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Muslim Dynasties in India’s History

Muslim dynasties which figure in the history of India are divided, by modern historians of medieval India into two categories - Imperial and Provincial. Dynasties which ruled from Delhi/Agra are called Imperial Dynasties, whatever might have been the extent of their domain or power. On the other hand, dynasties which ruled independently of Delhi/Agra are labelled as Provincial Dynasties, even though some of them overshadowed the contemporary Imperial Dynasties in terms of territory controlled, or power wielded, or both.

Strangely enough, the Yaminis of Ghazni and the Shanshabanis of Ghur are not included in any of the two categories. They are supposed to be foreign dynasties having their seats outside India proper and being interested in expanding their domain in Islamic lands to their west and north as well. Medieval Muslim historians, however, do not look at the Yaminis and the Shanshabanis in that way; they regard both of them as inextricably entwined with the history of India. We agree with the medieval Muslim historians. Firstly, Afghanistan was very much a part of India not only in the days of these dynasties but till as late as the disintegration of the Mughal empire in the eighteenth century. Secondly, the so-called Indian dynasties were prevented from intervening in the larger world of Islam not by any lack of willingness on their part but because, starting with the rise of the Mongols in the first quarter of the thirteenth century, the powers that arose in Persia and Transoxiana made it difficult for them to do so.

In any case, there is nothing Indian about any of the Muslim dynasties, no matter from where they functioned. All of them were equally foreign in terms of inspiration and behaviour, even if not always in terms of blood. A bandit who breaks into my house with sword in hand and occupies it by means of brute force, does not become a member of my family simply because he lives under my roof and fattens on my food; he remains a bandit, no matter how long the occupation lasts. He never acquires moral or legal legitimacy. Nor does that member of my family who takes to the ways of the bandit retain the ties which once bound us together; I am fully within my rights to look at him also as one of the bandit team. I am not impressed at all if the bandit believes in a right acquired by conquest or bestowed by a being named Allah, and quotes from a book he deems as divine. Nor am I prepared, like Jawaharlal Nehru and his degenerate secularist clan, to consider the bandit a member of my family, simply because he drags into his bed my sister or daughter or some other female from my household. I am not called upon to recognize his right to rule over me, and hesitate in throwing him out as soon as I can muster the strength to do so. I am, therefore, treating as foreign to India, more so to the intrinsic spirit of Indian culture, all Muslim dynasties which figure in the Islamic invasion of or rule over this country or any of its parts.

A brief descriptions of these dynasties together with the number of rulers which each of them had, is given below. Each king who figures in our citations, epigraphic or literary, is being given his number in the order of dynastic succession together with his reign-period.1 That should suffice to place him and his doings in a proper historical perspective.

The dynasties have been listed in a chronological order, that is, with reference to the time at which they arose. There are several dynasties and many rulers who do not figure in our citations. That does not mean that none of them can be credited with the pious performance of destroying Hindu places of worship. For all we know, those dynasties and kings figure in histories which have remained inaccessible to us, particularly the provincial and local histories and the biographies of individual kings and commanders. The doings of sufis in this particular context are being taken up in subsequent volume of this series.

India had suffered the first attack from Islamic imperialism as early as 634, only two years after the death of the prophet of Islam at Medina; it was a naval expedition sent to the coast of Maharashtra in reign of Caliph ‘Umar. This as well as many other expeditions mounted in subsequent years were repulsed from the coasts of Gujarat and Sindh, and the borders of Makran, Kabul and Zabul; in some of them the invaders suffered great slaughter and their military commanders were either killed or had to be ransomed out.

It was only in 712 that an Islamic invasion succeeded in occupying Sindh, Multan and some parts of the Punjab. Though the invaders led several raids into the interior, particularly towards Malwa and Gujarat, the episodes were shortlived and the invaders were soon locked up in two garrison towns-Multan and Mansurah-by the Indian counter-at-tacks mounted from Delhi, Kanauj, Rajasthan, Malwa and Gujarat. Meanwhile, another thrust into Balkh which took place at the same time as that into Sindh resulted in the destruction of a renowned Buddhist Vihara and the forcible conversion of the Pramukha family, the latter-day Barkamids of Baghdad.

