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Khilji dynasty

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Title: Khilji dynasty  
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Subject: Tughlaq dynasty, Delhi Sultanate, Mamluk Dynasty (Delhi), Siri Fort, Qutb complex
Collection: Empires and Kingdoms of India, Khilji Dynasty
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Khilji dynasty

Khilji Sultanate
سلسله خلجی


Khilji dynasty
Capital Delhi
Languages Persian (official)[1]
Religion Sunni Islam
Government Sultanate
 •  1290–1296 Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji
 •  1296–1316 Alauddin Khilji
 •  1316 Shihab ad-Din Umar
 •  1316–1320 Qutb ad-Din Mubarak
 •  Established 1290
 •  Disestablished 1320
Area 2,700,000 km² (1,042,476 sq mi)
Today part of  India

The Khilji dynasty (Persian: سلسله خلجی‎‎; Hindi: सलतनत ख़िलजी) or Khalji was a Muslim dynasty of Turkic origin, which ruled large parts of South Asia between 1290 and 1320.[2][3][4] It was founded by Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji and became the second dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate of India. The dynasty is known for their faithlessness and ferocity,[2] as well as their raids into Hindu south and defending the Sultanate against the repeated Mongol invasions of India.[5][6]


  • Origins 1
  • Economic policy and administration under Khilji dynasty 2
    • Historical impact 2.1
  • Massacre of New Muslims 3
  • Slavery during Khilji dynasty 4
  • Architecture 5
  • Disputed historical sources on Khilji dynasty 6
  • List of Khilji rulers of Delhi (1290–1320) 7
  • See also 8
  • References and footnotes 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Front and back of copper coin with raised inscription, against a red background
Copper coin of Alauddin Khilji

History of the Turkic peoples
History of the Turkic peoples
Pre-14th century
Turkic Khaganate 552–744
  Western Turkic
  Eastern Turkic
Avar Khaganate 564–804
Khazar Khaganate 618–1048
Xueyantuo 628–646
Great Bulgaria 632–668
  Danube Bulgaria
  Volga Bulgaria
Kangar union 659–750
Turgesh Khaganate 699–766
Uyghur Khaganate 744–840
Karluk Yabgu State 756–940
Kara-Khanid Khanate 840–1212
  Western Kara-Khanid
  Eastern Kara-Khanid
Gansu Uyghur Kingdom 848–1036
Kingdom of Qocho 856–1335
Pecheneg Khanates
Kimek Khanate
Oghuz Yabgu State
Ghaznavid Empire 963–1186
Seljuk Empire 1037–1194
  Seljuk Sultanate of Rum
Khwarazmian Empire 1077–1231
Delhi Sultanate 1206–1526
  Mamluk dynasty
  Khilji dynasty
  Tughlaq dynasty
Golden Horde | [7][8][9] 1240s–1502
Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) 1250–1517
  Bahri dynasty

The Khilji rulers trace their roots to Central Asia and were of Turkic origin.[10] They had long been settled in present-day Afghanistan before proceeding to Delhi in India. The name "Khilji" refers to an Afghan village or town known as Qalat-e Khilji (Fort of Ghilji).[11] Sometimes they were treated by others as ethnic Afghans due to their adoption of some Afghan habits and customs.[12][13] As a result of this, sometimes the dynasty is referred to as a Turko-Afghan.[14][15][16] The three sultans of the Khalji dynasty were noted by historians for their faithlessness and ferocity.[10]

Jalal-ud-din Khilji

Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad bin Bakhtiar Khilji was a servant of Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who was an ex-slave of the Ghurids with a Turkic background.[14] Khiljis were vassals of the Mamluk dynasty of Delhi and served the Sultan of Delhi, Ghiyas ud din Balban. Balban's successors were murdered over 1289-1290, and the Mamluk dynasty succumbed to the factional conflicts within the Mamluk dynasty and the Muslim nobility. As the struggle between the factions razed, Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji led a coup and murdered the 17-year-old Mamluk successor Muiz ud din Qaiqabad - the last ruler of Mamluk dynasty.[17]

Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji was accepted as sultan by a faction of Muslim amirs of Turkic, Persian, Arabic factions and Indian-Muslim aristocrats. However, Jalal-ud-din in his old age was unpopular and not universally accepted. During his six-year reign (1290–96), some of Balban's officers revolted due to his assumption of power and the subsequent sidelining of nobility and commanders serving the Mamluk dynasty.[17] Jalal-ud-din suppressed the revolt and executed some commanders, then led an unsuccessful expedition against Ranthambhor and repelled a Mongol force on the banks of the Sind River in central India with the help of his nephew Juna Khan.[18]

Alauddin Khilji

Juna Khan, later to be known as Alauddin Khilji, was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din, raided the Hindu Deccan peninsula and Deogiri - then the capital of the Hindu state of Maharashtra, looting their treasure.[19][17] He returned to Delhi in 1296, murdered his uncle and father-in-law, then assumed power as Sultan.[20][21]

Ala al-din Khilji continued expanding Delhi Sultanate into South India, with the help of generals such as Malik Kafur and Khusraw Khan, collecting large war booty (Anwatan) from those they defeated.[22] His commanders collected war spoils from Hindu kingdoms, paid khums (one fifth) on Ghanima (الْغَنيمَة, booty collected during war) to Sultan's treasury, which helped strengthen the Khalji rule.[23]

Koh-i-noor diamond was looted by Alauddin Khilji's army in 1310, from Kakatiya kingdom in Warangal.[24]

Alauddin Khilji reigned for 20 years. He attacked and seized Hindu states of Ranthambhor (1301 AD), Devagiri,[25] also withstood two Mongol raids.[26] Ala al-din is also known for his cruelty against attacked kingdoms after wars. Historians note him as a tyrant and that anyone Ala al-din Khilji suspected of being a threat to this power was killed along with the women and children of that family. In 1298, between 15,000 to 30,000 people near Delhi, who had recently converted to Islam, were slaughtered in a single day, due to fears of an uprising.[27] He also killed his own family members and nephews, in 1299-1300, after he suspected them of rebellion, by first gouging out their eyes and then beheading them.[19]

In 1308, Alauddin's lieutenant, Malik Kafur captured Warangal, overthrew the Hoysala Empire south of the Krishna River and raided Madura in Tamil Nadu.[25] He then looted the treasury in capitals and from the temples of south India. Among these loots was the Warangal loot that included one of the largest known diamond in human history, the Koh-i-noor.[24] Malik Kafur returned to Delhi in 1311, laden with loot and war booty from Deccan peninsula which he submitted to Aladdin Khilji. This made Malik Kafur, born in a Hindu family and who had converted to Islam before becoming Delhi Sultanate's army commander, a favorite of Aladdin Khilji.[18]

The last Khilji sultans

Aladdin Khilji died in December 1315. Thereafter, the sultanate witnessed chaos, coup and succession of assassinations.[17] Malik Kafur’s became the sultan but lacked support from Muslim amirs and was killed within few months. Within the next three years, three more Khilji successors violently assumed power but were in turn, all violently put to death in coups. After Malik Kafur's death, the Muslim amirs installed Shihab-ud-din Omar - a six-year-old as Sultan, with his elder teenage brother Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah as reagent. Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah killed his younger brother and then appointed himself as the Sultan. To win over the loyalty of the amirs and the Malik clan in the Sultanate, Mubarak Shah offered Ghazi Malik the command of Punjab and others various offices or death. The amirs chose the office. Mubarak Shah ruled for less than 4 years, then was murdered in 1320 by his army general Khusraw Khan. The Muslim amirs in Delhi reached out and invited Ghazi Malik, then Muslim army commander in Punjab to lead a coup against Khusraw Khan. Ghazi Malik attacked Khusraw Khan in Delhi, beheaded him, and rechristened himself as Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, the first ruler of the Tughluq dynasty.[19]

Economic policy and administration under Khilji dynasty

Alauddin Khilji changed the tax policies to strengthen his treasury to help pay the keep of his growing army and fund his wars of expansion.[28][29] He raised agriculture taxes from 20% to 50% – payable in grain and agricultural produce (or cash),[30] eliminating payments and commissions on taxes collected by local chiefs, banned socialization among his officials as well as inter-marriage between noble families to help prevent any opposition forming against him; he cut salaries of officials, poets and scholars in his kingdom.[29][28]

