Disintegration of Delhi Sultanate

Disintegration of Delhi Sultanate

The fall of the Delhi Sultanate was the logical conclusion of the decline that had set in during the last days of Muhammad bin Tughluq.

The indiscretion of Muhammad bin Tughluq brought into play a process of disintegration which was accelerated by the weakness and the impolitic steps of his immediate successor Firuz Shah Tughluq, such as the revival of the system of jagir, inordinate expansion of the number of the slaves, imposition of jizya on the non-Muslims and the persecution of heretical Muslim sects.

This process of decline could not be checked by the weak Sayyids and the impolitic Lodis. The Lodis had some military successes to their credit but could not breathe any vitality in the administration nor could stop the policy of official repression of the people. The Delhi Sultanate lacking the force and vitality was tottering to its inevitable fall.

The Delhi Sultanate depended on the personality, ability and military efficiency of the Sultan himself. It being the rule of the sword primarily did not grow up on the habitual allegiance of the subjects on whom the Sultan ruled. Naturally the foundations of the Sultanate were weak.

Where the Sultan was personally powerful and efficient, for example, under an Iltutmish, a Balban or an Ala-ud-din, the administration was effective and Sultan’s orders were obeyed. But whenever the Sultan was weak and incapable, the nobility of the court, the provincial governors and other nobles became busy in pursuit of self interest.

The inherent defect of the Sultanate which followed the system of granting jagirs except under Ala-ud-din especially, and which kept the central authority busy in suppressing rebellions, was that whenever the centre was weak the centrifugal tendencies came into play.

The big estate holders, jagirdars, amirs and maliks, provincial governors and nobles who were the pillars of administration held much local influence; and whenever there was any sign of weakness or inefficiency at the centre, they would raise the standard of rebellion.

The huge number of the slaves, further expanded under Firuz Shah Tughluq who opened a regular department for their maintenance, became not only a burden on the finances of the state but would in various ways interfere with the administration as did the army. At the beginning of the Sultanate period there emerged from among the slaves’ capable administrators and rulers like Qutb-ud-din, Iltutmish etc. but this class of efficient and devoted slaves could not be found later.

The life of luxury, drinking and debauchery lived by the nobles and the highly placed officials of the state led to their utter inefficiency and the administration became stagnant and ineffective. Ala-ud-din took some severe measures to stop the rot, but this was not followed under his successors.

Discriminatory treatment of the non-Muslims, particularly the Hindus, the corruption and want of discipline among the officials, and a general tendency among the revenue officials to speculation and extortionate collection from the subjects contributed to the weakening of the administration.

In a country with vastly Hindu population establishment of a theocratic state and demolition of temples, imposition of jizya and all that, precluded the Delhi Sultans from becoming the national kings of the country. This wide gap in habitual allegiance of a vast majority of the people naturally contributed to the fall of the Sultanate.

When the internal maladministration and confusion, selfishness and struggle for the throne had made the situation extremely serious, Timur the lame invaded India, entered Delhi, plundered it and put many to the sword and thereby administered a deathblow to the Delhi Sultanate.

The subsequent history was one of mutual quarrel among the Lodis themselves and when selfishness got the better of the country’s good foreign assistance was invited by Daulat Khan Lodi and Alam Khan Lodi, rivals of Ibrahim Lodi, and the result was the first battle of Panipat, 1526, and the foundation of the Mughal rule in India in place of the Delhi Sultanate.

The centrifugal tendencies which were inherent in the administrative structure of the Delhi Sultanate began to be manifest in the assertion of independence by quite a few of the provinces of the Delhi Sultanate after the death of Firuz Tughluq. Jaunpur was one of the earliest to assert its independence.

Decline of delhi sultanate resulted in the rise of following regional states:


Firuz Tughluq founded the city of Jaunpur which he named after his cousin Jauna or Juna Khan, i.e. Muhammad bin Tughluq. Malik Sarwar, a eunuch, was the governor who took the name of Sultan-ush-Sharq and threw off the allegiance of Delhi taking advantage of the confusion of the time of Timur’s invasion and began to rule as a de facto king.

His dynasty came to be known as Sharqi dynasty. Sarwar had extended his authority over Awadh and over parts of the Doab as far as modern Aligarh. Tirhut and Bihar also came under his sway. Sarwar ruled as a king but refrained from assuming the title of the king.


The invasion of Timur gave Zafar Khan the opportunity to throw off the allegiance of Delhi and make himself independent (1401). Zalar Khan was for a time deposed by his son Tatar Khan who occupied the throne as Nasir-ud-din Muhammad Shah but he was put to death by his uncle Shams Khan Zafar Khan now recovered his throne and assumed the title of Sultan Muzaffar Shah and ruled upto 1411.


During Timur’s invasion of India when Sultan Mahmud Tughluq sought asylum in Gujarat but was not received there with the dignity of the sovereign by Muzaffar Shah of Gujarat, he came over to Malwa and stayed there for about three years.



It was during his reign that Timur invaded India and Sikandar exchanged envoys with him, but the two did never meet each other. Sikandar was a powerful ruler and a patron of Islamic learning. Scholars from Arabia, Persia and Mesopotamia were generously welcomed in his court. But his general attitude was not at all liberal. He was a blind bigot and persecuted the Hindus, and drove away the Brahmanas from Kashmir who refused to be converted into Islam.


The kingdom of Orissa was consolidated by Anantavarman Choda Ganga who ruled from 1076 to 1148. The kingdom extended from the mouth of the Ganges to the Godavari in the south. He was not only a great warrior and a conqueror but also a patron of religion and literature. The famous Jagannath temple was built by him. He successfully repelled the Turkish onslaught.

After his death his dynasty began to decline. About 1434 this dynasty was supplanted by Kapilendra who founded a new dynasty. The Kapilendra dynasty ruled over Orissa for about a century. Kapilendra was a king of great ability and courage. He ably defended his kingdom against the invasion of the Bahmani and Vijaynagar rulers.



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