Ghiyasuddin Balban

Ghiyasuddin Balban

Ghiyasuddin Balban, Delhi sultan,
Ghiyasuddin Balban

Sultan of Slave Dynasty
Reign – A.D. 1266 to 1287

Ghiyasuddin Balban is considered to be one of the most renowned Sultan of the so-called Slave Dynasty. He belonged to the Ilbari Tribe like Iltutmish. His father was a Khan of 10000 families. His early name was Bahauddin. In his early age, he was made prisoner by the Mongols who sold him as a slave to Jamaluddin of Basra. He was a learned man and brought up Balban like his son. In the year A.D. 1232, Iltutmish purchased Balban and appointed him his Khassdar (Personal Attendant).  Seeing his ability and capability Iltutmish included him in the group of forty slaves. During the reign of Raiya, the post of Amir-i-Shikar was given to him. He was given the Jagir of Rewari and Hansi under the reign of Bahram Shah and he continued to enjoy the same privileges in the reign of Alauddin Masud shah. As he played a prominent role in the enthronement of Nasiruddin Mahmood and the dethronement of Alauddin Masud Shah, the post of amir-i-Hajib was given to him as recognition of his services. In A.D. 1249, Balban give his daughter to Sultan Nasiruddin in marriage. As a result the post of Naib-i-Mamlakat and title of Ulugh Khan was bestowed upon him as a token of honour, being the father-in-law of the Sultan. It cemented his position and within no time, he became the most powerful person of the Delhi sultanate by dint of his ability, tact and courage.

 Balban held a high place among the sultans of pre-medieval India. Balban remained in power for about forty years - Twenty year as Naib of the Sultan and twenty years as the Sultan of Delhi. His chief aim was not to make expedition but to consolidate the infant Turkish Empire. No doubt, the Sultan achieved tremendous success in his objective.

Balban established law and order in the Sultanate of Delhi. His stern policy towards Tughril Khan, the Governor of Bengal, proved it. Moreover, his message to his son disclosed the fact that he was a man of strong will and he was not prepared to tolerate disobedience or insubordination fro many of his relations or officers. He freed the region near Delhi from the terror of the Mewatis and his spies helped him a lot in the smooth running of the administration.  He also saved the infant Muslim empire from the attacks of the Mongols by his active territorial policy.

No doubt, Balban was an autocratic despot and no employee of the state nor even his sons were in a position to do anything without his permission. It is also true that the Delhi sultanate was based on power and military resources, but as an individual, the Sultan was a generous and benevolent person. His family life was happy and he had affection for all the members of his family. Although he worked in the court till evening, after listening to the news of the assassination of his son by the Mongols, he wept bitterly in his private apartment because he had great love for his son.

He awarded liberal patronage to the fugitive learned persons from Central Asia for he considered in his pious duty to help the helpless and the refugees. However, he was quite strict on the issue of discipline. He expected even from his kith and kin that they should not act beyond the canons of morality and justice. He wanted to make his people comfortable and his kingdom prosperous. He wanted to make his people comfortable and his kingdom prosperous. He was the first Muslim ruler who directed his attention to administrative reforms. Alauddin khalji completed all the works which were started by Balbal. Hence, Prof. A. B,M, Habibullah takes his to be the forerunner of the state system of Khaljis. He says, “In a large measure, he prepared the ground for the Khalji state system.”

The ability of Balban was well known, owing to his ability industriousness, audacity and confidence, he could rise to the position of Sultan from the lowest status of a slave. Lane-poole writes, “Balban the slave, water carrier, huntsman, general statesman and Sultan is one of the most striking figures among many notables in the long line of the kings of Delhi."

He enhanced the power and prestige of the crown by dint of his ability, crushed the rebel, established law and order in the Sultanate, safeguarded the territory from the invasions of Mongols and organized the sultanate by his administrative reforms. In fact, the credit of reorganizing Delhi Sultanate and making it viable and strong goes to him. Dr. Ishwari Prasad writes, “A great warrior, king and statesman who saved infant Muslim state from extinction at critical time, Balban will ever remain a great figure in Medieval Indian history.”

Balban was a brave soldier and capable commander. He suppressed the revolts and opponents by his military skill. He destroyed the Hindus rebels and dacoits of Mewat, Doab, Katehar and Punjab and saved Delhi Sultanate from powerful Mongol invaders.

Balban was a competent administrator. He maintained his monopoly over the sultanate of Delhi for about forty years. During this long period he strengthened and organized the Sultanate by his policies. During the reign of his predecessor the power and prestige of the crown had dismissed and slackness prevailed in the administration. He set everything right and established control over ambitious nobles and Amirs. He punished the incompetent officers and richly rewarded the intelligent and worthy one. He gave an evenhanded justice to the people. His economic policies were praiseworthy. The royal treasury was enriched by them. He curtailed the power of the Ulema in politics and appointed people of high castes in administration and army. He prohibited liquor for the development of social morality but he was not a constructive genius.

Balban was a staunch Sunni Muslim. He was found of the company of religious persons. He often talked with them on religious issues. He tried to pass his life according to the canons of Islam and always kept himself away from the luxuries of life. He made regular prayer and performed his duties faithfully.

Besides all the virtues he had some demerits as well. Dr. A.L. Srivastava points out that he was a bit fanatic and intolerant towards Hindus. Prof. Habibullah mentions that he did not seek the cooperation of Indian Muslims and thus created a gap between Turkish and Indian Muslims.

In spite of his weakness and defects balban deserves to be ranked among the greatest Sultans of Delhi Sultanate due to his policies and works. Dr. Ishwari Prasad remarks, “But for Balban’s vigour and energy, the kingdom of Delhi would have hardly survived the shocks of internal revolts and external invasions.”

Seeing all the qualities of his head and heart, Dr.A.L. Srivastava has aptly assessed his place among the Sultans of the so-called slave dynasty, “His place among the so-called slave kings is next only to that of Iltutmish.”


Milan Tomic

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