Medieval India


Medieval India


Traveller/Historian In times of Remarks
Al-Masudi Pratiharas  
Sulaiman Palas Mid 9th century. Writes about the Pala empire
Marco Polo Chola  
Ralph Fitch 16th century  


Medieval India

  • AD 750 onwards

Eighth to 10th Century (Age of three empires in North India)

  • Pala –East
  • Pratihara – West and Upper Gangetic Valley
  • Rashtrakuta – Deccan
  • Rashtrakutas lasted the longest

For a long time, Kanauj was considered the symbol of political unity of India (like Delhi was later)


  • Founder: Gopala
  • Gopala – Dharmapala – Devpala
  • Dhramapala
    • defeated by Rashtrakuta ruler Dhruva
    • revived Nalanda Univ
    • founded Vikramsila Univ
    • Buddhism developed
  • relations with Tibet and SE Asia


  • Founder: Bhoja
  • Bhoja – Mahendrapala I – Mahipala
  • Bhoja (aka Adivaraha)
    • Capital at Kanauj
  • Mahipala
    • Sankrit poet and dramatist Rajashekhar lived at his court
  • Hostility with Arab and Sindh


  • Founder: Dantidurga
  • Dantidurga – – Govinda III – Amoghvarsha (Jain) – – Indra III – Vallabhraja – Krishna III
  • Capital: Malkhed near Sholapur
  • Amoghvarsha
    • Wrote the first Kannada book on Poetics
    • Capital: Manyakhet
  • Indra III – most powerful ruler of his time
  • Krishna I built Shiva temple at Ellora
  • Apbhransha poet: Svayambhu
  • Princess Chandrobalabbe (daughter of Amoghavarsha) administered Raichur

Chola Empire (9th-12th Century)

  • Founder: Vijayalaya (feudatory of Pallavas)
  • Greatest rulers: Rajaraja – Rajendra I
  • Capital: Tanjaur
  • Built temples: Brihadeshwara temple (Shiva): 1010 AD – Rajaraja
  • Rajendra I
    • Gangaikondachola
    • Capital: Gangaikondacholapuram (near Kaveri mouth)
    • Naval expedition against Sri Vijaya empire (Malay peninsula)
  • Fought constantly with Chalukyas of Kalyani
  • Dravida style of architecture developed (garbhagriha – vimana – mandap)
  • Chalukyan style: Hoysalesvara temple (shiva)
  • Sculpture: Gomteshwara at Sravana Belgola
  • Tirumurai – aka fifth Veda are the collection of writings of Alvar and Nayanar saints
  • Age of Kamban – (late 11th– early 12th century) – golden period of Tamil Nadu
  • Kamban lived at court of Chola king. Wrote Ramayana.
  • Kannada: Pampa, Ponna, Ranna – three gems of Kannada poetry
  • Naniah – began telugu version of Mahabharata. Completed by Tikkanna.

Trade with west declined but with South-East Asia and China increased.

Feudalism grew


  • Declined
  • Became indistinguishable from Hinduism
  • Because of rise of Mahayana Buddhism
  • Palas were patrons but after them it declined


  • Chalukyas of Gujarat & Paramaras of Malwa patronised.
  • Dilwara temples built by Chalukyas
    • Use of marbles. Has 5 temples.
  • Ganga rulers of Karnataka
    • Gomteshwar statue built during this time

Bhakti Movement

  • Led by Nayanars and Alvar saints in the South
  • Originated in Tamil Nadu
  • Major saints: Ravidas, Surdas etc

Lingayat Movement

  • Aka Vir Shaiva movement
  • Founder: Basava and Channabasava
    • Lived at the court of Kalachuri kings of Karnatak
  • Worshippers of Shiva
  • Established after bitter disputes with Jains


Foreign Invasions


Mahmud of Ghazni

  • Hindushahi ruler Jayapala invaded Ghazni with help the son of a former Ghazni governor. He was however defeated.
  • In retaliation, Mahmud Ghazni (998-1030 AD) made 17 raids on India
  • 1001 AD: Mahmud defeated Jayapala and took him prisoner but released. He committed suicide.
  • 1008-09: Battle between Mahmud and Anandpala (Jayapala’s son). Anandapala defeated.
  • Reason for subsequent raids: to get funds to continue his struggle in Central Asia
  • Important raids
    • 1018: Kanauj
    • 1025: Somnath
  • Seljuk empire came into being after Mahmud.


