February 21

Malik Kafur - the most loyal slave of Alauddin Khalji

Here comes one of the most controversial personalities of the Indian sub-continent of the early 14th century - Taj al-Din Izz al-Dawla or Malik Kafur. Malik Kafur is known as one of the most important commanders and favourite slaves to Alauddin Khalji of the Khalji dynasty. Being infamous in history for his participation in several revolts as the commander of Alauddin Khalji, he was also famous for his military tactics, strategy, and loyalty towards Alauddin Khalji. Malik Kafur owns the credit for the expansion of the Delhi Sultanate in the entire Deccan region including Warangal and Madurai.

He was captured and brought to Delhi by Alauddin’s general Nusrat Khan in 1299 during his invasion of Gujarat. Some historians are convinced that he ear-poisoned Alauddin Khalji against his own family and in favour of his trial for being the de-facto ruler of the Delhi Sultanate after the death of Alauddin Khalji.

Who was Malik Kafur?

Malik Kafur is said to be born into a Hindu family and converted to Islam later, after he was captured by Nusrat Khan. He is also said to be the slave of Khwaja of Khambhat, who according to some historians had purchased him for 1000 dinars due to his great physical beauty. Due to this, he was also called by the name “Hazar-dinari”. It was during the 1299 invasion of Gujarat that Alauddin Khalji’s general Nusrat Khan captured Malik Kafur from the port city of Khambhat and converted him to Islam.

After the invasion, Kafur was presented before the Sultan, eventually became his favourite, and was soon promoted to higher positions because of his efficiency in command and wise counselling. By 1306, Malik Kafur had risen to the position of barbeg and was sent by Sultan to his first military attack against the Mongols in Punjab.

Barani, one of the most prominent chronicles of that time, also mentioned the bisexual relations between Malik Kafur and Alauddin Khalji, expressing the immense physical beauty of Malik Kafur.

Malik Kafur, Alauddin Khalji, Khalji Dynasty, Delhi Sultanate, Jalaluddin Khalji, Invasion of Gujarat, Invasion of Warangal, Invasion of Madurai, Eunuch slave, Mongol Invasion, Conquest of Devagiri, Conquest of Dwarasamudra,

Malik Kafur’s Military participations

Mongol invasion of 1306

The Mongol attack of 1306 led to avenging of the Mongol defeat of 1305 by Chagatai Khanate ruler Duwa. From the side of the Delhi Sultanate, an army led by Malik Kafur was sent to Punjab to repel the forces. Supporting Malik Kafur, the other commander who assisted the repel was Malik Tughlaq.

Soon Tughluq's vanguard spotted the Mongol scouts and informed Malik Kafur about it. The battle was fought at the banks of the Ravi River. The initiation was led by the powerful attack of kopek who almost scattered the Delhi army. But Malik Kafur rallied upon the Mongol army gathering all the soldiers and crushing the Mongol soldiers. Kopez was captured, marking the end of the battle.

Two other contingents of the Mongol army led by Iqbalmand and Tai-Bu who were heading towards Nagaur were pursued and secretly attacked by the Delhi army led by Malik Kafur and Tughlaq. The respective leaders managed to flee while the Delhi army captured a large number of Mongol soldiers.

Now, as Malik Kafur had proved his credibility, he was sent to the Deccan raids by Alauddin Khalji for the expansion of Muslim power in that region.

Conquest of Devagiri

Through his actions, Malik Kafur had impressed Alauddin and became his person of trust. Alauddin gave Malik Kafur the responsibility for the expansion of Delhi Sultanate to Deccan and South and the first conquest he made was of the most prosperous kingdom Devagiri. Devagiri was previously the tributary of Delhi Sultanate but had stopped paying tribute for 3-4 years.

Previously Alauddin had planned to send another slave Malik Shahin for the Conquest but Shahin’s past incidents and Kafur’s Mongol Success forced him to go to Malik Kafur. Alauddin Khalji had made all measures to raise Malik Kafur to a higher position to be respected by the officers and soldiers. He was even granted the royal canopy and officers were instructed to pay respect to Malik Kafur daily. Other generals to accompany Malik Kafur on the conquest were Sirajuddin Khwaja Haji (the minister of war), the Malwa governor Ainul Mulk Multani, and the Gujarat governor Alp Khan.

The conquest of Devagiri was an easy task due to weak resistance. Devagiri was plundered once again. The army led by King Ramchandra had surrendered and the king, leaving Simhana in Devagiri, came to meet Malik Kafur. King Ramchandra along with his family visited Delhi along with Malik Kafur where the Sultan welcomed the king warm-heartedly and with honour. Later, Yadavas accepted Delhi Sultanate’s suzerainty.

Conquest of Warangal

Alauddin had his eye on Warangal from the time when he was the Governor Kara. This was the kingdom known for holding immense wealth and a strong army. Alauddin’s most trusted officers – Ulugh Khan, Nusrat Khan, and Zafar Khan were now no more, and hence Malik Kafur was only most trusted one left to the Sultan.

Malik Kafur was already successful in holding in his conquest of Devagiri kingdom which was the neighbour of Warangal. And on 31st October 1309, he was ordered to invade the Kakatiyas of Warangal. Malik Kafur was accompanied by officers like Malik Sirajuddin and Ariz-i-Mumalik. They all got instructions from Alauddin to not to indulge in full-fledged war and to be less hostile. The tribute to Delhi Sultanate was enough and there was no requirement of king being imprisoned.

