Indian History Part 55 Khilji Militarism Section III Peninsular Conquest

Canberra, 21 March 2017 


Once the north and central region had been secured, the pathway to the southern peninsula was open for the Turkish army to sally forth. Ala ud-Din now gave full attention to fulfilling his expansionist ambitions. It is highly unlikely that a person with Ala ud-Din’s character would have forgotten his burning ambition to have been called Sikandar Sani, the second Alexander. Ala ud-Din was the first Muslim ruler to cross the Vindhya ranges and embark on an attempt to subjugate Peninsular India. Till this audacious attempt, the Muslim rulers had been content with plundering, and later controlling, North India.

In Muslim phraseology, the Indian sub-continent was generically referred to as ‘Hindustan’. At this stage, the fledgling Muslim state in North India had not yet stabilised, still being a developing and immature entity. Because of this and the accompanying logistical complexity, an expedition to the Deccan had so far been considered a risky enterprise. Perhaps because of these reasons, Ala ud-Din set out to the south not with the objective of annexation, but to plunder and collect as much wealth as possible through imposing tributes on the local rulers. This was directly opposed to his policy in the north where he wanted to annex and rule all conquered territories. In the south his intention was to establish vassal states whose rulers would acknowledge the superiority of the Khilji dynasty, thereby enhancing the prestige of the sultanate. The gold plundered from the near south had brought him the throne of Delhi and he wanted to maintain his position also with wealth from the south.

Ala ud-Din, the shrewd military commander, was well aware of the challenges that faced a southern expedition—the irregular physical features of the terrain that made rapid troop movements difficult; the hostility of the local Hindu kings and chieftains towards foreign invaders; and the distance from Delhi that created logistical issues. These challenges had so far constrained the northern sultanate from invading the Deccan and now made Ala ud-Din discard permanent subjugation as a difficult if not impossible objective to achieve.

The Kingdoms of the Peninsula

There were four powerful kingdoms in the south. In the Western Deccan the Chalukyas, the mighty opponents of the great Cholas, had succumbed to the ravages of time and royal hubris as had their Rashtrakuta predecessors. The Chalukyas had been replaced by two of their erstwhile feudatories—one dominating the area of Maharashtra and the other ruling Karnataka. Both the feudatories were ruled by Yadava dynasties claiming descent from the Vedic Yadu lineage. The Yadava kingdom in the west, with its capital at Devagiri (present-day Daulatabad) covered most of modern Maharashtra. Although historically known as the ‘Yadavas of Devagiri’, they have also been described by some sources as ‘Marathas’. Factually, the correct title of the dynasty is Seuna or Sevuna. They were disadvantaged by being boxed in on all sides by other powerful kingdoms—the Hoysalas to the south; Kakatiyas in the east; Paramara Rajputs of Malwa to the north and the Solanki Rajputs of Gujarat to the west. Even so, the Devagiri kings had managed to carve out a substantial kingdom that covered almost the entire territories held by the ancient Satavahanas.

The second was the Kakatiya kingdom of Telengana in the east with its capital at Warrangal that had replaced the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi. The third was the Hoysala kingdom with its capital at Dwarasamudra also called Dwaravatipura, the modern Halebid. The kingdom comprised the territories south of the River Krishna—the whole of the pre-modern state of Mysore and some additional districts around it. Of the two Yadava clans, the Hoysalas were the more epigraphically articulate and therefore a great deal of information is available regarding their origins and rule. They were originally hill people from the Western Ghats, north of Coorg, who in the 10th century had carved out a small kingdom around Belur about 200 kilometres west of modern-day Bangalore. They had joined the Chalukyas against the Chola invasion in 11th century. Having acquitted themselves well in the war, they had gained importance and territory. The Hoysalas were able to shrewdly manipulate the conflicts between other neighbouring states to their advantage, gradually increasing their territorial holdings. By the end of the 13th century, they controlled most of northern Karnataka and also the plains of the River Kaveri around Trichy.

The fourth was the Pandya kingdom of the far south with Madura as its capital. By mid-13th century, under the kingship of Sundara Pandyan, they had overthrown the Chola dominance and also blunted and then stopped the Hoysala’s southward thrust. The Pandyas had then struck north-east, deep into the Telugu country of the Kakatiyas.

