Slave Dynasty


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Prelims: History of India

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

Emergence of Slave Dynasty

Muhammad Ghori: In 1173 AD Shahabuddin Muhammad, also called Muhammad of Ghor, ascended the throne of Ghazni. 

  • His invasions resulted in the establishment of the Turkish Sultanate in the region lying north of the Vindhyas.
  • Conquest of Punjab and Sind: He launched a campaign against the Ghaznavid possessions in Punjab. 
    • As a result, Peshawar was conquered in AD 1179–80 and Lahore in AD 1186. Thus by AD 1190, He secured Multan, Sind and Punjab.
  • First Battle of Tarain (AD 1191): Muhammad Ghori’s possession of Punjab and his attempt to advance into the Gangetic Doab brought him into direct conflict with the Rajput ruler Prithivaraja Chauhan
    • The conflict started with the claims of Bhatinda. In the first battle fought at Tarain in AD 1191, Ghori’s army was routed, and he narrowly escaped death. 
    • Prithviraj conquered Bhatinda, but he made no effort to garrison it effectively. 
    • This allowed Ghori to re-assemble his forces and prepare for another advance into India.
  • Second Battle of Tarain (AD 1192): This battle is regarded as one of the turning points in Indian History. 
    • The Turkish and Rajput forces again came face to face at Tarain. A large number of Indian soldiers were killed. 
    • Prithviraj tried to escape but was captured near Sarsuti
    • The Turkish army captured the fortresses of Hansi, Sarsuti and Samana. Then they moved forward, running over Delhi and Ajmer. 
  • After Tarain, Ghori returned to Ghazni, leaving the affairs of India in the hand of his trusted slave, General Qutbuddin Aibak. 
  • Battle of Chandawar: In AD 1194, Muhammad Ghori again returned to India. He crossed Yamuna and moved towards Kannauj.
    • He gave a crushing defeat to Jai Chand at Chandwar near Kannauj. Thus the battle of Tarain and Chandwar laid the foundations of Turkish rule in Northern India. 
  • His death in AD 1206 did not mean the withdrawal of Turkish interests in India. 
  • He left behind his slave General Qutbuddin Aibak who became the first Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate.

Map: Slave Dynasty


Slave Dynasty

Period: 1206 AD to 1290 AD

Capital: Lahore and Delhi

  • With Qutbuddin Aibak begins the period of Mamluk Sultans or the slave dynasty.
  • Mamluk is an Arabic word meaning “owned”. 
  • It was used to distinguish the imported Turkish slaves meant for military service from the lower slaves used as domestic labour or artisan.

Qutbuddin Aibak

(1206 AD -1210 AD)

  • Qutbuddin Aibak was a Turkish slave who had risen to a high rank in Muhammad Ghori’s army. 
  • He was the first independent Muslim ruler of Northern India, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. 
  • Capital: Lahore
  • He consolidated his control over North India through an administrative hold over Delhi.
  • Title: Sultan and “Lakh Baksh” (due to his generosity).
  • Court poet: Hasan Nizami
  • He died suddenly while playing Chaugan (horse polo).

Contributions to Art and Architecture:

  • The art and architecture of the Delhi Sultanate period differed from that of India. 
  • The Turks used the Arabic alphabet to create arches, domes, tall towers, minarets, and ornaments. 
  • They employed the ability of the Indian stone cutters. They also used marble and red and yellow sandstones to add colour to their structures.

Qutub Minar (Delhi)

  • Architecture: Indo-Islamic architecture
  • Highest stone tower in India, with its height being 73 metres.
  • The construction of this minar started in 1197 C.E. by Qutbuddin Aibak (one storey) and was completed by Iltutmish in 1232 C.E.
  • The Qutub Minar has five storeys, separated (3 storeys by Illtutmish and fifth by Firuz Shah Tughlaq)  from one another by richly decorated balconies.
  • Iltutmish dedicated Qutub Minar to Sufi Saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. 
  • The surface of the minar is embellished with vertical flutings.
  • Material used: Easily available grey colour stones. 
  • Features:  tapering cylindrical appearance along with its inscriptions, arabesque ornamentation and motifs.
  •  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra (Rajasthan)

  • Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra is a mosque at Ajmer that was constructed in 1200 C.E. after demolishing the Sharada temple and a learning institution that was situated there.
  • Architecture: Indo-Islamic architecture
  • Material: Yellow limestone
  • Inscriptions from the Holy Quran and also many floral designs inspired by Arabic Architecture. 
  • The pillars and domes in the prayer hall are well in symmetry and are of Hindu origin. 
  • The magnificent mihrab in white marble is a significant feature of this mosque. 

