Territory controlled by the Khaljis (dark green) and their tributaries (light green)
|Common languages||Persian (official)|
|Jalal ud din Firuz Khalji|
|Shihab ad-Din Umar|
|Qutb ad-Din Mubarak|
|Today part of||India|
The Khalji or Khilji[a] dynasty was a Muslim dynasty which ruled large parts of the Indian subcontinent between 1290 and 1320. It was founded by Jalal ud din Firuz Khalji and became the second dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate of India. The dynasty is known for their faithlessness and ferocity, conquests into the Hindu south, and for successfully fending off the repeated Mongol invasions of India.
The Khaljis were of Turko-Afghan origin: a Turkic people that had settled in Afghanistan before moving to Delhi. The ancestors of Jalaluddin Khalji had lived in the Helmand and Lamghan regions for over 200 years.
There is some debate about the ethnic group that the Khaljis belonged to, when the dynasty ruled. The Khalaj people in western Iran speak the Khalaj language. The modern Pashto-speaking Ghilzai Afghans are also descendants of Khalaj people; their transformation into an ethnic Afghan group can be dated to earlier than the 16th century. After a number of ethnic transformations, the Afghan Khalaj became the Ghilzay tribe of Afghans. Between the 10th and 13th centuries, some sources refer to the Khalaj people as of Turkic, but some others do not. Ibn Khordadbeh (9th century) mentions the Khalaj people while describing the "land of the Turks". But the distance between the Amu Darya and the Talas is such as it would have been impossible for the tribes living beyond the Amu Darya to use the Talas pastures as winter quarters, leading to the conclusion that the text has been corrupted somehow or that some Khalaj still lived near the Khallukh at the time. Minorsky argues that the early history of the Khalaj tribe is obscure and adds that the identity of the name Khalaj is still to be proved. Mahmud al-Kashgari (11th century) does not include the Khalaj among the Oghuz Turkic tribes, but includes them among the Oghuz-Turkman (where Turkman meant "Like the Turks") tribes. Kashgari felt the Khalaj did not belong to the original stock of Turkish tribes but had associated with them and therefore, in language and dress, often appeared "like Turks". The 11th century Tarikh-i Sistan and the Firdausi's Shahnameh also distinguish and differentiate the Khalaj from the Turks. Minhaj-i-Siraj Juzjani (13th century) never identified Khalaj as Turks, but was careful not to refer to them as Afghans. They were always a category apart from Turks, Tajiks and Afghans. Muhammad ibn Najib Bakran's Jahan-nama explicitly describes them as Turkic, although he notes that that their complexion had become darker (compared to the Turks) and their language had undergone enough alterations to become a distinct dialect. The modern historian Irfan Habib has argued that the Khaljis were not related to the Turkic people and were instead ethnic Afghans. Habib pointed out that, in some 15th-century Devanagari Sati inscriptions, the later Khaljis of Malwa have been referred to as "Khalchi" and "Khilchi", and that the 17th century chronicle Padshahnama, an area near Boost in Afghanistan (where the Khalaj once resided) as "Khalich". Habib theorizes that the earlier Persian chroniclers misread the name "Khalchi" as "Khalji", but this is unlikely, as this would mean that every Persian chronicler writing between the 13th and 17th centuries made the same mistake. Habib also argues that no 13th century source refers to the Turkish background of the Khaljis, but this assertion is wrong, as Muhammad ibn Najib Bakran's Jahan-nama explicitly describes the Khalaj people as Turkic.
The accounts describing the Khaljis' rise to power in India indicate that they were regarded as a race quite distinct from the Turks in late 13th century Delhi. Over the centuries, the Khaljis had intermarried with the local Afghans and adopted their manners, culture, customs, and practices. They were looked down as non-Turks by Turks. Therefore, the Turkish nobles wrongly looked upon them as Afghans. They were considered Afghans in the Delhi Court.
Khaljis were vassals of the Mamluk dynasty of Delhi and served the Sultan of Delhi, Ghiyas ud din Balban. Balban's successors were murdered over 1289–1290, and the Mamluk dynasty succumbed to the factional conflicts within the Mamluk dynasty and the Muslim nobility. As the struggle between the factions razed, Jalal ud din Firuz Khalji led a coup and murdered the 17-year-old Mamluk successor Muiz ud din Qaiqabad - the last ruler of Mamluk dynasty.
