Allauddin Khilji: greatest Sultan Who Sat on the Throne of Delhi(12-14th Century)
Allauddin Khilji is an important name in the history of the sub-continent and Central Asia. He ruled an empire that encompassed the entire northern region of the sub-continent and vassals right up to the South Indian city of Madurai paid tribute to him.
We are fortunate that during the reign of Allauddin, the poet Amir Khusro adorned his court. Amir Khusro chronicles the reign of Allauddin and one can get a glimpse of the man and his genius.
Allauddin was born in 1266/67. His uncle Jalaluddin Khilji was the Sultan of Delhi. Under normal laws of the succession, Allauddin would never have become the Sultan of Delhi but a combination of his genius and ruthless character catapulted him into the chair of the Sultan.
Rise and Marriage
Allauddin was born in Birbhum in Bengal. When he was still young, he was sent to the court of his uncle Jalaluddin by his father Shihabuddin Masud. Alauddin was a Sunni Muslim but nowhere does the poet Amir Khusrow bring out any fact that he was a bigoted person.
The moment the young Allauddin set foot in the court of his uncle he had formulated his plan to become the Sultan and if need be even by killing his uncle. He went about executing his plan in a devious manner. He was able to seduce the daughter of the Sultan named Malika-e-Jahan. He proposed to his uncle his desire to marry her. Malika was also in love with Allauddin who was her cousin and though the father opposed the marriage, he had no option but to agree.
With this marriage, Allauddin climbed the first rung of the ladder to the throne of the Sultan as he became the son-in-law of Jalaluddin. The Sultan having accepted Allauddin as his son-in-law appointed him as the master of ceremonies and the title Amir-i-Tuzuk was conferred on him. By diligent discharge of his duties, he won the trust of his father-in-law and had direct access to his chamber.
At the same time, Allauddin had a roving eye and began to love other women also in the court. This led to a strained relationship with his wife which continued till his death.
The Sultan was warned by his close confidants to beware of Allauddin. He was told that at any critical juncture, his nephew would try to kill him but the Sultan who had implicit trust in his son-in-law did not believe this bit of information. He paid for his lax attitude as in 1296 after a meeting with his son-in-law, both the protagonists grappled with each other and in the process, Allauddin killed his father-in-law. With the Sultan dead the court was presented with a fait accompli as Allauddin declared himself the Sultan of Delhi.
Military Prowess and capture of Slave Malik Kafur
The moment Allauddin became the Sultan, he had to face a serious threat to his throne from the Mongols, who had conquered the whole of Central Asia and were venturing south of the Hindu Kush into the sub-continent.
Allauddin led his army to face the Mongols and by 1306 in the battle on the banks of the river Ravi, he decimated the Mongol force. This is important because for the next 200 years the Mongols did not make an attempt to invade the subcontinent. The battles with the Mongols resulted in something more important to the Sultan. There are reports that he captured a slave named Malik Kafur. As per some reports, Malik Kafur was a Hindu convert to Islam. Hence the word Kafur, which is the corrupt form of the word 'Kafir' was added to his name. The slave was handsome and at first sight itself, the Sultan became infatuated with him. Malik Kafur was to play a significant part in the life of the Sultan after that.
As was the practice of the period, the Sultan turned his attention southwards and attacked Chittorgarh in 1303. The city was captured after a long siege. Amir Khusro has recorded the victory.
A tale written almost 200 years later regarding the infatuation of the Sultan with the Queen of Chittor has not been verified.No contemporary work or the writings of Amir Khusro mention Rani Padmani, which surfaced about 250 years after the death of Allauddin. This was the handiwork of Sufi Muslim poet Jayasi.
It is also a moot point to consider that during this period the Sultan was infatuated with Malik Kafur and there appears to be very little chance that he would have wanted to make rani Padmini his wife. But there is a possibility that he just wanted her as a showpiece in his harem.
Allauddin was bisexual but after he captured Malik he began to love him more and more. During this period he also took four wives two of whom were Hindu. He married the wife of King Karana who had died fighting him and after the battle, he went to the palace and claimed his wife Kamla Devi for him. He had another Hindu wife also who was the daughter of King Ramachandran. Her name was Jhatyapali.
Throughout this period the central figure was the slave Malik Kafur. Allauddin's infatuation for the slave saw him promoted to the rank of general and when he fell sick Malik was the only man who was allowed to see him. There are some reports that when the Sultan was very ill and only Malik could see him, he killed the Sultan
Administration and governance
The Sultan was an intelligent man and the Cambridge Economic History of India records that the taxation system of Allauddin is something that survived even to the 20th century.
He was the first ruler who set up an administrative Department of Revenue which collected taxes directly and the middleman between Zamindar and the farmer was eliminated. He levied land tax and had a Department looking after it. This land tax is prevalent even in independent India.
At a time when there was no wireless or telephone, the Sultan controlled his kingdom from Delhi with an iron hand. Anybody not following his administrative policies was condemned to death. Very few people remember about the administrative achievements of Sultan Allauddin, as people are doing a lot of research and unraveling the love life of the Sultan. In an age when being gay was a crime, he indulged in this pleasure to the utmost. He maintained a harem of male slaves and many young boys as well.
Malik Kafur wanted to be Sultan. His opportunity came after Allauddin’s death in January 1316 CE. Malik promptly produced a will of the sultan, disinheriting all his sons. He also married Allauddin's second important wife and appointed her son the 6-year-old boy as the sultan with him as regent. It was a bold stroke and gave him acceptability in the court.
There are reports that he promptly impregnated the queen who had become his wife. The luck of Kafur ran out in1316 when he sent assassins to kill one of the sons of Allauddin. They reneged and returned and beheaded Malik Kafur. Thus the curtain came down on the most important man of the Allauddin Sultanate.
In hindsight, we can say that allowed Allauddin was an above-average Sultan. He was a man who was susceptible to worldly pleasures and was also a very determined man. He killed his father in law and uncle and was paid back in the same coin by the man he had picked up as a slave for 1000 dinars.