DELHI SULTANATE – KHILJI DYNASTY

The first ruler of Khilji dynasty was Jalal-ud-din Khalji. He came to power in 1290 after killing the last ruler of the Mamluk dynasty, Moiz ud din Qaiqabad, at the behest of Turkic, Afghan, and Persian amirs. Jalal-ud-din Firoz Shah Khalji was of Turkic origin, and ruled for 6 years before he was murdered in 1296 by his nephew Juna Khan, who was also his son-in-law. Juna Khan later came to be known as Ala al-din Khilji.

Ala al-din began his military career as governor of Kara province, from where he led two raids on Malwa (1292) and Devagiri (1294) for plunder and loot. His military campaigning returned to these lands as well other South Indian kingdoms after he assumed power. He conquered Gujarat, Ranthambore, Chitor, and Malwa. However, these victories were cut short because of Mongol attacks and plunder raids from northwest. The Mongols withdrew after plundering and stopped raiding northwest parts of the Delhi Sultanate.

After the Mongols withdrew,  Khilji continued expanding Delhi Sultanate into South India, with the help of generals such as Malik Kafur and Khusraw Khan, collecting large war booty (Anwatan) from those they defeated. His commanders collected war spoils and paid Ghanima (a tax on spoils of war), which helped strengthen the Khilji rule. Among the spoils was the Warangal loot that included one of the largest known diamonds in human history, the Koh-i-noor.

Ala al-din Khalji changed tax policies, raising agriculture taxes from 20% to 50% (payable in grain and agricultural produce), eliminating payments and commissions on taxes collected by local chiefs, banned socialization among his officials as well as inter-marriage between noble families to help prevent any opposition forming against him, and he cut salaries of officials, poets, and scholars. These tax policies and spending controls strengthened his treasury to pay the keep of his growing army; he also introduced price controls on all agricultural produce and goods in the kingdom, as well as controls on where, how, and by whom these goods could be sold. Markets called shahana-i-mandi were created. Muslim merchants were granted exclusive permits and monopoly in these mandi to buy and resell at official prices. No one other than these merchants could buy from farmers or sell in cities. Those found violating these mandi rules were severely punished, such as by mutilation. Taxes collected in the form of grain were stored in kingdom’s storage. During famines that followed, these granaries ensured sufficient food for the army.

Ala al-din is also known for his cruelty against attacked kingdoms after wars. Historians note him as a tyrant and that anyone Ala al-din Khilji suspected of being a threat to this power was killed along with the women and children of that family. In 1298, between 15,000 and 30,000 people near Delhi, who had recently converted to Islam, were slaughtered in a single day, due to fears of an uprising.

After Ala-ud-din’s death in 1316, his army general Malik Kafur, who was born in a Hindu family in India and had converted to Islam, tried to assume power. He lacked the support of Persian and Turkic nobility. Malik Kafur was killed. The last Khilji ruler was Ala-ud-din’s 18-year-old son Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah Khilji, who ruled for four years before he was killed by Khusro Khan. Khusro Khan’s reign lasted only a few months, when Ghazi Malik, later to be called Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, killed him and assumed power, in 1320, thus beginning the Tughluq dynasty of Delhi Sultanate.

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