Zabul (region around Ghazni) had defeated several Muslim invasions since 653 when Seistan became a base for Islamic armies. It, however, fell in 871 before an assault by the newly founded Saffarid Dynasty of Persia, and was lost for ever to India as a result of its population being converted en masse to Islam. The Saffarids were followed by the Samanids of Bukhara; one of their governors occupied Ghazni in 963. It was from this base that North India was overwhelmed in stages, and passed under Muslim occupation towards the close of the twelfth century.

In subsequent centuries, Islamic invasions surged forward into Central and South India and established several centres of Muslim power. More centres of Muslim power arose in North India as well whenever the Muslim dynasties at Delhi/Agra suffered a decline. The Indian people and princes fought the invaders at every step and rose in revolt, again and again, for more than five hundred years. Finally, the war of resistance was transformed into a war of liberation and Islamic dominance disappeared from most parts of India during the eighteenth century. If British imperialism had not intervened and saved some remnants of Islamic imperialism, the Muslim invasion of India would have become a story found only in books of history, and India would have been left with no ‘Muslim problem’ as in the case of Spain which also had been invaded and occupied by Muslims for several centuries.

Muslim Dynasties

The Muslim dynasties which functioned from Sindh and Ghazni undertook destruction of Hindu temples extensively whenever and wherever they succeeded in raiding or occupying Indian territory. The same pattern was followed by the Muslim dynasties established at Delhi/Agra. Their hold, however, did not extend beyond major cities and towns. An intensive destruction of temples was undertaken by the Muslim dynasties which arose in the provinces-Sindh, Kashmir, Bengal, Avadh, Malwa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh. There is no truth in the assumption that the provincial dynasties were lenient to Hindus and their places of worship because they had to depend upon Hindu support against the imperial dynasties. The truce, if it took place at all, was temporary in most cases.

I. The Caliphate (632-1258)

It was a republican institution created at Medina soon after the death of Prophet Muhammad. The first four caliphs were elected. The fifth caliph, however, inaugurated monarchical rule which was held successively by two families. The Caliphate, therefore, had three phases.

(A) the ‘Rightly-Guided’ Caliphs (632-661)

There were four of them who ruled over an expanding empire from Medina and Kufa. Only one of them figures in our citations:

  1. ‘Usman (646–656)

It was during his reign that one of his military commanders, Abd ar-Rahman bin Samurah, succeeded in occupying Seistan and parts of Zabul for a short time in 653.

(B) the Ummayads (661-749)

This dynasty, founded by the fifth caliph, had fourteen kings who ruled from Damascus. Only one of them figures in our citations:

  1. Al-Walid I (705-715)

It was during his reign that one of his generals, Muhammad bin Qasim, succeeded in occupying Sindh and some parts of the Punjab between 712 and 715.

Another general, Qutaibah bin Muslim al-Bahili, operated mostly in Khurasan and Transoxiana which were cradles of Hindu culture at that time but not parts of India proper. He is also credited with the conquest of Balkh where he destroyed a famous Buddhist Vihara.

(C) the Abbasids (750-1258)

This dynasty succeeded the Umayyads and moved the seat of the Caliphate to Baghdad. Starting with the nineteenth caliph it had thirty-seven rulers, the last of whom was killed by Halaku, the Mongol conqueror, in 1258. After the reign of the eighth caliph, Mu’tasim (833-842), of this dynasty, the rulers were non-entities and power passed into the hands of Turkish dynasties which rose one after another. Only two of them figure in our citations:

  1. Al-Mansur (754-775)

It was in his reign that his governor of Sindh, Hasham bin ‘Amru al-Taghlabi, led an expedition to Kandahar on the west coast of India in 756.

