Ghiyas ud din Balban

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ghiyas ud din balban

 Sultan Ghiyas ud din Balban

 Sultan Ghiyas ud din Balban was the most powerful Sultan of the Slave dynasty and a brilliant military commander. He was a member of the Ilbari tribe, which belonged to a wealthy Turk family. Unluckily, he was seized by the Mongols and sold to Khwajah Jamal-ud-din Basri in Baghdad. Later he was taken to Delhi as a slave and sold to Iltutmush.

Sultan Ghiyas ud din Balban was favored by the master from the start and quickly rose through the ranks of the Chalgan (forty chief nobles of the court). During Nasir-ud-din Mahmud’s reign, he progressively grew in power and became the most powerful minister. After Nasir-ud-din’s death in 1266, he became Sultan.

Balban Administration

The administration of Balban was half-military and half-civil. All his officers were supposed to perform both military and administrative duties. Balban himself kept control over the entire administration. There was no post of naib during his reign and the position of the vizir too had become quite insignificant. The Balban administration was semi-civil and semi-military.

  •  During Raziya Sultan’s reign, he was raised to the position of Amir-i-Shikar (Lord of the Hunt). In the beginning, he was devoted to Raziya.
  • However, he later joined forces with the nobles and successfully removed Raziya Sultana from the throne of Delhi. The succeeding Sultan, Bahram Shah, rewarded him with the Jagir of Rewari and Hansi in exchange for his service.
  • During Bahram Shah’s reign, he also successfully resisted a Mongol invasion as a famous warrior.
  • He was also influential in the deposition of Masud and the ascension of Nasir-ud-din Mahmud to the throne of Delhi.
  • The Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mahmud rewarded Bulban with the title of Ulugh Khan and Naib-i-malik or Deputy Sultan, for his loyalty and dedication.
  • It was possibly owing to Nasir-ud-din weakness and incompetence and his reliance on him for state affairs management. As a result, Balban gradually gained control of the real power.
  •  His influence and popularity expanded steadily. He suppressed several internal uprisings as well as external aggressions, particularly by Mongols
  • Because Nasir-ud-din lacked an heir to the throne, he nominated Balban to succeed him. After Nasir-ud-din Mahmud died in 1266, Balban succeeded became the Sultan. 

His Early Difficulties

 Following his accession to the throne, Ghiyas-ud-din Balban had to deal with many issues. Due to the internal conflicts of the kingdom, the state’s affairs had become chaotic, and the crown’s prestige had plummeted.

  1. There were many arrogant, haughty, and enemies of Ghiyas-ud-din Balban. 
  2. The royal money was depleted, and the army lacked organization. Moreover, the Mongol invasion was on the horizon, and internal rebellions were erupting at regular intervals.

Restoration of the Crown’s Prestige

Balban knew that no better or more effective government could be achieved without restoring the crown’s prestige, which had declined after  Iltutmish.

  • He also saw that extreme dictatorship might be used to restore it. However, he also understood that to be a successful dictator, one must adhere to the ideology of kingship policy.
  • Ghiyas-ud-din Balban explained his notion of kingship to his subjects at first.
  • Second, he highlighted the need for external dignity and reputation in kingship.
  • He structured his court according to the Persian model.
  •  He had a long beard on his long face and a large crown on his head.
  •  He surrounded himself with tall and menacing bodyguards, their swords drawn and gleaming in the light.
  • He forbade the adviser and officers from drinking, making jokes, laughing, or even smiling.
  •  He was too much against wine and parties. Balban also removed all low-born people from high-ranking positions in his administration.
  • Restoration of the Crown’s Prestige was the one of appreciated achievements of Ghiyasud din Balban.

Destruction of the Forty

Iltutmish established the Forty, a body of Turkish nobility, for better and more efficient management. This body’s members were chosen for their devotion and excellent service. Unfortunately, due to Iltutmish’s weak and incompetent successors, the members of the Forty had too much authority.

Balban was well aware that the Forty would be a significant impediment to his rule. And he wouldn’t be able to accomplish his purpose unless it was destroyed. So, as a result, he devised a plot to destroy the Forty.

  • At first, Balban elevated the junior Turks to critical positions and compared them to the Forty.
  • Second, he subjected members of the Forty to harsh punishments for minor infractions.
  • He publicly lashes Malik Baqbaq, governor of Badaun and a member of the Forty, for killing his servant.
  •  Haibat Khan, a dominant member of the Forty and governor of Awadh, had murdered a man while under the impact of liquor. Five hundred stripes were slapped on his back.
  • Amir Khan, the governor of Awadh, was similarly hanged at the city entrance for failing to handle the rebellion in Bengal.

He ended some of his great rivals, and others surrendered at his feet for the well-being of their life and honor. It was a brave step in the course of his magnificent despotism.

