From Garrison Town to Empire: The Expansion of the Delhi Sultanate

Social ScienceMediveal Indian History


As we have previously learned, the Delhi sultans arrived on the subcontinent in the 13th century and ruled for roughly 150 years. During their rule, they founded numerous cities, conquered and defeated numerous powerful armies, and expanded their origin over a vast area within the country.

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The Sultans of Delhi

The Sultans of Delhi had little influence over the rest of the country when they first arrived, and they had no choice but to confine their rule within Delhi and nearby areas. The reason for this is that during the thirteenth century, there was a system of fortified towns known as also known as Garrisons' towns. These fortified towns were surrounded by four walls, and all of the activities varying from commercial to administrative took place within it, including the residence of the locals who resided within these fortified towns. Garrisons were the name given to military troops who were permanently stationed within the area for the protection of these fortified towns, hence it was named “Garrisons town."

The Sultans of Delhi could only oppress such towns with their armies, and there was no taxation system in place. As a result, they were reliant on dangerous trades and robberies in their area, which frequently drew attacks from their own governors and Mongols making their way through Afghanistan.

Due to these hurdles, the Delhi Sultans were unable to raid Bengal and Sind, making life especially challenging for them. Rebellion, conflict, and even adverse weather could all disrupt critical connectivity. With such obstacles, it was nearly impossible for the Sultanate to manage far away fort-towns in Bengal and Sind, let alone create a large force to conquer the south.

The expansion of the Delhi sultanate occurred majorly in 3 phases under 3 powerful rulers:

  • Ghiyasuddin Balban

  • Alaudin khalji

  • Muhammad Tughluq

Phase 1: Ghiyasuddin Balban

The first military action, led by Ghiyasuddin Balban, took place along the sultanate's internal boundary, focusing on the territory of garrison towns. The fertile regions between the Ganga and Yamuna rivers were the focus of these campaigns. The forest grounds were cleared, and hunters and gatherers were forced to abandon their homes, after which the lands were given to the peasants, allowing agriculture to flourish. To safeguard trade routes and encourage local business, new forts, garrison towns, and towns were constructed.

Phase 2: Alauddin khalji

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During the reign of the mighty sultan Allaudin Khalji, the second and most significant expansion took place. It emerged along the Sultanate's external borders. During this period, the invasion of southern India came to an abrupt end with Muhammad Tughluq reign. Soldiers captured horses, elephants, and valuable metals while surveilling their military excursions.

Phase 3: Muhammad Tughluq

Nearly 150 years after the creation of the Delhi Sultanate, at the end of Muhammad Tughluq's glorious reign, the empire had marched across a massive portion of the subcontinent, defeating many rivals and taking several key cities. The empire thrived by collecting taxes from peasants and distributing Justine over its provinces.

The Architecture under the Delhi Sultanate

The sultans of Delhi were devout Muslims who, in addition to ruling, preached Islam throughout the subcontinent. They were active supporters of Islam and its principles. Along with commendable political and l administrative qualities, they also had a keen eye for art and culture. During their period, they built several mosques and historical buildings that are visible to date and a hotspot of tourist attraction.

Mosques proved their claims to be the guardians of Islam and the Muslim community. Mosques also contributed to the formation of a community spirit among believers who shared a same belief system and code of conduct. Because Muslims came from a variety of backgrounds, it was vital to promote the concept of community.

What is a Masjid?

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The mosque in its traditional name is called Masjid. A masjid, or mosque in Arabic, is a site where Muslims prostrate in worship of Allah. Muslims read their prayers (namaz) together in a denominational mosque (masjid-i-Jami or Jama masjid). Members of the community elect an imam (leader) for the prayer rituals, who also delivers the sermon (khutba) during Friday prayer. Muslims pray with their backs to Mecca. This is to the west of India. This is referred to as the qibla. The Delhi Sultans constructed mosques throughout the subcontinent, demonstrating their claim to be defenders of Islam and Muslims.


The Delhi sultanate, however, had stretched throughout most of the Indian subcontinent in just 150 years. The Delhi Sultans could never completely govern all of the people and locations in their dominion due to its rapid expansion.


Q1: What was the reign of the Delhi Sultanate?

Ans: The Delhi Sultanate was in power for 150 years.

Q2: How many phases did the Sultanate go through throughout its expansion?

Ans: The Sultanate grew in three stages.

Q3: Who were the three rulers who led the Delhi sultanate's major expansion?

Ans: Ghiyasuddin Balban, Alauddin Khalji, and Muhammad Tughluq were the three primary monarchs under whom the Sultan expanded the most.

Q4: Who were the Delhi Sultans' main rivals?

Ans: The Mongols were the biggest enemy of the Delhi Sultans.

Q5: What is the mosque's traditional name?

Ans: The traditional term for the Mosque is Masjid.

Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47