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Government and Administration in Medieval India Delhi

Government and Administration in Medieval India Delhi

Government and Administration in Medieval India Delhi Sultanate Theocracy The political theory is based on religious law of Islam . The supreme head of the State is God himself who rules through the Caliph , Sultan or Badshah . They are subject to the will of God as expressed in the law . It is true that the Sultans admitted that the Muslim law was not able to guide them in every sphere and consequently they had to depart from the law in certain cases . The Sultanate of Delhi was a theocracy . The Sultan Was the Caesar and Pope combined in one . Islam was the religion of the state and no other religion was recognised .

All the sources of the state were meant for the protection and spread of Islam . It is true that Ulemas in India exercised great influence . They saw that the rulers of the country applied the Quranic law . The ideal of a Sultan was to convert all the people to Islam . Majority of the Ulema , were utterly materialistic in outlook and opportunist in conduct .

They entered into an unholy alliance with the the shariah , found secular authorities and by distorting the rules sanction for the Sultan's pagan practices . They held out that the Sultan's office was only slightly inferior to that of the Prophet and his sanctity almost equal to that of God . To suit the Sultan's convenience his religious duties were sought to be confined .

The Ulema even authorised him to appropriate the peoples wealth whenever he desired Administrative Organisation The administrative organisation was a product of many factors . The Sultans had before themselves model of government of the Khalifa . They found well - established administrative system . The Government of the Sultans of Delhi has rightly been described as a Turko - Persian system in an Indian setting .

The foreign elements consisted of Central Ministry , their military system and modifications of the taxation policy as well as tax structure of the country to some extent by the enhancement of the rate of land revenue and by the addition of certain new taxes such as Jizya , pilgrimage tax , heavier duties on Hindus and - other non Muslims than on the Muslim merchants . All non - Muslims were deprived of the status of citizenship ( and called as Zimmis ) , and had to obtain their security of life and property by payment of a money consideration and their rights to perform their religious duties by payment of religious taxes .

All higher positions carrying large powers as envolvements were reserved for Muslims only . There was no opening well as for the Hindus . The Khalifa The Khalifa was the king of all the Muslims in all parts of the world . The Sultans of Delhi described themselves as the Deputy or Assistant of the Khalifa . Ala - ud - Din Khilji refused to recognise the authority of the Khalifa and Qutub - ud - Din Mubarak himself took up the title of the Caliph . No Sultan of Delhi bothered to obey the Khalifa . No Sultan believed that he got his authority from the Khalifa . Sultans of Delhi considered to maintain contacts and no wonder they recognised the nominal authority of the Khalifa . The Sultan Sultan was the head of the Delhi Sultanate . He was the source of all power and authority . He was the sovereign head and commander of the army . His will was law . It was the duty of everyone to obey his command . The Sultan was required to be a person capable of dealing with the problems of the state . Sultan was recognised as the supreme interpreter of the law but actually he could not go against the recognised interpretation . The Sultan was expected not to contravene the Sharia while making laws . Sultans showed remarkable respect for the Sharia . The Sultans enjoyed great prestige . They were considered to be the heart of the system .