Malik Kafur started the march from Delhi with a huge army. By the mid of December, the army reached Devagiri, the new vassal of Delhi Sultanate, and hence the army was instructed not to interrupt in the area. Ramachandra, the ruler of Devagiri provided the necessary support to the Delhi army. As Malik Kafur and the force entered the territory of Warangal, the plunder started. Sabar, the fort of Warangal was seized. As it was an immediate attack, the defeat became obvious and hence many of the defenders committed suicide, their wives and children committing Jauhar. Many of the others were killed by the attack of Malik Kafur on the fort and others were ready to fight to the death. But the cease-fire happened due to the intervention of Khwaja Haji. Ananir (or Ananur), a brother of the fort's commander, surrendered to the Delhi army and was appointed as the new governor of the fort by Malik Kafur.

The Delhi army, through strategy and plan, entered the fort of the Warangal. By that time, the Delhi army was thinking of a strategy to break the inner wall, and the common masses inside the fort were in terror. Kakatiya ruler Prataparudra decided to surrender. The Kakatiya ruler promised to pay a huge annual tribute to the Delhi Sultanate. It is even believed that the infamous Koh-i-Noor diamond was part of his wealth.

The loot was formally presented to the Sultan on 23rd June 1310, which was carried on thousands of camels, and arrangements were made for the public to see the treasures. Alauddin was delighted with Kafur’s successful campaign and rewarded him suitably.

Conquest of Dwarasamudra

During his conquest of Warangal, Malik Kafur learned and explored the region south of Warangal. The region was considered highly prosperous. After his return to Delhi, Malik Kafur expressed his desire to lead a conquest of the Hoysala kingdom of Dwarasamudra, and his desire was appreciated by Alauddin Khalji.

There was information about the Hoysala king Veera Ballala III, who had left his capital to plunder cities in the Pandya territory but returned when he heard about the presence of the Delhi army in Deccan. Malik Kafur came up with a strategy to attack Dwarasamudra before the king could get adequate time for the preparation of an army that could combat the Delhi army. It was not possible for the Delhi army too, to reach the destination in such a short time. Therefore, Malik Kafur hand-picked and created a special force of 10,000 soldiers who under his leadership led an attack on Dwarasamudra.

After this 12-day journey, Malik Kafur and part of the Delhi army surrounded the local fort which was surrounded by water. King Ballala requested a truce. Malik Kafur offered the following terms to the Hoysalas: they were given the option to either accept Islam or pay tribute to the Delhi Sultanate. The Hoysalas agreed to pay the tribute. King Ballala accepted the terms and told the messengers that he was ready to give up all of his belongings except the sacred thread. Further, he promised to pay an annual tribute to the Delhi Sultanate in the future. Kafur too agreed to the terms and in return agreed to leave Dwarasamudra without any of the violence.

The army led by Malik Kafur paused in Dwarasamudra for 12 days waiting for the rest of the army to catch up. He left the Hoysala kingdom after an easy win by March 1311 and proceeded to Pandya territory.

Conquest of Madurai

During March–April 1311, Malik Kafur raided several places in the Pandya territory, including their capital Madurai. He was unable to make the Pandya king a tributary to the Delhi Sultanate but obtained huge plunder, including elephants, horses, gold, and precious stones.

After Kafur's departure, the Pandya brothers resumed their conflict. This conflict resulted in the defeat of Sundara Pandya, who decided to seek Alauddin's assistance.

Second Conquest of Devagiri

This was the last conquest of Malik Kafur. In 1313, another attack on Devagiri was led by him, this conquest was against the rebels who tried to acquire the throne. These were said to be the successors of King Ramchandra Simhana III. The rebellion wasbsuppressed and the rebels were punished for raising their voice against the Delhi Sultanate. Malik Kafur remained the Governor of Devagiri for two years before he was urgently called to Delhi due to poor health of Alauddin. Ayn al-Mulk Multani acted as the governor of Devagiri.

Malik Kafur as Viceroy

Malik Kafur was the holder of the entire administrative power during the last days of Alauddin Khalji. Alauddin's behavior during his last days seemed a little abnormal to his nobles as well as to modern historians. He kept all the powers in the hands of his family and slaves and removed many of the important nobles and administrators from their positions. He even abolished the position of wazir. It appears that Malik Kafur was the reason behind all of Alauddin's actions. He might have poisoned Alauddin’s thoughts and got all of his rivals eradicated.

Alauddin had greater trust in Kafur than other officers because, unlike the other officers, Kafur had no family or followers. Kafur became the de facto ruler of Delhi for this period. Kafur conducted a meeting of important nobles and officers of the Delhi Sultanate and declared Alauddin's six-year-old son Shihabuddin as the new heir apparent, and it was decided that Kafur would act as his regent after Alauddin's death. After the death of Alauddin Khalji, Malik Kafur brought his body from the Palace and had it buried in the mausoleum that had been built before Alauddin's death. Some historians believe that Malik Kafur had a hand in the death of Alauddin Khalji.

Death of Malik Kafur

During the time after Alauddin's death and till he was the regent to the throne he tried his best to maintain control over the throne. Mubarak Shah, the elder son of Alauddin was imprisoned along with the queens of the royal family. Kafur married Alauddin's widow Jhatyapalli, the mother of Shihabuddin. Becoming the new Sultan's stepfather was probably Kafur's way of legitimising his power.

The death of Malik Kafur was a conspiracy laid by the bodyguards of Alauddin Khalji, who were not at all ready to accept Malik Kafur’s authority. Led by Mubashshir, Bashir, Saleh, and Munir, these bodyguards decided to kill Kafur. When Kafur became suspicious, Mubashshir was called to Malik Kafur’s room where Mubashshir stabbed Malik Kafur with a sword and wounded him. Then all the other associates entered the room and beheaded Malik Kafur. This event is dated around February 1316, after which Mubarak Shah was appointed as the new regent. 

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