Subscribe to Updates & Daily Quiz

Administrative Structure under the Delhi Sultanate

Delhi sultanate was not a theocracy in practice. Thus was not possible due to the area being directly under the control of the Khalifa but due to other historical factors.

The link with the Khalifa was nominal because when Muslim rule was established at Delhi, the temporal authority of Khalifa was dwindled into mere shadow.

It was particularly under the Tughlaq that the Muslim jurists first received recognition. The rigidity shown by Ulma may be judged by the fact that they accepted the throne of Razia Sultana (1236-40).

The Sultan

The title of the sultan signified a sovereign ruler and made the transition from the quasi theocratic Khalifa to a secular institution.

The sultan of Delhi had powers and Persian ideas regarding the divine right of Kings. The Hindus were already used to regard the king a representative of the divine power. There was no permanent law of succession in India during the Sultanate period.

When there was no competent heir to the throne, nobility got the right to choose the Sultan, as in the case of Iltutmish, and after him upto Tughlaq. The swords also decided the issue of succession. Ala-ud-Din Khilji, Khizar Khan and Bahlul had got the throne by sheer force.

The Sultan was all powerful despot and enjoyed the supreme military, judicial and administrative power. His order was law in the state.
The other was the consent of nobility but influence of nobility was different in different periods.

Majlis-i-Am and Majlis-i-Khalwat were the forums where Sultan discussed important matters with his advisors. He was not bound to follow their advice. The concept of election although had been changed with nomination, yet still present to some extent. The acceptance of the governors, the principle nobles of the capital and the chief of the theologians was taken as the indirect consent of the mass of the people.

Departments of the State 

The post of naib was created during the region of Sultan Bahram Shah. It was influential during the reigns of weak rulers. If the king was weak, then the naib enjoyed powers, otherwise the post was quite ceremonial.

The Prime Minister was called the vazir. He was primarily the head of finance department called the Diwan-e-Wazarat. He was empowered to supervise income and expenditure including all other departments. He was assisted by many subordinates, among which were the Naib-Vazir, Mumalik (Accountant-General) and Mustaufi- Mumalik (Auditor-General). The Naib Wazir acted as a deputy to the wazir. The wazir was assisted by the Mushrif-i-Mamalik, (accountant) who maintained a record of the accounts and the Mustauf-i-Mamalik (auditor) who audited this account. Under Firuz Tughluq, wazirs became hereditary.


He had the department of Diwan-i-Arz and was the controller governor of the military department. His function includes the recruitment of soldiers, fixation of their salaries, their inspection and maintenance of discipline.

Diwan-i-Ariz or Diwan-i-Arz

The post of Diwan-i-ariz was next to the Wazir. He was the controller general of the military establishment.

It was his duty to recruit troops and to maintain the descriptive rolls of men and horses. He was also to arrange to held review in order to inspect the forces.

The Sultan was the commander-in-chief of the army. So the Ariz-i-mamalik was not to command the royal troops generally, but sometimes he had to do it, at least a part of the army.

He particularly looked after the discipline of the army, their equipment and their dispositions on the battle field. Sometimes the Sultan himself performed some of its tasks. Ala-ud-din Khilji often paid personal attention to it.


The Diwan-i-insha was the third important minister. He was in charge of royal correspondence. A member of Dabir (writers) assisted him. They were all masters of style.

This department used to make all correspondences, even of the confidential matters made between the Sultan and the rulers of other states or of the important vassals and officials of the kingdom.

They drafted the important royal orders and sent to the Sultan for his sanction. They were then copied, registered and dispatched.

Thus the department performed a very confidential nature of work. Naturally the head of the department was always a very trusted person of the Sultan.

Diwan-i-risalat or the minister for foreign affairs

He was the minister for foreign affairs and was the in-charge of diplomatic correspondences and the ambassadors and envoys sent to and received from the foreign rulers.

The diwan–i–rasalat was an important officer as all the Sultans of Delhi were always eager to maintain diplomatic relations with the Central Asian powers and other powers of the country.



He was minister of religious affairs. His main duty was to propagate Islam and protection of the privileges of the Muslims. He also controlled the funds of Zakat.

He also looked after the distribution of charity by the state. The Muslim scholars were financed by him.


He was the head of the intelligence and posted department.


He was the master and organizer of royal ceremonies. All the petitions were presented to the Sultan by Amir-l-Hijab.


He was to converse with the Wakil-i-Sultanate of the Sayyed’s dynasty and Wakil-i-Mutliq of the Mughals. He was also the controller of the royal household.


He arranged the hunting parties for the king.


