Complete Biography of Balban: the Greatest of the Slave Kings


Blaban was the greatest of the slave kings. His original name was Baha-ud-din. He was an llbari Turk. When he was young, he was captured by the Mongols and carried to Ghazni and sold to Khawaja Jamal-ud-din of Basra, a man of piety and learning.

The latter brought him to Delhi in 1232 A.D. along with other slaves and all of them were purchased by Iltutmish. Balban belonged to die famous band of Turkish salves of Iltutmish known as “The Forty (Chahelgan)”. By his efforts, he became the Amir-i- Shikar or Lord of the Hunt in the reign of Razya.

He was given the jagir of Rewari in the Punjab by Bahrain Shah. He was also given the district of Hansi. In 1246, he forced the Mongols to raise the siege of Uch. He was instrumental in overthrowing Masud Shah and putting Nasir-ud-din Mahmud on the throne of Delhi.


The result was that Nasir-ud-din placed all power in his hands. Kishlu Khan, the younger brother of Balban,-was appointed Amir-i-Hajib or Lord Chamberlain.

Sher Khan, his cousin, was appointed the Governor of Lahore and Bhatinda. In 1249, Balban was appointed Naib-i-Mamlikat. In the same year, he married his daughter to Sultan Nasir-ud-din. It was in this way that all power came into the hands of Balban.

In 1253, there was a temporary eclipse in the power of Balban. There were many Turkish nobles who hated Balban as he had monopolized all power. Imad-ud-Din Raihan put himself at the head of all those w ho were opposed to Balban. The Sultan also joined them.

The result was that in 1253 Balban and his brother were dismissed. Raihan became Prime Minister. This Raihan has 6een described as a renegade Hindu, vile upstater usurper and a conspirator.


The truth is that he was nothing of the kind. He was as good a Muslim as any Turk. He was neither a ruffian nor a scoundrel. However, he was a clever politician who took advantage of the dissatisfaction amongst the nobles and the Sultan and managed to usurp power.

Raihan was not able to remain in power for long. The Turkish nobles joined hands once again with Balban and in 1254, Raihan was dismissed and Balban was reappointed as Naib.

After his restoration, Balban continued the policy of consolidating his authority. Tughan Khan, the Governor of Bengal, had repudiated the authority of Delhi and even invaded Avadh. However, Tughan Khan requested Balban to help him when he was defeated by the Raja of Jajnagar in Orissa.

Tamur Khan was sent by Balban with instructions to take charge of Bengal itself and the same was done by him successfully. Tughan Khan was compensated otherwise but he died soon after.


Bengal gave trouble to Balban once again. One of the successors of Tughan Khan took up royal title, struck coins and got the Khutba read in his own name in about 1255.

How ever, he died in 1257 and the rule of Delhi was established in Bengal. There was trouble once again when Arslan Khan, Governor of Kara, occupied Lakhnauti and ruled Bengal as an independent ruler and this state of affairs continued till the end of the reign of Nasir-ud-din.

Balban also took steps to crush the Hindus of the Doab. There was bitter fighting and a large number of the Hindus w ere slaughtered and their women and children were made slaves. Balban also punished the people of Mewat with his usual brutality. Ranthambhor was captured after many expeditions. In 1247, Balaban suppressed a rising of the Chandela chief of Kalinjar. In 1251, he led an expedition against the ruler of Gwalior.

Balban as king:


When Nasir-ud-din Mahmud died in 1266, Balban himself became the Sultan. At the time of his accession to the throne, he had to meet many difficulties.

The affairs of the state had fallen into confusion on account of the incompetence of the successors of Iltutmish. The royal treasury was practically empty. The prestige of the state had sunk low. The arrogance of the Turkish nobles had increased.

To quote Barani, “Fear of the governing power, which is the basis of all good government, and the sources of the glory and splendour of the state, had departed from the hearts of all men and the country had fallen into a wretched condition.” The Delhi Sultan was also exposed to Mongol raids. Balban proved himself to be more than an equal for the emergency.

The Doab:


After creating a strong and efficient army, he-decided to restore order in the Doab and the neighbourhood of Delhi, On account of the predatory raids of the Rajputs of Mewat and different robber bands, life, property and commerce had become unsafe.

The officers of the Sultan found it difficult to collect revenue. Soon after his accession, Balban was able to clear the neighbourhood of Delhi from robbers and rebels who were punished with a heavy hand. The jungles were cleared. He personally took part in the operations against the rebels in the Doab and Avadh.

They were ruthlessly driven away. Military posts were set up at Bliojpur. Patiali, Kampil and Jalali and ferocious Afghan troops were put in them. In Katehar (Rohilakhand). Balban ordered his troops to attack the villages.

