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Ghaisuddin Balban

Balban was an Ilbari Turk. His original name was Bahauddin. In his youth he was imprisoned and sold as a slave in Baghdad by the Mogols. Then Iltutmish purchased him from his master in 1233. He enjoyed high posts during Iltutmish and Razia’s reign, but he proved treacherous and played an important role to depose Razia from the throne. Bahram Shah and Masud Shah also gave him enormous importance. Then vazir Abu bakr appointed him Amir- i- Hajib and from that position he got the opportunity to consolidate his position among ‘the forty’ (the Turkish nobles).


Balban was one of the greatest Sultans of Delhi. A great warrior, administrator and statesman, he established an absolute monarchy and consolidated the Turkish rule in northern India. He did not resort to the fresh conquests but kept a firm hold over the territories heritage of his illustrious master, Iltutmish. Balban protected the Sultanate from internal disorder and external danger from the Mongols. He restored perfect law and order within his dominion and crushed the insubordinate officials and anti- social elements with an iron hand. He not only propounded the theory of divine rights of kingship but also possessed a high sense of the sovereign’s duty. He was extremely conscious and hardworking man. He administered even- handed justice to the public and showed no mercy even to his kith and kin if found guilty. His punishments were rather excessive and cruel which struck terror in the hearts of the people. A strong disciplinarian, Balban demanded abject submission and loyalty from the nobility in the administrative affairs. Balban had been a member of the group of ‘the forty’ and participated in their struggle against the Sultan for power. Thus he was also responsible for breaking the power of the Sultan. Now after coming to power, he was of the view that the dignity of the Sultan and safety of his family could be possible only by breaking the power of ‘the forty’.


Even during the reign of Nasiruddin, when he worked as Naib, he tried to break up the power of ‘the forty’. When he himself became the Sultan he again used every mean to achieve this aim. By the time Balban ascended the throne; most of his nobles had either died or were destroyed by Balban. The rest who remained alive, were now killed or deprived of their power. He promoted junior Turkish officers to higher posts so that they could be loyal to him. Similarly a strong army was a necessity for a strong monarchy. Balban realized its necessity to make his despotism effective, to safeguard his empire from the invasion of the Mongols and to quell rebellions. He increased the number of officers and soldiers of his army, paid them handsome salaries took personal interest in their training. Balban also instructed to have an inquiry about the lands and jagirs which were given to different people by previous Sultans in return of their military services and came to know that many of them were kept by those old men, widows and orphans who performed no services to the State, and arranged cash pensions for them. Even the land and jagirs of those who were serving for the State, were handed over to the care of State officers and arrangements were made for cash payments to them. But later, on the plea of lower class, Balban cancelled his orders about the aged, the widows and the orphans and thus, a useful measure was dropped. The administration of Balban was half military and half civil. All his officers were supposed to perform both administrative and military duties. Balban himself kept a control over the entire administration. There was no post of Naib during his reign and the position of wazir too had become insignificant. Therefore, Balban owed his success largely due to an efficient organization of his spy- system. The spies used to watch the activities of his governors, military and civil officers and even that of his own sons. Although, Balban was stern and uncompromising but his authority was just, enlightened and tolerant. Balban’s achievement entitled him to a high place among the Sultans of Delhi.

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