“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library



The Delhi sultanate had a powerful administrative system. The authority extended as south as Madurai. It had an impact on the provincial kingdoms and also the Mughal administration. The sultans ran an Islamic Empire and believed themselves to be the caliph’s representative. The conditions for Non-Muslims were poor here. The Ulemas paid an important role here.

The succession wasn’t of the eldest son and all children had equal rights. But the stability of the Empire depended on the support of the nobles. Military superiority was the main factor in succession matters.


The administration had many posts and departments. The advisors of the sultan controlled all activities. The civil courts worked on Islamic law for Muslims and personal law for Hindus for their cases. The criminal system worked on procedures made by the sultan.

  1. The sultan had issued districts to nobles instead of payment by cash. The peasants had to pay one-third of the produce to the sultan as tax. Besides this, they also had to pay other taxes and lived a hand-to-mouth existence.
  1. Urbanisationincreased and many towns were built. Trade and commerce increased and links were established with Arabs, in South East Asia.  Roads and highways were maintained in a good manner. Guesthouses were created for travelers.
  1. Cotton and silk textiles became popular. Large-scale sericulture made India less dependent on outsiders.
  1. The Paper industry, leather industry, crafts making, carpet weaving, and manufacture of gold, and silver were popular.
  1. The caste system was dominant among Hindus. The practices like Sati continued. They were treated as second-class citizens and had to pay jizya. They were not given high posts. Arabs, Turkish and Afghanistan residents came to India. They didn’t mix with the Indian Muslims. The foreigners brought the system of Purdah System to India.

Art and Architecture: 

  1. The Turks introduced arches, domes, minarets, and decorations in Arabic script. Marbles and red, and yellow sandstones were used to bring color to buildings.
  1. Sarangi and Rababwere introduced during this period. New music qawwalis were also started.
  1. The Delhi sultans were patrons of learning and literature. Arabic and Persian literature was promoted. Theology and poetry were popular. Amir Khusrau, a Persian writer and poet were during this period.
  1. The literature movement led to the development of Sanskrit books in medicine, and music. Bhakti cult led to improvement in Gujarati and Marathi. Vijayanagar Empire patronized Telugu and Kannada.


    • The Turkish sultans brought about an increase in the number of towns and money. The currency was based on the silver tanka and the copper dirham. The overseas trade also increased and India was trading with countries and kingdoms in West and Central Asia. Turkish rulers reactivated trade and improved communications.
    • Local trade at the village level was the trading of produce to pay for the land revenue. The local Bania was entrusted with the responsibility of trading crops and providing the peasants with the things that they need for their livelihood. Sometimes rich businessmen used engaged in trading surplus produce at the local markets. In addition to markets for crops, animals were also traded. Animals were required for agriculture, transportation, and dairy production.
    • Overseas foreign trade was carried out through Multan as Lahore was destroyed by the Mongols.
    • China was also a trading partner from where Tea and silk were imported. Indian Hindus and Jains along with members of the Bohra community engaged in trade with the overseas kingdoms. Horses were an important import overland into India. India also exported slaves to Islamic nations. Cotton textiles, foodstuffs, rice, sugar, and spices were popular exports from India. Although sea trade changed little from earlier times newer trading ports were now opened up on the east coast of Africa.

Types of taxations

    • Kharaj or land revenue was one-third of the gross produce. It was paid for by non-Muslims.
    • ushraf one-tenth of the gross produce to be paid by Muslims
    • Jazia or poll tax was paid by every male Hindu with independent means of maintenance. Brahmins were exempt from this tax except during the period of Firoz shah tuglaq.
    • Zakat or tax raised by well-to-do Muslims to provide alms for the needy.
    • Khams or war booty
    • Transit or octroi income from mines, forests, treasure troves
    • Charai agriculture tax is based on number of animals.

