Sultanate under Balban (c.1266-1286 CE)

The growing authority of Balban alienated many of the Turkish chiefs and with a conspiracy in c.1250 CE, they ousted Balban from his position and replaced him with Imaduddin Raihan, who was an Indian Muslim, as they could not agree among themselves which Turkish noble should succeed Balban’s post. Balban agreed to step aside but carefully build his own group, and within a short span of one and a half years, won over some of his opponents. In due course of time, Balban was reinstated with even more powers and he even assumed the royal insignia.

Mahmud died in c.1265 CE, and according to some historians such Ibn Battuta and Isami, Balban poisoned his master Nasiruddin and ascended the throne.

Balban (c.1266-1286 CE)

Sultan Balban was one of the greatest rulers in the history of the Turko-Afghan rule in India. Undoubtedly one of the main architects of the Delhi Sultanate, particularly of its form of government and institutions.

Coin of Balban
Coin of Balban

Balban’s experience as the regent made him understand the problems of the Delhi Sultanate. He knew that the real threat to the monarchy was from the nobles called the Forty. He got every member of Iltumish’s family killed and gave a deadly blow to Chahalgani.

Challenges faced by Balban at the time of sitting on the throne

The prestige of the crown had fallen badly. There was neither respect nor fear of the authority of the Sultan in the heart & mind of the masses. After the death of Iltutmish, several weak and incompetent rulers ruled the throne of Delhi. They were unfit for the challenge & cause of this they destroyed the prestige of the crown.

The law & order situation in the area around Delhi and the Doab region had badly deteriorated. In the Ganga – Yamuna doab and Awadh, the roads were infested with robbers and dacoits. They used to rob and kill Merchants & traders. Mewati had become as bold as to plunder people up to the outskirts of Delhi.

Semi Divine Origin Of Kingship

Balban in battlefiled
Balban in battlefield

Emphasis on the semi-divine origin of kingship was the most important element of Balban’s theory. He proclaimed Sultan was the recipient of divine grace (Nibyabat-i-Khudai). Balban proclaimed himself as a shadow of God on earth (Zil-i-Ilahi). Through this idea, Balban could raise the status of the Sultan above Nobel, Ulemas & others.


Balban was a firm believer in the principles of despotism; he didn’t allow anybody the question the authority of the Sultan. He emphasizes that since Sultan receives authority, Sultan only to God for his action. He didn’t allow Nobel, Military / Ulema/people to question his order.

Emphasis Paraphernalia

Balban introduced rigorous court discipline and new customs such as sijada (prostration) and paibos (kissing the Sultan’s feet). Balban maintained a magnificent court and also introduced the Persian festival. He refused to laugh and joke in the court and even gave up drinking wine so that no one may see in a non-serious mood.

A Strict Discipline

Reign of Sultan Balban is also famous for strict discipline. He himself followed it & forced others to remain in the discipline. Every Nobel was to attain the court in a particular uniform. Nobody is allowed to sit in front of the Sultan. That discipline was so tight, nobody even dares to smile. Sultan Balban has so disciplined himself, even his servant never saw him without a proper uniform. Balban relied on the strength of the military to tackle challenges, facing the crown & the Sultanate.

He maintained a large army to take on internal & external threats. Successful military campaigns were organized by Balban to wipe out the rebellious element. The entire mewat put on the fire to eliminate robber, their wives & children were enslaved. Tughril Baig was hanged publicly along with the family to set on the existence of others.


Balban was racist in its outlook. He believed in the superiority of pure Turkish Blood over the Turks who are given high offices in the capital. Indian Muslims are not given important posts in government. He appointed spies to monitor the activities of the nobles. The non-Turk like Khalji was posted away from the capital.

Emphasis on Impartial justice

Generally, deputation results in misuse of authority & exploitation of masses but Sultan Balban used his despotic authority to deliver impartial justice to every without fear & favor. Malik Baqbaq, the governor of Badaun, was publicly flogged for his cruelty towards his servants.

Blood and Iron

Picture depicting people’s bowing to Balban

Blood refers to violence & Iron refers to strength. The political opponents shall be suppressed ruthlessly. He symbolized this policy he used every possible method to suppress opponents. Many of the senior members were either poisoned to death or dismissed on insignificance ground.

