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Old Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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Default Administration Of The Delhi Sultanate


The institution of the Caliphate came into existerne after the death of Prophet Muhammad(P B U H) when Abu Bakr(R A) became the new head (Khalifa) of the Muslim community (Umma or Ummat). Originally, there existed some elements of elective principle in the matter of succession, a practice not much different from the previous tribal traditions.
In the Islamic world, the Caliph was regarded as the guardian of religion and the Upholder of the political power.After the period of the . four "pious Caliphs" (Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman and Ali) dynastic rule became the norm when the Umayyads took over the Caliphate in 661 A.D. from their base at Damascus in Syria. After the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate the Abbasids came to power in the mid-eighth century as Caliphs at Baghdad. However, with the decline of central authority, the centralized institution of Caliphate (Khifajat) broke into three centres of power based in Spain (under the rule of a branch of the Umayyad Caliphs), Egypt (under the Fatimids) an'd the older one at Baghdad - each claiming the exclusive loyalty of the Muslims. Nearer home, towards the north-west, many minor dynashes carved out small states, one of which was based at Ghazna (Ghazni). The significant point to remember is that, theoretically, no Muslim could have set up an "independent" state, big or small, without procuring the permission from the Caliph, else its legitimacy could become suspect amongst the Muslims. And, yet, all this 'was nothing more than a formality which could be dispensed with impunity.

The recognition of a Caliph by the Delhi Sultans seen in the granting of robes of honour, letter of investiture, bestowing of titles, having the name .of the Caliph inscribed on coins and reading of khutba in Friday prayer in his name symbolized an acceptance and a link with the Islamic world, though in reality it only-meant an acceptance of a situation whereby a ruler had already placed himself in power. The Sultans of Delhi maintained the fiction of the acceptance of the position of the Caliph. Under the Saiyyids (1414-1451) and the Lodis (1451-1526 A D) the legends on the coins continued in the sense of a tradition being maintained but it was purely a nominal allegiance. In actual effect, the Caliphate, weakened and far removed as it was, had little direct role to play in the Delhi Sultanate.


The early Mulism Turkish State established itself in north India by virtue of conquests. Since the Turks were far fewer in number than the indigenous population over whom they sought to govern and since they also lacked resources, they, of necessity, had to control the resources of the country. This had an important bearing on the nature of the Turkish State.

In a theoretical and formal sense, the Delhi Sultans recognized the supremacy of the Islamic law (shariah) and tried to prevent its open violation. But they had to supplement it by framing secular regulations (zawabit), too. A point of view is that the Turkish State was a theocracy; in practice, however, it was the product of expediency and necessity wherein the needs of the young state assumed paramount importance. The contemporary historian Ziauddin Barani distinguished.betwen jahandari ("secular") an dindari “religious”and accepted the inevitability of some secular features, because of the contingent situations coming up. Thus, the needs of the emergent State shaped many policies and practices not always consistent with Islamic fundamentalism. For example, during the reign of Sultan lltutmisli (1211- 1236), a sectarian group (shafai) of Muslim divines approached the Sultan and asked him to enforce the Islamic law strictly, that is, giving the Hindus the option of Islam or death.On behalf of the Sultan, the wazir Junaidi replied that this could not be done for the moment as the Muslims were like salt in a dish of food. Barani records
a conversation that Sultan Alauddin Khalji had with one of his leading theologians, Qazi Mughisuddin, over the question of appropriation of booty. While the Qazi pointed out the legalistic position which prevented the Sultan from taking the major share of the booty, the Sultan is said to have emphasized that he acted according to the needs of the State which were paramount. These instances show that, in practice, the Turkish State was not theocratic but evolved according to its special needs and circumstances despite the fact that the main ruling class professed Islam.


The central administrative machinery of the Sultanate consisted of the nobles controlling various offices with the Sultan at the helm of affairs.

The Sultan

In the early Islamic world, there was no sanction for the position of the Sultan. With the disintegration of the Caliphate, the Sultan began to appear in the sense of a powerful ruler-an independent sovereign of a certain territory.
The Delhi Sultans could make civil and political regulations for public welfare. Khutba and sikka were recognised as important attributes of sovereignty. The khutba was the formal sermon following the congregational prayer on Fndays wherein the name of the Sultan was mentioned as the head of the community. Coinage was the ruler's prerogative : his name was inscribed on the coins (sikka).
The sultanate witnessed a rapid rise and fall of dynasties. The Sultan, or a contender to the thlrone, could only keep himself in power with the support of the nobles who were themselves divided into numerous groups. Barani says that Balban stressed the special position of the Sultan as 'shadow of God' (zill a1 Allah) on earth. Balban emphasized courtly splendour decorum and etiquette. He also believed in severe exemplary punishments even to the nobles. All this bore relevance to a situation where the throne was never safe from the ambitions of the nobles, many of whom felt that they had an equal right to rule.
There were many officials to look after the royal household. The wakil-i-dar looked after the entire household and disbursed salaries to the Sultan's personal staff. The amir-i-hajib functioned as the master of ceremonies at the court. All petitions to the Sultan were submitted through the latter. There were other minor officials also.