The Sultan was expected to protect Islam . He was to settle disputes among his subjects . He was required to defend territories . He was to maintain and enforce the criminal code . He was to wage a holy war against those who acted in hostility to Islam . He was to collect rates and taxes . He was to appoint officers to help him in his public and legal duties . He was required to keep in touch with public affairs and the condition of the people by personal contact . The Sultans were primarily military adventurers and they did not care much for the niceties of political and religious thought . The checks on the authority of the Sultans were the Ulema the nobility and the soldiers of the standing army . The Nobles The nobles put a very effective check on the king . No Sultan could afford to offend the powerful nobles . It was not easy to impose the royal will on them . They considered themselves to be the equals of the Sultan and capable of founding royal dynasties themselves . The only ideal that held the nobles together was the service of Islam . It is these feelings , which kept the nobles together , and they obeyed the Sultan so long as they felt that he was performing his duties . If he was found to be incapable the nobles did not hesitate to revolt against him . It must not be forgotten that the nobles very often did what was advantageous to them . The Ministers During the rule of the so - called Slave dynasty , there were four ministers viz . the Wazir , the Ariz - i - Mamalik , Dewan - i - Insha and Diwan - i - Rasalat . Sometimes the Naib or Naib - i - Mamalik was also appointed . He exercised great authority particularly when the Sultan was weak , Ordinarily he was inferior to the Wazir . Later on the offices of the Sadr - us - Sudur and Diwan - i - Qaza ' were raised to the status of ministers . Thus , there were 6 ministers under the Delhi Sultanate . The ministers were just the servants of the Sultan and responsible to him alone . The position and powers of a minister were well defined by law and blessed by tradition .


The chief minister was called the Wazir and great importance was attached to this post . The Wazir stood mid - way between the sovereign and his subjects . In the Sultanate there were two types of Wazirs most of them possessed special and limited powers . A few of them enjoyed unlimited authority and ruled the empire in the name of the Sultan . The Wazir was the head of the entire machinery of the government . He was also responsible far other offices at the headquarters . He appointed and superintended the civil servants . He organised the agency for the collection of revenue . It was his duty to recover the money illegally spent by the local officials . It was his office which kept accounts , disbursed salaries and allotted assignments . The Sultans always supported their Wazirs in enforcing discipline . There was always co - operation between the Sultan and the Wazir . Diwan - i - Risalat There is a difference regarding the functions of Diwan - i - Risalat . Some says that they either dealt with religious matters or was a minister far foreign affairs and was in charge of diplomatic correspondence . Ambassadors and envoys were sent to and received from foreign rulers . It is pointed out that it is preferable that they are not religious ministers as already their had been a minister for so said work . Sadr - us - Sudur The Sadr - us - Sudur was required to enforce Islamic rules and regulations . He was required to see that the Muslims observed these rules and regulations in their daily lives . He had in his charge a lot of money to give to Muslim divines , scholars and men of piety . The head of the Diwan - i - Qaza was the Qazi - i - Mumalik also known as Qazi - i - Quzat .

  • Diwan - i - Insha - Diwan - i - Insha dealt with royal correspondence . They supposed to be called treasury of secrets . These are confidential clearks of the state . All correspondence between the sovereign and the rulers of other states passed through this department . Every order from the Sultan was first drafted in this department and then taken to Sultan for sanction .

  • Barid - i - Mumalik He was the head of the state news agency . His duty was to keep himself informed of all happening in the empire . There was a local Barid at the head quarterstaff every administrative sub - division and it was his duty to send regularly newsletters to the Central Office .

  • Wakil - i - dar Only honest mens were appointed for this post . There was nothing , which was outside the sphere of the Barid . He was the confidential agent . He has to report of every aspect of public administration . He was required to send his own impressions regarding the review of troops . He attended all - important functions . He kept his informers everywhere and did not allow anything to escape . The Barid was paid well so that he may be above temptation . Wakil - i - dar was the chief notable of the royal household . He controlled and supervised the payment and salaries to the personal staff of the Sultan .

  • Diwan - i - Arz All royal orders relating to the household were communicated through him . Everybody was required to approach the Sultan through him . He was required to be exceedingly tactful . His staff was also selected very carefully . He had to keep the Sultan well - informed about the affairs of the state particularly because most of the important personages with whom he dealt , had direct access to the Sultan . Ariz - i - Mumalik was the head of the ministry of war . He was responsible far maintaining the army in a state of efficiency . He was chief recruiting officer and fixed the salary of each recruit . He inspects the troops .The promotion of every soldier depended upon him . His office was responsible for the recommendation of assignments to soldiers and the payment of the troops . Whenever a campaign was undertaken , the Ariz was incharge of all preparations . In all - important wars ; he himself accompanied the army . He looked after supply and transport . After victory , he supervised the collection of the booty , which was divided in the presence of the Commander - in - chief . He was rightly called the " source of the livelihood of the fighters for the Faith .