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

  • It was constructed in 1193 C.E to 1197 C.E.
  • It is also known as the Might of Islam.
  • First mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India.
  • Qutbuddin Aibak established his Government at the citadel called Qila-i-Rai Pithaura (the fort of Prithviraj Chauhan)
    • The mosque was constructed by demolishing twenty-seven Brahmanical and Jain temples inside the citadel. 
    • The spoils of these Hindu temples were the main construction material for this mosque.
  • The massive stone screen with five graceful arches, the central one being the highest, is not built on the true arch principle.
  • The ornamentation of the screens shows typical Hindu decorative floral elements, serpentine tendrils and undulating leaves. 
  • The only new element that was introduced by the Muslims is the Arabic inscription. 

Aram Shah (1210-1211 AD)

  • After the sudden death of Qutabuddin Aibak, his officers placed Aram Baksh, also known as Aram Shah, at Lahore. 
  • The Delhi subjects did not accept the rule of Aram Shah; they invited Iltutmish, the son-in-law of Qutabuddin Aibak, to ascend the Delhi throne. 
  • Iltutmish marched to Delhi, defeated and Killed Aram Shah in the battle of Jud near Delhi and became the sovereign ruler of Delhi in 1211 AD.

Shamshuddin Iltutmish

(AD 1210–1236)  

  • He shifted his capital from Lahore to Delhi.
  • The credit for consolidating the Delhi Sultanate lies largely with him. 
  • Revolts/Threats: 
    • During the first 10 years of his reign, he concentrated on securing his throne from his rivals
    • Other commanders of Muhammad Ghori, like Yaldauz, Qubacha and Ali Mardan, rose in defiance again. He defeated Yaldauz in AD 1215 in the battle of Tarain.
    • In c.1217 CE, he drove away Qabacha from Punjab.
    • The rising power of Mongols under Chenghiz Khan threatened the North West Frontier of the Sultanate.
      • In 1221, Jalaluddin Mangbarani (son of the Shah of Khwarizm), while escaping from the Mongols, sought shelter at Iltutmish’s court.
      • Iltutmish turned him away. He thus saved the Sultanate from destruction by the Mongols
    • In AD 1226–27, Iltutmish sent a large army under his son Nasiruddin Mahmud which defeated Iwaz Khan and brought Bengal and Bihar back into the Delhi Sultanate.
    • Similarly, a campaign was also launched against the Rajput chiefs. Ranthambore was captured in AD 1226
    • By AD 1231, Iltutmish had established his authority over Mandor, Jalore, Bayana and Gwalior.
  • He divided his empire into Iqtas (assignment of land instead of salary). Every Iqtadars had to maintain law and order and collect revenue.
  • He also organised his trusted nobles or officers into a group of “Forty” (Turkan-i-Chahalgani).
  • He issued purely Arabic coinage of silver tanka weighing 175 grams, which remains the basis of the modern rupee and copper Jital.
  • Ibn Battuta describes him as the first independent ruler of Delhi.
  • He was succeeded by his son Ruknuddin Iltutmish. He was an incompetent ruler, so nobles and the army appointed his half-sister Razia on the throne. 

Contributions to Art and  Architecture:

Hauz-e-Shamsi (Delhi)

  • It was built in 1229 CE
  • It was also known as Shamshi Talab. 
  • It is a water storage reservoir or tank. 
  • Material: Red sandstone 
  • Islamic Prophet Mohammad directed Iltutmish in his dreams to build the reservoir at a particular site.
  • It is a double-storeyed structure supported on twelve pillars.