The houses of the people were burnt and orders were passed to kill the whole of the adult male population. Women and .children were made slaves. In every village and jungle, there were heaps of human corpses. The terror created was so great .that the peoples of Katehar did not dare to raise their heads once again for a long time.


Tughril Khan was the deputy of Balban in Bengal. He was an active, courageous and generous Turk and his administration was efficient. The old age of Babul and the Mongol invasion encouraged Tughril Khan to declare his independence. Balban was upset when he heard the news of the revolt of Tughril Khan.

He sent a large army to Bengal under Alptgin entitles Amir Khan. However, Amir Khan was defeated arid his troops went over to the side of Tughil Khan. Blaban was so much annoyed that he ordered Amir Khan to be hanged over the gate of Delhi.

In 1280, another army was sent to Bengal under Malik Targhi. This expedition was also unsuccessful. Balban “now devoted all his attention and energy to effect the defeat of Tughril” and decided to go to Bengal personally. He took his son Bughra Khan to Bengal. When Tughril Khan heard of the approach of Balban, he left Lakhnauti and fled into the jungles of Jajnagar. Balban advanced into Eastern Bengal in pursuit of Tughril Khan and his followers.

They were incidentally discovered by Sher Andaz, a follower of Balban, Malik Muqaddir brought Tughril Khan down with an arrow shot. His head was cut off and his body was thrown into the river. His relatives and most of his troops were captured.

Balban inflicted exemplary punishments on the relatives and followers of Tughril Khan. Barani tells us that “on either side of the principal bazar (of Lakhnauti), in a street more than two milers in length, a row of stakes was set up and the adherents of Tughril were impaled upon them. Norte of the beholders had ever seen a spectacle so terrible and many swooned with terror and disgust.” The Sultan appointed his son, Bughra Khan, as Governor of Bengal. Before leaving, Balban adderssed Bughra Khan as in these words: “Understand me and forget not that if the Governors of Hind or Sind, or Malwa or Gujarat.

Lakhnauti or Sonargaon, shall draw the sword and become rebels to the throne of Delhi, then such punishment, as has fallen in Tughril and his dependents, will fall upon them, their wives and children, and all their adhernts.” Bughra Khan and his descendants to rule in Bengal up to 1339 A.D.

The Mongols:

The menance of the Mongols became very great during the time of Balban. Their raids became frequent. Balban always kept himself in rediness to meet the danger on the frontiers.

He made it a point never to go very far from Delhi. He was not satisfied with the negative policy of defence and consequently followed and aggressive policy of subjugating or crushing the Khokhars and other tribes which had never ceased to plunder and ravage the frontier districts of the Delhi Sultanate, so as to deprive the invaders of the advantage of a safe passage through the tribal country.

Balban led an attack on the Salt Range and chastised the Khokhars. However, he failed to establish a permanent foothold on the land. He also failed to win over the friendship of the Khokhars.

Balban adopted other measures for the defence of the Western frontier. He maintained forts on the routes of the invaders in perfect preparedness.

Those forts were fully garrisoned and equipped. He built new forts or watch-posts wherever necessary. He kept a vigilant watch on the routes. He appointed as wardens of the merches tried and experienced military officers such as Sher Khan Sanqar. The latter was a very distinguished warrior of that period.

He had been the Governor of Bhatinda, Bhatnir, Sunam and Samana. His presence on the frontier was a guarantee of security Both the Mongols and Khokhars dreaded him Unfortunately Balban became jealous of him and brought about his death by poison.

The result of the death of Sher Khan Sanqar was that the Mongols, Khokhars and other tribes once again started their raids in 1271. Balban put Timur Khan in charge of Sunam and Samana. The other Amirs were put incharge of the other Iqtas and forts.

The arrangements did not succeed. It was under these circumstances that Balban put his son Muhammad in charge of the Southern frontier. Muhammad made Multan as his headquarters. The Mongols invaded-again in 1279 and 1285. These invasions were so great that they strained all the might and resources of the Sultan.

The Mongols were defeated and driven away. In 1286, the Mongols reappeared and this time Prince Muhammad was killed. Poet Amir Khusru was also captured.

It is true that Balban re-occupied Lahore but his authority did not extend beyond that. The whole of the region beyond the river Ravi continued to be under the control of the Mongols.


It is to be noted that Balban did not live long after the death of his son, Muhammad, in 1286 at the hands of the Mongols. The shock was so great that the Sultan never recovered from it. When Balban found his end coming near, he called his son Bughra Khan from Bengal to stay with him but he was so afraid of the stern nature of his father that he slipped away to Bengal.

