Indian History Part 54 The Slave Dynasty Section VI: Balban – The Sultan


Canberra, 12 December 2016

Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah died in 1266 without a male heir and it was natural for Balban to assume the role of sovereign ruler. Since he had been shouldering the responsibility for the past 20 years. In any case, at that juncture there was no one in the royal family or the entourage of nobles better suited or qualified to discharge the duties of the sultan’s office. It is noteworthy enough to merit separate mention that throughout his tenure as the ‘naib’ or regent, Balban’s loyalty to the gentle monarch whom he served was absolute, never wavering even for a moment. Since all power was vested in him, it would have been easy for Balban to usurp the throne and perhaps a lesser person would have done so. Later writers indirectly allude that Balban had Nasir ud-Din poisoned in order to assume the throne. This is an improbable story considering the single-minded devotion that he displayed towards the sultan. Further, he was the de facto ruler, and the sultan who was already fairly old, did not have any male heirs. There was no reason to poison an old and peace loving monarch. Therefore, this allegation can be discounted as fanciful thinking of later chroniclers.

Balban achieved a great deal during his twenty-year regency. However, three of them stand-out as having been pivotal for the well-being of the sultanate. First, he reorganised and consolidated the provinces of the north-west, placing them under the guidance of his able cousin Sher Khan. This was the fundamental, and perhaps the only, reason for the Mongols to have been kept at bay. The significance of this administrative reform is further emphasised by the fact that the Mongols made repeated attempts to break down this defensive barrier. Second, by enforcing calculated moves he steadily suppressed the spread of Hindu disaffection from engulfing the entire sultanate. When he assumed the regency, Hindu rebellions were endemic and cause for concern. Third, the overweening pride and self-styled elitism of the Turkish nobles invariably led to intrigue and palace revolts, as seen in the rebellion against the temporary regent Rihan. Balban was able to control the impetuosity of these nobles and channel them to becoming support for the crown rather than working against it. Even so, the Turkish nobles and their entrenched power was a source of diminishing the status of the sultan. In an indirect manner, Balban having been the regent and de facto ruler while the Sultan was sidelined, was an indication of this power play.

On the death of Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah, of natural causes, Balban enthroned himself and assumed the title Ghiyas ud-Din Balban. The energetic regent became implacable sultan in an overnight transformation. This succession ensured the continuity of the same rule. Balban was now free to rule the sultanate without the restraint often imposed on the regent by a saintly sultan that softened some of the severity of the regent’s actions.

Even though Balban’s coming to the throne was without any contest, the times were troubled and there was simmering discontent beneath the veneer of placidity. The Turkish nobles were not fully placated; the Hindu kings were continuing an almost constant wave of insurrections and rebellions; the Mongols were chaffing at the bit to invade the rich ‘Hindustan’; and there was visible breakdown of law and order even on the outskirts of the capital Delhi. It is difficult to judge whether these conditions were the result of Balban being the regent, meaning that he was only the leader of equals in the eyes of the Turkish nobility and therefore could not fully enforce his writ on them; or it was a throwback to the chaos inflicted upon the sultanate in the interim rule of Rihan a few years back from which Balban had not yet stabilised the sultanate. In any case, Balban the Sultan was stern and watchful—he introduced drastic punishments and relentless measures to suppress disorder and bring in order in the sultanate.

Establishing the Crown’s Supremacy

There were many challenges facing the new Sultan and Balban the pragmatist prioritised the tasks to be undertaken. He realised that restoring the prestige of the crown, beyond the position of being an equal amongst nobles, as being the highest and immediate need. It is certain that he would have been mindful of the fact that his long regency, even though efficient, would also have been the primary cause of the diluted status of the position of the sultan. Nasir ud-Din was not given any respect by the Turkish nobles, which had continually degraded the status of the crown. Even after ascending the throne Balban continued to be considered an equal by the Turkish aristocracy. Balban with his long political experience was acutely aware of the need to destroy the Turkish nobles’ pretensions to power equalling that of the sultan, for the crown to become effective.

