Delhi Sultanate: Rulers, Timeline, Dynasties, Delhi Sultanate Notes for UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Delhi Sultanate refers to a medieval Islamic kingdom that ruled over parts of the Indian subcontinent from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Established in 1206, it was the first major Muslim empire in India and played a significant role in shaping the region’s history, culture, and governance. The Delhi Sultanate came into existence following the invasion of the Indian subcontinent by Turkic and Afghan armies led by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a former slave and a general of the Central Asian ruler Muhammad of Ghor. After Muhammad of Ghor’s death, Aibak established the Mamluk dynasty, also known as the Slave dynasty, with Delhi as its capital.

Under the Delhi Sultanate, a succession of dynasties ruled over northern India, including the Mamluks, the Khaljis, the Tughlaqs, the Sayyids, and the Lodis. The Sultans exercised control over a vast territory that encompassed present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and parts of Afghanistan. Read this article till the end to learn about Delhi Sultanate and download the notes on the same to prepare for the UPSC and other competitive exams.

Delhi Sultanate

The Delhi Sultanate period started with the invasion of Md. Bin Qasim to capture the area of Sind in 712 AD. Initially, India’s Islamic rule was fragile but changed drastically with the Turkish invasion.

  • Muhammad Ghori was one of the famous names in Sultan’s era. He invaded India seven times to expand its rule over the Indian subcontinent, specifically Delhi.
  • He fought two battles of Tarain. In the first battle, he lost badly to the era’s most powerful Indian ruler, Prithviraj Chauhan.
  • In the second battle, he defeated Prithviraj Chauhan. He fought with approximately one lakh soldiers in that battle which outnumbered the Rajput army.
  • Thus, Muhammad Ghori is responsible for establishing the Delhi Sultanate Empire in India.

After the death of Muhammad Ghori in 1206 AD, Qutubuddin Aibak, with Mangburni in Central Asia and Yalduz in Lahore, started the Slave dynasty, which marked the beginning of the Delhi Sultanate.

Delhi Sultanate Rulers

Direct questions are often asked about the Delhi Sultanate rulers in the UPSC prelims exam. So, it becomes important for aspirants to know the complete timeline of them and a basic profile about each as given in this article. The list of Delhi Sultanate rulers is as follows:

Name of the Dynasty Delhi Sultane Rulers List
Slave or Mamluk Qutb-ud-din Aibak, Aram Shah, Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, Ruknuddin Feruz Shah, Razia Sultana, Muizuddin Bahram, Alauddin Masud, Nasiruddin Mahmud, Ghiyas-ud-din Balban, Muiz ud din Kaiqubad, Kaimur
Khilji Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji, Alauddin Khilji, Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah
Tughlaq Ghiyath al-Din (Ghiyasuddin) Tughluq, Muhammad bin Tughluq, Mahmud Ibn Muhammad, Firoz Shah Tughlaq, Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq II, Abu Bakr Shah, Nasir ud din Muhammad Shah III, Ala ud-din Sikandar Shah I, Mahmud Nasir ud din, Nasir-ud-din Nusrat Shah Tughluq, Nasir ud din Mahmud
Sayyid Khizr Khan, Mubarak Shah, Muhammad Shah, Alam Shah
Lodhi Bahlul/Bahlol Lodi, Sikander Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi

Founder of Delhi Sultanate

The Delhi Sultanate was founded by Qutub-ud-din Aibak. He was a former slave of Mu’izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori, also known as Muhammad of Ghor. Because of his ancestry, Aibak’s dynasty is referred to as the Mamluk dynasty. After the Ghurid victory in the Second Battle of Tarain, Muhammad Ghori nominated Aibak to serve as the ruler of his Indian domains.

By capturing and raiding numerous locations within the Gahadavala, Chahamana, Chandela, Chaulukya, and other kingdoms, Aibak increased the Ghurid supremacy in northern India. When Muhammad Ghori passed away in 1206, Aibak and Taj al-Din Yildiz engaged in the battle for control of the Ghurid lands in northwest India. Aibak ruled as the Sultan of Delhi Sultanate from 1206 to 1210, a period of four years.