The Wizarat (Finance)

The wazir, as the head of the diwan-i wizarat, was the most important figure in the central administration. Though he was one of the four important departmental heads, he exercised a general supervisory authority over others. The wizarat organised the collection of revenue, exercised control over expenditure, kept accounts, disbursed salaries and allotted revenue assignments (iqta) at Sultan's order.
There were several officials who helped the wizaraf such as the mushif-I -mumalik or the accountant-general and the mustaufi-i mumalik or the auditor-general. During the reign of Alauddin Khalji, the diwan-i mustakhraj was made responsible for the collection of arrears of revenue.

The Diwum-i Arz

The diwan-i arz or military department was headed by the ariz-i mumalik. He was responsible for the administration of military affairs. He inspected the troops maintained by the iqta-holders. He also supervised the commissariat duties (supply and transport) of the Sultan's army. During the reign of Alauddin Khalji, some measures were introduced to maintain a check on recruitment and quality. He ordered a descriptive roll (huliya) of every soldier to be kept and also ordered the branding (dagh) of horses to be done so that horses of poor quality were not brought by the amirs or iqta-holders to the muster. It seems that the branding of horses was strictly maintained till the reign of Muhammad Tughluq.
The army consisted of troops maintained by nobles as well as the standing army (hashm-Cqalb) of the Sultan. In the thirteenth century, the royal cavalry, in lieu of cash salary, was assigned the revenue of small villages in the vicinity of Delhi which Moreland calls "small iqta". Under Iltutmish, the number of such cavalry was about three thousand. Balban tried to do away with these assignments which led to much dissatisfaction. Alauddin Khalji was successful in doing so, and he started paying his soldiers in cash a-trooper was paid 238 tanka while one who brought an additional horse used to get 78 tanka' more.

Feroz Tughluq gave up the practice of paying his royal soldiers in cash, instead, he gave them a paper called itlaq - a sort of draft on whose strength they could claim their salary from the Sultan's revenue officers of the khalisa ("Crown" or "reserve" land).

Other Departments

The diwan-i insha looked after State correspondence. It was headed by dabir mumalik. This department dealt with all correspondence between the Sultan and other rulers, and between the Sultan and provincial governments. It issued farmans and received letters from subordinate officials.

The barid-i mumalik was the head of the State news-agency. He had to keep information of all that was happening in the Sultanate. The administrative sub- divisions had local barids who sent regular news -letters to the central office. The barids reported matters of state - wars, rebellions. local affairs, finances, the state of agriculture etc. Apart from the barids, another set of reporters existed who were known as munhiyan.

The diwan-i risalat was headed by the sadr-us sudur. He was the highest religious officer. He took care of the ecclesiastical affairs and appointed qazis. He approved various grants like waqf for religious and educational institutions, wazifa and idrar to the learned and the poor.

The Sultan headed the judiciary and was the final court of appeal in both civil and criminal matters. Next to him was the qazi-ul mumalik (or qazi-ul quzzat), the chief judge of the Sultanate. Often, the offices of the sadr-us sudur and qazi-ul mumalik were held by the same person. The chief qazi headed the legal system and heard appeals from the lower courts.

The muhatsibs (public censors) assisted the judicial department. Their task was to set that there was no public infringement of the tenets of Islam.

Slaves and Karkhanas

Slaves were an important feature of the royal household. Alauddin Khalji owned 50,000 slaves, while Feroz Tughluq is reputed to have had 180000 slaves. During his reign, a separate department of slaves (diwan-i bandagan) was set up. The slaves were used for personal service and acted as body-guards (the latter numbering' 40,000). Afif also records that a large number of Feroz's slaves (12,000) worked as artisans (kasibs). Barani describes a large slave market at Delhi, but by the first quarter of the 16th century there is no mention of slave markets.

The needs of the royal household were met through karkhanas Under Feror Tughluq there were 36 karkhanas. Each karkhana was supervised by a noble who had the rank of a malik or khan, and a mutasarri who was responsible for the accounts and acted as the immediate supervisor. A separate diwan or accounts office existed for the karkhanas.

