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'Ala-ud-din Khalji (r. 1296-1316) took power by raiding wealthy Devagiri in the Deccan region, and he expanded and centralized the Delhi Sultanate. According to the historian Barani, after his authority was established, 'Ala-ud-din arrested the former officers of Jalal-ud-din who had joined him; some were imprisoned, some were blinded, and others were killed. His imperial army subjugated Rajasthan and Ranthambhor, gaining tribute to finance his administration. In 1303 at Chitor 30,000 surrendered and were slain by swords. 'Ala-ud-din's conquest of Chitor was later romanticized by his desire to possess the queen there. After a horde of 120,000 Mongol cavalry led by Targhi raided Delhi, 'Ala-ud-din organized a standing army for defense that included 475,000 cavalry. To pay for this, he increased taxes to fifty percent of the produce and imposed price controls and rationing in Delhi to control inflation. After a small army was sent to conquer Mandu, invading Mongols were badly defeated as the prisoners were beheaded.
Rich Devagiri was defeated and plundered again for withholding tribute and with Ramachandra's cooperation became a base of operations in the Deccan for southern invasions. After besieging and taking Siwana, Jalor, and Warangal, the Khalji army, led by the Sultan's Indian slave commander Malik Kafur, invaded Ma'bar from Devagiri in 1311. They returned with immense amounts of gold and other booty even though the Pandya princes did not submit. After the Mongol commander Abachi tried to kill Kafur, Khalji had him executed. Believing that thousands of Mongols in Delhi were conspiring to kill him, the Sultan ordered all Mongols arrested, and about 20,000 were reported to have been executed. When Ramachandra died and his successor Singhana II asserted independence, Kafur's army defeated and killed the Devagiri king, though not all the Yadava kingdom was subjugated. 'Ala-ud-din used a labor force of 70,000 Hindus for construction projects. As the Sultan's health declined, Kafur arranged to have ambitious family members killed. The historian Barani wrote that the conflict between Malik Kafur and the heir Khidr Khan's uncle Alp Khan destroyed 'Ala-ud-din's regime. The Sultan connived at Alp Khan's murder in the palace, and Khidr Khan was imprisoned.
When 'Ala-ud-din died in 1316, Kafur became regent for a child of six; but his plot to blind 'Ala-ud-din's third son Mubarak led to his own death instead. Mubarak began his reign by proclaiming an amnesty, rewarding his loyal soldiers, and making a Gujarat slave Hasan Khusrau Khan prime minister (wazir). After a plot to assassinate him failed, Mubarak began executing prominent relatives, including the able governor of Gujarat, Zafar Khan. The Delhi sultanate became independent of the Baghdad caliphate as Mubarak declared himself head of the Muslim faith. After campaigning in the south, Khusrau returned to Delhi to have Sultan Mubarak assassinated. Khusrau Khan executed hostile nobles and married a wife of Mubarak. However, a revolt led by Dipalpur governor Ghazi Tughluq raised an army that defeated Khusrau's forces; Khusrau was beheaded; and in 1320 the new Sultan was called Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq Shah.
Tughluq restored some administration to the Delhi sultanate by appointing honest governors and reducing taxation to one-tenth of the gross produce, while his son and successor conquered the Pandyas in the south and took Madura. Tughluq invaded and annexed Bengal and Tirhut but died when a pavilion collapsed on him. Muhammad bin Tughluq ruled from his father's death in 1325 until 1351. Muhammad had to fight rebellions by his nephew Gurshasp and the king of Kampili. Multiplying taxes in the Doab led to thousands dying in famine; those who tried to leave their homes were punished. Muhammad bin Tughluq was also criticized for forcing people to move from Delhi to a new capital at Devagiri renamed Daulatabad. He was unable to suppress a rebellion that broke out in Madura of Ma'bar in 1334. A confederacy of 75 Hindu chiefs led by Kapaya Nayaka, Hoysala king Ballala III, and Chalukya Somadeva rose up south of the Krishna River and in Andhra and Telingana, defeating Muslim forces that had to abandon Warangal. Vijayanagar became independent in 1336 and would in forty years take over the independent sultanate of Madura that was established at this time. Bengal became independent in 1338.
In Kampili people withheld taxes and surrounded the Muslim governor in his headquarters. The Sultan's imperial army conquered Nagarkot the next year. When they invaded Qarachal in the Himalayan region, the Hindus found refuge in the mountains and attacked the army that had been devastated by disease until only three officers remained, according to Ibn Battuta, a judge in Delhi at the time. Rebellions in the Jat and Rajput regions were put down though, and the leaders were taken to Delhi to become Muslims. The generous but vindictive Muhammad Tughluq told the historian Barani that the more people opposed him, the greater would be the punishments. Attempting to crush rebellion, Muhammad bin Tughluq approved when his Malwa governor 'Aziz beheaded eighty centurions for being "foreigners"; but this caused more insurrection in Daulatabad and Gujarat. Foreign emirs about to suffer the same fate revolted and took over most of Maharashtra. While the Sultan spent the rest of his life suppressing the Gujarat rebellion led by Taghi, an independent Bahmani kingdom was established in the Deccan in 1347.
Muhammad bin Tughluq was praised by Muslim historians for his learning and for providing hospitals and housing for widows and orphans. Though he was kind and just to Muslims, he often had Hindus refusing to convert tortured and killed. The Sultan had at least 20,000 Turkish slaves and kept 1200 musicians in his service in addition to a thousand slave musicians. He threatened to kill any who played music for anyone else. One day he killed nine people, including one musician, for failing to say prayers in congregation.
The Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, hearing that Delhi sultan Muhammad Tughluq gave his guests greater gifts than he received, borrowed money so that he could present more than thirty horses and white slaves. On his way to Delhi in 1334 Battuta's caravan was attacked by 82 Hindu bandits; they fought them off, killing 13. At Delhi Muhammad's army was crushing a peasant tax rebellion. Battuta was given a stipend of 5,000 silver dinars from the revenue of two and half villages. While the average Hindu family lived on 5 dinars a month and soldiers were paid about 20, Battuta was given 12,000 a year with a 12,000 advance to be a judge even though he had no experience in law and could hardly speak Persian; two Hanafi scholars were appointed to assist him. Battuta noticed that every day hundreds of people came chained and fettered to be executed, tortured, or beaten. He reported that when 300 men stayed behind the army going to fight Hindus in the mountains, they were all taken and killed. In spite of his salary, Battuta ran his debts up to 55,000, which he got the Sultan to pay for him. When a servant was accused of stealing and drinking wine and said he had not drunk wine for eight years, Battuta ordered eighty lashes, the shari'a punishment for imbibing wine.
A Chisti Sufi named Shihab al-Din was tortured and beheaded by the Sultan for refusing to appear in court and then for calling him a tyrant. Because Battuta had visited this shaikh, four slaves were ordered to guard him. Battuta fasted for several days, praying and reading the Qur'an. After a penitent five months in a Sufi retreat, he requested leave to go on pilgrimage, but a few weeks later the Sultan appointed him an ambassador to the Mongol court of China. The gifts he was to take included 200 Hindu slaves. On the Doab plain they were attacked by Hindu insurgents; the imperial cavalry killed all 4,000 of them while losing 78 men, according to Battuta, who was separated, captured, and barely escaped being killed by brigands. Battuta also luckily escaped the drowning fate of most of the embassy when a Chinese junk sank off Calicut harbor in 1342. Battuta eventually made his way to the southern Maldive islands, where he was appointed chief judge and plotted for political supremacy by marrying four prominent women. He horrified the natives by ordering the right hand of a thief cut off according to Islamic law, and he could get the women to wear clothes above the waist only in his courtroom. Finally he made it to Ma'bar, where he observed Muslim rulers impaling Hindus in violation of the Qur'an.
Muhammad Tughluq's cousin Firuz Shah was sultan from 1351 to 1388. He began by remitting oppressive taxes and canceling the bloody punishments of the previous regime. Firuz tried twice between 1353 and 1359 with large military campaigns to regain the independent sultanate of Bengal but failed. Bengal prospered under the reign (1359-89) of Sikander. In 1360-61 the army of Firuz massacred men in Orissa, enslaved women, and destroyed the famous Jagannatha temple at Puri. With 90,000 cavalry he set out to avenge the insurrections by the chiefs of Sind. He replaced Gujarat governor Nizam-ul-Mulk for failing to send supplies and guides with Zafar Khan but then chose Damaghani because he promised to send more money. Rebellion of zamindars (landowners) in Etawa was put down in 1377; three years later many Hindus were killed, and 23,000 were captured and enslaved after Katehr king Kharku murdered the Sayyid Badaun governor and his two brothers.
