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Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar

  India's History : Medieval India : Foundation of the Qutub Minar

History & Architecture


Qutub-Minar in red and buff standstone is the highest tower in India. It has a diameter of 14.32m at the base and about 2.75m on the top with a height of 72.5m.
Qutb-u'd-Din Aibak laid the foundation of Qutab Minar in AD 1199. The minar was said to have been built to celebrate the victory of Mohammed Ghori, the invader from Afghanistan, over the Rajputs in 1192. He raised the first storey, to which were added three more storeys by his successor and son-in-law, Shamsu'd-Din IItutmish (AD 1211-36). All the storeys are surrounded by a projected balcony encircling the Minar and supported by stone brackets, which are decorated with honeycomb design, more conspicuously in the first storey.
Numerous inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters in different places of the Minar reveal the history of Qutb. According to the inscriptions on its surface it was repaired by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (AD 1351-88) and Sikandar Lodi (AD 1489-1517).
Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, to the northeast of Minar was built by Qutbu'd-Din Aibak in AD 1198. It is the earliest mosque built by the Delhi Sultans. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with the carved columns and architectural members of 27 Hindu and Jain temples, which were demolished by Qutbu'd-Din Aibak as recorded in his inscription on the main eastern entrance.
Later, a lofty arched screen was erected and the mosque was enlarged, by Shamsu'd- Din IItutmish (AD 1210-35) and Alau'd-Din Khalji. The Iron Pillar in the courtyard bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of 4th century AD, according to which the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of Lord Vishnu) on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra. A deep socket on the top of the ornate capital indicates that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it.


The Tomb of IItutmish (AD 1211-36) was built in AD 1235. It is a plain square chamber of red sandstone, profusely carved with inscriptions, geometrical and arabesque patterns in Saracenic tradition on the entrances and the whole of interior. Some of the motifs viz., the wheel, tassel, etc., are reminiscent of Hindu designs. Ala 'i- Darwaza, the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was constructed by Alau'd-Din Khalji in AH 710 (AD 1311) as recorded in the inscriptions engraved on it. This is the first building employing Islamic principles of construction and ornamentation.
Alau'd-Din Khalji commenced Ala'i Minar, which stands to the north of Kutub-Minar, with the intention of making it twice the size of earlier Minar. He could complete only the first storey, which now has an extant height of 25 m. The other remains in the Qutab complex comprise Madrasa, graves, tombs, mosque and architectural members.

Marco Polo

  India's History : Medieval India : Marco Polo visits India

Journey of Marco Polo through India

Marco Polo (1254-1324), is probably the most famous Westerner traveled on the Silk Road. He excelled all the other travelers in his determination, his writing, and his influence. His journey through Asia lasted 24 years. He reached further than any of his predecessors, beyond Mongolia to China. He became a confidant of Kublai Khan (1214-1294). He traveled the whole of China and returned to tell the tale, which became the greatest travelogue.
MARCO POLO was born in 1254. the son of Niccolo Polo, a Venetian merchant. His father and uncle had already made one visit to China in 1260 when Marco joined them for the second journey in 1271. They spent the next twenty years travelling in the service of Kubilai Khan. There is evidence that Marco travelled extensively in the Mongol empire, and, although the course of his later travels is open to debate, it is fairly certain that he visited India and made at least one journey from Peking southwest as far as Burma.

Khalji Dyanasty

  India's History : Medieval India : Jalaludin Firuz Khalji establishes the Khalji dynasty

Khilji followed The Slave Dynasty

The struggle between the monarchy and the Turkish chiefs continued till one of the Turkish chiefs Balban (Ulugh khan) (1265 AD - 1285 AD) ascended the throne. During the earlier period he held the position of naib or deputy to Nasiruddin Mahmud, a younger son of Iltultmish. He broke the Chahalgami and made the Sultan all important. Through changes in the organisation of the army and administration, he was able to control any revolt among the nobles. Balban got rid of many of his other rivals by fair and foul means. But there is no doubt that with his accession to the throne there began an era of strong, centralised government.
After Balban's death, there was again confusion in Delhi for some times. In 1290, the Khilji's, under the leadership of Jalaluddin Khilji, wrested power from the incompetent successor of Balban.
The founder of the Khalji Dynasty in South Asia, Malik Firuz, was originally the Ariz-i-Mumalik appointed by Kaiqubad during the days of decline of the Slave Dynasty. He took advantage of the political vacuum that was created due to the incompetence of the successors of Balban. To occupy the throne, he only had to remove the infant Sultan Kaimurs. On June 13 1290, Malik Firuz ascended the throne of Delhi as Jalal-ud-din Firuz Shah. Khaljis were basically Central Asians but had lived in Afghanistan for so long that they had become different from the Turks in terms of customs and manners. Thus the coming of Khaljis to power was more than a dynastic change. As majority of the Muslim population of Delhi was Turk, the arrival of a Khalji ruler was not much welcomed. Yet Jalal-ud-din managed to win the hearts of the people through his mildness and generosity. He retained most of the officers holding key positions in the Slave Dynasty. His own nephew and son-in-law Alauddin Khalji, killed Jalal-ud-din and took over as the new ruler. Alauddin's reign is marked by innovative administrative and revenue reforms, market control regulations and a whirlwind period of conquests. It is considered the golden period of the Khalji rule. However, before the death of Alauddin, his house was divided into two camps. This resulted in the ultimate collapse of the Khalji dynasty. On one side were Khizar Khan (Alauddin's son and the nominated hair to the throne), Alp Khan (Khizar's father in law and the governor of Gujrat) and Malika-i-Jehan (wife of Alauddin and sister of Alp Khan). Malik Kafur led the other camp, who was one of Alauddin's most trusted nobles. Malik Kafur managed to win the battle of politics and succeeded in making Shahab-ud-din Umar, a young prince of six years old, as the successor of Alauddin and himself became his regent. However, later his own agents killed Malik Kafur.

