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  • Anirudh Kanisetti

YUDDHA Ep. 05: The Sultanate Supremacy (Part I)

How Delhi Defeated the Mongols


Nobody in the late 13th century would have believed you, if you told them that the tiny Sultanate of Delhi - established by a turbulent band of Turkic warlords - would one day dominate the vast Indian subcontinent.


To its Northwest, the terrifying hordes of Genghis Khan rampaged across Iran. To its Southeast, the sophisticated lords of India continued with their wars and poetry, raiding Delhi's trade routes.


Yet, somehow, Delhi rose to the challenge, with some of the Indian subcontinent's most remarkable military and political innovations.


This is the first of a two-part series exploring the improbable rise of the fledgling Sultanate. We go over the careers of Iltutmish, Ghiyasuddin Balban, and Alauddin Khilji; talk about how Delhi's Muslim elite saw the cataclysmic Mesopotamian campaign of Hulagu Khan; discuss a Sanskrit inscription praising a Sultan and the geopolitical imperatives which the Sultans struggled with; and the 1299-1302 campaigns which brought to a close all Mongol adventurism in the subcontinent.


This is also the first YUDDHA episode to be recorded from home, so there may be a little background noise!


YUDDHA is made possible thanks to the support of The Takshashila Institution and the Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF).


Further Reading:

  1. Jackson, Peter. The Delhi Sultanate: a Political and Military History. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

  2. Wink, André. Al-Hind: The Slavic Kings and the Islamic Conquest, 11th-13th centuries. Vol. 2. Brill, 2002.

  3. Chattopadhyaya, Brajadulal. Representing the Other?: Sanskrit Sources and the Muslims (Eighth to Fourteenth Century). Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 1998.

  4. Lal, Kishori Saran. History of the Khaljis, AD 1290-1320. Asia Publishing House, 1967.

  5. Ahmad, Aziz. "Mongol Pressure in an Alien land." Central Asiatic Journal (1961): 182-193.

  6. Hay, Timothy. The Mongol Art of War. Casemate Publishers, 2007.

  7. Gabriel, Richard A. Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan's Greatest General. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.

  8. Elliot, Henry Miers, and John Dowson. The History of India as told by its own Historians, Vol. III.



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©2020 by Anirudh Kanisetti. Cover images by Apoorva Lakshmi.