The karkhanas manufactured articles for Imperial household as well as for military purposes. It is said that Muhammad Tughluq had employed about five hundred workers in gold brocade and four thousand weavers to manufacture cloth required by the court and for making robes of honour to be given in gift to the favoured ones. It must be remembered, however, that articles produced in the royal karkhanas were not commodities, i.e. not for sale in the market. Nobles, too, maintained their own karkhanas .
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(Alauddin Khalji's reforms)
What was the revenue system during the 13th century? We do not get a clear picture; even the exact magnitude of the revenue-demand under the llbarite rule is-uncertain. Perhaps the old agrarian system continued to function with the difference that the composition of the supreme appropriators of the surplus produce at the centre had changed, that is the Turkish ruling group had replaced qe previous receivers of the land revenue. However. some reconstruction can be made by projecting back the account of Barani about the situation prevailing in this respect under Sultan Alauddin Khalji's early rule. Briefly, we are told of three groups of rural isocracy ,khot. muqaddam, and chaudhuri-who collected land revenue (kharaj) from the peasants on behalf of the state. and deposited the same with the officials of the diwan-i wizarat. For this service,.they were allowed perquisites (haqq-i khoti) as remuneration by the state which consisted of being exempted from the revenue of a portion of land held by them. Also. they took something from the peasants as their share of the produce which Barani calls qismat-i khoti. Besides land revenue (kharaj), every cultivator had to pay house tax (ghari) and cattle or grazing tax (charai).Incidentally the choudhry might not hane been directly involved in the collection of the revenue because, according to Ibn Battuta, he was the head of "hundred villages" (pargana): this inference is reinforced. by the fact that Barani always employs terms 'like haqq-i khoti or uqadammmi, but never haqq-i chaudhrai. W.H. Moreland, however, uses the term intermediaries for all the three groups; and we shall be doing the Same henceforth.

What motivated Alauddin Khalji in introducing stern measures is explained by Barani in detail. In short, the intermediaries had become intractable-always in readiness for rebellion. The Sultan levelled the following main charges against them:

a) They did not pay the revenue themselves on that portion of their land which was not exempted from assessment; rather they shifted their 'burden' onto the peasantry, that is, they realised additional levy from the peasants besides the fixed demand of the state in order to pay their own dues.
b) They did not pay the grazing tax.
c) The ill-gotten 'exass of wealth' had made them so arrogant that they flouted the orders of the revenue officials by not going to the revenue office even when summoned to render accounts.
As a result, the Sultan had to strike at their resources for economic and political reasons. The measures taken by him were as follows:
i) The magnitude of the state demand was set at half the produce of the land. The land was to be measured (masahat), and the land revenue fixed on the yield of each unit of the area. The term used was wafa-i biswa (rvafa = yield, biswa = 1/20th of a bigha). Most probably, it was levied separately on the holding of each individual cultivator.
ii) The intermediaries and the peasants alike were to pay the same standard of the demand (50%) without any distinction, be they intermediaries or 'ordinary peasant' (balahar).
iii) The perquisites of intermediaries were disallowed.
iv) The grazing and the house tax were to be taken from the intermediaries’ also.
It can be seen, then, that one objective was to free the peasants from the illegal exactions of the intermediaries. That is exactly what Barani means when he says that the sultan's policy was that the 'burden' (bar) of the 'strong' (aqwia) should not fall on the 'weak' (zuafa). We know that this 50% demand was the highest in the agrarian history of India. On the other hand, though the peasanis were protected now from the economic oppression of the intermediaries, the former had to pay a higher rate of taxation than they did earlier. Since the rate was uniform in a sense it was a regressive taxation. Thus the state gained at the cost of the intermediaries, leaving the peasants in the lurch.

It is true that the intermediaries were eliminated from-direct revenue collection. but they were still expected to maintain law and order in the countryside and help the revenue officials without any remuneration or perquisites. The state's direct relations with the peasants resulted in an expansion of revenue officials called variously 'ummal, mutasarrij, mushrif, muhassilan, navisindagan, etc. Soon, large scale corruption and embezzlements surfaced among the revenue officials for which they were ruthlessly punished by the naib wazir, Sharaf Qaini, about 8 to 10 thousand officials were imprisoned. The process for discovering the deceit was simple: the bahi or the ledger of the village patwari was meticulously scrutinized by the auditors. The 'bahi contained every payment, legal or illegal, made to the revenue collectors, and these payments were then compared with the receipts. Corruption occurred in spite of the fact that Alauddin Khalji had raised the salary of the revenue collectors.

Barani gives an indication of the extent of the area where these measures were operative: it was quite a large area, covering the heart of his empire. But Bihar, Awadh, Gujarat and parts of Malwa and Rajputana are not mentioned. At any rate, it must be borne in mind that these measures were largely meant for the khalisa ("crown" or "reserve" land).

As for the mode of payment is concerned. Moreland thinks that ordinarily payment in cash was the gendral practice during the 13th century, and it had become quite widely prevalent by the 14th century. However, Alauddin himself preferred collection in grain. He decreed that the whole revenue due from the khalisa in the Doab should be realized in kind, and only half the revenue due from Delhi (and its suburbs) in cash. The reason for his preference for collection in grain was not only to have a
large reserve of grain stored at Delhi and other areas for contingencies (such as scarcity owing to drought or other factors), but also to utilize the storage as a lever for his price-fixation measures in the grain market.

