Administration of the Delhi Sultanate
The establishment and expansion of the Delhi Sultanate led to the evolution of a powerful and efficient administrative system. At its zenith the authority of Delhi Sultan had extended as far south as Madurai. Although the Delhi Sultanate had disintegrated, their administrative system made a powerful impact on the Indian provincial kingdoms and later on the Mughal system of administration. The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic state with its religion Islam. The Sultans considered themselves as representatives of the Caliph. They included the name of the Caliph in the khutba or prayer and inscribed it on their coins. Although Balban called himself the shadow of God, he continued to practice of including the name of Caliph in the khutba and coins. Iltutmish, Muhammad bin Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq obtained mansur or letter of permission from the Caliph. The office of the Sultan was the most important in the administrative system. He was the ultimate authority for the military, legal and political activities. There was no clear law of succession during this period. All the sons had equal claim to the throne. Iltutmish even nominated his daughter in preference to his sons. But such nominations or successions were to be accepted by the nobles. Sometimes ulemas played crucial role in accepting the succession to the throne. However, the military superiority remained the main factor in matters of succession.
The Sultan was assisted by a number of departments and officials in his administration. The post of Naib was the most powerful one. The Naib practically enjoyed all the powers of the Sultan and exercised general control over all the departments. Next to him was the Wazir who was heading the finance department called Diwani Wizarat.
The military department was called Diwani Ariz. It was headed by Ariz-i-mumalik. He was responsible for recruiting the soldiers and administering the military department. He was not the commander-in-chief of the army. The Sultan himself was the commander-in-chief of the army. The military department was first set up by Balban and it was further improved by Alauddin Khalji under whom the strength of the army crossed three lakh soldiers. Alauddin introduced the system of branding of the horses and payment of salary in cash. Cavalry was given importance under the Delhi Sultanate.
Diwani Rasalat was the department of religious affairs. It was headed by chief Sadr. Grants were made by this department for the construction and maintenance of mosques, tombs and madrasas. The head of the judicial department was the chief Qazi. Other judges or qazis were appointed in various parts of the Sultanate. Muslim personal law or sharia was followed in civil matters. The Hindus were governed by their own personal law and their cases were dispensed by the village panchayats. The criminal law was based on the rules and regulations made by the Sultans. The department of correspondence was called Diwani Insha. All the correspondence between the ruler and the officials was dealt with by this department.
The provinces under the Delhi Sultanate were called iqtas. They were initially under the control of the nobles. But the governors of the provinces were called the muqtis or walis. They were to maintain law and order and collect the land revenue. The provinces were divided into shiqs and the next division was pargana. The shiq was under the control of shiqdar. The pargana comprising a number of villages was headed by amil. The village remained the basic unit of the administration. The village headman was known as muqaddam or chaudhri. The village accountant was called patwari.
After consolidating their position in India, the Delhi Sultans introduced reforms in the land revenue administration. The lands were classified into three categories:
1. iqta land – lands assigned to officials as iqtas instead of payment for their services.
2. khalisa land – land under the direct control of the Sultan and the revenues collected were spent for the maintenance of royal court and royal household.
3. inam land – land assigned or granted to religious leaders or religious institutions.
The peasantry paid one third of their produce as land revenue, and sometimes even one half of the produce. They also paid other taxes and always led a hand-to-mouth living. Frequent famines made their lives more miserable. However, Sultans like Muhammad bi Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq took efforts to enhance agricultural production by providing irrigational facilities and by providing takkavi loans. They also encouraged the farmers to cultivate superior crop like wheat instead of barley. Firoz encouraged the growth of horticulture. Muhammad bin Tughlaq created a separate agricultural department, Diwani Kohi.
During the Sultanate period, the process of urbanization gained momentum. A number of cities and towns had grown during this period. Lahore, Multan, Broach, Anhilwara, Laknauti, Daulatabad, Delhi and Jaunpur were important among them. Delhi remained the largest city in the East. The growth of trade and commerce was described by contemporary writers. India exported a large number of commodities to the countries on the Persian Gulf and West Asia and also to South East Asian countries. Overseas trade was under the control of Multanis and Afghan Muslims. Inland trade was dominated by the Gujarat Marwari merchants and Muslim Bohra merchants. Construction of roads and their maintenance facilitated for smooth transport and communication. Particularly the royal roads were kept in good shape. Sarais or rest houses on the highways were maintained for the convenience of the travelers. Cotton textile and silk industry flourished in this period. Sericulture was introduced on a large scale which made India less dependent on other countries for the import of raw silk. Paper industry had grown and there was an extensive use of paper from 14th and 15th centuries. Other crafts like leather-making, metal-crafts and carpet-weaving flourished due to the increasing demand. The royal karkhanas supplied the goods needed to the Sultan and his household. They manufactured costly articles made of gold, silver and gold ware. The nobles also aped the life style of Sultans and indulged in luxurious life. They were well paid and accumulated enormous wealth.