Alauddin Khilji enforced four taxes on non-Muslims in the Sultanate - jizya (poll tax), kharaj (land tax), kari (house tax) and chari (pasture tax).[31][32] He also decreed that his Delhi-based revenue officers assisted by local Muslim jagirdars, khuts, mukkadims, chaudharis and zamindars seize by force half of all produce any farmer generates, as a tax on standing crop, so as to fill sultanate granaries.[33][28][34] His officers enforced tax payment by beating up Hindu and Muslim middlemen responsible for rural tax collection.[28] Furthermore, Alauddin Khilji demanded, state Kulke and Rothermund, from his "wise men in the court" to create "rules and regulations in order to grind down the Hindus, so as to reduce them to abject poverty and deprive them of wealth and any form of surplus property that could foster a rebellion;[31] the Hindu was to be so reduced as to be left unable to keep a horse to ride on, to carry arms, to wear fine clothes, or to enjoy any of the luxuries of life".[28] At the same time, he confiscated all landed property from his courtiers and officers.[31] Revenue assignments to Muslim jagirdars were also cancelled and the revenue was collected by the central administration.[35] Henceforth, state Kulke and Rothermund, "everybody was busy with earning a living so that nobody could even think of rebellion."[31]

Alauddin Khilji taxation methods and increased taxes reduced agriculture output and the Sultanate witnessed massive inflation. In order to compensate for salaries that he had cut and fixed for Muslim officials and soldiers, Alauddin introduced price controls on all agriculture produce, goods, livestocks and slaves in kingdom, as well as controls on where, how and by whom these could be sold. Markets called shahana-i-mandi were created.[36][35][37] Muslim merchants were granted exclusive permits and monopoly in these mandi to buy and resell at official prices. No one other than these merchants could buy from farmers or sell in cities. Alauddin deployed an extensive network of Munhiyans (spies, secret police) who would monitor the mandi and had the power to seize anyone trying to buy or sell anything at a price different than the official controlled prices.[28][37][38] Those found violating these mandi rules were severely punished, such as by cutting out their flesh.[18] Taxes collected in form of seized crops and grains were stored in sultanate's granaries.[39] Over time, farmers quit farming for income and shifted to subsistence farming, the general food supply worsened in north India, shortages increased and Delhi Sultanate witnessed increasingly worse and extended periods of famines.[18][40] The Sultan banned private storage of food by anyone.[28] Rationing system was introduced by Alauddin as shortages multiplied; however, the nobility and his army were exempt from the per family quota-based food rationing system.[40] The shortages, price controls and rationing system caused starvation deaths of numerous rural people, mostly Hindus. However, during these famines, Khilji's sultanate granaries and wholesale mandi system with price controls ensured sufficient food for his army, court officials and the urban population in Delhi.[41][29] Price controls instituted by Khilji reduced prices, but also lowered wages to a point where ordinary people did not benefit from the low prices.[42] The price control system collapsed shortly after the death of Alauddin Khalji, with prices of various agriculture products and wages doubling to quadrupling within a few years.[42]

Historical impact

The tax system introduced during the Khalji dynasty had a long term influence on Indian taxation system and state administration,

Alauddin Khalji's taxation system was probably the one institution from his reign that lasted the longest, surviving indeed into the nineteenth or even the twentieth century. From now on, the land tax (kharaj or mal) became the principal form in which the peasant's surplus was expropriated by the ruling class.
— The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750, [43]

Massacre of New Muslims

Mongols from central Asia tried to invade Delhi during the reign of Alauddin many times. Some of these Mongol people also settled near Delhi and accepted Islam. They were called "New Muslims". However, their financial condition was not good. Ala ud-din Khilji suspected them of being involved in a conspiracy against him and of being a threat to his power. He ordered to kill them all in a single day. In 1298, between 15,000 to 30,000 people near Delhi, who had recently converted to Islam, were slaughtered in a single day, due to fears of an uprising. Their women and children were made slaves.[27][44]

Slavery during Khilji dynasty

Within Sutanate's capital city of Delhi, during Alauddin Khilji's reign, at least half of the population were slaves working as servants, concubines and guards for the Muslim nobles, amirs, court officials and commanders.[45] Slavery in India during Khalji, and later Islamic dynasties, included two groups of people - persons seized during military campaigns, and people who failed to pay tax on time. The first group were people seized during military campaigns.[46] The second group of people were revenue defaulters. If a family failed to pay the annual tax in full on time, their property was seized and even some cases all their family members seized then sold as slaves.[47] The institution of slavery and bondage labor became pervasive during the Khilji dynasty; male slaves were referred to as banda, qaid, ghulam, or burdah, while female slaves were called bandi, kaniz or laundi.