Balban’s theory of the king’s power and stature is eerily similar to the Western concept of the ‘divine right’ of kings to rule. He emphasised the sacredness of the king’s person as an inviolate entity and believed that inherent despotism was the only way to extract obedience from the subjects, especially the nobles. He instinctively understood that he must place himself above the other nobles in social status and thereby stand outside and over the common circle of potential rivals. To achieve this he claimed descend from the legendary and mythical Turkish hero Afrasiyab of Turan. Further, to reinforce his exalted status, he kept himself aloof from the rest of the nobility, cultivating a dignified reserve at all times. He gave up drinking wine in company and completely stopped speaking to ‘commoners’. It is said that he stopped smiling to ensure that his demeanour was not construed as being soft and easy going. So fat the Delhi court of the Slave sultans had been notoriously informal. Balban established elaborate ceremonial procedures for the conduct of business in court, modelling them on the Persian model that had also been adopted by the Seljuq sultans in Central Asia.

Prostration in front of the sultan and kissing the monarch’s feet were instituted as acceptable forms of salutation to the sultan when he was in court. The new ceremonial forms and procedures were established and enforced rigidly with the Sultan readily subjecting himself to the rigours of these formalities in public. The intrinsic contribution of ceremonial dignity in establishing the prestige of the crown, or for that matter any position of power, cannot be underrated. Balban was a master showman with an intuitive knowledge of the use of form and ceremony as foundations to substance and power.

The Sultan’s concept of absolute despotism as a precursor and critical to the king’s inherent power could not be enforced as long as ‘the Forty’ remained powerful. The Turkish nobility who belonged to ‘the Forty’ were the leaders of the Turkish gentry and held absolute power across the entire territory of the sultanate. They were directly instrumental in reducing the position of the sultan to a mere figurehead. They shared all the offices of power between them and had also divided the country into fiefdoms between themselves, essentially placing a stranglehold over the entire sultanate. Most of ‘the Forty’ were Iltutmish’s slaves and their descendants. Balban realised the importance of ‘destroying’ the power of ‘the Forty’ if he was going to be able to establish the ‘despotism’ necessary to make the sultan the actual overlord of the country. It was also necessary to curtail the Turkish nobles to ensure his own safety as well as those of his would be successors. Even though Balban had come to the throne in a somewhat de facto manner through a bloodless usurpation, he harboured ambitions of creating a lasting dynasty. Therefore, he set out to whittle down the power of ‘the Forty’ within the court as well as across the fiefdoms.

His first action was to institute publicly visible punishments on the members of ‘the Forty’ and other nobles even for very minor infringements of the Sultan’s orders. There are reports of public flogging carried out on a noble who had committed the offence of beating to death a commoner; and of withdrawal of the royal decree that gave the fiefdom to a noble. Such actions were aimed at diminishing the importance of the nobles in the eyes of the common public, essentially to ensure that public shaming would lead to loss of influence. Balban’s cousin, Sher Khan was at this time the governor of Bhatinda, Samana and Sunam. He was powerful, capable and ambitious, while also being a leading member of ‘the Forty’. It was felt that he was perhaps one of the few people who could challenge the supremacy of the Sultan. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are rumours that Balban had Sher Khan poisoned. On the death of Sher Khan, ‘the Forty’ were left with no one with the potential to assume the mantle of capable leadership and the credibility to question Balban or lead a viable rebellion. The Forty were cowed down before the relentless pressure exerted by Balban. The crown was now supreme and the power of the Sultan absolute. Balban then went on to rule the sultanate as an absolute despot. Stern, unfailing, unwavering and unbiased justice, delivered swiftly and without favour, became the hallmark of Balban’s rule.

Restoring Law and Order

While he was involved in establishing the ascendancy of the crown over the Turkish nobles, Balban was also actively involved in stabilising the sultanate, starting initially with the areas around Delhi. Over a period of lax administration and preoccupation of the central government with the power struggles in Delhi, the Hindu kingdoms had practically overthrown Turkish control. They carried out a policy of continuous guerrilla warfare against the forts and garrisons established by the Delhi rulers, impeded cultivation, and interfered with and stopped the collection of taxes.

The first action that Balban instituted was to mould the army into an efficient fighting force under the command of experienced officers who were considered incorruptible and courageous. More importantly they were all personally loyal to Balban the Sultan. At this stage the Doab was in a perpetual state of rebellion. Balban knew that establishing control over the Doab was crucial to bringing stability to the rest of the country. He therefore personally led the expedition to the heart of the Doab territory—Kampil and Bhojpur—and brought these areas under his control. He established garrisons manned by Afghan soldiers along the roads and gradually subdued the entire Doab region. Later historian state that the roads of this region remained safe for the next 60 years.

