Lodhi Dynasty

Lodhi -First Afghan Dynasty

All Turks are the rulers of Delhi sultanate, while Lodis who succeeded Sayyids were Afgans from 1451 to 1526. It was the last dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. They are rulers of Pashtun (Afghan) Ghilzai tribal origin and reigned during the last phase of the Delhi Sultanate. After the last Sayyid emperor, Mohammed-bin-Farid died in 1451, Bahlul Khan Lodi (died 1489), a warrior and governor of Punjab, came to the throne after other claimants abdicated. He stopped uprisings within provinces and garnered political support by giving Jaghirs (administrative territories) to his native Afghan nobles. His experiences as a governor before becoming emperor served him well, but his heirs were much less concerned than he was with good governance. They are described as becoming lazy and preoccupied with accumulation of wealth and with personal pleasure. Their own nobles invited Babur, the first Mughal emperor, to invade, which brought about the downfall of the Lodi dynasty. One contemporary observer, Guru Nanak saw this as divine punishment, and many people who believe that authority is both given and taken away by God would agree. God, said Nanak, is capable of reducing an army to ashes, and appointing someone insignificant to kingship.


Bhalul Khan Lodhi

He was the first king and the founder of the Lodhi dynasty. With a view to restoring the Delhi Sultanate its past glory, he conquered many territories including the powerful kingdom of Jaunpur. Buhlul Khan extended his territories over Gwalior, Jaunpur and Uttar Pradesh.


During his rule though there were numerous attempts to destabilize the empire, Buhlul managed to stand by the Lodhis. He captured a number of nearby states. This was the only Afghan dynasty to rule over the Delhi Sultanate, with the exception of Sher Shah Suri. Buhlul Khan seized the throne and managed the kingdom without much resistance from the then ruler, Alam Shah. Buhlul Khans territory was spread across Jaunpur, Gwalior & Uttar Pradesh. In 1486, he appointed his eldest son Barbak Shah as the Viceroy of Jaunpur.


Achievements of Bahlol Lodi as a ruler:

Bahlol Lodi was a courageous soldier, successful general, a great diplomat and a realist. He believed in the principle that the end justifies the means. He understood his limitations and circumstances.

Pragmatic dealing with Afghan nobles:

Bahlol won the confidence, cooperation and respect of the Afghan nobles with his very amiable behaviour. He gave them jagirs and high offices. He treated them as friends and considered himself as one of them. In a crisis, he would not hesitate to take off his turban from his head and solicit forgiveness from his Amirs saying, “If you think me unworthy of the situation I occupy, choose someone else and bestow on me some other office.” This paid him dividends. This enabled him to consolidate and utilize the strength of the Afghans in the interest of the state.


It is said about him that he personally attended on the sick nobles.The Sultan avoided showing his superior status. In the words of S.R. Sharma, “In social meetings he never sat on the throne and would not allow his nobles to stand; and even during public audiences he did not occupy the throne, but seated himself on a carpet.”


Conquests of Bahlol Lodi:

When he ascended the throne, the territory of his kingdom extended upto Palam and a few miles around Delhi. But the time he died at the age of eighty, his empire extended from Panipat to the frontiers of Bihar and included many important towns and cities. A part of Rajasthan was also under him. Bahlol’s most important conquest was that of the state of Jaunpur. This proved his military talents. It added to his resources and raised his prestige among nobles and other rulers.


A devout Muslim:

He was liberal in his general as well as religious outlook. He offered Namaz regularly. He kept the company of the Ulemas, studied Quran carefully but he was not a fanatic. He gave several important offices to the Hindus. Bahlol could be very generous to the defeated enemy. He captured twice the wife of his enemy ruler Hussain Shah but sent her back to her husband honourably both times.


Sikandar Lodi


Oh Buhlul’s death the nobles of the court were divided on the question of succession. One group supported succession of Nizam Khan, whom they got nominated by Buhlul Lodi before his death as the heir-apparent, the other group favored the succession of the eldest son of Buhlul, Barbak Shah, who was at the time of the death of Buhlul at Jaunpur. Nizam Khan’s mother boldly intervened on behalf of her son and he was crowned king on July 15, 1489. He took the title Sikandar Shah. He was, in fact, the ablest among the surviving sons of Buhlul and proved worthy of the choice as king.