Delhi Sultanate Timeline

The timeline of the Delhi Sultanate Dynasties is listed in the table below:

S. No. Name of the Dynasty
1 Slave (Ghulam) or Mamluk Dynasty
2 Khilji Dynasty
3 Tughluq Dynasty
4 Sayyid Dynasty
5 Lodi Dynasty

First Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate

The first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate was the Mamluk dynasty, also known as the Slave dynasty, which ruled from 1206 to 1290. This dynasty was established by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a former slave and a trusted general of the Central Asian ruler Muhammad of Ghor. Let’s explore the rulers of the Mamluk dynasty and their contributions:

Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210):

Qutb-ud-din Aibak was the founder of the Delhi Sultanate and the first ruler of the Mamluk dynasty. He laid the foundation of the Slave dynasty and established Delhi as the capital. During his reign, he consolidated his power, suppressed rebellions, and expanded the empire’s boundaries. Aibak was known for his military skills and architectural achievements. He constructed the famous Qutub Minar in Delhi, which stands as a remarkable example of Indo-Islamic architecture.

Aram Shah (1210-1211):

Aram Shah succeeded Qutb-ud-din Aibak but had a short and tumultuous reign. He faced challenges to his authority from other powerful nobles and was eventually deposed by Iltutmish, a prominent general in the Delhi Sultanate.

Iltutmish (1211-1236):

Iltutmish was one of the most significant rulers of the Mamluk dynasty. He was a competent administrator and military strategist. During his reign, he faced internal revolts and external invasions, including attacks by Mongols. Iltutmish successfully suppressed revolts, expanded the empire’s boundaries, and established a strong administrative system. He introduced the silver tanka currency and played a crucial role in institutionalizing the Delhi Sultanate.

Rukn ud din Firuz (1236-1236):

Rukn ud din Firuz ascended to the throne after Iltutmish’s death but ruled for a very brief period before his untimely demise.

Razia Sultana (1236-1240):

Razia Sultana, the daughter of Iltutmish, was the first and only woman to sit on the throne of the Delhi Sultanate. Despite facing opposition from the conservative nobility, she proved to be a capable ruler. Razia Sultana focused on administrative reforms, encouraged trade and commerce, and patronized arts and literature. However, her reign was marred by revolts and conspiracies, and she was eventually deposed and killed.

Muiz ud din Bahram (1240-1242):

Muiz ud din Bahram, also known as Alauddin Masud, succeeded Razia Sultana. However, his reign was short-lived, and he faced challenges to his authority. He was eventually overthrown by his ambitious nobles.

Nasir ud din Mahmud (1242-1266):

Nasir ud din Mahmud, popularly known as Balban, was one of the most influential rulers of the Mamluk dynasty. He was a strong and authoritarian ruler who implemented strict measures to maintain law and order. Balban successfully crushed rebellions and stabilized the empire. He introduced the concept of kingship and emphasized the sultan’s absolute authority. Balban’s reign marked the transition from the early phase of the Delhi Sultanate to a more centralized and autocratic system.

Ghiyas ud din Balban (1266-1287):

Ghiyas ud din Balban, also known as Balban II, was the son and successor of Nasir ud din Mahmud. He continued his father’s policies and maintained a strong central authority. Balban faced threats from Mongol invasions, but he effectively defended the empire’s frontiers. His reign witnessed the decline of the Mamluk dynasty’s power and the rise of powerful nobles who would play a significant role in the subsequent dynasties.

Muiz ud din Qaiqabad (1287-1290):

Muiz ud din Qaiqabad, the grandson of Balban, became the last ruler of the Mamluk dynasty. His reign was marked by instability and power struggles among the nobles. Qaiqabad’s weak leadership and the growing influence of the nobility contributed to the decline of the Mamluk dynasty.

The Mamluk dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate laid the foundation for subsequent Muslim dynasties in India. It played a crucial role in establishing Islamic rule and shaping the political, cultural, and architectural landscape of the Indian subcontinent.

