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Chapter 3 – House of Toghlak, Seiads, and House of Lodi

House of Toghlak

Gheias u din Toghlak

Gheias u din Toghlak was the son of a Turki slave of Gheias u din Bulbun, by an Indian mother.

1321, AH 721

His whole reign was as commendable as his accession was blameless. He began by restoring order in his internal administration, and by putting his frontier in an effective state of defence against the Moguls.

1322, AH 722

He then sent his son, Juna Khan, to settle the Deckan, where affairs had fallen into disorder.

Failure of an expedition to Telingana

Juna Khan’s operations were successful, until he reached Warangol, on the fortifications of which place he was unable to make any impression: the siege was protracted until the setting in of the hot winds, and perhaps till the first burst of the rainy season; a malignant distemper broke out in his camp; and his troops, already depressed by these disasters, were alarmed by false reports of the death of the king, and a revolution at Delhi. At length, some of his principal officers deserted him with their troops; and the prince himself, endeavouring to retreat with the rest, was pressed by

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the Hindus, and pursued with great slaughter, towards Doulatabad. He only brought back 3000 horse, out of his whole army, to Delhi. Juna Khan proved himself so indiscreet and self-willed in his own reign, that it is difficult to help ascribing a share of his failure, in this instance, to himself.

Conquest of Telingana Capture of Warangol, the capital

1323, AH 723

He was more successful in his next attempt; he took Bidr, a place of strength and importance; and afterwards reduced Warangol, and brought the raja prisoner to Delhi26.

1324-5, AH 724-5

After this the king proceeded in person to Bengal, where Bakarra Khan, the father of the former king, Kei Kobad, still retained his government, after a lapse of forty years. He was now confirmed in possession, and permitted the use of royal ornaments, by the son of his father’s former slave.

The king also settled some disturbances in Sunargong (now Dacca27), which seems to have been a province independent of Bengal. On his way back, he reduced Tirhut (formerly Mithila), and took the raja prisoner.

Death of the king

As he approached the capital, he was met by his eldest son Juna Khan, who received him with magnificence in a wooden pavilion erected for the occasion. During the ceremonies, the building gave way, and the king, with five other persons, was crushed in its fall. This misfortune may have been purely accidental; but the unusualness of erecting

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1325, February AH 725, Rabi ul awal

such a structure at all, the opportune absence of the eldest prince at the moment, and the circumstance of the second, who was his father’s favourite, being involved in the same calamity, fixed strong suspicions on the successor, in whose favour everything turned out so well28.

The fort or castle of Toghlakabad, which is remarkable even at Delhi for its massive grandeur, was built by Gheias u din.

Mohammed Toghlak

1325, AH 725 Character of Mohammed Toghlak

Juna Khan, who assumed the name of Sultan Mohammed, took possession of his dignity with extraordinary magnificence; and distributed gifts and pensions to his friends, and to men of learning, with a profusion never before equalled.

He established hospitals and almshouses on the same liberal scale; and throughout his whole reign his munificence to the learned was such as to deserve and to obtain their warmest expressions of praise.

It is admitted, on all hands, that he was the most eloquent and accomplished prince of his age. His letters, both in Arabic and Persian, were admired for their elegance, long after he had ceased to reign. His memory was extraordinary; and besides a thorough knowledge of logic, and the philosophy of the Greeks, he was much attached to mathematics and to physical science; and used

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himself to attend sick persons, for the purpose of watching the symptoms of any extraordinary disease. He was regular in his devotions, abstained from wine, and conformed in his private life to all the moral precepts of his religion. In war he was distinguished for his gallantry and personal activity; so that his contemporaries were justified in esteeming him as one of the wonders of the age.

Yet the whole of these splendid talents and accomplishments were given to him in vain: they were accompanied by a perversion of judgment which, after every allowance for the intoxication of absolute power, leaves us in doubt whether he was not affected by some degree of insanity. His whole life was spent in pursuing visionary schemes, by means equally irrational, and with a total disregard of the sufferings which they occasioned to his subjects; and its results were more calamitous than those of any other Indian reign.

His first act was one which neither his virtues nor defects would have led us to anticipate. An army of Moguls, under a very celebrated general, Teimurshin Khan, having entered the Panjab, he bought them off by the payment of an immense contribution; and this first instance of such policy in India was not, as might have been expected, followed by fresh invasions.

His next measure was equally inconsistent with his character; for it was perfectly rational and well-judged. He completed the reduction of the

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Deckan, and brought his most remote provinces into as good order as those near his capital.

Wild schemes of Mohammed

Projected conquest of Persia

He then plunged into the career which seemed naturally suited to his genius.

He first determined on the conquest of Persia; and assembled a vast army29; which, after it had consumed his treasures, dispersed for want of pay, and carried pillage and ruin to every quarter.

Attempt to conquer China

His next undertaking was to conquer China, and fill his exhausted coffers with the plunder of that rich monarchy. With this view he sent an army of 100,000 men through the Hemalaya Mountains; but when the passage was effected, the Indians found a powerful Chinese army assembled on the frontier, with which theirs, reduced in numbers, and exhausted by fatigue, was unable to cope. Their provisions likewise failed; and the approach of the rainy season did not admit of a moment’s delay in falling back.

