January 24

Alauddin Khalji and his conquests

“Kingship knows no Kinship”.

These are the words of Alauddin Khalji, often referred to by the name of Ali Gurshasp, among the most powerful and ambitious Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate. The ambitiousness of this ruler can often be determined by his dream to conquest and subdue the whole habitable world, as Alexander.

Alauddin Khalji acquired the throne in 1296 and within 20 years of his reign propelled the Delhi sultanate to unanticipated heights. He was the one responsible for the great expansion of the Delhi sultanate, with conquests over the entire Deccan region. Though the Sultan of Delhi by this time had gained recognition as a highly intractable anti-Hindu ruler, he was at the same time appreciated for his farsightedness and administrative, economic, and land reforms which were ahead of his time.

The key point that should be noticed is how Ali Gurshasp overthrew the throne along with what was the social background at that time.

Alauddin Khalji, Jalaluddin Khalji, Malik Kafur, Afghan Turk, Delhi Sultanate, Khalji dynasty, Sultan of Delhi, Deccan region, Mongol invasion, Conquest of Devagiri, murder of Jalaluddin Khalji, Ulugh Khan, Conquest of Gujarat, Conquest of Ranthambore, Conquest of Mewar, Conquest to Devagiri, Conquest of Warangal, Conquest of Pandya kingdom, Madurai, Conquest of Dwarasamudra, Taj al-Din Izz al-Dawla, Malik Kafur, Concept of Kingship, Kingship knows no kinship,  Mughals
Extent of the Delhi Sultanate at the time of Jalaluddin Khalji's ascension (1290)

Source: Base map: File:India location map.svg by User:Uwe DederingDerivative map: Utcursch (Utkarsh Atmaram), CC BY-SA 4.0


Alauddin revived the theory of Kingship of Balban which said that the king was the direct representative of God on Earth. He also gave the words, “Kingship knows no Kinship”

The Khalji dynasty in the Delhi sultanate started in 1290 with the event that has since been named “Khalji Revolution” by historians. The founder and the first ruler of Khalji dynasty was Jalal-ud-din Khalji, father-in-law and uncle of Alauddin Khalji.

Jalal-ud-din was a successful general, but his tactics had been changing since he became the sultan. He gave up the policy of aggression and followed the policy of peace towards all. He was very successful in retaliating to the Mongol invasion of 1293. Though his span of kingship was short, it is said that he ruled over his subjects like a father in a family. He declared himself incapable of tyranny and was a simple and kind-hearted king. This quality led him towards his death.

Alauddin Khalji was the nephew of Jalal and was brought up by him as a father. Alauddin was made governor of Awadh and was also given the fief of Kara, in the district of Allahabad by Jalal-ud-din. But his aspirations were way higher. He wanted the throne of the Delhi Sultanate and hence made a plan to assassinate Jalal-ud-din Tughlaq. Alauddin was supported by his brother ‘Ulugh khan’, who gave his absolute loyalty and support to Alauddin. Ulugh Khan convinced the Sultan to visit Kara. After Alauddin’s conquest of Devagiri was successful, he persuaded the Sultan to fall into the trap and further convinced him to meet Alauddin alone, without his army and with just few unarmed attendants. Jalal embraced Alauddin but also gave a signal to ‘Muhammad Salim’ who gave two sword blows to the Sultan. Another follower of Alauddin cut the head of the Sutan, which was then put on a spear and paraded in all the provinces. All the followers of the Sultan were also killed.

This murder has often been referred to as one of the basest murders in history. In this way, Alauddin got the throne on which he never had the shadow of claim in any way and the Sultan was murdered by someone whom he loved so much. It has also been noted by historians that Jalal was notified by his advisers many times about Alauddin, but never believed them due to his affection towards him.

Now Alauddin marched towards Delhi and on 3rd October 1296, he was proclaimed the Sultan of Delhi. Knowing that his position might be still insecure, he set up a huge army under the leadership of Ulugh Khan for capturing and assassination of all his rivals. Ulugh Khan captured Multan and blinded Ibrahim (son of Jalal) and Ahmed Chap (ruler of Multan who gave refuge to Ibrahim).

Nusrat Khan was appointed to take strong measures for the management of Jalali nobles, who were not loyal to Alauddin. Their Jagirs were confiscated, some were punished, blinded, and even sent to prison. Their wealth was confiscated and added to the state treasury. It is assumed that Nusrat Khan added about a crore to the royal treasury.

Thereafter the expansionist policy of Alauddin started. Following are the attacks made by him:

In the Gujarat Conquest, Alauddin got a eunuch slave Malik Kafur who later played a very important role in Alauddin’s reign. He gradually became the most important and influential person in the state. The entire conquest of the Deccan region was given in the hands of Malik Kafur. This is widely regarded as Alauddin's best decision as all the Deccan invasions were highly successful and led to further expansion. Some of the conquests were:

The immense success of Alauddin Khalji, was attributed by himself to four of his Friends—Ulugh Khan, Zafar Khan, Nusrat Khan, and Alap Khan. A special title of Taj al-Din Izz al-Dawla was given to Malik Kafur as the most able general.

The Expansionist policy of Alauddin Khalji can be kept on one side, and on the other side are all the administrative measures and reforms implemented by him in the Delhi Sultanate.


Many historic texts mention Alauddin's policy towards the Hindus. They mention his cruel policy and outlook towards Hindus. He adopted all measures by which Hindus were reduced to poverty and misery.