Two important changes were introduced by Ghiyasuddin Tughluq:
a) The intermediaries got back their haqq-i khoti (but not qismat-i khoti). They were also exempted from the house and cattle tax.
b) the procedure of measurement (masahat) was to continue along with observation or "actual yield" (bar hukm.hasi1).

As for Muhammad Tughluq, there is a confusion that he enhanced the rate of land tax beyond 50%. It is also thought that after the death of Alauddin Khalji, the rate was reduced by the Khalji rulers which was later raised to the previous level by Muhammad Tughluq. Both these views are incorrect: the rate fixed by Alauddin was never sought to be tampered. What Muhammad Tughluq actually did was to impose
new cesses (abwab) as well as revive the older ones (for example, charai and ghari on the intermediaries). Apart from this, it seems that measurement alone was retained for assessment purpose. The matter aggravated when assessment in kind (grain) was carried out not on the principle of the "actual yield" but on the officially decreed yields (wafa-ifarmani) for each unit of the measured area. Again, for payment in cash, commutation was not done according to the market prices but on the basis of the rates as "ordered by the Sultan" (nirkh-i farmani). And, then, as Barani says, all these taxes and cesses were to be realized rigorouslv. The area covered under these regulations was the khalisa land in the Doab. The result was obvious: an unprecedented rebellion of the peasants, led by the intermediaries, occurred which led to bloody confrontations. Feroz Shah claims to have abolished twenty three cesses including charai and ghari.

Another development that took place, especially under the Tughluqs, was the practice of revenue-farming, that is, the task of collecting the revenue of some areas was sometimes given to contractors who perhaps gave a lump sum in advance for the right of revenue collection for a certain period. Under Feroz Shah, 'water tax' (haqq- i sharb) was taken from those cultivators who irrigated their land from the water supplied from the canals constructed by the state. It must be pointed out that in case of bad harvest, the state tried to adjust the land tax, and also gave agricultural loans to the peasants called sondhar in Muhammad Tughluq's reign.

What was the total estimated revenue during any period of the Delhi Sultanate? No such attempt seems to have been made before the reign of Sultan Feroz Shah Tughluq. 'Afif tells us that at the order of the sultan, Khwaja Hisamuddin Junaid determined the jama (estimated revenue) of the kingdom according to the "rule of inspection" (bar hukm mushahada). It took six years to do this job, and the figure arrived at was six kror and seventy-five lakhs tanka.


The territorial expansion and cdnsolidation of the Sultanate was a process which continued throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. It involved varying kinds of control in terms of territories: those brought under direct administration and those which paid tribute and remained semi autonomous. The expansion of the Sultanate and the difficulties involved in administering areas that were far away from the
centre shaped different kinds of control.

Iqta System

The initial Turkish conquests in the early 13th century displaced many local chiefs . In order to consolidate,the Turkish rulers made revenue assignments (iqta), in lieu of cash,'to their nobles (umma). The assignees (known as muqti and wali) collected revenue from these areas, defrayed their own expenses, paid the troops maintained by them and sent the surplus to the centre. lqta is an Arabic word and the institution had been in force in the early lslamic world as a form of reward for services to the State. It was used in the Caliphate administration as a way of financing operations and paying civil and military officers. The grant of iqta did not imply a right to the land nor was it hereditary though the holders of iqta tended to acquire hereditary rights in Feroz Tughluq's reign. These revenue assignments were transferable, the iqta-holder being transferred from one region to another every three or four years. Therefore, iqta should not be equated with the fief of medieval feudal Europe, which were hereditary and non-transferable. The assignments could be large (a whole province or a part). Assignments even to nobles carried administrative, military and revenue collecting responsibilities. Thus, provincial administration was headed by the muqti or wali. He had to maintain an army composed of horsemen and foot soldiers.

provincial and Local Administration

As the State became more settled and efforts were made for greater centralization, provincial administration also underwent a change. A separation between fiscal and fiilitary responsibilities started evolving. During the reign of Muhammad Tughluq, fiscal responsibilities were partially withdrawn from the muqtis or walis and placed under central officers. According to Ibn Battuta, the iqta of Amroha was placed under two officers, one called amir (possibly in charge of the army and administration) and the other as wali-ul kharaj (in charge of revenue collection). Muhammad Tughluq also ordered that the salary of the soldiers maintained by iqta- holders be paid by the diwan-i wizarar to prevent fraud by the officers.

