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The Khaljis (AD 1290- AD 1320)

Jalaluddin Khilji

 Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji  was the first sultan of the Khilji Dynasty, which reigned from 1290 to 1296. He built his capital at Kilughari, a few miles from the city of Delhi, and completed the unfinished palace and gardens of Sultan Qaiqabad, the last ruler of Slave Dynasty.

He was born as Malik Firuz, in Afghanistan, into the Khilji family. He was of Turkic ethnic background. He was appointed by Sultan Qaiqabad (1286-1290) as the commander of his army. And on 13 July 1290, he was enthroned as the ruler.

After the accession to the throne, Jalaluddin allowed Malik Chhajju, the nephew of Balban, to retain his freedom of Kara-Manikpur. He enshrined some responsibilities to his three sons. His two nephews, Alauddin and Almas Beg, received significant responsibilities in the royal household. In 1292, the Sultan defeated a Mongol army who had invaded north-western India. He then allowed them to retreat.

In 1296, he was killed by his nephew Alauddin, who became the second ruler of the Khilji Dynasty

Alauddin Khilji was the second ruler and probably the most powerful monarch of the Khilji Dynasty. After conquering the throne by killing his uncle and predecessor, Jalaluddin Khilji, he continued his legacy of invading states and territories to increase his empire over the Indian subcontinent.

He was the first Muslim ruler to successfully defeat and conquer the southern parts of India. His passion for conquest helped him achieve success at wars. In this endeavor of expansion, he was well supported by his loyal generals, especially Malik Kafur and Khusraw Khan. He ensured that he completely ousted the reigning kings and administered absolute power while invading the northern states. In south India, he used to loot the states and also extracted payment of annual taxes from the overthrown rulers.

Besides his expeditions of raiding and conquering, he was engaged in defending the Delhi Sultanate from continuous Mongol invasions. Khilji also acquired the Koh-i-noor, one of the largest known diamonds in human history, while invading the Kakatiya rulers of Warangal.

He also introduced some agrarian as well as market reforms which produced mixed results.


Market reforms of Alauddin Khilji

The market reforms of Alauddin Khilji were one of the most effective and far reaching economic regulations of the Sultanate period.

They did not remain confined to rural economy but extended to the urban markets as well.

He issued a set of seven regulations which came to be known as market control measures. These measures were enacted to regulate the activities of the traders who brought grain to Delhi.

The Sultan fixed the prices of all commoditions from grain to cloths, slaves, cattle etc. A controller of market (shahna-i-mandi) intelligence officers (barids) and secret spies (munhiyan) were appointed. The grain merchants were placed under the Shahna-i-mandi. Regrating (ihtikar) was prohibited.

For controlling the food prices, Alauddin Khilji tried to control not only the supply of food grains from the villages, and its transportation to the city by the grain – merchants (Karwanis or banjaras) but also its proper distribution to the citizens.

His first effort was to see that there were sufficient stocks of food grains with the government so that the traders did not try to hike up prices by creating an artificial scarcity or indulging in profiteering (regarding). For this purpose royal stores were set up at Delhi.

Perhaps, the significant and lasting impact of these reforms was the furthering of the growth of a market economy in the villages and bringing about a more integral relationship between the town and the country, the furthering of the process of the internal restructuring of the sultanate.

Though Alauddin Khilji’s market reforms were oriented more towards administrative and military necessities than internal restructuring but he adopted a holistic approach to see the reform working properly. That is why he did not control the price of essential commodities only, for those meant for direct use by the military. Instead he tried to control the price of everything from caps to socks, from combs to needles, vegetables, sweet meats to chapatis etc. Such widespread centralised control was found to influence every section of the society.

The price, control system affected trade severely. The merchants were unable to realise sufficient profits. The rule was enforced so rigidly that no corn-dealer, farmer or anyone else could hold back secretly a mound or half a mound of grain and sell it far above the fixed price. The horse merchants were so tightly controlled that, they were fed up with their lives and wished for death. The severe punishments given to erring merchants made many to stop business.

The cultivators most certainly would have been affected adversely by the low price of food-grain and the high land-revenue. It seems they lost on the other hand what they gained from one. Alauddin Khilji’s policy was to leave the cultivator with so little as to barely enough for carrying on cultivation and his food requirements.As a result they were unable to take home the surplus produce even after paying 50 per cent of their produce as land revenue. They were compelled to sell their grain at a low price to the merchants who were permitted to purchase grain. The fear of the government was such that the cultivators would sell even their wives and cattle to pay the land- revenue so many had lost interest in agriculture.

The impact of Alauddin Khilji’s market reforms on the contemporary society was immense. The fact that articles were sold at cheap rates in Delhi made many to migrate to Delhi. Among them were learned men and excellant craftsmen. As a result the fame of Delhi increased.

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