Smaller kingdoms that arose in Post sultanate period

    • As the powers of the sultanate declined, a number of other kingdoms rose. The political history of these kingdoms was one of incessant warfare. Their rulers were either fighting the sultanate or each other. The alliances shifted frequently and sometimes were also against the same religious kingdoms. For example, the Muslim rulers of Malwa joined hands with the Rajputs to fight their co-religionists in Gujarat.
    • The distinct new kingdoms also established a closer association with their Hindu ruling elites, thereby encouraging a culture of rapid reapproachment between Hindus and Muslims. Almost all religious rulers encouraged local literary and cultural forms and traditions. Muslims were patronized, regional languages were patronized and distinctive architectural style of buildings was developed.
    • Gujarat was known for its excellent handicrafts and flourishing trade with seaports. The trade of north India with foreign kingdoms was carried out through these seaports. Rajasthan and Malwa were roads linking the produce of the Ganga valley with the seaports. The control over Gujarat and Malwa was important however, the kingdoms in these regions balanced each other. Neither of them could capture the kingdom of Mewar which was Rana Kumbha.
    • Gujarat was annexed to the kingdom by Alauddin Khilji and it remained a province for a hundred years till its governor Ahmed Shah declared its independence. The first king built the beautiful city of Ahmedabad and replaced Patan as the capital. The next threat that Gujarat had to face was from the Portuguese who threatened to capture the sea trade. After a failed confrontation with the portuguese the king had to allow them to build a factory in diu. The last important king of Gujarat was Bahadur Shah who annexed Malwa and the forts of Mewar and Chittoor. It was after his death that Emperor Akbar was easily able to annex Gujarat into his kingdom.
    • Malwa also emerged as an independent kingdom after the invasion by Timur ended the Lodi dynasty and also the Delhi sultanate. The kingdom of Malwa was formed after the first king Hushang Shah moved the capital from Mandu in the Vindhyas. The ablest commander of the Malwa kingdom was Mahmud Khilji who extended his kingdom to the frontiers of Gujarat and Mewar. However, after his death, the fortunes of Malwa declined and it was annexed first by the Gujarat kingdom and then by the Mughals.
    • Rajasthan had two regions Marwar and Mewar. By the reign of Allaudin Khilji most of the Rajput kingdoms were under the sultanate. However, the former rulers were allowed to rule as vassals. However, the state of Marwar from Chitor continued its independence. Taking advantage of the decline of the Tughlaqs, Rao Chunda of Marwar occupied Sambhar, Nagaur, and Ajmer and made Marwar the most powerful state of Rajasthan. However, Marwar received a setback due to the rising power of Mewar. His successor, Rao Jodha, founded the new city and capital of Jodhpur (1659) and re-established the State.
    • Mewar continued to remain independent throughout the 14th century. The discovery and development of zinc and silver mines strengthened the economy and enabled the rulers to undertake irrigation projects and improve agriculture. A full treasury allowed them to construct new forts and build up a powerful army. It was Rana Kumbha (1433-68) who made Mewar a power to be reckoned with. Throughout his reign the conflict with Gujarat and Malwa kept him occupied. Kumbha was murdered by his son Uday, throwing Mewar into bloodshed and confusion, till Rana Sanga, a grandson of Kumbha ascended the gaddi of Mewar. He was a brilliant general and a man of vision. Under him, the Rajputs of Mewar took on the challenge of the Mughal invader, Babar. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful.