The Spy system

The establishment of an effective spy network was the eminent Achievements of Ghiyasud din Balban. Sultan Ghiyas ud din Balban established an effective spy network as an instrument of his rule. To gather information on the state’s many activities, he appointed reporters and news writers to each department, province, and district. They did it in total openness and secrecy. They got severe punishment if they failed to do their duties.

A Badaun news reporter got hung over the city gate for failing to disclose Malik Baqbaq’s crime promptly. However, law and order were established entirely during his reign.

Reorganization of Army

Balban administratively reorganized his army and made it powerful and successful as the cornerstone of his dictatorial regime. He named Imad-ul-Mulk the army’s Diwan-i-Ariz, a skillful and vigilant general (minister of war).

In contrast, Balban did not make any significant changes to the military system. However, he did boost the army’s efficiency and morale. With the help of a vast and powerful army, he could successfully suppress internal rebellions and exterior invasion.

Suppression of Rebellions


Several major rebellions occurred during Balban’s reign, which he put down with a heavy hand. The Mewatis were the most dangerous rebellion. Because there were jungles around Delhi, they made a deal to plunder and flee.

  1. Balban blocked the capital’s western gate and cleared the woods around Delhi.
  2. He dispatched his troops to slaughter the Mewatis.
  3. He built four forts around Delhi and stationed warriors in them.
  4. Similarly, he put down Hindu rebellions in the Doab region, and their chiefs were cowed.

The people of Katehar rose against him as well.

  1. Balban ordered his forces to attack their homes, set fire, and exterminate their adult male population.
  2. Slavery was imposed on their wives and children.

According to Barani, the katharsis never lifted their heads after this episode, and the entire region became safe for travelers. So, the Suppression of Rebellions was one of the great Achievements of Ghiyasud din Balban.

Rebellion in Bengal

The Delhi Sultanate ruled Bengal, and Tughril Khan, the ruler, was a slave of Balban. Tughril Khan was a brave and ambitious man who was initially loyal to the Sultan. However, in 1279, he declared Bengal’s independence and opposed Balban’s authority. Balban’s old age, as well as numerous Mongol invasions, most likely encouraged him. Balban, on the other hand, was not the type to abandon him so quickly.

  • Against him, he dispatched an expedition led by Amin Khan. Tughril overcame Amin-Khan.  Balban was so angry by this that he hung Amin-Khan publicly.
  • Balban also dispatched a second army, led by Bahadur, a military officer. However, Tughril Khan drove him back as well.
  • Finally, Balban confronted Tughril in person. Tughril escaped east when he heard Balban was approaching, but he was caught and put to death. He then proceeded to Delhi, appointing his son Bughra Khan as ruler of Bengal. 
  • This was the one of great Achievements of Ghiyasud din Balban.

Mongol Invasion

Mongol Invasion

On the frontier, Mongol invasions were common, and Sultan Balban had to deal with them regularly. Lahore was under Mongol influence on the western border, while Sindh and Multan were continually at risk of invasion. As a result, Sultan Balban took several precautions to protect the western frontiers.

  • He constructed a line of fortifications along the border, operating them with active soldiers.
  • Second, he named Sher Khan, a renowned fighter, as the army commander stationed on the border.
  • Against the Mongols, Sher Khan was victorious on several occasions. However, after Sher Khan’s untimely death in 1270, the Mongols resumed their plundering assaults without fear.
  • Balban put experienced Amirs in charge of the boundaries, but they couldn’t keep the Mongols in check.

Finally, he separated the border territory into two sections.

    • His eldest son, Prince Muhammad Khan, controlled one portion, which included Sind, Multan, and Lahore.
    • His second son Bughra Khan received the second portion, which included the provinces of Sunam and Samana.
  • Prince Muhammad khan repelled the Mongol invasion twice, in 1279 and 1285, but in his third battle with the Mongols, he became a victim of the Mongols. In the year 1286, Prince Muhammad died on the battlefield. This was the most significant setback for Balban. Despite retaking Lahore from the Mongols, he could not recover from the shock of his son’s death. Prince Muhammad was his favorite son. 

Death of Balban

Following the trauma of his son’s death, Balban’s health began to deteriorate. He was in his eighties and had reached the end of his life. Realizing his demise, he called his youngest son, Governor of Bengal Bughra Khan, to Delhi. Bughra, however, who had been alerted to a potential threat, did not appear. Balban then named his heir as Kai Khusrav, the son of his eldest son, Prince Muhammad. At the age of eighty, he died in 1287.

Achievements of Ghiyasud din Balban

  • Restoration of the Crown’s Prestige
  • Rebellion in Bengal
  • Suppression of Rebellions
  • Reorganization of Army
  • The Spy system
  • Destruction of the Forty
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