The bandits from the jungles around Delhi had become audacious enough to even attack the gates of the capital towards evening and night. These bandits, called Mewatis, occupied the lands surrounding the capital and had a stranglehold on Delhi during the night. Balban had the jungles cleared and in the ensuing clash, defeated the Mewatis and put to death a large number of the miscreants. He built outposts around the capital to secure it. These were also manned by Afghan soldier-citizens who were granted lands to ensure the maintenance of the forts.

While Balban was busy in the capital and undertaking the expedition to the Doab, there was a rebellion in Rohilkhand. The governor of Badaun, under whose jurisdiction the area of rebellion fell, was unable to put it down. Balban marched to the area and defeated the rebels. What followed has been described as unimaginable carnage where ‘the blood of the rebels ran down the streams’ for days on end. The entire district of rebellion was ravaged, the jungles reduced, cleared and turned into agricultural land that was granted to loyal Afghan soldiers. This established long-term peace in the region.

By this time the sultanate had settled into an uneasy peace and could be considered to have become stable by the standards of the day. This was not an easy achievement and definitely not accomplished by being timid and merciful. Balban has a well-deserved reputation for being ferocious in his reprisals, burning entire districts and slaying thousands of would-be rebels. He attempted to extend similar control to the regions of Rajputana and Bundelkhand, which was only partially and temporarily successful. These regions never came under the direct control of the slave sultans.

Rebellion in Bengal

Bengal had always been an awkward thorn in the flesh for the earlier Delhi sultans and continued to be so for Balban. From the beginning of the establishment of the Delhi sultanate, control over the Bengal region had been lax, with the provincial governors always attempting to shake off the control being exerted from Delhi. This situation could be attributed to a number of reasons. First, the Bengal region was never fully subjugated and communication with Delhi was difficult and tenuous at best. This meant that the governor was, more often than not, left to his own devices to control the territory and put down the rebellions that regularly broke out. Second, there was almost continuous confusion regarding the succession of sultans in Delhi with no dynasty being able to settle into long term hereditary rule. These conditions were ideal to foster ideas of independence in even mildly ambitious governors.

Tughril Khan, originally a Turkish slave purchased by Balban, was the 15th governor of Bengal and because of their essential weakness, his authority had not been curbed by the ruling Delhi sultans. This weakness was one of the major reasons for the state of continuous rebellion in Bengal. When the Mongol threat in the north-west of the sultanate was increasing and became the preoccupation in Delhi, Tughril Khan seized the opportunity and declared independence. He may also have considered the advancing years of Balban as being more conducive to the Delhi power centre to ignore his move towards independence. One report claims that when Tughril Khan declared his independence, Balban was actually sick and laid up in bed. Both his sons were away in the north-west, countering the Mongol moves. In any case, Tughril Khan assumed the title of ‘sultan’ and started to rule as an independent monarch.

Balban dispatched Amin Khan—one of his old slaves, also called Abtagin, who had been a long-time governor of Awadh—to subdue Tughril Khan and bring Bengal back into the Delhi fold. Tughril Khan had by this time invaded Orissa and amassed a great deal of wealth as booty. Amin Khan was defeated in his Bengal expedition. There are allegations that he had been bribed to accept defeat, which could also mean that his army had been ‘bought off’ by Tughril Khan with his newfound wealth. Irrespective of the actual reasons, the fact remains that Amin Khan was defeated and meekly returned to Awadh. Balban considered the defeat an affront to his sovereignty, and in a fit of rage hanged Amin Khan, keeping his body on display over the city gates of Awadh. Balban’s action created consternation amongst his nobles who felt that he had meted out an unjust and unduly harsh punishment.

Balban, always an astute politician, had a clear understanding of the difficulty in obtaining complete loyalty of the governors of far-flung provinces. However, he was also cognisant of the fact that it was necessary to establish central control over these governors periodically. He send a second army to bring Tughril Khan to heel, which was also defeated in Bengal. This shamed and enraged Balban who marched to Bengal along with his second son Bughra Khan. On the way he imposed conscription in the province of Awadh that increased the size of his army to 200,000 by the time he reached Lakhnauti, the capital of the Bengal province. Reaching Lakhnauti with such a huge army was a notable effort since the rainy season had already started and with the onset of monsoons, passage into the interior of Bengal becomes extremely difficult.