During their retreat they were harassed by the mountaineers, slaughtered by the pursuing enemy, and worn out by famine. The Chinese were at last checked by the torrents of rain which began to fall, and the Indians, in time, made their way through the mountains; but they now found the low country inundated, and the hills covered with impervious jungle. So terrible were the calamities of their retreat, that at the end of fifteen days scarcely a man was left to tell the tale; and many

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of those who had been left behind in garrisons, as the army advanced, were put to death by the king, as if they had contributed to the failure of this ill-starred expedition.

Introduction of paper money

As this expedient had failed to relieve the king’s wants, he had recourse to another, almost equally ill-contrived. He had heard of the use of paper money in China, and he now introduced the system into his own dominions, substituting copper tokens for paper. The king’s insolvency, and the instability of his government, destroyed the credit of his tokens from the first; foreign merchants refused to take them, and all attempts at compulsion were evaded, even at home: trade, in consequence, was at a stand; and confusion and distress were spread throughout all ranks. The king gained, to appearance, in the payment of his debts, but his receipts were diminished in the same proportion; the roots of his revenue were struck at by the impoverished condition of his subjects; and the result of all this sacrifice of the fortunes of the people was to leave his own in greater embarrassment than ever.

Tyranny and exactions of the king

The king’s exactions, which were always excessive, were now rendered intolerable by the urgency of his necessities: the husbandmen abandoned their fields, fled to the woods, and, in many places, maintained themselves by rapine; many towns were likewise deserted, and Mohammed, driven to fury by the disorders which he had himself occasioned, revenged himself by a measure

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which surpassed all his other enormities. He ordered out his army as if for a grand hunt, surrounded an extensive tract of country, as is usual on the great scale of the Indian chace, and then gave orders that the circle should close towards the centre, and that all within it (mostly inoffensive peasants) should be slaughtered like wild beasts. This sort of hunt was more than once repeated; and on a subsequent occasion there was a general massacre of the inhabitants of the great city of Canouj. These horrors led in due time to famine, and the miseries of the country exceeded all power of description.


1338, AH 739

All this oppression was not allowed to pass without attempts to shake it off. Mohammed’s own nephew first revolted in Malwa; and, being pursued by the king into the Deckan, was taken and flayed alive.

1339, AH 740

Malik Beiram, the old friend of the king’s father, whom he had helped to mount the throne, next rebelled in the Panjab, and was also subdued and put to death.

Permanent revolt of Bengal, about 1340, AH 741; and of the coast of Coromandel

Bengal soon after revolted under a Mussulman officer, and was never again subdued. The country on the coast of Coromandel. almost immediately followed the example, and had the same success.

The king went in person to put down this last rebellion; but his army was attacked by a pestilence at Warangol, and suffered so much by its ravages, that he was obliged to return to Deogiri. On his way he had occasion to have a tooth drawn, and

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he buried it, with great ceremony, under a magnificent tomb.

Meanwhile the Afghans crossed the Indus and ravaged the Panjab; when they retired, they were succeeded by the Gakkars, who took Lahor, and completed the ruin of the province.

Restoration of the kingdoms of Carnata and Telingana 1344, AH 744

The rajas of Carnata and Telingana now formed a combination to recover their independence. The former was the founder of a new dynasty, erected on the ruins of that of Belal, which fixed its capital at Bijayanagar, and maintained a nearly equal struggle with the Mussulmans until near the end of the sixteenth century; the latter regained possession of Warangal, while Mohammed’s garrisons were expelled from every part of their dominions.

Other rebellions

1345, AH 745

The famine in Hindostan being at this time at its height, the governor of Sambal became unable to collect his revenue, and, dreading the king’s violence, went into rebellion. He was soon crushed, as was a similar insurgent at Bidr in the Deckan; but a new rebellion almost immediately followed in the latter place by one of the chiefs of converted Moguls, or, as they were now called, Amir Jadida, or new nobility.

1346, AH 746

The present revolt was quashed, but their other chiefs remained as ready as ever to profit by any new disturbance.

The next rebellion was that of Ein ul Mulk, who, being removed from his government of Oud to that of the Deckan, suspected the king’s intentions, and threw off his allegiance. He was

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soon reduced, and, contrary to all expectation, was pardoned, and restored to his office.

The governor of the Deckan, who had hitherto made head against his continually increasing difficulties, was afterwards removed; and the country was placed under the king’s son-in-law, Imad ul Mulk, while a great addition was laid on the revenue of the province.

Rebellion of the Mogul troops in Guzerat

1347, AH 748

Malwa likewise was put under a new governor of low origin, who showed his zeal by a treacherous massacre of seventy of the Mogul Amirs; on which the officers of the same nation in Guzerat prevailed on the rest of the troops to join them in rebellion. The king suppressed this insurrection in person, and ravaged his own province as if it had been an enemy’s, giving up the rich towns of Cambay and Surat to plunder.

Some of the rebels of Guzerat, having taken refuge in the Deckan, were protected by the Mogul Amirs in that province; which Mohammed so highly resented that he ordered those chiefs to be made prisoners.