Firuz wrote a book about royal duties and educated and trained slaves; it was said he had 180,000 slaves for his maintenance and comfort. To improve irrigation Firuz had four major canals constructed and 150 wells dug. Historian Firishta credited him with building 50 dams, 30 reservoirs, 40 mosques, 30 colleges, 20 palaces, 200 towns, 100 hospitals, and 150 bridges. He simplified the legal system and decreased the use of spies. To atone for the sins of Muhammad Tughluq, he sent gifts to the heirs of those who had been killed or mutilated. He provided clerical work for the unemployed and established a free hospital near Delhi. However, Firuz also severely discriminated against Hindus, making even Brahmins pay a poll tax from which Muslims were exempt, and no position of influence was held by a Hindu. He also punished heretic Shi'is and burned their books.
At age eighty Firuz associated prince Muhammad Khan in his rule and had his competent chief minister Khan Jahan killed in 1370; but Muhammad allowed a civil war, and the dying Firuz selected his grandson Ghiyas-ud-din as his successor. He neglected state affairs for debauchery and imprisoned his brother, causing his cousin Abu Bakr to have him killed and take the throne. Meanwhile Muhammad Khan oppressed the people of the Doab. During the prolonged civil war as several fought for power in Delhi, Gujarat governor Farhat-ul-Mulk became independent in 1390. Eventually Mallu Iqbal Khan Lodi killed Muqarrab Khan in his house and marched into Delhi in the name of Sultan Mahmud in 1398.
Aware of the civil wars in India, Tatar conqueror Timur the Lame reached Kabul by March 1398. The Tatars then crossed the Indus River to war with infidels for a heavenly reward and to plunder their wealth for worldly gain, besieging Multan for six months. By December, Timur had reached Delhi. With ten thousand men he ravaged the countryside, slaughtering the refugees from Dipalpur, because they had killed the garrison of Pir-Muhammad. The wives and children were captured to become Muslims or slaves, and their property became spoils for the victors. Concerned that his 100,000 prisoners might join his enemies during the battle, this is what it was recorded Timur did:
I directly gave my command for the Tawachis
to proclaim throughout the camp that
every man who had infidel prisoners was to put them to death,
and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed
and his property given to the informer.
When this order became known to the ghazis of Islam,
they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death.
100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain.
Maulana Nasir-ud din 'Umar, a counselor and man of learning,
who, in all his life, had never killed a sparrow,
now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword
fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives.1
A few days later Mahmud and Mallu with 50,000 men opposed the invaders, but they were defeated; Mallu fled to Baran and Mahmud to Gujarat. The next day the Tatar army entered Delhi, and the city was pillaged of immense wealth. Then the Tatar army marched north, slaughtering, raping, and plundering Hindus. In Siwalik, Timur bragged that he won twenty consecutive victories in a month in spite of often being greatly outnumbered. He appointed Khizr Khan governor of Multan, Lahore, and Dipalpur, and in March 1399 crossed back across the Indus.
As Gujarat, Malwa, Jaunpur, and many others were independent, Mallu administered little more than a devastated Delhi. Mahmud returned to Delhi after Mallu died in 1405 and ruled a small kingdom until his death in 1412. Khizr Khan marched on Delhi, defeated Daulat Khan Lodi, and founded the Sayyid dynasty in 1414. The capital recovered as he helped the poor resettle. Shortly before his death in 1421 Khizr Khan raided Mewat. He was succeeded by his son Mubarak Shah (r. 1421-34), who turned back early Mughal incursions. The Delhi kingdom declined during the reigns of Muhammad Shah (1434-45) and 'Ala-ud-din 'Alam Shah (1445-51). During the decline of the Delhi sultanate, the kingdom of Jaunpur rose to equal power under Ibrahim Sharqi (r. 1402-40) and his son Mahmud Shah, who invaded Bengal and Orissa.
'Ala-ud-din 'Alam Shah retired in 1452 so that Afghan Buhlul Khan could take over the Delhi sultanate. Buhlul was a Lodi chief who had become more powerful than Muhammad Shah while helping him in the invasion of Malwa. He put the minister Hamid Khan in prison and fought off Mahmud Shah Sharqi of Jaunpur in 1452. Five years later Mahmud was defeated and killed by his brother Husain. Jaunpur then waged war continuously against Buhlul, who had less men and resources but won by military skill and annexed part of Jaunpur by 1479. Buhlul thus revived the Delhi sultanate with an Afghan confederacy. He appointed his son Barbak Shah viceroy of Jaunpur in 1486 and died three years later. Barbak was so far away from Delhi that his brother Nizam became Sultan Sikander Shah (r. 1489-1517). Barbak rejected his rule but was defeated. Sikander restored his brother as governor; but after Barbak failed to quell rebellions, he was arrested and replaced. Sikander used diplomacy to control most of the region and made a treaty with Bengal's 'Ala-ud-din Husain Shah. Muslim historians praised him for being kind to the poor, patronizing learning, dispensing justice impartially, founding the city of Agra in 1504, and maintaining economic prosperity with low prices; but religious intolerance did cause him to raze Hindu temples and erect mosques.
Sikander's son Ibrahim (r. 1517-26) came into conflict with
Afghan immigrants who expected equality with their Afghan ruler.
When his younger brother Jalal Khan tried to divide the kingdom
in the east, Ibrahim defeated him and had him executed. Ibrahim
also imprisoned his own ally A'zam Hamayun Sarwani, causing his
son Islam Khan Sarwani to lead a revolt with 40,000 men; but Ibrahim
would not compromise, and in the battle Islam Khan and 10,000
Afghans were killed. While Ibrahim was fighting rebels in the
east, Punjab governor Daulat Khan Lodi appealed to Babur, the
Mughal ruler in Kabul. Ibrahim's army was defeated in 1524, and
he was killed two years later when Babur took over with the help
of Mewar, which under Sanga (r. 1509-28) had become the most powerful
kingdom in northern India. Sanga hoped to become Sultan, but Babur
decided to stay.
The caste system infected the Muslims, as they essentially formed a top caste of Arabs, Turks, Afghans, and Persians over an upper caste of Hindu converts and two occupational castes, one of which was considered "unclean." Women of upper caste Hindus were secluded in purdah as well as the Muslim women, though the poor who worked were not much affected by this. Some radical Muslim mystics called Sufis were not afraid to challenge orthodox doctrine and customs for liberal ideals. The poll tax imposed on Hindus for "permission" to live in their homeland by Muslim rulers and the many restrictions on their behavior severely separated these two religious groups in a way that the tolerant spiritual tradition of India never knew before. Many Muslims considered it lawful to take the lives and possessions of Hindus for even minor infractions. Ibn Battuta observed that half the crops of the "protected" Hindus were taken by the state. He described horrible cruelties perpetrated against Hindus by the sultan of Ma'bar, whose death he believed God hastened, and he noted that communal violence between Muslims and Malabar residents was frequent.
For all their forced conversions of others to Islam, the Muslims believed that anyone renouncing Islam or persuading anyone to do so deserved death. Many Hindus treated Muslims as polluted untouchables, as the hatred became mutual. Though the Muslims did not have the social prejudices of the caste system, their religious intolerance persecuted Hindus. The Hindus generally followed the bigotry of the traditional caste customs, but they were usually much more tolerant of religious differences. The mystical Sufis had much influence on the Hindu mystics.
The sultan and his provincial governors exercised autocratic power by using the military to enforce their will. They also made the laws and judged them, appointing Muslim qazis, who judged according to the Qur'an. Sultans and governors often relied on their vizier or prime minister. He oversaw the departments of the military, appeals, correspondence, slaves, and justice. 'Ala-ud-din Khalji founded a department of tax collection, and Sultan Tughluq created a department of agriculture. Firuz Shah is credited with starting departments for charity and pensions. The laws were severe, and the penalties of death and mutilation were common; torture was used to get confessions. Governmental administration was enhanced by the increasing use of paper for documentation. Muslim merchants controlled most of the overseas trade. India had a favorable balance of trade, acquiring precious metals, horses for military use, black slaves and ivory from Africa, and other consumption items. Their main exports were cotton cloth, spices, narcotics, and agricultural commodities. Hindu communities had a long tradition of guilds and crafts based on caste that developed commerce. Sultans at Delhi employed as many as 4,000 weavers of silk for royal income.
The major book on the political philosophy of the Delhi Sultanate is the Principles of Government (Fatawa-i Jahandari) by the historian Khwaja Zia-ud-din Barani. He was an aristocratic Muslim but was unable to get a post in the government of 'Ala-ud-din Khalji. Barani did serve in the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq from the tenth year of his reign; but when Firuz Shah became Sultan, the seventy-year-old Barani was imprisoned five months for supporting the rebellion of Khwaja-i Jahan and had his property confiscated.