Institution of Administration

Balban was aware of the significance of the institution he knew that despotic, centralize systems maintain effecting without sound institution. He establishes a separate department of the military (Diwan-i-Arz) recruiting, training & look after logistic needs. He separated the Diwan-i-unzarat (Finance Department) from the Diwan-i-Arz (Military Department).

Emphasis on the high origin of his family

To raise the status of his family in the eyes of other Balban proclaimed himself as a descendant of Afrasiab the mythical Persian hero. He gave the name of Persian legends to his grandsons “Kaiqubad” & “Kaimurs”. He spared only the most obedient nobles and eliminated all others by fair or foul means. Haybat Khan, the governor of Oudh, was punished for killing a drunk man. Sher Khan, the governor of Bhatinda, was poisoned.

When Balban became the Sultan, his position was not secure. Many Turkish chiefs were hostile to him; the Mongols were looking forward to an opportunity to attack the Sultanate; the governors of the distant provinces were trying to become independent rulers while Indian rulers were also ready to revolt at the smallest opportunity. Many parts of the Sultanate were declared Independent. Tughril Beg (Governor of Bengal) had declared his Independence.

In c.1279 CE, encourages by the Mongol threats and the old age of Sultan, the governor of Bengal, Tughril Beg, revolted, assumed the title of Sultan, and had the khutba read in his name. Balban sent his forces to Bengal and had Tughril beheaded. Subsequently, he appointed his own son Bughra Khan as the governor of Bengal. By all these harsh methods, Balban controlled the situation. He called himself Nasir Amir-ul-Momin (Caliph’s right-hand man) and instructed the ulemas to confine themselves to religious affairs and not to interfere in political activities.

He strengthened frontiers against the Mongols but even he could not fully defend northern India against the attacks of the Mongols. Moreover, by excluding the non-Turkish from positions of power and authority, and by trusting only a very narrow racial group, he made many people dissatisfied. Patron of men of letters and showered special favors on Amir Khusrau.

However, in the north-west, the Mongols reappeared and Balban sent his son, Prince Mahmud, against them. But the prince (Khan-i-Shahid) was killed in the battle and his death was a smashing blow to Balban. He died in c.1287 CE.


Sultan Balban was highly successful in the immediate scene. He could wipe out all internal & external challenges successfully. The idea of the divine origin of kingship enabled him to justify access to the throne. The divine origin of king monarchical despotism & policy of impartial justice raises the power & prestige of the crown.

He was able to suppress all threats such as robber & rebels by using his policy British & Indian & resorting to militarism. He used his last army to counter the Mongol threat. He built several new forts & repaired old forts. The ability commanders appointed in the frontier areas at powerful Mongol (Halaku) were bribed by him to keep them away from the Indian frontier.

Limitation of Balban’s reign

Excessive violence is one of the major limitations of Balban’s reign. He kept the critics silent either by killing them or imprisoning them. This policy generated serious negative reactions after his death. His political system was over-centralized. Everything revolved around his personality. He left behind a big vacuum that ordinary successors were never capable of filling.

Balban's Tomb, Mehrauli
Balban’s Tomb, Mehrauli

His racial approach was another important limitation. This policy of racial discrimination adversely affected the social base of the Delhi Sultanate. This narrow social base resulted in serious instability immediately after his death. Despite all possible efforts, He couldn’t ensure continuity of the dynasty three years after the death dynasty collapse.

Mongol policy was essentially defensive. As result, Delhi Sultanate could be saved from Mongol temporally. The threats of Mongol invasion aroused again immediately after his death & by the closing years of the 13th century, the Mongols had to gain certain confidence. That they had started reaching Delhi.

Kaiqubad (c. 1287-90 CE)

He was the son of Bughra Khan, the Independent sultan of Bengal, as well as the grandson of Ghiyas ud din Balban. He was quite an inefficient ruler and mostly indulged in luxury leaving the kingdom vulnerable to attacks. He appointed Jalal ud Din Firuz Khalji as a new commander of the army. But he took advantage of the weak administration and marched his army to Delhi.

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