Tughril Khan had already decamped from Lakhnauti and fled to the wilds of Jajnagar. Balban went in pursuit, reaching Sonargaon near Dacca. A chance intelligence input to a scouting patrol of Balban’s forces led to the discovery of Tughril Khan’s hidden camp, which was promptly attacked and destroyed. Tughril Khan himself was killed and decapitated while attempting to escape. Balban’s retribution in Lakhnauti was terrible even by medieval standards. All relations and accomplices of Tughril Khan were hanged on gibbets constructed on either side of the main market road. It is reported that even a beggar who had received alms from Tughril Khan earlier, was executed. Such punishment had never been inflicted as retribution by any king in India till then.

Balban continued his orgy of punishment, dealing with the soldiers who had deserted and other rebels who had assisted Tughril Khan in any way, in an equally ruthless manner. The chief Qazi, priest, of the sultanate is said to have intervened at this stage and gradually brought the Sultan’s wrath under control, getting him to pardon people who had committed only minor offences. Balban placed his second son, Bughra Khan, as the governor of Bengal making him swear an oath of eternal allegiance to the Delhi sultan. Bughra Khan was an easy-going, pleasure-loving prince and had no intention of trying to strike out on his own. This assessment of his character was proven beyond doubt at a later stage in the history of the slave dynasty.

Dealing with the Mongol Menace

In the larger Punjab, only Multan and Sindh was firmly under the control of the Delhi sultanate with the rest of the territory in disarray and changing hands and control sporadically. Lahore was under Mongol influence and the sultanate was exposed to invasions in the north-west from Central Asian kingdoms. Under the overall command of Sher Khan and under the guidance of Balban, a large number of forts were built along the border and manned by able-bodied Afghan soldiers. However Sher Khan’s death, or murder depending on the account to be believed, the only obstacle standing against a Mongol invasion was removed. Realising the threat, Balban divided the north-west frontier into two—placing Multan, Sindh and Lahore sector under the command of his elder son Muhammad Khan; and the Sunam and Samana sectors under his second son Bughra Khan.

The first determined attack by the Mongols across the River Sutlej was decisively defeated by a combined army of the brothers. The Mongols retreated, but returned with renewed vigour in 1285-86. At this time, Bughra Khan was in Bengal assisting his father and Muhammad Khan faced the onslaught on his own. Since the initial Mongol thrust was in the Lahore region, he marched to Dipalpur and faced the invaders. In the ensuing battle Muhammad Khan was defeated and killed. However, the resistance from the Delhi sultanate forces was such that the Mongols did not press the advantage any further. The death of Muhammad Khan was an irreparable loss for the sultanate, and became a disaster as time progressed. Muhammad Khan had been an able soldier, competent administrator and a man of refined literary tastes. Two of the greatest Indian poets writing in Persian—Amir Khusrav (also spelt Khusru) and Amir Hasan—started their careers under his generous patronage. There is no doubt that Muhammad Khan was well liked by the people. On his death he was given the title the ‘Martyr Prince’ to honour him in posthumous glory.

End of Balban’s Reign

At the death of his favourite son and heir apparent, Balban was nearly 80 years old and in indifferent health. Muhammad’s death was almost a death blow to Balban. Although he continued to conduct the business of the state without any outward show of grief during the day, it is said that at night the Sultan gave went to uncontrollable grief and wallowed in the depth of despair. Balban’s health deteriorated rapidly after this loss. He summoned Bughra Khan from Bengal and offered him the crown of Delhi. Bughra Khan, who had continued to be an irresponsible prince given to pleasure and easy-living, was not interested in shouldering the troubles and tribulations of the Delhi crown. However, he was reluctant or even scared to tell his father that he shrank from the burdens and responsibilities that would come with being the Sultan. The remote province of Bengal was infinitely simpler to govern. One day he went out, ostensibly on a hunting trip, but did not come back, proceeding to Bengal to resume his easy life.

Balban had no option but to appoint Kai Khusrav, Muhammad’s son, as his successor as he started to succumb to his old age related ailments. Balban died around mid-1287, just about a year after Muhammad’s unfortunate death in battle. As is often the case, the authority of the king, exalted throughout his life, is also extinguished with the end of his earthly days. This was the case of Balban, who had exercised unrestrained power over the Delhi sultanate for almost 40 years. On his death, the nobles of the court, led by Fakhr ud-Din, the kotwal of Delhi (commander of the fort, or the police chief) and confidante of the sultan, placed Kaiqubad, Bughra Khan’s son on the throne. This was an unfortunate choice and led to the demise of the so-called slave dynasty within a few years.