Barani spent his last eight or nine years in poverty writing his famous history Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi, which covers the first century of the Delhi Sultanate up to 1357, and his political treatise. Because of his extreme poverty he had to write both of these works mostly from memory. Hoping to improve his situation, his history of Firuz Shah's early reign is filled with praise and flattery even for policies he criticized elsewhere. In his history Barani recalled specific conversations he had with Sultan Tughluq. In one he was asked about capital punishment, and to the three crimes for which the Prophet prescribed capital punishment-apostasy, murder, and adultery-Barani added the four crimes kings must punish with the death penalty as conspiracy to rebel, rebellion, aiding the king's enemies, and disobedience that endangers the state. Tughluq replied that he was executing people for every slight disobedience and planned to continue doing so until they perished or their rebellion ended. After the Sultan had crushed a rebellion in the Deccan, Barani wrote that he did not have the courage to say that he believed the Sultan's excessive capital punishments had caused hatred and the rebellion.
Barani complained that Tughluq appointed Hindus and men of low birth to high offices. He definitely looked at Muslim government from the perspective of his aristocratic class, and he very much resented the Muslim slaves (sultani) in the government and hated Hindus even more. His bias was so strong that he even considered religious piety the privilege of good birth. He argued that state offices should be hereditary. Barani also hated philosophers, scientists, heretics, and low-born Muslims as well as Hindus, against whom he advocated war. Yet the economic system of India was primarily managed by the upper caste Hindus. Although his own history was based on his personal observations and is respected, his erroneous ideas of other history seem to have been based on many histories that were fabricated to make money and which naturally have been lost as worthless.
In his work on government, Fatawa-i Jahandari, Barani used the sultan Mahmud of Ghazni as his spokesman and thus was not able to give examples later than the 11th century. Barani emphasized the importance of good counsel and listed the conditions of good consultation as frank expression by counselors, who should be permanent, aware of state secrets, and have perfect security. The king should begin by keeping his opinions secret. Discussion should be held before eating in order to have clear heads, and unanimous decisions by the counselors are recommended. To avoid tyranny the king should make correct determinations for the general welfare and avoid weakness in carrying them out. Although rulers are not perfect, Barani believed they need force and authority to enforce justice among the people. A king is allowed some injustice in regard to expenditure in order to maintain himself. Barani emphasized the importance of grading the ranks of the officials in order to elevate the worthy nobles, and he argued that elevating the base-born is a disgraceful mistake. Kings are obligated to appoint intelligence officers. Because of the demonic in the world, Barani believed that early days of the four pious Caliphs were past.
Barani believed that prices should be controlled according to the costs of production; this would especially aid the efficiency of the army as well as others. Barani wanted to establish Islamic truth at the center, but he knew that falsehood could not be completely destroyed. Yet to honor theism he advocated slaughtering the Brahmins in India. He also urged prohibiting the education of the lower orders lest they become more capable. These offensive polices are contrasted to the qualities he listed that the wise have recommended for judges which begins with kinship with the oppressed, desire to protect the weak, hatred of the unjust, and enmity to oppressors. A good judge has no feeling of revenge, does not tolerate wrongs, trembles lest the innocent be punished, is not influenced by anyone, does not seek approval, does not consider harm to himself, is incapable of self-deception, is stern for the claims of others but forgiving for one's personal concerns, does not obligate himself to others, and he instinctively rejects deceptions, lies, false excuses, and tricks.
A king must recognize the rights of the people. The king should not interfere with the punishments of Islamic law (shari'at), but the death penalty in political trials should only be inflicted in extreme cases. The king must also establish and enforce permanent state laws. First, these must protect the religion of Islam. Second, sins and shameful deeds must be suppressed. Third, rules of the shari'at must be enforced. Fourth, justice must be enforced. Barani added to this the right of those of noble birth to govern, and he held that non-Muslims are to be considered enemies and could be plundered by force. The permanent state laws should be made with the benefit of counsel from men of learning and intelligence. The king should be characterized by high resolve, which to Barani meant generosity not miserliness. He warned that if the king afflicts his subjects with exactions that are too harsh, they will be unable to comply and will rebel. All religions consider severe exactions wrong, and they are injurious to the state. The king must have contradictory qualities in order to be able to handle the virtuous and the wicked.
To justify the privileges of the high-born, Barani argued that
merits are apportioned to souls and that aptitude is hereditary.
He believed that only those in the nobler professions are capable
of virtues such as kindness, generosity, valor, truthfulness,
keeping promises, protecting other classes, loyalty, justice,
gratitude, and fear of God. He held that protecting the old families
was to the advantage of the king. The king should avoid the five
mean qualities of falsehood, changeability, deception, wrath,
and promotion of the unjust. Barani noted that Mu'awiya established
Muslim monarchy by organizing a governing class from noble Arab
clans, by giving the ruler the right to nominate his successor,
and by organizing a group of religious scholars. Although Barani
favored hereditary rights, he was unable to define a noble family.
The discrimination that the Muslims practiced against the Hindus and other non-Muslims in India is clearly defined in the following passage about the treatment of what they called "protected people" (zimmis) from the work of the Sufi Shaikh Hamadani, who took Islam to Kashmir:
There is another mandate relating to those subjects who are unbelievers and protected people (zimmis). For their governance, the observance of those conditions which the Caliph 'Umar laid in his agreement for establishing the status of the fire-worshippers and the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) and which gave them safety is obligatory on rulers and governors. Rulers should impose these conditions on the zimmis of their dominions and make their lives and their property dependent on their fulfillment. The twenty conditions are as follows:
1. In a country under the authority of a Muslim ruler, they are to build no new homes for images or idol temples.
2. They are not to rebuild any old buildings which have been destroyed.
3. Muslim travelers are not to be prevented from staying in idol temples.
4. No Muslim who stays in their houses will commit a sin if he is a guest for three days, if he should have occasion for the delay.
5. Infidels may not act as spies or give aid and comfort to them.
6. If any of their people show any inclinations toward Islam, they are not to be prevented from doing so.
7. Muslims are to be respected.
8. If zimmis are gathered together in a meeting and Muslims appear, they are to be allowed at the meeting.
9. They are not to dress like Muslims.
10. They are not to give each other Muslim names.
11. They are not to ride on horses with saddle and bridle.
12. They are not to possess swords and arrows.
13. They are not to wear signet rings and seals on their fingers.
14. They are not to sell and drink intoxicating liquor openly.
15. They must not abandon the clothing which they have had as a sign of their state of ignorance so that they may not be distinguished from Muslims.
16. They are not to propagate the customs and usages of polytheists among Muslims.
17. They are not to build their homes in the neighborhood of those of Muslims.
18. They are not to bring their dead near the graveyards of Muslims.
19. They are not to mourn their dead with loud voices.
20. They are not to buy Muslim slaves.
At the end of the treaty it is written that if zimmis infringe any of these conditions, they shall not enjoy security and it shall be lawful for Muslims to take their lives and possessions as though they were the lives and possessions of unbelievers in a state of war with the faithful.2
In the Rajput states the heroic Hammir led a revolt about 1340 to recover Mewar. Marwar became independent under Chunda (r. 1390-1422), who made an alliance with Mewar. After his father Mokal was murdered while going to fight invading Gujarat in 1433, the renowned Kumbha became Rana and ruled Mewar for nearly forty years. Ranamalla gained the throne of Mandor and brought reforms to Marwar for a decade before he was assassinated in 1438. His son Jodha (r. 1438-88) had seventeen sons, and they fought over the throne when he died; Suja won the struggle in 1491, and Ganga emerged triumphant in 1515 and ruled Marwar until 1532. Mewar fought off attacks by Muslim-ruled Gujarat in the late 1450s. Khumba was a poet but was assassinated by his son Udaya Karan. The horrified nobles placed Udaya's brother Rayamalla on the throne of Mewar, and he was succeeded by his warrior son Sanga (r. 1509-28). He made Mewar the most powerful Rajput state with a series of victorious wars. Sanga called in the help of Babur against the Delhi sultan; but the invading Mughals refused to leave and founded their empire in India in 1526.
In independent Malwa, Hushang Shah (r. 1406-35) poisoned his weak father, invaded Gujarat twice without success, stole 75 elephants from Orissa king Bhanudeva IV, and captured Kherla's king. His son murdered and blinded his relatives and was soon deposed by his minister Mahmud Khalji (r. 1436-69), who fought unsuccessful wars with Gujarat, Delhi, Chitor, the Bahmani, and Mewar. In 1466 Mahmud did manage to ravage Ellichpur. His son Ghiyas-ud-din (r. 1469-1500) was more peaceful, being preoccupied with his harem of 1600 women. His sons quarreled over the throne, and Nasir-ud-din ruled badly for eleven years. Nasir's chosen son Mahmud II (r. 1511-31) faced external threats and internal strife between Hindus and Muslims after he appointed the Rajput chief Medini Rai. In 1517 after Medini Rai refused to be dismissed, Mahmud escaped to Gujarat, whose king Muzaffar with his army helped restore Mahmud as king of Malwa. Medini Rai was helped by an army led by Chitor's Maharana Sanga which captured wounded Mahmud, who was released but lost Malwa territory.