General revolt of the Deckan

Vigour and activity of the king

They soon after effected their escape, raised a general rebellion, and proclaimed Ismael Khan, an Afghan general, king. Mohammed Toghlak, with a courage and activity worthy of a better cause, hastened to the Deckan, defeated the insurgents, and shut up the chiefs and their king in the fort of Deogiri. Before he could complete his success by the capture of that fortress, his presence was required by a new revolt of Guzerat; and as he was marching to suppress it,

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the people of the Deckan rose on his rear, and plundered his baggage and elephants. The disturbance in Guzerat was, however, got under, and the chiefs compelled to take refuge with the Rajput princes of Tatta in Sind, when intelligence arrived from the Deckan that things had there assumed a more formidable shape than ever. The rebel king had abdicated in favour of Hasan Gangu (who founded the new dynasty of Bahmani), and under his auspices the insurgents had defeated and slain Mohammed’s son-in-law, Imad ul Mulk, and not only recovered the Deckan, but induced the governor of Malwa to join in their insurrection. Mohammed, now sensible of his error in hastening to oppose every new revolt, and not first settling that on hand, determined to place Guzerat on a secure footing before he ventured to confront the increased difficulties which threatened him in the Deckan. Although already in precarious health, he set out after the fugitives to Sind.

Death of Mohammed Toghlak 1351, March 20 AH 752, Moharram 21

He was opposed by the rebels on the Indus, but crossed the river in defiance of them, and had reached Tatta, when he had an accession of illness, and died in that city, leaving the reputation of one of the most accomplished princes and most furious tyrants that ever adorned or disgraced human nature.

Removal of the capital to Deogiri, and other caprices of Mohammed

Among the many projects of Mohammed, none occasioned so much misery, or gave rise to so much complaint, as that of transferring the capital from Delhi to Deogiri. The design was by no means

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unreasonable in itself, if it had been begun without precipitancy, and conducted with steadiness. But Mohammed, as soon as the fancy struck him, ordered the whole of the inhabitants of Delhi to remove to Deogiri, to which he gave the name of Doulatabad30. After this the people were twice permitted to return to Delhi, and twice compelled, on pain of death, to leave it: one of these movements took place during a famine, and caused a prodigious loss of life, and all were attended with ruin and distress to thousands. The plan entirely failed in the end.

Another of his whims was to acknowledge the sovereignty of the nominal caliph in Egypt, to solicit investiture from him, and strike out of the list of kings all who had not received a similar confirmation of their title.

Another very expensive one was to divide the country into districts of sixty miles square, that the cultivation might be carried on under the management of the government.

Foreign accounts of his court and government

Many particulars regarding this reign are given by Ibn Batuta, a native of Tangiers, who travelled over all Asia, and visited the court of Mohammed about 1341, and who could have no interest

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in misrepresentation, as he wrote after his return to Africa. He confirms to their full extent the native accounts both of the king’s talents and of his crimes, and gives exactly such a picture of mixed magnificence and desolation as one would expect under such a sovereign. He found an admirably regulated horse and foot post from the frontiers to the capital, while the country was so disturbed as to make travelling unsafe. He describes Delhi as a most magnificent city, its mosque and walls without an equal on earth; but, although the king was then re-peopling it, it was almost a desert. “The greatest city in the world (he says) had the fewest inhabitants.”

The king being absent, he was carried, with some other noble and learned strangers, who arrived along with him, to the court of the queen-mother, where they were received and entertained with respect and attention, and dismissed with robes of honour. He had a house allotted him, with an ample supply of provisions and everything he could desire, and 2000 dinars were given to him “to pay for his washing.”

His daughter happening to die, it was privately reported to the king by post; and when the funeral took place, he was surprised to find it attended by the vizir, and performed with all the ceremonies usual for the nobles of the country. The queen-mother sent for his wife to console her, and presented her with dresses and ornaments.

The king’s own manners, when he returned,

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were as courteous as his previous proceedings. Ibn Batuta went out to meet him, and was graciously received, the king taking him by the hand and promising him every kindness. He afterwards made him a judge, conversed with him in Arabic on the duties of the office; and when Ibn Batuta hesitated, on account of his ignorance of the Indian language, the king, though somewhat ruffled by his starting difficulties, answered his objections with temper, and assigned him a most liberal salary. He afterwards paid his debts, to the amount of 55,000 dinars, on his requesting it in an Arabic poem31. But Ibn Batuta soon found the dangerous ground he stood on. A particular dervise near Delhi falling under the king’s suspicions, he immediately put him to death, and seized all persons who had frequented his cell. Among the number was Ibn Batuta, who was one of the very few who escaped with their lives. After this, he took an early opportunity of resigning his office; but the king, instead of being offended, attached him to an embassy which he was sending to China, in return for a very splendid one which had just reached his court.

The Mahometan territory in India at its greatest extent in this reign

The Mahometan empire to the east of the Indus was more extensive in the early part of this king’s reign than it ever was at any other period, but the provinces now lost were not all retrieved till the time of Aurangzib; and, even in those which did

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not revolt, the royal authority received a shock from which it did not recover till the accession of the Mogul dynasty.

There is in general so little scruple about getting rid of a bad king in the East, that it is seldom such extensive mischief is brought about by the misgovernment of one man.

Firuz Toghlak

1351, AH 752

On the death of Mohammed Toghlak the army fell into disorders, in which, as usual, the Moguls were the principal actors. The Indian chiefs (now mentioned for the first time) succeeded in repressing them, and raised Firuz u din, the late king’s nephew, to the throne. He left a detachment to settle Sind, and marched along the Indus to Uch, and thence to Delhi, where he overcame an opposition set up in the name of a child, the real or supposititious son of his predecessor.