Delhi Sultanate Khilji Dynasty

The Khilji dynasty also belonged to the Turkish race. It was in power for the shortest period, i.e., 1290 AD to 1316 AD. The sultans under this dynasty have been listed in the table below:

Delhi Sultanate Rulers Period Events
Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji 1290-1296 Founder of the Khilji (Khalji) Dynasty
Alauddin Khilji 1296-1316 Nephew of Jalal-ud-din
Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah 1316-1320 Alauddin Khilji’s son

Jalal-ud-din Khalji (c. 1290 – 1296 CE)

Jalal-ud-din Khilji ascended to the throne after assassinating the last ruler of the Mamluk dynasty, Muiz ud din Qaiqabad. He pursued a policy of religious tolerance and attempted to reconcile with the nobles of the previous dynasty. Jalal-ud-din faced challenges from internal rebellions and Mongol invasions. However, his reign is significant for its relative stability and efforts to consolidate the empire.

Alauddin Khalji (1296 – 1316)

Alauddin Khilji, the most prominent ruler of the Khilji dynasty, was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din Khilji. He is known for his military prowess and administrative reforms. Alauddin Khilji successfully repelled Mongol invasions and expanded the Delhi Sultanate’s territories through his military campaigns. His most notable conquest was the capture of the prosperous Deccan region, including the famous city of Devagiri (present-day Daulatabad).

Administration of Alauddin Khalji:

Khalji was skilled at running his administration during the Delhi Sultanate time period smoothly, he ushered in many reforms to keep a stronghold over such a vast empire.

  • He established a market control system, implemented price controls, and reformed the taxation system. His policies aimed to centralize power, curb the influence of the nobility, and enhance the treasury’s revenue.
  • During Alauddin Khilji’s reign, the capital was shifted from Delhi to a new city called Siri, near present-day Hauz Khas in Delhi. He also established a separate department called Diwan-i-Riyasat to oversee revenue administration.
  • Alauddin Khilji is also known for his strict regulations on the nobility, including the enforcement of the “Iqta” system, which granted land revenue rights to military officials. He maintained a large standing army and introduced a spy network to keep a check on dissent and potential rebellions.

Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah (1316 – 1320)

Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah succeeded Alauddin Khilji but had a short and tumultuous reign. He faced opposition and revolts from powerful nobles and ultimately lost control over the empire. His rule marked the end of the Khilji dynasty.

Tughlaq Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate

The Tughlaq dynasty belonged to the Turkish race. The Tughlaq dynasty ruled over the longest period (1320-1414 AD) and conquered most areas. Owing to their Qaraunah Turk origin, the dynasty was also called Qaraunah Turks. The famous rulers of Delhi Sultanate under this dynasty are listed in the table below:

Rulers Period Events
Ghiyath al-Din (Ghiyasuddin) Tughluq 1320 – 1325 AD
Muhammad bin Tughluq 1325 – 1351 AD Also called Muhammad Shah II
Mahmud Ibn Muhammad 1351 (March)
Firoz Shah Tughlaq 1351 – 1388 AD Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s cousin
Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq II 1388 – 1389 AD
Abu Bakr Shah 1389 – 1390 AD
Nasir ud din Muhammad Shah III 1390 – 1393 AD
Ala ud-din Sikandar Shah I 1393 AD
Mahmud Nasir ud din 1393 – 1394 AD Also known as Sultan Mahmud II
Nasir-ud-din Nusrat Shah Tughluq 1394 – 1399 AD Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s grandson
Nasir ud din Mahmud 1399 – 1412 AD Mahmud Nasir-ud- din’s

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320-1325):

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq ascended to the throne after overthrowing the last ruler of the Khilji dynasty, Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah. His reign was marked by administrative reforms and attempts to consolidate the empire. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq is known for his construction projects, including the city of Tughlaqabad near Delhi, which served as his capital.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1325-1351):

Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the son of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, is one of the most controversial and intriguing rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. He is known for his ambitious and innovative ideas, but many of his policies were met with resistance and ended in failure. Muhammad bin Tughlaq attempted to shift the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in the Deccan, which resulted in immense hardship for the people. He also introduced token currency and experimented with various administrative and military reforms. However, these policies often led to unrest and instability in the empire.

Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388):

Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the nephew of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, ruled with a focus on good governance and welfare measures. He is regarded as one of the more capable rulers of the Tughlaq dynasty. Firoz Shah Tughlaq undertook several initiatives to improve the empire’s administration, such as constructing canals, organizing a strong intelligence network, and establishing hospitals and educational institutions. He also conducted extensive restoration work on historical monuments, including the Qutub Minar and the Hauz Khas complex in Delhi.

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq II (1388-1389):

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq II, the son of Firoz Shah Tughlaq, had a brief and unremarkable reign. He faced several challenges during his brief tenure as the ruler. The Tughlaq dynasty was already facing internal conflicts and power struggles, with various factions vying for control. Additionally, external threats, such as the invasion of Timur (Tamerlane), posed significant challenges to the stability of the Delhi Sultanate.

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq II’s reign lasted for less than a year, and historical records provide limited information about his specific actions and policies as a ruler. Due to the short duration of his rule and the lack of notable achievements or significant events, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq II is not widely discussed or recognized as a prominent figure in the history of the Tughlaq dynasty or the Delhi Sultanate.

Abu Bakr Shah (1389-1390):

Abu Bakr Shah, another son of Firoz Shah Tughlaq, succeeded Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq II but ruled for a short period before being assassinated.

Nasiruddin Mahmud (1390-1394):

Nasiruddin Mahmud, the third son of Firoz Shah Tughlaq, became the ruler but faced challenges to his authority. He was eventually overthrown by his cousin, Nusrat Shah.

Nusrat Shah (1394):

Nusrat Shah, a cousin of Nasiruddin Mahmud, seized power but was dethroned within a few months. He rose to power followed the overthrow of Nasiruddin Mahmud, who had himself recently taken control of the throne. However, Nusrat Shah’s reign was short-lived, lasting only a few months. Historical records provide limited information about his specific actions and policies as a ruler, and not much is known about his accomplishments or contributions during his brief tenure.

Nasiruddin Mahmud II (1394-1413):

Nasiruddin Mahmud II, also known as Mahmud Tughlaq, reestablished himself as the ruler after the short reigns of Nusrat Shah and others. However, his rule was marked by instability and conflicts, and he was eventually overthrown by Khizr Khan, the founder of the Sayyid dynasty.

Delhi Sultanate Rulers: Sayyid Dynasty

The Sayyid dynasty was the fourth dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, ruling from 1414 to 1451. It was founded by Khizr Khan, a former governor of Multan and a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Let’s explore the rulers of the Sayyid dynasty and their notable contributions:

Khizr Khan (1414-1421)

Khizr Khan established the Sayyid dynasty after overthrowing the last ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty, Nasiruddin Mahmud II. He focused on stabilizing the empire, restoring law and order, and consolidating his power. Khizr Khan faced challenges from rival claimants to the throne, including the powerful governor of Bengal, but he managed to maintain control over the Delhi Sultanate during his reign.

Mubarak Shah (1421-1434)

Mubarak Shah, the son of Khizr Khan, succeeded his father and ruled for over a decade. His reign witnessed political instability and conflicts with regional powers. Mubarak Shah faced invasions from the Kingdom of Malwa and dealt with revolts by ambitious nobles. Despite these challenges, he managed to maintain the authority of the Sayyid dynasty in Delhi.

Muhammad Shah (1434-1445)

Muhammad Shah, the son of Mubarak Shah, ascended to the throne after his father’s death. His reign was marked by further instability and the weakening of the Sayyid dynasty’s control. Muhammad Shah faced continuous threats from the governor of Jaunpur, who asserted his independence and challenged the central authority of Delhi. The dynasty’s power gradually declined during Muhammad Shah’s rule.

Alam Shah (1445-1451)

Alam Shah, the son of Muhammad Shah, became the last ruler of the Sayyid dynasty. His reign was characterized by internal strife and external invasions. The Lodi dynasty, a regional power in Punjab, emerged as a significant challenge to the Delhi Sultanate’s authority. The weakening of the Sayyid dynasty paved the way for the Lodis to take control and establish their own dynasty in Delhi.

