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Sultanate Period Art

Sultanate Period Art

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Sultanate dynasties

This was the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate period, it was the foundation
dynasty of the period. It was founded by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, who declared himself
the Sultan after the death of his master, Muhammed of Ghur. Most of the nobles
supported him, although he faced a brief contest with Taj-ud-din. Eventually
Qutub-ud-din-Aibak emerged as an Indian Sultan, with Taj-ud-din remaining an
Afghanistan Sultan.

Qutub-ud-din-Aibak was a strong, fair and able king. He is reported to rarely have
lost a battle was known for delivering fair justice to his citizens. He attempted
to bring peace and prosperity to his citizens in a turbulent time. He was a devout
Muslim and built several mosques. His rule was very brief lasting just a few
years. He is the person who started the construction of the Qutab Minar in Delhi,
which was completed by his successor. After his death a power struggle broke out
and Malik Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, Qutub-ud-din- Aibak's son-in-law succeeded to
the throne. Accounts say that Iltutmish was a remarkably handsome and intelligent
man. After ascending to the throne, he went about consolidating his position and
through a series of battles extended the empire. In 1229 AD Iltutmish received an
important honor from Ali Mastansir Billah, the Khalifah of Baghdad. He was given
the title of Sultan-I-Azam (Great Sultan) and recognized as the sovereign ruler of
the land that he had conquered. This raised Iltutmish's stature and authority in
the Muslim world, and was an important step in creating a separate identity for
the new rulers of India. In 1221 AD Iltutmish had to fend off a Mongol attack lead
by the famous Chengiz Khan. A famous invader of that time he had over run vast
areas of Asia in an extremely short time span. Iltutmish tactfully refused to give
a fugitive of the Mongols refuge in India, and this spared the country from a
Mongol attack, although such attacks would rock the Sultanate in the future.
Iltutmish was one of the greatest rulers of the early Sultanate. He played a key
role in ensuring that the Sultanate was able to maintain its hold over India and
extended the empire to a large part of the country. He was fond of art, literature
and architecture and completed the Qutab Minar of Delhi. He was also religious and
was very particular about saying his prayers. At the time of his death he
nominated Raziyya his daughter to be the next Sultan, as he felt that none of his
sons were capable of running the empire.

However, the nobles of the time were not prepared to have a woman as a ruler, and
hence got together and put up the eldest surviving son, Rukn-ud-din Firuz to the
throne. This proved to be a grave mistake as he had little interest or capability
in running the kingdom. His mother Shah Turkhan took advantage of her son's
disinterest in running the empire and seized control. The empire was thrown into
disarray and the credibility of the central government plummeted. The nobles then
did an about turn and reinstated Raziyya as the Sultan. The young queen still
faced opposition from a section of nobles who could not reconcile themselves to
being ruled by a woman. However, Raziyya was a very capable ruler and was able to
overcome the many difficulties that confronted her. She was tactful and diplomatic
and hence was able to overpower her enemies and was soon able to re- establish the
authority of the Sultanate in the country. She discarded female attire and dressed
like a man, endeavoring in every way to function as a male king would. Many
governors accepted her as their Sultan. She did face opposition however and in the
early part of the rule a thousand armed men attempted an attack but were dispersed
by the royal guards. Unfortunately however her luck ran out. She made a tactically
error in elevating a slave to the post of master of the stables, and this offended
the Turkish nobles. Soon a revolt broke out and the governor of Sarhind, Ikhtiyar-
ud-din Altuniya waged a battle against the queen and managed to capture her. Her
brother Muiz-ud-din Bahram was instated as the Sultan. Raziyya made a last ditch
attempt to save herself, and won over Ikhtiyar-ud-din Altuniya by marrying him.
Together they marched to Delhi but before they could reach there they were

attacked by Muiz-ud-din Bahram's forces and defeated after their own forces
deserted them. Both husband and wife were put to death, ending the brief three
years of her reign.

After her death the country was once again thrown into disarray as her brothers
were incompetent in ruling. The situation deteriorated rapidly and finally the
nobles put up one of the younger sons of Iltutmish, Nasir-ud-din as the next
Sultan. He also was not up to the task and the real power behind the throne was
his deputy, Ghiyas-ud-din Balban. Balban prove to be a capable ruler and soon
began repairing the damage done to the state. Unfortunately however his opponents
succeeded in getting the Sultan to exile him in 1223. However, after the gross
mismanagement of successors he was recalled two years later and re-instated. When
Nasir-ud-din died in 1266 leaving no male heir, Balban succeeded to the throne.
Balban was an ideal candidate as he had proven his ability and was also considered
to be the Sultan's nominated choice for successor.

The empire that Balban inherited was in a very precarious condition. In the thirty
years that had elapsed since the death of Iltutmish, the state had fallen into
chaos due to the incompetence of his successors. The national treasury was almost
empty and the prestige of the central government had fallen considerably. The need
of the hour was for a strong and able king, one who would restore the kingdom to
its former glory. Balban proved to be such a king, and during his tenure he
ensured that the Delhi Sultanate would continue to be an important power in India.

Balban was an experienced administrator and so he swiftly brought order in the
administration. Balban made a serious attempt at controlling the power and
influence of the nobles, which was beginning to get out of hand, and was partly
successful in this task. He also re-organized the army and then turned his
attention towards restoring order in the kingdom. The kingdom had lapsed into
complete anarchy and the economy was very shaky, as doing business was a risky
affair because with the high rate of crime even one's life was unsafe. Balban
successfully restored order in the kingdom and also fended off rebels. One of
Balban's main tasks was to restore the prestige of the Sultanate. After ascending
to the throne he adopted a dignified mode of living and remodelled his court on
Persian customs and styles. Balban's court was one of the finest during the
Sultanate period, and it was a platform for poets and artists. Balban was very
particular about dignity, he would always appear in his full dress even in front
of his private attendants. He removed people from humble backgrounds from
important posts as he wished to give his court and administration a more polished
look. Balban was also an able dispenser of justice and this was one of his
priorities as he believed the prosperity of the state rests on the happiness of
his citizens. Balban was an important Sultan of the sultanate period as he rescued
it from one of its weakest positions. He fended off internal and external threats,
and set the empire back on track. He may not have extended the empire, or made
radical improvements in administration, but he made the important contribution of
setting the groundwork for a strong king to take the Sultanate to even higher
standards. His death marked the end of the Slave Dynasty for his successor was
weak and was soon overthrown by Jalal-ud-din Khilji who founded the next dynasty
of the Sultanate period, the Khilji dynasty.

Delhi Sultanate
From: The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition | Date: 2007
Print Digg del.icio.us
Delhi Sultanate refers to the various Muslim dynasties that ruled in India (1210-

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