Balban, commonly known as one of the greatest monarchs of his times, certainly deserves a high place among the long list of the Kings of Delhi Sultanate. He is accredited with having saved the newly formed Muslim empire from certain existential threats, both internal and external. Many of the steps he took to consolidate his rule had their roots in the dangers and needs of the time. As a matter of fact, one needs to keep in mind the circumstances of the age in order to better understand the policies and steps of the ruler. It is only then can we fully appreciate the meaning and purpose of the steps taken.
One of the most important steps which Balban took and which laid the basis of many of his other policies was his theory of kingship. Viewing from standpoint of effects of the prevailing circumstances and expediency, Balbanís theory of kingship appears to be greatly, if not fully, inspired by the circumstances and political problems of the time rather than by any conviction or belief in political ideals of Islam. A brief look at the prevailing circumstances is thus necessary to understand his theory of Kingship.
Apart from court intrigues, internal revolts, external threats, bankruptcy of the treasury, haught attitude of the 'Forty' One of the major factors which led Balban to expound his theory of kingship was the fact that people no longer have the fear of the government in their hearts, which was causing many socio-political problems for the Sultans of Delhi. In order to restore the prestige and awe of the ruler, Balban thought of raising the prestige of the ruler far above the common standards so that a gap between the ruler and the ruled is established which would ultimately lead to the stability of the Government. About the prevailing circumstances, Barni writes,
ďFear of the Government power, which is the basis of all good government, and the source of the glory and splendor of the state, had departed from the heart of men and the country had fallen in a wretched condition.Ē
Thus it was under these circumstances that Balban presented his theory of Kingship as a practical solution to the prevailing problems of the society. We shall now see how this theory could present solutions to practical problems of the day.
Balbanís theory of Kingship and restoration of peace in India:
Balbanís theory of Kingship contributed to restoration of a stable Government in India in the following way:
A) The glory and grander of Kingship inspired awe and dread into the hearts of people which resulted in making people more obedient to the Central Government. Balban believed that if glory and grandeur disappear, people become impious and rebellious. Thus to control people, a strong central King was essential.
B) According to his theory of Kingship, a king should remain fully aware of the conditions of his provinces and the doing of his officers. This assumption led to the establishment of espionage system, which operated directly under the central authority, not answerable to the provincial authority.
C) Since King is the true representative of God on the earth, his power is unlimited. His position should not be challenged by anyone. This belief of Balban led to the destruction of the ĎFortyí. He felt no hesitation in suppressing the power of nobles and chiefs, for their degradation and dishonor strengthened Kingís own position and gave a new vigor to his Government.
D) According to his theory, three essential of Kingship are the army, treasury and nobles. The stability and permanence of the government rests upon the establishment of a well-equipped and centrally controlled army. Large proportion of the revenue was thus spent on the maintenance of the army.
E) According to Ishwari Topa, ďStrict and vigorous enforcement of law worked like a counterblast to the undermining political forces.Ē
F) Balbanís theory justified use of force to maintain law and order and uphold the prestige of Islam. He kept the Hindu element under control forcefully so that they dared not rise to challenge his authority.
G) He kept the functionaries of the Government by taking the power of initiative off their hands. Government functionaries were required and supposed to follow the true spirit of the Kingship, as expounded by the King himself, so that masses follow their examples.
H) His exposition of the royal pattern of life, court etiquettes, dignity and prestige of the King, left a deep psychological impact on the mind of the people who used to come from far flung areas to witness the royal processions. They came to believe in efficiency as well as austerity of the government, they feared it and followed it. This was no small an achievement.
(I) By concentrating power in his own hands, he was successful in crushing power of the Turkish nobility.
Analysis of the practical impact of the theory:
A look at the reforms done and steps taken by Balban during his rule and a study of his theory of Kingship would make it clear that many of his reforms and policies had their roots in his theory of Kingship. That is why it is largely believed that Balbanís theory was based on benign understanding of the practical problems of statecraft prevailing during his time which proved to be beneficial as far as his own rule is concerned. According to Ishwari Topa, ďAuthority of the state was re-established and reorganized by infusing fresh life into the statecraft.Ē Balban rightly believed that so long as kingship did not exert itself to infuse awe and dignity into the heart of the people in general, no real justice could be done to the problems of the Government. This is exactly what was missing when Balban came into power but he was able to achieve restoration of a strong central government which was a pre-requisite for the achievement of other objectives related to economic prosperity, consolidation and defense of the empire.
In final analysis, it is evident from our discussion that Balbanís theory of Kingship was inspired more by political realities of his times rather than by any pure conviction or belief in religion or Islam. It is not to suggest that he was not a good Muslim or a religious person. As a matter of fact, nature of his rule and that of Pious Caliphs show a marked difference. On the other hand, we can safely say that Balbanís theory suited the circumstances in which he was placed to rule. Only a strong central government under a strong and firm ruler like Balban could save the infant Muslim dominion in India from disruption and falling apart. According to Ishwari Parasad, ďBut for Balbanís vigour and energy the Kingdom of Delhi would have hardly survived the shocks of internal revolts and external invasions.Ē
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Last edited by Shooting Star; Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 12:17 AM.