In Bengal the Brahmin Ganesh took power but soon abdicated to his son Jadu, who converted to Islam and ruled as Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Shah from about 1415 to his death in 1431. Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Shah (r. 1437-59) ruled peacefully but may have lost territory to Orissa. Rukn-ud-din Barbak Shah (r. 1459-74) maintained many Abyssinian (Ethiopian) slaves, and some of them held high offices. When Jalal-ud-din Fath Shah (r. 1481-87) punished the excesses of the Abyssinians, the commander of the palace guards assassinated him and took the throne. Six months later he was replaced by the Abyssinian commander of the army, setting a Bengal precedent that the one killing the king's murderer had the right to rule. Abyssinian rule ended when the tyrannical Sultan Muzaffar was overthrown by his minister 'Ala-ud-din Husain Shah (r. 1493-1519). He disbanded the royal guards and expelled Abyssinians from the kingdom of Bengal. Husain reigned over a more peaceful era, though he fought a protracted war to regain lost provinces from Orissa and invaded Assam in 1498. His son Nusrat Shah (r. 1519-32) conquered Tirhut and patronized Bengali literature.
Gujarat governor Muzaffar declared independence from Delhi in 1401. Two years later he was imprisoned by his son Tatar Khan, who wanted to march on Delhi; but Tatar was poisoned by his uncle Shams Khan. He restored Muzaffar, who was recognized as shah before being succeeded by his grandson Ahmad Shah (1411-43). In 1414 he began destroying Hindu temples throughout Gujarat, provoking rebellions by Hindu kings to form a league and appeal to Sultan Hushang of Malwa. Ahmad's army dispersed the Hindu kings and invaded Malwa three times by 1422 to punish Hushang. In 1426 Ahmad suppressed the resistance of Idar, whose ruler Rao Punja was killed fighting in the hills two years later. In 1429 Jhalawar king Kanha got Bahmani shah Ahmad to invade Gujarat; but after plundering Nandurbar, the Deccan army was defeated and fled to Daulatabad. The war lasted two years, and Gujarat annexed territory. During this strife Ahmad did manage to build the city of Ahmadabad. He was succeeded by his son Muhammad Shah II, who continued the battles against Hindu rebels and died in 1451. Qutb-ud-din Ahmad Shah (r. 1451-58) also fought Hindu rebellions by Maharana Kumbha and encroachment by Malwa sultan Mahmud Khalji. Sultan Qutb-ud-din invaded Mewar in 1456 and again two years later.
Ahmad's grandson Mahmud Begarha (r. 1458-1511) protected the infant Bahmani king Nizam Shah by driving off the invading Malwa forces of Mahmud Khalji in 1461. Six years later Gujarat's Mahmud Begarha invaded the territory of Girnar king Mandalika. In a second attack in 1469 Mahmud forced Mandalika to accept Islam, and his kingdom was annexed to Gujarat. Mahmud fought Hindus so often that in 1480 his advisors conspired to replace him with his son; but Mahmud promised to go on pilgrimage to Mecca and in 1482 attacked Champaner to gain the needed funds. He stayed to plunder the country and after a long siege captured Pavagarh two years later. The proud Raja Jayasimha refused to convert to Islam and was finally executed as his son accepted Islam. Mahmud renamed Champaner Muhammadabad and was called Begarha for having conquered the two forts of Girnar and Champaner. The Bahmani kingdom returned a favor by helping Begarha to suppress the piracy of Bahadur Gilani in 1494. Begarha invaded Khandesh in 1498 to force them to pay their tribute to Gujarat. Mahmud Begarha tried to limit Portuguese power by allying with Egyptian sultan Qansauh-al-Ghauri. After an initial victory at sea in 1508, the Muslim fleet was defeated the next year near the island of Diu. Begarha ended his alliance with Egypt and released Portuguese prisoners. Begarha was an intolerant Sunni and refused to receive a Persian ambassador. Begarha's son Muzaffar II (r. 1511-26) fought the Rajputs but was criticized for not punishing criminals.
Kashmir was under the Delhi sultanate until Mubarak Shah was assassinated in 1320. Then a Buddhist prince from Ladakh named Rinchan killed his Hindu rival Ram Chand and claimed the throne. Rinchan converted to Islam but died in 1323. Shahmir led the farming landlords and made the Hindu Udayanadeva the ruler of Kashmir and married him to the princess Kota Rani. When Mongols invaded, Udayanadeva fled; but Kota Rani and Shahmir rallied the country to defeat the enemy. Udayanadeva returned but had lost popular support. Shahmir backed Rinchan's son Haidar; but Kota Rani was governing and planned to continue after her husband died in 1339 with support from Bhatta Bhikshana. Shahmir had Bhatta murdered and besieged the Queen until Kota agreed to marry him. Either she was imprisoned, or according to Persian historians she committed suicide on her wedding night. Shahmir proclaimed himself Sultan Shamsuddin, and Kashmir became a Muslim state. He exterminated the rebellious Lavanyas, replacing them with soldiers from the Magre and Chak tribes. Shamsuddin tried to rule justly by only taxing produce at one-sixth. After establishing order he turned the government over to his two sons before dying in 1342.
Shamsuddin's sons fought a civil war in Kashmir until Jamshed was defeated and killed in 1344 when Ali Sher took the throne as Ala-ud-din. He was succeeded by his son Shahab-ud-din (r. 1356-74), who invaded his neighbors and crushed any internal resistance. During the reign of Qutb-ud-din (r. 1374-89) about 600 politically oriented Sufis led by Saiyid Ali Hamadani fled from Timur and entered Kashmir in 1379. Hamadani propagated the Kubrawiya order of Sufis, trying to influence the Sultan and transform Kashmir. The Hindu mystic Lal Ded preached against idolatry and the Tantra of Shaivas. She emphasized self-abnegation in the Supreme by means of yoga and discarded formal Sanskrit rituals, promoting instead education in the vernacular for the masses. She was one of the pioneers of Hindu-Muslim unity by human brotherhood in the unity of God, and this harmonized with the Islam taught by the Sufi Hamadani, who left Kashmir and died in 1384. Lal Ded died about 1390, but she was said to have nurtured Nund Ryosh, who spread the teaching of brotherhood between Muslims and Hindus in his poetry, which was appreciated by Muslims under the name Noorud Din.
The death of Sultan Qutb-ud-din in 1389 was followed by a regency and struggle for power. By 1393 Saiyid Muhammad Hamadani and his fanatical followers had won over young Sultan Sikander. In 1399 Timur's envoys demanded 30,000 horses and an immense amount of silver from Kashmir. Saiyids led by Suha Bhatta persuaded Sikander to demolish and plunder Hindu temples. During a reign of terror Hindus had to choose between exile, death, or converting to Islam, though eventually they were allowed to pay the jizya tax. Large mosques were built from the materials taken from demolished Hindu temples. Suha Batta continued to act as prime minister for Sikander's son Ali Shah (r. 1413-20), and more Hindus were driven out of Kashmir; but after Suha Bhatta died in 1420, a revolt of the Khukhar tribe, led by Jasrath, defeated and killed Ali Shah.
Kashmir was then ruled by Ali Shah's brother Zain-ul-'Abidin (r. 1420-70). Jasrath and his Khukhars helped Kashmir expand into the Punjab and western Tibet. After Raja Bhimdev died in 1423, Jammu became Kashmir's ally. Jasrath made a treaty with Bahlul Lodi in 1441. Zain-ul-'Abidin worked to undo the previous wrongs against Hindus by recalling Brahmins, allowing those forced into Islam to return to their Hindu faith, and proclaiming religious tolerance. Temples were repaired and new ones built; the jizya and cremation taxes were repealed; stipends were even restored to learned Brahmins; and the poisoning of cows was stopped. Local administrators were not allowed to exact money illegally, and the peasants gained needed tax relief as only one-sixth of the land's produce was taken. During the famine of 1460 farmers were given aid, and debts to bankers were voided. For irrigation many canals were built. Excessive prices were prevented by government control. The Sultan ended the death penalty for theft or minor crimes. Theft was reduced by fining the village headman whenever a robbery occurred. Zain-ul-'Abidin founded schools using Persian language. Residential schools were non-sectarian and were endowed with support for teachers, books, clothing, and food. Zain-ul-'Abidin patronized artisans, saints, scholars, poets, and musicians. The Sultan's court became a center of Hindu and Muslim culture as his fame spread.
Zain-ul-'Abidin's son Haidar Shah was an alcoholic and allowed
Luli to persecute the Brahmins and take back the land Haidar's
father had given them. After Haidar Shah slipped while carousing
and died, the minister Malik Ahmad set up Haidar's son Hasan (r.
1472-84) as sultan. He revived the liberal policies of his grandfather,
but the nobles feuded during his reign. Bahram Khan was defeated
in a civil war at Dulipura. Kashmir with Jammu, Rajauri, and Punch
defeated the forces of Tatar Khan Lodi in 1480 and sacked Sialkot.