The Conquest of Devagiri

In 1294, during his governorship of Kara, Ala ud-Din had defeated Raja Rama Chandra of Devagiri and imposed an annual tribute on him. However, Rama Chandra had defaulted in payment for three years consecutively and Ala ud-Din was determined to reduce the king to submission, in order to re-establish his supremacy over Devagiri. There is another version regarding the reason for holding back the tribute, which avers that it was the crown prince Singhana who insisted on withholding the tribute. In this recounting, Rama Chandra is supposed to have informed the sultan accordingly, perhaps in a bid to soften the retribution that he knew was sure to come and to keep open communications to plea for leniency, if necessary.

Ala ud-Din send an army to conquer Devagiri, under the command of Malik Naib Kafur, the slave who had been send to Delhi from Cambay by Nasrat Khan. This Hindu slave had converted to Islam and had risen in royal service to be appointed the ‘naib’ of the sultanate. The title means ‘Lieutenant of the Kingdom’ although the exact duties that this appointment entailed remains unclear. This campaign was the first to be undertaken by Malik Kafur as a military commander and marked the beginning of his playing a central role in the affairs of state. He went on to gain such importance that from this campaign against Devagiri till his death, the history of the Delhi sultanate and the biography of Kafur run concurrent in an intertwined manner.

An Additional Objective

There is supposed to have been a subsidiary objective to the campaign against Devagiri. The exact details and historical authenticity of the story is unclear. As is usual in the case of such stories, romanticised versions have also sprung up over a period of time.

The additional objective that was given to Malik Kafur was to bring Deval Devi, the daughter of Raja Karan of Gujarat, to Delhi. The story goes that Raja Karan, ruling the small principality of Baglan, had arranged the marriage of his daughter Deval Devi with the crown prince of Devagiri and the eldest son of Raja Rama Chandra, Singhana (or Shankar in some reports). Karan’s wife, Kamala Devi had previously been taken prisoner by Ala ud-Din’s forces. She had been taken to Delhi and had reconciled to being part of the royal harem. It seems she had requested the sultan to bring her daughter Deval Devi also to Delhi, a task given to Malik Kafur on his southward expedition.

Malik Kafur, on his way to the Deccan, passed through Malwa and Gujarat. Raja Karan, along with his daughter, fled to Devagiri and sought protection. The narrative now takes two different versions. The first is that Malik Kafur, now reinforced by an army under Ulugh Khan joining his forces, marched on Devagiri and demanded the surrender of Deval Devi. This demand was obviously curtly refused and Devagiri prepared for war. In the ensuing conflict Raja Rama Chandra was defeated and captured.

The second version is more complex. It narrates that while Raja Karan was fleeing towards Devagiri, he was intercepted by forces led by Alp Khan and defeated in battle. While Raja Karan managed to escape to Devagiri, his daughter Deval Devi was captured and send to Delhi. There she was married to Khizr Khan, the eldest son of Ala ud-Din. The episode was romanticised by the contemporary poet Amir Khusrau in a long poem called ‘Ashiqa’, in which the prince Khizr Khan marries the princess Deval Devi after falling hopelessly in love with her. This version has great similarity to the story of Rani Padmini of Chittor.

In the event, it is irrefutable that Malik Kafur defeated Raja Rama Chandra in battle, captured him and his son who were then send to Delhi along with their families. In Delhi Rama Chandra presented Ala ud-Din with a tribute of enormous wealth in return for which the sultan bestowed the title of ‘Rai-i-Rayan’, meaning King of Kings, on the Devagiri monarch; restored his kingdom to him; and in addition also gifted Rama Chandra with the district of Navsari as a personal jagir. Raja Rama Chandra and his entire family were treated magnanimously and allowed to return to Devagiri to resume his interrupted rule. The good treatment meted out to Rama Chandra turned out to be a shrewd investment on the part of Ala ud-Din. Throughout his remaining reign Raja Rama Chandra remained loyal to the Delhi sultanate and Devagiri served as the secure launching pad for Ala ud-Din’s ambitious peninsular incursions. The year was 1307.

Malik Kafur had executed his first military expedition in a flawless manner; it was efficient and effective, traits that were to become hallmarks of his subsequent campaigns.