  • Major states
    • Gahadavalas – Kanauj
    • Paramara – Malwa [Ujjain. Dhara]
    • Chauhans – Ajmer
    • Kalachuris – Jabalpur
    • Chandella – Bundelkhand
    • Chalukya – Gujarat
    • Tomars – Delhi
  • Nagara architecture of temples
  • Vastupala : Chalukyan minister built Jain Temples at Mt Abu
  • Ujjain and Dhara: Sanskrit learning
  • Hemachandra: Jain scholar wrote in Sanskrit and Apabhramsha
  • Revival of Sanskrit: used by higher classes again

Mohammad of Ghori

  • Shahabuddin Muhammad (aka Muizzuddin Muhammad)
  • 1191: First battle of Tarain – Ghazni defeated
  • 1192: Second battle of Tarain – Prithviraj defeated.
  • Mohammad left: appointed Qutub-i-din Aibek
  • 1194: Battle of Chandawar: Muhammad Ghori vs Jaichandra of Kanauj. Jaichander lost.
  • Battles of Tarain and Chandawar laid the foundations of the Turkish rule in India.
  • Bakhtiyar Khilji: Muhammad’s Governor of Bengal


Delhi Sultanate

  • 1206-1527

Slave Dyansty

  • After death of Muhammad Ghori
    • Yalduz succeeded him at Ghori
    • Qutubbdin Aibek succeeded him at Ghazni (1206-1210)
  • Aibak
    • died after falling from his horse while playing polo
    • two slaves: Iltutmish (son-in-law) and Qubacha
  • Iltutmish (1210-36)
    • Real consolidator of Turkish conquests in India
    • Aibak’s slave Qubacha declared independence of Multan
    • Ousted Qubacha from Multan and Uchch
  • Razia (1236-39)
    • Defeated her wazir Nizam ul Mulk Junaidi
    • Salve: Yakut Khan

Balban (1265-86)

  • Aka Ulugh Khan
  • Father in law of the sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud (1246-1266)
  • Authoritarian and despot.
  • Administered justice with impartiality
  • Started sijada and paibos (prostration and kissing monarch’s feet)
  • Bughra Khan was his son who preferred to rule over Bengal

Khalji Dyansty (1290-1320)


  • Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-96)
    • Mitigated the harsh aspects of Balban’s rule
    • Said that state should be based on the support of the ruled. Hence cannot be an Islamic state.
  • Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316)
    • Revered the liberal policies of Jalaluddin towards Hindus
    • Malik Kafur – general, led campaigns in South India
    • Conquered Gujarat, Rajasthan and Deccan
    • Amir Khusrau was his contemporary
  • Alauddin carried out numerous market reforms
    • Fixed the prices of all commodities
    • Setup three markets in Delhi: for foodgrains, costly cloth, horses
    • Each market controlled by an officer called shahna
    • Revenue from Doab region to be paid directly to the state
    • First sultan to pay soldiers in cash
  • Military reforms of Alauddin
    • Regular muster of the armed forces
    • Branding of horses (dagh)
    • Descriptive role of soldiers

Tughlaq Dynasty (1320 – 1412)


  • Mohammad Bin T (1324-51)
    • Secular
    • Giasuddin T died after the wooden platform broke
    • Transfer of capital: Delhi to Deogir (Daulatabad)
    • Token currency
    • Khurasan project – to invade Af-Iran
    • Qarachil expedition – Kumaon hills to counter Chinese incursion
    • Famine – he left Delhi and lived in a camp called Swargadwari on banks of Ganges near Kanauj
    • Diwan-i-amir-ikohi department <agriculture?>
    • Rebellions during the later part
    • Built road from Peshawar to Sonargaon and also to Daulatabad
  • Firuz Tughlaq (1351-88) <longest ruling Delhi sultan>
    • MBT’s rule had left the army and nobles discontented
    • FT adopted policies to appease them
    • Offices and iqta were made hereditary
    • Period of peace
    • Extended the principle of heredity to army as well
    • Imposed jizyah: first ruler to do so
    • Took steps to translate Hindu religious works to Persian
    • Humanitarian measures
    • Set up Public Works department. Canals
    • Built towns: Hissar and Firuzabad
    • Set up a separate department of slaves.
  • After Firuz’s death, the empire shrunk to just Delhi (a popular wit reference)
  • 1398: Timur’s invasion

Sayyid Dyansty (1414-1451)


Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526)

  • Bahlol Lodi – Sikandar Lodi – Ibrahim Lodi


  • Harihara and Bukka – 1336
  • Italian traveller Nicolo Conti visited Vijayanagar in 1420
  • After this dynasty ended, Krishna Deva Raya founded the Tuvalu dynasty
  • 1565: Battle of Talikota (at Banihatta) aka Battle of Rakshasa Tangadi
    • Vijayanagar vs Deccan Sultans
    • Ended the Vijayanagar empire.