The Army and Shamsi Slaves

Balban’s strength throughout his 40-year rule was the powerful army that was at his beck and call. The leadership of the army was vested in Turkish officers, the Shamsi slaves, a practice established by Qutb ud-Din Aibak. Aibak had also established the tradition of granting land to the Turkish soldiers in lieu of services rendered. The senior nobles were given fiefdoms that were nominally attached to Delhi, but functioned as small but independent entities. Iltutmish had continued this tradition. Balban must have realised during his regency period that this tradition was gradually draining national resources and also questioning the paramountcy of the sultan. However, it was only after he came to the throne that he decided to check this practice and restore central control of the country’s territories.

By this time the successors of the soldiers and nobles who had been granted land and fiefdoms by Aibak and Iltutmish were controlling them as hereditary claims without having provided the obligatory soldiering services to the crown in return. They had started to believe that they ‘owned’ the land, while not owing anything to the sultan. Balban instituted an inquiry into land holdings across the country. He confiscated the land that belonged to the old soldiers and widows who could not provide any further service to the crown and instituted cash payments for their maintenance. At the same time he evicted able-bodied persons who were enjoying the grants that their forefathers had gained. One source mentions that on the pleading of some senior officials, Balban rescinded some of the orders and also diluted the implementation of others. This action is said to have reduced the effectiveness of the intended reform and that the system continued to be entrenched and ineffective. This report is not fully believable since throughout his reign Balban is seen to have been scrupulously unbiased in the implementation of his rulings and it is highly unlikely that he would have willingly diluted a measure that was instituted to better the financial and military standing of the crown.

The outcome of this reform was that the Shamsi slaves—all with the title Khan—lost much of their landed wealth and therefore their power and influence. However, Balban was also careful to ensure that the army remained as a powerful instrument of the state. While curtailing the power of the till then all-powerful Shamsis, he also instituted the position of minister of the army, who functioned outside the control of the finance minister. Till then the army was beholden to the finance minister for allocation of the resources necessary to maintain their operational readiness. The new minister for the army was responsible directly to the sultan and controlled all aspects of the army—from recruitment, to training and discipline, as well as for its fighting efficiency. He also controlled the independent resources placed at his disposal. From the success that Balban achieved on the battlefield, it has to be assumed that the new system worked well.

Balban – An Estimate

Balban’s career was full of extremely strenuous activity and lasted a full 40 years—20 as regent and de facto ruler, and 20 as the ordained sultan of the realm—a unique feat in medieval India. Through these 40 long years, his singular aim was to consolidate and entrench the Turkish state in the Indian sub-continent, and his ambition to be the fountainhead of a lasting dynasty to rule the state. In this endeavour he succeeded through a policy of ‘blood and iron’, even though he was unable to achieve the ambition to establish a lasting dynasty of his own.

A factor that is often overlooked in analysing the rule of the Slave dynasty, and not brought out in most medieval Indian history, is that during the entire time of their reign no additional territory was added to the sultanate holdings. This is true from the rule of Aibak, the first sultan to Kaiqubad, the last of the dynasty. The entire time and energy of each sultan were consumed in reconquering and re-annexing territories that Muhammad of Ghur had captured and that his successors had lost to rebellion and invasion. When Balban became the sultan, he was also faced with the same dilemma, whether he should attempt fresh conquests or consolidate the territorial holdings of a crumbling sultanate. There is no doubt that he had built himself an army capable of conquest if he wanted to invade a neighbouring nation. However, the inherent pragmatism that Balban had displayed in abundance throughout his tenure as the regent came to the fore, and he opted to consolidate rather than embark on any fresh conquest.

A Hidden Factor

There is a hidden factor that prompted and underlines Balban’s pragmatic decision, which is not given the prominence that it deserves in the Indian historical narrative. The reality at this stage in the rule of the Slave dynasty was that there was continuous and vigorous resistance being offered to the Muslim invaders by the Hindu rulers, both large and small. A majority of the records available regarding the events of the time is from Islamic scholars. The Hindu records that were written at the time were destroyed in the subsequent years of conquest, pillage and wanton destruction that was visited on all Hindu kingdoms. The surviving Hindu records are limited and inconclusive to determine the arguments and versions from the point of view of the local Hindu rulers.

Equally important is the fact that Indian historians of the last years of the British ‘Raj’ and early years of Indian independence did a singular disservice to the struggle of the medieval Hindu kings and chiefs. They did not give any importance to this life and death struggle, even in the official histories that were commissioned by the Indian government and are still taught in educational institutions. They blindly followed the Western historians who unanimously held ‘Hindu’ historians in disdain and favoured the accounts of contemporary Muslim chroniclers of the time as being more accurate. While the attitude of the Western historians can be condoned as a biased view and lack of understanding of the scholarship of the Hindu scribes, the prejudice of independent India’s historians is unpardonable.