  1. Al-Mahdi (775-785)

He sent, a naval expedition to the coast of Saurashtra in 776.

II. The Saffarid Dynasty of Seistan (871-900)

This Persian-Turkish dynasty arose when the Abbasid Caliphate had weakened. It occupied Zabul and Sindh which included Multan at that time. It had only 2 rulers both of whom figure in our citations:

  1. Ya’qub bin Laith (871-875)
  2. ‘Amru bin Laith (875-900)

III. The Qaramitah Dynasty of Multan (980-1175)

After the Saffarids lost their hold on Sindh, Multan separated from the province and became an independent Muslim kingdom. By 980 it had become a stronghold of the Qaramitah sect of the Isma’ilis. Jalam bin Shaiban who figures in our citations cannot be placed in any dynastic succession, nor assigned a reign-period. The only thing we know about him is that he destroyed the image of the famous Ãditya Temple at Multan and killed its priests.

IV. The Yamini or Ghaznivid Dynasty (977-1186)

The Saffarid dominions in Khurasan, Seistan and Zabul had been taken over by the Samanids, a dynasty which had arisen more or less at the same time as the Saffarids and had its seat at Bukhara. Alptigin, the Samanid governor of Khurasan, rebelled, occupied Ghazni in 963 and declared independence. The dynasty founded by him proved incompetent and the throne was seized in 977 by Subuktigin, a manumitted slave of Alptigin. Subuktigin became the founder of the Ghaznivid Dynasty which came to be known as the Yamini Dynasty as well when the caliph at Baghdad was mighty pleased with the iconoclastic exploits of Subuktigin’s son, Mahmud, and conferred on him the appellation of Yaminu’d-Daulah.

The Yamini Dynasty had 18 rulers, the last two of whom functioned from Lahore after Ghazni was occupied by the Seljuks. Five of these rulers figure in our citations.

  1. Amir Subuktigin (977-997)
  2. Sultan Mahmud (997-1030)
  3. Sultan Mas’ud I (1030-1042)
  4. Sultan Ibrahim (1059-1099)
  5. Sultan Mas’ud III (1 099-1151)

v. The Shanshabani or Ghurid Dynasty (1149-1206)

This dynasty arose in the Ghur region of Afghanistan and had its seat at Firuz Koh. To start with, the rulers were tributaries of the Ghaznivids. They started becoming independent as the Ghaznivids got involved in a struggle with the Seljuks and suffered a decline. We have counted the Ghurid rulers from Alau’d-Din Jahansuz who stormed and burnt down Ghazni in 1149. Ghazni was, however, occupied by the Seljuks soon after and, later on, by the Guzz Turks. It was only in 1175 that the Ghurids succeeded in reoccupying it.

The Ghurid king, Ghiyasu’d-Din Muhammad bin Sam, who had succeeded his uncle Alau’d-Din Jahansuz at Firuz Koh, appointed his younger brother, Shihabu’d-Din Muhammad bin Sam, as the governor of Ghazni. Shihabu’d-Din (1175-1206) occupied Sindh and Multan, ousted the last Ghaznivid ruler from Lahore, defeated the Chauhans of Ajmer and the GahaDvaDs of Kanauj, and extended his conquests upto the borders of Bengal. His conquests were consolidated mainly by his able general, Qutbu’d-Din Aibak. Another general of his, Ikhtiyaru’d-Din Bakhtiyar Khalji, ousted the Senas of Bengal from Lakhnauti and led an unsuccessful expedition into Assam and Bhutan. Meanwhile, Shihabu’d-Din had become the king of Ghur on the death of his brother in 1203 and styled himself as Muizzu’d-Din Muhammad bin Sam. He is popularly known as Muhammad Ghuri, and regarded as the founder of Muslim rule in India. He was murdered in 1206 and the Shanshabani dynasty came to an end.