Alauddin Khalji introduces controversial policies

Alauddin Khalji, murdered his uncle Jalaluddin Firoze to gain the throne. It was his ambition to establish a vast empire. He introduced more controversial policies. All religious lands were confiscated and marriages between noble families were sanctioned by the King. The Emperor also introduced market and price control for foodgrains, cloth and other essentials. The land revenue was raised and made more efficient. Thus the Emperor enforced a highly centralised system of government.

He extended the boundaries of the Delhi Sultanate and brought almost the whole of India under his sway. Alauddin conquered Gujarat, Ranthambhor, Chitor, Warangal, the Hosala & Pandaya kingdoms. He also took effective measures to keep the Mongols out of his Indian empire, and so followed the policy of strengthening the defense force. Alauddin died in 1316.
Alauddin Khalji introduced the first permanent standing army in India. The emperor was the commander-in-chief of the army, followed by the Ariz-i-mamalik (war minister). Khaljis' army also introduced the huliya whereby a description was recorded of each soldier and the cavalry used the "dagh" (branding of the horses) with the royal insignia. These became permanent features in medieval Indian armies.


1290 - 1296 Fîruz Shah II Khaljî
1296 Ibrahim Shah I Qadir Khan
1296 - 1316 Muhammad Shah I Ali Garshasp
1316 Umar Shah
1316 - 1320 Mubacicrak Shah
1320 Khusraw Khan Barwari

Tughluk Dynasty

  India's History : Medieval India : Ghiyasuddin Tughluk founds the Tughluk dynasty

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq (1320 - 1325)

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, a former slave of mixed parentage–Turkish and Mongol– ascended the throne in 1320 and led successful campaigns to Warrangal, Orissa and Bengal. Within four years of his rule he extended the boundaries of Delhi up to Madurai in the south. In 1320, Ghyasuddin extended the territories of the Delhi sultanate upto Madurai. In 1321, Ghiyasuddin began work on a new fortified city of Tughlaqabad, towards east of the existing city, and shifted his capital there three years later. The fort was built on a mammoth scale with sloping bastions, 13 gates, and a citadel with three gates within. It was also connected to Old Delhi by a secret underground passage.
During Ghiyasuddin’s reign lived the great Sufi saint - Nizamuddin, and his devotee - the Persian poet Amir Khusrau. Khusrau was an accomplished musician too and his art reflected amalgamation of the Muslim and Hindu traditions. Around the time Tughlaqabad was being built, Nizamuddin was having his Baoli (reservoir) constructed, which the Sultan neglected. As the legend goes, the incensed saint prophesized that the new fort would be inhabited by nomads and eventually crumble down to ruins. Following Ghiyasuddin’s death in 1324, his successor, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, moved back to the previous city and nomads used the fort for a while, until it was abandoned and eventually fell to ruins.

Muhammad Bin Tughluq (1325 - 1351)

Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq's experiments with his ideas of administration are noteworthy. The transfer of his capital from Delhi to Daulatbad earlier known as Devagiri. This transfer of capital involved the shifting of the army, officials, servants, tradesman, court and shift of population. This was a torture of the people who suffered greatly. The introduction of token currency brought discredit to his rule. The rampant circulation of copper coin and withdrawal of silver and gold coins brought down the value of currency. Copper coins lost its value. To overcome this the Sultan ordered exchange of silver coins for copper coins. Thus people got silver coins in abundance and copper coins were in heaps. The taxation in Doab which resulted out of the conditions of an empty treasury and the scheme which was implemented in a wayward manner made it a failure. The conquest of Khorasan which required a strong army and later disbanding it was an act of instability.
Muhammad bin Tughluq's engagements with his domestic affairs made him turn a blind eye to the Mongols who made use of his opportunity and invaded India in 1328 AD. The shifting of the capital from Delhi to Devagiri also proved advantageous to the Mongols, as they prepared for more conquests. The Sultan's ambitions plan of invading Himachal and the devastationof his army owing to inhospitable climatewas another blunder by Mohammed-bin -Tughluq. An attempt to capture Malabar in 1335 AD failed owing to the spread of Cholera in the army. In1338 Fakhruddin Mubarak of Bengal declared himself independent. In 1340 the Governor of Gujarat declared himself independent. The Sultan faced problems from the Afghans led by Hasan Gangu . In 1350 AD the province of Gujarat revolted and under Taghi. Pursuing the enemy to inflict punishment, unfortunated Mohammed bin-Tughluq died out of illness. He was succeeded by his cousin Feroz Tughlug who was delivered of a Rajput mother.

