Sikandar Lodi (Delhi Sultan)
Sikandar Lodi, son of Bahlul Khan, was the Sultan of Delhi from 1489 to 1517. After the death of father, he became the Sultan of Delhi. He belonged to Lodi Dynasty.
Oh Buhlul’s death the nobles of the court were divided on the question of succession. One group supported succession of Nizam Khan, whom they got nominated by Buhlul Lodi before his death as the heir-apparent, the other group favored the succession of the eldest son of Buhlul, Barbak Shah, who was at the time of the death of Buhlul at Jaunpur. Nizam Khan’s mother boldly intervened on behalf of her son and he was crowned king on July 15, 1489. He took the title Sikandar Shah. He was, in fact, the ablest among the surviving sons of Buhlul and proved worthy of the choice as king.
Sikandar’s first task was to secure his own position by reducing his rivals to submission and strengthening his own followers. His uncle Alam Khan was an aspirant to the throne besides some others. Alam Khan was making preparations to assert his independence at Rapri and Chandwar. Sikandar marched against him, besieged Rapri and put him to flight. Isa Khan who was opposed to the succession of Sikandar gave asylum to Alam Khan and both now thought of taking the field against Sikandar. But Sikandar by his conciliatory policy towards Alam Khan won him over and granted him a fief at Etawah. Isa was then defeated. Azam Humayun, a cousin of Sikandar was also a candidate for the throne. Sikandar dispossessed him of his fief at Kalpi and bestowed it upon Muhammad Khan Lodi. Another opponent of Sikandar was Tatar Khan Lodi but Sikandar generously allowed him to remain in possession of Jhtra on his acknowledging Sikandar’s suzerainty. Thus within a year Sikandar succeeded in pacifying or subduing his opponents and rivals and thereby consolidating his power.
Sikandar’s ideal of kingship did not admit of any divided monarchy. He therefore would not allow, his elder brother Barbak Shah to rule in Jaunpur in complete independence. He, therefore, tried to bind Barbak in a subordinate alliance, and to that end sent a mission to him. But due to the influence of Husain Shah, the ex-king of Jaunpur, Barbak rejected the proposal. This made it necessary to subdue Barbak by military force. Sikandar marched against him upon which Barbak fled to Badaun where he was besieged and ultimately compelled to surrender. Sikandar restored Jaunpur to Barbak as a titular king there but divided the kingdom into a number of fiefs which he distributed among his followers. Sikandar also placed his trusted men in Barbak’s court and even in his household. Soon after the zamindars of Jaunpur rebelled against Barbak at the instigation of Husain Shah which compelled Barbak to flee to Dariyabad near Lucknow. Sikandar at once marched against the rebels, crushed them and reinstated Barbak to his kingdom. But Barbak, being inherently a weak ruler proved incompetent to run the administration whereupon Sikandar removed him and put him into confinement and appointed a governor at Jaunpur.
Sikandar & the Nobility: Sikandar Lodi was determined to bring the Afghan nobles under proper discipline and control. Although he did not make any fundamental change of the existing system of administration, he took measures to curb the individualistic tendencies and tribal independence of the Afghans and to make them contribute to the welfare of the entire Afghan community in India. He instituted the system of proper audit and accounting of the income and expenditure of the governors and officers of the state. Defalcation and embezzlement were visited with most deterrent punishment. One of the chief nobles, Mubarak Khan Lodi who was in charge of the revenue collection of Jaunpur was punished and compelled to disgorge the defalcated amount.
Sikandar Lodi insisted on formalities in the court. Discourteous conduct was severely punished by Sikandar. The nobles did not like the strict observance of courtesies and discipline and conspired to depose the Sultan and to place his younger brother Fateh Khan on the throne. The conspiracy was, however, divulged and the Sultan banished twenty-two of his nobles guilty of conspiring from the royal court. Royal farmans had to be received by the nobles all standing before the sultan in the court. Such steps restored discipline and courtesy among the nobles. The success of Sikandar was largely due to the efficient system of espionage that he maintained. He borrowed the idea from Sultan Ala-ud-din Khalji. He kept himself abreast of the happenings in the kingdom so much so that he was commonly believed to possess supernatural power.
Sikandar’s reign was marked by material prosperity. With the restoration of law and order, trade and commerce thrived, abolition of duties on grains made grains cheaper. Food and cloth and other necessaries of daily life became cheap, making people happy and contented.