  • " Naib - ul - Mulk The Sultan generally selected him in . The actual authority varied with the character of the Sultan . Sometimes , it was merely an empty title , but at other times , the Naib - ul - Mulk was practically the absolute authority .

  • Sar - E - Jandar He was the head of the military organisation and entrusted for centrally administered areas . A noble was selected to act as Naib - i Ghaibat during the absence of the Sultan . He was the representative of the Sultan at the capital and dealt with all emergent and routine business .

  • Sar - i - Jandar was attached to the Court . He commanded the king's bodyguard called Jandars . He was a salaried officer - and a high noble . His is responsible primarily to guard the person of the king .

  • The Jandar formed an integral part of his followers . A passage in the Tabaqat - i - Nasiri seems to suggest that the Sar - i - Jandar was also entrusted with the custody punishment and execution of the prisoners of war and convicted criminals The other household dignitaries were Amir - i - Akhur ( Master - of Horse ) with his Naib and the Shahnah - i - Pilan ( Superintendent of Elephants ) . The Amir - i - Shikar was incharge of the bunting estab lishment of the king . He had a number of subordinates to look after different hunting animals and birds . The Amir - i - Hajib , his Deputy , the Wazir , the Ariz , Wakil - i - dar and Kotwal of Delhi formed advisory Council for Sultan . The officials and the non - officials were together , known as Arkan - i - Daulat .


The fiscal policy was based on Hanafi School of Sunni jurists . The Muslim state had two sources of revenue and those were religious and secular . The religious taxes demanded from the Muslims were under the name of Zakat . The Zakat was payable in gold or silver , herds and merchandise . The Zakat when assessed on value or weight was 1 / 40th of the property . Zakat could be levied only on that property which was in the possession of the owner for at least one year . The secular faxes were Kharaj , Jizya , the tax on non - Muslim traders and imposts on spoils of war , on mines and treasure - trove . Kharaj was the tax on land held by non - Muslims . According to Islamic law , its rate varied from 1 / 10th to one - half .


Jizya was a poll tax from non - Muslims . It was a religious tax levied on the non - Muslims . Jizya was levied on the non - Muslims as the state gave them protection of life and property and exemption from military service . It was considered to be a religious duty by the Sultans to realise the Jizya with all the rigour they could command . Jizya was not levied from women , children , monks beggars , the blind and the crippled . It was not levied even from the Brahmanas . It was only during the reign of Firuz Shah that Jizya was levied from the Brahmanas . The entire Hindu population was divided into three grades for the purpose of Jizya . The first grade paid at the rate of 48 Dirhams , the second 24 Dirhams and the third 12 Dirhams . The Zakat on imports was a fortieth of the value of the mer chandise . It was 50 % on horses . These charges were double in the case of non - Muslim traders . The property of the Muslims dying intestate and without heirs belonged entirely to the state . However , the property of a Hindu dying in similar circumstances was handed over to his community .

Land Revenue

The main source of income of the Sultan was the land revenue . There were four kinds of land viz . ,

  1. Khalisa territory ,

  2. land divided into Iqtas and held by Muqtis either for a number of years or for life - time

  3. principalities of the Hindu chiefs who had come to terms with the Sultan and

  4. the Inam land given away to Muslim scholars and saints in gift . The state dealt only with the local revenue officers . There was an Amil or revenue clerk in each sub - division who collected revenue from the Chaudharis and Muqaddams . The share of the state was based on a summary assessment . The assessment and collection of revenue in the Iqta was in the hands of the Muqtis who deducted his own share , and paid the surplus to the Central Government .