The Sayyid dynasty’s rule was marked by political instability, regional conflicts, and the decline of the Delhi Sultanate’s power. The dynasty faced numerous challenges from rival claimants, rebellious governors, and external invasions. Ultimately, the weakened state of the empire allowed the Lodi dynasty to rise to prominence and assume control over Delhi, marking the end of the Sayyid dynasty and the beginning of a new era in the Delhi Sultanate.

Lodhi Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate

The Lodi dynasty was the fifth and final dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, ruling from 1451 to 1526. The dynasty was founded by Bahlul Khan Lodi, a Pashtun noble who served as the governor of Lahore under the Sayyid dynasty. Let’s explore the rulers of the Lodi dynasty and their notable contributions:

Bahlul Khan Lodi (1451-1489)

Bahlul Khan Lodi established the Lodi dynasty by overthrowing the last ruler of the Sayyid dynasty, Alam Shah. He ruled from Delhi and Lahore and focused on consolidating his power. Bahlul Khan Lodi’s reign saw the expansion of the kingdom’s territories, particularly in Punjab. He was known for his military campaigns against neighboring kingdoms and tribes.

Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517)

Sikandar Lodi, the son of Bahlul Khan Lodi, succeeded his father and ruled for nearly three decades. He is considered one of the most prominent rulers of the Lodi dynasty. Sikandar Lodi continued his father’s expansionist policies and significantly expanded the boundaries of the Delhi Sultanate. He conducted numerous military campaigns in various directions, including towards Bihar, Bengal, and Rajasthan. Sikandar Lodi also focused on administrative reforms and patronized art and literature.

Ibrahim Lodi (1517-1526)

Ibrahim Lodi, the son of Sikandar Lodi, became the last ruler of the Lodi dynasty. His reign was marked by political turmoil and external threats. Ibrahim Lodi faced challenges from the Afghan nobles within his own kingdom and also faced the rising power of the Mughals, led by Babur. In 1526, Ibrahim Lodi faced Babur’s invasion in the Battle of Panipat, where he was defeated, resulting in the end of the Delhi Sultanate and the beginning of Mughal rule in India.

The Lodi dynasty played a significant role in the political landscape of medieval India. They expanded the territories of the Delhi Sultanate and left a legacy of architectural and cultural developments. However, the dynasty faced internal conflicts and was ultimately unable to withstand the growing power of the Mughals. The Battle of Panipat marked a turning point in Indian history and led to the establishment of the Mughal Empire in the subcontinent.

Delhi Sultanate UPSC

The Delhi Sultanate is an extremely important topic in the History syllabus for UPSC. It covered a huge chunk of medieval history, making it an often enquired-about topic in the Prelims, UPSC Mains, and optional papers. Candidates must be well-versed with the complete history and rulers of Delhi Sultanate along with the timeline of dynasties to score well in the exam.

Delhi Sultanate UPSC Questions

Q1: Who was the founder of the Delhi Sultanate? – (a) Muhammad of Ghor, (b) Qutb-ud-din Aibak, (c) Alauddin Khalji, (d) Babur

Answer: b) Qutb-ud-din Aibak

Q2: Which dynasty ruled during the Khilji period of the Delhi Sultanate? – (a) Mamluk dynasty, (b) Tughlaq dynasty, (c) Khalji dynasty, (d) Lodi dynasty

Answer: c) Khalji dynasty

Q3: Who was the first woman to sit on the throne of the Delhi Sultanate? – (a) Razia Sultana, (b) Nur Jahan, (c) Chand Bibi, (d) Jahanara Begum

Answer: a) Razia Sultana

Q4: Which famous Sufi saint of the Chishti order played a significant role in spreading Islam during the Delhi Sultanate? – (a) Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi, (b) Nizamuddin Auliya, (c) Moinuddin Chishti, (d) Shah Waliullah

Answer: c) Moinuddin Chishti

Q5: Who was the last ruler of the Delhi Sultanate before the establishment of the Mughal Empire? – (a) Ibrahim Lodi, (b) Balban, (c) Firoz Shah Tughlaq, (d) Sikandar Lodi

Answer: a) Ibrahim Lodi

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