Ghiasuddin Balban(Bahauddin) was born in Ilbari tribe, same tribe as his master Iltutmish. Balban’s grandfather was khan. The world khan is a title for a military ruler, used by Turkish/Mongolians living in Central Asia.
Balban and his family fell in the hand of Mongols when he was still very young.He was sold into slavery by Mongol to Jamaluddin of Basara. He sold Balban to sultan Iltutmish. He quickly rose through the ranks and became personal attendant to Iltutmish by 1236.
Balban under rulership of Razia sultan and Behram Shah became powerful Turkish nobles. Balban was lord of stables under Behram Shah and lord of sultan’s household under Masud Shah. He was also governor of Hansi and Rewari. He married his daughter to next sultan Masud Shah and after his murder key noble to install Nasiruddin to the throne. Balban was loyal to Masud Shah and not involve in his murder. He was powerful and instrumental in installation of Nasiruddin to the Throne. So, Nasiruddin recommend Balban to be his Wazir in meeting with all the important Turkish nobles and all the nobles agreed with his recommendation.
Balban as Wazir
Balban took the title of Ulugh khan and took over control of prime ministership. In 1949, he married his daughter to to sultan to cement his relationship with the sultan and received the title of viceroy or niab I mamlikat. He increased his power by promoting his family members to important position. His younger brother became the governor of Nagor. His cousin Sher khan Sunqar held the governorship of Lahore and Bhatinda with power over whole of Northwest Punjab.
When Balban became Wazir, Sultan was held in contempt. Northwest India was ravaged by Mongols. Hindu chief of Gangetic plains were getting aggressive.Anti-Social element made life of ordinary citizen miserable due to lack of leadership at top. Turkish kingdom sunk to new low. Balban started to enforced the rule sultan throughout his domain.
Balban increased the strength of sultan’s army. He increased vigilance to bring law and order situation under control. He also carried out annual expedition along with Sultan and large army against the enemies of Sultanate. The main enemies of Sultanate was rebellious Turkish Nobles, Mongols and local Hindu chief. Sometimes Balban wins campaign, sometimes it ends in stalemate but whatever the outcome, each campaign increased the confidence of people in Sultan. Incompetent and rebellious Nobles were dealt severely.
In 1246, Balban started the new sultan reign with attack on Khokhar tribe and Mongols in Punjab. Mongols has already looted Punjab, so they retreated back to Afghanistan without a fight. Balban attacked Khokhar and laid waste salt range.
Next year, in 1247, Balban lead an attacked against hindu zamindar of Doab region. Royal army reached as far as Kara(Allahabad). Jalaluddin, who was half brother of Sultan, welcomed the sultan and sultan gave him additional province of Sambhal and Badaun. Balban suspect him of disloyalty and kept an eye on him. Soon, Jalaluddin fled to Afghanistan and ask for protection from Mongol which he easily got.
Removal from post of Wazir
Kishlu khan, relative of Balban and governor of Nagor, became dissatisfied with Balban as he wanted to acquire the control of Multan and Sindh. Imaduddin Raihan, caretaker of royal household also hates Balban. So, in 1953, Kishlu Khan and Imaduddin Raihan hatch a conspiracy against Balban. They spread rumours against Balban and successful turned sultan against Balban. They also made a attempt to kill Balban but failed. When Balban came to know about the conspiracy and sultan’s displeasure with him, he immediately offered to resign from the post of Wazir. Sultan accepted his resignation and made him governor of Hansi. Raihan and Kishlu khan thought that Balban will revolt but he did revolt but manage his province with great efficiency. Imaduddin Raihan failed to run his government efficiently and soon lost confidence of sultan and other Turkish nobles. Within a year, with the support of Nobles, Balban was restored as Wazir.
Balban was shrewd politician and pardoned his political enemy. But he made sure that they are isolated from one other. Raihan got the governorships of Badaun. Kishlu khan got governorship of Multan with instructions to protect area from Mongol.
Second Term as Wazir
During second term as Wazir, Balban adopted four strategies to consolidate his power-
- Suppression of dissatisfied Turkish nobles by giving them to distant and difficult to govern provinces. If they failed to perform, Balban will get perfect excuse to execute them.