It is a sad fact that most ‘Indian’ historian’s writing in English during the second half of the 20th century were unquestioningly subservient to the views already expressed by the Western historians. Perhaps this attitude was meant to gain acceptance, patronage and thereafter prestige, status and academic stature. Unfortunately the histories and narratives written in myriad of Indian languages, which were equally authentic, were not considered as being good enough to be brought out to the wider world as the account of the kings, chiefs and people who fought valiantly for their countries and their own independence. It is unfortunate that these nationalists lost the war!

The analysis of past events, especially of the medieval times, and the attempt to bring out a more unbiased viewpoint is a very recent phenomenon in the Indian context. This has been the endemic challenge of the ‘Indian (Hindu)’ professional—the twin struggle, one for acceptance and the other to overcome the generational attitude of subservience to Western ‘requirements’ to achieve this acceptance.

Balban understood the significance of pomp and ceremony and that people were invariably impressed by a display of magnificence. He established an aloof stance with nobody being permitted to become familiar with the sultan and did not condone any sort of levity in the court, he himself being serious at all times. He had a high sensitiveness to preserving the dignity of the office and it is said that he completely stopped smiling on becoming the sultan. Balban, was born into a chief’s house, but had risen in position in the Delhi sultanate after having arrived as a slave. Under these circumstances, it is surprising that he never appointed anyone of ‘low-birth’ to public office.

‘Balban, the slave, water-carrier, huntsman, general, statesman, and sultan is one of the most striking figures among many notable men in the long line of kings of Delhi.’

Stanley Lane-Poole,

Medieval India under Mohammadan Rule (AD 712 – 1764), p. 68

Even when he was totally serious in the conduct of the court and the ruling of the sultanate, in private life he is reported to have been affectionate and tender-hearted, kind to his subjects in distress. He also gave shelter to a large number of refugees from Central Asia fleeing the onslaught of the Mongols. However, this could also have been based on the need and an ulterior motive to increase the numbers of the Turkish aristocracy in a hostile land. On the other hand Balban was extremely cruel to anyone who even attempted to resist his will or tried to disturb the peace of the realm. He rewarded and favoured only people who demonstrated implicit and personal obedience and loyalty to him.

Balban was a religious fanatic, intolerant of all other faiths other than Sunni Islam. He was devoid of sympathy for the followers of any non-Sunni faith. Further, he believed totally on the racial superiority of the Turks over all others, especially the local people of Hindustan even if they had converted to Islam. Non-Turks were never employed in any position of significance in the administration. In any case he never trusted the Hindus and his attitude towards them was one of unadulterated bigotry.

‘Fersihta says:- Balban made it a rule never to place any Hindu in a position of trust and responsibility. But the Palam inscriptions [in Sanskrit] which is obviously composed by a Hindu bestows high praise on the Sultan. This cannot be taken as conclusive evidence of the Sultan’s generous treatment of the Hindus in general, for literary hirelings can always be easily procured to write such laudatory verses for a small remuneration.’

Ishwari Prasad,

History of Medieval India: From 647 A.D. to the Mughal Conquest, p. 172.

Balban spend his entire life in making the dominion safe, especially from the incursions of the Mongols, and can be credited with laying the actual foundation of the Islamic empire that flourished at a later date in the India sub-continent. He was also a patron of learning in a somewhat parochial manner, and his court became the centre of Islamic culture. This was reinforced by Balban giving shelter to a number of learned men fleeing Mongol persecution in Central Asia.

On a final assessment, it is seen that Balban did not create any new institutions and neither did he attempt to alter the working of the established administrative machinery. He concentrated his considerable energies in ensuring that the administration worked more smoothly and that the state functioned efficiently. However, because of the perceived need to establish the ‘right’ of the sultan to rule he kept away from the common touch and could not appreciate the need and viewpoint of the common people. Consequently he never won their goodwill, irrespective of the much needed stability that he provided to the sultanate.

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About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Political and Defence Analyst specialising in military strategy, national security, and international politics. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

One Response to “Indian History Part 54 The Slave Dynasty Section VI: Balban – The Sultan”

  1. I always Found Balban Very interesting. Very enlightening article.
    Sir, perhaps you could also talk about Kashmiri Dynasties. Our history textbooks ignore them

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