Sikandar was a religious bigot. He prohibited the Hindus to bathe in the sacred tank of Thaneswar and in the river Jamuna. He followed the policy of destroying Hindu temples and building mosques in those sites.
The idol at the Jwalamukhi temple at Nagarkot was broken and its pieces were given to the butchers to use as weights to measure meat. He was responsible for the destruction of many temples at Mathura, Mandrail, Utgir, Narwar, Chanderi and other places. Bodhan a Hindu was put to death under his order for no other offence than saying that Hinduism was as true a religion as Islam. Like Firuz Tughluq he followed the policy of converting the Hindus into Islam.
His conquests: Sikandar’s ambition prompted him to recover as much of the territories lost to the Delhi Sultanate as possible. His annexation of Jaunpur brought him in conflict with Bihar which was a part of Bengal then. Some of the rebellious zamindars of Jaunpur had close contacts with Husain Shah Sharqi who had been ousted from Jaunpur in the previous reign. Husain was living in Bihar wherefrom he was instigating the Jaunpur zamindars. In order to suppress the zaminders Sikandar led an expedition to Phaphamau near Allahabad whose ruler Raja Bhil was the leader of the disaffected zamindars. But the Raja could not be subdued completely; on the contrary his expedition of the year 1494 caused considerable loss to the cavalry of the Sultan. Raja Bhil who was in league with Husain Shah invited (he latter informing him that in the condition of terrible loss suffered by Sikandar it would be easy to defeat him. Husain proceeded with his army and in the engagement Benares Husain was defeated and had to take to flight. Sikandar pursued the retreating army of Husain and occupied Bihar. He then stayed in Bihar for some time and raided Tirhut which was compelled to agree to pay an annual tribute to the Delhi Sultan.
Ala-ud-din Husain Shah, king of Bengal considered Bihar a part of his kingdom and Husain Shah as his protege. He sent his son Daniyal to oppose the Delhi army but both Sikandar and Ala-ud-din Husain Shah came to sign a treaty without a fight, stipulating that no party would invade the territory of the other. The king of Bengal also agreed not to give shelter to enemies of Sikandar. In this way the eastern frontier of Sultanate was pushed to the frontiers of the Bengal.
Ambition of Sikandar was not to be satisfied without conquering Gwalior and Dholpur. He led an expedition against Dholpur and after a prolonged fight he succeeded in capturing Dholpur from its Raja Vinayak Deo (1502). But the conquest of Gwalior was beyond his ability and strength. He led succeed against Gwalior but could not succeed against the ruler of the great fortress Man Singh. In order to facilitate his expedition against Gwalior, Dholpur and Malwa Sikandar had made Agra his capital. But years of exertions bore fruits by the way of capturing Dholpur, Mandrail, Utgir, Narwar and Chanderi. But Gwalior remained unconquered. Malwa was also could not be conquered by him. This military conquest although not very brilliant, yet had raised the prestige of the Delhi sultanate and of Sikandar.
Character & Estimate: Endowed with extraordinary physical charm, rare quality of eloquence, and ability as a poet, musician, Sikandar Lodi in many respects was a striking figure of medieval India. Sikandar was an able administrator and a clear-headed politician who could make clear analysis of the situation that faced him and vigorous in the enforcement of his orders. Highly educated, Sikandar was fond of literature and poetry and himself wrote verses in Persian under a pen name Gul Rukh. As he was born of a Hindu mother, he was very anxious to show to his co-religionists that he was a devout Muslim, not inferior to any pure Afghan Muslim. It was his daily practice that after the Morning Prayer and recitation of the Ouran he would begin his administrative activities. He dispensed much in charity. He was also a good warrior and a successful commander.
He died on 21st day of November, 1517.
As a ruler Sikandar attained more than ordinary success. His ideal of kingship was very similar to that of the Turkish and the Hindu conceptions of sovereignty rather than to that of the Afghans. But it may be pointed out that his attempt at royal absolutism, although necessary at that time, was perhaps premature and became a policy of repression, unaccompanied by measures to strengthen the administration necessarily failed. At a time when the danger of external invasion as looming large in the north-west, he alienated his powerful nobles. This betrayed his lack of foresight. During his reign, there was an abundance of crop and the people in general lived happily in the midst of plenty and cheap prices. His chief achievements were the conquest and annexation of Bihar, Dholpur, Narwar, Chanderi and a part of Gwalior.