Expenditure of the State

The income of the state was expended on various branches of government and administration, on the harems of kings and nobles, and on forts, palaces, mosques and tombs. Large amounts were sent abroad to Muslim holy places like Mecca and Medina and for the Caliphs. At home, men of letters and men of religion were given handsome awards and grants, pensions and lump sum amounts. Salaries and scholarships were given to students and mendicants. Dowries were distributed among the indigent for marriage of their daughters and free kitchens established for distribution of food among the poor. The most important and recurring item of expenditure was on the army and construction of buildings. All this information is provided by medieval chroniclers. What is not mentioned is the actual amount of money spent on them. These, if ever, are given sparingly. We shall, therefore, mention the actual amounts wherever given; about other items of expenditure a sort of probable assessment alone would be surmised. Expenditure was incurred on all the above mentioned items simultaneously. But we can assess the expenditure only item-wise. Architectural activity of the state may be taken up first. it was a major activity of the Muslim government. While the armies, the palaces and the harems have all disappeared with the disappearance of Muslim rule, the one thing that strikes the eye in Delhi and Agra and many other towns and cities is the buildings of the Muslim period called monuments today.


The first thing the Muslim Sultanate of Delhi started on was construction of impressive buildings. The first sultan Qutbuddin Aibak had to establish Muslim power in India and to raise buildings "as quickly as possible, so that no time might be lost in making an impression on their newly-conquered subjects".1 Architecture was considered as the visual symbol of Muslim political power. It denoted victory with authority. The first two buildings of the early period in Delhi are the Qutb Minar and the congregational mosque named purposefully as the Quwwat-ul-Islam (might of Islam) Masjid. This mosque was commenced by Aibak in 592/1195. It was built with materials and gold obtained by destroying 27 Hindu and Jain temples in Delhi and its neighborhood. A Persian inscription in the mosque testifies to this.2 The Qutb Minar, planned and commenced by Aibak sometime in or before 1199 and completed by Iltutmish,3 was also constructed with similar materials, "the sculptured figures on the stones being either defaced or concealed by turning them upside down". A century and a quarter later Ibn Battutah describes the congregational mosque and the Qutb Minar. "About the latter he says that its staircase is so wide that elephants can go up there." About the former his observations are interesting. "Near the eastern gate of the mosque their lie two very big idols of copper connected together by stones. Every one who comes in and goes out of the mosque treads over them. On the site of this mosque was a bud khana, that is an idol house. After the conquest of Delhi it was turned into a mosque."4 The cost of these edifices in terms of money cannot be known. A look at the gigantic Qutb Minar and the strong screen wall of the mosque shows that no amount of money alone could have created such awe-inspiring edifices. They were products of the age of Islamic slavery. People were captured in thousands in war; they were made slaves and drafted on such majestic works.

How many slaves were needed to accomplish the task on these two and the other buildings of Qutbuddin Aibak and Iltutmish such as mosques, madrasas, mausoleums, qasrs and tanks (e.g..Hauz-i-Shamsi) in and outside Delhi? It is difficult to determine but easy to conjecture their numbers, for these two sultans had embarked on constructional activity on a very large scale.

It is known that Alauddin Khalji, another great builder, had 70,000 slaves working on his buildings, as attested to by the contemporary chronicler Ziyauddin Barani.5 Alauddin built "masjids, minars, citadels and tanks". But his (incompleted) Qutb Minar alone was an edifice more than equal to all his undertakings. Thus the men working on the buildings of the first two sultans were probably not less than those of Alauddin Khalji; they may have been probably more. These slaves were to dismantle standing temples, very carefully, stone by stone, carry the carved columns, shafts and pillars to the new sites of construction, and raise the new structures. Hasan Nizami says that temples were demolished with the help of elephants and one elephant could haul stones for which 500 men were needed;6 yet it has to be recognised that not many mechanical devices were available. Most of the work was done by human hands and muscles. Furthermore, Hindu architects, masons and labourers turned slaves under the new dispensation had to do the work in record time. Barani in his enthusiasm says hyperbolically that during Alauddin's reign a palace could be built in 2-3 days and a citadel in two weeks.7

In the Sultanate of Delhi, it was considered a matter of pride for a newly crowned king to build a new city of his own to give name and fame to himself and his dynasty. The old city of Iltutmish was abandoned by Balban who built the Qasr-i-Lal or the red palace, and Kaiqubad built the city of Kilughari. Jalaluddin Khalji constructed Shahr-i-Nau, Alauddin Khalji founded the fort-city of Siri, and his successor, Tughlaq Shah, founded Tughlaqabad. "It is their custom," writes Ibn Battutah, "that the king's palace is deserted on his death... and his successor builds a new palace for himself."8

The buildings of Alauddin Khalji in Delhi alone would have cost millions of tankahs,9 but no figure of specific buildings have been given by any medieval Muslim chronicler. Constructional enterprises are money consuming. His expeditions in south India and severe revenue regulations had brought him immense wealth. His best architectural works were accomplished after 1311 by which time the Mongol invaders had been completely pushed back and lot of wealth had been brought from the Deccan. It is no mere guess that he spent quite a treasure on his buildings.

Similar is the case with the Tughlaqs. Firoz Tughlaq founded several cities, dug a few canals, constructed forts, palaces, bands, mosques, tombs, warehouses, sarais and khanqahs. He built eight large mosques in Delhi each of which could accommodate 10,000 devotees.10 He repaired the Qutb Minar as well as all the tombs and mausoleum of former sultans and saints. He built khanqahs for travellers who stayed in them as guests of the state for three days. "In 120 khanqahs Muslims (bandgan-i-khuda) could thus stay for 360 days (or almost the year round) as a guest of the government." His contemporary chronicler Shams Siraj Afif, says that "in the reign of Firoz Shah, Malik Bukhari was the Shahnah (superintendent) of the Buildings. (In appreciation of his work) the king had bestowed on him a gold baton. (His deputy?) Abdul Haqq, alias Jahir Sondhar, was given a golden mace. Under Firoz Tughlaq expenditure on building was colossal. The Diwan-i-Arz examined the plan of every proposed building and made provision for necessary money from the royal treasury. Such a magnificent Buildings Department, which had been set up during the reign of Firoz Shah, had not been established during the reign of any other king as lakhs (of tankahs) were spent on this department. indeed it would not be an exaggeration to say that countless wealth was spent on it."11 This of course does not include the free labour of slaves as well as the loss of merchants who were forced to carry free of charge stones on their pack-animals from old Delhi to the site of Kotla Firoz Shah when it was under construction. Firoz was a kind-hearted sultan and so it may be presumed that he paid something to his slave labour also. For, even the shifting of the two Ashokan pillars to Delhi required the services of a few thousand men (chandin hazar admi).

Besides the Sultanate, new independent Muslim states sprang up all over the country throughout the fifteenth century. In all of them feverish architectural activity was carried on with the help of local slaves and elephants and money acquired in expeditions. At the centre, Sultan Sikandar Lodi who took keen interest in the welfare of the Musalmans, founded masjids throughout his dominions, and appointed a preacher, a reader and a sweeper to each.12 Thus he turned masjids almost into government institutions and made foundations of Islam strong.13

Similar is the language of Persian historians for Sher Shah's endeavours in this field. Needless to say that all Muslim rulers constructed pious edifices at great cost with great enthusiasm - edifice like mosques, idgahs, dargahs, ziaratgahs (shrines), mazars (tombs), sarais, madrasas and maktabs. From Gaur to the confines of his dominions, Sher Shah built sarais and halting places at every kos. At every sarai a masjid, a royal chamber and a well were constructed. To every mosque a muazzin, an imam, and a manager were appointed. There was a road built from Bengal to Avadh, another from Agra to Burhanpur, another from Agra to Jodhpur and Chittor, and another from Bayana to Jaunpur. On the sides of every road were planted fruit trees and gardens. Sher Shah built a total of 1700 sarais. These were maintained by lands and villages allotted at the place for their support.14 The cost of all these public works was enormous.

The cost of buildings of Sher Shah and Islam Shah particularly their forts, has not been given by contemporary writers. Figures given by later writers are confusing. According to the Tarikh-i-Daudi, Patna fort was ordered to be built by Sher Shah Suri in 1540. It was completed in record time of two years at a cost of five lakh rupiyas. The Salimgarh fort built by his son Islam Shah in 1546 cost four lakh rupiyas. It was not completed at the time of his death in 1552 and so a lakh or two more would have been spent. But Sher Shah's fort at Rohtas in Punjab cost 35 to 40 lakh rupees, according to Jahangir "4,025,000 rupees, according to the currency of Iran to 120,000 tuman, and in the currency of Turan to 1 arb, 21 lakhs and 75,000 khami (khami was equal to one third of a rupee), that is now current". In a footnote Rogers and Beveridge, the translators of Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, rightly say that "the figures seem wrong, and the MSS differ..." Apparently the correct sum in rupees is 3.4 lakhs, 25,000.15 Even this sum is at great variance from the cost of other forts of the Afghans and is about equal to Akbar's magnificent fort built at Agra in fifteen years' time. And the cost of the network of roads of Sher Shah is difficult to estimate. This must have been enormous. However, much of the expense and labour was shared by local people just as the cost of maintaining his sarais was borne by villages in the vicinity.

With the coming of the Mughals more artistic buildings came into being. More information is also available about the expenditure on some of them. Those who built them had unbounded command of both money and slaves. Babur writes that "680 men worked daily on my buildings in Agra... only; while 1491 stone-cutters worked daily on my buildings in Agra, Sikri, Biana, Dulpur (Dholpur), Gwalior and Kuil (Aligarh). In the same way there are numberless artisans and workmen of every sort in Hindustan." Some workers were wage-earners, for says he at another place, "Gifts were made to the stone-cutters, and labourers and the whole body of workmen in the way customary for master-workmen and wage-earners of Agra."16 Akbar and Jahangir expended large sums in construction work in Agra and Lahore. Akbar's fort at Agra took fifteen years to build and cost 35 lakh rupees.17 He is credited by Abul Fazl with building in Agra five hundred edifices. Officers and troops used to be stationed in forts built at strategic points from Kashmir to the Deccan. Repair of old and construction of new forts was an ever ongoing activity of the Muslim state. Repair of a fort once cost 20,000 rupees.18 According to De Laet emperor Akbar had erected many women's apartments at every few miles from Agra, each of which could accommodate sixteen ladies with servants19 besides the forts of Allahabad and Fatehpur Sikri. "After the death of Akbar, Jahangir tried to rehabilitate towns and qasbas which had fallen to ruin." He directed the Jagirdars and administrators of the Khalisa estates that towns should be built, mosques erected, sarais constructed and wells dug, of course all at government cost.20 He also demolished old buildings to be replaced by new ones.21

Akbar had begun to build his own mausoleum. Jahangir took much interest in rebuilding from its foundations this mausoleum at Sikandara. He caused fresh designs to be prepared for it and expended large sums on its construction and decoration, "and work went on for three or four years," writes Jahangir in his memoirs. "On the whole they told me the cost of this lofty edifice was 1,500,000 (fifteen lakh) rupees, equivalent to 50,000 current tumans of Persia and 4,500,000 khamis, according to the currency of Turan."22 Muhammad Taqi was the Diwan of buildings under Jahangir. Writing on the later years of Jahangir's23 reign, Francisco Pelsaert mentions that the tomb of Itmad-ud-daula at Agra had cost three and half lakh rupees up to the year 1626, and that ten lakhs more were required for its completion. He speaks also of the numerous sarais and palaces built by the empress Nur Jahan. Jahangir spent large sums in Agra and Lahore, but it was under Shahjahan that the most remarkable developments occurred. "Contemporary writers give figures for the cost of some of his buildings - 10 lakhs for the mosque at Daulatabad, 60 lakhs for the palace at Delhi, 917 lakhs for the Taj Mahal at Agra; and, while these may be inaccurate, they are comparable with the estimate of the Lahore canal, which comes from a similar source." These figures are completely inaccurate. For, while the repair of a mansion sometimes cost one lakh rupees,24 a canal also cost the same amount. "In 1639 Ali Mardan Khan proposed a canal taking off from the river Ravi, which was sanctioned at an estimated cost of a lakh of rupees (emphasis added). Some years later the existing canal from the Jamna to Delhi was reconstructed under his supervision. It was probably comparable in amount with the former and much less than what was being spent on buildings of an ornamental nature."25

Despite the discrepancies and inaccuracies in the expenditure on construction of individual edifices from the times of Babur to those of Shahjahan during whose "august reign, when... lovely things reached the zenith of perfection," money in millions and slaves in thousands were employed on erecting the hundreds of huge Mughal buildings still extant.26 The Taj Mahal is the loveliest of all these building; it also stands as a monument of exploitation of poor labourers. Tavernier says that it was completed in twenty-two years for three crore rupees and 20,000 persons worked on it all the time. Three crores in 22 years comes to 13 lakhs per year and 65 rupees per person per year if he was actually paid the amount. The lower class workmen may have been paid only a rupee or so per month. Another "effect of such undertakings," writes W.H. Moreland, "was inevitably to hinder ordinary commercial activities. Thus all the carts at Agra were impressed for the works in progress at Delhi, and on one occasion goods in transit for the coast had to lie on the way for some months, after they had been by the king's officers cast down in the fields, and the carts taken for his use." But impressment was an ordinary occurrence of the period (Firoz Tughlaq had done it earlier). There appears to be no evidence on what is a matter of much greater interest - the treatment and remuneration of the large number of labourers employed on these buildings.

