After the death of Muhammad of Ghor, Aibak declared independence and established the Delhi Sultanate in AD 1206.
The Delhi Sultanate lasted for a period of320 years from AD 1206 to 1526.
This period of three hundred twenty years was shared by the Mamluks or slaves, Khiljis, Tughlaks, Sayyads and Lodis, of the Mamluk dynasty, the most important rulers are Iltutmish and Balban, while Alauddin Khilji was the most important; of the Tughlak line the most important are Muhammad bin Tughlak and Ferozshah Tughlak and of the Lodis the important one is Ibrahim Lodi. Timur invaded India and destroyed Delhi during this period towards the end of 15th century.
The Delhi Sultanate in its existence of more than three centuries gave birth to political, social and economic institutions which differed from the earlier ones. Yet these institutions represent a unique combination of the Turkish and the earlier Indian institutions. The contact between the Turks and the Indians led to two major processes of military conflict and commercial activity along with cultural transactions.
There were mutual hostility on account of cultural differences and conflicting political interests and partial assimilation and acculturation as a result of realization that they have to coexist as neighbors because the invading Turks made India their new home. There is also a debate about the causes for the success of the Turks.
While the contemporary chronicles view their success as the ‘Will of God’, the British historians hold the view that the invading armies consisted of war-like tribes with better horses and better arms and the Indians were pacifists by nature and were not given to war. This view is disproved by the fact that the Indians were not lacking in bravery and martial spirit. Some Indian historians attribute the success of Turks to the peculiar social structure created by Islam.
There are many causes for the defeat of the Indians, chief of them the superior military technology and fighting skills of the Turks. They were also helped by ‘lack of unity of command’ among the army of the Indians. The use of iron stirrups and horse shoes reinforced the striking power and stamina of the Arab cavalry.
The horse-shoes provided greater mobility to the horses and the stirrups gave the soldiers a distinct advantage. We may conclude that the Turks were successful primarily due to their military technology and that the armies of the Indian rulers lacked unity of command as they were under the control of regional local lords or feudatories of doubtful loyalties, their greatest weakness.
The Turkish occupation of India brought about far reaching changes in the polity, society and economy of India. Though changes introduced by them were far reaching, the basic structure remained the same with some necessary modifications. First, let us take up polity or political process of the Delhi Sultanate. Before we go into details of the structure and nature of the polity, it is essential to have an idea of the Islamic theory of society. After the death of Prophet Mohammad, the institution of the Caliphate came into existence and gradually took shape.
Khalifa was considered the head of the Muslim community or Umma or Ummat. In Islamic world view, the Khalifa combined in himself the duty of the guardian of religion and the upholder of the political order. In the early Islamic world, there was no provision for a head of the State like Sultan, as Khalifa was vested with that authority.
In theory the Khalifa was the head of the Islamic community but in reality with the decline of the stature of Khalifa in due course of time the emergence of Sultan as independent powerful sovereign over a certain geographical area became a fact. But as the institution of Khalifa survived though only in a theoretical and formal sense, it became necessary to obtain legitimization of political authority of the Sultan by granting of titles, allowing the name of the Caliph inscribed on coins and reading of Khutba in Friday prayer. By this the Sultan obtained legitimacy for his authority and developed a link with the Islamic world.
Further, the Delhi Sultans in theory recognized the supremacy of the Islamic law or Shariath but in reality they did not hesitate to deviate from Shariath. Political expediency prevailed over dogmatic approach in the conduct of the Suhans. Satish Chandra aptly remarks that the Turks evolved a number of new institutions and concepts which led to a