The result was that Balban appointed Kai-Khusrau, the son of Muhammad, as his heir and died soon after in 1286. Barani tells us that “the Maliks in grief at Balban’s death tore their garments and threw dust on their heads as they followed, bare-feet, the king’s bier to the burial ground at Darul Aman. For forty days, they mourned his death, and slept on the bare floor.”

Destruction of “The Forty”:

Balban was responsible for the destruction of “The Forty”. He knew full well that “The Forty” would never allow him to exercise all the powers of Sultan. He had not forgotten that they had reduced the Sultan to the position of a figure-head by usurping all his powers.

Balban promoted junior Turks to important positions and put them on a position of equality with “The Forty”. Whenever any member of “The Forty” made any mistake, he was severely punished. When Malik Baqbaq. Governor of Badaun caused his servant to be beaten to death. Balban ordered Baqbaq to be publicy flogged. Haibat Khan was the Governor of Avadh. He was found guilty of killing a mail while drunk with wine. Balban ordered him to be flogged with 500 stripes and he was handed over to the widow of the victim.

Haibat Khan had to pay 20,000 Tankas to the widow and he never left his house after that till his death. Balban got Amin Khan, Governor of Avadh, hanged at the gate of the city of Ayodhya. Sher Khan Sanqar was got poisoned as Balban was jealous of him. The result was that Balbam was able to destroy “The Forty”. Those nobles, who escaped death or dismissal, became submissive on account of terror.

Spy System:

Balban organised a very efficient system of espionage. Secret reporters were put in every department. Secret News-writers were stationed in every province and in every district. The news writers were given good salaries and kept independent of the Governors and the commanders and they were required to send correct news unmindful of the person involved.

They were severely punished if they failed in their duty. It is stated that the news-writer of Badaun did not report the conduct of Malik Baqbaq and consequently he was hanged over the city gate. It was with the help of this spy system that Balban was able to strengthen his position.

Cancellation of Grants:

Balban reorganized his army and made it an efficient instrument. In the time of Iltutmish, some land had been granted on condition of military service.

The grantees continued to enjoy those lands although some of them were dead and others had become old. Their descendants had “taken possession of the .grants as an inheritance from their fathers and had caused their names to be recorded in records of the Ariz (Muster-master).” There was a general tendency on their part to evade service in the field. Balban resumed the old grants but allotted subsistence allowances to the grantees according to their age.

There was a lot of discontentment and ultimately Balban cancelled the orders for the resumption of lands. The result was that the abuse continued.


Balban put Imad-ud-Mulk in charge of the army. He was appointed Diwan-i-Ariz or Army Minister. He was a very competent officer. He was made independent of the Minister of Finance.

He took keen interest in matters relating to recruitment, salaries and equipments of the troops. The result was that strict discipline was enforced in the army became really efficient.

Conception of Kingship:

Balban’s conception of kingship was similar to that of the theory of divine right of kings. He cast a halo of superiority round monarchy. He took up the title of Zilli Illah or shadow of God. Although the Khalifa of Baghdad was on his coins.

That was due to the fact that he would be respected and feared more if the royal title was line with the religious beliefs of the Muslims. Balban expounded his view on monarchy to his son Bughra Khan in these words: “The heart of the king is the special repository of the God’s favour and in this he has no equal among mankind.”

Balban believed in despotism. His conviction was that only a despot could exact obedience from his subjects and ensure the security of the state. He claimed descent from the mythical Turkish hero, Afrasiyab of Turan and always kept himself aloof from the people. ]

As soon as he came to the throne, he gave up wine and jovial company. He introduced the Sijda or prostration andPaibos or kissing the feet of the monarch in the court as the normal form of salutation for the’ king. He introduced the system of Nauroz to add to the dignity of his court. By all these means, Balban was able to restore the prestige of the king.

Prof. K.A. Nizami refers to certain basic elements of Balban’s theory of Kingship. According to Balban, kingship was the viceregency of God on earth (Niyabat-i-Khudai).

In its dignity it was next only to prophethood. The king was the shadow of God (Zilullah). His heart was the repository of divine guidance and radiance. In the discharge of his kingly responsibilities, he was at all times inspired and guided by God.

The source of power of the king lay not with the nobles or the people, but with God alone. His actions could not be tire subject of public scrutiny. External dignity and prestige were emphasised as essential for kingship. Balban maintained a great distance from the masses.

He refused to talk to the common people. Fakhr Baoni, a rich man of Delhi, bribed the officers of the household to secure him an audience with the Sultan but the Sultan turned down the request of the officers. Balban was a stickler for decorum. He never appeared in the court without his full regalia and royal paraphernalia.

Even his personal servant’s never saw him without his royal apparel, socks and cap. Balban made a distinction between the high born and, the low born, and he refused to come into contact with the low born or to appoint them to any office in tire administration. He dismissed low born persons from all important offices.

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