To pay for the war Hasan Shah debased the currency. Saiyid Mirak
Hasan Baihaqi disregarded Hasan Shah's dying wish to have his
son Fath Khan succeed him and became regent for Hasan's seven-year-old
son Muhammad Shah. Struggles for power caused these two to alternate
as Muhammad was replaced by Fath Khan in 1487, was restored in
1499, was replaced by Fath Khan once more in 1505, and was restored
yet again in 1516. Muhammad was deposed again in 1528 and was
restored for a fourth reign in 1530. This era in Kashmir has been
called a time of political gangsters.
In central Tibet the power of Sakya waned during the reign
(1305-22) of Danyi Zangpo Pal, who had seven wives. Four of his
sons established separate palaces. Changchub Gyaltsen was born
in 1302 and was educated at Sakya for ten years before he returned
to govern Nedong in 1322. He attacked Yazang to try to regain
the territories his uncle had taken over. The dispute dragged
on until Changchub emerged victorious in 1351. Sakya was asked
to mediate, and Changchub allowed himself to be arrested, telling
his people at Nedong not to give in no matter what happened to
him. Changchub was released, and his rights were restored. By
1354 Changchub controlled all of Tibet except Sakya. His rival
Wangtson murdered the Sakya lama in 1358; but Changchub imprisoned
Wangtson, deposed the new lama, and replaced four hundred officials.
Changchub reorganized Tibet into districts, dividing the land
among the farmers equally and fixing the tax at one-sixth of the
crops. Roads and bridges were built, and travelers were so well
protected that it was said an old woman could carry gold safely
anywhere in Tibet. The Mongol custom of execution without a hearing
was replaced by investigations before sentencing. A book was published
with instructions for villages to defend themselves from attacks
and diseases. Changchub died in 1364, and his successors were
monks from his Phamo Drupa family of southern Tibet and governed
well. They replaced the Sakyapa administration, while the Karmapas,
still allied with China, ruled in Kham and southeast Tibet.
The Phamo Drupa ruler Drakpa Gyaltsen (r. 1385-1432) was called the Gongma and patronized Buddhism in Lhasa. Insisting on monastic discipline and an ethical, gradual path, Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) founded the Ganden monastery and the Gelugpa order in 1409, attempting to unify the Mahayana and Tantra schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He had many teachers, and most of them taught each other in a reciprocal teacher-disciple relationship. In his "Abbreviated Points of the Graded Path" Tsongkhapa recommended generosity as a hope to sentient beings and the best way to cut the knot of miserliness. He believed moral discipline is the water to wash away the stains of faulty actions. Patience is the best adornment for the powerful and the perfect ascetic practice for those tormented by delusions; the wise accustom themselves to be patient. He considered meditative concentration the royal power over the mind. Tsongkhapa said that as a yogi he practiced each of these virtues, and he encouraged those seeking liberation to cultivate themselves in the same way.
Two of Tsongkhapa's disciples founded monasteries in Lhasa at Drepung in 1416 and Sera in 1419. While Gongma Drakpa Jungne (r. 1433-44) was devoting himself to religious activities, the Rinpung family gained influence in Tsang when Dondup Dorje conquered Shigatse in 1435. Gelugpa monks blocked efforts to build a Karmapa monastery in Lhasa. Tsongkhapa's nephew Gedun Truppa was a leading disciple; he founded the Trashilhunpo monastery in 1447 and was its abbot when he died in 1474. Tibetans believed that his soul reincarnated as the monk Gedun Gyatso (1475-1542). In 1481 Rinpung leader Donyo Dorje led an attack on Lhasa that failed. Ministers deposed Gongma Kunga Legpa and enthroned Chen-nga Tsenyepa, allowing him to marry. In 1492 Donyo Dorje invaded U and seized three districts. Upset by three executions in 1498, Donyo Dorje captured Lhasa and dismissed the administrator. The Tsang princes through the red-hat Karmapas controlled Lhasa until 1517, but after that there were many battles. Gedun Gyatso founded the Chokhorgyal monastery in 1509.
Ala-ud-din Bahman Shah founded an independent Muslim kingdom in the Deccan in 1347 that attacked Warangal in 1350. He was succeeded in 1358 by his son Muhammad Shah, who fought a defensive war against the allied Hindu states of Vijayanagara and Telingana, forcing them both to make treaties and pay tribute. His son 'Ala-ud-din Mujahid invaded the Vijayanagara kingdom, failed, and ruled the Bahmani kingdom only three years before he was murdered by his cousin Daud in 1378. Daud was soon murdered in revenge and was replaced by his brother Muhammad II (r. 1378-97), who loved peace and learning and managed to avoid foreign wars. When his succeeding son Ghiyas-ud-din appointed immigrant Persians to high offices, he was assassinated within two months. However, Muhammad II's cousin Taj-ud-din Firuz (r. 1397-1422) was able to encourage wider participation and oversee cultural development. He married several Hindu women and appointed Brahmins to high offices. After a major defeat by the forces of Vijayanagara in 1420, the dying Firuz abdicated to his brother Ahmad (r. 1422-36). He annexed most of Telingana in 1425 by defeating and killing the Velema ruler of Warangal; but the Bahmani kingdom was defeated by independent Gujarat in 1430, and learned men devised a peace. His son Ahmad II (r. 1436-58) fought two wars with Vijayanagara but defeated Khandesh in 1438. This gave immigrants (pardesis) more influence; but resentful Deccanis massacred many of them in 1446, though Ahmad II did punish responsible Deccanis.
Humayun (r. 1458-61) was such a cruel tyrant that he was apparently
murdered by his servants while intoxicated. During the reign (1463-82)
of young Muhammad III, prime minister Mahmud Gawan took control
and expanded the Bahmani empire, especially in the west, where
the port of Goa was gained. He increased the Sultan's control
by breaking up the four provinces into eight with direct military
command, but he tried to divide offices between the rival Deccanis
and pardesis. After a devastating famine, Muhammad invaded
Orissa in 1478. Three years later they plundered lucrative temples
in Vijayanagara. Resentful nobles accused the upstart Mahmud Gawan
of treason, and the alcoholic Muhammad had him executed and died
in remorse the next year. The leading conspirator Malik Na'ib
was regent for young Shihab-ud-Din Mahmud (r.1482-1518); but conflicts
between Deccanis and the pardesis caused the Abyssinian
governor of Bidar to put to death Malik in 1486. The next year
Deccanis made an attempt on Mahmud's life, and he reacted by letting
the pardesis slaughter Deccanis. Governors began ignoring
Mahmud's request to put down rebellions. The divided country suffered
local wars. In 1501 Sultan Mahmud declared annual holy war (jihad)
against Vijayanagara, but in 1509 their new king Krishna Deva
Raya defeated the Muslim Bahmanis. The last Bahmani ruler Kalimullah
Shah failed to get help from Babur and died in 1527.
The Delhi sultanate did not hold south India very long. After the fall of Kampili in 1327, the captured brothers Harihara and Bukka were taken to Delhi and converted to Islam before returning as governors of Kampili. The liberation of southern India from Muslim rule began as soon as Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq left the region in 1329. The Sultan returned to suppress rebellion at Warangal in 1334; but a cholera epidemic caused him to retreat to Daulatabad, allowing the governor of Ma'bar to declare the independent Madura sultanate the next year. The strong Hindu chief Ballala III forced the Muslim governor of Warangal to flee to Delhi.
Advised by Vidyaranya to follow Hindu dharma, Harihara and Bukka renounced Islam and in 1336 founded what came to be called the Vijayanagara kingdom after the City of Victory they built. Harihara I became king, and Bukka's army conquered Hoysala in 1343 after its king Ballala III had been treacherously killed by the forces of Madura's sultan. Ten years later the Hindu allies defeated the Madura sultan and put Sambuvaraya back on that throne, though eventually Bukka I (r. 1356-77) took over the Tamil country. Vijayanagara's long series of border wars with the Bahmanis began in 1358. When a dispute arose between Vaisnavas and Jains, Bukka took the opportunity to proclaim in Vijayanagara the equal protection of all religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He replaced regionally governing nephews with his sons and generals to maintain central authority.
Bukka was succeeded as Vijayanagara king by his son Harihara II (r. 1377-1404), who suppressed his relatives and conquered the western ports of Goa, Chaul, and Dabhol on the commercially important Malabar coast; then he fought to extend his empire to the east coast as well. A major war with the Muslim Bahmani kingdom forced the Vijayanagara army to retreat from the Krishna River to the capital as many Hindus were slaughtered; they made an uneasy peace in 1399 as widespread famine devastated the Deccan. Vijayanagara king Devaraya I won a succession struggle against his two brothers and spent most of his reign (1406-22) fighting Bahmani sultans, the Velamas of Rachakonda, and the Reddis of Kondavidu; he imported horses from Arabia and Persia and was the first Hindu to employ Turkish archers. Devaraya II (r. 1422-46) reconquered lost Reddi territory by winning over the Velamas and defeating the Gajapatis; he also fought a series of wars with the Bahmani kingdom and gained tribute from Sri Lanka. The demands his soldiers made on farmers, merchants, and artisans caused these traditional rivals of the Tamil plain to unite and revolt in 1429. To strengthen his army against Bahmani attacks, Devaraya II made Muslims eligible for the army and tolerated the practice of Islam. He centralized the power of the Vijayanagara state by controlling the traditional chiefs.
