz who by that time had occupied vast area of Punjab. Iltutmish was not ready to allow the Khwarizm Shah to claim Hindustan as a dependency of Gazni. Hence as Yalduz was driven out of Gazni by the Khwarizm Shah and took shelter at Lahore. Iltutmish marched against him and defeated the later. He also subdued Kubacha. Each of them accepted his complete subjugation.

But greater danger was waiting for Iltutmish. Changiz Khan, the great Mongol chief had dethroned the Khwarizm Shah and chased the Khwarizm Prince Zalal-ud-din up to Sind, the border region of Iltutmish’s empire. Zalal-ud-din sought refuge at Iltutmish’s court but the later was unwilling to become a party in the Central Asian politics either. Moreover it was very hard as well as dangerous game to resist the great Mongol who always carried death and destruction trailing behind him. Iltutmish was not in a position to resist this tyrant which would possibly crush the young Turkish empire of India. The Sultan realized the gravity of the situation and hence refused shelter to prince Zalal-ud-din. Changiz Khan retired from the gateway of India. Delhi was saved from a possible disaster.

Another achievement of Sultan Iltutmish was to give a legal status to the Sultanate of Delhi by the investiture which he received from the hands of the Caliph. This brought honor and prestige to the Sultanate in the Muslim world and served to consolidate the Turkish authority in India. He struck coins on which he described himself as the lieutenant of the Caliph. The coinage was issued in silver and was called the “Tanka.” It became the standard coins of the Sultanate and maintained its value even during the reign of Muhammad-bin-Tughluq where his own token coins had failed.

Also read: Shams-ud-din Iltutmish

Rukn-ud-din Firuz

Iltutmish was succeeded by his son, Rukn-ud-din Firuz. He could continue as sultan for seven months only. He was a weak ruler. He spent most of his time in pleasure and enjoyment.

Razia Sultana

She was the daughter of Iltutmish. She reigned for the period between 1236 and 1240. She was a brave and determined person. She had the qualities of a successful administrator. When faced with revolt, she joined hands with Malik Altunia and agreed to marry him. However, she was defeated and her brother, Muiz ud din Bahram, became the next sultan.

Also read: Razia Sultana

Nasiruddin Mahmud (Nasir-ud-din Firuz Shah)

Nasiruddin Mahmud (also Nasir-ud-din Firuz Shah) was the eighth sultan of Slave or Malmuk dynasty. He was the grandson of Iltutmish. He was a kind hearted, pious and religious person. During his reign from 1246 to 1266, the real authority of Delhi Sultanate was in the hands of his minister, Balban. Balban was the father-in-law of Nasiruddin Mahmud.

Ilbari Turk Baha-ud din Balban (Ghiyas-ud-din Balban)

Ghiyas-ud-din Balban (or Baha-ud-din Balban) was the next remarkable sultan of slave dynasty. He was earlier known as Baha-ud-din. Since, he was a Ilbari Turk, he was also known as Ilbari Turk Bahaud-din Balban.

His father was a Khan of 10,000 families but in his early youth he was captured by the Mongols who sold him as a slave at Ghazni. He was brought to Delhi and was sold to Sultan Iltutmish.

His intelligence, ability and loyalty had pleased Razia Sultant who promoted him to the post of Amir-i-Sikar. After the fall of the Sultana, Balban gradually rose into prominence and in 1246 he became the principal adviser of the young Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mahmud.

In 1266, he became the Sultan of Delhi assuming the title of Ghiyas-ud-din Balban. He was the sultan of delhi from 1266 to 1287. During this period his only aim was to consolidate the prestige, power and position of the crown which had fallen low in the days of his predecessors. He crushed the big feudal lords of the Turkish aristocracy and thereby gave a new colour to the Turkish State in the country.

He achieved his object ruthlessly and by striking terror all round. He reorganized the army and sub pressed the revolting chiefs of Rajputana and also recovered Bengal from the revolting general Tughril Khan, the governor of Bengal.

During his reign the menacing Mongols made several attempts to invade India but was successfully resisted. Thus when he died, Balban had ensured the safety of the Turkish state and gave it a new lease of life. He also ensured peace and order in the country possibly for the first time during the early Sultanate regime, which was not mean achievement in that age of Indian history.

Also read: Short biography of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Balban

Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Qaiqabad

He was the grandson of Balban and the last sultan of Slave dynasty. Muiz-ud-din Muhammad Qaiqabad reigned from 1287 to 1290. He was only eighteen years old when he ascended to the throne. He was completely under the influence of his wazir. The administration of the state fell into disorder. With the death of Qaiqabad, the slave dynasty came to an end. The slave dynasty was succeeded by Khilji dynasty. The first sultan of Khilji dynasty was Jalal-ud-din Firuz Khilji.

Conclusion

The greatest contribution, however, of the Sultans of slave dynasty had been in the field of architecture. A new Indo-Islamic style was evolved by a harmonious blending of Indian and Islamic traditions. Some of the splendid edifices of the period are the “Arhai-din-ka-jhopra” and the famous “Qutub Minar.” The slave Sultans laid the foundation on which the subsequent Khilji and Tughluq rulers erected their mighty empire.

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