Attacks on Telangana

The discomfiture felt by the Yadavas of Devagiri because of their defeat by the Muslim army was a precursor to the fate that awaited the other major Hindu dynasties in the south. In 1303, while the campaign against Devagiri was in full swing, Ala ud-Din despatched an army under Chhajju—also known as Fakhr ud-Din Jauna, who would in the future come to be known as Muhammad Tugluq—the nephew and successor of Nasrat Khan, to subjugate and plunder Telangana. For some inexplicable reason, Chhajju led his army through Bengal and Orissa towards Warangal the capital of Telangana, rather than take the more familiar and relatively easier western route through Devagiri. Predictably, the campaign was a spectacular disaster. The Kakatiya ruler, Prataparudra Deva defeated the Muslim army, which fled north, hotly pursued by the Telangana army. Ala ud-Din was angered and anxious to wipe off the disgrace of a battlefield defeat. He turned to Malik Kafur to set things right in the Peninsula. Bolstered by the enormous success of his expedition against Devagiri, Malik Kafur set off from Delhi in 1309 to subdue the Kakatiyas.

Malik Kafur reached Devagiri fairly quickly, where he was received by the king Rama Chandra and offered all possible assistance. The Devagiri Yadava ruler provided scouts to the Muslim army and even send a contingent of his own Maratha forces, a mix of cavalry and foot soldiers, with Malik Kafur till the borders of his kingdom with Telangana. Kafur then entered Telangana and captured the fort at Sirpur. Prataparudra was taken by surprise and barred himself inside the fort at Warangal. Warangal was considered an impregnable fort with two sets of walls surrounding it, and with a moat in-between. A prolonged siege ensued and when the sultanate army was seen to be successful in breaching the outer wall and had started to fill the moat, the Kakatiya ruler sued for peace.

Ala ud-Din’s objective in invading the Kakatiya kingdom was to avenge the earlier defeat, gather booty and obtain tribute. He had instructed Malik Kafur that if the king surrendered, he was to be treated honourably and only a tribute extracted. No other action was to be initiated. It is possible that Ala ud-Din realised the complications in governance that could arise if Telangana was annexed to his growing empire. A rebellion on the withdrawal of the Muslim forces would have been inevitable and it would have been difficult to contain. Further, the possibility of Devagiri and Telangana joining hands when the sultanate army was beyond their southern borders must have also been a real cause for caution. Ala ud-Din needed to keep both these kingdoms ‘on-side’ to ensure the safety and security of his own forces as they continued to campaign in the Peninsula. In the event, Prataparudra paid an initial tribute of 100 elephants and an enormous amount of jewels, precious stones and gold, while also promising to pay an annual tribute to Delhi.

Koh-i-Noor – The Mountain of Light

The famed jewel Koh-i-Noor is mentioned for the first time at this stage.

As part of the tribute paid by Prataparudra Deva, Malik Kafur was given a fabulous jewel in Warangal, which came to be known to the world as the Koh-i-Noor. The jewel continued to be in the possession of the Delhi sultanate till it was taken by the first Mughal emperor Babur when he captured Agra, 200 years after it came into Kafur’s possession. Babur is reported to have estimated the value of the jewel as being sufficient to feed the entire world for two days.

After changing hands a number of times, in 1877, it became part of the British crown jewels when it was presented to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her being declared the empress of India.

Malik Kafur returned to Delhi in triumph, laden with treasure. During this expedition he had gathered more information about the rich kingdoms further south and was intent on subduing them. As it turned out, he could not endure the intrigue that was endemic to the Delhi court and so set out on an even more ambitious expedition to the south within five months of his return to Delhi.

The Hoysala Kingdom of Dwarasamudra

Malik Kafur once again routed through Devagiri. However, this time he established an independent camp at Jalna on the River Godavari to act as base camp and also to protect is extended line of communication with Delhi. The military strategist in Kafur must have recognised the vulnerability of his communications line that stretched the length of the Devagiri kingdom, even though Ramachandra ruling Devagiri had so far been a loyal ally. The Hoysala king Vir Ballala III was an energetic ruler who had united the various factions in the region and consolidated the Hoysala kingdom into one that held sway over a large swath of territory. Later chronicles mention that the Hoysala kingdom also encompassed the territory known as Mabar, a strip of land that extended from Kulam (modern-day Quilon) to Nilawar (modern Nellore). He also harboured traditional rivalry with the Devagiri kingdom, repeatedly encroaching Devagiri territory.

