Emergence and Administration of the Delhi Sultanate


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PrelimsHistory of India

Mains:  Indian Culture - Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Emergence of Delhi Sultanate:

The rulers who ruled substantial parts of North India between 1200 AD to 1526 AD were termed Sultans, and the period of their rule was the Delhi Sultanate

  • These rulers were of Turkish and Afghan origin. They established their rule in India after defeating the Indian ruling dynasties, mainly Rajputs in northern India.
  • The main ruler who was overthrown by the invading Turk Muhammad Ghori from Delhi was Prithvi Raj Chauhan. 
  • These Sultans ruled for more than 300 years (from around AD 1200 to 1526).
  • During this period of around three hundred years, five dynasties ruled Delhi. All these dynasties are collectively referred to as the Delhi Sultanate. 
    • Mamluk Dynasty (AD 1206–AD 1290) (popularly known as the slave dynasty),
    • Khilji Dynasty (AD 1290–AD 1320) 
    • Tughlaq Dynasty (AD 1320–AD 1412) 
    • Sayyid Dynasty (AD 1412–AD 1451)  
    • Lodi Dynasty (AD 1451– AD 1526)

Sultans of Delhi


Ulema and the Learned in the Political Realm:

An institutional feature of the political discourse of the Delhi Sultanate was the presence of the Ulema [theologians] both at the court and in the provinces through the offices of the Qazi and officials operating the educational institutions. 

  • The Ulema is a  group consisting of persons who performed the role of the preachers and guardians of the Islamic religion, and most of them had come from outside the subcontinent. 
  • Traditionally, they were committed to upholding the Islamic religious order and thus acted as socio-moral censors for the Muslim community. 
  • They held important positions in the administrative system, particularly in the judiciary. Prof. 


Administration of Delhi Sultanate:

The administration of the Delhi Sultanate was divided into three levels:

  • Central Administration
  • Provincial Administration
  • Local Administration

Central Administration:

The central administration in the Delhi sultanate during the period of Ilbari Turks (slave dynasty) was carried out mainly by trusted slaves who had helped the sultan to acquire the throne; or by the members of the royal household and family. 

  • Loyalty was, therefore, a prerequisite for holding the high office and being given the highest rewards. 
  • The Sultan was the head of the administration with all military, administrative and legal powers. A number of separate departments were created to look after different aspects of administration. 
  • Wizarat: After the seat of the sultan, the most important office in the sultanate was the Diwani-Wizarat, headed by the wazir. 
    • He had under him a naib wazir.
    • The wazir [prime minister] was a general supervisor of all departments in the royal court.
    • Primary function: He looked after the financial organisation of the state, gave advice to the sultan, and on occasion, led military expeditions at the sultan’s behest. 
      • Supervising the payment to the army.
      • Kept a check on land revenue collections and maintained a record of all the income and expenditures incurred by the state. 
      • Charitable donations such as waqfs and inams. 
    • Minor Departments under this office:  
      • Mustaufi-i-Mumalik [Auditor General, in charge of expenditure],
      • Mushrif-i-Mumalik [Accountant General, in charge of income] 
      • Majmuadar [keeper of loans and balances from treasury]. 
      • Diwan-i-Waqoof [introduced by Jalaluddin Khalaji to supervise expenditure only, i.e., after separating ‘income’ records from ‘expenditure’ records]; 
      • Diwan-i-Mustakhraj [set up by Alauddin Khalaji to enquire into and realise arrears of revenue payments from the different parts of the empire]
      • Diwan-i-Amir Kohi- It was set under Muhammad bin Tughlaq and was responsible for bringing uncultivated land into cultivation through state support.
  • Diwan-i-Arz: The Diwan-i-Arz was instituted especially to look after the military organisation of the empire.
    • Headed by the Ariz-i-Mumalik. Ariz, along with his office, maintained the royal contingents, recruited the soldiers, and ensured the discipline and fitness of the army.  
    • Alauddin Khilji introduced the dagh (branding) and huliyah (description) system and cash payment to soldiers. This was meant to strengthen his control over the army.
      • Firuz Tughlaq did away with the system of dagh and huliyah; however, Muhammad Tughlaq continued the dagh system. 
      • Under Sikandar Lodi huliyah was referred to as chehrah.
  • Naib-Ul-Mulk: The Naib was the deputy of Ariz and was supposed to assist him in his many administrative chores.
  • Diwan-i-Insha: Headed by the Dabir-i-Khas, looked after the department of royal correspondence. 
    • The Dabir was the formal channel of communication between the centre and the other areas of the empire and was also a private secretary to the Sultan.
  • Diwan-i-Riyasat: Important office during the reign of Sultan Alauddin Khilji
    • Function: registered all the supplies of commodities and maintained standards in the markets [such as checking weights and measures, etc.]. 
  • Diwan-i-Risalat: It was headed by the Sadr-us-Sadr, who was also the Qadi-i-mumalik and was responsible for the administration of justice and looked after the religious matters as sadr-us-sadr.
    • In the time of Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the complaints of the people were registered with the Diwan-i-Risalat.
  • Diwan-i-Mazalim: Headed by the Amir-i-Dad in the absence of the Sultan. 
    • His role was to supervise the qadis, kotwal (police) and muhtasib (Executive officer who supervised and enforced public morals and public conveniences).
  • Small departments: Intelligence [like the Barid-i-Mumalik], the royal household [headed by the Wakil-i-Dar], court ceremonies [led by the Amir-i-Hajib], royal bodyguards [under the Sar-i-Jandar]. 