Greater control also came to be exercised over fiscal matters. The diwan’soffice, at the centre, received and examined detailed statements regarding income and expenditure in the provinces. It supervised the work of the revenue officials in the provinces. The provinces had a sahib-i diwan, whose office kept books of account and submitted information to the centre. It was assisted by officials like mutrsasarrifs. The entire lower revenue staff was called karkun.

By the end of the thirteenth century. contemporary sources refer to an administrative division, known as shiqq. We do not have adequate information about the exact nature of shiqq. However. by the time of Sher Shah (1 540-1 545 A.D.) shiqq had emerged as a well-defined administrative unit, known as sarkar. Administrative officials, mentioned with respect to shiqq, were shiqqdar and faujdar. The demarcation of their duties is not very clear.
According to Ibn Battuta, chaudhuri was the head of hundred villages. This was the nucleus of the administrative unit later called pargana. The village was the smallest unit of administration. The functioning and administration of the village remained basically the same as it had existed in pre-Turkish times. The main village functionaries were khor, muqaddam (headman) and patwari . The judicial administration of the sub-division was patterned on that of the centre. Courts of the qazi and sadr functioned in the provinces. The kotwal mmaintained law and order. At the village level, the panchayat heared civil cases.
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Default Architecture Of Delhi Sultanate



Art and architecture are true manifestations of the culture of a period as they reflect the mind and approach of that society. It is here that the ideas and techniques of a Society find visual expression. The advent of the Turkish rule in India is significant in more than one respect.While it gave rise to a new socio-political system , it also marked the beginning of a new expression in art. The style of architecture that evolved during this time is called Indo-Islamic.
Unlike architecture, the art of painting as practiced in the Delhi Sultanate is not properly documented. We know that calligraphy and book-illumination in the Islamic world had achieved supreme heights by the close of the 12th century; there also existed a developed tradition of figural murals in the Ghaznavi kingdom. Possibly the same tradition was carried to Delhi by the early Turkish Sultans where it flourished in the 13th and 14th centuries.


The most important source for the study of architecture is the surviving remains of buildings themselves. Though these enable us to grasp architectural techniques and styles peculiar to our period, it offers little help in understanding other related aspects of architecture such as the role of the architects and the drawings and estimates and accounts of the buildings.

New Structural Forms

i) Arch and Dome

On a careful reading of the reports prepared by General Alexander Cunningham of archaeological sites and remains in Northern India, we observe that the incidence of masonry building-including civilian housing in towns-increases significantly after the 13th century. This was primarily possible due to the use of lime-mortar as the basic cementing material .The building of true arch required stones or bricks to be laid as voussoirs in the shape of a curve and bound together firmly by a good binding material. This binding material was lime-mortar.
The result of the introduction of the new technique was that the pre-Turkish forms, lintel and beam and corbelling, were replaced by true arches and vaults and the spired roofs (shikhar) by domes. Arches are made in a variety of shapes, but in India the pointed form of the Islamic world was directly inherited. And sometime in second quarter of the 14th century, another variant of the pointed form, the four-centred arch, was introduced by the Tughluqs in their remained in vogue till the end of the Sultanate.

ii) Building Material

It is a curious fact that there are very few instances of early Turkish buildings in India where newly quarried material has been employed by the architects. The fashion was to use richly carved capitals, columns, shafts and lintels from pre-Turkish buildings. In India, towards the beginning of the 14th century when the supply of such material had exhausted, buildings were raised by using originally quarried or manufactured material
In the masonry work, stone has been used abundantly. The foundations are-mostly of rough and small rubble or, wherever it is available, of river boulders, while the superstructure is of dressed stone or roughly shaped coarsed stonework. However in either case, the buildings were plastered all over. Percy Brown (Indian Architecture : Islamic Period,Bombay, 1968) has noted that in the buildings of the Khalji period a new method of stone masonry was used. This consisted of laying stones in two different courses, that is headers and stretchers. This system was retained in subsequent buildings and became a characteristic of the building technique of the Mughals.
The material commonly used for plastering buildings was gypsum. Apparently lime-plaster was reserved for places that needed to be secured against the leakage of water, such as roofs, indigo-vats, canals,drains, etc. In the later period, i.e. around 15th century, when highly finished stucco work became common, gypsum mortar was preferred for plaster work on the walls and the ceiling .


Decorative art in Islamic buildings served the purpose of concealing the structure behind motifs rather than revealing it. Since the depiction of living beings was generally frowned upon, the elements of decoration were, in most cases, limited to:

a) calligraphy, b) Geometry, and c) foliation.

Calligraphy is an important element of the decorative art in the buildings of this period. The Quranic sayings are inscribed on buildings in an angular, sober and monumental script, known as kufi.They may be found in any part gf the building-frames of the doors, ceilings, wall panels, niches etc, and in variety of materials-tone, stucco and painting.

