The Tartar Dynasties

A.D. 1288 TO A.D. 1398

As can easily be imagined, India at the end of those ten Slave reigns

(which between them lasted but eighty-two years) was a very different

place to what India had been when Eibuk's iron hand first closed on

it. Half the Punjab, almost all Rajputana, and the better part of the

United Provinces, had run red with Hindu blood in those days; but as

the stream subsided, the
terrible legacy of the flood had remained as

a lesson welding the whole land into apathetic acquiescence, until

absorption set in with the years, and as time went on, the crushed,

half-dead organism began once more to feel life in its veins. For

Hinduism is India--India is Hinduism. When the last trace of the

metaphysical Monism which underlies every aspiration, every action,

has disappeared, India and Hinduism will have disappeared also, but

not till then.

So as time crept on, and under slack rule Mahomedan began to fight

Mahomedan, each petty governor playing for his own hand, his own

independence, the Rajputs raised their dejected heads, and, seizing

every opportunity, strove to recover part at least of their own.

Gwalior with its rock,--that almost impregnable fort--for instance,

changed hands many times, and, save during the reign of Nasir-ud-din,

no attempt was made on the part of the Mahomedans after the time of

Altamish, either to increase their conquests, or do more than

temporarily bolster up their rule.

Nor when the Slave dynasty ended, and one Jelal-ud-din, of the House

of Khilji, established himself on the throne of Delhi by the murder of

the three-year-old Kei-omurs, was there any change of policy. He was

seventy years old; old for kingship in any country, extraordinarily so

for India. And he was weak, hesitating. For a while distracted by

feeble remorse he refused royal honours, and after a very short time

delegated his authority to his nephew, Allah-ud-din, who succeeded

him, and who for many years prior to his uncle's death arrogated to

himself almost absolute independence.

The seven years of Jelal-ud-din's reign, then, are but a prelude to

Allah-ud-din's twenty.

A vigorous man this, and an unscrupulous. One of his first emprises

was the conquest of the Dekkan which, as yet, had been untouched by

Mahomedan adventure.

He got no further, however, than Deogiri, the capital of the

Maharajah of the Mahrattas. Far enough, however, for pillage a la

Kutb-din-Eibuk. He found the Rajputs unprepared--they had strict

scruples of honour regarding the necessity for a formal declaration of

war, by which their adversaries were not bound--and the usual

slaughter took place. For the first time, also, mention is made of

merchants being tortured to make them disclose their treasures.

"L'appetit vient en mangeant," and a rich Hindu banya was to the

Mahomedan what the Jew was to a Crusader.

The result was prodigious. Allah-ud-din left Deogiri--surely misnamed

thus the "Shelter of the Gods"--with "2,400 pounds weight of pearls,

12 pounds of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, 6,000 pounds

of silver, 4,000 pieces of silk, besides a long list of other precious

commodities to which reason forbids us to give credit." In truth,

reason appears as it is somewhat over-taxed!

It was on Allah-ud-din's return from this campaign that he perpetrated

the foulest murder of Indian history; and that means much.

His expedition had been absolutely unauthorised by his uncle, the

king, who, almost dotingly affectionate though inwardly relieved at

his favourite's success, was persuaded to ask on Allah-ud-din's return

for explanations, and express displeasure. The latter feigned remorse,

went so far as to hint that the excess of his regret might put an end

to his melancholy life; so lured the old man to meet him on the banks

of the river Ganges, where the villain halted, fearful, he protested,

of just punishment. The king, deceived, crossed the river in the Royal

Barge almost unattended, bidding those who did accompany him unbuckle

swords lest the beloved prodigal might take affright. He reached the

landing-stage, and found Allah-ud-din backed by trusty friends. The

old man advanced, the prodigal fell at his feet, to be raised with

almost playful tenderness. "Lo!" said the tremulous old voice, as the

tremulous old hand patted the villain's cheek, "how couldst thou fear

me, Allah-hu? Did I not cherish thee from childhood? Have I not held

thee dearer than mine own sons?"