  • Alauddin Hasan – 1347 (aka Hasan Gangu)
  • Bahmani ruler Firuz Shah married the daughter of Vijaynagar king Deva Rai I
  • Firuz Shah Bahmani
    • Wanted to make Deccan a cultural centre
    • Inducted Hindus on a large scale
    • Built an observatory near Daulatabad
  • Mahmud Gawan was an important prime minister


  • Ahmed Shah
    • Imposed jizyah
  • Mahmud Begarha


Mughals – Babur & Humayun

  • Ibrahim Lodi succeeded Sikandar Lodi in 1517
  • Daulat Khan Lodi and Rana Sanga invited Babur to displace Ibrahim Lodi in India
  • 1526: Battle of Panipat
  • Gunpowder was used in this battle
  • 1527: Battle of Khanwa between Rana Sanga and Babur
  • Humayun succeeded Babur in 1530
  • He built a new city at Delhi: Dinpanah
  • Built Purana Qila
  • 1539: Battle of Chausa – Sher Shah def Humayun
  • 1540: Battle of Kanauj – Sher Shah def Humayun
  • 1555: Humayun recovered Delhi
  • Died after falling from the first floor of his library

Sher Shah

  • 1540: defeated Humayun at Kanauj
  • 1544: Sher Shah vs Rajputs at the battle of Samel
  • Abbas Khan Sarwani – historian of Sher Shah
  • GT Road from Indus to Sonargaon in Bengal
  • Built a road from Agra to Jodhpur and Chittor; from Lahore to Multan
  • Built sarais
  • Dictum of Shaikh Nazami: “If a merchant should die in your country it is a perfidy to lay hands on his property”. Local village headmen and zamindars were made responsible for any loss that the merchant suffered on the roads.
  • Currency reforms; weights and measures
  • Chehra and dagh system
  • Tomb at Sasaram
  • Malik Md Jaisi during his time
  • Jizyah continued to be implemented.
  • Sher Shah was succeeded by his son Islam Shah in 1545



  • Born at Amarkot in 1542
  • 1556: Second Battle of Panipat – vs Hemu
  • Zabti system of land revenue assessment aka Todar Mal’s bandobast
  • Other land revenue systems: dahsala, batai, ghalla-bakhshi, nasaq
  • Land
    • Polaj – in cultivation every year
    • Parati (fallow) – uncultivated polaj
    • Chachar – fallow for two to three years
    • Banjar – fallow for more than three years
  • Mansabdari system – 1577
  • 1576: Battle of Haldighati with Rana Pratap
  • Birbal was killed in a battle with Afghans

Jahangir (1605-27)

  • Clash between Sikhs and Mughals began with the imprisonment and death of Guru Arjun by Jahangir on a charge of helping rebel prince, Khusrau


  • Issued Zawabit: secular decrees
  • Discontinued the Parsi festival Nauroz
  • Discontinued Jharokha Darshan
  • Reimposed Jizyah in 1679; suspended it in 1705


  • Ahmednagar was captured by the Mughals in 1600. Chand Bibi was defeated.
  • Malik Amber of Berar was an obstacle. So was Ibrahim Adil Shah of Bijapur
  • Ibrahim Adil Shah II
    • Aka Abla Baba and Jagat Guru
    • Book – Kitab-i-Nauras on Music
    • New Capital: Nauraspur
    • Gol Gumbaj – his mausoleum
    • Ibrahim Rauza
  • Golconda: Md Quli Qutub Shah
    • Char Minar


  • Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded by Aurangzeb
  • 1699: Khalsa was established by Guru Gobind Singh


  • 1665: Treaty of Purandar – between Shivaji and Jai Singh (on behalf of Aurangzeb)
  • 1666: Shivaji escaped from Azeb’s detetion
  • 1674: Shivaji crowned himself at Raigarh
  • Assumed the title of ‘Haindava Dharmoddharak’
  • Died in 1680


  • Qutab Minar
    • Built by Iltutmish (started by Aibak)
    • Dedicated to the Sufi saint Qutub-ud-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki
  • Alauddin
    • added an arch – Alai Darwaza – to Qutub Minar
    • City: Siri
    • Haus Khas
  • Tughlaqs
    • Built Tughlaqabad
    • Feature: Sloping walls
    • Firuz Shah Kotla
  • Lodis
    • Built on platforms
    • Lodi Garden

Mughal Art and Architecture

  • Pietra dura: decorating the walls with floral designs made of semi-precious stones
  • Akbar
    • Agra Fort
    • Fatehpur Sikri; Buland Darwaza was built to commemorate Akbar’s victory in Gujarat
    • Gujrat style of architecture was used
    • Painters: Daswant and Basawan
    • European painting was introduced
    • Litterateurs: Abul Fazl and Faizi; Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanah; Tulsidas
    • Marathi: Eknath and Tukaram
  • Shah Jahan
    • Red Fort, Delhi
    • Moti Masjid at Agra Fort
    • Jama Masjid, Delhi
  • Jahangir
    • Great patron of painting
    • Portrait painting and painting of animals
    • Painter: Mansur
  • Major schools of paintings during Mughal time
    • Rajasthan style
    • Pahari school
  • Largest number of books on classical Indian music in Persian were written during Aurangzeb’s reign