Firoz Shah (1351-1388)

Firoz Shah Tughlaq succeeded his cousin Muhammad Bin Tughlaq after his death. But he could not contain the rebellions that broke out during his reign, instead, he spent most of his time in philanthropic pursuits, such as beautification of the city, renovating his predecessors’ monuments and building schools, hospitals and wells. In 1354, Firoz Shah started construction of Firozabad on the banks of the Yamuna. The new city included three palaces and a citadel, known today as Firoz Shah Kotla, surrounded by gigantic ramparts. The Sultan also had two Ashokan pillars transported from Topra (in Punjab) and Meerut and had them planted in Delhi. They can be seen at Firoz Shah Kotla and near Bara Hindu Rao in North Delhi. Firoz Shah also built the two existing shrines - Dargah Roshan in Chiragh Delhi, and Qadam-i-Sharif in Old Delhi near Lahore Gate.

1320 - 1325 Tughluq Shah I
1325 - 1351 Muhammad Shah II
1351 - 1388 Forum Shah III
1388 - 1389 Tughluq Shah II
1389 - 1391 Abu Bakr Shah
1389 - 1394 Muhammad Shah III
1394 Sikandar Shah I
1394 - 1395 Mahmud Shah II
1395 - 1399 Nusrat Shah
1401 - 1412 Mahmud Shah II
1412 - 1414 Dawlat Khan Lodî

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq

  India's History : Medieval India : Accession of Muhammad-bin-Tughluk - 1325

Muhammad-Bin-Tughlaq (1325 - 1351)

Muhammad-Bin-Tughlaq succeeded his father and was referred to as an ill-starred idealist, whose experiments generally ended in failure. He extended the kingdom beyond India, into Central Asia.
To meet the the expenses of the large army Muhammad increased the tax but the peasants refused and rebelled. Though the rebellion was suppressed, the taxation policy had to be revised. He decided to issue token coins in brass and copper, which had the same value as silver coins. But due to the absence of a central mint, people began to forge the new coins, and the token coins had to be discontinued.
Muhammad Bin-Tughlaq decided to move his capital from Delhi to Deogir (Daulatabad), in order to control the Deccan and extend the empire into the south. The plan ended in failure because of discontent amongst those who had been forced to move to Deogir and Muhammad also found that he could not keep a watch on the northern frontier.

In 1334 bubonic plague wiped out more than half his army, and the army ceased to be effective. Due to this, in 1334 the Pandyan kingdom (Madurai) rejected the authority of the sultanate and this was followed by Warangal. In 1336 the Vijayanagara empire and in 1337 the Bahamani kingdom were founded. They built magnificent capitals and cities with many splendid buildings, promoted arts and also provided law and order and the development of commerce and handicrafts. Thus while the forces of disintegration gradually triumphed in north India, south India and the Deccan had a long spell of stable government.

Experiments with Coins

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq is known for his active interest in experimenting with the coinage. He implanted his character and activities on his coinage and produced abundant gold coins compared to any of his predecessors. He overtook them by executing a fine calligraphy and by issuing number of fractional denominations. An experiment with his forced currency places him in the rank of one of the greatest moneyers of Indian history though it wasn't successful in India.
The large influx of gold due to his southern Indian campaign made him to adjust the weight standard of coinage which was in usage all the while. He added the gold dinar of weight 202 grains while compared to the then standard weight of 172 grains. The silver adlis weighed 144 grains weight and was his innovation aiming to adjust the commercial value of the metal with respect to gold. Seven years later, he discontinued it due to lack of popularity and acceptance among his subjects.
All his coins reflect a staunch orthodoxy. The coins stuck at both Delhi and Daulatabad, were curious and was issued in memory of his late father. The Kalima appeared in most of his coinage, the title engraved were "The warrior in the cause of God", "The trustier in support of the four Khalifs - Abubakkar, Umar, Usman and Ali". He minted coins in several places such as Delhi, Lakhnauti, Salgaun, Darul-I-Islam, Sultanpur (Warrangal), Tughlaqpur (Tirhut), Daulatabad(Devagiri), Mulk-I-Tilang etc., More than thirty varieties of billon coins are known so far, and the types shows his numismatic interest. The copper coins are not that fascinating compared to the billon and his gold coinage, but were minted in varieties of fabric.
Most wonderful of his coinage is the forced currency. He had two scalable versions, issued in Delhi and Daulatabad. They obeyed two different standards, probably to satisfy the local standard pre-existed in north and the south. Sultan's skill in forcing the currency is remarkable. He engraved "He who obeys the Sultan obeys the compassionate" to fascinate people to accept the new media. Inscriptions were even engraved in Nagari legend, but because of the metal which is made, the coinage doomed. The easily forgeable Copper/Brass coinage turned every Hindu house into a mint and soon Sultan withdrew forged currency by paying in Billon and gold!!!

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