  • The Sultan appointed an officer called Khwaja in each Iqta they supervise the collection of revenue and also to put a check on the Muqti . The Wakf land or Inam land was free from revenue assessment .

  • Ala - ud - Din Khalji in revenue demands to one - half of the produce . He also imposes the house tax and grazing tax on the peasants . The Sultan also created a new department of agriculture known as Diwan - i - Kohi .

  • Firuz Tughluq fixed the revenue of the entire Khalisa land on a permanent basis . He abolished as many as 24 taxes and levied only five taxes , viz . , Kharaj , Khams . Jizya , Zakat and irrigation tax .

  • The Delhi Sultans after Ala - ud - Din Khalji continued to levy the land revenue at the same rate , it was later on that Sher Shah Suri lowered it to one third of the produce .

  • There were various kinds of tax - farmers . Sometimes , the village headmar acted as a tax farmer by undertaking to pay a fixed amount to the state on behalf of the peasants . Sometimes the governor of a province was made responsible .

Water Rate

Muslim rulers did not charge any extra rate even for the water supplied . Firuz Shah Tughluq built canals and charged 10 % who used the water for irrigation purposes . The idea of digging canals and providing irrigation facilities to the peasants was the outcome of the desire of the Sultans to improve agriculture . Muhammad Tughluq set up a separate ministry called Diwan - i Amir - Kohi . Its function was to bring new areas under cultivation and to improve the existing crops . Nominal revenue was charged from such persons .

Presents ( gifts given by subject to nobles ) An important source of revenue consisted of the presents , which were made by his subjects to the Sultan . The system of presents continued even during the Mughal period .

The Army

  • Sultans maintained a large army . Their army consisted of the regular soldiers permanently employed in the service of the Sultan , troops permanently employed in the service of the provincial governors and nobles , recruits employed in times of war and Muslim volunteers enlisted for fighting a holy war of Jihad . The troops of the Sultan at Delhi were known as Hashm - i - Qalb .

  • The troops in the service of the Sultan were known as Khasah Khail and included royal slaves , guards called Jandars and Afwaj - i - Qalb or the troops directly under royal command . Their number was small and they could not be depended upon in times of danger or War . Ala - ud - Din Khalji controlled army of 4,75,000 horse , in addition to a large number of footmen .

  • The army of the Sultans was a heterogeneous body . It consisted of Turks of various tribes , the Tajiks , the Persians , the Mongols , the Afghans , the Arabs , the Abyssinians Indian Mussalmans and the Hindus .

  • The army consisted of the cavalry , infantry and elephantry . The cavalry formed the backbone of the military establishment . Horseman were armed with two swords , a dagger and a Turkish bow with very good arrows .

  • The foot soldiers were called Payaks . They carried swords , daggers , bows and arrows . They were good archers and were known as Dhanuks

  • The Sultans attached great importance to elephants . Their size , and strength struck terror into the hearts of the foreign warriors . There was nothing like modern artillery , but incendiary arrows , javelins and pots full of combustibles were used in battle Hand grenades , fire - works , rocks and naphtha balls were used .Various mechanical devices were employed for battering the walls of fortresses for throwing large balls for projecting naphtha and fire works various kinds of engines were used by the Sultans .

  • The army was organised on a decimal basis . A Sar - i - Khail had 10 horsemen under him . A sipah - Salar had 10 Sar - i - Khails under him . An Amir had 10 Sipah - Salars under him . A Malik had 10 Amirs under him A Khan had 10 Maliks under him .

  • The size of the army varied from time to time . The pay of a soldier must have varied at different times .

  • The Sultans were the masters of military strategy they employed very commonly the art of ambushing and surprise attacks before the actual battle .

  • The prospective theatre of war was thoroughly surveyed The army was very often divided into the advance - guard , the centre , the right wing , the left wing , the rear - guard and the reserve .


Justice was the most ill organized department of the Sultanate .