Gandhak ki Baoli (Delhi)

  • It was built in the early 13th century.
  • It is one of the Boalis of Mehrauli.
  • It is a step well with sulphur content in water.
  • It was built under the orders of Sultan Iltutmish so that the Sufi Saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and his disciples could make use of its healing, sulphur-rich water.
  • It has decorative architectural features.

Sultan Garhi (Delhi)

  • It was built in 1231 AD.
  • Iltutmish built this over the remains of his eldest son Nasiruddin Mahmud.
  • Material: Grey Granite, Red Sandstone & Marble with Hindu motif and later-era Islamic inscription.
  • It is the oldest Islamic mausoleum in India.
  • Structure: It is in the form of a fortress with a courtyard-like layout.
  • The tomb is built on the site of a Pratihara-era Hindu temple.
  • It has a distinctly military appearance.
  • The tomb was repaired later by Firoz Shah Tughluq.

Jama Masjid Shamsi (Uttar Pradesh)

  • It was built in 1233 AD.
  • Architecture: Persian and Afghan architecture.
  • Material: Red marble and white marble (Sangemarmar- used on the floor).
  • It has a central dome surrounded by two more domes and 5 other domes too. 

Tomb of Iltutmish (Delhi)

  • It was built in 1235 CE.
  • It is a part of the Qutb Minar Complex.
  • Material: Red sandstone 
  • The tomb has three arched entrances on the north, south and east, and a mihrab on the west.
  • There are beautiful inscriptions on the stone in Kufri, Tugra and Nashtaliq characters. 
  • The double-arched mihrab in white marble is a rich amalgamation of Hindu art into Islamic architecture. 

Razia Sultan (1236 AD-1240 AD)

  • Raziya Sultan was the first female Muslim ruler of South Asia.
  • She dispensed justice without discrimination and held a court every week in which the earlier arrangement of female guards and the screen was done away with.
  • She also gave up the purdah (veil), which she realised was an impediment to the effective handling of administrative affairs, discarded the traditional female attire and adopted the male wardrobe.
  • Her official name: Sultan Razat al-Dunya wal Din bint al-Sultan.
  • Raziya was an accomplished poetess, and she patronised men of letters. 
  • Madarasa-i Nasiriya of Delhi became the centre of learning during her reign.
  • Revolt with Altunia, the governor of Tabarhinda, in which she was defeated and captured. Raziya’s brother, Bahram Shah, took the opportunity to ascend the throne. 
    • Raziya married Altunia to retrieve her throne, Raziya, along with Altunia, collected an army of Khokhars, Jats, Rajputs and a few Turkish nobles and marched towards Delhi in 1240 CE. 
    • In the ensuing battle, Razia’s army met with defeat, and while riding back to Kaithal, she and Altunia were killed.  
  • Successors: Behram Shah (AD 1240–42) and Masud Shah (AD 1242–46) were made Sultans and removed in succession.
    • After them, in AD 1246, Ulugh Khan (later known as Balban) placed Nasiruddin (grandson of Iltutmish) on the throne and assumed the position of Naib (deputy).
    • According to Ibn Battuta and Isami, Balban poisoned his master Nasiruddin and ascended the throne.

Ghiyas-ud-din Balban (1266-87 AD)

  • Balban ruled in an autocratic manner and worked hard to elevate the position of the Sultan.1
  • Court poets: Amir Khusrau and Mir Hasan Dehalwi 
  • Balban adopted a policy of consolidation rather than expansion. 
  • He introduced a new theory of kingship and redefined the relations between the Sultan and nobility.
  • He broke up the 'Chahalgani'(group of the forty most important nobles) in the court.
  • He followed the policy of Blood and Iron and appointed spies in every department. He organised a strong centralisd army to deal with internal disturbances and to repel the Mongols who had entrenched themselves in the Punjab.
  • He separated the Diwan-i-unzarat (Finance Department) from the Diwan-i-Arz (Military Department).
  • The disturbances in Mewat, Doab, Awadh and Katihar were ruthlessly suppressed. 
  • Balban also secured control over Ajmer and Nagaur in eastern Rajputana, but his attempts to capture Ranthambore and Gwalior failed. 
  • Revolt with Tughril Beg (1279 AD): Governor of Bengal, Tughril Beg, revolted and assumed the title of Sultan. Balban sent his forces to Bengal and had Tughril killed. Subsequently, he appointed his own son Bughra Khan as the Governor of Bengal
  • To demonstrate his authority over the aristocracy, Balban instituted strict court discipline and new rituals like sijada (prostration) and paibos (kissing Sultan's feet).  
  • He introduced the Persian festival of Nauroz. 