Geometric shapes in abstract form are used in these buildings in a bewildering variety of combinations. The motifs indicate incorporation of visual principles: repetition, symmetry, and generation of continuous patterns. It has been suggested by Dalu Jones (Architecture of the Islamic World,ed. George Michell, London, 1978) that the generating source of these geometric designs is the circle, which could be developed into a square, a triangle or a polygon. These forms are then elaborated by multiplication and subdivision, by rotation and by symmetrical arrangements.

Of the foliations, the dominant form of decoration employed in Sultanate buildings, is the arabesque. It is characterized by a continuous stem which splits regularly, producing a series of leafy secondary stems which can in turn split again or reintegrate into the main stem. The repetition of this pattern produces a beautifully balanced design with a three dimensional effect.

Stylistic Evolution

Early form

The history of Indo-Islamic architecture proper commences with the occupation of Delhi by the Turks in AD. 1192. The Tomar citadel of Lal Kot with its Chauhan extension, Qila Rai Pithora, was captured by Qutbuddin Aibak. Here he began the construction of a Jamia Masjid which was completed in 1198. According to an inscription on the mosque it was known as Quwwatul Islam. In 1199, an expansive screen with lofty arches was raised across the entire front of the sanctuary of the mosque. In both these constructions, the hand of the local architect is quite evident. The lintels, carved-columns and slabs, have been used liberally by only turning their carved sides inwards or using them upside down. The arches of the screen have been built by employing the method of corbelling. And the ornamentation of the screen, is emphatically Hindu in conception.
However, the borrowed elements of Hindu architecture were soon discarded and relatively little was retained by the maturing Indo-Islamic style. In later buildings of this phase, such as Qutab Minar (built1235), Arhai Din Ka Jhoupra (built 1200) and Iltutmish's tomb (completed 1233-34), though corbelling’ could not be replaced as the principal structural technique, decoration became almost fully Islamic in detail. In this connection, the principles employed in the construction of the domical roof of I1tutmish's tomb ( not extant now) are also of great interest. Though the tomb was raised with the help of corbelled courses it was supported on squinches built at the corners of the square chamber. The culmination of the architectural style designated by us as the Early Form was the mausoleum of Balban built around 1287-88. It is in ruins now but occupies an important place in the development of Indo-Islamic architecture, as it is here that we notice the earliest true arch.

The Khaljis

With their architecture, as revealed in Alai Darwaza (built 1305) at the Qutub complex, and the Jamat Khana Masjid (built 1325) at Nizamuddin, a marked change in style appears. In the evolution of Indo-Islamic architecture, this phase occupies a key position as it exhibits a distinct influence of the Seljuk architectural traditions (a Turkish tribe ruling over Central Asia and Asia Minor in 11-13 century) as also certain salient features of composition which were adopted in the succeeding styles.
The characteristic features of this phase may be listed below :
a) Employment of true arch, pointed horse-shoe in shape.
b) Emergence of true dome with recessed arch under the squinch.
c) Use of red sandstone and decorative marble reliefs as new building materials
d) Appearance of 'lotus-bud' fringe on the underside of the arch - a Seljuk feature.
e) Emergence of new masonry-facing, consisting of a narrow course of headers alternating with a much wider course of stretchers.
In addition, the decorative features characterized by calligraphy, geometry and arabesque now became much bolder and profuse.

The Tughluqs

A new architectural style came into vogue in the buildings of this period. Judging from the remains, only the first three rulers of this house appear to have been interested in the art of building. However, the architecture of this period can be divided into two main groups. To the first group belong the construction of Ghiyasuddin and Muhammad Tughluq, and the other to those of Feroz Taghluq.
The general features of the Tughluq style of architecture are listed below:

a) Stone rubble is the principal building material and the walls are in most cases plastered.
b) The walls and bastions are invariably battered, the effect being most marked at the comers .
c) A hesitant and possibly experimental use of a new shape of arch- the four centered arch-necessitating its reinforcement with a supporting beam. This arch-beam combination is a hall-mark of the Tughluq style. The pointed horse-shoe arch of the preceding style was abandoned because of its narrow compass and therefore the inability to span wider spaces.
d) Emergence of a pointed dome with clearly visible neck in contrast with rather stifled dome of the preceding style.
e) Introduction of epcaustic tiles as an element of decoration in the panels of the buildings.
f) Emergence, in the tombs of this period, an octagonal plan which came to be copied and perfected by the Mughals in the 16th-17th century.