When Malik Kafur and his large army reached the northern borders of the Hoysala kingdom, Ballala was away in the south with his army, intervening in an on-going civil war of succession in the Pandya kingdom. Two Pandya princes—Sundara and Vira Pandya—were in conflict to ascend the throne and Ballala was attempting to play king maker. [This Sundara Pandya is not to be confused with his ancestor of the same name who had thrown off the Chola yoke in earlier times.] Kafur saw this fleeting opportunity and grasped it. He force-marched a contingent of 10,000 cavalry to reach the capital Dwarasamudra in 12 days. Ballala, himself an accomplished military commander, realised the danger and also hurried back. Even though he had been invading and raiding Pandya territory till then, he also appealed to both the Pandya princes for assistance to ward of what was indeed a common threat. Vira Pandya responded and send a contingent to assist the Hoysala king. Even so, Vir Ballala did not offer battle to the Muslim force, perhaps taking into account the defeat of both Rama Chandra and Prataparudra to the north. Ballala sued for peace and agreed to pay an annual tribute, accepting a vassal status to Ala ud-Din ruling in Delhi.

Not satisfied with the surrender of the Hoysala king, Malik Kafur gave vent to his religious bigotry. He gave Ballala the option of converting to Islam or accepting the status of a Zimmi. Ballala opted to accept the status of a Zimmi, rather than give up his religion. A Zimmi was an ‘unbeliever’ who did not accept conversion to the religious tenets of Islam but was still guaranteed security of life and property on payment of a stipulated amount of money/wealth. Malik Kafur was himself a convert and as is seen throughout history, the religious zeal of a new convert far exceeds that of a person born into a religion. Some accounts state that Kafur sacked Dwarasamudra, but this assertion is incorrect. Almost immediately after Ballala’s surrender, Malik Kafur embarked upon his far-south odyssey.

The Pandya Kingdom

By the time the sultanate army reached Dwarasamudra, Malik Kafur was already operating in terra incognita, no Muslim army had ventured so far south previously. His move further south towards the Pandya kingdom was assisted by scouts from the Hoysala forces. Considering the distance from Delhi and from the tenuous base camp established at Jalna, this southern expedition is an epitome of audacious thinking supported by careful planning.

Even though the events taking place in the Hoysala kingdom was known, the Pandya princes had continued their succession feud, plunging the kingdom into the throes a vicious civil war. Malik Kafur initially marched towards Vira Pandya’s stronghold at Birdhul. His selecting Vira Pandya as the first objective could have been because of the fact that the Pandya prince had send help to Ballala to oppose the Muslim army. In any case the Muslim army did not encounter any resistance from the local chiefs and they moved ahead, plundering and destroying rich and ancient temples. The pace of advance was only hampered by the halts necessitated to plunder the temples and the torrential rains that created floods across the myriad streams that criss-crossed the region. This southward journey also resulted in the sacking of the temple towns of Chidambaram and Srirangam.

There is one account which mentions that Sundara Pandya on being bested during the Pandya civil war had reached Delhi and appealed to Al ud-Din for help. It states that Malik Kafur’s extraordinary expedition to the far south of the Peninsula was the result of Ala ud-Din’s decision to help the Pandya prince. There are no other facts to authenticate this assertion, which has to be discounted as an improbable story.

On the approach of the sultanate army, Vira Pandya had abandoned Birdhul, not shutting himself in his fort as other kings in the south had done so far. He also did not offer open battle from standing positions where he could be defeated and even killed, like the Rajput rulers in the north. Instead he adopted guerrilla warfare as his modus operandi, constantly harassing the advancing Muslim army and avoiding casualties and being captured. Vira Pandya proved to be a crafty adversary who had learned lessons from the Muslim army’s strategy and tactics. Malik Kafur failed to subdue him. Kafur however was indefatigable and continued to chase the elusive prince south, reaching Kundur, modern Cannanore. Vira Pandya defended Kundur, although Kafur managed to capture it after fierce fighting. Vira Pandya once again escaped into the impenetrable forests of the region. The Muslim army sacked and plundered the many temples in the vicinity of Kundur and started back to Brahmastapuri, considered to be modern day Chidambaram.

The fact that he was unable to achieve a significant military victory or capture the Pandya king led to Malik Kafur becoming increasingly frustrated at the perceived non-victory in the campaign. He gave vent to his frustration by massacring the population of Brahmastapuri, razing the golden temple of the town to the ground and digging up its foundations to ensure that it was not rebuilt. It is obvious that these desired objectives were not achieved, since the temple was rebuilt and stands in great splendour even today.

Malik Kafur then proceeded to Madura, the Pandya capital, only to find it abandoned—the people had fled the town. In anger, Kafur set the famous temple of Sokkanatha on fire. At this stage the fight back against the invaders started to coalesce in the south. Sundara Pandya’s uncle, Vikrama Pandya, attacked the Muslim army with a well organised force. In a dynamic turnabout, the Pandya general defeated Malik Kafur, although Kafur managed to get away with most of the booty; breaking camp and starting his return journey almost immediately.