1353, AH 754

Three years after his accession he made an attempt to recover Bengal, and overran the whole province, but was not able to reduce his enemy, until the rains setting in compelled him to retreat.

1355, AH 757 Independence of Bengal and the Deckan recognised

At a later period he received embassies both from Bengal and the Deckan, and thus acknowledged the independence of both monarchs; though, perhaps, without renouncing his nominal superiority. Whether the treaty with Bengal was merely personal, or whether the death of the first king was a temptation for infringing it, we find

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the war almost immediately renewed with his successor, Secander, against whom Firuz marched in person to the extreme south-east of Bengal. He afterwards renewed his treaty with Secander, whose independence was no longer questioned. Several years after this adjustment, some provocation from Jam Bani, the Rajput prince of Tatta, induced the king to march in person to Sind; and although his expedition was unsuccessful, his failure was softened by the nominal submission of the Jam.

1372, AH 773

From Sind he went to Guzerat, where he left a new governor. In the course of a few years the death of this officer led to another appointment and a rebellion of no long duration.

The king’s infirmities 1385, AH 787

Other affairs of less importance kept Firuz in activity till 1385, when, having reached his eighty-seventh year, he became incapable, from his infirmities, of conducting his government, and it fell by degrees entirely into the hands of his vizir.

Rivalries at court

The enjoyment of power tempted that minister to secure its permanence by plotting against the heir apparent. He had nearly succeeded, through the usual calumnies, in paving his way to the succession by the removal of the king’s eldest son, when that prince took the bold measure of secretly introducing himself into the seraglio, and throwing himself on the affection of his father. Firuz, either from conviction or weakness, gave up the vizir, and soon after openly invested his son with the whole powers of the state.

The prince, whose name was Nasir u din,

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showed so little ability in the exercise of his authority, that in little more than a year he was displaced by two of his cousins. They raised a sedition in the capital, and, making use of the name of the old king, whose person they had secured, obliged Nasir u din to fly to the mountains of Sarmor, between the upper courses of the Jamna and Satlaj. They then announced that Firuz had abdicated in favour of his grandson, Gheias u din.

His death 1388, October 23 AH 790, Ramzan 3

Almost immediately after this revolution Firuz died at the age of ninety.

His laws

His reign, though not brilliant in other respects, was distinguished for the enlightened spirit of his regulations, and the extent and utility of his public works. He limited the number of capital punishments, and put a stop to the use of torture and the practice of mutilation; which last prohibition was the more meritorious as it was at variance with the Mahometan law. He abolished a great number of vexatious taxes and fees; put an end to all fluctuating and precarious imposts, and fixed the revenues in such a manner as to leave as little discretion as possible to the collectors, and to give precision and publicity to the demands of the state. He in some measure fell into the spirit of his times in punishing atheism by banishment, but showed his usual good sense in discouraging luxury in apparel by his own example rather than by sumptuary laws.

His public works

The following list is given of his public works, for the maintenance of which lands were assigned:

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50 dams across rivers, to promote irrigation; 40 mosques; 30 colleges; 100 caravanserais; 30 reservoirs for irrigation; 100 hospitals; 100 public baths; 150 bridges; besides many other edifices for pleasure or ornament.

The round numbers, as well as the amount of some of the items, suggest doubts of the accuracy of this list; but the works of Firuz that still remain afford sufficient evidence of the magnitude of his undertakings. The most considerable of these is not specified in the list: it is a canal from the point in the Jamna where it leaves the mountains, by Carnal, to Hansi and Hissar. It reaches to the river Gagar, and in former times was again connected with the Satlaj, the nearest of the rivers of the Panjab. It seems to have been intended for irrigation; but as it has been disused, perhaps, since the death of Firuz, we can only judge of it by the part restored by the British government, which takes in the whole to beyond Hissar, a distance of 200 miles. This portion now turns mills for grinding corn (which before were not used in India), and is also employed in saw-mills and oil and sugar mills. It floats down rafts of wood from the mountains, and is capable of conveying merchandise in boats of a certain construction; but its great object is irrigation, by means of which it has fertilised a large tract, and turned the inhabitants from pastoral life to agriculture32.

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Gheias u din Toghlak

1389, February AH 791, Saffar

Gheias u din soon quarrelled with his kinsmen, by whom he had been raised; and was deposed and murdered at the end of five months.

Abubekr Toghlak

Abubekr, grandson of Firuz by another son, was next made king, and had reigned for a year, when Nasir u din left the mountains, where he had remained since his expulsion, returned at the head of an army, and recovered the capital.

1389, November AH 792, Zi Haj

A contest followed, and lasted for several months, during which time Delhi was more than once lost and recovered,

1390, August AH 793, Ramzan

until at length Nasir u din obtained permanent possession, and soon after made his rival prisoner. It was a remarkable circumstance in this contest, that a Hindu chief named Rai Sarwar was among the most important of the adherents of Nasir, and that the Hindus of Mewat took an active part for his opponent. The household troops, who were all foreigners, having shown particular hostility to the conqueror, were banished the city; and as some endeavoured to conceal their character, recourse was had to a test like the Jewish Shiboleth, and all were treated as foreigners who could not pronounce a certain letter peculiar to the languages of Hindostan. From these circumstances we may judge of the increased importance of the

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Hindus, and of the native Mahometans, since the separation of the kingdoms of Ghor and India.