Ala-ud-din Khilji is credited with the early Indo-Mohammedan architecture, a style and construction campaign that flourished during Tughlaq dynasty. Among works completed during Khilji dynasty, are Alai Darwaza - the southern gateway of Qutb complex enclosure, the Idgah at Rapri, and the Jamat Khana (Khizri) Mosque in Delhi.[48] The Alai Darwaza, completed in 1311, was included as part of Qutb Minar and its Monuments UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.[49]

Perso-Arabic inscriptions on monuments have been traced to the Khilji dynasty era.[1]

Disputed historical sources on Khilji dynasty

Historians[50] have questioned the reliability of historical accounts about the Khilji dynasty. Genuine primary sources and historical records from 1260 to 1349 period have not been found.[50] One exception is the short chapter on Delhi Sultanate from 1302-1303 AD by Wassaf in Persia, which is duplicated in Jami al-Tawarikh, and which covers the Balban rule, start of Jalal-ud-din Chili's rule and circumstances of succession of Alauddin Khilji. A semi-fictional poetry (mathnawis) by Yamin al-Din Abul Hasan, also known as Amir Khusraw Dihlawi, is full of adulation for his employer, the reigning Sultan. Abu Hasan's adulation-filled narrative poetry has been used as source of Khilji dynasty history, but this is a disputed source.[50][51] Three historical sources, composed 30 to 115 years after the end of Khilji dynasty, are considered more independent but also questioned given the gap in time. These are Isami's epic of 1349, Diya-yi Barani's work of 1357 and Sirhindi's account of 1434, which possibly relied on now lost text or memories of people in Khilji's court. Of these Barani's text is the most referred and cited in scholarly sources.[50][52]

List of Khilji rulers of Delhi (1290–1320)

Titular Name Personal Name Reign
Shāyista Khān

جلال الدین

Malik Fīroz
ملک فیروز خلجی
Juna Khan Khilji
علی گرشاسپ خلجی
شھاب الدین
Umar Khan Khilji
عمر خان خلجی
قطب الدین
Mubarak Khan Khilji
مبارک خان خلجی
Khusro Khan ended the Khilji dynasty in 1320.