Sikandar’s first task was to secure his own position by reducing his rivals to submission and strengthening his own followers. His uncle Alam Khan was an aspirant to the throne besides some others. Alam Khan was making preparations to assert his independence at Rapri and Chandwar. Sikandar marched against him, besieged Rapri and put him to flight. Isa Khan who was opposed to the succession of Sikandar gave asylum to Alam Khan and both now thought of taking the field against Sikandar. But Sikandar by his conciliatory policy towards Alam Khan won him over and granted him a fief at Etawah. Isa was then defeated. Azam Humayun, a cousin of Sikandar was also a candidate for the throne. Sikandar dispossessed him of his fief at Kalpi and bestowed it upon Muhammad Khan Lodi. Another opponent of Sikandar was Tatar Khan Lodi but Sikandar generously allowed him to remain in possession of Jhtra on his acknowledging Sikandar’s suzerainty. Thus within a year Sikandar succeeded in pacifying or subduing his opponents and rivals and thereby consolidating his power.


Sikandar’s ideal of kingship did not admit of any divided monarchy. He therefore would not allow, his elder brother Barbak Shah to rule in Jaunpur in complete independence. He, therefore, tried to bind Barbak in a subordinate alliance, and to that end sent a mission to him. But due to the influence of Husain Shah, the ex-king of Jaunpur, Barbak rejected the proposal. This made it necessary to subdue Barbak by military force. Sikandar marched against him upon which Barbak fled to Badaun where he was besieged and ultimately compelled to surrender. Sikandar restored Jaunpur to Barbak as a titular king there but divided the kingdom into a number of fiefs which he distributed among his followers. Sikandar also placed his trusted men in Barbak’s court and even in his household. Soon after the zamindars of Jaunpur rebelled against Barbak at the instigation of Husain Shah which compelled Barbak to flee to Dariyabad near Lucknow. Sikandar at once marched against the rebels, crushed them and reinstated Barbak to his kingdom. But Barbak, being inherently a weak ruler proved incompetent to run the administration whereupon Sikandar removed him and put him into confinement and appointed a governor at Jaunpur.


Sikandar & the Nobility: Sikandar Lodi was determined to bring the Afghan nobles under proper discipline and control. Although he did not make any fundamental change of the existing system of administration, he took measures to curb the individualistic tendencies and tribal independence of the Afghans and to make them contribute to the welfare of the entire Afghan community in India. He instituted the system of proper audit and accounting of the income and expenditure of the governors and officers of the state. Defalcation and embezzlement were visited with most deterrent punishment. One of the chief nobles, Mubarak Khan Lodi who was in charge of the revenue collection of Jaunpur was punished and compelled to disgorge the defalcated amount.


Sikandar Lodi insisted on formalities in the court. Discourteous conduct was severely punished by Sikandar. The nobles did not like the strict observance of courtesies and discipline and conspired to depose the Sultan and to place his younger brother Fateh Khan on the throne. The conspiracy was, however, divulged and the Sultan banished twenty-two of his nobles guilty of conspiring from the royal court. Royal farmans had to be received by the nobles all standing before the sultan in the court. Such steps restored discipline and courtesy among the nobles. The success of Sikandar was largely due to the efficient system of espionage that he maintained. He borrowed the idea from Sultan Ala-ud-din Khalji. He kept himself abreast of the happenings in the kingdom so much so that he was commonly believed to possess supernatural power.

Sikandar’s reign was marked by material prosperity. With the restoration of law and order, trade and commerce thrived, abolition of duties on grains made grains cheaper. Food and cloth and other necessaries of daily life became cheap, making people happy and contented.


Sikandar was a religious bigot. He prohibited the Hindus to bathe in the sacred tank of Thaneswar and in the river Jamuna. He followed the policy of destroying Hindu temples and building mosques in those sites.


The idol at the Jwalamukhi temple at Nagarkot was broken and its pieces were given to the butchers to use as weights to measure meat. He was responsible for the destruction of many temples at Mathura, Mandrail, Utgir, Narwar, Chanderi and other places. Bodhan a Hindu was put to death under his order for no other offence than saying that Hinduism was as true a religion as Islam. Like Firuz Tughluq he followed the policy of converting the Hindus into Islam.


His conquests: Sikandar’s ambition prompted him to recover as much of the territories lost to the Delhi Sultanate as possible. His annexation of Jaunpur brought him in conflict with Bihar which was a part of Bengal then. Some of the rebellious zamindars of Jaunpur had close contacts with Husain Shah Sharqi who had been ousted from Jaunpur in the previous reign. Husain was living in Bihar wherefrom he was instigating the Jaunpur zamindars. In order to suppress the zaminders Sikandar led an expedition to Phaphamau near Allahabad whose ruler Raja Bhil was the leader of the disaffected zamindars. But the Raja could not be subdued completely; on the contrary his expedition of the year 1494 caused considerable loss to the cavalry of the Sultan. Raja Bhil who was in league with Husain Shah invited (he latter informing him that in the condition of terrible loss suffered by Sikandar it would be easy to defeat him. Husain proceeded with his army and in the engagement Benares Husain was defeated and had to take to flight. Sikandar pursued the retreating army of Husain and occupied Bihar. He then stayed in Bihar for some time and raided Tirhut which was compelled to agree to pay an annual tribute to the Delhi Sultan.


