1206-1526 The Delhi Sultanate
Some of the earliest relics of Stone Age man were found in the Soan valley near Rawalpindi, dating back to at least 50,000 years. Predominantly an agricultural region, its inhabitants learned to tame and husband animals and cultivate crops some 9,000 years ago. Farming villages dating from 6000 BC have been excavated in Baluchistan, the North West Frontier Province and Punjab. The Indus Valley Civilization is considered to have evolved around 2600 BC. Built on the ruins of fortified towns near Kot Diji, it is now believed to have emerged from farming communities of the area. The Civilization boasted immense cities like Moenjodaro and Harappa. These towns were well planned, with paved main roads, multistoried houses, watchtowers, food warehouses, and assembly halls. Their people developed an advanced script that still remains un-deciphered. The Indus Civilization’s decline around 1700 BC is attributed to foreign invaders, who at some sites violently destroyed the cities. But with recent research, historians have become unsure as to the exact causes of decline of the Indus Civilization.
Aryans, who were rough cattle breeders, came from Central Asia around 1700 BC, seeking grazing land for their herds. Their religion was well developed, with gods identified from elements of nature. They followed a strict caste system, which later became Hinduism. They wrote the first book of Hindu scripture, the Rig Veda, which was a collection of hymns remembered through several generations. Some anthropologists believe that there is no real historical evidence to prove the coming of Aryans, and consider their coming as a myth. In sixth century BC, the people of the region were getting increasingly dissatisfied with the Hindu caste system. When Buddha, son of a Kshatriya king preached equality in men, his teachings were quickly accepted throughout the northern part of the Sub-continent. Around the same time Gandhara, being the easternmost province of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, became a major power in the region. Its two cities – Pushkalavati, or present day Charsadda near Peshawar, and the capital Taxila, were the center of civilization and culture.
Alexander the Great invaded the Subcontinent in 327 BC. Conquering the Kalash valley, he crossed the mighty Indus at Ohind, sixteen miles north of Attock. He then defeated the mighty elephant army of Porus at Jhelum, and began his march towards the long Ganges plain. However, he was forced to plan for homeward sailing when his warwary troops refused to advance further. On his way back, a serious wound, received while battling the Malloi people at Multan, finally took its toll, and Alexander died in 323 BC, leaving his conquests for grab among his own officers. Chandragupta Maurya was an exiled member of the royal family of Magadha, a kingdom flourishing since 700 BC on the bank of river Ganges.
After Alexander’s death, Chandragupta captured Punjab with his allies, and later overthrew the king of Magadha in 321 BC to form the Mauryan Empire. After twenty-four years of kingship, his son, Bindusara, who added Deccan to the Mauryan rule, succeeded Chandragupta. Ashoka, son of Bindusara, was one of the greatest rulers the world has ever known. Not only did he rule a vast empire; he also tried to rule it compassionately. After initially causing thousands of lives during his conquest of Kalinga, he decided to rule by the law of piety.
He was instrumental in spreading Buddhism within and outside the Sub-continent by building Buddhist monasteries and stupas, and sending out missionaries to foreign lands. The Greek king of Bactria, Demetrius, conquered the Kabul River Valley around 195 BC. The Greeks re-built Taxila and Pushkalavati as their twin capital cities in Gandhara. They were followed in 75 BC by the Scythians, Iranian nomads from Central Asia, and in about 50 BC by the powerful Parthians, from east of the Caspian Sea.
After defeating the Greeks in 53 BC, the Parthians ruled the northern Pakistan area. During their era of trade and economic prosperity, the Parthians promoted art and religion. The Gandhara School of art developed, which reflected the glory of Greek, Syrian, Persian and Indian art traditions. The Kushana king, Kujula, ruler of nomad tribes from Central Asia, overthrew the Parthians in 64 AD and took over Gandhara. The Kushans further extended their rule into northwest India and Bay of Bengal, south into Bahawalpur and short of Gujrat, and north till Kashghar and Yarkand, into the Chinese frontier.
They made their winter capital at Purushapura, the City of Flowers, now called Peshawar, and their summer capital north of Kabul. Kanishka, the greatest of Kushans, ruled from the year 128 to 151. Trade flourished during his rule, with the Romans trading in gold for jewelry, perfumes, dyes, spices and textiles. Progress was made in medicine and literature. Thousands of Buddhist monasteries and stupas were built and the best pieces of sculpture in the Gandhara School of art were produced. He was killed in his sleep when his own people resisted his unending expansionist pursuits.
The Kushans Empire was usurped both from the North, where the Sassanian Empire of Persia eroded their rule. and the South where the Gupta Empire took hold. In the fourth century, due to decline in prosperity and trade, the Kushans Empire was reduced to a new dynasty of Kidar (Little) Kushans, with the capital now at Peshawar. Coming from Central Asia, the White Huns, originally the horse-riding nomads from China, invaded Gandhara during the fifth century. With declining prosperity, and the sun and fireworshipping Huns ruling the land, Buddhism gradually disappeared from northern Pakistan, taking the glory of the Gandhara School of art with it.