Muhammad Ghuri, Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, and Ikhtiyaru’d-Din Bakhtiyar Khalji figure in our citations.

VI. The Khwarizmian Dynasty (1121-1231)

This powerful dynasty had its seat at Khwarizm (modern Khiva in the Turkmenian Republic of the erstwhile U.S.S.R). It had 6 rulers. It was overthrown by Chingiz Khan, the Mongol conqueror, in 1220 when its fifth ruler died in flight. The sixth and the last ruler, Jalalu’d-Din Mankbarni, who figures in our citations, escaped to Sindh in 1222 and tried to establish a new kingdom. He had, however, to leave in 1223 via Makran and wandered to various places in Iran and Iraq till he was killed by the Kurds in 1231.

VII. The Mamluk or Slave Dynasties of Delhi (1206-1290)

These were the three dynasties founded successively by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, Shamsu’d-Din Iltutmish and Ghiyasu’d-Din Balban, all of whom were manumitted slaves. With their seat at Delhi, the three dynasties had 10 rulers. The founder of the first dynasty, Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, figures in our citations mostly as a viceroy of Muhanmmad Ghuri, though he ruled as a sultan also from 1206 to 1210. The third ruler Shamsu’d-Din Iltutmish (1210-1236), the founder of the second Mamluk Dynasty, also figures in our citations. He was a slave of Qutb’d-Din Aibak and became king after ousting Aibak’s son. He extended his sway over the whole of North India by garrisoning a number of cities and towns and led expeditions against centres of Rajput power in Rajasthan, Bundelkhand and Malwa. He is regarded as the real builder of Muslim power in India, though Afghanistan, Sindh and a large part of the Punjab had, meanwhile, passed under Mongol occupation.

VIII. The Khalji Dynasty of Delhi (1290-1320)

It succeeded the third and the last Mamluk Dynasty and had only 3 rulers. All of them figure in our citations:

  1. Jalalu’d-Din (1290-1296)
  2. Alau’d-Din (1296-1316)
  3. Mubarak Shah (1316-1320)

With his seat at Delhi, Alau’d-Din extended Muslim hegemony or rule over Gujarat, Rajasthan, Malwa, Maharashtra, Telingana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu by subduing or overthrowing one Rajput dynasty after another. The expedition to Gujarat was led by his brother and general, Ulugh Khan, while those to Maharashtra, Telingana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were commanded by his slave, Malik Kafur. He himself was in charge of expeditions to Rajasthan and Malwa.

IX. The Tughlaq Dynasty of Delhi (1320-1412)

This dynasty which took over at Delhi from the Khaljis had 10 rulers, though its power declined steeply after the death of the third in 1381 and more or less disappeared after the invasion of Timur in 1398. Five rulers of this dynasty figure in our citations:

  1. Ghiyasu’d-Din Tughlaq (1320-1325)
  2. Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1325-1351)
  3. Firuz Shah (1351-1388)
  4. Tughlaq Shah bin Firuz Shah (1388-1389)
  5. Nasiru’d-Din Muhammad Shah (1389-1394)

Muhammad bin Tughlaq had reconquered South India which had slipped out of the Muslim stranglehold after the eclipse of the Khaljis. But he lived to see the disintegration of his southern domain. Soon after, the Muslim Bahmani Sultanate rose in the Deccan and the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire in the South.