Nasir u din Toghlak

The second reign of Nasir u din, though it presented a scene of general disorder, was marked by few great events.

Farhat ul Mulk, the governor of Guzerat, revolted, and was reduced by Mozaffer Khan, who revolted himself in the next reign. There was also a rebellion of Rahtor Rajputs beyond the Jamna; and the weakness into which the royal authority had fallen became every where apparent.

This king’s vizir was a Hindu convert, and was put to death on the accusation of his own nephew, an unconverted Hindu.

On the death of Nasir u din, his son Humayun succeeded, but died at the end of forty-five days, when his younger brother Mahmud was placed on the throne.

Mahmud Toghlak

1391, AH 796

The young king was a minor, and little qualified to restore the lost authority of the crown. Mozaffer Khan, the governor of Guzerat, began to act as an independent prince. Malwa, which had been reannexed to the crown after the separation of the Deckan, now permanently threw off the yoke, as did the little province of Candesh;

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and these new kingdoms remained independent until the time of Akber.

Dissolution of the monarchy

The king’s own vizir also seized on the province of Juanpur, and founded a kingdom. Meanwhile the capital was torn by sanguinary broils between factions. The remaining provinces looked on with indifference, or fell into disputes among themselves; and while the attention of all parties was absorbed in these fierce commotions, the invasion of Tamerlane burst upon their heads and overwhelmed the contending parties in one common ruin.

Invasion of Tamerlane

Tamerlane had united the hordes of Tartary in the same manner, though not to the same extent, as Chengiz Khan; and, like him, he had carried his destructive inroads into all the surrounding countries. Though a Turk and a Mussulman33, and born in a comparatively civilised country, he was almost as barbarous in his mode of war, and at least as short-sighted in his policy, as the Mogul. His empire was even more transient, since he did not attempt to retain the greater part of the countries he overran; and if some of the fragments that remained to his family became flourishing provinces, it was because the character of his descendants

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formed almost a contrast to his own. He had conquered Persia and Transoxiana, and ravaged Tartary, Georgia, and Mesopotamia, with parts of Russia and Siberia, before he turned his arms, without the pretext of a quarrel, on the distracted empire of Hindostan.

1398, AH 800

Early in the spring of 139834, Pir Mohammed, the grandson of Tamerlane, who had been employed in reducing the Afghans in the mountains of Soliman, crossed the Indus in a line with Uch, and soon after laid siege to Multan; an operation which occupied him for upwards of six months.

Meanwhile, Tamerlane passed Hindu Cush by the usual route to Cabul35; left that city in August, and marched by Haryub and Bannu to Dinkot on the Indus36. He crossed that river by a bridge of rafts and reeds, and marched to the Hydaspes, and down its banks to Tulamba, reducing the country as he passed. He levied a heavy contribution on Tulamba, which was afterwards sacked, and the inhabitants massacred by the troops, – it is said, without his orders.

By this time, Pir Mohammed had taken Multan by blockade; but the rains having set in, he lost his horses, and was at length obliged to shut himself

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up in the town.

1398, October 25

On the approach of Tamerlane, he set out to meet him, leaving a garrison in Multan, and joined his father on the Gara or Satlaj.

Tamerlane thence proceeded with a light detachment to Adjudin, where he met with no sort of resistance; and as the town was famous for the tomb of a Mahometan saint, “out of respect for his memory, he spared the few inhabitants who remained in the place.” He then proceeded to Batner, and massacred the country people who had taken refuge under the walls.

November 9

The place afterwards surrendered on terms; but, by one of those mistakes which so constantly accompanied Tamerlane’s capitulations, the town was burned, and all the inhabitants put to the sword. He then marched to Samana, where he joined his main body, having slaughtered the inhabitants of every place he passed. From Samana the towns were deserted, and consequently there were no more general massacres.

December 12

Many prisoners were, however, taken; and on reaching Delhi, Tamerlane put to death all of them above fifteen years of age (to the number, according to the exaggerated accounts of the Mussulman historians, of 100,000).

Defeat of the Indian army

The Indian army, which was inferior in numbers, and divided in councils, being defeated and driven into the town, Mahmud Toghlak fled to Guzerat;

December 17

Delhi surrendered under a solemn promise of protection; and Tamerlane was publicly proclaimed emperor of India.

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Sack, conflagration and massacre of Delhi

What follows is so constant a concomitant of Tamerlane’s promises of protection, that we are at a loss whether to ascribe it to systematic perfidy, or to the habitual ferocity and insubordination of the troops. On this occasion, the most credible accounts attribute the commencement to the latter cause. Plunder and violence brought on resistance: “this led to a general massacre; some streets were rendered impassable by heaps of dead; and the gates being forced, the whole Mogul army gained admittance, and a scene of horror ensued easier to be imagined than described37.”

For five days Tamerlane remained a tranquil spectator of the sack and conflagration of the city, and during that time he was celebrating a feast in honour of his victory. When the troops were wearied with slaughter, and nothing was left to plunder, he gave orders for the prosecution of his march; and on the day of his departure, A D 1398, December. 31, he “offered up to the Divine Majesty the sincere and humble tribute of grateful praise in the noble mosque of polished marble,” erected on the banks of the Jamna by Firuz38.