Jalaluddin succeeded in overcoming the opposition of the Turkish nobles and ascended the throne of Delhi in January 1290. Jalal-ud-din was not universally accepted: During his six-year reign (1290–96), Balban's nephew revolted due to his assumption of power and the subsequent sidelining of nobility and commanders serving the Mamluk dynasty. Jalal-ud-din suppressed the revolt and executed some commanders, then led an unsuccessful expedition against Ranthambhor and repelled a Mongol force on the banks of the Sind River in central India with the help of his nephew Juna Khan.
Alauddin Khalji was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din. He raided the Hindu Deccan peninsula and Deogiri - then the capital of the Hindu state of Maharashtra, looting their treasure. He returned to Delhi in 1296, murdered Jalal-ud-din and assumed power as Sultan.
Alauddin Khalji continued expanding Delhi Sultanate into South India, with the help of generals such as Malik Kafur and Khusraw Khan, collecting large war booty (Anwatan) from those they defeated. His commanders collected war spoils from Hindu kingdoms and paid khums (one fifth) on ghanima (booty collected during war) to Sultan's treasury, which helped strengthen the Khalji rule.
Alauddin Khalji reigned for 20 years. He attacked and seized Hindu states of Ranthambhor (1301 AD), Chittorgarh (1303), Māndu (1305) and plundered the wealthy state of Devagiri, also withstood two Mongol raids. Alauddin is also known for his cruelty against attacked kingdoms after wars. Historians note him as a tyrant and that anyone Alauddin Khalji suspected of being a threat to this power was killed along with the women and children of that family. In 1298, between 15,000 and 30,000 people near Delhi, who had recently converted to Islam, were slaughtered in a single day, due to fears of an uprising. He also killed his own family members and nephews, in 1299–1300, after he suspected them of rebellion, by first gouging out their eyes and then beheading them.
In 1308, Alauddin's lieutenant, Malik Kafur captured Warangal, overthrew the Hoysala Empire south of the Krishna River and raided Madurai in Tamil Nadu. He then looted the treasury in capitals and from the temples of south India. Among these loots was the Warangal loot that included one of the largest known diamond in human history, the Koh-i-noor. Malik Kafur returned to Delhi in 1311, laden with loot and war booty from Deccan peninsula which he submitted to Alauddin Khalji. This made Malik Kafur, born in a Hindu family and who had converted to Islam before becoming Delhi Sultanate's army commander, a favorite of Alauddin Khalji.
The last Khalji sultans
Alauddin Khalji died in December 1315. Thereafter, the sultanate witnessed chaos, coup and succession of assassinations. Malik Kafur became the sultan but lacked support from the amirs and was killed within a few months.
Over the next three years, another three sultans assumed power violently and/or were killed in coups. Following Malik Kafur's death, the amirs installed a six-year-old named Shihab-ud-din Omar as sultan and his teenage brother, Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah, as regent. Qutb killed his younger brother and appointed himself sultan. To win over the loyalty of the amirs and the Malik clan, Mubarak Shah offered Ghazi Malik the position of army commander in the Punjab. Others were given a choice between various offices and death. After ruling in his own name for less than four years, Mubarak Shah was murdered in 1320 by one of his generals, Khusraw Khan. Amirs persuaded Ghazi Malik – who was still army commander in the Punjab – to lead a coup. Ghazi Malik's forces marched on Delhi, captured Khusraw Khan and beheaded him. Upon becoming sultan, Ghazi Malik renamed himself Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq. He would become the first ruler of the Tughluq dynasty.
Economic policy and administration
Alauddin Khalji changed the tax policies to strengthen his treasury to help pay the keep of his growing army and fund his wars of expansion. He raised agriculture taxes from 20% to 50% – payable in grain and agricultural produce (or cash), eliminating payments and commissions on taxes collected by local chiefs, banned socialization among his officials as well as inter-marriage between noble families to help prevent any opposition forming against him; he cut salaries of officials, poets and scholars in his kingdom.
Alauddin Khalji enforced four taxes on non-Muslims in the Sultanate - jizya (poll tax), kharaj (land tax), kari (house tax) and chari (pasture tax). He also decreed that his Delhi-based revenue officers assisted by local Muslim jagirdars, khuts, mukkadims, chaudharis and zamindars seize by force half of all produce any farmer generates, as a tax on standing crop, so as to fill sultanate granaries. His officers enforced tax payment by beating up Hindu and Muslim middlemen responsible for rural tax collection. Furthermore, Alauddin Khalji demanded, state Kulke and Rothermund, from his "wise men in the court" to create "rules and regulations in order to grind down the Hindus, so as to reduce them to abject poverty and deprive them of wealth and any form of surplus property that could foster a rebellion; the Hindu was to be so reduced as to be left unable to keep a horse to ride on, to carry arms, to wear fine clothes, or to enjoy any of the luxuries of life". At the same time, he confiscated all landed property from his courtiers and officers. Revenue assignments to Muslim jagirdars were also cancelled and the revenue was collected by the central administration. Henceforth, state Kulke and Rothermund, "everybody was busy with earning a living so that nobody could even think of rebellion."