There were various sources of income of the Delhi Sultans. They are given as under:


  1. Kharaj (Land Tax)

This was the mainstay of the finance of the government. It was charged from Muslims and non-Muslims, ranging from 1/5th to 1/2 under various reigns.

  1. Khamus (1/5 of the war spoils)

According to the Islamic law, 1/5th of the booty goes to state and rest 4/5th to soldiers. But all Sultans, except Firoz, collected 4/5th for the state.

  1. Jizya

This was the religious tax on non-Muslims which they had to pay for their protection. It was exempted if a non-Muslim undertook military duties in an Islamic state. It was common in middle ages for military needs.

The Jizya was recovered in the following three categories:

  1. The richest classes paid four diners per head per annum.
  2. The middle classes paid two diners per head per annum.
  3. The lowest classes paid one diner per head per annum.

  1. Zakat

This was a religious tax which was imposed only on the Muslims and consisted of 2-1/2 of the Money,7-1/2 tola of gold or 52 1/2 tola of silver for a year. A separate treasury was maintained for Zakat.

  1. Irrigation

It was imposed by Firoz Tughlaq as 1/10th of the product on the peasants who used the water of the canals developed by the state.

Ala ud Din imposed two new taxes, i.e. house tax and grazing tax.


There were four kinds of soldiers in the army under Sultans.

The Sultan kept a 4,75,000-strong standing army. This army was maintained by the Ariz-i-Mumalik. There was no regular course of training. lban took measures to train his army for hard life by taking them to hunting parties.

The soldiers were recruited by provincial nobles and governors. Nobles were assigned jagirs to finance their troops. Some soldiers were recruited only in times of war.

There were three parts of the army:

  1. Cavalry

This formed the backbone of the army. The cavalry men were of two kinds: the Sawar (having one horse) and do-aspe (having two horses).
Horses were imported from Arabia.

  1. War Elephants

Only the Sultan had the privilege to keep elephants. There was separate department for the training and maintenance of elephants. Elephants were armored during the course of battle.

  1. Infantry

The foot soldiers were called “Payaks”. They were aimed with swords, spears and bows and arrows.


There was nothing like modern artillery. However, there was a sort of mechanical artillery through which fire-balls, fire-arrows, snakes, stones etc., were hurled on the enemy with the help of gun-powder.

In the provincial kingdoms of Gujarat and the Deccan, cannon were properly developed. Army of the Sultan consisted of different modalities and diverse faiths, the Persians, the Afghans, the Mongols, the Indian Muslims and the Hindus etc. Most of the soldiers were Muslims and were united on the basis of Islam.


The Sultan maintained a large number of boats primarily for transport purpose, and for fighting as well.

Judicial System

There were four types of courts i.e.

  1. Diwan-e-Mazalim presided by the ruler to his representative.
  2. Qadis Courts.
  3. The Courts of Muhtasibs.
  4. Police courts (Shurta).

The third type of courts gained power under Tughlaq and Aurangzeb in India.


The Amir-l-Dad functioned as the supreme judge throughout the Muslim rule in the absence of the Sultan. He president over the court of complaint and justice. He also controlled he police and the Muhtasib.

His main duty was to deal with civil disputes among the Muslims, but later his jurisdiction widened and embraced the supervision of Awqaf.
He was appointed by the central government.

The Qazis were completely independent of governors. The chief Qazi was also the Sultan’s legal adviser in matters relating to Shariah.

Most of the Sultans took steps to uphold the prestige of the Qazi. Even the powerful Sultan like Ale-ud-Din Khilji rewarded the Qazi with a Khilafat.

Provincial Administration

The provincial government of the sultanate was not well developed. The provincial governors of the region were usually called walis or muqtas. The provincial government was an exact replica of the central government.

The empire of the Delhi Sultanate was divided into province foe the convenience of the administration. They were called Iqtas. The number of Iqtas was not fixed and there was no uniformity in their administration. The head of the Iqta was addressed by various names such as naib Sultan, nazim, muqti or wali. The walis or the muqtis enjoyed the same powers in relation to their Iqtas as the Sultan enjoyed in the Empire. Besides the muqti, there were other officers of the central government in every Iqta. There was a vazir, an ariz and a qazi in every Iqta.

In some provinces the sultan appointed an imperial officer called sahib-i-diwan for controlling the provincial revenues and he exercised a sort of check on the powers and activities of the governor.

The provinces were further divided into shiqs or districts which were governed by shiqdars. Each shiq comprised a few parganas which was an aggregate of villages. At the lowest ladder were the villages which were governed by their local panchayats.

By the end of the 13th century there was no smaller administrative unit than Iqta. After that Iqtas were divided into smaller units called shiqqs, which were put under shiqqdars. The shiqqs were further divided into parganas.