Provincial Administration:

  • The Governor of the Province was the chief executive officer deputed by the centre.
  • The Sultanate comprised provinces (iqta) placed in charge of governors called wali or muqti; later, provinces were partitioned into shiqs (administered by shiqdars) for administrative convenience and then shiqs partitioned into Pargana (local administration).
  • The faujdars assisted Shiqdar in maintaining law and order during the Tughlaq period.
  • The function of the Governor: collection of revenue, maintaining law and order and keeping the opposition to central authority under control, and maintaining a military unit under his command. 
    • Ariz helped the governor in these military duties, who looked after the military contingents under the governor's supervision. Ariz was placed under the Ariz-i-Mumalik.
  • Sahib-i-Diwan: maintained financial accounts of the provincial income and expenditure.
    • He was assisted in his task by mutassarifs and karkuns.

Local Administration:

A number of villages formed a Pargana, but village and pargana were independent units of administration and yet inter-related areas over which officials commanded administrative powers. 

  • The villages were under the administrative supervision of the 12 Administrative and Institutional Structures following a set of officials:
    • Muqaddam (the village headman) 
    • Patwari (village accountant)
    • Khut (village headman) 
  • The important pargana officials were: 
    • Chaudhary (highest local rural magnate accountable to the government for land revenue collection), 
    • Mutasarrif or amil (revenue collector) 
    • Karkun (accountant)

Army Organisation:

  • Barani, in his Tarikh-I-Firoz Shahi, discusses the army organisation.
  • 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. 
  • Garrisons are mentioned in the time of Qutbuddin Aibak, which were placed under Kotwals.
  • The central government directly paid soldiers in cash during the Khiljis and Tughlaqs. Sometimes soldiers were also paid through itlaq (drafts).



Previous Year Questions:



Q) With reference to medieval India, which one of the following is the correct sequence in ascending order in terms of size?

(a) Paragana- Sarkar- Suba

(b) Sarkar-Paragana-Suba

(c) Suba-Sarkar-Paragana

(d) Paragana-Suba-Sarkar



Q) Consider the following statements:

1. In the revenue administration of Delhi Sultanate, the in-charge of revenue collection was known as ‘Amil’.

2. The lqta system of Sultans of Delhi was an ancient indigenous institution.

3. The office of ‘Mir Bakshi’ came into existence during the reign of Khalji Sultans of Delhi.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):


Q) What is the role of Mutasarrif during the Mauryan period?

Each karkhana was supervised by a noble with the rank of a malik or khan and a mutasarrif, who was responsible for the accounts and acted as the immediate supervisor. A separate diwan or accounts office existed for the karkhanas.

Q) Who was Muqaddam and Patwari?

The village head was the muqaddam, the sole link between the government and the village. Though he was not a government servant, he was responsible for maintaining law and order in his village. Next comes the patwari, a village record keeper. He was also not an employee of the state but of the village community.