The words had hardly left his lips, the first step hand-in-hand

towards the Royal Barge had hardly been taken, when Allah-ud-din gave

the signal. The feeble old man was thrown down. One cry, "Oh,

Allah-ud-din, Allah-ud-din!" and all was over. His head, transfixed on

a spear-point, was paraded about the city, and his murderer, making a

pompous and triumphant entry into Delhi, ascended the throne in the

Ruby Palace, and thereinafter utilised part of his loot by spending it

on magnificent shows, grand festivals, and splendid entertainments,

"by which the unthinking rabble were made to forget in gaiety all

memory of their former king, or of the horrid crime which had placed

the present one on the throne."

So much for Allah-ud-din's accession. His reign is literally crammed

full of picturesque incidents, and would almost require a volume to

itself. Before attempting a few details, there is one tale of

Jelal-ud-din's which deserves record--that of the Mysterious Stranger.

He was called Sidi--Dervish Sidi. He appeared in Delhi suddenly,

opened a large house, and commenced to distribute charity on a scale

of magnificence which led instantly to the belief that he must possess

the philosopher's stone. He thought nothing of giving three thousand

pieces of gold in casual relief to some noble but distressed family.

Every day he expended about 8,000 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of meat,

with sugar, spices, and butter in proportion to feed the poor, while

he lived on rice alone, and foreswore both wine and women. So, after a

time, his influence almost exceeding that of Majesty itself, he was

accused of high treason, and by the king's orders condemned to the

ordeal by fire.

It was to be carried out coram populo. On the plain between the town

and the river all preparations were made: a circle round the blazing

pile to give fair view to the populace; Sidi Dervish, and his

companions in suspicion, saying their prayers; then, at the last

moment, objection raised and upheld by learned doctors that such

ordeals were both contrary to the law of God and against Reason. So

Sidi Dervish and his friends are being hauled off to prison once more,

until the foiled king gives a hint to some shaven monks hard by: "I

leave him to you to be judged according to his deserts."

Cut down by the shaven ones' razors, Sidi offers no resistance, begs

them to be expeditious in sending him to God, lays his curse heavily

on the king and his posterity, and dies; whereupon a black whirlwind

rises and envelopes all for the space of half an hour. A terrifying

end to one whose piety was unquestioned, but whose dogma was

disturbing; for Sidi Dervish held, we are told, "very peculiar

opinions, and never attended public worship."

A quaint, incomprehensible tale, surely, that reads true, and brings

wonder as to who the poor man could possibly have been.

To return to Allah-ud-din. One of the most picturesque stories of

Rajput history is associated with his name: the story of the Princess

Padmani and the first sack of Chitore--that terrible happening which

still haunts the memory of the race, and provides its ultimate

inviolable oath, "By the sin of the sack of Chitore."

Padmani, then, was peerless. Her very name survives to the present day

as synonymous with perfect womanhood. And Allah-ud-din--who seems to

have been eclectic in his pleasures--hearing of her beauty while still

only commander-in-chief to his uncle, forced his way to the sacred

stronghold of the Rajputs, and threatened instant attack if he were

not allowed to see her, if it were only her reflection in a mirror.

Now such hardy, yet in a way honourable, requests were not foreign to

the Rajput spirit, and Rajah Bhim-si, her husband, granted it. With

due pomp and ceremonial he escorted Allah-ud-din to his palace, with

due pomp and ceremony showed him the reflection of the most beautiful

woman in India, with due pomp and ceremony escorted the Mahomedan

general back to his tents, trusting to his honour. But Allah-ud-din's

honour was a mutable quantity: he seized the husband as ransom for the

wife, and swore instant death if the princess were not delivered to

him without delay. So forth from the frowning rock came seven hundred

litters, Padmani and her women offering themselves up in exchange for

a life that was the dearest thing on earth to every Rajput man and

woman. Into the camp they came; and then? Then each litter belched out

reckless manhood armed to the teeth; each disguised litter-bearer

threw off his swathing shawl and proclaimed himself warrior.