The Sultan appointed this Diwan - i - Qaza . He also gave justice through the agency of Diwan - i - Mazalim . Muhammad Tughluq set up a separate department called Diwan - i - Siyasat . The Diwan - i - Mazalim was presided over by the Amir - i - Dad . The Governors were required to sit as courts of Mazalim . The Sahib - i Diwan and the Qazi helped them . The courts of Mazalim heard complaints against officials . The Diwan - i - Qaza had contacts with the departments of Siyasat and Mazalim but its main concern was civil litigation . Qaza dealt with common law and Siyasat and Mazalim dealt with administrative law . Head of the Diwan - i - Qaza was the Qazi - i - Mumalik , also known as Qazi - ul - Qazat . Same person was also appointed Sadr - us - Sadur . He was in charge of the whole legal system and the administration of religious affairs . He heard appeals from the lower courts and appointed the local Qazis . Great importance was attached to the Qazi of Delhi . There was a Qazi in every town and his duty was to settle disputes , supervise and manage the property of orphans and lunatics execute testamentary dispositions and supervise Waqaf .

It was the duty of the local governors and officials to help the Qazi in maintaining the dignity of law . The Qazis were not under the were directly appointed by the Central Governors as they Government . over The Amir - i - Dad was associated with justice . He presided the court of Mazalim in the absence of the Sultan . He looked after the executive side of justice . Amir - i - Dad was also responsible for the proper maintenance of mosques , bridges and public buildings city walls and gates . He controlled the Kotwal , the police and the Muhtasib . His office kept copies of the documents registered with the Qazi . The Qazi was not allowed to get up when the Sultan entered his court .


The Sultans were very anxious to maintain the security . The Kotwal performed the routine police duties . The force of the Kotwal patrolled the city at night and guarded thoroughfares . His jurisdiction extended to the rural area also He also acted as a committing magistrate . The criminal code was punishments were deterrent . In certain cases , the criminal was severe and paraded in the city . He maintained a register of the inhabitants of every quarter , kept him informed of their activities and means of livelihood and took cognizance of every new arrival and departure . The life and property of a rebel were at the mercy of the Sultan . Ala - ud - Din Khalji introduced the system of punishing the family of the rebel . The penal code was applied to crimes , which came under the jurisdiction of the Qazi .

Governor About the appointment of a Governor , famous and exalted servant was chosen . The Wali was required to protect and enforce the laws , customs and regulations . He was to look after the Ulema , the warriors and civil officials .He was to reconcile the people by reducing their dues and introducing measures of prosperity . He was to increase the produce by extending the cultivation . He was to maintain justice and protect the weak from the rapacity and tyranny of the strong . He was to see that the decisions of the courts were enforced . He was to desist from capital punishment and guard the highways , encourage trade and protect traders .

Sahib - E- Diwan In every province , there was a Sahib - E- Diwan , also known as Khwaja He was appointed by the Sultan on the recommendation of the Wazir He was generally an expert accountant His duty was to keep account books and submit detailed statements to the headquarters . It was on the basis of those sheets that the Department of the Wazir settled the account with the Muqti officially the Khwaja was subordinate to the Governor However in actual practice he was a power to reckon with and he was a check on the authority of the Governor . The reports of the Khwaja might lead to the dismissal of the Governor . Shiqs There was no lower unit of administration than the Iqta . The provinces were divided into Shiqs . Muhammad Tughlaq divided the Deccan into four Shiqs . There was a Shiqdar at the head of a Shiq . He was probably a military officer and his duty was to maintain law and order within his jurisdiction .

Parganah The next smaller unit was the Parganah . The next division was the village . The administration of villages continued in the hands of Hindu officials . There was a Panchayat in every village and most of the disputes were settled there . The people of the village looked after their affairs themselves and not interfered with by the Sultan . There was a Chowkidar and a Patwari in every village .

Government and Administration

in Medieval India Delhi


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