- Suppression of rebellious Turkish Nobles by quickly defeating and beheading them.
- Curbing the power of local Hindu chiefs.
- Preventing Mongols from invading India by strengthen the border garrison.
In 1256, Imaduddin Raihan received encouragement from Qutlugh Khan and he raised the banner of revolt. Balban immediately marched to Delhi with large army. Imaduddin Raihan was defeated and killed in battlefield. His co-conspirator Qutlugh khan was transferred from Oudh to Bahraich. He refused to follow the order. Balban moved his army to Oudh and Qutlugh fled to Sirmur Hills. Raja Ranpala of Santagarh gave him shelter. Balban attacked but failed to capture Santagarh, so he ravaged the countryside in retaliation.
By 1955, Jalaluddin failed to get backing of Mongols in getting his throne back. So, he came back to India and asked his cousin brother and sultan Nasiruddin for forgiveness. The sultan forgave him. Balban was shrewd politician. So, he advised sultan to give Jalaluddin governorship of Lahore as he will act as a buffer between Mongol and Delhi sultanate. Balban didn’t have much resources to fight Mongols. So, he decided to be on defensive against Mongols. He repaired the defences around Delhi to protect the City.
In 1257, Mongols advanced towards Multan without resistance as they already control Khyber Pass. Kishlu Khan, cousin of Balban and governor of Multan switched side and joined Mongol. He entered into treaty with Mongol to jointly attack Delhi. Soon, Balban came to know about this and strengthen Delhi’s defences. He also develop diplomatic relations with Mongol and invited Mongol diplomat to visit Delhi. In 1258, Mongol diplomat visited Delhi. He was shown the large army of Delhi Sultanate. This impressed Mongol and they prudently never attacked Delhi while Balban was alive. This frustrated plan of Kishlu Khan and Jalaluddin. However Multan and Lahore could not be brought under the effective control of Delhi due to presence of Mongol in Afghanistan.
War with Rajput
The Powerful Rajput state still control important city of Central India previously conquered by Turks. As a Wazir, Balban made repeated attempts to conquer these cities. In 1249, Balban attacked but failed to capture Kalinjar. In 1251, he failed in reconquering Gwalior. Between 1248 and 1259, made three attempts to conquer Ranthambore but failed in all of them. Mewatis, people living in south-west of Delhi, were also getting powerful and bold. They raided not only vicinity of Delhi but also the city of Delhi. In 1259, Balban launched campaign against Mewati. He fought series of battle but failed to crush them. He them resorted to massacre but it proved to be counter productive. He stopped the massacre at the insistence of sultan.
In 1266 Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud died. He was childless, so he nominated Balban as his successor.
Balban as Sultan
Balban as a wazir kept most of the problem faced by sultanate under control. He kept Turkish Nobles, Rajput kings and Mongols under control even with empty treasury. But once he became sultan, he started taking actions to eliminate problems. He made reforms in law and order situation which resulted in increased tax revenue. He reduced the power of nobles and brought the under the control of sultan. He also reformed and reorganized the army. He took the control of army from Wazir and created a separate position of army minister. Minister of Army was responsible for recruitment, training and equipment of army. He was responsible for defensive structure like fort and garrison. He was however not the commander of Army. Sultan was commander of Army.
After the reorganization and reforming his government and army, Balban was ready to crush his opponents.His first target was Mewati people surrounding Delhi, which he failed to crush as a Wazir. He killed thousands of Mewati males, enslaved women and burned their houses. He built fort in Gopalgir. He cleared forrest and build roads for easier movement of his army. Land of Mewati were confiscated and distributed among Turk soldiers. Within a year Balban was successful in crushing the power of Mewatis and Delhi was safe again.
Balban next turn his attention to Hindu zamindar of Doab and Oudh, as these people didn’t recognize sultan’s authority and never paid any taxes. Balban made his mind to crush resistance of zamindar. He moved his army their and killed most of Rebel zamindar. He set up strongholds in the region and gave instruction to each garrison commander to crush any rebellion. He built fort in Bhojpur and Kampali. While he was there, he received the news that Bundelkhand has revolted. He rushed his army to Bundelkhand and crushed the rebellion. Next he moved his army to salt range and crushed Khokhar tribe.