So the husband was brought back to the wife, and in the ensuing battle

the Rajputs died hard. There is a story of how one widow of the slain,

standing with foot ready to mount the funeral pyre of her dead hero,

called in a loud voice to the page who had followed him in the fight:

"Boy! Tell me once more ere I go how bore himself my lord?"

"As reaper of the harvest of battle! On the bed of honour, he spread a

carpet of the slain, whereon, a barbarian his pillow, he sleeps ringed

about by his foes."

"Yet once again, oh boy, tell me how my lord bore himself?"

"Oh mother! Who can tell his deeds! He left none to fear or to


The memory of Padmani's trick rankled. After ascending the throne

Allah-ud-din returned to Chitore. Up till then, A.D. 1303, the fort

was maiden, had been held unassailable, impregnable. But Allah-ud-din

was rich beyond belief. He gave gold for every basket of earth brought

to raise the pile, whence, overtopping the rock, he could pour his

missiles into the doomed city.

Night and day, day and night through the long hot weather the baskets

worked, the gold was paid, until the end drew near.

The tale which is still told round many a watch-fire runs that one

night Rajah Bhim-si, to whom twelve sons had been born by the

beautiful Padmani, woke in fear. Before him, in a lurid light, stood

Vyan-Mata, the tutelary goddess of his race. "I am hungry," she

wailed. "Lo! I drink Rajput blood, but I am hungry for the blood of

kings. Let me drink the blood of twelve who have worn the diadem, and

my city may yet be inviolate."

So one by one eleven of the young princes were raised to the throne.

Then, after three days' reign, they went forth to meet the foe, to

meet fate.

But the youngest, Prince Ajey-si, was the darling; so when his turn

came, his father's heart failed him, and he called his chiefs

together. "The child shall go free to recover what is lost. I will be

the twelfth king to die for Chitore."

"Yea-we will die for Chitore," was the reply.

So each Rajput man put on the bridal coronet and the saffron robe, and

every Rajput woman her wedding garment. And when the dawn came, the

city gates were set wide, and through them poured desperate manhood

surrounding a little knot of picked heroes who had sworn to see the

child safe; while from behind rose up on the still morning air a

column of smoke from the vast funeral pyre on which desperate women

had sought the embrace of death in the dark vaults and caves which

honeycomb the rock, and which, since that fatal day, have never been

entered but once by mortal man. Their very entrance is now forgotten.

So runs the story. This, at least, is fact: the great Sacrifice of

Honourable Death--the Johar--was performed at Chitore, and

Allah-ud-din, entering victorious, found a silent city.

Given an unscrupulous man, possessed of boundless wealth, and all

things are possible in a country distracted by jealousies as India was

at this time. And all things were achieved. The frequent incursions,

growing year by year on larger scale, of the Moghuls who had already

gained foothold to the west and north, were repelled. The Dekkan was

finally conquered and annexed by the king's worthless slave and

favourite, the eunuch Kafur, a man whose life was one long tale of

infamy. Originally the seat of the great Andhra dynasty, the Dekkan,

divided into many principalities, had passed into many hands. In the

seventh century King Harsha had attempted to gather it into his

empire, but had been foiled by the skill of Pulikesin the king, during

whose reign the wonderful caves in the Ajanta valley were excavated

and adorned.

Another dynasty, another king in the eighth century gave to the Dekkan

the marvellous rock-cut temple at Ellora. At first a stronghold of the

Jain religion, it oscillated between that and Brahmanism, until in the

twelfth century the latter finally came uppermost with the Haysala

line of kings.

It was in A.D. 1310 that Kafur swept through the kingdom, despoiled

the capital, laid waste the country, and carried off the reigning

Rajah, though its final absorption in the Mahomedan empire was not

until A.D. 1327. Kafur, however, set his mark so far south as Adam's

Bridge, opposite Ceylon, the furthest point yet reached by any

northern invasion.