The booty carried off from Delhi is said to have been very great; and innumerable men and women of all ranks were dragged into slavery. Tamerlane secured to himself the masons and workers in stone and marble, for the purpose of constructing a mosque at Samarcand.

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Tamerlane retires from India

He then marched to Mirat, where there was a general massacre; and afterwards crossed the Ganges, and proceeded up its banks to near Hard-war, where that river leaves the mountains. Several affairs took place with bodies of Hindus in the skirts of the hills, in which Tamerlane exposed his person like a private soldier, and underwent fatigues the more extraordinary as he had reached the age of sixty-three.

1399, March AH 801

He marched along the foot of the mountains to Jammu (or Jummoo, north of Lahor); then turned to the south, fell into the route by which he first advanced, and quitted India, leaving anarchy, famine, and pestilence behind him39.

His character

We must estimate Tamerlane’s character from his actions, and not from the motives assigned to him by panegyrists, nor from maxims drawn up by his orders according to his idea of a perfect government. His own memoirs of his life throw a true light on his character40. They are written in the plain and picturesque style of Turki autobiography; and if there was a doubt that they were from Tamerlane’s dictation, it would be removed by the unconscious simplicity with which he relates his own intrigues and perfidy; taking credit all the time for an excess of goodness and sincerity which the boldest flatterer would not have ventured to

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ascribe to him. The mixture also of cant and hypocrisy, with real superstition and devotion, could not have been exhibited by any hand but his own; and these traits, with his courage, prudence, and address, his perfect knowledge of mankind, and his boldness in practising on their weakness, make one of the most extraordinary pictures ever presented to the world. The commanding language of barbarous conquerors, contrasted with the evasions of the princes whom they threaten, leads us to figure them as rude and artless soldiers; but the essential character of Tamerlane was that of a wily politician; and probably it was to similar talents that the other Tartar conquerors owed their ascendancy over so many chiefs, who were their equals in merely military qualities.

There is a resemblance between the histories of Chengiz Khan and Tamerlane; but of those two enemies of mankind, the first was perhaps the most violent, and the second the most perfidious.

Anarchy at Delhi

For two months after Tamerlane’s departure Delhi remained without a government, and almost without inhabitants. A struggle then took place for the possession of it, in which a chief named Ecbal, who had been in power under Mahmud, was at last successful.

1400, AH 802

He failed in various attempts to extend his authority beyond the districts round the capital; and, at last, was killed on a distant expedition towards Multan.

Mahmud had returned from Guzerat, and for some time lived as a pensioner at Delhi; then at

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Canouj, a city belonging to the king of Juanpur, on which Ecbal made several attempts;

1405, AH 808

1412, AH 814

at last, on that chief’s death, he was restored to the possession of Delhi. He died there after a nominal reign of twenty years, and was succeeded by Doulat Khan Lodi; who, at the end of fifteen months,

1414, AH 817

was expelled by Khizr Khan, the governor of the Panjab.

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Government of the Seiads

Seiad Khizr Khan 1414, AH 817

Seiad Mobarik 1421, AH 824

Seiad Mohammed 1435, AH 839

Seiad Ala u din 1444, AH 849

For thirty-six years after this, there was no kingdom of India, either in name or in reality. Khizr Khan affected to regard Tamerlane as emperor, and to govern in his name, without the title or forms of royalty. He was a descendant of the Prophet, though himself a native of India; and, with three of his descendants who succeeded him, forms what is called the dynasty of the Seiads. He obtained scarcely any territory with Delhi: his original province of the Panjab soon revolted; and his family had to struggle for the possession of a part of it during the whole period of their government. They, however, made some spirited attempts to extend their territory, and made incursions into Malwa and the borders of Rajputana; but in the time of Seiad Ala u din, the last of the race, the frontier came in one place to within a mile of the city walls, and nowhere extended beyond twelve.

1450, AH 854

But Ala u din possessed Budayun, a town about one hundred miles east of Delhi, and to it he at length retired, making over his former capital and his pretensions to Behlol Khan Lodi, who assumed the title of king.

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House of Lodi

Behlol Lodi

Rise of the family of Lodi

The ancestors of Behlol had been enriched by commerce, and his grandfather was governor of Multan under Firuz Toghlak, who was the first great patron of the Afghans. Behlol’s father and several of his uncles held commands under the Seiad rulers; and one of them, Islam Khan, was so considerable that he had 12,000 men of his own nation in his pay. The power of the family, together with the calumnies of a disaffected relation, at length excited the jealousy of Seiad Mohammed, and the Lodis were persecuted and driven into the hills. They continued to resist the Seiad’s authority, until Behlol had an opportunity of occupying, first, Sirhind, and afterwards the whole of the Panjab.

Behlol had been invited to Delhi by Hamid, the vizir of his predecessor, but finding himself overshadowed by this powerful subject, he seized his person by a stratagem, and after he had broken his influence, allowed him to retire to private life.

Panjab re-annexed to Delhi

Behlol’s accession again brought back the Panjab to Delhi. Multan had become independent during the time of the Seiads, and Behlol had

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marched against it, when he was recalled by an attack of the king of Juanpur, who had laid siege to Delhi.