The example of kings was universally imitated by their principal nobles.27 The opulent grandees in the provinces esteemed it an honour and obligation to adorn towns and cities of the regions under their control with magnificent buildings. The law of escheat encouraged them to spend lavishly. Pelsaert perhaps has the last word on it. "I have often ventured to ask great lords," says he, "what is their true object in being so eager to amass their treasures, when what they have gathered is of no use to them or to their family (because of escheat)... I have urged they would share it with the poor, who in this country are hundreds of thousands, or indeed innumerable... Their answers have been based on the emptiest worldly vanity..." Buildings they constructed with great zest - gardens, tombs, and palaces - "they build them with so many hundreds of thousands...28 Once the builder is dead, no one will care for his buildings, but every one tries to erect building of his own, and establish his own reputation alongside that of his ancestors. If all these edifices were attended to and kept in repair, the lands of every city, and even village, would be adorned (covered)29 with monuments; but as a matter of fact the roads leading to the cities are strewn with fallen columns of stone."30

In short, the Turkish and Mughal sultans and nobles were ever busy on a building spree without any thought of preserving the edifices. Preservation may have been uneconomical. Ibn Battutah and Babur affirm that all was destroyed because of moisture. But economy was not a weakness of Muslim royalty and nobility. With them ceaseless construction was a craze.


Muslim rule in India was not only established but throughout sustained by its army. In other words, Muslim rule in India was army rule. The state resembled the organisation of an army; its civil functions were meant to support this organisation. Medieval historians and political thinkers like Fakhr-i-Mudabbir, Ziyauddin Barani and Shams Siraj Afif asserted that kingship was the army and the army kingship.31 On the army was spent the largest chunk of the state income obtained through conquest and loot. Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban used to say, "I have devoted all the revenue of my kingdom to equip my army." His contemporary chronicler Ziyauddin Barani writing for the early hundred years of Muslim rule (c. 1250-1350) specifically mentions that "all income from Khalisa lands throughout the empire was earmarked to be spent on the soldiers and the Karkhanas (workshops) which manufactured weapons and equipment for the army".32 So, the agrarian sector, which was the greatest source of revenue of the Sultanate largely paid for the upkeep of the army. We have seen how this sector was fleeced and sponged. It was done to keep the army in good health and shape.

An idea of the expenditure on the army can be had from the computation of salary of soldiers, the pay of officers, maintenance of the various corps like elephant, horse and camel, the cost of building and maintaining forts where army contingents were stationed, and expenditure on the karkhanas (workshops) which turned out weapons and other materials required for war. We shall try to estimate the expenses incurred on these items under the Sultanate and the Mughal empire. This will give an idea of the burden borne by the people mainly agriculturists, for maintaining the Muslim army.


The army of the Sultanate comprised of the soldiers in the permanent employment of the ruler and special recruits enrolled on the eve of an expedition or for performing a specific task. The Ghaznavid tradition of enrolling mercenaries was continued by the Turkish sultans in India. Writing early in the reign of Iltutmish, Fakhr-i-Muddabir mentions a body of troopers "who have voluntarily joined the forces". Balban employed 3,000 Afghan horse and foot in his campaign against the Mewatis,33 and appointed thousands of Afghan officers and men in the forts of Gopalgir, Kampil, Patiali, Bhojpur and Jalali to contain the restive elements there.34 On his way to Lakhnauti Balban enrolled about 2,00,000 horsemen and infantry.35 So also used to do Sultan Raziyah. Throughout the medieval period, mercenaries (Muslims, says Afif for Sultan Firoz's times) used to be enrolled in the army. Recorded instances imply that such recruitment was an established practice.36 "It is perhaps safe to guess that such recruitments (with the object of fighting against the infidels) were confined to Muslims only", says Habibullah.37 Enrolment of fresh levies was a continuous process. It was necessary to replenish the troops, for losses used to be great. in his campaigns against the Mewatis alone Balban is said to have lost one hundred thousand men in the course of one year. Rebels like Tughril Beg of Bengal took two years to subdue only after great losses had been inflicted on the royal troops on two earlier occasions.

The cost of emergency recruitment was high. In the fourteenth century the cost of emergency recruitment and equipping 1000 horsemen in a short time came to three lakh tankahs.38 Prince Alauddin Khalji was the muqta of Kara. He was permitted by his uncle Sultan Jalaluddin Khalji to recruit extra troops to lead an expedition into central Hindustan. He enrolled three to four thousand horsemen and two thousand infantry in a short time for leading an expedition to Chanderi en route to Devagiri. The cost of recruiting them can be estimated from the statement of Barani quoted above.

Regular Troops

The soldiers in the permanent employment were paid a regular salary. Since war (Jihad) was a permanent and ever expanding activity of the Muslim regime, most sultans maintained a large standing army on a permanent basis, and did not disband troops after a conquest was accomplished or a foreign invasion repulsed. According to Farishtah Alauddin Khalji's regular army consisted of 4,75,000 horsemen well equipped and accoutered. There were two separate forces. One was meant to repulse Mongol invaders while the other was sent out on the conquest of newer regions.39 The annual salary paid to a cavalrymen by the Sultan was 234 tankahs. In addition 78 tankahs were paid to a do aspa or to one who possessed an additional horse because maintenance of an extra mount added to the soldier's efficiency.

The salary bill of 4,75,000 horsemen at the rate of 234 tankahs alone would have come to 111 million or eleven crore tankahs annually. This was high by any standards, more so when it did not include the allowance to do aspas, payment to the infantry and expenses on the large staff of officials involved with the upkeep of such a large army. The salary paid to soldiers under the Khaljis was high. Besides there was unrestrained plunder in every campaign. it was probably because of this reason that Alauddin changed the rule regarding Khams. He took away 4/5 of the booty (ghanimah) and distributed 1/5 to the participating soldiers. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq maintained his army on the pattern and regulations of Alauddin Khalji.40 Muhammad Tughlaq's cavalry is said to have consisted of 900,000 horsemen,41 double the size of that of Alauddin Khalji. Alauddin had freezed the prices of articles of daily use by soldiers through his Market Control. So, he paid a fixed salary to them. Under Muhammad Tughlaq there was no market control and the salary of troops would probably have gone up. Even at the rates fixed by Alauddin, the salary bill would have come to twenty-two to twenty-five crores annually. Muhammad Tughlaq's empire was vast and revenue from far-off regions of Dwarsamudra to Satgaon and Telingana to Malwa and Gujarat used to be collected without much problem (before the spate of rebellions started). Firoz Tughlaq's army was not that large.42 Nevertheless as will be seen presently, the expenditure on his army establishment was no less large. There were Arab and Persian contingents in Firoz Tughlaq's army. Sure enough, the size of the army varied from time to time. The Saiyyads were weak and the Lodis not so strong. But even in the newly created Muslim kingdoms of the fifteenth century like Gujarat, Malwa, Jaunpur etc., war remained the most prominent activity and 'the army consumed most of the revenue.

Salary of the Mughal Soldiers

The salary of soldiers under the Mughals is given in Abul Fazl's Ain-i-Akbari. There were several classes of foot soldiers who performed various kinds of duties. The first class infantry man got 500 dams; the second, 400 dams; the third, 300 dams,, the fourth, 240 dams per month. As a rupia was equal to 40 dams the pay of the best foot soldier was about 12 rupia and of the lowest 6 rupia per month. The cavalry was better paid. A cavalryman with an Iraqi horse got 30 rupia per mensem, with a Turki horse 20 rupia, with a Tazi 15 rupia, with a jangla (local breed) 12 rupia. Their salary was equal to the (civil) collectors of revenue. "The revenue collectors of domain lands got formerly 25 rupia, but now only 15 rupia."

The pay of Banduqchis or Matchlock bearers, who were (non-commissioned) officers of four grades got 300, 280, 270 and 260 dams. The common Banduqchis divided into five classes received 250 to 110 dams. The best paid were the Ahadis, "the immediate servants of His Majesty". These "worthy persons whom His Majesty does not appoint to a Mansab, but whom he frees from being under the orders of any one", got as much as 500 rupia per mensem.43 These are specimens of salaries paid. There were hundreds of types of troops, wrestlers, slaves and chelas and hundreds of grades of pay for them and their administrative officers. The remuneration money spent on the troops was, on the whole, not much. This is the conclusion one arrives at by certain statements of Jahangir. "On the day on which the royal troops were ordered to pursue (the rebel prince) Khusrau, 15,000 rupees were given to Mahabat Khan and 20,000 to the Ahadis, and 10,000 more were sent with the army to be given to whom it might be necessary to give it on the way." On another occasion a body of 3,000 (superior kind of) cavalry was despatched under Shah Beg. For the expenses of this force 200,000 rupees were given.44 These amounts for overall expenses were not much, when to an officer Taj Khan who had been nominated to beat the Afghans of Bangarh, he gave, obviously as a reward, 50,000 rupees.45

Pay of Officers

As against the troops and according to all contemporary chroniclers, the army officers were highly paid throughout Muslim rule. Shihabuddin al-Umri says that a Khan received 200,000 tankahs, each being worth eight dirhams (silver coin). "This sum belongs to him personally, and he is not expected to disburse any part of it to his soldiers." Every Malik received from 50 to 60 thousand tankahs and every Amir 40 to 50 thousand tankahs.46 This amount was paid sometimes in the form of cash salary, at others by the grant of a revenue assignment called iqta. There were officers with other ranks as well.

The nobles or Umara were graded as Khans, Maliks, Amirs, Sipehsalars in the Sultanate period and as Mansabdars under the Mughals. According to Barani, a Sarkhail commanded ten horsemen; a Sipehsalar ten Sarkhails; an Amir ten Sipehsalars; a Malik ten Amirs; and a Khan ten Maliks.47 According to the author of the Masalik-ul-Absar a Khan commanded more or less 100,000 troops, an Amir 10,000, a Malik a thousand and so on.48 The term Amir was normally used in a generic sense to denote a high officer. In Akbar's time and after, all the great men of the Mughal empire were graded and appointed to a Mansab (rank) in the imperial service. From the lowest rank, that of the commander of ten, upto the rank of 400 an officer was known as Mansabdar. From 500 onwards a noble was known as Amir, or Khan, or Khan-i-Azam. They were all generally spoken of as Umara.

The salaries of the Mughal officers and grandees were equally high. W.H. Moreland, the economic historian of the Mughal Empire, computes that a commander of 5000 could count on at least Rs. 18,000 a month under Akbar and his successor. A commander of 1000 could similarly count on receiving Rs. 5000 a month, while a commander of 500 would have received the equivalent of Rs. 500 to 600 "at the present day" (1914). Certainly there was at the time no other career in India which could offer such prospects and prizes. It is therefore no wonder that the most enterprising men from a large portion of Western Asia should have been attracted to the Mughal court.49 The government both civil and military was conducted by means of officials entered in the army list and graded in successive ranks or Mansabs. According to Jadunath Sarkar, "of these, all those who held any grade from 3 hazari upwards were called grandees (umara-i-azam or grand commanders), and those below the command of 3000 horse (nominal) were styled simply mansabdars or officers". The total number of officials including both Umara and Mansabdars were 1,803 under Akbar (c. 1596), 2,945 under Jahangir (c. 1620), 8,000 under Shahjahan (c. 1647) and 14,449 under Aurangzeb (c. 1690). There was enormous inflation of the army list under Aurangzeb. Under him the annual salary and allowances of the Mansabdars, including the pay of their troops were as follows for the first classes in each grade - 3.5 lakhs of rupees for a 7-hazari, 2.5 lakhs for a 5-hazari, 50,000 for a hazari and 1,000 for a commander of twenty.50

Strength of the Mughal Army

V.A. Smith says that Akbar did not maintain a large standing army. According to him the strength of Akbar's army "equipped by the State and paid directly from the Treasury", could not have exceeded 25,000 men. However, on the testimony of Monserrate he himself writes that at the time of his expedition to Kabul (1581), Akbar had 45,000 cavalry, besides 5000 elephants and an unnumbered host on foot.51 The military character of the Mughal government of Akbar is vouched by all, and yet the estimates of the standing army of the Mughal emperors from Akbar to Aurangzeb have wide variations. Had it been so large as has been made out by some scholars, "we should arrive at so huge an army that it should have been impossible for the country, however heavily taxed, to meet such an expense".52 The standing army was not large because, according to Abul Fazl, "the zamindars of the country furnish more than four million, four hundred thousand men, as shall be detailed below".53 These details are given in the Third Book of the Ain-i-Akbari. From the detailed Tables provided - a laborious work only a scholar like Abul Fazl could produce - it appears that a quota of troops to be provided to the Mughal emperor on demand by every Raja or Zamindar was fixed in the same manner as was the revenue amount. The Rajput forces were thus completely merged with the Mughal army. Or, it was like the Subsidiary Alliance of the Raj days. Jahangir writes that from "this Subah (of Ajmer) in time of war 86,000 horses and 304,000 Rajput foot are provided".54 From Malwa, "when needful there are obtained from it about 9,300 horse and 4,70,300, footsoldiers, with 100 elephants".55 This system continued under Jahangir and Shahjahan making the Mughal empire the strongest empire in the world till Aurangzeb's bigotry alienated the Rajputs and weakened the Mughal army and the empire.

The actual armed strength of the empire at the close of Shahjahan's reign (1647) was 2 lakhs of troopers brought to the muster and branding, 8 thousand Mansabdars, 7 thousand Ahadis and Barqandaz, 1,85,000 Tabinan or additional troopers of the princes, Umara and Mansabdars, and 40,000 foot musketeers, gunners, and rocket-men. These numbers underwent a still further increase with Aurangzeb's fresh warfare in the Deccan,56 for "the total amount of pay claims generated by grant of mansabs pressed directly upon the empire's revenue resources".57

Army Corps

The army of the Sultanate comprised both cavalry and infantry. It had an elephant corps also. Elephants were not generally purchased. They were captured from jungles or taken as tribute from defeated rulers. Camels and ponies and other animals were also used for commissariat service. The most important wing of the army was the cavalry. And horses were costly. In India, good horses were found only in some regions like the eastern Punjab and the Salt Range, but they were inferior to the horses of the West Asian breed. This made the importation of war horses from abroad a matter of necessity for the sultans of Delhi. Medieval chronicles speak of Yamani, Shami, Bahri and Qipchaqi horses as being in use by soldiers in India, and there was large-scale importation of horses into India from Arabia, Afghanistan and even the steppe lands of southern Russia known as Tatars. According to Ibn Battutah and Wassaf their cost was high. "The good horses are worth 500 (silver) dinars or more." Besides making direct purchases from abroad, the sultans of Delhi replenished their paigahs with horses of foreign breed obtained from defeated Indian princes, particularly those with access to the sea as they imported such horses in large numbers. Gujarat and the South provided war horses in particular when, for example, the rulers of Warangal, Dwarsamudra and the Pandya kingdoms surrendered thousands of horses to Malik Kafur in the fourteenth century. The Hindu rulers of the South had imported foreign breed horses through the sea route. Wassaf says that 10,000 horses were imported annually into Mabar, Kambayat and other western Indian ports at the cost of 220 gold dinars each. But many times horses obtained in tribute had to be given to Muslim soldiers when their mounts got disabled in battle. Al-Umri mentions that Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq distributed to his army 10,000 Arab horses and countless others. The two great kings of the Sultanate period, Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughlaq, had under their command 475,000 and 900,000 horsemen. Even Firoz Tughlaq who is said to have neglected his army, maintained extensive paigahs.58 The size of the cavalry varied from time to time. The Saiyyads were weak, the Lodis not so strong, but even in the provincial kingdoms of Gujarat, Malwa and Jaunpur the cavalry wing was maintained at high cost. The expenditure on Sher Shah's army too was large. He had 150,000 cavalry and the same numbers were maintained in cantonments. The infantry was 25,000 and 50,000 in garrisoning the forts. He had 5,000 elephants. "It was known that a suitable garrison was maintained in every fort in the country."59

Under the Mughals, according to Abul Fazl, "Merchants used to bring to court good horses from Iraq-i-Arab and Iraq-i Ajam, from Turkey, Turkestan, Badakhshan, Shirwan, Qirghis, Thibet, Kashmir and other countries." But unlike the Sultanate period cross-breeding was now freely done in India. In "the breeding of this sensible animal... after a short time Hindustan ranked higher in this respect than Arabia... There are fine horses bred in every part of the country; but horses of Cachh excel, being equal to Arabs", writes Abul Fazl. So, by Akbar's time good quality horses were available in many parts of the country. There were 12,000 horses in Akbar's stables. Their prices were fixed by experts. Khasa horses, meant for the personal use of the king, cost 10 to 20 mohurs. Their officers, servants, harness and food all were fixed, and cost not a little. For, Akbar was a man of details and his officers also became so.60

The Ain-i-Akbari gives a detailed description of the elephant stables under Akbar. The Emperor possessed 5,000 of them. The price of an elephant in his reign varied from one lakh to one hundred rupees. During the reign of Jahangir the price of a well trained war elephant rose much higher. Some elephants were imported from Ceylon (as by Firoz Tughlaq) and some others from Africa (as under Jahangir) and Burma (as by Shahjahan). But they were mostly available in all parts of India. The classification of the imperial elephants, the food allowed to them, the money spent on their harness and their five attendants were all fixed and settled. His Majesty's Khasa (personal) elephants had their personal names. The elephant was a costly corps of the Mughal army.61 Jahangir gives the unmistakable impression that the Mughals loved their elephants and gave them endearing names. Some of these are Hawai, Ran Bhaga, Bansi Badan, Rup Sundar, Ran Rawat, Panchi Gaj, Fauj Singar, Surat Gaj, Mahipati, Durjansal, Giranbar. One was called Nur Bakht after Jahangir's own name. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Unlike camels and horses, elephants were bred in India and were found in almost all parts of the country like Agra, Bayana, Narwar, Bastar, modern Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Orissa and elsewhere. Abul Fazl says that Panna elephants were the best. Hence the tradition of giving them Hindu names. Moreover, elephant fights provided good entertainment. It was a sagacious animal. The beginning of muster review was with the elephants.63

No less important was the camel corps. As in the case of horses, the quality of the camels of the country breed improved with time, and according to Abul Fazl, Indian camels soon surpassed those of Iran and Turan. Camels were numerous in Rajputana, as is the case even today. They were also found in large numbers in Kutch, Gujarat and Bhatinda in Punjab. During the Mughal period their greatest abundance was found in Sindh. Details regarding their food, furniture, servants, expenses have been mentioned in the Ain-i-Akbari.64 The mules were pack animals preferred for transport of men and goods. They were mostly bred in North Punjab and Kashmir.65

As in any organisation, there were some good points and some weaknesses in the Muslim army. We cannot go into all these. One point each of the two may receive our attention. On the positive side there was constant vigil and inspection of the forces leading to savings; on the negative side there was corruption which led to loss of revenue. in the Sultanate period there were regular inspections of troops and their horses. There was the system of branding horses and keeping an account of the credentials of soldiers. Sometimes it used to take a fortnight to inspect all the contingents which set out on a campaign. Periodical reviews of the army, whether in headquarters or in camp, kept the soldiers on their toes and their mounts in good shape. The system of dagh wa chehra (cauterization and descriptive roll) was introduced by Alauddin Khalji; it was revived by Sikandar Lodi and reintroduced by Sher Shah. It ensured that at the time of review no soldier could send a substitute and no horse could be presented twice, or replaced by an inferior one after the review.66

Still better was the position under the Mughals. Akbar was an administrative genius. Most of the important appointments were made and promotions effected by him personally. The muster of men and horses and other animals was often inspected by him. There were regulations about the branding of horses and keeping full complements of the mounts.67 Even the highest officers' contingents were inspected.

Army Reviews

Emperor Jahangir writes, "On the 25th (March 1617) the contingent of Itimad-ud-daulah passed before me in review on the plain under the jharokha. There were 2,000 cavalry well-horsed, most of whom were Moghuls, 500 foot armed with bows and guns, and fourteen elephants. The bakhshis reckoned them up and reported that this force was fully equipped and according to rule."68 This paragraph in the Tuzuk is very important for it brings into prominence three characteristics which made the Mughal army efficient. It shows that even in the reign of the pleasure loving Jahangir, the contingents of the Mansabdars were thoroughly checked by bakhshis and regularly reviewed by the emperor. Secondly, even a high dignitary and close relative of the king like Itimad-ud-daulah was not exempt from equipping and accoutering his troops except "according to rule". Thirdly, the mention of the fact that most of the cavalry was foreign, confirms the observation of Bernier that the Mogul (emperor) is considered a foreigner in India and he ruled with the terror of the foreign army rather than love or respect of the people at large.

At another place he writes that after receiving Prince Khurram on the completion of his Deccan mission, "The bakhshis were ordered to arrange according to their mansabs the Amirs who had come with my son to pay their respects. The first Khan-i-Jahan. After this Abdullah Khan, then Mahabat Khan..."69 it shows that protocol was maintained and noblemen were positioned in the darbar in conformity with their status. This was a positive aspect.

Corruption in the Army

On the negative side, corruption among officers of the army was rampant. From the very beginning of Turkish rule the conquered land used to be distributed by the king among army officers, nobles, government officials and even soldiers as rewards and also in lieu of personal salary, and for paying their soldiers. These grants were not hereditary, and were given as pay for military service. But many a time the land-holders continued in possession of their land without rendering any military service. This is what Sultan Balban found about 2,000 of his cavalry officers. Over and above this, corruption was galore in the Diwan-i-Arz. Horses of little value were brought to the Diwan and were passed as serviceable, obviously by greasing the palms of the clerks. This was the situation in the Sultanate period. During Mughal times Abdul Qadir Badaoni writes that "the whole country, with the exception of the khalisa lands, was held by the Amirs as jagir, and as they were wicked and rebellious, and spent large sums on other stores and workshops, and amassed wealth, they had no leisure to look after the troops or take interest in the people". In case of emergency they came with bedraggled slaves and attendants to the scene of war, "but really useful soldiers there were none".70 Under Akbar, Shahbaz Khan, the Mir Bakhshi, introduced the custom and rule of dagh/mahalli of the times of Alauddin Khalji and Sher Shah, but cheating continued. Akbar divided the Ahadis into do aspa, yak aspa and even nim aspa (having half a share in a horse)", in which latter case two troopers kept one horse together, and shared the stipulated salary, which amounted to six rupees.71

The salary of the soldiers and expenditure on their horses usually formed part of the pay of the Umara or Mansabdars who were expected to spend it on them. But this system gave the nobleman an opportunity to retain some money from every man's pay and prepare false returns of the horses he was supposed to provide. "Many of the lords who hold the rank of 5000 horse, do not keep even 1000 in their employ."72 This practice was universal throughout the medieval period. Niccolao Manucci's comment on the situation is quotable as there was corruption in payment of salaries to the soldiers from the very beginning of Muslim rule in India.73

"Throughout the world the vice is rampant of being ambitious for the acquisition of wealth. But in no part of the world is this so much the case as in the Mogul Empire and the rest of India. There our Italian proverb applies: 'The big fish eat the little ones.' Particularly is it true at the court and in the army of the Mogul, where the captains and generals observe no fixed rules in paying their soldiers, conforming neither to the rank they have granted them nor to the men's merit. The rank the soldiers receive is high in name, but as for the pay, it is never more than half what the rank indicates.

"The soldiers accept anything and everything, being forced by necessity; for if they cannot obtain military service they have no means of living. Speaking generally, all these soldiers are badly paid and ill-satisfied, for what should be given them in eight months they do not receive in a year. What is worst of all, they are never paid the exact amount due, but little by little. Then they always have to take in the course of a year's service two months pay in second hand goods. In many cases they are kept two and three years in arrears. This forces the soldiers to borrow money at interest from the traders in the camp; these lend it with the consent of the men's own captains and generals."74

To conclude. A brief description of the various wings of the army cannot give an idea of the heavy expenditure incurred on them. For example, many army contingents were stationed in forts spread all over the country. An estimate of the cost of some forts has been given in the section on monuments. The estimates of expenditure on the maintenance of soldiers and artillery stationed there is not possible because of paucity of information available. But it was enormous. In fact Muslim rule in India was military rule so that "the order of the household, the efficiency of the army, and the welfare of the country, are intimately connected with the state of this (Arsenal) department". Akbar took great interest in watching the practice of mechanical arts, and often worked at them, himself. He paid special attention to the founding of new cannon and the manufacture of matchlock guns. He was inventor of good armour, bullet-proof breast-plates and other weapons. "His Majesty has made several inventions... He made a gun which, on marches, can easily be taken to pieces, and properly put together again when required. By another invention, His Majesty joins seventeen guns in such a manner as to be able to fire them simultaneously with one match."75 There were many kinds of swords. As usual there were Khasa swords and guns.76 All this and much more was manufactured in the royal karkhanas or workshops. Naturally much of the royal revenue, both during the Sultanate and Mughal period, was expended on these karkhanas.


During the Sultanate period, royal karkhanas were established to cater to the needs of the king and his army. Their numbers and items of production went on multiplying with time, side by side with the production in private workshops. The domestic needs of the ruling class were vast enough, but the political and military requirements were vaster. Huge standing armies had to be equipped and maintained. Arsenals and store houses of every kind had to be kept full. Artisans worked separately at home or jointly in karkhanas. In the royal karkhanas worked the tent-makers and the saddlers, the upholsters and cloth-makers, the metal workers and armourers and producers of dozens of sundry articles.