Ala-ud-din Husain Shah, king of Bengal considered Bihar a part of his kingdom and Husain Shah as his protege. He sent his son Daniyal to oppose the Delhi army but both Sikandar and Ala-ud-din Husain Shah came to sign a treaty without a fight, stipulating that no party would invade the territory of the other. The king of Bengal also agreed not to give shelter to enemies of Sikandar. In this way the eastern frontier of Sultanate was pushed to the frontiers of the Bengal.


Ambition of Sikandar was not to be satisfied without conquering Gwalior and Dholpur. He led an expedition against Dholpur and after a prolonged fight he succeeded in capturing Dholpur from its Raja Vinayak Deo (1502). But the conquest of Gwalior was beyond his ability and strength. He led succeed against Gwalior but could not succeed against the ruler of the great fortress Man Singh. In order to facilitate his expedition against Gwalior, Dholpur and Malwa Sikandar had made Agra his capital. But years of exertions bore fruits by the way of capturing Dholpur, Mandrail, Utgir, Narwar and Chanderi. But Gwalior remained unconquered. Malwa was also could not be conquered by him. This military conquest although not very brilliant, yet had raised the prestige of the Delhi sultanate and of Sikandar.


Character & Estimate: Endowed with extraordinary physical charm, rare quality of eloquence, and ability as a poet, musician, Sikandar Lodi in many respects was a striking figure of medieval India. Sikandar was an able administrator and a clear-headed politician who could make clear analysis of the situation that faced him and vigorous in the enforcement of his orders. Highly educated, Sikandar was fond of literature and poetry and himself wrote verses in Persian under a pen name Gul Rukh. As he was born of a Hindu mother, he was very anxious to show to his co-religionists that he was a devout Muslim, not inferior to any pure Afghan Muslim. It was his daily practice that after the Morning Prayer and recitation of the Quran he would begin his administrative activities. He dispensed much in charity. He was also a good warrior and a successful commander. He died on 21st day of November, 1517.


As a ruler Sikandar attained more than ordinary success. His ideal of kingship was very similar to that of the Turkish and the Hindu conceptions of sovereignty rather than to that of the Afghans. But it may be pointed out that his attempt at royal absolutism, although necessary at that time, was perhaps premature and became a policy of repression, unaccompanied by measures to strengthen the administration necessarily failed. At a time when the danger of external invasion as looming large in the north-west, he alienated his powerful nobles. This betrayed his lack of foresight. During his reign, there was an abundance of crop and the people in general lived happily in the midst of plenty and cheap prices. His chief achievements were the conquest and annexation of Bihar, Dholpur, Narwar, Chanderi and a part of Gwalior.


Ibrahim Lodi


After Sikandar Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi (the youngest son of Sikandar Lodi) became sultan. Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of Lodi dynasty who ruled from 1517 to 1526.


A faction of the nobility advocated a partition of the kingdom and set up his younger brother Jalal Khan on the throne of Jaunpur. But soon Jalal Khan was assassinated by his brother’s men. Ibrahim Lodhi was not an able ruler. He became more and more strict with the nobles. He used to insult them. Thus, to take revenge of their insults, Daulat Khan Lodi, governor of Lahore and Alam Khan, an uncle of Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi, invited Babur, the ruler of Kabul, to invade India.


Ibrahim Lodhi was killed at Panipat in 1526 AD by Babur’s army. Thus came the final collapse of Delhi Sultanate and paved the establishment of new the Turkish rule in India.




First Battle of Panipat


The battle was fought between Mongol prince Zahir-ud-Din Muhammad ‘BABUR’ and the Afghan Sultan of Delhi Ibrahim Lodhi.


It developed over few years as Ibrahim Lodhi lost control over his noblemen and wazirs. Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi of Delhi. The handsome Ibrahim Lodhi multiplied his rigors at Delhi. Mian Bhua the vazir of his father was first thrown in prison then given a cup of poisoned wine. Noblemen like Azam Humanyun (Not Babur’s son) and Hussain Khan Farmuli were assassinated. Babur promised to help Daulat Khan to fight sultan of Delhi Ibrahim Lodhi in 1523 and made many raids into Punjab. In November 1525 he set out to meet the Sultan of Delhi Passage of Indus took place on 15th December. Babur crossed Satluj at Roper and reached Amballa without meeting any resistance. Prudently Babur took up a defensive position. He based his right flank upon city walls, a ditch protected his left flank and front lay behind a line of 700 carts tied together with rawhide ropes to break cavalry charges. Every 100 yards passages were provided for his horsemen to ride through for attack. Those passages were heavily defended by his archers and matchlock men. For 8 days he waited for Sultan’s attack. Ibrahim marched slowly and without plan as his officers had never seen such defences before. Mongols have created a fort in middle of a plain his spys informed him. Babur sent out his horsemen to raid Sultan’s army on 9th April. After a light engagement Mongol broke and ran back, it was a fient and it worked. Ibrahim was elated at the ease with which his troops had repulsed best horsemen Babur had sent. Overconfident and full of high hope he decided to attack.