1452, AH 856

A war now commenced with that prince, which was continued, with short intervals of hollow peace, for twenty-six years, and ended in the conquest of Juanpur, which was permanently reannexed to Delhi.

Recovery of Juanpur 1478, AH 883

Behlol survived this long war for ten years, and made other conquests on a smaller scale; so that at his death, 1488, AH 894, he left a territory extending from the Jamna to the Hemalaya mountains as far east as Benares, besides a tract on the west of the Jamna extending to Bundelcand.

Secander Lodi

Secander’s accession was disputed by some chiefs on the part of his infant nephew. It was afterwards contested in the field by two of his brothers, one of whom maintained an obstinate struggle. Secander was successful on all these occasions, and treated the inferior rebels with clemency, and his relations with affection. He reannexed Behar as far as the frontiers of Bengal to Delhi, and also extended his territories in the direction of Bundelcand.

Good administration of Secander

His bigotry

His internal administration was just and vigorous; and he seems, in all other respects, to have been a mild and excellent prince. But he was one of the few bigots who have sat on the throne of India. He destroyed the temples in towns and forts that he took from Hindus, and he forbade that people performing pilgrimages, and

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bathing on certain festivals at places on the sacred streams within his own dominions. On one occasion he carried his zeal to cruelty and injustice; for a Bramin having been active in propagating the doctrine that “all religions, if sincerely practised, were equally acceptable to God,” he summoned him to defend this opinion in his presence, against twelve Mahometan divines; and, on his refusing to renounce his tolerant maxims, put him to death41.

A holy man of his own religion having remonstrated with him on his prohibition of pilgrimages, Secander drew his sword, exclaiming, “Wretch, do you defend idolatry?” He was appeased by the answer, – “No; but I maintain that kings ought not to persecute their subjects.”

When marching against one of his brothers, a Calender addressed him with prayers for his success, on which he said, “Pray for victory to him who will best promote the good of his subjects.”

Secander was a poet, and was a great patron of letters. He died at Agra, after a reign of twenty-eight years.

Ibrahim Lodi

Ibrahim, who succeeded, had none of his father’s virtues. He disgusted his tribe by his pride, and

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alarmed his chiefs by his suspicious and tyrannical temper. From these causes his reign was continually disturbed by rebellions.

Discontents and rebellions

At the commencement of it one of his brothers was proclaimed king at Juanpur, was subdued in the course of a twelvemonth, and was privately executed by Ibrahim, who imprisoned his other brothers for life. A chief named Islam Khan next rebelled, and was killed in battle. Several men of rank and governors of provinces were executed for their share in these transactions. Others were put to death on suspicion; some were secretly made away with after being imprisoned; and one was assassinated at the seat of his government. These proceedings spread general distrust and disaffection; various chiefs revolted, and the whole of the eastern part of Ibrahim’s dominions threw off its obedience, and formed a separate state under Deria Khan Lohani, whose son afterwards took the title of king.

Invasion of Baber

Doulat Khan Lodi, the governor of the Panjab, dreading the fate of so many, other chiefs, revolted, and called in the aid of Baber, who had for some time reigned in Cabul. Baber had before invaded the Panjab, which he claimed as part of the inheritance of Tamerlane, and he now gladly availed himself of this invitation; but some other Afghan chiefs, either from attachment to Ibrahim or aversion to a foreigner, drove out Doulat Khan, and opposed Baber in the field.

1524, AH 930

They were totally defeated near Lahor, and that city was reduced to ashes by the victors. Dibalpur was next stormed, and the

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garrison put to the sword; and at this place Baber was joined by Doulat Khan. He had reason, soon after, to suspect the intentions of this person, and threw him and his sons into confinement. Relenting, subsequently, he released them, treated them honourably, and granted them a jagir. He did not, however, succeed in removing their distrust: by the time he had reached Sirhind on his advance towards Delhi, Doulat Khan and one of his sons revolted and fled to the hills42.

He retreats from Sirhind

Unwilling to leave such dangerous enemies behind him, Baber determined to return to Cabul. He nevertheless kept his hold on the country he had reduced, and left persons on whom he could depend in the principal places. At Dibalpur he left Ala u din, an uncle of King Ibrahim, who seems to have escaped from confinement, and who had joined Baber. Doulat Khan now returned to the Panjab, and overrun great part of it, Ala u din flying to Cabul; but in the end Doulat Khan was entirely defeated by one of Baber’s generals; and as that monarch himself was engaged in defending Balkh against the Uzbeks, he sent Ala u din to India, with orders to his own chiefs to assist him. Thus supported, Ala u din advanced to Delhi, and from the general disaffection his army was soon swelled to 40,000 men. With this force he engaged Ibrahim

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under the walls of Delhi, and was totally defeated.

Return of Baber, December

By this time, Baber had settled Balkh, and was advanced as far as Lahor on his way into India. From Lahor he marched into the hills in pursuit of Doulat Khan, who submitted and gave up his fort43; after which Baer continued his route through the hills to Ropur on the Satlaj, above Lodiana, and from thence nearly by the direct road to Delhi. At Panipat he found himself in the neighbourhood of Ibrahim, who had come out to meet him at the head of an army amounting, as it was represented to Baber, to 100,000 men, with 1000 elephants. On the approach of this force, Baber took up a position, linked his guns together by ropes of twisted leather, and lined them with infantry further protected by breastworks. He likewise strengthened his flanks with fieldworks of earth and fascines. His army, including followers, amounted to no more than 12,000 men.