However, Vijayanagara royal rule decreased under his son Mallikarjuna (r. 1446-65) and his cousin Virupaksha (r. 1465-85) as they lost territory to the Bahmanis while governors asserted more independence. Orissa's Kapilendra and Purushottama (r. 1467-97) fought a series of wars with Vijayanagara even though both kingdoms were ruled by Hindus. Purushottama took advantage of turmoil in the Bahmani realm to reconquer Udayagiri for Orissa in 1481. Narasimha Saluva of Chandragiri seized the throne of Vijayanagara, fought to consolidate his power, and pushed back encroachments by Orissa. When he died in 1490, Narasimha appointed his prime minister Narasa Nayaka regent for his two young sons, and he invaded the declining Bahmani sultanate. Narasa also defeated rebellions and captured Madura. He was succeeded by his son Vira Narasimha (r. 1503-09) as the two Saluva princes were killed. Vira relieved people by abolishing the marriage tax.
Vira's brother Krishna Deva Raya (r. 1509-29) increased the power of the Vijayanagara kingdom by subordinating chieftains. In 1512 he captured Raichur in Bijapur. The Vaisnava mystic Chaitanya had persuaded Orissa's Prataparudra (r. 1497-1540) not to invade the Muslim kingdom of Bengal for having destroyed Hindu temples in Orissa; but Prataparudra came into conflict with Vijayanagara by attacking Kanchi. In a five-year war Krishna Deva won back territory from Orissa, but he gave everything north of the Krishna River back when he made peace in 1518 and married an Orissa princess. During this war Bijapur regained Raichur; but Krishna Deva recaptured it in 1520. He was known to make sure the wounded were cared for after a battle, and he is also credited with reducing taxes. Forests were cut down so that more land could be cultivated. Krishna Deva allowed the Portuguese to trade in Vijayanagara so he could gain horses. He patronized learning and respected all Hindu sects; he especially sponsored the flourishing of literature in Telegu. He wrote that he tried to rule justly by appointing capable ministers, extracting metals from mines, taxing moderately, crushing his enemies by force, protecting all his subjects, ending the mixing of castes, elevating the Brahmins, strengthening his fortress, and purifying his cities.
Agriculture flourished in the Vijayanagara empire. They exported
cloth, rice, iron, saltpeter, sugar and spices for horses, elephants,
pearls, copper, coral, mercury, china, silks, and velvet. High
duties were charged on imported cloth and oil to protect local
products. The upper classes lived very well, but the poor were
heavily taxed. The wealthy often had several wives, who often
burned themselves to death on their husband's funeral pyre in
ritual sati. Temples used their wealth to give loans to
individuals and villages, increasing it by charging 12-30% interest.
The guilds of artisans were not as powerful as those of the merchants,
but landowners and officials at court had even more power than
Sri Lanka was being ruled by the Pandyan king Kulasekera (r.
1268-1308); but civil war and invasion by Muslims ended the Pandya
kingdom by 1323. Bhuvanekabahu II (r. 1293-1302) seized power
at Kurunegala and was succeeded by his son Parakramabahu IV (r.
1302-26); but by the end of his reign rebellion became turmoil.
In the 1340s and 1350s two brothers tried to rule the south at
the same time until a nephew Vikramabahu III (r. 1357-74) gained
the throne and came to terms with Marttanda in north Sri Lanka.
The trading Alaghkkonaras migrated from southern India. The chief
minister Nissanka Alaghkkonara and his two brothers consorted
with Vikramabahu's sister; their son was Bhuvanekabahu V (r. 1372-1408),
though Nissanka was the real ruler until he died in 1386. His
son Vira Alakasvera took power, lost it, and regained it in 1399;
but struggle for control weakened the Alakasvera family.
The Chinese explorer Zhenghe (Cheng Ho) arrived to get the Buddha's tooth relic but left without it in 1406. Zhenghe came back five years later, abducted Vira Alakasvera, and took him to China. By the time the captives were brought back, Parakramabahu VI (r. 1411-65) had taken power; he sent envoys to China with tribute five times. He established a capital at Kotte in 1415 and on his second attempt drove the Jaffna king off Sri Lanka. Parakramabahu was the last king to govern the entire island. About 1432 King Devaraya II of Vijayanagara invaded northern Sri Lanka but was stopped by Parakramabahu's forces in the south. Late in his reign Parakramabahu crushed an insurrection led by Jotiya Sitana in the Gampola mountains but let a Gampola prince govern there.
A succession struggle and a protracted Sinhalese rebellion disturbed Sri Lanka, which was eventually divided by three regional rulers. Senasammata Vikramabahu (r. 1469-1511) held the highlands. Northern Jaffna was ruled by Pararajasekeran (r. 1478-1519). After Bhuvanekabahu VI died in 1477, his son Vira Parakramabahu (r. 1477-89) faced revolts; these were quelled by Dharma Parakramabahu IX (r. 1489-1513) as they tried to govern the southwest. A major succession struggle occurred when Vijayabahu VI (r. 1513-21) tried to leave his throne to his youngest son by his second wife; but the three older princes by his first wife got the Udarata ruler Jayavira (r. 1511-52) to help them assassinate their father and divided his kingdom. Bhuvanekabahu VII (r. 1521-51) let his younger brother Mayadunne (r. 1521-81) govern Sitavaka.
Portuguese ships led by Vasco da Gama landed near Calicut on May 17, 1498, and Hindus of the Zamorin kingdom welcomed them. A larger fleet of thirteen vessels led by Cabral returned two years later; but irritated Muslims destroyed their factory, killing 53 men. Cabral retaliated by bombarding Calicut and burning its wooden houses. Vasco da Gama brought twenty ships in 1502, plundering and sinking a Muslim pilgrim vessel with all on board. He seized other ships and attacked Calicut, where he ordered the Zamorin to banish Muslims; he also built a factory at Cochin. When the Portuguese ships blocked the Red Sea trade so that their king could monopolize spices, the Egyptian Mamluk sultan complained to the Pope and threatened to harass Christians in Palestine. Imports of spices by Venice had already dropped drastically.
Afonso d'Albuquerque arrived the next year with three squadrons and fortified Colchin. Francisco de Almeida was appointed the first Portuguese viceroy in 1505. The next year in a sea battle the Portuguese massacred Muslim crews. The Portuguese maintained a military advantage at sea, because Indian ships were not strong enough to use cannons. The Egyptian sultan sent a fleet to join a Muslim alliance, and they defeated a Portuguese fleet in 1508; but the next year Viceroy Almeida devastated the Muslim fleet near Diu off the Gujarat coast. The Gujarat sultan released prisoners and allowed the Portuguese to build a fort on Diu. Albuquerque replaced Almeida as governor in November 1509. He followed the Portuguese king's instruction to destroy Calicut and forced all ships to put in at Goa, which he conquered in 1510, killing 6,000 Muslims. He called a council to approve building a fort and encouraged the Portuguese to marry Indian wives by giving them lands, houses, and cattle. Albuquerque conquered Melaka in 1511; he failed to take the key gateway to the Red Sea at Aden in 1513 but took the trading center for the Persian Gulf at Hurmuz before he died in 1515.
The Portuguese first landed at Sri Lanka's capital Kotte in 1506. Vijayabahu VI (r. 1513-21) let the Portuguese build a fort at Colombo in 1518 and agreed to pay tribute, but increasing demands led to war that by 1521 forced the Portuguese to keep their agreement. The Portuguese had a maritime empire in India, and 60% of their revenues came from customs duties. They tried to enforce their commercial monopoly by killing Muslim offenders. Ironically the military costs of trying to control the market caused such high prices that the Portuguese made less profit than if they had used their sea route for lower prices in a free market. Portugal made enemies and bankrupted its government with the military and administrative costs. The Portuguese fought frequently with the zamorins of Calicut and the sultan of Gujarat.
The traditional dates of Kabir are 1398-1518. Some scholars have speculated that 1398 was chosen as the birth date of Kabir to account for his having known Ramananda; so they accept 1440 as a more reasonable date for his birth. Charlotte Vaudeville doubted the incident with Sikander Lodi and argued that people claimed he died in 1518 to explain that; so she suggested he died in the mid-15th century. Kabir was the son of a Muslim weaver and lived in the suburbs of Benares. As a poor Muslim, Hindus considered him of the lowest caste. His name means "Most High" and was said to have been picked at random from the Qur'an. When he was a child, his tears once prevented his father from sacrificing an animal at a religious festival. As a young man, Kabir wanted to study with the great Vaisnava saint Ramananda, who refused to look at Muslims or low-caste Hindus. So Kabir laid down on the steps by the Ganges River, where Ramananda bathed and accidentally stepped on him. Ramananda exclaimed his mantra "Ram Ram," and Kabir took this for his initiation as his disciple. Eventually Ramananda allowed his gifted disciple to come out from behind a curtain and changed his policy about admitting those of low caste or from other religions.