Literature of Slave Dynasty

Literature of Slave Dynasty



Jawami-ul-Hikayat by Sadidu’d din Muhammad Awfi Bukhari  

  • Time period: 13th century
  • Language: Persian
  • Sadidu’d din Muhammad Awfi Bukhari lived during the reign of the Iltutmish.

Tabaqat-i-Nasiri by Minhaj-i-Siraj

  • The history of the first fifty years of Muslim rule in Bengal is found only in this text. 
  • Shamsuddin Iltutmish patronised Minhaj-i-Siraj.
  • Minhaj-i-Siraj discussed the history of Bengal under Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish and his successors.
  • Minhaj-i-Siraj came to the court of Nasiruddin Qubacha at Uchch, who appointed him a Qazi.
    • During his reign, he wrote Tabaqat-i-Nasiri and dedicated this to the reigning sultan.

Taj-ul-Maasir by Hasan Nizami 

  • Time period: 1229 AD
  • Language: Persian
  • This book is the first official history of the Delhi Sultanate.
    • It starts with the second battle of Tarain.
  • Hasan Nizami arrived in Delhi before the assassination of the Muhammad of Ghor in 1206.

Tarikh-i-Mubarakshahi by Yahya bin Ahmad bin Abdullah Sarhindi 

  • It is a history of India of the sultanate period. 
  • The book commences from the reign of Sultan Muizuddin Muhammad bin Sam (Muhammad Ghori) and abruptly ends in 1434. 
  • The author was favourably placed in the government circle in the reign of Sultan Mubarak Shah (1421-1434 AD) of the Sayyid dynasty of Delhi. 


Decline of Slave Dynasty

  • After the death of Balban (1287 AD), the nobles raised his grandson Kaiquabad to the throne. He was soon replaced by his son, Kaimurs, who remained on the throne for a little over three months. 
  • During Balban’s reign, Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji had been the warden of the marches in the north-west and had fought many successful battles against the Mongols. 
  • He was called to Delhi as Ariz-i-Mumalik (Minister of War). In AD 1290, Firoz murdered Kaimurs and seized the throne. 
  • A group of Khilji nobles led by him established the Khilji dynasty. It brought to an end the slave dynasty, and Firoz ascended the throne under the title of Jalaluddin Khilji. 



Previous Year Questions:


Q) Assess the contribution of Iltutmish for the expansion and consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate. (2011)




Q) Consider the following statements:

(1) It was during the reign of Iltumish that Chengiz Khan reached the Indus in pursuit of the fugitive Khwarezm prince. 

(2) It was during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq that Taimur occupied Multan and crossed the Indus. 

(3) It was during the reign of Deva Raya II of Vijayanagara Empire that Vasco da Gama reached the coast of Kerala. 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2

(c) 3 only

(d) 2 and 3


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):


Q) What was Turk-i-Chalgani?

Iltutmish treated the great Turkish Nobles as equals, and they were assigned important posts and became very influential and powerful. They came to be known as Turkan-i-Chahalgani or the Chalisa( a group of forty), and they were the ruling elite of the period though they served the Iltutmish faithfully.


Q) Who was Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki?

Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki was a renowned Sufi saint and scholar of the Chishti Order from Delhi. The influence of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki on Sufism in India was immense. As he continued and developed the traditional ideas of universal brotherhood and charity within the Chisti order, a new dimension of Islam started opening up in India, which had hitherto not been present.