The Final phase

Within a decade of the death of Feroz Shah Tughluq (1388), the Sultanate became politically unstable, and in 1398 was sacked and plundered by Timur. However, some semblance of central authority remained with the two succeeding dynasties of the Saiyyids and lodis, although they ruled over a greatly Shrunken Sultanate of Delhi between 1414 and 1526. A large number of tombs were built in and around Delhi so much so that over a period of time the area around Delhi looked like a sprawling qabristan (graveyard).
Yet some of these structures are important from architectural point of view and can be considered as heralding a distinct style. The more important of these tomb-buildings took two separate forms, the distinguishing features of which are given below :
a) Mausoleums designed on an octagonal plan incorporating the following . elements :
Main tomb-chamber surrounded by an arched verandah.
One storey high.
Verandah with projecting eaves supported on brackets
b) The other type was built on square plan. These were characterized by the following elements :
Absence of verandah around the main tomb-chamber.
Exterior comprised of two, and sometimes three storeys.
Absence of eaves and supporting brackets.
There is an original treatment of colored tile decoration in these buildings. It is set sparingly in friezes. In addition, there are intricately incised surfaces of plaster.
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The history of painting in the Sultanate period is obscure compared with its architecture. This is due primarily to the non-availability of any surviving specimens for at least the first hundred years of the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.
Equally surprising is the absence of illuminated books, an art carried to supreme height in the Islamic world by 1200. However, the researches during the last 20-25 years have unearthed new and some crucial evidence, forcing the scholars to change their opinion radically. We now know that not only book illumination but murals too were executed during the Sultanate period. The art of painting may thus be divided into the following three categories each of which will be discussed separately.

1. Literary Evidence for Murals

The closest view that one may have of the murals as a flourishing art form during the rule of the Delhi Sultanate is through a large number of literary references occurring in the chronicles of this period. These have been compiled and analysed by Simon Digby (‘The Literary Evidence for Painting in the Delhi Sultanate')

The earliest reference to murals in the Sultanate period is in a qasida (Tabqat-i Nasiri) in praise of Iltuttmish, on the occasion of the gift of Khila't from the Caliph in 1228. The verses in this composition make it clear that human or animal figures were depicted upon the spandrels of the main arch raised to welcome the envoy of the Caliph.

'The most important single reference to painting in the Delhi Sultanate occurs in the context of un-Islamic observances of earlier rulers inviting a ban by Feroz Tughluq (Tarikh-i Ferozshrhi by Afif). It indicates the existence of a continuous tradition of figural painting on the walls of the palaces of Delhi, which was sought to be banned by Feroz Tughluq.

This tradition of painting was not confined to the murals alone. In a reference relating to the entertainment parties thrown by Qutbuddin Mubarak Khalji (1316-20), mention is made of a profusely painted open-sided tent: The decorations would therefore appear to be on painted cloth (Nuh Siphr by Amir Khusrau).
In contrast, there did survive a tradition of wall painting in the houses of the common people, especially the non-Muslims. It is testified by :

• A stanza from a 14th century Hindi poem Chandayan written by Maulana Daud in 1379-80, which describes the painted decoration of the upper rooms ,of the house were Chanda, the leading lady of this poem, sleeps with her female companions.
• an actual painting from one of the illustrated manuscripts of this poem belonging to tbe 15th century and showing the bedchamber of Chanda, on the walls of which are painted scenes from the Ramayana.

2.The Quranic Calligraphy

Calligraphy was the most revered art in the Islamic world,and was used as a decorative feature both on stone and on paper. In the hierarchy of craftsmen, a calligrapher was placed above the illuminator and painter. However, the calligraphy of the Quran became one of the foremost forms of book art, where copies of Quran were produced on a majestic and expansive scale.

The earliest known copy of the Quran is dated 1399. It was calligraphed at Gwalior, and has a variety of ornamental motifs,derived both from Iranian and Indian sources. The geometrical frontispiece of this manuscript seems to be in the Sultanate style and suggests the folloving as prominent features of the Delhi ateliers in the 14th century:

• The work produced here is in line with the Iranian tradition.
• The script used in the headings and inscriptional panels of the Quran is invariably Kufi
• The illumination of geometrical frontispieces was the speciality of this school.

The state of book-art in the 15th century, under the Saiyyid and Lodi dynasties, remained a sad shadow of its former self as it became incapable of supporting artistic endeavour on a large scale. The initiative seems to have been wrested by provincial dynasties.

3 Manuscript Illustration.

Manuscript illustration in the Sultanate period is a hotly debated and disputed subject. There is very little concurrence among scholars on terminology and provenance. Thus, deciding the traits of Sultanate manuscript illustrations is a cumbersome job. On the contrary, though a good number of illustrated manuscripts in Persian and Awadhi from the period between 1400 and the advent of the Mugalsare now known, some of these manuscripts appear to have been produced at provincial courts. However, there is a distinct, although small, group of manuscripts which was probably not connected with any court. They seem to have been produced for patrons, presumably independent but located somewhere in the Sultanate. They have sometimes been termed as representing a 'bourgeois' group and are attributable to the period 1450-4500. Given below are brief notes on two of these manuscripts forming the 'bourgeois' group.


