Emergence of Regional States in India
The fall of the Delhi Sultanate was the logical conclusion of the decline that had set in during the last days of Muhammad bin Tughluq. The centrifugal tendencies which were inherent in the administrative structure of the Delhi Sultanate began to be manifest in the assertion of independence by quite a few of the provinces of the Delhi Sultanate after the death of Firuz Tughluq. Jaunpur was one of the earliest to assert its independence.
It was in 1297, that the rich province of Gujarat was conquered and annexed to the Delhi Sultanate by Ala-ud-din Khalji, and continued to remain a province of the Sultanate till 1401. In 1391 Zafar Khan, a son of Rajput convert was appointed governor of Gujarat by Muhammad Shah II Tughluq.
The invasion of Timur gave Zafar Khan the opportunity to throw off the allegiance of Delhi and make himself independent. He was for a time deposed by his son Tatar Khan who occupied the throne, but he was put to death by his uncle. Zafar Khan recovered his throne and assumed the title of Sultan Muzaffar Shah and ruled upto 1411.
Malwa was annexed to the Delhi Sultanate by Ala-ud-din Khalji in and it continued to be under the authority of Delhi till 1398 when it became independent, like other provinces of the Sultanate, taking advantage of the disorder that had resulted from the invasion of Timur. It was Dilawar Khan Ghur, probably appointed governor of Malwa by Firuz Shah Tughluq, who made himself independent of the Delhi Sultanate in 1401.
Jaunpur was a prosperous province in the eastern part of the Delhi Sultanate. The governor was Malik Sarwar, who was a prominent noble during Feroz Shah Tughlaq’s period. In 1394, Sultan Tughlaq made him a minister and gave him the title of Sultan u-Sharq.
After Timur’s invasion and the weakening of the Delhi Sultanate, he took advantage of the weak political situation and declared himself independent. He was succeeded by his son Mubarak Shah Sharqi. The Sultan struck coins in his name. During his period, the ruler of the Delhi sultanate was Mahmud Shah Tughlaq, who tried to annex Jaunpur but failed. Thereafter, there were constant tensions between the various rulers of Jaunpur and Delhi Sultanate. The Sharqi Sultans made several attempts to conquer Delhi, but they could never be successful.
In 1402, Ibrahim Shah Sharqi, Mubarak Shah’s brother became the Sultan and ruled Jaunpur for thirty four years. Ibrahim was also a scholar, well versed with Islamic theology and law, music and fine arts. He was a great patron of architecture. A distinct style of architecture evolved called the Sharqi style that had some Hindu influence.
At its height, the Sharqi Sultanate extended from Aligarh in western Uttar Pradesh to Darbhanga in north Bihar in the east and from Nepal in the north to Bundelkhand in the south.
It was during the reign of Hussain Shah Sharqi (1458– 1505) that a prolonged war with Bahlol Lodhi started. Bahlol Lodhi attacked Jaunpur in 1484 and Hussain Shah had to flee. Finally, Sikandar Lodhi annexed Jaunpur. Hussain Shah died and the Sharqi dynasty came to an end.
In the eleventh century, Kashmir was a closed kingdom. Albiruni, the Arab traveller who visited India during this period remarked in his work, Al-Hind that no one, not even Hindus from outside, was allowed access to Kashmir.
In 1320s, the ruling dynasty of Kashmir could not check the devastating Mongol invasions. It therefore, lost all public support. In 1339, Shamsuddin Shah deposed the Saiva ruler and became the ruler of Kashmir. From this period onwards, Islam influenced the Kashmiri society.
A group of Sufi saints known as the Rishis propagated a religion that combined features of Hinduism and Islam; and Sufi saints and refugees migrated from Central Asia to Kashmir and further influenced the society. Gradually, the poorer section of the population started converting to Islam. The state encouragement to Islam took place when the Kashmiri Sultan, Sikandar Shah (1389–1413), issued an order that all Hindus especially, the brahmanas living in his kingdom should embrace Islam or leave his kingdom. It is said that these orders were issued at the instance of the king’s minister, Suha Bhatt who was a Hindu and had recently converted to Islam.
Perhaps, one of the greatest rulers of Kashmir was Zainul Abidin (1420–1470). He was an enlightened ruler and called back those Hindus who had left the state due to the persecution of Sikandar Shah. He abolished jaziya and prohibited cow slaughter and gave the Hindus important state posts. A large number of temples were repaired and new ones constructed.
Abul Fazl, the court historian of the Mughal Emperor Akbar noted that Kashmir had one hundred and fifty big temples. Sultan Zainul Abidin married the daughters of the Hindu raja of Jammu. Some scholars call Zainul Abidin as the Akbar of Kashmir. Under him, Kashmir became prosperous and he was called the Bud Shah or the great king of Kashmiris.