Elimination of powerful Turkish Nobles
Balban knew power of top Turkish Nobles as he was one of them. They collectively were greatest threat to his rule. He knew that they were resourceful, ambitious and clever. So, he devise a strategy to eliminate them or greatly reduced their power. He sent them out of capital to dangerous mission. He posted most of them to North western part of Sultanate. Mongol regularly invaded and plundered the north western part of Sultanate. Mongol presence was constant threat to Nobles safety, so they should coordinate with each other to counter this threat. However, instead of coordinating, they quarreled with one another. They start finding fault in each other preparation. Balban either dismissed or killed Nobles who were defeated by Mongols. Gradually new class of Turkish Nobles replaced old and powerful Turkish Nobles. The new Turkish Nobles were more loyal to Balban. One the new Turkish Nobles was Jalaluddin Khilji, who later became sultan.
Balban Spy network
Balban maintain an effective spy network to keep an eye on his governor. He received a report that Malik Baqbak, the governor of Badaun, has beaten his servant to death. Balban immediately ordered his soldiers to flog Malik Baqbak, demoted and disgraced him. Haibat Khan, governor of Oudh, killed a person while drank received the same treatment. Spies were severely punished if they failed to submit correct and prompt report. One of the spy in badaun failed to report about Malik Baqbak, he was immediately hanged. This spy network struck terror in the heart of government employees and made sultan more powerful.
Revolt in Bengal (1279)
In 1279, Balban fell ill and was confined to bed. Mongol choose this time launch a massive attack on Punjab. Prince Muhammad took charge of royal army to counter them. At this critical time Tughril Khan, governor of Bengal and Balban most trusted officer declared his freedom. Balban sent Amin Khan, the governor of Oudh to reconquer Bengal and to kill Tughril. Tughril defeated Amin Khan in battlefield. Balban executed Amin khan for his defeat. Next, sultan sent Tirmati Khan but he was also defeated by Tughril. Sultan killed Tirmati khan for failing to defeat Tughril. Balban inspite of his poor health led the third campaign himself. He raised a massive army and invaded Bengal. Tughril fled the Bengal as he don’t want to fight such a massive army. Tughril fled to Orissa but was captured and killed by royal troops.
Balban’s unleashed barbaric vengeance on family, friends and supporters of Tughril. Bughra Khan, second son Balban was appointed governor of Bengal but sultan warned him that he will get similar treatment if he ever revolted against sultan. Bughra Khan was so horrified with massacre in Bengal that he decided to stay away from Delhi politics and refused to become sultan after the death of Balban.
Defense of Sultanate against Mongol
In 1266, when Balban became sultan, his cousin Sher khan Sunqar was incharge of troublesome Mongol infested Northwest province. He courageously defended Northwestern province and prevent Mongol from establishing any foothold in that area.
Sher Khan died in 1270 and Prince Muhammad became supervisor of Northwestern provinces of Lahore, Multan and Uchh. Bughra Khan, second son of Balban, was given command of second line of defence. He commanded chain of strategic forts and was given governorship of Sunam, Samana and Dipalpur. Balban remained in Delhi as much as possible and supervise the preparation made against Mongol. Balban created a special forces of 30,000 heavy cavalry reserve to be deployed at very short notice. Balban preparation was very defensive in nature and he didn’t take active steps to remove Mongol completely from Punjab. However he maintained his control of Lahore, Multan and Uchh. In 1285, Timur Khan, leader of Mongols launched massive attack to conquer Punjab. Prince Muhammad activate his first line of defence and gave stiff fight to Mongol. However he lost the battle and was killed in battlefield. Mongol ravaged the town of Dipalpur and Lahore. Kai Khusrau, young son of Prince Muhammad, soon arrived with highly trained royal troops and Mongol withdrew back to Afghanistan. Thus timely arrival of royal troops prevented Mongols from looting Multan and Uchh.
Balban was heart broken with death of his son and died within a year in 1287 at ripe old of eighty years.