Following are the special policies that Alauddin adopted and the reforms he brought either due to personal ideologies or for the ease in administration:

1.     Conception of Kingship:

The conception of kingship and sovereignty was completely altered by Alauddin. He completely departed from his predecessors’ policy of being guided by the policies dictated by the Ulema. However, this did not mean that Alauddin disregarded Islam. On foreign soil, he was known as a great defender of Islam. But there was a difference of opinion in India. Barani considered his actions as disregard to religion, whereas Amir Khusro considered Alauddin as a supporter of Islam. The inscriptions on the monuments replicate that Alauddin had faith in Islam and called himself ‘Mussalman’.

Alauddin revived the theory of Kingship of Balban. The theory said that the king was the direct representative of God on Earth. He also gave the words, “Kingship knows no Kinship”. All the people were either his servants or his subjects and he was not to be influenced by anyone during administration of the country. Both- Nobles and Ulemas were kept at a distance from administration and decision making. Further, he also declined to take sanction of Khalifa to add to his authority.

2.     His Militarism:

Alauddin’s reign is often referred to as a militaristic regime. Military power and force were the sole basis of his kingship. He understood that he had an unrestricted power and military force and the same could be maintained only by the use of force. He subordinated the Muslim church and did not allow the nobles to keep an army of their own. The entire kingdom of Alauddin could only be supported by an efficient military and hence, a decent salary was paid to the soldiers.

Alauddin introduced the system of Dagh (branding of horses) and Huliah system (preparation of descriptive rolls). A special post of Diwan-i-Arz was created as of the army in charge and the head of military establishments.

As a result of such reforms, the Sultan could not be deceived by clever nobles. Also, a flawless espionage system was established by Alauddin, and was deployed in every unit of the army so that the Sultan could get reports regarding the conduct.

3.     Land revenue:

Alauddin made many reforms in the field of land revenue. He became the first Sultan of Delhi to order the measurement of land, and then the share of the state was fixed.  A special post was created and given the duty of collecting land revenue from the peasants by the name Mustakhraj. The salaries of the revenue officials and officers were increased, to reduce and keep a check on bribery and corruption. Alauddin never forced the revenue to be collected in cash only, but even preferred to get the same in kind. The regular checks were also carried out by Sultan in the papers of Patwari and were personally scrutinised.

Alauddin Khalji was further highly criticised for charging half of the produce as land revenue, while it used to be 25-30% before Alauddin. But at the same time, it shall not be forgotten that strict and crucial steps were taken for safeguarding the peasants from corrupt revenue officials. The revenue officials were even punished for petty offences. Alauddin also abolished the role of intermediaries or zamindars as these played an important role in exploitation.

4.     Treatment of Hindus:

Many historic texts mention Alauddin's policy towards the Hindus. They mention his cruel policy and outlook towards Hindus. He adopted all measures by which Hindus were reduced to poverty and misery.

However, some section opposes that the measures adopted by Alauddin against Hindus were not due to religious cause but due to political and economic causes. The village headmen or Muqaddams, Farmers or Khuts, and Chaudhries or revenue collectors were mainly Hindus and before the reign of Alauddin, they enjoyed many privileges and were the main oppressors of society and people. All that Alauddin did was that he withdrew all the privileges formerly available to them, even during Muslim reign. So one may argue that Alauddin did not specially target the Hindus as such.

5.     Measures against Nobility:

Alauddin believed in the establishment of a strong central government. He was successful in crushing all the rebellions and even the small internal or external revolts against him, but eventually discovered the reasons for these revolts and came to the conclusion of passing the four ordinances that may ultimately result in the decline of such revolts and rebellions. The four ordinances were as follows:

  • The first ordinance brought by him was the confiscation of the properties of the nobles.
  • Under the second ordinance, he reorganised the intelligence and the espionage system.
  • In the third ordinance, the use of liquor and intoxicants was prohibited.
  • And the Social gathering and festivities without the permission of sultan were forbidden.

By the adoption of such harsh measures, the reign of Alauddin was soon free from rebellions.

6.     Economic reforms:

Alauddin carried out a large number of reforms in the economic field too. First of all, he issued regulations, fixing the prices of food products and all kinds of piece goods, even of servants, cattle, horses, and several things of general merchandise including bread and vegetables.

It was the duty of the government to ensure the supplies by means of command. Hoarding was strictly prohibited and considered a punitive action. Grain was to be stored in government granaries only. The government was to see that the fixed price level was not disturbed even at the time of famines.

These steps were taken with the intention to secure the regular flow of grains. Alauddin wanted to maintain a large army and therefore lowered and fixed the price of commodities of daily use. Alauddin Khalji established four separate markets in Delhi,

  1. Grain market (Mandi) for grain
  2. Cloth and Grocery market (Sarai Adl) for cloth, sugar, dried fruits, butter, and oil.
  3.  Market for horses, slaves, cattle etc.
  4.  Market for miscellaneous commodities.

To ensure the implementation, each market was under the control of a superintendent called Shahna-i-Mandi who was assisted by an intelligence officer. Every merchant had to be registered under the Market department, called Diwani Riyasat.


The end to the reign of the great ruler came after 20 years of administration on 2nd January 1316. The reason being his poor health, both physical and mental. The Sultan was ear-poisoned by Malik Kafur, and so great was his influence that the elder son of Sultan Khizr Khan, and his mother were imprisoned on the charge of conspiracy. Shiabuddin Umar was named as the successor of Sultan by Malik Kafur. He accessed the throne with the name “Mubarak Shah Khalji”, but was a weak and incapable ruler, and due to rebellions, the kingdom broke from all sides. Devagiri was the first territory to declare its independence, followed by Chittor, and then Gujarat.

Alauddin Khalji is proclaimed an administrative genius, as no Muslim ruler before the arrival of Mughals showed as much interest in state affairs as Alauddin Khalji

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