Delhi first became the capital of a kingdom under the Tomara Rajputs, who were defeated by Chuahans (also called Chahamanas) of Ajmer.
The transformation of Delhi into a capital that controlled vast areas of the subcontinent
started with the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate at the beginning of the 13th century.
The Rulers of Delhi
- Tomaras: Early 12th century 1165
- Chauhans: 1165-1192
- Prithviraj Chauhan: 1175-1192
- Slave Dynasty: 1206-1290
- Khalji Dynasty: 1290-1320
- Tughlaq Dynasty: 1320-1414
- Sayyid Dynasty: 1414-1451
- Lodi Dynasty: 1451-1526
Try yourself:Which ruler first established his capital at Delhi?
The Tomara Rajputs were the first rulers who established their capital at Delhi. Tomaras were defeated in the middle of the twelfth century by the Chauhans (also referred to as Chahamanas) of Ajmer. It was under the Tomaras and Chauhans that Delhi became an important commercial centre.
Finding out about the Delhi Sultans
- Inscriptions coins and architecture provide a lot of information.
- Further valuable sources are ‘histories’, tarikh (singular)/tawarikh (plural), written in Persian, the language of administration under the Delhi Sultans.
- The authors of tawarikh were learned men; secretaries administrators, poets and courtiers who both recounted events and advised rulers on governance, emphasizing the importance of just rule.
From Garrison Town to Empire: The Expansion of the Delhi Sultanate
- In the early 13th century the control of the Delhi Sultans rarely went beyond heavily fortified towns occupied by garrisons.
- Delhi’s authority was challenged by Mongols and by governors who rebelled at any sign of the Sultan’s weakness.
- The expansion of the Delhi Sultanate took place under the reign of Balban, Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughlaq.
A Closer Look: Administration and Consolidation under the Khaljis and Tughluqs
- To have reliable governors the early Delhi Sultans, especially Iltutmish’ favoured their special slaves purchased for military service called ‘bandagan’ in Persian.
- The Khaljis and Tughluqs continued to use bandagan and also raised people of humble birth, who were their clients, to high positions like governors and generals.
- The Khaljis and Tughluqs appointed military commanders as governors of territories of varying sizes.
- These lands were called iqta and their holder was called muqti or iqtadar. The duty of muqtis was to lead military campaigns and maintain law and order in their iqtas.
- In return, muqtis collected the revenues of their assignments as salary. They also paid their soldiers from this revenue.
- Under Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughluq accountants were appointed to check the amount collected by the muqtis.
- As Delhi Sultans brought the hinterland of the cities under their control, they forced the samantas and the rich landlords to accept their authority.
- The attack of Mongols under Genghis Khan forced Khaljis and Tughluqs to mobilise a large standing army in Delhi.
Try yourself: What was the duty of the Muqtis?
Like the earlier Sultans, the Khalji and Tughluq monarchs appointed military commanders as governors of territories of varying sizes. These lands were called iqta and their holder was called iqtadar or muqti. The duty of the muqtis was to lead military campaigns and maintain law and order in their iqtas.
The Sultanate in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
- The Tughluq, the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties ruled from Delhi and Agra until 1526.
- By then Jaunpur, Bengal, Malwa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and entire South India had Independent rulers who had established flourishing states and prosperous capitals.
- New ruling dynasties like the Afghans and Rajputs also arose during the period.
- In 1526, Mughals established their empire, though for a brief period Suri Dynasty ruled in Delhi (1540-1555). This administration became the role model for Akbar, the Mughal Emperor.