X. The Shah Mir Dynasty of Kashmir (1339-1561)

Islamic power prevailed in Kashmir because the latter-day Hindu Rajas had employed a large number of Muslims in their army and administration. Most of these Muslims were refugees sent out by the Mongol invasion of Islamdom in the thirteenth century, even though some of them strutted around as Sayyids and Sufis. The founder of the Shah Mir Dynasty had only to stage a coup d’etat. The dynasty had 14 rulers of whom two figure in our citations:

  1. Sikandar Butshikan (1389-1413)
  2. Fath Shah (1489-1499 and 1505-1516)

XI. The Bahmani Dynasty of the Deccan (1347-1527)

The founder of this dynasty consolidated a widespread rebellion against Tughlaq rule in the Deccan, and proclaimed himself a sultan. It had its seat at Gulbarga before it moved to Bidar in 1422. It had 15 rulers. The last five of them were kings only in name because power at Bidar passed into the hands of the Barid Shahi Dynasty and elsewhere into those of four other dynasties-the Nizam Shahis of Ahmadnagar, the ‘Ãdil Shahis of Bijapur, the Imad Shahis of Berar and the Qutb Shahis of Golconda-towards the close of the fifteenth century. Six Bahmani rulers figure in our citations:

  1. Alau’d-Din Hasan (1347-1358)
  2. Mujahid Shah (1375-1378)
  3. Firuz Shah (1379-1422)
  4. Ahmad Shah Wali (1422-1435)
  5. Alau’d-Din Ahmad Shah II (1436-1458)
  6. Muhammad Shah II (1463-1480)

XII. The Muslim Dynasty of Gujarat (1392-1572)

The founder of this dynasty was a Rajput who was converted to Islam in the reign of Firuz Shah Tughlaq. It had 10 rulers before Gujarat was conquered by the Mughals in 1527. Six of them figure in our citations:

  1. Muzaffar Shah I (1392-1410)
  2. Ahmad Shah I (1411-1443)
  3. Qutbu’d-Din Ahmad Shah II (1451-1458)
  4. Mahmud BegDha (1458-1511)
  5. Muzaffar Shah II (1511-1526)
  6. Bahadur Shah (1526-1537)

XIII. The Sharqi Dynasty of Jaunpur (1394-1479)

It was founded by a favourite eunuch of Firuz Shah Tughlaq soon after the latter’s death, and was overthrown by Bahlul Lodi, the founder of the Lodi Dynasty of Delhi/Agra. One of its 6 rulers figures in our citations.

  1. Mahmud bin Ibrahim (1440-1457).

XIV. The Khalji Dynasty of Malwa (1435-1531)

Malwa had become independent of Delhi under the Ghuri Dynasty founded in 1390. It had 4 rulers when it was overthrown by the Khalji Dynasty in 1435. The second dynasty also had 4 rulers. Two of them figure in our citations:

  1. Mahmud Shah I (1435-1469)
  2. Ghiyasu’d-Din (1469-1500)

XV. Lodi Dynasty of Delhi/Agra (1451-1526)

The Tughlaq Dynasty had been succeeded at Delhi by the Sayyid Dynasty which ruled form 1412 to 1451. It was a weak dynasty and its last ruler invited Bahlul Lodi, his governor of the Punjab, to take over. The second Lodi ruler shifted the capital from Delhi to Agra in order to be better able to dominate and expand into Central India. Of the 3 rulers of the Lodi Dynasty two figure in our citations:

  1. Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517)
  2. Ibrahim Lodi (1517-1526)

XVI. The Nizam Shahi Dynasty of Ahmadnagar (1490-1630)

This dynasty was founded by one of the Bahmani governors who was a Brahmin convert from Maharashtra. It had 11 rulers till its kingdom was annexed by the Mughals. One of them figures in our citations:

  1. Murtaza Nizam Shah (1565-1588)

XVII. The ‘Ãdil Shahi Dynasty of Bijapur (1490-1686)

Founded by another of the Bahmani governors, it had 9 rulers till the kingdom was conquered by the Mughals. One of them figures in our citations:

  1. ‘Ali I ‘Ãdil Shah (1557-1580)

XVIII. The Qutb Shahi Dynasty of Golconda (1507-1687)

Founded by a third Bahmani governor, it had 7 rulers till it was overthrown by the Mughals. Four of them figure in our citations:

  1. Quli Qutb Shah (1507-1543)
  2. Ibrahim Quth Shah (1550-1580)
  3. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (1580-1612)
  4. Abdu’llah Qutb Shah (1626-1672)

XIX. The Mughal Dynasty of Agra/Delhi (1526-1857)

Founded by a new Islamic invader, Zahiru’d-Din Babar, this dynasty had 21 rulers. But after 1712 when its seventh ruler died, the Mughal kings became playthings in the hands of powerful ministers and court factions. The Dynasty received a shattering blow from the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739. After the death of its fourteenth ruler, Muhammad Shah, in 1748, its empire disintegrated very fast. In due course, Mughal rule became more or less confined to the Red Fort at Delhi where, too, the king lived at the mercy of the Marathas and, later on, the British. Nine Mughal rulers figure in our citations:

  1. Babur (1526-1530)
  2. Humayun (1530-1538 and 1556)
  3. Akbar (1556-1605)
  4. Jahangir (1605-1628)
  5. Shah Jahan (1628-1658)
  6. Aurangzeb (1658-1707)
  7. Bahadur Shah (1707-1712)
  8. Farrukh Siyar (1713-1719)
  9. Muhammad Shah (1720-1748)

XX. The Sur Dynasty of Agra/Delhi (1540-1556)

This dynasty rose to power by overthing the second Mughal king, Humayun, and was in turn overthrown by him. It had four rulers, the last one of whom did not belong to the bloodline. Its first two rulers figure in our citations:

  1. Sher Shah (1540-1545)
  2. Islam Shah (1545-1554)

XXI. The Karrani Dynasty of Bengal (1563-1576)

This dynasty arose when Sulaiman Karrani, the governor of Bihar from the days of Sher Shah Sur, moved to Gaur in Bengal after the death of Islam Shah Sur and declared himself an independent king of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Soon after, he moved his capital to Tandah. There were three rulers in this line, of whom the first, Sulaiman, (1563-1573), figures in our citations.

XXII. The Mughal Subahdars of Bengal (1717-1757)

The Mughal governors of Bengal (which included Bihar and Orissa also) became independent for all practical purposes after the passing away of Bahadur Shah, the Mughal emperor, in 1712. Murshid Quli Khan I who had become Subahdar in 1717 nominated his son-in-law, Shujau’d-Din, to succeed him. The capital of Bengal had meanwhile been moved from Dacca to Murshidabad. Murshid Quli Khan II who figures in our citations was Shujau’d-Din’s son-in-law and was made the deputy governor in 1728 with his seat at Dacca. This first line of the independent Subahdars of Bengal was overthrown in 1739 by Alivardi Khan whose grandson and successor, Siraju’d-Daulah, was defeated by the British in 1757 in the Battle of Plassey.

XXIII. Abdali or Durrani Dynasty of Afghanistan (1747-1818)

The dynasty arose when, on the death of Nadir Shah the Persian adventurer, one of his generals, Ahmad Khan Abdali, styled himself as Ahmad Shah Durr-i-Durran (Pearl of the Age) and set up an independent principality in Afghanistan in 1747. With his seat at Qandhar he led seven invasions into the Punjab and farther afield. In one of his invasions (1762), he blew up the Harimandir at Amritsar, filled up the sacred tank with the debris, and desecrated the holy site by slaughtering cows on it. He died in 1773 and figures in our citations.

XXIV. Muslim Usurpers in Mysore (1761-1799)

There were only two of them, Hyder ‘Ali (1761-1781) and his son, Tipu Sultan (1782-1799). The second who died fighting the British in 1799, figures in our citations.

XXV. Sufis or Warrior Saints

Fourteen sufis or warrior saints figure in our citations. The list of this type of iconoclasts should have been much larger. But we could not get hold of the appropriate histories, most of which are in private collections. The histories that are printed these days are quite often edited in order to eschew ‘controversial materials’.


  1. The dates given in the descriptions that follow are of the Christian Era.