The system of coinage had also developed during the Delhi Sultanate. Iltutmish issued several types of silver tankas. One silver tanka was divided into 48 jitals during the Khalji rule and 50 jitals during the Tughlaq rule. Gold coins or dinars became popular during the reign of Alauddin Khalji after his South Indian conquests. Copper coins were less in number and dateless. Muhammad bin Tughlaq had not only experimented token currency but also issued several types of gold and silver coins. They were minted at eight different places. At least twenty five varieties of gold coins were issued by him.
There was little change in the structure of the Hindu society during this period. Traditional caste system with the Brahmins on the upper strata of the society was prevalent. The subservient position of women also continued and the practice of sati was widely prevalent. The seclusion of women and the wearing of purdah became common among the upper class women. The Arabs and Turks brought the purdah system into India and it became widespread among the Hindu women in the upper classes of north India.
During the Sultanate period, the Muslim society remained divided into several ethnic and racial groups. The Turks, Iranians, Afghans and Indian Muslims developed exclusively and there were no intermarriages between these groups. Hindu converts from lower castes were also not given equal respect. The Muslim nobles occupied high offices and very rarely the Hindu nobles were given high position in the government. The Hindus were considered zimmis or protected people for which they were forced to pay a tax called jiziya. In the beginning jiziya was collected as part of land tax. Firoz Tughlaq separated it from the land revenue and collected jiziya as a separate tax. Sometimes Brahmins were exempted from paying jiziya.
Art and Architecture
The art and architecture of the Delhi Sultanate period was distinct from the Indian style. The Turks introduced arches, domes, lofty towers or minarets and decorations using the Arabic script. They used the skill of the Indian stone cutters. They also added colour to their buildings by using marbles, red and yellow sand stones. In the beginning, they converted temples and other structures demolished into mosques. For example, the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque near Qutub Minar in Delhi was built by using the materials obtained from destroying many Hindu and Jain temples. But later, they began to construct new structures. The most magnificent building of the 13th century was the Qutub Minar which was founded by Aibek and completed by Iltutmish. This seventy one metre tower was dedicated to the Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakthiyar Kaki. The balconies of this tower were projected from the main building and it was the proof of the architectural skills of that period. Later, Alauddin Khalji added an entrance to the Qutub Minar called Alai Darwaza. The dome of this arch was built on scientific lines. The buildings of the Tughlaq period were constructed by combining arch and dome. They also used the cheaper and easily available grey colour stones. The palace complex called Tughlaqabad with its beautiful lake was built during the period of Ghyasuddin Tughlaq. Muhammad bin Tughlaq built the tomb of Ghyasuddin on a high platform. The Kotla fort at Delhi was the creation of Firoz Tughlaq. The Lodi garden in Delhi was the example for the architecture of the Lodis.
New musical instruments such as sarangi and rabab were introduced during this period. Amir Khusrau introduced many new ragas such as ghora and sanam. He evolved a new style of light music known as qwalis by blending the Hindu and Iranian systems. The invention of sitar was also attributed to him. The Indian classical work Ragadarpan was translated into Persian during the reign of Firoz Tughlaq. Pir Bhodan, a Sufi saint was one of the great musicians of this period. Raja Man Singh of Gwalior was a great lover of music. He encouraged the composition of a great musical work called Man Kautuhal.
The Delhi Sultans patronized learning and literature. Many of them had great love for Arabic and Persian literature. Learned men came from Persia and Persian language got encouragement from the rulers. Besides theology and poetry, the writing of history was also encouraged. Some of the Sultans had their own court historians. The most famous historians of this period were Hasan Nizami, Minhaj-us-Siraj, Ziauddin Barani, and Shams-Siraj Afif. Barani’s Tarikhi- Firoz Shahi contains the history of Tughlaq dynasty. Minhaj-us-Siraj wrote Tabaqat-i-Nasari, a general history of Muslim dynasties up to 1260.
Amir Khusrau (1252-1325) was the famous Persian writer of this period. He wrote a number of poems. He experimented with several poetical forms and created a new style of Persian poetry called Sabaqi-Hind or the Indian style. He also wrote some Hindi verses. Amir Khusrau’s Khazain-ul-Futuh speaks about Alauddin’s conquests. His famous work Tughlaq Nama deals with the rise of Ghyiasuddin Tughlaq. Sanskrit and Persian functioned as link languages in the Delhi Sultanate. Zia Nakshabi was the first to translate Sanskrit stories into Persian. The book Tutu Nama or Book of the Parrot became popular and translated into Turkish and later into many European languages. The famous Rajatarangini written by Kalhana belonged to the period of Zain-ul-Abidin, the ruler of Kashmir. Many Sanskrit works on medicine and music were translated into Persian.
In Arabic, Alberuni’s Kitab-ul-Hind is the most famous work. Regional languages also developed during this period. Chand Baradi was the famous Hindi poet of this period. Bengali literature had also developed and Nusrat Shah patronized the translation of Mahabaratha into Bengali. The Bakthi cult led to development of Gujarati and Marathi languages. The Vijayanagar Empire patronized Telugu and Kannada literature.