Kabir took up his father's craft of weaving and worked at the loom for the rest of his life. He married and raised a son and a daughter. Kabir accepted disciples from all castes from the lowest to kings. He traveled extensively, and his poems contain words from various languages and dialects. One stanza on Kabir in Nabhaji's Bhakta-mala is considered particularly authentic. It has been translated as follows:
Never did Kabir accept the distinctions of caste
or the four stages of life,
nor did he revere the six philosophies.
"Religion devoid of love is heresy," he declared.
"Yoga and penance, fasting and alms-giving are,
without meditation, empty," he affirmed.
Ramaini, sabdi and sakhi he employed to impart his message-
to Hindus and Turks alike.
Without preference, without prejudice,
he said only what was beneficial to all.
Subduing the world,
he uttered not words to please or flatter others.
Such was Kabir, who refused to accept the bias of the caste system
or the supremacy of the six philosophies.3
Kabir taught the unity of God and religion. In his own practice he used both Hindu and Islamic methods. By the Hindu term "Rama" he meant "the One in whom we get joy," not the incarnation of Vishnu. He also used the Islamic term "Rahim," which means "the supremely merciful One."
Kabir told Dharam Das that the idols he was worshipping must be used for weighing, because they could not answer prayer. On another occasion he warned Dharam Das that the wood he was putting in a sacrificial fire had insects and worms that were being burned. Dharam Das wanted to see Kabir again and so spent most of his money providing meals for sadhus (wandering ascetics) in yajnas (sacrifices) at Benares; but Kabir did not come, because he did not want him to think that devotees could be bought with wealth. After spending his money, Dharam Das was going to commit suicide; but he met Kabir, who initiated him and his wife. Dharam Das eventually became Kabir's successor in his hometown of Bandhogarh.
Kabir taught many Muslims and Hindus of all castes for seventy years. He encouraged them to search their own hearts to find God within themselves. He considered religious rituals of little value, because they are like making God into a plaything. He said that all souls are sprung from the seed of God. The king of Benares was a student of Kabir, and so for a long time he was protected. Sultan Sikander Lodi (r. 1489-1517) was also impressed by Kabir's holiness; but resentful qadis (judges) and pandits (teachers) accused Kabir of blasphemy for ridiculing their rituals and scriptures. Sikander ordered Kabir chained and drowned; but the waves broke the chains. Neither would an elephant trample on Kabir. It was even said that he escaped from a fire. When Sikander realized his error, Kabir immediately forgave him, saying that forgiveness is the game the saints play. Many people came to Benares in order to die in the holy city; but Kabir went to Magahar, which was believed to be so cursed that those dying there reincarnated as donkeys. Magahar suffered from lack of water; but when Kabir was there, the river began to flow. After his death the Muslims wanted to bury Kabir's body, and the Hindus wanted to cremate it; but according to an often repeated legend they found nothing but flowers, which they divided for burial and burning.
Kabir was apparently a vegetarian. In a poem on true asceticism he criticized the hypocrisy of those who preach to others but do no work. He wrote that boiled pulse and rice with a little salt is a good meal and asked who would cut his own throat to eat meat with his bread. The Brahmin is not the guru of a devotee, because he got entangled in the four Vedas and died. Those killing living beings violently call it lawful according to the Qur'an; but they will have to answer God and account for their violent crimes. To use violence is tyranny, and God will take you to task. Kabir said that he had dissolved into bodiless bliss; he lived free from fear and caused fear to none.
Kabir's poetry emphasizes the love of God, whom he referred
to as his husband. He advised being truthful and so natural. Truth
is found in one's heart, not in outward religious rituals nor
in sects nor vows nor religious garb nor pilgrimages. He wrote
that truth is revealed in love, strength, and compassion. He encouraged
people to conquer hatred and extend their love to all humanity,
for God lives in all. In five poems Kabir warned about the following
five passions: the poison of lust, the fire of anger, the witch
of avarice, the bonds of attachment, and the malady of ego (selfishness).
In a poem from the Bijak he suggested that Brahmins give
up their caste pride and seek nirvana. When Kabir died, his disciples
asked his son to start another sect; but Kamal said that his father
had struggled during his life against sectarianism, and he would
not destroy that ideal. Yet many of his disciples founded sects
based on the teachings of Kabir.
Chaitanya was born as Vishvambhara during an eclipse of the moon in February 1486 at Navadvipa in west Bengal. He was boisterous with a strong temper and was especially dear to his mother after his elder brother Vishvarup left home to become a sannyasin (ascetic). Vishvambhara studied in a Sanskrit school and became a teacher of grammar but would dispute on any subject. His first wife died of a snake bite, and he married again. In 1508 he went to Gaya and was initiated and given the Krishna mantra by the reclusive saint Ishvarapuri. He suddenly became a God-intoxicated devotee, incessantly repeating the name of Krishna with deep emotion, occasionally even falling into trances. His pupils found that he would usually only talk of Krishna.
In Navadvipa, Vishvambhara persuaded the Vaisnavas to sing of Krishna. Advaita recognized him as his master and began chanting the Vishnu-purana. Nityananda became his closest follower, and in June 1509 Vishvambhara accepted leadership of the group and was called Chaitanya. When he gave Advaita a boon, he asked that he share his bhakti (devotion) without regard to sex, caste or education; Chaitanya agreed. Before he had met other Vaisnavas by calling them master and falling at their feet; now Chaitanya called them his slaves and put his foot on their chests. He said he was lord of the universe, and his devotees, believing him an incarnation of Vishnu (Krishna), sang his coronation song.
Chaitanya began preaching in public and was acclaimed for reforming two drunken Brahmins. In the evening they staged dramas about Krishna. His emotional worship recited the names of Hari and Krishna. Some people were disgusted by these demonstrations in the streets and got the Muslim governor to ban the kirtana singing. At Nadiya in Bengal the Muslim qazi (judge) ordered their musical instruments broken and threatened all who joined them. Chaitanya defied the order by continuing, and so many people joined the singing that the qazi was intimidated and rescinded the order; the irate Chaitanya let a mob wreck the official's house, but they were stopped from burning it. After becoming calm, Chaitanya sent for the qazi and had a friendly conversation with him.
After angrily chasing a student with a stick, Chaitanya decided to become a monk. He promised his mother that he would be her son in two more incarnations. He used a mantra he had heard in a dream and was initiated as a sannyasin by Keshav Bharati, who named him Sri-Krishna-Chaitanya. After roaming in ecstasy for a few days, Chaitanya said it was not proper for a monk to live with his family in his birthplace, and so he decided to live in nearby Puri. Sarvabhauma taught Chaitanya the philosophy of non-dualist (Advaita) Vedanta. However, after a few discussions, Chaitanya convinced his teacher to practice devotion (bhakti). In 1510 Chaitanya left to travel alone and search in south India for his brother Vishvarup. In the capital of Vijayanagara he conversed with its governor Ramananda-raya, and they spent a night in fervent ecstasy. After reaching Rameshvaram, Chaitanya went north to Gujarat. When Chaitanya returned, Orissa king Prataparudra had heard of Sarvabhauma's conversion and invited Chaitanya to live in a house near the home of the chief priest of the Jagannatha temple in Puri, and he lived there the rest of his life. At the chariot festival Chaitanya would dance in ecstasy to personify devotion. King Prataparudra asked to be his servant and saw a vision of six-armed Vishnu.
After traveling to Bengal and Vrindavana, Chaitanya returned to Puri, where many pilgrims came to see him. The great Vaisnava teacher Vallabha also came to visit Chaitanya and asked him why he chanted the name of Krishna since he considered himself his wife, and Chaitanya replied that a chaste wife always obeys her husband. Chaitanya did not use luxuries, and eventually the lack of sleep and nourishment affected his health. The last dozen years of his life before his death in 1533 were spent in mystical ecstasy devoted to his beloved Krishna with frequent trances. These experiences became his demonstration of his faith and love. Somehow these had a powerful influence on many people, and Bengali literature became much more devotional. Muslims were converted; Chaitanya accepted devotees from all castes and allowed marriage and secular occupations. Chaitanya believed that the devotional love of bhakti worship could chasten even the most impure. Chaitanya did not initiate anyone and had no formal disciples; but his mission was carried on by his organization under the leadership of Nityananda in Bengal.