Defeat and death of Ibrahim 1526, April 21

When Ibrahim drew near, he also fortified his position; but had not steadiness enough to adhere to his plan of awaiting an attack, and in a few days led out his army to storm Baber’s lines. As soon as he was engaged with the front, Baber ordered his right and left wings to attack the flanks and rear of the enemy. They accordingly advanced and plied them with their arrows; until the Indian

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troops, after attempting, in a few feeble charges, to drive them off, fell into disorder, when Baber, who had hitherto been annoying them with his cannon, ordered his centre to move forward, and completed the rout of the enemy. Ibrahim was killed, and the Indian army, having been nearly surrounded during the battle, suffered prodigious loss in the defeat. Baber judged from observation that 15,000 or 16,000 lay dead on the field, of whom 5000 or 6000 lay in one spot around their king. The Indians reported that not less than 40,000 perished in the battle and pursuit.

This action does not give a high idea of the military character of either party. It lasted from soon after sunrise till noon, during which period, Baber observes, with satisfaction, that his guns were discharged many times to good purpose. The service of artillery would not in that age have been much better in Europe; but although Baber’s plan of harassing the enemy’s flanks and rear with arrows seems to be justified by its success, it does not appear remarkable either for skill or spirit, or likely to have been carried on with impunity against an active enemy.

Occupation of Delhi and Agra May 10

Delhi was surrendered, and Baber advanced and took possession of Agra, which had lately been the royal residence.

From a list of Ibrahim’s nobles given by Ferishta, they appear all to have been of the Afghan tribes of Lodi or Lohani, or of that called Fermuli, who were mixed with the Afghans, like the

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Khiljis, if indeed they are not a portion of the latter people.

The raja44 of Gwalior, who was reduced to submission during the last reign, accompanied Ibrahim’s army, and fell along with him in the battle.

Baer reviews his own conquest with much complacency, and compares it to those of Sultan Mahmud and Shahab u din; and although we must not confound the acquisition of the few distracted provinces held by Ibrahim with the subjugation of India, yet it must be admitted that his enterprise was as glorious in its achievement as it was memorable in its effects. His force seemed insufficient even to occupy the territory he had to subdue, and it was drawn with difficulty from his own dominions, still threatened by the Uzbeks, whose power the combined force of the whole house of Tamerlane had proved unable to withstand.

Baber’s conduct to the places where he met with resistance was as inhuman as that of Tamerlane, who was naturally his model.

The smallness of his force was some justification of the means he took to strike a terror; but the invariable practice of his country is the best palliation for him. His natural disposition was remarkably humane; and although we cannot help being shocked at these occurrences, and at two or three cruel executions mentioned in his memoirs,

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yet they prove no more against his personal character in this respect, than his slaughtering Gauls or crucifying pirates against Caesar’s clemency.

Baber was the founder of a line of kings under whom India rose to the highest pitch of prosperity; and out of the ruins of whose empire all the existing states in that country are composed.


26. The raja was afterwards released and restored.

27. Hamilton’s Hindostan, vol. i. p. 187.

28. See Ibn Batuta, p. 130.

29. Ferishta makes it amount to 370,000 horse.

30. On this occasion he completed the present fort, which still affords a stupendous proof of the great scale of his undertakings. The rock round the hill is cut perfectly smooth and perpendicular for 180 feet, – the only entrance being through a winding passage in the heart of the rock. The whole is surrounded by a broad and deep ditch, cut also in the solid rock.

31. The dinar, at this period, seems to have been a very small coin; but I do not know its precise value.

32. Major Colvin, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. ii. p. 105.

33. Tamerlane, or the Amir Teimur, as he is called in Asia, was born at Kesh, near Samarcand, where the languages are Turki and Persian, and where his family had been settled for 200 years. He claimed a remote descent from the same stock with Chengiz Khan; but all that is certain is, that his grandfather was chief of the tribe of Berlas.

34. Tamerlane’s proceedings are from Price, vol. iii. p. 219, &c. Rennel’s Memoir, p. 115, &c., and Briggs’s Ferishta.

35. His previous expedition into the mountains of the Siaposh Cafirs will be read with interest in Price, from Mirkhond.

36. The exact position of Dinkot is not known, but it must be to the south of the salt range.

37. Briggs’s Ferishta.

38. Price, apparently from Mirkhond.

39. About the 10th of March, 1399, AH 801. He was now marching on his famous expedition against Bajazet.

40. Mulfuzat Timuri, translated by Major Stewart.

41. The Bramin was, probably, a disciple of Kabir, a Hindu philosopher, who taught similar doctrines at an earlier period in this century. (See Professor Wilson, Asiatic Researches, vol. xvi. p. 55.)

42. The other son, whose name was Dilawar, adhered to Baber, and had a high place in his confidence. He had the title of Khan Khanan, the second in the court of Delhi, and continued to be a person of great authority in his reign and Humayun’s.

43. His son Ghazi Khan fled, and Baber took possession of his library, in which he found a number of valuable books. One would have thought the Koran a sufficient library for an Afghan chief of those days.

44. Ibn Batuta, p. 133.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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