Skilful engineers in karkhanas manufactured minjiniqs and arradas and other engines of war and swords and other arms of every kind for the army. When Balban marched against the rebel Tughril Beg of Bengal, the karkhanas overworked to equip the army till the day of the expedition.77 When Muhammad Tughlaq was in Gujarat preparing for leading an effective expedition to Sindh, arms and other articles were despatched to the king from Delhi . "Weapons alone cost seven lakh tankahs," writes Shams Siraj Afif and adds that "on this basis the cost of other items from other karkhanas can be calculated".78 Ibn Battutah gives a list of the presents which he carried on behalf of Muhammad Tughlaq to Toghan Timur or Shunti, the Mogol emperor of Cathay. These were all stored or manufactured in the karkhanas. Besides men and women slaves, the gifts included 100 pieces of cotton fabric called bairami priced at 100 dinars per piece, 100 pieces of silk called juzz of variegated tints, 104 pieces of salahiya, 100 pieces of shirinbaf, 100 pieces of shanbaf, 500 pieces of muraz, a kind of woollen fabric of various colours, 100 pieces of katan-i-Rumi, 100 gowns without sleeves, a tent with six pavilions, four golden candlesticks and four embroidered with silver, four gold basins and six silver. There were ten dresses of honour, ten caps one of which was embroidered with jewels, ten quivers one of which was studded with pearls, 10 swords the scabbard of one of which was inlaid with pearls and jewels, 10 gloves embroidered with pearls.79 All these were prepared in the royal karkhanas. Thus all kinds of civil and military goods were produced in the karkhanas. According to Shahabuddin al-Umri "every year the Sultan (Muhammad Tughlaq) distributes 200,000 complete dresses: 100,000 in spring and 100,000 in autumn (among nobles)... Dresses are also distributed to the monasteries and hermitages (khanqahs and dargahs). The Sultan keeps in his service 500 manufacturers of golden tissues, who weave the gold brocades worn by the wives of the Sultan, and given away as presents to the amirs and their wives." Shams Siraj Afif writes that there were thirty-six karkhanas in the reign of Firoz Tughlaq and the expenditure on one karkhana was not less than the expense on the city of Multan.80 The recurring and non-recurring (rabti wa ghair rabti) expenditure on one karkhana in a month came to one lakh sixty thousand and six lakh tankahs each respectively.81 Each karkhana was placed under the supervision of an important noble. Khwaja Abul Hasan was the overall administrator and superintendent of all these karkhanas. There were karkhanas of gold, silver and brass and other metals. There was a manufactory each of wines, perfumes armours. Weapons were all prepared in the karkhanas. There were paigahs of horses, camels and dogs. There was pil khana, shukra khana, salah khana and tashdar khana. Some figures of expenditure on karkhanas were like this: alam khana, 80,000 tankahs per year, farrash khana 2 lakhs. In jamdar khana six lakh tankahs per year were expended on obtaining raw materials per year. 12000 slaves worked in the karkhanas of Firoz Tughlaq and were given a salary of from 100 to 10 tankahs according to each one's competence. these workers formed some sort of guilds and produced excellent articles. There was no occupation in which the slaves trained as artisans, handicraftsmen and mechanics did not work. Despite some repetition and confusion in the figures mentioned by Afif, the expenditure on the karkhanas was enormous.

With the passing of time and the expansion of Muslim rule the items produced in the karkhanas and the expenditure incurred on them went on increasing. The karkhanas in the Mughal period produced articles for the king and the ruling class. There were karkhanas set up in the capital cities of Delhi and Agra, and many other provincial and industrial towns like Ahmadabad and Burhanpur. The working conditions and wages in the royal karkhanas were better than those in the private sector.82 Good and confident artisans, therefore, tried to seek employment in the state workshops where they were sure of getting good remuneration. On the other hand the king also tried to get the best workmen from within the country and abroad to work in the royal karkhanas. So that "the imperial workshops (in) the towns of Lahore, Agra, Fatehpur, Ahmadabad, Gujarat, turn out many masterpieces of workmanship".83 Often the Mughal emperor Akbar used to personally select and appoint men in the workshops and fix their salaries. These karkhanas set the standard and provided models for the private craftsmen also. Artisans worked separately at home or jointly in karkhanas. It was a localized industrial system, localized in the sense that the craftsmen were organized differently according to the different social strata they served and also whether they worked individually or in groups in private workshops or in the government karkhanas. But organized they were in "guilds". Guilds regulated various matters of common concern. They served as mutual aid societies, they stood surety for their members, and they entered into collective contracts with local authorities and institutions. This led to diffusion of skill throughout the country, a skill that passed from generation to generation in the caste-oriented, vocation-oriented Indian society. The system ensured employment to all skilled and unskilled workers, in state manufactories or private production units. The Mughal state was the largest manufacturer, or rather the only manufacturer on a large scale in respect of several commodities.85 But it catered only for the elite and not for the commoners.

The karkhanas produced articles for civil and military use; they also served as warehouses. "All articles which have been bought," writes Abul Fazl, "or woven to order or received as tribute or presents, are carefully preserved."86 Two major items of manufacture were arms and clothes. "His Majesty also ordered that people of certain ranks should wear certain articles; and this was done in order to regulate the demand."

Francois Bernier who witnessed the working of the karkhanas in the capital observes that there were "karkhanas in large halls seen in many places. In one hall embroiderers are busily employed, superintended by a master. In another you see goldsmiths; in the third painters; in the fourth, varnishers with lacquer-work; in a fifth joiners, turners, tailors, and shoe makers; in a sixth manufacturers of silk, brocade and those fine muslins of which are made turbans, girdles with golden flowers and drawers beautifully embroidered with needle work. The artisans repair every morning to their respective workshops, where they remain employed the whole day; and in the evening return to their homes."87

Of men's wear produced in the karkhanas, mention may be made of robes of honour or khilats distributed by the emperor on festive occasions, such as the coronation anniversary, the two Ids, the Lunar and Solar weighments etc. Such items were needed in thousands right from the fourteenth century as detailed earlier. Al-Umri gives details of men's khilats but in the Mughal period we get description of the items of luxury-wear also. "His Majesty (Akbar)," writes Abul Fazl, "pays much attention to various stuffs; hence Irani, European, and Mongol articles of wear are in abundance. Skilful masters and workmen have settled in this country to teach people an improved system of manufacture... His Majesty himself acquired in a short time a theoretical and practical knowledge of the whole trade; and on account of the care bestowed upon them the intelligent workmen of this country soon improved. All kinds of hair-weaving and silk-spinning were brought to perfection; and the imperial workshops furnish all those stuffs which are made in other countries." The list of cloths, shawls, clothes, khilats given by Abul Fazl shows that millions and millions of rupees would have been spent in the karkhanas on the manufacture and import of these items.88

As always, the expenditure on women's wardrobe was much more than that on men's. Harem ladies dressed in the best and costliest clothes, whether of cotton, silk or wool. Every day they changed their clothes several times. "Ordinarily," writes Manucci, "they wear two or even three garments, each weighing not more than one ounce, and worth from forty to fifty rupees each. This is without counting the (gold) lace they are in the habit of adding."89 Some drawers worn by them were so delicately fine as to wear out in one night. They covered their heads with a sheet of cloth of gold spangled with stars of different makes or wore turbans with an aigrette with ostrich feathers and a ruby plum which too would have been very costly.90 Manucci and Bernier talk in general terms, but Abul Fazl gives specific names of cotton, silk and woollen fabrics, Indian as well as those imported from "Turkey, Europe and Portugal".91 The well known fabrics were Satin, Atlas, Kimkhab, Katan, Tafta, Ambari, Tasser, Pashmina etc. Plain and brocaded velvet (makhmal) was imported from Europe, Sashan, Yazd, Mashad, Herat and many other places. By the time of Shahjahan more and more foreign stuffs had begun to be imported.92 Internal and external trade, royal workshops and private manufactories, provided the requirements of the haramsara. Silk was imported from many foreign countries like China and Persia as well as produced indigenously. Bernier says that the consumption of fine cloths of gold, brocades, silks, embroideries, pearls, musk, amber and sweet essences in the seraglio "is greater than can be conceived". All their clothes were perfumed with essence of rose and other flowers. Abul Fazl's catalogue of perfumes and the method of their preparation shows how much Mughal ladies and lords loved perfumes and how costly they were.93 Even their shoes used to be splendid, some with gold and silver spangles, some indeed were studded with precious stones.

Clothes, embroideries, carpets, shoes, vanity boxes, items of furniture and scores of other nick-nack were prepared in the royal karkhanas or imported from abroad. Quilts and coverlets, bedsheets and pillows, were made at home. Silk quilts of Satgaon were famous. These were also prepared at Patna, Qasim Bazar, Murshidabad and Orissa.94 Banaras silks and embroidered silk fabrics were rightly renowned. Terry says that the country, "yields good store of silk which they weave curiously, sometimes mingled with silver or gold. They make velvets and satin taffetos...".95 Fine cotton cloth was manufactured at Delhi, Lahore, Agra, Patna, Banaras, Burhanpur, Dacca and many other places.96 "Dacca produced prodigious quantity of fine white cloth and silken stuffs (malmal)."97

European ambassadors, traders and visitors were happy to provide large and small looking glasses, gold and silver laces, fine scarlet and green broad cloths and several articles of Chinese and Japanese workmanship. The Royal manufactories or karkhanas were spread all over the country from Kashmir, Lahore and Agra to Ahmedabad, Fatehpur and Burhanpur. The workmanship of Kashmir was renowned. Its palkis, bedsheets, trunks, inkstands, boxes, and spoons, were used all over India. But its shawls were superb. "Great pains have been taken to manufacture similar shawls in Patna, Agra, and Lahore, but notwithstanding every possible care, they never have the delicate texture and softness of the Kashmir shawls." Kashmir, Fatehpur and Jaunpur carpets were also famous. Woollen carpets or qalins were imported from Iran and Central Asia. Thick carpets were called pari while shatranji carpets were both woollen and cotton.98

Jewellery and ornaments were the costliest items. These were worn by harem ladies in profusion. Ornaments the harem inmates wore from early childhood, and they remained "the very joy of their hearts" throughout their lives. Abul Fazl gives a list of the then popular ornaments. Manucci describes them: "They (the princesses) wore on their arms, above the elbow, rich armlets two inches wide, enriched on the surface with stones, and having small bunches of pearls depending from them. At their wrists are very rich bracelets, or bands of pearls, which usually go round nine or twelve times. On their fingers are rich rings, and on the right thumb there is always a ring, where in place of stones, there is mounted a little round mirror, having pearls around it. This mirror (arsi) they use to look at themselves, an act of which they are very fond at any and every moment. In addition, they are girded with great stones; at the end of the strings which tie up their drawers there are bunches of pearls made up of fifteen strings, five fingers in length. Round the bottom of their legs are valuable metal rings or strings of costly pearls... There hangs from the middle of their head in the centre of their forehead a bunch of pearls or precious ornaments in the shape of star, sun or moon or flower beset with glittering jewels." He continues, "All these princesses own six to eight sets of jewels", besides other sets. No wonder "goldsmiths (both Indian and European) are almost continuously busy making ornaments. The best and the most costly of their productions are for the king's person, the queens and the princesses... ".99 The karkhanas were located; in many important towns and cities of the empire. They were thus spread all over the country. They manufactured everything the Mughals needed. From delicate stuffs worn inside the palace to arms, annours and ammunition used by soldiers and nobles on the battlefield, the karkhanas manufactured and stored all royal requirements. There was no item of delicate craftsmanship or heavy construction which was not the responsibility of the karkhanas to produce. So that the karkhanas, in one way or the other, were concerned with the manufacturing of, say, not only palace furniture but also associated with constructing palaces, mosques, roads, canals, and forts. The expenditure incurred on some items finds a stray reference here and there in the chronicles, but the overall expenditure on karkhanas cannot be calculated. All that can be said is that it was colossal.


Royal largesses knew no bounds after a victory, on coronation, during festivals (like id, and Nauroz) and on the days of weighments of kings and princes (under the Mughals). The beneficiaries of the king's bounty were Muslims of all classes from rich nobles to poor artisans and labourers and many more. Muslim state in India was meant to serve the cause of Islam. Therefore, Muslims were provided with all kinds of facilities like land grants, pensions and rewards. Foreign Muslim scholars and sufis, adventurers and nobles were invited in large numbers from abroad and liberally provided for. Muslims at home were given similar benefits.

In the medieval Muslim state, the enrichment of the courtiers was the first duty of the ruler, and the Muslim darbar specialized in rewarding its partners in conquest and governance. The nobles on their part were determined to milk the system. But in all this the generosity of the king played a significant role. Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish appreciated talent and rewarded it well. Minhaj Siraj says that people from Persia (and adjoining countries) came to India in "various capacities".100 A great scholar of Iltutmish's reign was Amir Ruhani; he had come from Bukhara to Delhi during Chingiz's upheaval. Qazi Hamid-ud-din Nagori had also come from abroad.101 Fakhr-ul-Mulk Isami, who had been Wazir at Baghdad for thirty years but then had suffered some disappointment, arrived in India and was appointed Wazir by Iltutmish. Sultan Iltutmish gave to Khwaja Taj-ud-din Bukhari and his brother two villages and one lakh tankahs in cash for writing a book titled the Adab-us-Salatin or rules for the rulers.102 Nuruddin Muhammad Ufi, the author of Jama-ul-Hikayat, had also come to Delhi during Iltutmish's reign. They all held important positions in India. Because of the Mongol upheaval, in the court of Iltutmish there arrived twenty-five princes with their retinues from Iraq, Khurasan and Mawaraun Nahr. During the reign of Sultan Balban fifteen more refugee princes arrived from Turkistan, Mawaraun Nahr, Khurasan, Iraq, Azarbaijan, Persia, Rum and Sham. It appears that each one came with a large number of followers because Balban allotted for their residence a locality (mohalla) each.103 Their followers comprised masters of pen and of sword, scholars and mashaikh.

On his accession Jalaludin Khalji gave ministries and assignments to his nobles with a free hand. So did Alauddin Khalji. For deserting the cause of Jalaluddin and siding with Alauddin many nobles had received 20,30, and even 50 man of gold from the latter. Their soldiers also got 100 tankahs each. During the twenty years of his reign, Muhammad Tughlaq had squandered his wealth on his nobles so that the treasury was in a bad shape when Firoz Tughlaq ascended the throne. Under Muhammad Tughlaq, the Chief Qazi enjoyed a salary of 60,000 tankahs a year. The Qazi of the Capital was subordinate to him. Ibn Battutah was appointed on this post on a salary of 12,000 tankahs a year. A Mir Dad was appointed by the king on 50,000 tankahs.104 After Firoz Tughlaq came to the throne, during the forty years of his reign he devoted himself to generosity and "the benefit of the Musalmans", by distributing villages and lands among his followers. He made all posts and all allotments hereditary. "if an officer of the army died, he was to be succeeded by his son; if he had no son, by his son-in-law; if he had no son-in law, by his slave (ghulam); if he had no slave, by his nearest relation; and if he had no relation, by his wives."105 Qiwan-ul-Mulk was a high dignitary in the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq. His mansion was 'golden' in some parts. He was appointed the Chief Wazir (Wazir-i-Kul) by Firoz on his arrival in Delhi from Thatta. Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul attained to high dignity. He had a great number of children. When a son was born to him Sultan Firoz gave 11,000 tankahs for his maintenance. To a daughter was given 15,000 tankahs at the time of marriage."106 Firoz Tughlaq gave to many nobles and scholars, reciters of the Quran and Saiyyads wazifas of ten, five and two thousand tankahs each.107

During Muslim rule in India, foreign and Indian Muslims were freely bestowed jobs and gifts. Foreign Muslims were most welcome here. They came in large numbers and were well provided for. Muhammad Tughlaq was specially kind to them, as averred by Ibn Battutah. He writes that "the countries contiguous to India like Yemen, Khurasan and Fars are filled with anecdotes about... his generosity to the foreigners in so far as he prefers them to the Indians, honours them, confers on them great favours and makes them rich presents and appoints them to high offices and awards them great benefits". He calls them aziz or dear ones and has instructed his courtiers not to address them as foreigners. 'The sultan ordered for me," writes Ibn Battutah, "a sum of six thousand tankahs, and ordered a sum of ten thousand for Ibn Qazi Misr. Similarly, he ordered sums to be given to all foreigners (a'izza) who were to stay at Delhi, but nothing was given to the metropolitans."108 He gave robes of honour to all, including Ibn Battutah and Shihabuddin, a merchant of Kazarun, a town in Iran. When Shihabuddin fell ill, Muhammad Tughlaq sent him one lakh of gold tankahs, "so that his heart be cheered up". Shihabuddin later sailed to Hormuz, but he was deprived of all his possessions in the "civil war that broke out between the ruler of Hormuz and his two nephews...". Shihabuddin was not the only victim of violence in the Islamic lands of turbulence. Ziyauddin Barani, like Ibn Battutah, knew that the fear of robbers in Muslim lands had restricted Muhammad Tughlaq's generosity to the foreigners.

There are scores of instances of Muhammad Tughlaq's generosity to foreigners. The sultan had sent a present to Caliph Abul Abbas in Egypt soliciting a letter of investiture. The Caliph sent the desired letter through Ruknuddin, the grand Shaikh of Egypt. The envoy was sent back to his country with many rich gifts, including horseshoes made of gold. Ruknuddin lost the gifts in a conflict and Sultan Muhammad replaced them. Similarly, Nasiruddin, the preacher of Egypt, came to wait on the sultan and remained with him for one year enjoying his favours. The sultan granted Nasiruddin a gilded robe of honour embellished with precious stones, a tent enclosure made entirely of silk of different colours, some gold utensils, several pitchers, a flask, a jug, a four-legged table and a stand for books - all made of gold. On his arrival the sultan had given Nasiruddin money amounting to a hundred thousand tankahs with two hundred slaves, some of whom he manumitted while others he took away. Abdul Aziz was a jurist, well versed in Hadis. He had studied at Damascus and came on a visit to India. One day he incidentally related to the sultan a few of the Prophet's sayings. The sultan was so impressed by the recital that he kissed the jurist's feet and ordered a gold tray to be brought containing two thousand tankahs. He poured the tray with his own hands over the jurist saying, "This as well as the tray is for you." To the jurist and poet Shamsuddin Andkani of Khurasan, who had presented an ode containing twenty-seven verses praising the sultan, Muhammad Tughlaq awarded a sum of one thousand dinars for each verse. To many other accomplished Muslims like Azuddin the jurist, Qazi Majduddin a man of great parts, and Burhanuddin the renowned preacher, handsome amounts of money were sent in their home towns - they did not visit India.

The story of Haji Kaun may be mentioned as the last case. Haji Kaun was a cousin of Sultan Abu Said, the king of Iraq. His brother Musa was also a ruler in some parts of Iraq. Haji Kaun waited on Muhammad Tughlaq and was honoured with rich gifts. One day the Wazir Khwaja Jahan sent to the sultan a present including three trays - the first filled with rubies, the second with emeralds, and the third with pearls. Haji Kaun being present the sultan gave him a considerable portion out of these. Later he again gave him enormous wealth. Haji Kaun left for Iraq. His brother had died and he reclaimed the throne. But he behaved cruelly towards his nobles and was killed by them, and all the wealth he had carried from India was lost.109 Muhammad Tughlaq's generous gifts to Ghiyasuddin, a scion of the Caliph, would be listed later on. The point to note here is that under Sultan Muhammad so much wealth was awarded to so many deserving and undeserving foreign Muslims that at the close of his reign the Delhi treasury had become bankrupt. There was also the loss of popularity because "the people of India hate the foreigners (Persians, Turks, Khurasanis) because of the favour the sultan shows them,"110 and they hated the sultan for the same reason.

The Saiyyad rulers, because of their unpopularity as Timur's nominees in India, needed outside help for sustaining their position and power. During their rule therefore many Afghans arrived in India at their invitation. Afghans had earlier been employed by Mahmud of Ghazni, Iltutmish and Balban to fight Hindu Rajas and Zamindars. From the time of Khizr Khan they came in large groups. They were assigned important iqtas. Afghan colonization was a costly affair. The Afghan nobility, devoid of discipline and greedy of gathering wealth, added to the expenditure of the Sultanate. To add to the expenditure many nobles, who had lost their positions during the invasion of Timur, were reallotted their old offices, parganas and iqtas.111 The ascendancy of the Afghans during the Saiyyad rule paved the way for their ascension to the throne of Delhi. During the Lodi regime (1451-1526), Afghan tribal leaders became a still more privileged class in the polity of the Sultanate. All the best lands were distributed among them. Similarly, in the Sharqi kingdom, the court of Sultan Ibrahim, according to Farishtah, rivalled that of Iran, and the capital Jaunpur came to be known as second Shiraz.112 in other Muslim kingdoms, like Gujarat and Malwa also, the kings spent equally lavishly on rewarding their nobles, scholars, and men of religion. According to the Akhbar-ul-Akhiyar, Sikandar Lodi invited learned men from Arabia, Iran and Central Asia and many of them adopted Hindustan as their home. For example, Shaikh Husain Tahir, who lived during the reigns of Bahlul and Sikandar, was known as a walking encyclopaedia.113 It is said that Sultan Sikandar bestowed lands and gifts upon the learned and the religious to the extent that had never been done in former reigns.114

The Sur Afghans were no different from their Lodi compatriots. "Sher Shah gave to many of his kindred who came from Roh money and property far exceeding their expectations." This statement of Abbas Sarwani is repeated and elaborated still later on. He says: "To every pious Afghan who came into his presence from Afghanistan, Sher Shah used to give money to an amount exceeding his expectations, and he would say, 'This is your share of the kingdom of Hind, which has fallen into my hands, this is assigned to you, come every year to receive it.'" And to his own tribe and family of Sur, who dwelt in the land of Roh, he sent an annual stipend of money, in proportion to the members of his family and retainers; and during the period of his dominion no Afghan, whether in Hind or Roh was in want, but all became men of substance. It was the custom of the Afghans during the time of sultans Bahlul and Sikandar, and as long as the dominions of the Afghans lasted, that if any Afghan received a sum of money or a dress of honour, "that sum of money or dress of honour was regularly apportioned to him, and he received it every year". Sher Shah Suri too said, "It is incumbent upon kings to give grants to imams; for the prosperity and populousment of the cities of Hind are dependent on the imams and holy men... whoever wishes that God Almighty should make him great, should cherish Ulama and pious persons, that he may obtain honour in this world and felicity in the next."115

Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, after his victory over Ibrahim Lodi liberally distributed gold and gifts among his people. "To some Begs 10 lakhs were given, 8, 7 or 6 to others. Erksine estimated these sums as very large sums for the age. Suitable money gifts were bestowed from the Treasury on the whole army, to every tribe there was, Afghan, Hazara, Arab, Biluch etc. to each according to its position. Every trader and student, indeed every man who had come with the army, took ample portion and share of bounteous gift and largess. Many gifts went to the begs and soldiery on that side (Tramontana)", i.e. homeland. Largesses were also distributed on festivals like Id.116 The awards to officers who had done good work in the battle against Rana Sanga were generous. The government of Mewat with its chief town Tijara was bestowed on Chin Timur "together with an allowance of 50 lakhs for his support". Alwar and an allowance of 15 lakhs was bestowed on Tardi yakka. The contents of the Alwar treasury were bestowed on Humayun.117

If this could be given to the nobles and army officers, princes and ladies of the royalty of course were most lavishly rewarded. The first Mughal emperor Babur's bounty in this regard earned him the sobriquet of qalandar, that is, he gave away with both hands and was left with nothing for himself. Babur distributed the wealth on 11th or 12th of May, 1526. This is what we find noted in his memoirs about the distribution of treasure in Agra: "To Humayun were given 70 lakhs from the treasury, and, over and above this, a treasure house was bestowed on him just as it was... 17 lakhs were given to Kamran, 15 lakhs to Muhammad Zaman Mirza, while to Askari and Hindal and other relations and younger children went masses of gold and silver, of 'plenishing jewels and slaves'."

"Valuable gifts (saughat) were sent for the various relations in Samarkand, Khurasan, Kashgar and Iraq." Details about these are given by Babur's daughter Gulbadan Begum. Khwaja Kilan Beg carried them to Kabul to be distributed among the Begums and other relatives as per the conqueror's instructions. "To each Begum is to be delivered as follows: one special dancing girl of the dancing girls of sultan Ibrahim, with one gold plate full of jewels - ruby and pearl, cornelian and diamond, emerald and turquoise, topaz and cat's-eye - and two small mother-of-pearl trays full of asharfis, and two other trays of shahrukhis." Similar gifts were to be given to other inmates of the harems and kinsmen (of officers serving in India under Babur) and Aghas or guardians of the harems. An asharfi weighing fifteen sirs of Hind, the only one of its kind, was sent for the Asas or the night-guard. When all the begums and khanums arrived in India, ninety-six persons in all, they all received houses and lands and gifts to their hearts' desire.118

Let us continue with the distribution of gifts to royal ladies into the later Mughal times. Nur Jahan Begum received from her royal husband Jahangir, grants of land, gifts of gold and jewels, and countless treasures. She also got gifts and presents from Indian Rajas and foreign merchants. The jagirs she held spread all over the country, and "would have conferred on her the title of a commander of 30,000". Her large jagir of Ramsar was situated about 30 kilometres south-east of Ajmer. In 1617, on the happy occasion of Shahjahan's victory in the Deccan, Nur Jahan was given the pargana of Toda as jagir. It lay 80 kilometres south-east of Ajmer on the medieval trade route from Surat to Agra and brought her an annual income of two lakhs of rupees.119 Besides she had received the right of collecting octroi duty at Sikandarabad120 on the merchandise coming from Purab or the eastern country of Allahabad, Bihar and Orissa as well as Bengal and Bhutan.121 Obviously Nur Jahan Begum's income from cesses and octroi duties was substantial. To this may be added her income from trade and commerce in which she was keenly interested. Indian ships carried from India textiles, spices, ginger, pepper, dyes, opium and various other drugs to West Asian countries like Arabia, Persia, North Africa, and brought back wines, perfumes, brocades, China goods, gold, silver, ivory, amber, pearls, horses etc. Nur Jahan maintained a number of ships and carried on foreign trade mainly in indigo and embroidered cloth.122 Her commercial enterprises brought her immense profits.123 She had to compromise with the fact that the Emperor, his mother and many other members of the royal family were also trading on their own account, and Nur Jahan could not monopolize any item of trade. Many European trading companies like the Portuguese, Dutch and English were at this time busy in commercial activity in India. Nur Jahan's relations with the English were good. She sent her goods in English ships, preferring them to those of the Portuguese with whom the Mughal relations were not good.

The English profited by her favours. She managed farmans for them conferring concessions.124 In these transactions Nur Jahan's brother Asaf Khan was the chief agent and intermediary. Gifts and presents were exchanged between the English and the royal family. She also received valuable and costly curios, gifts, nazars and bribes from foreigners and Indians.125

Similarly, Jahan Ara Begum possessed enormous wealth. On his accession Shahjahan had given her one hundred thousand asharfis and four hundred thousand rupees and fixed her an allowance at six hundred thousand rupees.126 In the case of royal ladies whose allowances were large, usually one half of the amount was paid to them in cash and the other half was given in the form of assignments of land or customs revenue. Jahan Ara received many such assignments. The jagirs assigned to her included, among others, Achhbal and Vernag in Kashmir, Doraha127 and Panipat in Punjab, Bachhpur or Machalpur in Central India and Shafipur in U.P. The revenue of the sarkar of Doraha was given to her for the upkeep of her gardens and that of the flourishing port city of Surat for her expenditure on betel.128 That is how the poor of the country were fleeced to keep the princes and princesses rich. In 1648-49, on the inaugural of the twenty-third year of his reign, Shahjahan granted her the pargana of Panipat, the annual revenue of which was one crore dams. "She had in addition many precious stones and jewels that had been given to her by her father." It was customary in the harem to reciprocate such gestures and she also gave presents to her father and brothers. Once on the occasion of the weighing ceremony of Shahjahan, she gave him a pearl of great value and distributed gold and silver in nisar. On the accession of Aurangzeb she presented precious jewels to the new emperor and again sent presents to him on the occasion of his weighing ceremony. On another occasion when Shahjahan recovered from illness the princess along with some other ladies distributed fifty thousand rupees to the poor.

"This princess," writes Bernier, "accumulated great riches by means of her large allowances and of the costly presents which flowed in from all quarters, in consideration of numberless negotiations intrusted to her sole management." As in the case of Nur Jahan, these came from both Indian and foreign channels. The Dutch sought her favours to resolve their problems. She also received presents from the English consisting of perfumed oils, broad cloth, embroidered cloth, mirrors and cabinets. Tavernier, who came to India in 1641, presented rich gifts to her. In 1654 Raja Prithvichand of Srinagar in Garhwal sought the pardon of emperor Shahjahan through Jahan Ara Begum to whom he naturally presented with gifts. In the same year Qutb Shah of Golkunda, who had been troubled by Aurangzeb, appealed to Jahan Ara and she secured his pardon against payment of indemnity. There are many more such instances when her intercession brought her gifts and gold. Jahan Ara Begum's finances were also augmented by her commercial enterprise. She owned a number of ships and used to carry on trade on her own account. She contracted friendly commercial relations with the Dutch and the English and with their co-operation carried on extensive commercial activities and made enormous profits. According to Manucci, her income was thirty lakhs of rupees a year besides precious stones and jewels.129

Nur Jahan and Jahan Ara are big names. All princes and princesses were given allowances and gifts of cash and jewels. Jahangir describes the gifts he bestowed on Shahzada Khurram on many occasions and on Prince Parwez at the time of his marriage. On one occasion when Roshan Ara Begum was given seven lakh fifty thousand rupees by Aurangzeb, Zaib-un-nisa Begum got four lakhs, Zinat-un-nisa two lakhs, Badr-un-nisa one lakh seventy thousand, and Zabt-un-nisa one lakh fifty thousand.130 High and mighty begums maintained their own establishments but others lived in the harem and their expenses were borne by the state exchequer. When it is recollected that Akbar's harem had 5,000 women and Prince Shah Alam's 2,000, the expenditure on the harem can well be visualized. Since the harem ladies had little work to do - work was considered a degrading activity among the Mughal elite - they spent their time in make-up and gossip. All their hobbies and necessities were expensive but provided for.

Like nobles, princes and princesses men of learning and religion too were awarded presents and granted pensions liberally. Nor were the poor ignored. Muslim state in India was a welfare state for the Muslims,131 as desired by the Islamic religion and its scriptures. From the very beginning of Muslim rule lands and gardens, orchards and villages and cash awards were granted as scholarships and pensions to Ulama, Mutalaqin, Sufis, Hafiz, Saadat, Mashaikah, Arbab-i-Masjid, Khanqah-dwellers, Astanadars, Qalandars, Faqirs, the deprived, the widows, the old, orphaned, blind, deformed, spastic, physically handicapped, teachers, Muftis, Khatibs, students, poets etc., etc.132 For example, Firoz Tughlaq sanctioned thirty-six lakh tankahs for ulema and mashaikh and one crore tankahs yearly for the needy and the helpless (faqir wa miskin), besides allotting qasbas for Saadats.133 34,200 persons received these monthly allowances. All Muslim kings were exceedingly benevolent to men of religion - including the secular Akbar and Jahangir. Jahangir writes: "During the reign of my father, the ministers of religion and students of law and literature, to the number of two and three thousand, in the principal cities of the empire, were already allowed pensions from the state; and to these, in conformity with the regulations established by my father, I directed Miran Sadr Jahan (spelling normalised) one of the noblest among the Seyeds of Herat, to allot a subsistence corresponding with their situation; and this is not only to the subjects of my own realms, but to foreigners - to natives of Persia, Roum, Bokhara, and Azerbaijan, with strict charge that this class of men should not be permitted either want or inconvenience of any type."134 Jahangir also directed Miran Sadr "that he should every day produce before me deserving people (worthy of charity)."135

But let us begin with the beginning. From Minhaj Siraj to Farishtah, all Muslim chroniclers bestow lavish praise upon Muhammad Ghauri for his munificence and patronage of the learned. Qutbuddin Aibak's generosity is praised by all writers who style him as lakhbakhsh or giver of lakhs. Balhan used to visit the houses of the men of religion and learning and bestow gifts on them. So also were treated the poor and the weak. Scattering of coins among the poor was a common practice. Sometimes ingenuous methods were devised to reward people to make them happy. During his march from Kara to Delhi to occupy the throne Alauddin Khalji used a manjaniq or catapult engine to hurl at every halt five man of gold coins among the people and thereby gained their goodwill. Emperor Jahangir used to scatter rupees, half-rupees and quarter rupees to faqirs and indigent persons on both sides of the road during excursions.136 On Alauddin's accession liberal gifts were bestowed upon the people at large, and for some time wine and beauty and music became the order of the day. Pavilions were erected in the bazars and wine, soft drinks and pan were distributed free. The army was given six months salary as a reward, the shaikhs and ulema were awarded gratuities, and all high and low partook of the royal bounty.137 Similarly, when Firoz Tughlaq arrived in Delhi after his coronation, "pavilions (kaba) were raised and decorated according to the times of former kings". There were six such pavilions. One lakh tankahs was expended on each pavilion in food and sherbet for twenty-one days and no one was excluded.


The Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi of Shams Siraj Afif contains a fairly good account of the social life of the Sultanate period. While Ziyauddin Barani's Tarikh and most other chronicles are primarily political histories, Afif's work has a social bias. It gives in detail the measures Firoz Tughlaq took for the benefit of the poor, but it was a continuation of a tradition, and things were done "according to the times of former kings". In brief, measures such as his were taken throughout the medieval period. Sultan Firoz founded an establishment by the name of Diwan-i-Khairat. It was meant to help promotion of marriages of daughters of needy Musalmans. Those who could not provide a marriage portion for their daughters were given fifty tankahs, thirty tankahs and twenty-five tankahs as per their social standing.138

Similarly, according to Motamid Khan, Nur Jahan Begum in the seventeenth century, "if ever she learnt that any orphan girl was destitute, she would bring about her marriage, and give her a wedding portion". She was an asylum for all sufferers, and helpless girls were married at the expense of her private purse. She must have portioned about 500 girls and thousands were grateful for her generosity.139 Muslim rulers and nobles throughout the medieval period tried to earn merit by doing this work of sawab.

Sultan Firoz established a government hospital for he relief of the sick. Able physicians and doctors were appointed to treat the patients and provision was made for the supply of medicines. The sultan settled some rich villages to provide for the expenses of this hospital, so that medicines, food, drinks and other expenses of the patients were borne by the state treasury. Al-Umari speaks of many private hospitals in the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq. But Firoz's was a government hospital. Jahangir also takes credit for doing the same. He gave orders that the Jagirdars "should found hospitals in the great cities, and appoint physicians for the healing of the sick; whatever the expenditure might be, should be given from the khalisa establishment".140 After recovery the patient was discharged after being provided with a "sufficient sum of money for his exigencies".141

Sultan Firoz Tughlaq also saw to it that no workman remained unemployed. Sometimes respectable people, out of shame, would not make their necessities known. But once they were brought before the Sultan, he provided them with some employment. Men of pen and intelligent men of business were sent to government karkhanas, others to other suitable jobs. Slaves were also assigned to nobles or absorbed in the king's establishment. He himself had about 2 lakhs of them.

Like Firoz Shah Tughlaq, Sultan Sikandar Lodi was specially kind towards his co-religionists. Every six months he got prepared a list of the indigent and the meritorious and fixed suitable allowances for each one of them. Every winter he distributed clothes and covering to the needy. Cooked and uncooked food was distributed free at various places every day. On certain days like Id, Barawafat, the anniversary of the Prophet's death, and in the month of Ramzan, charities were freely distributed. Following upon the example of the king, the nobles also vied with one another in giving charities.142 What has been said about Firoz Tughlaq or Sikandar Lodi stands true for all Muslim kings and references of such benevolences lie scattered in most Persian histories. Government expenditure on helping the poor was high.

Sikandar Lodi encouraged learning among his clansmen. Education was mostly imparted in schools attached to mosques. Schools and colleges at Agra, Sambhal, Mathura, Narwar and many other places flourished under the royal patronage, and Muslim learning "spread in the countryside".143 Its cost was borne by the Muslim state. It need hardly be added that "these Madrasas were strongholds of orthodoxy and were subsidised by the state."144

Sikandar Lodi was an orthodox ruler while Sher Shah is considered to be a secular king. But so far as looking after the interests and welfare of the Muslims is concerned, all sultans and badshahs were alike. Religious considerations prompted their actions. Sher Shah often said, "It behoves kings to inscribe the pages of their history with the characters of religion. It behoves kings not to disobey the commands of God."145 Two institutions, says Rizquilah, "were kept up during his reign without any interruption: one, the religious establishments (imarat khana) and the other the houses for the poor... He himself used to take his meals with the learned and the Shaikhs.146 His private kitchen was very extensive, for several thousand people fed there every day. There was a general order, that if any soldier or religious personage, or any cultivator, should be in need of food, he should feed at the kings's kitchen..." The daily cost of these meals, and of these places for the distribution of food, was 500 gold pieces (asharfis) or rupees 2,37,25,000 per year.147 "Destitute people, who were unable to provide for their own subsistence, like the blind, the old, the weak in body, widows, and the sick, etc., to such he gave stipends from the treasury of the town in which they were resident..." All Muslim rulers as a rule, and without exception, provided free food to the poor. Even the stingy Aurangzeb was keen on setting up free kitchens. Distribution of free meals benefited the destitute but such generosity would also have encouraged laziness and beggary among the Muslims. As Jadunath Sarkar writes, "The vast sums spent by the State in maintaining pauper houses and in scattering alms during Ramzan and other holy days and joyous ceremonies, were a direct premium on laziness. Thus a lazy and pampered class was created in the empire, who was the first to suffer when its prosperity was arrested."148 Sher Shah noted that distribution of stipends to the sick and old through religious officials encouraged the imams to embezzle money. In medieval times wherever there was money there was corruption. And free kitchens involved lot of money. Sher Shah took steps to curb imams' dishonesty.

Charities were distributed among the poor and the needy on occasions both happy and sad. Money was spent like water at the birth of a prince, his marriage, accession of the king, or at the time of sickness or of death in the royal family. Happy occasions were many. And Jahangir's memoirs are full of accounts of these. For example, when early in his reign, Jahangir was at Kabul, he ordered that so long as he was there, 12,000 rupees were to be distributed every Thursday among the poor. Or, he gave 9,000 rupees to be distributed in aims to faqirs and other poor people on the occasion of Prince Parwez's marriage. When princess Jahanara was badly burnt Shahjahan distributed 5000 rupees daily in alms totalling seven lakhs. On her recovery he gave 5 lakhs more in charity. The slave Arif who had prepared the ointment which healed her burns was weighed against gold and given 7,000 coins in cash. On Shahjahan's death Jahanara distributed two thousand gold coins among the poor.

One practice of the Mughals, namely tuladan, which was borrowed from the Hindus provided many occasions in the course of the year for distributing charity among the poor. It was started by Akbar and it continued till the twelfth year of Aurangzeb's reign. Even after that many princes continued celebrating their birthday by tuladan.149 Kings and princes were weighed on both solar and lunar birthdays and money equal to their weight was distributed among the faqirs. For instance, on the solar weighing of Prince Parwez, the whole proceedings were given to the poor. On the fortieth wazan-i-qamari of Jahangir (weighing according to lunar year), he gave 10,000 rupees of the money of the weighing to be distributed among the deserving and the needy. Prince Khurram was weighed in his sixteenth lunar year against gold, silver and other materials which were given away to the faqirs. But the most interesting was the double celebration of lunar and solar weighments of the late emperor Akbar by his son. Jahangir writes that "I determined that the value of all the articles which he (Akbar) used to order for his own-weighing in the solar and lunar years should be estimated, and that what this came to should be sent to the large cities for the repose of the soul of that enlightened one, and be divided amongst the necessitous and the faqirs. The total came to 100,000 rupees, equal to 300 Iraq tumans, and 300,000 of the currency of the people of Mawaraun-nahr."150 In this way many millions of rupees must have gone in charity in the course of a hundred years.

Artists, poets, scholars and musicians, were of course given liberal grants, stipends and rewards. Their lists are found in almost all Muslim chronicles. One example should suffice. In the third volume of W. Haig's translation of Abdul Qadir Badaoni's Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh, there are accounts of 38 shaikhs, 69 scholars, 15 philosophers and physicians and about 167 poets of the time of Akbar. It is said that there were 300 painters in Akbar's court alone. It is not necessary to give many more lists.


The generosity of Muslim rulers was not confined to Musalmans in India alone. It extended to Muslims anywhere and everywhere. In the case of sending presents and wealth to the Caliphs and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina their liberality was unrestricted.

Lot of wealth was sent to the Caliph by the sultans of Hindustan. The first four Caliphs were directly related to the Prophet. Muawiyah, the founder of the Ummayad Caliphate, was a cousin and Abbas (the ancestor of the Abbasid Caliphate) an uncle of Prophet Muhammad. There was therefore very great reverence for the Caliphs in the world of Islam. The Abbasids had built up a large empire with capital at Baghdad.151 Its provinces were administered by the Turkish slave governors and Turkish mercenary troops. These Turkish governors became independent in course of time but officially they were only slaves. So they thought it politic to pay tribute to the Khalifa and in return seek from him recognition of their 'sovereignty'. The Arab invader Muhammad bin Qasim as well as the later governors of Sindh used to read the khutbah in the name of the Ummayad Caliph and used to send him the legal one-fifth part of the booty (Khams).152 For example, when Muhammad bin Qasim attacked Debal, "700 beautiful females, who were under the protection of Budh (that is, had taken shelter in the temple) were all captured with their valuable ornaments..." Muhammad despatched seventy-five damsels as Khams to Hajjaj. Thereafter, whichever places he sacked he slew the men and captured the women and children, and batches of them were despatched to the Caliph at regular intervals. On one occasion alone 20,000 slaves of both sexes were sent to the Caliph.153 The amount of cash and valuables sent to Caliph counted to 120 million dirhams (120 thousand dirhams according to Al-Kufi).

Mahmud Ghaznavi's campaigns in India had Caliphal blessings. In return, Mahmud was always careful to inscribe the Caliph's name on his coins, and send to Baghdad presents from the plunder of his campaigns.154 These consisted of large amounts of all kinds of wealth including indigo, the valuable dyestuff which was collected as tribute from India.155 The accession of Mahmud's successor Masud was not peaceful and, therefore, soon after coming to the throne he applied to the Khalifa for recognition of his title to succession. "He sent an envoy to Qadir Billah, and promising to send him every year a sum of 2,00,000 dinars, 10,000 pieces of cloth, besides other presents, requested him to recognise his claim. The Khalifa was pleased to send him a formal investiture..."156 His successor continued with the tradition. By such remittances the sultans obtained recognition and moral support of the Caliph while the latter gained in financial resources and remained supreme in the Islamic world.

Like the Ghaznavids the Ghaurids were also alive to the importance of obtaining the confirmation of their sovereignty from the Caliphs of Baghdad. Ghiyasuddin, the elder brother of Muizzuddin or Muhammad Ghauri, obtained sanctions from the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad. The earliest Muslim rulers of Hindustan were originally slaves, and it was recognised in all quarters that their position as rulers would be buttressed if they could receive caliphal recognition. Tajuddin Yilduz, the ruler of Ghazni, obtained the Caliph's sanction for his authority. After Yilduz and Qubacha had been destroyed by Iltutmish, the latter received the investiture from the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustansir Billah as a legal sanction of his monarchy.157 The formal patent of investiture was called manshur and the robe of honour, turban, swords, ensigns and other gifts were called karamat. It is not known if Iltutmish had requested the Khalifa for it, or how much wealth and presents he sent in return, but he must have sent lot of wealth as that was but customary.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq probably crossed all limits of generosity in sending the Caliph enormous wealth. Surely the Sultan must have sent a substantial amount, because when Ghiyasuddin, who was only a descendent of the extinct caliphal house of Baghdad, visited India, Muhammad's bounty knew no bounds. Writing on the basis of Muslim histories, Wolseley Haig says that "the vessels in his (Ghiyasuddin's) palace were of gold and silver, the bath being of gold and on the first occasion of his using it a gift of 400,000 tangas was sent to him; he was supplied with male and female servants, and slaves. He was allowed a daily sum of 300 tangas, though much of the food consumed by him and his household came from the royal kitchen; he received in fee the whole of Alauddin's city of Siri, one of the four cities (Delhi, Siri, Tughlaqabad, and Jahanpanah) which composed the capital, with all its buildings, and adjacent gardens and lands and a hundred villages; he was appointed governor of the eastern district of the province of Delhi; he received thirty mules with trappings of gold; and whenever he visited the court he was entitled too receive the carpet on which the king sat." And all this wealth was bestowed on a "mean and miserly" wretch who could not bear to see others eating good food and who did not return a loan he owed to Ibn Battutah.158 If this treasure was given to a scion of a house which had become defunct, how much more was sent to the living Caliph at Cairo, is difficult to sumrise. No wonder it elicited a comment from the contemporary chronicler Ziyauddin Barani: "So great was the faith of the Sultan in the Abbasid Khalifas," says he, "that he would have sent all his treasures in Delhi to Egypt, had it not been for the fear of robbers."159 That is how the wealth of India, milked from the labours of the poor, was squandered on foreign Muslims. No wonder that because of the generosity of the Sultan in his time the Caliphal investitures were. received more than once. Muhammad Tughlaq included the names of Abbasid al-Mustakfi and his successors al-Wathiq I and al-Hakim in his khutbah and inscribed on his coins their names to the exclusion of his own.160 Such an attitude of subservience combined with munificence encouraged the Caliph to send to Muhammad's successor Firoz Tughlaq, a patent of investiture entrusting to him the territories of Hind.

With the fall of the Tughlaq dynasty the name of the Caliph was dropped from Delhi coins. But the outflow of wealth did not cease. To the Saiyyad rulers, Timur and his successors played the role of the Caliphs. It is they who provided moral and material support to Saiyyad sultans. More than once, role of honour came from Shah Rukh to Delhi for Khizr Khan and Mubarak Khan. In return annual tribute was sent to Shah Rukh.161 Sultan Muhammad Saiyyad also remained loyal to him.162 It was not only the sultans of Delhi, but also of Jaunpur and Bengal who called themselves vice-regents of the Abbasid Caliphs.163 The Caliph al-Mustanjid Billah sent to Sultan Mahmud Khalji of Malwa robes of honour and a letter patent. Mahmud accepted the gifts of the Khalifa with due honour and gave in return to the envoy tashrifat, and a large amount of gold and silver. Even some rebels of the Delhi Sultanate received the caliphal investiture164 in return for gifts of money and gold and slaves. Needless to add that money, gifts and presents were sent to Caliphs; not only to Caliphs but also to Mecca and Medina and to Muslim brethren in their homelands

Mecca and Medina

This is borne out by some figures available for the Mughal period.

In war and peace, gifts were regularly sent to Mecca (Makka) and Medina (Madinah). The Prophet had ensured prosperity of Arabia permanently through income from Hajj pilgrimage and presents from pious Muslims to these holy centres of Islam. If the sultans sent treasures to Caliphs, the Mughals excelled in forwarding gifts and charities, gold and silver, to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. "He made Hajj i.e., pilgrimage to the Kaaba, an old pre-Islamic Arab rite, a basic tenet of his religion to impress upon foreign Muslims the sanctity of Arabia, and create an ever lasting source of income for the Arabs." This "income counted as the mainstay of the Arabs before they discovered their oil wealth".165

Some interesting information is available from the west coast, where Muslim traders had settled, regarding numbers of gifts being sent to the Muslim holy cities from earliest times. A lengthy bilingual inscription from Somnath Patan in Arabic and Sanskrit dated 662 H/1264 CE mentions about Nakhuda Nuruddin Firoz, the ship master. He built a mosque on land which was either purchased or gifted by Briha Raja Chhada. Provision was made by Nuruddin for muallims and muazzins. "Any surplus which remained was to be sent to Mecca and Medina." The lengthy Sanskrit text has a shorter Arabic counterpart. Missing in the Sanskrit is the significant invocation: "... in the city of Somnath, may God make it one of the cities of Islam and (banish) infidelity and idols." Another inscription from Junagarh mentions an Arab ship master who was "the prop of the pilgrims to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina".166

With the arrival of Babur information about such gifts abounds. Babur sent to holy men belonging to Samarqand and Khurasan offerings vowed to God (nuzur); so too to Mecca and Medina. "We gave one shahrukhi for every soul in the country of Kabul and the vale-side of Varsak, man and woman, bond and free, of age or non-age."167

Akbar regularly sent money and gifts to Mecca and Medina. "Though debarred from leaving Hindustan himself, he helped many others to fulfill this primary duty of their faith, and opened wide his purse for their expenses. Each year he named a leader of the caravan and provided him with gifts and ample funds for the two cities. When Gulbadan Begum, his paternal aunt, went for Hajj, Sultan Khwaja, Gulbadan's cicerone, took among other presents, 12,000 dresses of honour."168 As mentioned earlier both Akbar and Jahangir sent to the religious men of Persia, Rum and Azarbaijan subsistence allowance on the principle: "Wealth is from God... and these are his servants", be they in Hindustan or any other Muslim country.169 "Shahjahan despatched to Mecca an amber candlestick covered with a network of gold and inlaid with gems and diamonds by his own artisans. It was a most gorgeous piece of work turned out by the craftsmen, worth two and a half lacs of rupees."170

These are just a few specimens. Kings and nobles and rich Hajis regularly sent out wealth from India to Mecca and Medina.


Life of Muslim kings and nobles in India can be termed as fully lived. It was characterised by the absence of any sense of economy. Those who could liberally distribute money among the rich and the poor alike - umara, ulema, saiyyads, sufis, artists, poets and faqirs -, those who sent abroad millions of rupees to their Muslim brothers and religious leaders, could not by themselves live a life of austerity. They did not conquer countries and rule over kingdoms to live parsimoniously. They lived a full-fledged life full of physical comfort. There was no difference between the income of the state and the private purse of the king. Technically, all wealth of the state was spent on and on the command of the emperor. It is significant that the Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl covering various items of the state's income and expenditure begins with the chapter on Household, the imperial household and imperial treasuries. For everything in a Muslim state was directed towards the person of the king and the order of his household. His household was his harem. We have already written about the life of the Mughal harem in a full-size monograph.171 Therein one can get details about the expenses incurred on the harems of Muslim royalty and nobility. We shall therefore be very brief here on the subject of the expenditure of the Muslim ruling class in India.

The government of the early Turks revolved round the sultan's household establishment. The public revenue could be spent or squandered in the pursuit of his pleasure. Sultan Ruknuddin Firoz, son of Iltutmish, emptied the treasury on the providers of pleasure. Sultan Kaiqubad, the grandson of Balban, is said to have spent all the surplus revenues, so assiduously collected by his minister Nizamuddin, on his dancing girls.172 Dancing girls were the chief means of diversion. Some selected girls were trained from young age in the art of dancing, music and coquetry for the pleasure of the king.173 As time went on, these entertainments became, from private amusement, a conventional court practice. Wine was as indispensable as music. Right through the medieval period the elite drank with enthusiasm. Even the adolescent drank, and all princess drank in secret.174 The king was imitated by his ministers and nobles who were also his partners through thick and thin. They all combined to make the court life notoriously licentious and corrupt, and men of all ranks gave themselves up to the pursuit of pleasure. This is an old story known to all serious students of medieval history. But the point to note is that much of the revenue of the state was spent on the pleasure-seeking activities of kings and nobles.

To have an idea of the wealth spent by the king and his nobles let us give some examples, or rather samples, for the range of the study covers a period of a thousand years, even more. A bejewelled crown of Muhammad Tughlaq cost one lakh tankahs, while another 80,000.175 A shoe of the time of Firoz Tughlaq again cost 80,000 tankahs.176 Muhammad Tughlaq spent so generously during his reign of twenty-seven years that he exhausted the Delhi treasury.177 And the luxurious life of the nobles in the time of Firoz Tughlaq is thus described by the contemporary chronicler Shams Siraj Afif. "In the store house of every noble there were good carpets. A group of pretty and sonorous-voiced dancing girls and concubines were there to remove all traces of anxiety and sadness. Wherever the Amir halted in the course of a journey all kinds of food and pleasure were made available to him including intimate companionship (lataif-i-wasl)."178 Sultan Firoz gave to some of his nobles eight lakh tankahs, to others six lakh and four lakh, each according to his position and status. The Wazir Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul received thirteen lakh tankahs as personal pay. It is reported that he had two thousand women including many of Rum and Chin, in his harem. He had numerous sons and sons-in-law. The Sultan made a provision that every son born to him should from his birth receive an allowance of 11,000 tankahs for his maintenance and every daughter on her marriage 15,000 tankahs. His munificence reached to such a pitch, that the Sultan was often heard to say that Khan-i-Jahan was the grand and magnificent king of Delhi.179

This was the position in the Sultanate period. The Mughal emperors lived still more luxuriously. They maintained a magnificent court and a splendid harem. Their personal living was of a very high standard. Their army was large, their nobility prosperous. All this entailed a heavy expenditure. To meet this expenditure the Mughal emperors taxed the people to the limit that could be borne by them. The Mughal king wore jewels all over. Akbar wore gold ornaments, pearls and jewellery. Jahangir wore more precious stones than his father. So did Shahjahan. For these three emperors, it was gold and jewels from head to foot. The crowns were of gold and jewels and pearls. Precious stones served as buttons of garments. Shoes, made of leather or velvet, were embroidered in gold and studded with pearls. They wore costly perfumes. Their personal weapons (qur) were also studded with precious stones and stored in the Qur khana. Even the orthodox Aurangzeb could not completely discard wearing jewels. Needless to add that they were always soaked in costliest perfumes.