Next morning Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi advanced rapidly. At about 400 yards Babur’s Cannons opened fire noise and smoke terrified Afghans and the attack lost momentum. Seizing the movement Babur sent out his flanking columns to envelop the Sultan’s army. Here Afghans met first time the real weapon of Mongols ‘Turko-Mongol Bow’. Its superiority as an instrument of war lay in the fact that it was the arm of the nobles of the finest warriors. Bow in hand of a Turko-Mongol would shoot three times as rapidly as musket and could kill at 200 yards. Attacked from 3 sides Afghans jammed into each other. Elephants hearing noise of cannon at close range ran wildly out of control. Ibrahim Lodhi and about 6000 of his troops were involved in actual fighting. Most of his army streaching behind upto a mile never saw action. Battle ended in about 3 hours with death of Ibrahim Lodhi who was at forefront. And in place where fighting had been the fiercest dead amid the heap of Mongols slain of his sword, lay the vain but courageous Sultan Ibrahim, his head was cut off and taken to Babur wrote a Mongol historian. When Afghans fled they left 20,000 dead and wounded.


An important aspect of the legacy of the Lodi dynasty is their architectural contribution in Delhi, where four Lodi buildings can be seen in what are now the Lodi Gardens, Mohammed Shah’s Tomb, Sikander Lodi’s Tomb, Sheesh Gumbad, and Bara Gumbad. The tomb of Mohammed Shah, the last of the Sayyid rulers (ruled Delhi 1414 – 1451), is the earliest of these and was built in 1444 by Ala-ud-din Alam Shah to pay a tribute to Mohammed Shah. Guru Nanak tells us that the Lodis were defeated because they grew intoxicated with power and “sensual beauty”: the wealth and sensual beauty had intoxicated them, and they have lost their sense in merry-making.


Nanak believed that unrighteousness could not last long and that thus the Lodi’s defeat was inevitable. He blames the Lodis for the later atrocities of the Mughals, since had they succeeded in protecting their empire, Babur would not have established the Mughal Empire.


Lodi Administration


The Lodi kings tried to consolidate the Sultanate and attempted to curb the power of rebellious governor. Sikandar Lodi who ruled from 1489-1517, controlled the Ganges valley up to western Bengal. Sikandar Lodi moved capital from Delhi to Agra, as he felt that he could control his kingdom better from Agra. He also tried to strengthen the loyalty of the people by various measures of public welfare.


Decline of Lodi Dynasty

  • Dissatisfaction amongst Afghan nobles who supported Jalal- ud- Din. These nobles were brutally massacred by Imbrahim Lodi.
  • Failure of administrative systems and blocking of trade routes which resulted in complete degeneration of the empires economy.
  • Danger and threats posed by Rajput kings on Lodi armies.
  • Bad economic conditions and fast draining treasuries due to continuous wars of succession thus weakening the dynasty.
  • Internal wars which weakened the empire and Lodi dynasty were taken over by Zahir ud Din Mohammad Babur, who established the onset of Mughal Empire in India after dethroning Ibhrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipath in 1526.
  • The Lodhi Empire was now getting vast but it lacked in communication means which resulted in waste of time and efforts. People started losing faith on the competency of the emperor.
  • Number of slaves during this period was now rising and the treasury was getting burdened in the upkeep of these slaves.
  • There was no fixed law for succession wars anyone could wage a war and take over any kingdom.
  • The greed and in competency of nobles further led to a weak and defective military organization.
  • The continuous fall of people’s confidence in this military type of government further mitigated the dynasty.
  • Regular invasions by Timur weakened the military capabilities.


The stern rule of Ibrahim Lodi gave him many secret rivals amongst them the main one being his uncle, the governor of Lahore who betrayed Ibrahim, to take revenge of the insults inflicted by Ibrahim, doing so he invited Babur to invade Lodi kingdom. Babur defeated Ibrahim in the First battle of Panipat, thus bringing a bitter end to the 75 years rule of the Lodhi Dynasty in 1526.


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