This was the zenith of Allah-ud-din's power. His health had yielded to

intemperance of all kinds; he became more and more despotic, more and

more cruel, more and more under the baleful influence of his creature


Rebellion grew rife. Little Prince Ajey-si's heir, Hamir, recovered

Chitore, Guzerat revolted, and almost ere it was annexed, the Dekkan

rose and expelled half the Mahomedan garrison.

These tidings coming to the already suffering king brought on

paroxysms of rage, and he died, his end accelerated by poison

administered by that slave of his worst passions, Kafur. Thereupon

followed the usual murders and sudden deaths of an Indian succession,

followed by the death of Kafur, and the final enthroning of

Allah-ud-din's third son, Mobarik. He was a weak sensualist, who,

nevertheless, was human. So he removed some of his father's more

oppressive taxes, and did away with his restrictions on trade and

property. After which he and his creature Khushru, a converted Hindu

slave, outraged all decency, and gave way to sheer dissolute devilry,

which ended in the master's murder by his favourite, who thereinafter

snatched at the crown.

But this man even the Mahomedan India of the time could not stand.

Mobarik, "whose name and reign would be too infamous to have a place

in the records of literature, did not our duty as historian oblige us

to the disagreeable task," was bad enough. Khushru was worse. So he

was killed, and a worthy warrior, by name Ghazi-Beg Toghluk, who had

repelled many invasions of Moghuls, was invited to the throne.

Ferishta's description of this is rather nice, and bears quotation:

"So they presented him with the keys of the city, and he mounted his

horse and entered Delhi in triumph. When he came in sight of the

Palace of a Thousand Minarets" (this must have been somewhere close to

the Kutb) "he wept, and cried aloud:

"'Oh, subjects of a great empire! I am no more than one of you who

unsheathed my sword to deliver you from oppression, and rid the world

of a monster. If, therefore, any member of the royal family remain,

let him be brought, that we his servants should prostrate ourselves

before his throne. But if none of the race of kings have escaped the

bloody hands of usurpation, let the most worthy be selected, and I

swear to abide by the choice.'"

Not a bad speech. Small wonder that there followed on it the first

historical notice of "chairing"--"the populace, laying hold of him,

raised him up, carried him to the throne, and hailed him as

Shahjahan, Master of the World; but he chose the more modest title of


For the curse of Sidi Dervish had been effectual, and the House of

Khilji was extinct.

Warned by the past, one of the first acts of Ghiass-ud-din was

formally to nominate his successor from amongst his four sons. He made

an unfortunate choice, for there is little doubt but that Prince Jonah

was accessory to his father's death four years afterwards, when he

invited him into a wooden palace which promptly fell upon, and crushed

the king and five of his attendants.

Neither was Prince Aluf-Khan--under which title Jonah became

heir-apparent--a lucky choice in other ways. He lost a large army in

attempting to regain Deogiri, and was not particularly successful

against the Rajputs. The king, meanwhile, spent most of his energy in

building a new citadel at Delhi, the ruins of which still survive

under the name of Toghlukabad. A fine, massive piece of work it must

have been, with its huge blocks of dressed stone and curiously sloping

walls, reminding one of a modern dam.

So with the death of honest Ghiass appears the typical Eastern

potentate, complete as to arrogance, cruelty, power, and pride, who

for seven-and-twenty years was to cry, "Off with his head!" to any one

he pleased.

He seems to have been clever. We are told that he was the "most

eloquent and accomplished prince of his time, and that he was not less

famous for his gallantry in the field than for those accomplishments

which render a man the ornament of private society."

