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Administration of the Delhi Sultanate

Administration of the Delhi Sultanate

  • The Delhi Sultanate gradually developed into a powerful and highly centralized state in which the Sultan became the most important personality vested with the ultimate political, legal and military authority.
  • The Sultan was the highest administrative post, he was the supreme commander-in-chief of the military forces and also dispensed law and justice.
  • Balban did not make any difference between the high and the low in the dispensation of justice and Mohammed-bin-Tughluq brought even the ulema (religious classes) within the ambit of law and they were not exempt from harsh punishments.
  • The Caliph held only a moral position and not a legal position. By proclaiming the supreme position of the Caliph, the sultans at Delhi were only proclaiming that they were a part of the Islamic world.

Central Administration:

  • The Sultan was assisted by a number of ministers who were chosen by him and remained in office at his pleasure.
  • The key figure in the administration was wazir. In the earlier period, the wazirs were primarily military leaders, but in the 14th century, the wazir began to be considered more an expert in revenue affairs aided by an auditor general and accountant general.
  • Mohammed — bin — Tughluq’s wazir was Khwaja Tahan and Firoz Shah Tughluq’s wazir was a converted telangana Brahmin Khan-i-Jahan.
  • In accordance with Firoz’s policy of making offices and iqtas hereditary, Khan-i-jahan was succeeded by his son, Khan-i-jahan II as wazir.
  • Balban created a separate military department called diwan-i-arz which was headed by ariz-i-mamalik whose job it was to recruit, equip and pay the army.  Administration of the Delhi Sultanate
  • Alauddin Khalji had the largest standing army which according to Barani was about 3,00,000. He recruited soldiers on merit and paid them in cash, not in Jagirs.
  • The practices of dagh (branding of the horse) and huliya (description of a solder) were adopted. Each horseman had a salary of 238 tankas and for one extra horse, 78 additional tankas were given. Firoz Shah Tughluq made the offices of the soldier hereditary and this weakened the military.

Diwan-i-risalat dealt with religious matters, pious foundations and stipends to deserving scholars and men of piety. It was presided over by the chief Sadr who was generally also the Chief Qazi. The qazi dispensed civil law based on the muslim law (shariat).

The Hindus were governed by their own personal laws which were dispensed by caste leaders in the cities and panchayats in the villages. Criminal law was based on regulations framed for the purpose by the rulers.

  • Diwan-i-insha dealt with the state correspondence. All the correspondence, formal or confidential, between the ruler and the sovereigns of other states, and with his subordinate officials was dealt with by this department.
  • Bands were intelligence agents appointed by the Sultan to keep them informed of what was going on. Only a nobleman who enjoyed the fullest confidence of the ruler was appointed the Chief Band.
  • The ruler’s household was another important department of the State. It looked after the personal comforts of the Sultan and the requirements of the large number of women in the royal household. It also looked after a large number of departments in which goods and articles needed by the king and the royal household were stored.  Administration of the Delhi Sultanate
  • Firoz Tughluq set up a separate department of slaves, many of whom were employed in these royal workshops.
  • The officer in charge of all these activities was called ‘Wakil-i-dar’. He was also responsible for the maintenance of proper decorum at the court, and placing nobles in their proper order of precedence at formal receptions.
  • Firoz also set up a separate department of public works which built canals and many of his public buildings.

Local Administration:

  • When the Turks conquered the country, they divided it into a number by tracts called iqtas which were parceled out among the leading Turkish nobles.    Administration of the Delhi Sultanate
  • The holders of these officers were called ‘muqtis or watis’. It was these tracts which later became provinces or Subas. At first, the muqtis were almost independent; they were expected to maintain law and order in their tracts, and collect the land revenue due to the government.
  • Out of the money they collected, they were expected to meet the salaries due to the soldiers and keep the balance. As the central government became stronger and gained experience, it began to control the muqtis more closely.
  • It began to try to ascertain the actual income, and to fix the salaries of the soldiers and the muqti in cash. The muqti was now required to remit to the centre the balance of the income after meeting the expenditure.
  • The provinces or subas were divided into Shiqs (districts). It was headed by a Shiqdar who was a military man. Under him, many officers conducted the district administration The Shiqdar looked after the law and order of the district. The Shiqs were divided into pargana.
  • Parganas were village units of 100 or 84 villages. The pargana was headed by an anvil. The most important people in the village were the Khut (landowners) and Muqaddam (headman). We also know of the patwari (village accountant).
  • The village was perhaps not interfered with as long as it paid the land revenue due from it. Alauddin Khalji curtailed the privileges of the Khuts, Muqaddams and Chaudharis though they were restored by the later sultans.    Administration of the Delhi Sultanate


Medieval History

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