This defeat, like all others suffered by the Muslim armies, does not merit mention in any of the accounts written by Muslim chroniclers. On the other hand local accounts, written mostly in the vernacular and Indian languages, mention an unbroken series of battlefield victories of the local Hindu chieftains and princes. The truth lies somewhere in between these two extreme viewpoints. In the Peninsula, the Hindu resistance to the invading armies was vehement, concerted and effective. The progress of the Muslim armies was always slow, difficult and full of challenges almost on a daily basis. Their victories were hard won and not one could be considered a cake-walk as has been portrayed by the contemporary Muslim chroniclers such as Amir Khusrav.

Kafur’s Return to Delhi

There is an on-going debate regarding the actual events that took place during Malik Kafur’s return journey to Delhi—whether he retraced his steps or ventured further into the Peninsula and raided Rameswaram.  The claim that he went from Madurai to Rameswaram, sacked the township and then built a mosque on the island of Pamban is based on a single report by Firishta, a later day Muslim chronicler. This report clearly mentions the building of a mosque at ‘Sit Band Rameswaram’, which has been taken to mean Setubandha at Rameswaram in the Madura district. However, Firishta then goes on to give the location of the mosque as being on the coast of the Sea of Uman—The Arabian Sea—near Dwarasamudra. This dichotomy factually confuses the report. There are three reasons to discount the account of the attack and sacking of Rameswaram, as well as the building of the mosque.

First, Malik Kafur at this stage was almost fleeing following an uncharacteristic defeat by the Pandya army and would not have stopped to sack a town nor dallied for the time required to build a mosque, irrespective of the location of the building. Second, the short duration between his departure from Madura and subsequent arrival in Delhi points to a direct and rapid homeward march and not a wandering detour with relaxed stoppages to build mosques along the way. Third, no other contemporary or later-day chronicler mentions anything about the sacking of Rameswaram, let alone the building of a mosque. The story therefore has to be discounted as a false interpretation of an erroneous statement by Firishta, which does not corroborate the time or the location of such an event.

Much later, in the retelling of Malik Kafur’s ambitious expedition to the far-south, some analysts with vested interest in making it sound like a grand conquest of the south have mentioned that Kafur chased Vira Pandya all the way to the coast of Ceylon, modern Sri Lanka. They have also given rise to the perception that the northern Muslim army carried out a daring raid on Rameswaram while still in retreat after its defeat at Madura. These are episodes crafted out of wishful thinking and built out of attempts to embellish and glorify the story of the first Islamic invasion of Peninsular India. There is no doubt that Malik Kafur was an audacious military commander and a master of speed and decisive action. However, it is certain that he returned to Delhi, with the enormous loot that he had somehow managed to salvage even after being defeated in battle at Madura, without attempting any further diversions or campaigns.

Malik Kafur reached Delhi within the year. During this expedition, he had reached farther south than any other Muslim commander ever had; he had burned and destroyed countless number of Hindu temples; he had raided and sacked towns and villages; and harried the common people across the entire Peninsula. In effect he had sown the seeds of dislike and hatred towards the new religion that he carried with him, which would grow and fester within the broader populace, society and the smaller communities for centuries; never being completely healed and forever staying just below the surface of the fabric of communal harmony in South India. In their eagerness to proclaim the grand success of Kafur’s southern expedition, biased historians have glossed over the fact that Vira Pandya the prince, who was the de facto king, was never defeated or captured and never brought to submission. Further, the defeat of the Muslim army that resulted in a hurried return to Delhi, which was delivered by a Pandya general and uncle of the elusive prince is not given the importance it deserves.

Malik Kafur’s Mabar campaign into the Deep South was more spectacular, especially in the recounting, than effective. It made no real or significant contribution to the expansion of the fledgling Delhi sultanate other than to gather first-hand information of the terrain and the wealth of the southern Hindu kingdoms. Instead of spreading the religion of Islam it embedded an animosity against the religion within the people of the Peninsula that was the beginning of centuries of hatred and religious bigotry, which can be seen in stark and vivid flashes even today in independent India. In a final one sentence analysis, the expedition can be seen as nothing but an excellent predatory raid.