Alauddin Khalji taxation methods and increased taxes reduced agriculture output and the Sultanate witnessed massive inflation. In order to compensate for salaries that he had cut and fixed for Muslim officials and soldiers, Alauddin introduced price controls on all agriculture produce, goods, livestocks and slaves in kingdom, as well as controls on where, how and by whom these could be sold. Markets called shahana-i-mandi were created. Muslim merchants were granted exclusive permits and monopoly in these mandi to buy and resell at official prices. No one other than these merchants could buy from farmers or sell in cities. Alauddin deployed an extensive network of Munhiyans (spies, secret police) who would monitor the mandi and had the power to seize anyone trying to buy or sell anything at a price different than the official controlled prices. Those found violating these mandi rules were severely punished, such as by cutting out their flesh. Taxes collected in form of seized crops and grains were stored in sultanate's granaries. Over time, farmers quit farming for income and shifted to subsistence farming, the general food supply worsened in north India, shortages increased and Delhi Sultanate witnessed increasingly worse and extended periods of famines. The Sultan banned private storage of food by anyone. Rationing system was introduced by Alauddin as shortages multiplied; however, the nobility and his army were exempt from the per family quota-based food rationing system. The shortages, price controls and rationing system caused starvation deaths of numerous rural people, mostly Hindus. However, during these famines, Khalji's sultanate granaries and wholesale mandi system with price controls ensured sufficient food for his army, court officials and the urban population in Delhi. Price controls instituted by Khalji reduced prices, but also lowered wages to a point where ordinary people did not benefit from the low prices. The price control system collapsed shortly after the death of Alauddin Khalji, with prices of various agriculture products and wages doubling to quadrupling within a few years.
The tax system introduced during the Khalji dynasty had a long term influence on Indian taxation system and state administration,
Alauddin Khalji's taxation system was probably the one institution from his reign that lasted the longest, surviving indeed into the nineteenth or even the twentieth century. From now on, the land tax (kharaj or mal) became the principal form in which the peasant's surplus was expropriated by the ruling class.— The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750, 
Within Sultanate's capital city of Delhi, during Alauddin Khalji's reign, at least half of the population were slaves working as servants, concubines and guards for the Muslim nobles, amirs, court officials and commanders. Slavery in India during the Khalji dynasty, and later Islamic dynasties, included two groups of people - persons seized during military campaigns, and people who defaulted on their taxes. The institution of slavery and bondage labor became pervasive during the Khalji dynasty; male slaves were referred to as banda, qaid, ghulam, or burdah, while female slaves were called bandi, kaniz or laundi.
Alauddin Khalji is credited with the early Indo-Mohammedan architecture, a style and construction campaign that flourished during Tughlaq dynasty. Among works completed during Khalji dynasty, are Alai Darwaza - the southern gateway of Qutb complex enclosure, the Idgah at Rapri, and the Jamat Khana (Khizri) Mosque in Delhi. The Alai Darwaza, completed in 1311, was included as part of Qutb Minar and its Monuments UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.
Disputed historical sources
Historians have questioned the reliability of historical accounts about the Khalji dynasty. Genuine primary sources and historical records from 1260 to 1349 period have not been found. One exception is the short chapter on Delhi Sultanate from 1302-1303 AD by Wassaf in Persia, which is duplicated in Jami al-Tawarikh, and which covers the Balban rule, start of Jalal-ud-din Chili's rule and circumstances of succession of Alauddin Khalji. A semi-fictional poetry (mathnawis) by Yamin al-Din Abul Hasan, also known as Amir Khusraw Dihlawi, is full of adulation for his employer, the reigning Sultan. Abu Hasan's adulation-filled narrative poetry has been used as source of Khalji dynasty history, but this is a disputed source. Three historical sources, composed 30 to 115 years after the end of Khalji dynasty, are considered more independent but also questioned given the gap in time. These are Isami's epic of 1349, Diya-yi Barani's work of 1357 and Sirhindi's account of 1434, which possibly relied on now lost text or memories of people in Khalji's court. Of these Barani's text is the most referred and cited in scholarly sources.
List of rulers of Delhi (1290–1320)
|Titular Name||Personal Name||Reign|
ملک فیروز خلجی
علی گرشاسپ خلجی
عمر خان خلجی
مبارک خان خلجی
|Khusro Khan ended the Khalji dynasty in 1320.|
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