Nanak was born on April 15, 1469 near Lahore. His father Kalu was in the Kshatriya caste; but under the Muslims they were not allowed to be in the military. Kalu was a shopkeeper and record-keeper for a landlord, who had converted to Islam. Nanak learned arithmetic and accounting from his father, reading and writing in Devnagri from a Brahmin, and Persian and Arabic from a Maulvi. Nanak had a tendency to give away his father's goods to the poor and quarreled with him. When Nanak was 16, his older sister's husband got him a job in the store of Daulat Khan Lodi, the governor of Jalandhar Doab. Two years later Nanak married the daughter of a Punjab merchant, and they had two sons, Sri Chand in 1494 and Lakhmi Das in 1496; they would be raised by his sister and her husband. On the November full moon of 1496 Nanak had an enlightening experience. Thus his birthday is often celebrated at that time. His message "There is no Hindu; there is no Muslim" has several layers of meaning, implying human and religious unity and also that those who call themselves one or the other are not truly so. When the Qazi of Sultanpur Lodi complained about his message, Nanak sang that his devotees are ever joyous; for they learn how to end sorrow and sin.
In 1499 Nanak's father sent the Muslim minstrel Mardana to persuade his son to stay at his post. Instead he became Nanak's closest disciple, and they began traveling. Nanak often joined the Muslims in their prayers. He suggested that the first prayer should be to speak the truth, the second to ask for lawfully earned daily bread, the third to practice charity, the fourth to purify the mind, and the fifth to adore and worship God. Nanak preached to the Hindus against idol worship and caste distinctions. He personally dined with those of low caste, and he raised the status of women. To the Muslims he emphasized Gan-singing praises of God, Dan-charity for all, Ashnan-purification by bathing, Seva-serving humanity, and Simran-constantly praying to God. Nanak abstained from eating animal food. After spending two years in the southwest Punjab, from 1501 to 1514 Nanak traveled to the southeast in India. In Delhi he and Mardana were arrested for violating Sikander Lodi's order against preaching in public; but their singing in jail caused such a disturbance that they were soon released. In Benares, Nanak may have met Kabir, for their teachings are very similar. From 1515 to 1517 he was in the Himalayas and went as far as Tibet. About 1520 Nanak traveled to Mecca, probably by sea, and many believe he visited Baghdad on his way home that took him through Iran and Afghanistan.
The hymns of Nanak indicate that he witnessed Babur's third invasion of the Punjab in the winter of 1521, for he complained about the raping of women and how Yama (Death) came disguised as the great Mughal Babur. In the fourth invasion of 1524 Nanak saw the city of Lahore given over to death and violence for four hours. After the fifth invasion of 1526 Nanak lamented the dark age of the sword in which kings are butchers, and goodness has fled. He also referred to kings as tigers and their officials as dogs that eat carrion. The subjects blindly pay homage out of ignorance as if they were dead. The jewel of the Lodi kingdom had been wasted by dogs. A wealthy devotee donated land on the bank of the Ravi, and the village of Kartarpur was built for Nanak and his disciples. Nanak lived there from 1522 until his death on September 22, 1539. Nanak did not consider himself an avatar or a prophet but a guru who could help people find God. Before he died, Nanak named Angad to be his successor as Guru.
Nanak's songs were later collected together in the Adi Granth that became the scripture for the Sikh religion. His basic teaching about God is summarized in the Mul Mantra, which indicates that God is one, the truth, the creator, fearless, without ill will, immortal, unborn, self-existent, and is realized by grace through the Guru.
The Mul Mantra is followed by the longer Jap Ji, which Nanak wrote about 1520. Jap Ji means "meditation for a new life." It begins by noting that God can not be comprehended by reason nor by outward silence, and one cannot buy contentment with all the riches in the world. The way to know the truth is to make God's will one's own. All things are manifestations of God's will, which is beyond description. By communing with the divine Word and meditating on God's glory one may find salvation by divine grace. The Word washes away all sin and sorrow and bestows virtue. By practicing the Word one rises into universal consciousness, develops understanding of the whole creation, transcends death, and also guides others. Yet no one can describe the condition of the one who has made God's will one's own. People carry their deeds with them wherever they go, because one reaps what one has sown. The highest religion is universal brotherhood that considers all equals. Nanak sang that you should conquer your mind, for overcoming self is victory over the world. Wealth and supernatural powers distract one from God. The world operates by the two opposite principles of union and separation. Everyone is judged according to one's actions. Jap Ji concludes,
Make chastity your furnace, patience your smithy,
The Master's word your anvil, and true knowledge your hammer.
Make awe of God your bellows and with it kindle the fire of austerity,
And in the crucible of love, melt the nectar Divine,
Only in such a mint, can man be cast into the Word.
But they alone who are favored by Him, can take unto this Path,
O Nanak, on whom He looks with Grace, He fills with Everlasting Peace.
Air is the Master, Water the father, and the Earth the mother,
Day and night are the two nurses in whose lap the whole world is at play.
Our actions: good and evil, will be brought before His court,
And by our own deeds, shall we move higher or be cast into the depths.
Those who have communed with the Word, their toils shall end.
And their faces shall flame with glory,
Not only shall they have salvation,
O Nanak, but many more shall find freedom with them.4
In the musical Asa di Var Nanak emphasized the oneness of God, the importance of repeating the divine Name and completely surrendering to God's will. He believed that only God and the Guru are without error. A record is kept of everyone's actions. The virtuous are treated well and remain in heaven, but the sinners transmigrate for the punishment that may educate them. Nanak advised his followers to give charity secretly and be humble. God frees people through the true Guru. Faithful disciples worship God patiently, shun evil, eat and drink moderately, and are detached from the world. Love and humility are the most essential qualities of worship. God's justice is impartial to all, rich or poor, high or low. Nanak also used Kabir's metaphor of God as his beloved husband in his Bara Maha that poetically describes the months of the year and the communion of disciples with God.
Nanak showed the way by which all people could escape from the misery of a selfish life and reincarnation. The divine order (Hukam) can be perceived when the Guru awakens in the person the voice of God within. The sound of this Word (Shabd) or Name (Nam) of God can be heard in loving meditation so that the essence of God and the creation is communicated through human experience. By practicing this discipline (Simran) the devotee ascends to higher levels until the ineffable oneness of God is attained. Like Kabir, Nanak rejected all external forms of rituals, ceremonies, caste distinctions, scriptures, and all the dualities of the human mind. Because all are equal, one should not fear any human being but only God. Nanak fostered community kitchens in Sikh temples so that all devotees regardless of caste could eat free meals together. His religion was also equally available to women.
Nanak believed that God is personal and that one can have a personal relationship with God, but he did not worship incarnations of God such as avatars or anthropomorphic conceptions. Asceticism, celibacy, penance, and fasting do not necessarily bring one closer to God. The inward way is open to all, including those with a family life. For Nanak the one God is both nirguna and saguna, meaning both absolute and conditioned, both manifest and unmanifest. The selfishness (haumai) of lust, anger, avarice, attachment, and pride must be overcome. The Guru is the ladder or the vehicle by which one reaches God. Nanak recognized the law of karma by which individuals reap what they sow, and the goal is to attain liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. The grace of God enables one to transcend the law of karma and become free. Loving meditation on God is the way to do this. Like Jesus, Nanak compared the name of God to a seed that must be planted in the field of the body, plowed by the mind through actions, irrigated with effort, leveled with contentment, and fenced with humility.
Nanak described an ascent through five stages. The first is realizing one's connection with God and beginning discipline; the second is acquiring knowledge and understanding; the third is effort; the fourth is God's grace that comes to the fully devoted disciple; and the fifth is truth and the merging of the disciple into the one God. The discipline of Simran means being devoted to the good and also implies good actions. Nanak wrote that among the low his caste was the lowest, and he proclaimed that God lives in all souls. For Nanak the good person is free of hatred and malice, never thinks one is wronged, resists evil, injustice, and tyranny, and looks on all others as superiors. One should earn one's living by labor and share those earnings with those in need. He noted that all humans are conceived and born from women. Nanak criticized the custom of sati. A sati is one who dies from the shock of her husband's death, not by climbing on her husband's funeral pyre.
1. Elliot, H. M., The History of India as Told by Its Own
Historians, Vol. 3, p. 436.
2. Shaikh Hamadani, Zakhirat ul-Mulik, folios 94a-95a quoted in Sources of Indian Tradition, Vol. 1, p. 481-482 and in The Delhi Sultanate, p. 619-620.
3. Nabhadas, Bhaktamal, Chhappaya 60 quoted in Sethi, V. K., Kabir: The Weaver of God's Name, p. 4.
4. Nanak, Guru, Jap Ji tr. Kirpal Singh. Delhi, 1972, p. 164-165.
5. Quoted in The Mughul Empire ed. R. C. Majumdar, p. 115.
6. Ain-I-Akbari III, p. 383, 384 quoted in Krishnamurti, R., Akbar: The Religious Aspect, p. 97-98.
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