See also

References and footnotes

  1. ^ a b "Arabic and Persian Epigraphical Studies - Archaeological Survey of India". Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  2. ^ a b "Khalji Dynasty".  
  3. ^ a b c d e Dynastic Chart The Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 2, p. 368.
  4. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 80–89.  
  5. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander (2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 62.  
  6. ^ Barua, Pradeep (2005). The state at war in South Asia. U of Nebraska Press. p. 437.  
  7. ^ Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2006). Peoples of Western Asia. p. 364. 
  8. ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (2007). Historic Cities of the Islamic World. p. 280. 
  9. ^ Borrero, Mauricio (2009). Russia: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. p. 162. 
  10. ^ a b c "Khalji Dynasty".  
  11. ^ Thorpe, Showick Thorpe Edgar (2009). The Pearson General Studies Manual 2009, 1/e. Pearson Education India. p. 1900.  
  12. ^ Chaurasia, Radhey Shyam (2002). History of medieval India: from 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 337.  
  13. ^ Cavendish, Marshall (2006). World and Its Peoples: The Middle East, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. Marshall Cavendish. p. 320.  
  14. ^ a b Yunus, Mohammad; Aradhana Parmar (2003). South Asia: a historical narrative. Oxford University Press. p. 97.  
  15. ^ Kumar Mandal, Asim (2003). The Sundarbans of India: A Development Analysis. India: Indus Publishing. p. 43.  
  16. ^ Singh, D. (1998). The Sundarbans of India: A Development Analysis. India: APH Publishing. p. 141.  
  17. ^ a b c d Peter Jackson (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521543293
  18. ^ a b c d Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, Chapter 2, Oxford University Press
  19. ^ a b c William Wilson Hunter, The Indian Empire: Its Peoples, History, and Products, p. 334, at Google Books, WH Allen & Co., London, pp 334-336
  20. ^ "Khalji Dynasty".  
  21. ^ Holt et al., The Cambridge History of Islam - The Indian sub-continent, south-east Asia, Africa and the Muslim west, ISBN 978-0521291378, pp 8-14
  22. ^ Frank Fanselow (1989), Muslim society in Tamil Nadu (India): an historical perspective, Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 10(1), pp 264-289
  23. ^ Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, 3rd Edition, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-15482-0
  24. ^ a b Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, 3rd Edition, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-15482-0
  25. ^ a b Sastri (1955), pp 206–208
  26. ^ "Khalji Dynasty".  
  27. ^ a b Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, pp 231-235, Oxford University Press
  28. ^ a b c d e f g Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (2004), A History of India, 4th Edition, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415329200, pp 171-174
  29. ^ a b c Holt et al., The Cambridge History of Islam - The Indian sub-continent, south-east Asia, Africa and the Muslim west, ISBN 978-0521291378, Cambridge University Press, pp 9-13
  30. ^ Tapan Raychaudhuri, Irfan Habib and Dharma Kumar (1982), The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750, Cambridge University Press, pp. 61-62, ISBN 978-0-521-22692-9
  31. ^ a b c d Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (1998), A History of India, 3rd Edition, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-15482-0, pp 161-162
  32. ^ Jackson, Peter (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, pp. 196–202, ISBN 978-0-521-54329-3
  33. ^ Elliot and Dowson (1871), The History of India as told by its own Historians, p. 182, at Google Books, Vol. 3, pp 182-188
  34. ^ N. Jayapalan (2008), Economic History of India: Ancient to Present Day, Atlantic Publishers, pp. 81-83, ISBN 978-8-126-90697-0
  35. ^ a b Kenneth Kehrer (1963), The Economic Policies of Ala-ud-Din Khalji, Journal of the Punjab University Historical Society, vol. 16, pp. 55-66
  36. ^ AL Srivastava, Delhi Sultanate 5th Edition, ASIN B007Q862WO, pp 156-158
  37. ^ a b Peter Jackson (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, pp. 244–248, ISBN 978-0-521-54329-3
  38. ^ M.A. Farooqi (1991), The economic policy of the Sultans of Delhi, Konark publishers, ISBN 978-8122002263
  39. ^ Irfan Habib (1984), The price regulations of Alauddin Khalji - a defense of Zia Barani, Indian Economic and Social History Review, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 393-414
  40. ^ a b K.S. Lal (1967), History of the Khaljis, Asian Publishing House, ISBN 978-8121502115, pp 201-204
  41. ^ Vincent A Smith (1983), The Oxford History of India, Oxford University Press, pp 245-247
  42. ^ a b Tapan Raychaudhuri, Irfan Habib and Dharma Kumar (1982), The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750, Cambridge University Press, pp. 87-88, ISBN 978-0-521-22692-9
  43. ^ Tapan Raychaudhuri, Irfan Habib and Dharma Kumar (1982), The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750, Cambridge University Press, pp. 62-63, ISBN 978-0-521-22692-9
  44. ^ The Life and Works of Sultan Alauddin Khalji- By Ghulam Sarwar Khan Niazi
  45. ^ Raychaudhuri et al (1982), The Cambridge Economic History of India: c. 1200-1750, Orient Longman, pp 89-93
  46. ^ Irfan Habib (1978), Economic history of the Delhi Sultanate: An essay in interpretation, Indian Council of Historical Research, Vol 4, No. 2, pp 90-98, 289-297
  47. ^ Scott Levi (2002), Hindu beyond Hindu Kush: Indians in Central Asian Slave Trade, Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, Vol 12, Part 3, pp 281-283
  48. ^ Alexander Cunningham (1873), Archaeological Survey of India, Report for the year 1871-72, Volume 3, page 8
  49. ^ UNESCO, Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi, World Heritage Site
  50. ^ a b c d Peter Jackson (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521543293, pp 49-52
  51. ^ Elliot and Dawson (1871), The History of India as told by its own Historians, Vol. 3, pp 94-98
  52. ^ Irfan Habib (1981), "Barani's theory of the history of the Delhi Sultanate", Indian Historical Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 99-115

Further reading

  • Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 230, at Google Books, Oxford University Press
  • Peter Jackson (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press

External links

  • Encyclopædia Britannica - Khalji Dynasty
  • Khilji - A Short History of Muslim Rule in India I. Prasad, University of Allahabad
  • The Role of Ulema in Indo-Muslim History, Aziz Ahmad, Studia Islamica, No. 31 (1970), pp. 1-13
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