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The rulers of the Delhi Sultanate were either Turks or Afghans

Updated on February 28, 2016

Indian History: Balban


Foundation of the Delhi Sultanate

Northern India after Harsha

The death of Harsha in about AD 647 was followed the break up of his empire into a number of small kingdoms which frequently fought against each other for establishing, the supremacy. By the middle of the eighth century, the majority of the states of Northern India had come to be ruled by different clans of a community or caste known as the Rajputs. The Pratihara clan of these Rajputs soon established their paramount authority in the north and west by subjecting other clans. They also played an important role in preventing the Arabs from extending their territory beyond Sindh.

In the east, the Pala dynasty, ruling over Bengal and Bihar, challenged the efforts of the Pratiharas to advance eastwards. Both the Palas and Pratiharas were defeated more than once by the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan who, however, failed to convert their victories into territorial gains.

The power of the Pratiharas as well as of the Palas was already on the decline when Mahmud of Ghazni carried out a number of invasions of India during the tenth – eleventh centuries. Western Punjab became a part of the Kingdom of Ghani as a result of Mahmud's invasion but the rest of the country continued be ruled by the different Rajput clans. By the twelfth century, two of them, the Challenges of Shakambari (modern Sambhar) and Jamie and the Gahadavalas of Kanauj had established large kingdoms and were fighting against each other for supremacy in northern India.

Foundation of the Delhi Sultanate

Towards the end opf the twelfth century Mohammad, the Turkish ruler of Ghor in Afganistan, carried out a number of invasions of India. He defeated Prithviraj Chauhan and Jaichand, the Gahadvala ruler of Kanauj, and annexed most of their territories. The greater part of northern India thus became a part of the Turkish empire of Ghor. But Mohammad Ghori himself did not stay in India. Instead he appointed Qutab - din – Aibak, one of his slaves who had risen to the position of a general in his army, as viceroy and left his India empire in his charge. After the death of Ghori in 1206, Aibak assert his independence from Ghor and declared himself to be the Sultan or ruler of Delhi. Thus was founded the first Turkish Sultanate of Delhi.

Delhi Sultanate


Tomb of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazn




Nader shah of persia


The rule of Turk- Afghan period

The Delhi Sultanate started breaking up into a number od independent kingdoms as the successors of Firoz could not keep it together. The provinces of Bengal, Malwa and Gujarat became independent one after another. An independent kingdom was also established at Jaunpur. Soon after, two powerful kingdoms, the Bahmani and the Vijayanagar came up in southern India. Most of the Rajput states also reasserted their independence. The invasion of Taimur, a cruel and ruthless conqueror from Central Asia in 1398, was a further blow to the prestige and power of the Tughlaq. The last Tughlaq rulers was overthrown by one Khizr Khan, an Afghan ruler of Multan in 1413.

Khizr Khan founded the Sayyid dynasty which replaced the Tughlaqs. The Sultanate was breaking up and the four rulers of the Sayyid dynasty were unable to revive it. The last of them, Sultan Ala – ud- - din Shah was forced in 1451 by Bahlul Lodi, another Afghan, to surrender the throne to him and settle in Badaun (UP).

Bahlul Lodi (1451 – 1489) succeeded in conquering some of the provinces of the empire which had broken away from the Sultanate. His son, Sikandar Lodi (1489 – 1517) was even more energetic and extended the boundaries of the empire up to Bengal in the east. He shifted the capital from Delhi to Agra and also conquered Gwalior, Sikandar lodi is also known for his policy of intolerance towards Hindus. He was followed by Ibrahim Lodi (1517 – 26) who was the last of the Lodi Sultans. His defeat and death at the hands of Babur in 1526 marked the end of the Delhi Sultanate and the founding of the Mughal empire.

The founding of the delhi Sultanate marked the beginning of a period of prolonged Muslims rule in India. The rulers of the Delhi Sultanate were either Turks or Afghans . Even the Mughals who came after them were of Turkish origin. While a large number of Indians were converted to Islam during those centuries, effective political power continued to be exercised by dynasties and officials of foreign origin.

Indian Muslims had little say in the matters of government. The period of the Delhi Sultanate can, therefore, also be described as the Turko – Afghan period. The frequent dynastic changes during this period were due to the fact that the struggle for power was confined to a handful of Turks and Afghans who changed their loyalties from one to another conspirator for personal gain. None of them had a firm base in the country. It is interesting to note that the different Turko – Afghan dynasties vanished without a trace while the Rajputs dynasties, defeated by them, continued for centuries.

Mughal India and the growth of British power



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