It sounds well, but, judged by his acts, it appears doubtful if pride

and arrogance had not made Mahomed Toghluk partially insane. No other

supposition explains the extraordinary contradictions of his rule. He

"established hospitals and almshouses for widows and orphans on the

most liberal scale," but "his punishments were not only rigid and

cruel, but frequently unjust. So little did he hesitate to spill the

blood of God's creatures, that one might have supposed his object was

to exterminate the human species." On more than one occasion, going

out for a royal hunt, he suddenly announced his intention of hunting

men, and not beasts; so the unoffending peasantry were driven in by

the beaters and slain as if they were blackbuck. He imagined and

started vast schemes for conquering China and Persia, in order to

enrich his coffers, yet bribed a Moghul invasion to return whence it

came by a huge subsidy which completely crippled him. He attempted to

face famine--one of the worst India has ever known--by projects for

agricultural improvements, and then added to the horrors and distress

by ordering Delhi to be evacuated, and its inhabitants on pain of

death to migrate with his court to Deogiri, which he rechristened

Dowlutabad, or the "Abode of Wealth." He founded an admirably

regulated postal system throughout the country, but the roads

themselves were bad, and absolutely unsafe for travellers. He tried to

escape insolvency by coining copper at silver values--the first

instance of token money in India--then fell upon his people tooth and

nail because the public credit was not stable enough to stand the

strain. Consequently, vast tracts of land were left uncultured, whole

families fled to the woods to subsist on rapine and murder, while

famine desolated wide provinces.

But the potentate remained a potentate. So strong was his grip on the

people, that when, after having once been allowed to return to Delhi

he again ordered them to Dowlutabad, they obeyed, leaving "the

noblest metropolis, the Envy-of-the-World, a resort for owls, and a

dwelling-place for the beasts of the desert."

Thus it was not the hand of an assassin, but a surfeit of fish which

eventually carried him off. This much may be said in his favour--he

was no sensualist.

He was succeeded by his cousin Feroze in A.D. 1351, who until his

death, at the great age of ninety, in A.D. 1388, bent his whole mind

towards restoring peace and prosperity to his distracted empire;

which, while the largest, nominally, that India had ever seen, was in

reality at the breaking-up point from sheer disorder. His great

panacea appears to have been irrigation, and many an old canal in

India dates from the time of Feroze Toghluk. Despite his efforts,

however, the empire began to disintegrate. The Dekkan and Bengal

gained independence by the reception of ambassadors at court, and

various smaller states seceded into autonomy. India was, in fact, at

this time semi-fluid, half-gelatinous. Its form was for ever changing.

Each principality at one moment, am[oe]ba-like, reached out an

invertebrate arm and clutched at something, the next it had shrunken

to a mere piece of jelly, quiescent, almost lifeless. And Feroze

Toghluk's hand was not strong enough for the task set it. Yet he was a

good and kindly soul, as is evidenced by the resolutions which he

caused to be engraven on the mosque he built at Ferozebad (another

portion of Old Delhi). In one he abolished judicial mutilation,

claiming that God in His goodness having conferred on him the power,

had also inspired him with the disposition to end these cruelties.

Another orders the repeal of many vexatious taxes and licences. Yet

another reduced the share of war plunder due to the sovereign from

four-fifths to one-fifth, while it increased that of the troops to

four-fifths from one. A fourth recorded his determination to pension

for life all soldiers invalided by wounds or by age. A fifth declared

his intention of severely punishing "all public servants convicted of

corruption, as well as persons who offer bribes." The latter being a

nicety in legal morality which one would hardly expect of the

fourteenth century.

Feroze was followed in about six years by no less than five kings

whose only record of interest is that they stood by and watched the

great empire which Kutb-ud-din Eibuk had wrested from the Rajputs, and

which Allah-ud-din had consolidated by sheer tyranny, fall to bits.

Anarchy reigned supreme, civil war raged everywhere, and in Delhi

itself two nominal kings were in arms the one against the other when,

in A.D. 1398, news came that for an instant checked quarrel, and made

all India hold its breath.

The Moghuls, under Timur, on their way to Delhi, had crossed the

Indus, The long-dreaded, ofttimes-delayed invasion had come at last.