This manuscript is dated to about 1450 and depicts the legendry exploits of Amir
Hamza, one of the companions of the Prophet (P BUH).


It is datable to 1450-70 and illustrates the romance of two lovers Laur and Chanda.
It was composed in the Awadhi dialect of Hindi by Maulana Daud of Dalmau near
Rai Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh in 1389.


The development of music as an art form in Delhi Sultanate took a back seat compared with the growth of architecture and painting. Moreover the history of music during this period suffers from a serious handicap, the lack of documentation. Historical references are scattered and scanty and most of the modern day writings are speculative rather than historically substantive. They are replete with fables and legends about music in the Sultanate period.
The 14th century is perhaps the most important period in the history of the Delhi
Sultanate from the point of view of music, That music in some form was practiced in the courts of the early Sultans is, however, not improbable. Kaiqubad had built for himself a magnificent palace at Kilugarhi. The courtly revels included dancing and singing of Persian and Hindi songs by beautiful girls. But it was Amir Khusrau who has left an enduring mark on the music not only of the Sultanqte but of India as a whole. Amir Khusrau was the disciple of the great sun saint Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia of Delhi. He was also the court poet of Alauddin Khalji who was himself very fond of music. The genius of Amir Khusrau in the sphere of music was mainly utilized in innovating new compositions as well as in assimilating different forms of music prevalent in his time. He is credited with having introduced:

• The qawwali mode of singing into the countryside for the first time.
• several of our modem rags like Zilaph, Sazgiri and Sarparda, etc., produced by combining Persian and Indian tunes.
• Khayal form of singing by abandoning the traditional dhrupad.
• a new musical instrument called sitar by combining the old Indian vina and the Iranian tambura.
• modifications in the conventional percussion instrument mridang to bifurcate it into two and call them tabla.

The changes introduced by Amir Khusrau had far-reaching social consequences in
bringing together people of two divergent creeds.
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The contingents stationed at Delhi were called Hasham-i-qalb and included among others royal slaves and guards.

Provincial contingents were called hasham-i-atraf..


It was a section of the army which was distinct from the contingents of iqta dars and the royal army. It consisted of the volunteers for jihad. Thousands of such volunteers joined Mahmud in his Indian campaigns and they remained a factor of some importance in the early days of the sultanate. They were not registered in Diwan-i-Arid.

Garrisons are mentioned in the time of Qutbuddin Aibak which were placed under Kotwals.

Cavalry was composed of murattab, sawar and do-aspah (men with 2 horses, single horse and no horses of their own respectively) (The Administration of the Sultanate of Delhi,
I.H. Qureshi, p. 250-253).

Elephant establishment at Delhi was supervised by the Shahnah-i-fil.

The infantry
The infantry or foot soldiers were referred to as paiks (generally Hindus,
slaves or persons of low origin).

The decimal system (multiples of 10) was the basis of army organisation under the Ghaznavids and Mongols. Sultans of Delhi followed a similar system. Barani in his Tarikh-I-Firoz Shahi discusses the army organization:

“A sarkhail commands 10 chosen horsemen; a sipah-salar 10 sarkhails; an amir 10 sipha-salars; a malik 10 amirs, a khan 10 maliks, and a king should have at least 10 khans under his command .( Barani)

Barani also refers to amiran-i-sada (centurians) and amiran-i-hajara (commanders of one thousand). The hierarchy comprised of Sarkhail at the bottom (with 10 horse men subordinate to him), a sipah-salar (had 10 sarkhail under him), amir (10 sipah-salars below him), malik (had power over 10 amirs), Khan’s troops (were equal to troops under 10 maliks)

Barani in Tarikh-I-Firoz Shahi says that Muhammad Tughlaq told the governor ofDhar (Malwa) “ I hear that everyone who rebels does so owing to the support of the amiran-i-sadah (Sadah amirs: commanders of one hundred) and the amiran-i-sadah support him owing to their anger (at the imperial policy) and love of plunder.”(Medieval India Quarterly, Prof. M. Habib, p.288.)

The masalik-ul-absar (An Arabic source of the 14th century) gives an estimate of the salaries of officers: Khan: 1 lakh tankhas, malik: 50 to 60 thousand tankhas, etc. Soldiers were directly paid in cash by the central government during the time of Khaljis and Tughlaqs. The nobles were given assignments of revenue in lieu of salary. The standing
army comprised of regular troops called wajhis and irregular called ghair wajhis.Sometimes soldiers were also paid through itlaq (drafts).

The king or Sultan was the commander in chief of the forces but with the expansion of the empire and the growth of the military side of the government the importance of the Arid increased immensely. Arid acted as the chief recruiting officer and also functioned as the General of the Army sometimes. Commissariat was also under him and Diwan -i –Arid disbursed salaries to the troops. The sultan named the generals for different campaigns.
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Kindly also share the source with us.
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