Eastern and Northern India – Bengal

    • Bengal was one of the earliest provinces to break away from the Sultanate. Its distance from Delhi and its prosperity had always made the province difficult to control. It became independent in 1338 when the provincial governor rose up against the tyranny of Muhammad Tughlaq and established a new dynasty. After this, Bengal remained independent for almost 250 years until it was conquered and annexed by Akbar, later overrun by Sher Shah in 1538. Of the many kings that ruled Bengal, the most notable was Azam Shah, Husain Shah, and his son Nusrat Shah.
    • Azam Shah re-established friendly relations with the Chinese emperor received his envoy cordially and sent his own envoy to the Sultan. The revival of contact with China helped in the growth of overseas trade in Bengal. Chittagong became a flourishing port for trade with China. Bengal also became a centre for the re-export of Chinese goods. Husain Shah (1493-1518) recovered Magadh from the rulers of Jaunpur and extended his kingdom southwards to the borders of Orissa. He encouraged the translation of Sanskrit literature into Bengali.
    • The most notable mosque he built was Chota Sona Masjid. The fame of Nusrat Shah rests on his many cultural achievements. He also ordered the translation of Hindu religions texts into Bengali. His example was followed by many Muslim nobles, as well as local Hindu rajas, who had formerly preferred to patronize Sanskrit. The result was a great flowering of Bengali literature. Krittivasa translated the Ramayana into Bengali which is read by Bengalis today. Bengal was checked by the Gajpati rulers of Orissa, as also by the Sharqi rulers of Jaunpur (in eastern Uttar Pradesh).


    • The Jaunpur Kingdom had been set up by Malik Sarwar, a prominent noble of the time of Firoz Tughlaq. Malik Sharwar had been the wazir for some time and then nominated to the eastern areas with the title lord of the east. This sharqi Sultan fixed their capital at Jaunpur.
    • At its height, the kingdom extended from Aligarh in western UP to Darbhanga in northern Bihar and from the boundary of Nepal in the north to Bundelkhand in the south. They created a magnificent style of their own in architecture, marked by lofty gates and huge arches. Malik Muhammed Jaisi, the author of Padmavat lived in Jaunpur.
    • In 1484, Bahdol Lodi, the ruler of Delhi occupied Jaunpur and annexed the Sharqi Kingdom. The kingdom was short-lived but the cultural tradition they established continued long after the downfall.


    • The rulers of Bengal had always tried to bring the rich and fertile valley of the Brahmaputra in modern Assam under their control.
    • With the decline of the Palas by the middle of the 12th century, the Brahmaputra Valley was divided into a number of warring principalities.
    • Gradually, the rulers of Kamrup and Kamta in the west—brought under their control the area between the Kartoya and their Barnadi river. To the east were the Ahoms.
    • The Ahoms belonged to the great Tai group of tribes that dominated southern China and many south-east Asian countries. They came to the Brahmputra valley from Yunan in the first half of the 13th century and under their ruler, Sukapha established their control over the modem districts of Dibrugarh and Sibsagar. In course of time, the entire valley began to be called Assam, after their name. The influence of Brahmanical Hinduism began to gain ground in Ahom in the early 15th century. Suhungmung (l497—1539 AD) reigned as Svarga Narayana. The Ahom Kingdom became the target of the Mughal invasion in the 17th century.