Sufi Movement

  • Organised into 12 orders or silsilahs
  • Orders broadly divided into two
    • Ba-shara
    • Be-shara
  • Early sufis: Rabia, Mansur bin Hallaj, Al Ghazzali
  • Yogic book, Amrit Kund, was translated into Persian from Sanskrit
  • Ba-shara
    • Chisti and Suharwardi silsilah
  • Chisti order
    • Established by Moinuddin Chishti
    • Bakhtiyar Kaki, Farid ud din Ganj-i-Shakau, Nizamuddin Aulia, Nasirudding Chiragh-i-Delhi
    • Believed in fakiri (poverty).
  • Suharwardi
    • Largely confined to Punjab and Multan
    • Shaikh Shihabuddin Suharwardi and Hamid-ud-Din Nagori
    • Did not believe in fakiri. Accepted the service of the state.
  • Other important sufi
    • Gesu Daraz

Bhakti Movement

  • Nath Panti movement challenged the caste system

Literature and Art

  • Khusrau created a new style of Persian which came to be called shabaq-i-hindi.
  • Historians: Barani, Afif and Islami
  • Zia Nakhshabi translated Sanskrit stories into Persian
    • Tuti-Nama (Book of the Parrot)
  • Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin of Kashmir had Rajatarangini and Mahabharata translated into Persian
  • Raja Man Singh of Gwalior was a lover of music
    • Man Kautahal was compiled which contained all new musical nodes introduced by Muslims.


Book Author Remark
Brihatkatha-kosh Harisena (9th-12th century)
Rajtarangini (Sanskrit) Kalhana About the kings of Kashmir
Lilavati Bhaskara II (also wrote Siddhanta Shiromani)  Treatise on arithmetic
Shah Namah (1000 AD) (Persian) Firdausi Firdausi was a poet in the court of Mahmud Ghazni


National epic of Iran


Prithviraj Raso Chand Bardai  
Kitab ul Hind Al Baruni  
Padmavat Malik Mohammad Jaisi  
Haqait-i-Hindi Wahid Belgrami (Sufi)  
Mitakshara Vijnaneshwar  
Khaliq Bari Amir Khusrau  
Tuzk-i-Baburi Babur  
Hukumat-ri-Bahi A 17th century Rajasthani work  


Saints et al

Gorakhnath Followers were called Nath-pantis Used tantra. Spread over North India.
Shankara 9th century Born in Kerala. Advaitavada. Vedanta. Upheld Vedas.
Ramanuja 11th century Vishistadvaita. Followers: Vallabha, Ramananda
Bhakti Saints    
Ravidas From Punjab Contemporary of Babur, Nanak
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Eastern India Worshipped Krishna.
Vallabhacharya   C of Babur
Surdas   Contemporary of Akbar
Meera Bai 1498-1547  
Kabir   During the time of Lodhis
Tulsidas Vinaypattika, Dohavali, Kavitavali, Krishnavali Akbar, Jahangir
Namdeo Marathi/Punjabi b. 1270
Dnyaneshwar Marathi 1200s
Tukaram Marathi Jahangir, Shah Jahan
Ramananda Prayag Follower of Ramanuja
Sadhana   Was a butcher. Disciple of Ramananda
Nanak b. 1469 Born in the village of Talwandi on the bank of river Ravi
Dadu Gujarat Non-sectarian
Ram Das Maharashtra  
Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi Sufi Nashqbandi School. During times of Jahangir



Style Where? Remarks
Nagara North India and Deccans By Rajputs


Tall curved spiral roof over the garbha griha



[Visvanatha temple, Kandarya Mahadeo temple]

Orissa [Lingaraja temple, Sun temple, Jagannath temple]


Ibn Batuta – Moraccan traveller – visited during MBT’s time.

Gen terms

  • Shrenis/sangha – trade guilds
  • Manigrama and Nandesi – merchant guilds
  • Tamralipti – was a major port in Bengal
  • Chahalgani – 40 Turkish chiefs during the time of Slave dynasty
  • Amir Khusrau – contemporary of Alauddin Khilji
  • Iqta – small estates (like zamindars)
  • Khuts and Muqaddams – landlords during the time of Alauddin Khilji
  • Diwan-i-arz – department of military. Headed by ariz-i-mamalik (he was not C-in-C of army)
  • Diwan-i-risalat dealt with religious matters (headed by chief Sadr – qazi)
  • Diwan-i-insha dealt with state correspondence
  • Barid – spy
  • Tauhid-i-Wajudi – Ibn-i-Arabi’s idea of Unity of Being
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