The most important feature of Muslim administration in India was the local autonomy enjoyed by the rural areas. This was maintained by Sultans of Delhi. The Hindu chiefs enjoyed such an important position in rural life that too many felt as they were personally governing, where the Sultan was almost a mythical figure.

Iqta System

The iqtadari was a unique type of land distribution and administrative system evolved during the Sultanate period.

Under the system, the whole empire was divided into several large and small tracts of land, called the iqtas, which were assigned to nobles, officers and soldiers for the purpose of administration and revenue collection.

The iqtas were transferable, i.e., the holders of iqtas-iqtadars-were transferred from one region to an­other every three to four years. It means that the grant of iqta did not imply a right to the land. It was just an administrative unit.

The iqtas could be big or small. The assignees of bigger iqtas- had dual obligation, tax collection and administration. They collected revenue from their iqta, defrayed their own expenses, paid the troops maintained by them and sent the bawazil (sur­plus) to the Centre. Their accounts were checked by the royal auditors.The holders of small iqtas were individual troopers. They had no administrative responsibilities. They appropri­ated, for their personal use, the land revenue collected by them. In return, when the central government called them for service or inspection, they had to be present with horses and arms.

It was lltutrnish who gave this system an institutional form. The iqtadari system witnessed numerous changes during the Sultanate period. Initially, iqta was a revenue-yielding piece of land which was assigned in lieu of salary. However, during Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s reign, it became hereditary.

Local Governance

The village was the smallest unit of administration. The functioning and administration remained basically the same as it had existed during the pre-Turkish phase. Khat, muqaddam and patwari were the main village functionaries.

The cities or a group of villages were placed under the control of an official known as Amir-I-Sadar, He was assisted by a number of other officials, the promi­nent amongst them being Karkun, Mulckadam, Balahar, Chaudhary, Patwari etc.

The lowest administrative unit was the village. The Panchayats were responsible for the administration of the villages. During the Sultanate period no effort was made to disturb the work of the Local Self Government Institutions and they continued to work as they had been doing in the earliest times.

The officials of the State obtained from interference in the work of the rural administration. Thus we can say that the administration at the local level remained unaffected by the political changes at the higher levels.

The system of administration during Sultanate period was quite different from the traditional system of government prevailing in ancient times. It was theocratic, military and feudal in character and lacked the goodwill and support of the people.

The feeling of mutual attachment between the ruler and the ruled was mostly absent and there was a wide gap between the two. The rulers were mainly concerned with the preservation of their authority and not with the welfare of the people. Consequently, they perused policies which promoted more of their own interest than the interests of the people.

Rural Classes

  1. Peasantry

Peasants formed the overwhelming majority of the population. They had to work hard to eke out bare subsistence. Usually they were required to pay one-third of their produce as land revenue.

  1. The State in the beginning had ignored the local population so for as the civil and military administration was concerned but they could not do so for long. Even Sultan Mahmud had to recruit them in both the civil and military departments and as the time advanced their number increased in all the branches of the Government. High positions were seldom given to the Hindu population.
  2. The nobles enjoyed a standard of living which was comparable to the highest standard in the world at that time, viz., to the standards of the ruling class in the Islamic world in West and Central Asia.

Improvement of Agriculture

The evolution of agrarian conditions during the thirteenth century and the agrarian reforms Alauddin Khaljı have already been noted. Ghiyasuddin Tughluq  reverted to the ‘produce-sharing’ method which, as noted earlier, favoured the peasantry.

He lowered the rate of state revenue demand and abolished several agrarian excesses. He mitigated the harshness of ın  measures concerning the the muqaddams and the muqtacs. His short reign probably brought considerable relief to the rural population.

The impact of Muhammad bin Tughluq’s experiments with the agrarian economy, such as the sudden increase of the rate demanded in the Doab, the rotation of crops and the granting of loans to the peasants, was lost in the plethora of revolts; in the agrarian sector, as in other sectors, left only confusion and anarchy.

It took Fıruz Shah Tughluq six years to survey the entire land and prepare new estimates of revenue. He decided to adhere to the ‘produce-sharing’ method.

By making a substantial addition to the water supply through canals and innumerable wells, he made an enormous contribution to gardens and cultivable land and thus ensured a substantial increase in the supply of cereals and fruit.

Firuz Shah made extensive assignments to the nobility, officers, and men and institutions of learning; inevitably weakening the state financially.

The impression of overall is due to the sustained increase in production and to the long period of general peace. It was also a period of lax administration, during which nobles and officers would misappropriate public funds, fail to pay dues and thus become rich and powerful at the expense of the state.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *