The Rise and Fall of Malik Kafur
The devastating raid of Ma’bar by Malik Kafur is best summed up in R C Majumdar’s words who characterizes it as being more “spectacular than effective…was par excellence as a predatory raid” (THE HISTORY & CULTURE OF THE INDIAN PEOPLE, VOL IV, PG 37 BHARATIYA VIDYA BHAVAN) because Kafur, far from obtaining the allegiance of the Pandya brothers, had to face the ignominy of not able to trace them.
Malik Kafur’s blitzkrieg campaign was a climax of sorts in Ala-ud-din Khilji’s rule. By then, Ala-ud-din’s physical and mental health began to rapidly deteriorate, which brought with it troubles attendant to such a situation. A powerful emperor’s assured decline assuredly brings with it palace intrigue, disgruntled nobles, decisions taken in fury (like the savage massacre of some 30000 Mongols), and revolt in various parts of the empire.
Ala-ud-din Khilji died in Delhi on January 5, 1316 just five years after Kafur’s immensely successful raids that increased the Delhi Sultan’s fortune on an unparalleled scale.
Malik Kafur was now the most powerful figure in the court of Delhi. He imprisoned the dead Ala-ud-din’s wife, threw Khizr Khan, the eldest son into jail, and murdered Alp Khan, the younger son in cold blood. Then he installed Shihab-ud-din Umar, a child of five or six, on the throne and ruled by proxy. Next, he set about decimating the entire Khilji clan. First, he threw the rest of Ala-ud-din’s sons in prison. Some were blinded. The same fate awaited Ala-ud-din’s third son, Mubarak Khan.
However, tables were turned when the assailants who had been sent to blind and kill Mubarak were bribed and reminded of their oath of loyalty to the Khilji clan. In turn, they rushed to Malik Kafur’s chambers and murdered him. Thus ended Kafur’s life in just 35 days after Ala-ud-din’s death.
The Rise and Fall of Mubarak Shah and the Pandya Brothers
Soon after, Mubarak Khan became the Sultan and titled himself Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah. He reduced taxes, took away oppressive restrictions imposed during Ala-ud-din’s regime, and was generally considered an amiable ruler. Very soon, this amiability descended to unchecked drinking and wanton debauchery. Somewhere along the line, he took an extreme fancy for Hasan, a slave from Gujarat. Hasan’s fortunes soared in direct proportion to Mubarak Shah’s fancy for the young man. Hasan was quickly titled Khusrav Khan, and was elevated to the rank of a Vazir.
In 1318, an uprising occurred in Devagiri. Harapala Deva of the Yadavas had declared independence. Harapala Deva was the son-in-law of the now-deceased Ramachandra, who had dispatched his army to aid Malik Kafur a few years ago. Khusrav Khan was immediately dispatched, and inflicted a massive defeat—Harapala Deva was captured, imprisoned and then flayed alive, according to the contemporary historian Barni. Following this, Khusrav was sent to Telingana (today’s Telangana) where he invaded Warangal and routed Prataparudra.
Then he turned his attention to the Ma’bar country and quickly marched to Dwarasamudra and tried to force a garrison there but was beaten back.
Meanwhile, the Pandya brothers were back to warring with each other again. Vira Pandya, the superior of the two, ousted Sundara Pandya and drove him out of the kingdom. A seething Sundara Pandya sought the help of the Muslim ruler stationed there but it didn’t do him much good. Desperate, he approached Pratapa Rudra II who aided him with a large force. Sundara Pandya managed to defeat his brother and installed himself on the throne at Vira Dhavalapattanam (near today’s Uraiyur), the other Pandyan capital apart from Madurai.
Then Khusrav Khan struck. Like before, Sundara Pandya kept giving him stealth battle and in the end, escaped taking all his family and wealth. And again, like before, rains came and further frustrated Khusrav. However, by then he was summoned to Delhi by Mubarak Shah who was informed by two trustworthy informers that Khusrav was plotting to take over the throne. Once in Delhi, Mubarak Shah executed the selfsame trustworthy informers, Talbagha and Tamar. The informers were beaten, blinded, and jailed thanks to Mubarak’s insatiable infatuation for Khusrav.
In time, the informers were proven right because Khusrav personally supervised the cutting off of Mubarak Shah’s head.
He quickly installed himself on the throne and behaved worse than Mubarak Shah. He finished off whatever remained of the Khilji dynasty, executed all his opponents, elevated his favourites, and brought in tons of his well-wishers, supporters, and noblemen from Gujarat, his original home. However, under Khusrav, the hold of Islam weakened considerably and witnessed the beginnings of a Hindu revolution of sorts. This was because the supporters who came from Gujarat belonged to his tribe: Khusrav was converted to Islam as a child and was the object of amorous attentions of Ain-ul-Mulk who had sacked Gujarat under Mubarak’s orders. Khusrav’s pre-conversion name is not known but Historians place him variously as belonging to the Parwar, Barwar or Barav tribe [THE HISTORY & CULTURE OF THE INDIAN PEOPLE, VOL VI PG 44, BHARATIYA VIDYA BHAVAN].
Very soon, the Mullahs and other ultra-orthodox sections rent the air with the time-tested Islam is in danger! cry. A small but secret faction of rebels was formed. It was headed by Ghazi Tughluq, the governor of Dipalpur. He held several rounds of discussions with various powerful people opposed to Khusrav. What rallied the support in his favour was the shrewd use of Islam in danger.
When Khusrav got wind of this, he sent a 40,000-strong force to check Ghazi. In a final decisive battle in September 1320, Ain-ul-Mulk who was on Khusrav’s side deserted him. Khusrav managed to escape but was caught within a day and beheaded.
And so, on September 8, 1320, Ghazi ascended the throne in Delhi and titled himself Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq Shah, the founder of the Tughluq Dynasty.
Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq’s Brief Reign
Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq proved himself an able ruler. He enacted reforms with astonishing speed and filled the royal coffers, which had been emptied successively by Mubarak Shah and Khusrav Khan. The other task was to re-establish Delhi’s supremacy over the Dekkan. Pratapa Rudra had declared himself independent and had amassed vast territories. However, he had underestimated the threat from the Delhi Sultanate because he recklessly continued to wage war against his neighbours and other Hindu kings at the expense of his own safety and survival.
In 1321-22, Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq sent a massive army under his son Prince Juna (Jauna), also known as Ulugh Khan. He quickly laid siege to Pratapa Rudra’s fort at Warangal. But it proved difficult. The Hindus under Pratapa Rudra offered severe resistance and hassled Ulugh Khan’s army to no end. Ulugh Khan simply outwaited him. Resources dangerously running out, Pratapa Rudra called for peace. However, Ulugh grew haughty and pressed harder. This backfired on him because some rumours were spread within the Muslim army, which caused thousands of soldiers and officers to desert him. In the end, Prince Jauna had to return to Delhi after an unsuccessful attempt.
However, he returned again in 1323 and captured Warangal. Pratapa Rudra surrendered. Then he marched towards Jajnagar (somewhere near Orissa), seized the place, and moved on to Rajamundhry. After capturing Rajamundhry, Jauna advanced towards Orissa where he met the fierce army of Bhanu Deva II. The expedition was not entirely successful although Ulugh Khan managed to take a huge booty. The elder Tughluq was obviously pleased. He left Ulugh Khan behind in Delhi to launch successful campaigns against Bihar and Bengal. Towards the end of his campaign, he received disturbing news.
His son, Prince Ulugh Khan was planning to usurp the throne.
Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq hurried back to Delhi. According to Ibn Batuta, Ghiyas-ud-din ordered his son to have a grand wooden canopy built in Afghanpur to celebrate his victorious campaign. Ulugh Khan complied accordingly. However, when the father entered it, Ulugh Khan, who had previously arranged for a sort elephant parade, ordered the beasts in. The whole canopy, which was purposely designed to collapse, collapsed on Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq, eventually killing him. Historians are still divided over whether this was an act of murder or simply a bizarre accident.
Three days later, sometime in February-March 1325, Prince Ulugh Khan ascended the throne of Delhi and styled himself Muhammad Bin Tughluq.
A year or so after his ascension, a revolt erupted in faraway Gulbarga paving way for the Second Muslim incursion in the South.
Continued in the next part…