On reaching Delhi, Malik Kafur was received by Ala ud-Din with great honour and a special durbar was held to felicitate him. This was the zenith of Ala ud-Din’s rule and the pinnacle of Khilji militaristic triumph.

The Final Foray – Annexation of Devagiri

The ever loyal king of Devagiri, Rama Chandra, died in 1311 and was succeeded to the throne by his son Shankara Deva, also referred in many texts as Singhana II. The correct name, taking into account the list of the Yadava kings who ruled Devagiri, would be Shankara Deva and Singhana should be considered a colloquial Muslim adaptation of it. [It is seen that the Muslim chroniclers did not make any effort at getting the names of the local kings of the sub-continent correct and adapted them suit their purpose, at times even making them sound derogatory. At the same time, the names of the sultans and Muslim generals were meticulously recorded to include even their minor titles. It is unfortunate that historians who later examined these documents did not pay attention to this aspect, for it is certain that the Hindu kings and princes also had illustrious titles to mark their equally illustrious lineage, which have been lost to antiquity.]

Shankara Deva was a patriotic and energetic ruler, eager to throw off the Turkish yoke that had been placed over his kingdom during his father’s reign. It is certain that he felt humiliated by the treatment meted out to his father by the Delhi sultanate, which used the kingdom repeatedly as a launching pad for expanding invasions of the Peninsula. Therefore, he stopped the payment of the stipulated annual tribute to Delhi. At the same time Prataparudra, ruling in Warrangal, had send word to Delhi asking for an official to be send to collect the annual tribute that was due, citing the great distance between Warrangal and Delhi as an obstacle for him to do so. Whether this was a cunning ploy on the part of the Telangana king to bring a sultanate army back into Devagiri, his traditional adversary who had assisted the Muslim army in the earlier defeat that Telangana had suffered, is left to speculation. Almost immediately on Devagiri stopping to pay the tribute, Al ud-Din ordered Malik Kafur to go there and remedy the situation. The order suited Kafur, since he was being troubled by his rivals in court through intrigue and court politics, games in which he was not adept.

Accordingly, Malik Kafur at the head of a large army, invaded Devagiri. The battle that ensued was severe, ending in the death of Shankara Deva on the battlefield and the subsequent defeat of the Devagiri army. Unlike the previous times, this time Malik Kafur annexed Devagiri to the sultanate and established his headquarters there. From Devagiri he mounted raids on both Telangana and the Hoysala kingdom. The raids were however diminutive in nature and of no real significance. Within the Devagiri territory, he established garrisons at strategic points, significantly at Raichur and Mudgal between the Rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra. He also initiated an unsuccessful expedition to the Pandya territory, through the Hoysala kingdom in an attempt to restore Sundara Pandya to the throne. [There may be some element of truth in the claim that Sundara Pandya had appealed to Ala ud-Din for help earlier in the Pandya civil war.] It is unlikely that he personally led the expedition, which was an abject failure.

The Muslim chronicles mention that the Hoysala kingdom had not been fully subjugated in the earlier campaign. Bellary, Raichur and Dharwar, which together comprised the kingdom of Kampili had continued to stay independent. The reports of ‘indecisive’ campaigns and ‘not fully’ subjugated must be interpreted as the sultanate army having been defeated in their attempts to achieve subjugation of the local princes. Contemporary chroniclers would never write that their patron was defeated in battle, hence the unending list of ‘complete’ victories of the Muslim army that litter the chronicles.

Malik Kafur continued to stay in Devagiri for a period of three years, only returning to Delhi in 1315 on the express orders of an ailing Ala ud-Din. For over a decade Malik Kafur had been rampaging in Peninsular India, but the region was not annexed, merely plundered. The only tangible result was that some garrisons were established towards the southern borders of the core territorial holding of the sultanate.


Malik Kafur returned to Delhi to find Ala ud-Din already displaying signs of declining health and spirits. A life of hard work, intemperate habits, combined with creeping old age had destroyed his health. This contributed to a deterioration in his character and individual abilities that had so far been the hallmark of his rule. The early part of Ala ud-Din’s rule had been exemplified by his calling for advice from able nobles, generals and courtiers. However, as old age caught up, he was surrounded by sycophants and concentrated power in his own hands. He became an uncompromising autocrat as opposed to an enlightened king. He displayed violent temper tantrums and was openly suspicious of almost everyone.

These traits led to a weakened hold on power and the beginning of court intrigue for influence and succession in the Delhi court. The inevitable process of the disintegration of the empire had begun.

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2017]
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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)

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