Orissa and Kashmir

    • The Ganga rulers, who came to power in middle of the 11th  century and ruled till the middle of the 15th century unified the three areas—Utkal, Kalinga and Kosala which constitute present Orissa. Narsinghdeo (1264), considered one of the greatest rulers, built the famous Sun temple at Konark. In the middle of l5th century, a new dynasty the Gajpari came to the fore. The Gajpati rule marks a brilliant phase in Orissa’s history. They were mainly instrumental in extending their rule in the south towards Karnataka. This brought them into conflict with Vijayanagar, the Riddis, and the Bahmani sultans. The Orissa language also developed during the period, with many works being produced in poetry and prose.
    • Kashmir The beautiful valley of Kashmir in the north was for long a forbidden land, according to Alberuni, and was known to be a center of Saivism. It suffered a devastating attack in l320 by the Mongol leader, Dulucha. The towns and villages were ravaged and plundered and set on fire. One hundred years after the Mongol invasion, Zainul Abidin considered the greatest of the Muslim monarchs of Kashmir, ascended the throne, Kashmir society had profoundly changed during this period. There had been a continuous incursion of Muslim saints and refugees from Central Asia into Kashmir, the Baramula route providing an easy access.
    • Another development was the rise of a series of Sufi saints, who combined some features of Hinduism and Islam. To complete the process a vehement persecution of the Brahmanas began in the reign of Sikander Shah at the instance of the king’s minister, Suha Bhatt who had converted to Islam.
    • The situation changed with the accession of Zainul Abidin who had all these orders canceled. He conciliated and brought back to Kashmir all the non—Muslims who had fled. He was a liberal, enlightened, and benevolent king. Later historians have referred to him as ‘the Akbar of Kashmir‘.
    • The Sultan also looked after the economic development of Kashmir. He sent two persons to Samarqand to learn the art of paper-making and book-binding. He fostered many crafts in Kashmir, such as stone-cutting and polishing. bottle-making. gold-beating. etc. He also encouraged the art of shawl—making. Musket-making and the art of manufacturing fireworks had also developed in Kashmir.
    • The Sultan developed agriculture by making a large number of dams, canals, and bridges. His growing achievement was Zaina Lanka—the artificial island in the Woolur lake on which he built his palace and a mosque. A great warrior, he defeated the Mongol invasion of Ladakh, conquered the Baltistan area and kept control over Jammu, Rajauri, etc.
    • He thus unified the Kashmir kingdom. The kingdom was annexed by Akbar in 1586. lbn Batuta entered India via Multan, the frontier city of Muhammad bin Tughluq’s kingdom, in 1333. He observed that in Delhi most newcomers coming from the west and central Asia sought recruitment into the Sultan’s service with the hope ‘to gain riches and then return to their countries.
    • Marco Polo, the only traveller who could rival lbn Batuta’s tag of ‘the greatest medieval traveller‘ arrived at lndia‘s opposite extremity, a Tamil port, en route from China in 1290. Marco Polo to his surprise found that in peninsular India there were no tailors or seamstresses. He failed to get a coat made for himself.
    • Athanasius Nikitin, a native of Volga, reached India barely thirty years ahead of Vasco da Gama. He too arrived by sea, at the port of Chaul, about fifty kilometers south of modern Bombay (Mumbai), but from the Persian Gulf rather than round Africa, and like other Gulf traders he brought horses.
    • Abdu-r-Razzaq, a fifteenth-century visitor to the Deccan, headed an embassy from Shah Rukh of Samarkand, who was “timur‘s son and successor. He noted that only Muslims wore trousers and Kaftans (long coats).


    • The Turks and Afghans brought with them from Persia and central Asia new techniques of architecture, such as the true arch, and dome. When these were combined with the earlier styles they resulted in new forms and led to a variety of experiments and shapes in architectural designs.
    • The true arch was the pointed arch which was not supported by a beam but by stones placed obliquely to form the point. The dome was a large area enclosed by a hollow semicircular roof. Both these forms were based on advanced mathematical knowledge and engineering skill.
    • The two began to be widely used in mosques, palaces, tombs, and gradually even in private houses. Another structure that was frequently used as the tall slender tower or minaret. But the decoration in these buildings was largely Indian because Indian craftsmen were used to constructing these buildings. The coming together of the two resulted in some beautiful structures.
    • The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and Qutah Minar at Delhi are the earliest examples of these, having been built in the reigns of the Mamluks.
    • Sultanate architecture under the Tughlaqs underwent a change. The simplicity of the lines, the reduction ot ornamentation to a minimum, and the use of large stone blocks, all combined to produce an effect of strength and austerity. Firoz Shah Kotla and the fort at Tughlaqabad bear evidence of this.
    • The Lodis reverted to a more elegant style. Double domes were used and the walls of their buildings were very thick. A new type of decoration from Persia was introduced — enameled tiles. Provincial architecture developed along lines similar to that of Delhi, with local modifications.

Influences on Painting and Music

    • The earlier tradition of painting delicate miniature paintings was continued and the tradition of illustrating books with exquisite miniatures developed. Music was enriched by new forms.
    • The Hindustani style which developed at this time was influenced by forms from Persia and the Arab world. In addition, certain instruments such as the sitar, sarangi and tabla became popular.

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