The Sultan contributed to the agricultural development of Kashmir by constructing dams and canals. Agricultural records were maintained. During periods of famine and other natural calamities, relief in terms of loans and grains and fodder was provided to the peasants. He also introduced reforms in the currency. He introduced market control and fixed prices of the commodities. Traders and merchants were asked to sell the commodities at fixed prices. Sultan also subsidized the import of the commodities which were scarce in the state.
After him weak rulers ascended the throne of Kashmir and there was confusion. Taking advantage of this, Mirza Haider, Babur’s relative occupied Kashmir. In 1586, Akbar conquered Kashmir and made it a part of the Mughal Empire.
Bengal was an important regional kingdom under the Palas in the eighth century and the Senas in the twelfth century. Bengal was the easternmost province of the Delhi Sultanate. The long distance, uncomfortable climate and poor means of transport and communications made it difficult for the Delhi Sultanate to control this province. Therefore, it was easy for Bengal to assert its independence.
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq tried to solve the problem by partitioning Bengal into three independent administrative divisions: Lakhnauti, Satgaon and Sonargaon. However, the problems remained and finally Bengal emerged as an independent regional state in the fourteenth century.
In 1342, one of the nobles, Haji Ilyas Khan united Bengal and became its ruler under the title of Shamsh-ud-din Iliyas Shah and laid the foundation of the Ilyas Shah dynasty. He tried to annex Bengal and raided Orissa and Tirhut and forced them to pay tribute. Such expansions alarmed the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, who tried to occupy Bengal several times but were not successful.
One of the important rulers of the Ilyas Shah dynasty was Ghiyasuddin Azam. He was a learned man and promoted Persian literature. He was well known for dispensing free and fair justice to people. Azam had cordial relations with China. There was a prosperous trading relationship between Bengal and China. The port of Chittagaong was an important centre for exchange of goods. On demand from the king of China, Azam also sent Buddhist monks from Bengal. Pandua and Gaur were the capitals of Bengal.
While Persian was the language of administration, Bengali developed as a regional language. The establishment of Mughal control over Bengal coincided with the rise of agrarian settlements in the forested and marshy areas of southeastern Bengal. Soon after, with the spread of rice cultivation, this area became heavily populated with the local communities of fisher folks and peasants. The Mughals established their capital in the heart of the eastern delta at Dhaka. Officials and functionaries received land grants and settled there.
Alauddin Hussain Shah (1439 to 1519) was another important ruler of Bengal. He was very efficient, and gave high administrative posts to the Hindus and is said to have paid respect to Chaitanya of the Vaisnava sect. He came into conflict with Sikandar Lodhi and had to make peace with him.
Gujarat was a fertile and prosperous province. It had flourishing seaports and was famous for its handicrafts. Alauddin Khalji was the first Sultan to annex it to Delhi Sultanate and since then it remained under the Turkish governors of the Sultanate.
After Timur’s invasion, in 1407, Zafar Khan who was then the governor became the independent ruler and after sometime assumed the title of Muzaffar Shah. Zafar Khan’s father was a Rajput who had given his sister in marriage to Feroz Shah Tughlaq.
Ahmad Shah (1411–1441), was one of the important rulers of Gujarat. He founded the city of Ahmadabad and made it his capital in 1413. He built beautiful buildings like the Jama Masjid and Teen Darwaza and beautified the city with gardens, palaces and bazaars. He was an efficient administrator and consolidated the regional state of Gujarat. He subdued the Rajput states, Jhalawar, Bundi and Durgapur. He was supposed to be an orthodox Muslim who imposed jaziya on the Hindus and destroyed several temples. At the same time, he appointed Hindus to important administrative positions. His main enemies were the Muslim rulers of Malwa. The rivalry between Gujarat and Malwa was bitter and prevented both the regional states from concentrating on larger political gains in north Indian politics. He was famous for imparting justice.
Perhaps the most important ruler of Gujarat was Mahmud Begarha. The Sultan founded a new town called Mustafabad. This town with many beautiful monuments became the second capital of Gujarat. Similarly, the fort of Champaner was crucial to control Malwa and Khandesh.
Mahmud also constructed Muhammadabad near Champaner. According to a foreign traveller, Duarto Barbosa, right from his childhood, Mahmud was given some poison as his food which made him so poisonous that if a fly settled on his head, it would meet instant death. Mahmud was also famous for his huge appetite. He ruled for 52 years and was a great patron of art and literature. Many works were translated from Arabic to Persian in his court. His court poet was Udayaraja, who composed poetry in Sanskrit.
In 1507, Mahmud led an expedition against the Portuguese who had settled on the western coast and monopolised the trade there, causing immense harm to the Muslim traders. To break the Portuguese trade monopoly he sought the help of the Sultan of Turkey but could not get much headway and finally had to give the Portuguese a site for a factory in Diu. He died in 1511. During the rule of his successors Akbar conquered and annexed Gujarat in 1572 AD.