After the defeat of Huns by Sassanians and Turks in 565, the area was mostly left to be ruled by small Hindu kingdoms, with the Turki Shahi rulers controlling the area till Gandhara from Afghanistan, and the raja of Kashmir ruling northern Punjab, and the areas east of the Indus. Buddhism’s decline continued as more people were converted to Brahman Hindus. Overthrowing the Turki Shahis, the Central Asian Hindu Shahis ruled from 870 till the year 1008. With their capital established at Hund on the Indus, their rule extended from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Multan, and covered as far north as Kashmir.
Fasting Buddha from Gandhara region, Central Museum, Lahore
Buddha in Dhyana Mudra – preserved in Julian monastery
Slave Dynasty [1206-1290]
Khalji Dynasty [1290-1320]
The founder of the Khalji Dynasty in South Asia, Malik Firuz, was originally the Ariz-iMumalik 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.
After the death of Malik Kafur, Qutb-ud-din Mubarik Shah, another son of Alauddin removed his younger brother Umar from the throne and became Sultan in 1316. Mubarik was a worthless ruler and most of his time was spend in drinking and womanizing. During his rule the power was actually in the hands of a lowborn Hindu slave, who was given the title of Khusraw Khan by Mubarik himself. Khusraw, with the help of some of his friends killed Mubarik and declared himself the Sultan. With this the rule of the Khalji Dynasty came to an end.
Tomb and College of Alauddin Khalji, although the grave is now missing
The incomplete Alai Minar, built by Alauddin Khalji
Tughluq Dynasty [1320-1412]
During his rule, Khusraw replaced Muslim officers by Hindu officers in all key positions of the country. These Hindu officers openly insulted Islam, dishonored mosques and used copies of the Quran as pedestals for idols. This situation was very difficult for the Muslim of South Asia to digest. They gathered around a Tughluq noble popularly known as Ghazi Malik, who defeated and killed Khusraw. He wanted to give power back to the Khalji Dynasty, but could not find any survivor amongst the decedents of Alauddin. In this situation, the nobles asked him to become Sultan. He ascended the throne on September 8, 1320, and assumed the title of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq Shah, thus becoming the founder of the Tughluq dynasty. The Tughluqs belonged to the Qarauna Turk tribe.
After becoming Sultan, Ghiyas-ud-din concentrated on crushing the Hindu rajas, who had gained power during the short rule of Khusraw. He conquered Bengal, which was no longer part of the central empire since the death of Balban. When he came back after the successful Bengal expedition, his son Jauna Khan gave him a very warm welcome. When Ghiyas-ud-din was taking the guard-of-honor, the special stage that had been constructed for the occasion fell down, killing Ghiyas-ud-din and six other people. His son Muhammad bin Tughluq succeeded him. Muhammad Tughluq was a man of ideas. He tried to implement a number of his own schemes.
Unfortunately for him, almost all his schemes failed and he became unpopular amongst the masses. When he died, his cousin, Firuz Shah was raised to the status of Sultan. Firuz Shah’s long rule of 37 years is known for his marvelous administrative reforms. Due to old age, Firuz Shah handed over power to his son Muhammad Shah during his lifetime. The new Sultan proved incompetent and was not liked by the nobles. A civil war like situation was created. Firuz Shah helped in cooling down the tension and replaced Muhammad Shah with Ghiyas-ud-din, his grandson, as Sultan.
However, after the death of Firuz Shah in 1388, a tussle once again began between the power-hungry princes of the house of Tughluqs. The nobles, who in order to gain more power, started supporting one prince or the other, further worsened the situation. This period of fighting amongst the Tughluq princes continued for about quarter of a century. Amir Timur’s invasion on Delhi in 1398 further destroyed the political and economic standing of the Tughluqs. The dynasty eventually came to an end in 1414 when Khizar Khan founded the Saiyid Dynasty in Delhi.
Saiyid Dynasty [1414-1451]
Saiyids Dynasty, claimed to be a descendent of the Prophet of Islam, Hadrat Muhammad (S. A. W.). Thus his established rule is known as the Saiyids Dynasty. Khizar collaborated with Timur during his invasion on India. As a reward, on his departure from the area, Timur made Khizar the governor of Lahore, Multan and Dipalpur. When Mahmud Shah, the last of the Tughlaq rulers, died in 1412, Daullat Khan Lodhi and Khizar both attempted to occupy the throne of Delhi. Tomb of Muhammad Shah Saiyid In 1414, Khizar won the battle and established the rule of his dynasty in Delhi. Although Khizar Khan was completely sovereign, he preferred to rule in the name of Timur, and then in the name of Timur’s successor, Shah Rukh.
As a result of Timur’s invasion and the continuous wars for succession among the successors of Firuz Shah, a number of states and provinces of the Sultanate of Delhi declared their independence. Khizar tried to reintegrate these states through force, but failed in his mission. During his rule, the Sultanate was reduced to Sindh, Western Punjab, and Western Uttar Pradesh. Khizar died a natural death on May 20, 1421. His son Mubarik Shah succeeded Khizar. Unlike his father, Mubarik declared himself Sultan.
His rule was full of internal and external revolts. On February 19 1434, two accomplices of his wazir, Sarwa-ul-Mulk, killed him. The reign of his successors, his nephew Muhammad Shah and Muhammad’s son Alauddin Alam Shah, were also marked by political instability. The territories of their empires were reduced to a distance of ten miles from Delhi to Palam. Finally, Buhlul Lodhi occupied Delhi and established his rule. Thus the era of Saiyids Dynasty came to an end in 1451.