We have referred to weighments of Akbar, his successors and many of the royal princes on their lunar and solar birthdays. Sir Thomas Roe describes one such weighment of emperor Jahangir thus: "The king's birthday and the solemnity of his weighing to which I went... was carried into a very large and beautiful garden... where was prepared the scale, being hung in large trestles, and a cross-beam... the seals of massy gold, the borders set with small stones... the chains of gold large and massy... Here attended the nobility, all sitting about on carpets (and the ladies watched from behind the curtains). The king... appeared clothed, or rather laden with diamonds, rubies, pearls and other precious vanities, so great, so glorious; he was weighed with gold and jewels... Then against cloth of gold, silk, stuffs, linen, spices... Lastly, against meal, butter, corn... and all the rest of the stuff..."180 The ladies celebrated the occasion with great enthusiasm and often received gifts from the king.

When kings dressed like this and wore so much jewellery, the queens and nobles' ladies could only excel them. This has been mentioned before. Some instances of such happy occasions and the exchange of gifts may be mentioned. Emperor Jahangir writes that when "Prince Khurram had hastened to the capture of the Deccan he had obtained the title of Shah, and now, in reward for his distinguished service, I gave him a mansab of 30,000 personal and 20,000 horse and bestowed on him the title of Shah Jahan... A special dress of honour with a gold-embroidered charqab, with collar, the end of the sleeves and the skirt decorated with pearls, worth 50,000 rupees, a jewelled sword with a jewelled pardala (belt), and a jewelled dagger were bestowed upon him. I myself... poured over his head a small tray of jewels and a tray of gold (coins)."181 What Shahjahan presented to emperor Jahangir is noted by the royal parent thus: "If the private offerings of my son and those of the rulers of the Deccan were to be written down in detail, it would be too long a business. What I accepted of his presents was worth 2,000,000 rupees. In addition to this he gave his (step-)mother, Nur Jahan Begum, offerings worth 200,000 rupees, or 75,000 tumans of the currency of Iran or 6,780,000 current Turan-khanis. Such offerings had never been made during this dynasty."182 And "Nur Jahan Begum prepared a feast of victory for my son Shah Jahan and conferred on him dresses of honour of great price, with a nadiri with embroidered flowers, adorned with rare pearls, a sarpech (turban ornament) decorated with rare gems, a turban with a fringe of pearls, a waistbelt studded with pearls, a sword with jewelled pardala (belt), a phul katara (dagger) a sada (?) of pearls, with two horses one of which had a jewelled saddle, and a special elephant with two females. In the same way she gave his children and his ladies dresses of honour, tuquz (nine pieces) of cloth with all sorts of gold ornaments, and to his chief servants as presents a horse, a dress of honour, and jewelled dagger. The cost of this entertainment was about 300,000 rupees."183 On another occasion "I held a meeting in one of the houses of the palace of Nur Jahan Begum, which was situated in the midst of large tanks, and summoning the Amirs and courtiers to the feast which had been prepared by the Begum, I ordered them to give the people cups and all kinds of intoxicating drinks... All sorts of roast meats, and fruits by way of relish, were ordered to be placed before everyone. It was a wonderful assembly... they lighted lanterns and lamps all round the tanks and buildings. A grand entertainment took place, and the drinkers of cups took more cups than they could carry."184

In a sultan's dinner wine was not an essential part, as for example, in the banquets of Muhammed bin Tughlaq as described by Ibn Battutah. But the rich fare speaks for the cost. Al-Umari was informed that in the royal kitchen of the Sultan thousands of oxen and sheep, fatted horses and birds of all kinds were slaughtered daily to prepare the meals. The imperial kitchen, both during the Sultanate and Mughal times, was a full-fledged. state department with branches like matbakhi (kitchen), abdar khana which catered for drinking water and wine, and mewa khana for fruits. Each branch was manned by a hierarchy of officials. Ganga water was brought for the emperor from long distances. It was carried to as far away as Daulatabad when Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq encamped there. Akbar drank only Ganga water. Provision of this water in the palace would have cost a lot. In matters of food only Akbar was abstemious. Most other rulers ate to satiation as did members of the royal household and the nobles. There were two types of dinner. One was khasa or the special dinner which was attended by the Sultan, and the other was general. There was an elaborate ritual observed while taking the meal. At the khasa dinner about twenty guests were present, at others many more. In the middle of the dastarkhwan there sat the qazi, khatib, faqih, sharif (saiyyad) and shaikh (sufi), and then the relatives of the Sultan and the chief An-ors. The meal started with sherbet of rose and sugar candy. It was served in bowls of silver, gold and glass. The meal served consisted of chapatis, roasted meat, sweet samosas, salt samosas and rice and chicken. Before everyone present were placed roomali rotis, one-fourth or one-sixth piece of a whole roasted sheep. Then puries were served with halwa sabuni stuffed inside it (it is still sold in large quantities in Aligarh). Next was served in China plates meat cooked in ghee, onion, and green ginger. Four or five samosas, stuffed with mince meat, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and various other condiments and fried in ghee were served before each. Rice cooked in ghee garnished with a roasted fowl placed over it was the next dish. All this was rounded off with two items of sweet dish, called hashimi and qahiria. At the end there was a drink of barley water to push so much stuff down the system. The dinner was over after powdered pan-masala and fifteen rolled packets of pan tied with red silken thread were presented to each guest. The royal dinner was held twice in the day.185 it appears that all items could not be eaten to the full even by a glutton, but these were served because a royal dinner was a royal dinner. Still, a variety of pickles (achars) were added to the menu to whip up the action of the stomach. Aijaz-i-Khusravi of Amir Khusrau and Kitab-ur-Rebla of Ibn Battutah are full of references to these delicacies without which medieval Indian royal meals were not complete. Details of a banquet during the Mughal period may also be given. It was arranged by Asaf Khan, Jahangir's brother-in-law in honour of Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of James I to the court of emperor Jahangir (1615-18), and has been described by his chaplain Edward Terry. "The Asaph Chan (Asaf Khan) entertained my Lord Ambassador in a very spacious and very beautiful tent... That tent was kept full of very pleasant perfume; in which scents the King and grandees there take very much delight. The floor of the tent was first covered all over with very rich and large carpets, which were covered again in the places where our dinner stood with other good carpets made of stitched leather... and these were covered again with pure white and fine calico cloths; and all those covered with very many dishes of silver... The Ambassador had more dishes by ten, and I less by ten, than our entertainer had; yet for my part I had fifty dishes. They were all set before us at once… I tasted of all set before me... Now of the provision itself… our larger dishes were filled with rice... some of it white… some of it made yellow with saffron, some of it was made green, and some of it put into a purple colour... several of our dishes were furnished with flesh of several kinds, and with hens and other sorts of fowl cut in pieces... To these we had jellies and culices (meat jellies), rice ground to flour, then boiled, and sweetened with sugar-candy and rose-water, to be eaten cold... The flour of rice mingled with sweet almonds... Many other dishes we had, (were) made up of cakes of several forms, of the finest of the wheat flour, mingled with almonds and sugar-candy... To these potatoes excellently well dressed; and to them diverse salads of the curious fruits of that country... and for our drink, some of it was brew'd... At this entertainment we sat long... our feast in that place was better than Apicius, that famous Epicure of Rome, with all his witty gluttony..."186 Manrique describes an equally elaborate banquet given by Asaf Khan to his imperial son-in-law Shahjahan. It lasted for four hours."187 Royal dinners and the dinners of the elites were of course costly, but how much money was spent on them is difficult to say because food grains were very cheap and other items of food not very dear throughout the medieval period. Still, with meals taken many times during the course of the day, and with the garnishing of endless dishes, the dinners of royalty and nobility must have been a major item of expenditure of the Mughal society.

Dinners were accompanied by and ended with 'brew'd' drinks. Most sultans, Mughal badshahs and their nobles were heavy drinkers. Emperors from Babur to Jahangir drank freely. When Muslims were promised liberal allowances of wine in Paradise,188 they could not be debarred from drinking in this world. With wine the Mughals took opium and other drugs. Strong constitution saved some princes from the debilitating effects of araq. However all princes and some princesses also drank. Detailed description of this activity is provided by Muslim chroniclers and European visitors. There were regular breweries in palaces of kings and mansions of nobles.

The remains of their palaces show the grandeur of their times and the wealth spent on their decoration and illumination. Their gardens and reservoirs consumed a lot of money and labour. Money on their tents in camp was as freely spent as on building permanent edifices. Even some carpets cost 60,000 rupees and more. Mahals of ladies swarmed with servants. Mistresses and servants consumed lot of wealth on decor, dresses and ornaments. Feasts and festivals, Khushroz and Mina Bazar were celebrated with great éclat. All the resources available in India were fully exploited to provide comforts and luxuries to the Muslim ruling and religious classes. Muslim chronicles vouch for this fact. They also vouch for the fact that the enjoyment of the Muslim elite was provided mainly by the poorest peasants through a crushing tax system.



1 Gordon Sanderson, 'Archaeology at the Qutb', Archaeological Survey of India Report, 1912-13, pp. 120, 131.

2 It is reproduced in Thomas, Chronicles of the Pathan Kings of Delhi, pp. 22-23.

3 Sir John Marshall in C.H.I.III, p. 578 n. 1.

4 Ibn Battutah, p. 27; Rizvi Tughlaq Kalin Bharat, vol. I, p. 175.

5 Barani, p. 341.

6 Taj-ut-Maasir, E.D. vol. II, p. 222.

7 Barani, p. 341.

8 Ibn Battutah, p. 77.

9 Lal, Khaljis, pp. 325-333.

10 Afif, p. 135.

11 Ibid., pp. 330-333.

12 NizNizam-ud-din Ahmad, vol. I, p. 336; Niamatullah, fol. 67(a).

13 List of Muhammadan and Hindu Monuments, vol. III, p. 189.

14 Abbas Sarwani, Tarikh-i-Shar Shahi, pp. 417-18 and Rizquilah Waqiat-i-Mushtaqi, p. 550, trs. in E.D. vol. IV.

15 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 96 and footnotes 1 and 2.

16 Babur Nama, vol. II, pp. 520, 634.

17 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 3; Wolseley Haig, C.H.I.IV, p. 89.

18 Ibid., p. 105.

19 De Laet, The Empire of the Great Mogal, p. 44. Also Finch in Foster, Early Travels in India (1583-161o), p. 149.

20 Tuzuk, vol. I, pp. 7-8; Tarikhi-Salim Shahi, pp. 8-9.

21 Ibid., vol. I, p. 118.

22 Ibid., I, p. 152.

23 Ibid., p. 258.

24 Ibid., p. 12.

25 Moreland, India from Akbar to Aurangzeb, pp. 196-97.

26 Badshah Nama, vol. I, p. 221. Also C.H.I.IV, p. 554.

27 For mansions of nobles see my The Mughal Harem, pp. 45-47.

28 W.H. Moreland is the translator of Pelsaert's Jahangir's India and the author of India from Akbar to Aurangzeb. He says that this paragraph of Pelsaert has some problems of translation, Pelsaert, 56n., and hundreds of thousands may be taken as referring to either money or labourers.

29 'Adorned' in Pelsaert, p. 56, 'covered' in Akbar to Aurangzeb, p. 197. The two words convey very different impressions.

30 Pelsaert, pp. 55-56; Moreland, Akbar to Aurangzeb, 197.

31 Barani, p. 102; Fatawa-i-Jahandari, p. 22; Afif, p. 283.

32 Barani, pp. 50-51, 60, 141, 303, 323-24.

33 Minhaj, Text, p. 315.

34 Barani, pp. 57-58.

35 Fakhr-i-Mudabbir, Adab-ul-Harb wa Shujaat, Hindi trs. by S.A.A. Rizvi in Adi Turk Kalin Bharat from B.M. Ms fol. 109b; Minhaj, text, p. 317; Barani, p. 80; Afif, p. 289.

36 Minhaj, text, pp. 195, 310.

37 Habibullah, op. cit., p. 265.

38 Barani, p., 508.

39 Ibid., P. 326.

Lal, Khaljis, pp. 193-96.

40 Barani, pp. 438-39.

41 Al-Umri, Masalik-ul-Absar, E.D. vol. III, p. 576.

Al-Qalqashindi, Subh-ul-Asha, p. 66.

42 Afif, pp. 221-222.

43 Ain., I, pp. 123, 259-61.

44 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 66, 82, also p. 71.

45 Ibid., p. 111.

46 Masalik, E.D. vol. III, p. 577; Afif, pp. 296-97 and 437-38; Alqalqashindi, p. 71; Ibn Battutah, p. 129.

47 Barani, p. 145.

48 Al-Umri, Masalik, E.D. vol. III, p. 577. Also Hajiuddabir, Zafar-ul-Walih, p. 782.

49 Moreland, India at the Death of Akbar, pp. 68-69.

50 Jadunath Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzib, p. 477.

51 Smith, Akbar the Great Mogul, pp. 261-62.

52 Irvine, The Army of the Indian Moghuls, pp. 58, 61-62.

53 Ain., vol. I, p. 241, also Tables in Ain., Vol. III.

54 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 341 and n. Ain., Jarret, II, p. 277.

55 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 349. Jarret, Ain., vol. II, p. 198 has 29, 668, which appears to be correct.

56 Athar Ali, The Apparatus of Empire, Introduction and also pp. 36, 90, 345.

57 Ibid., p. 478.

58 Afif, pp. 339-340.

59 Waqiat-i-Mushtaqi, E.D. vol. IV, p. 551; P. Saran, Studies in Medieval Indian History, p. 101.

60 Ain., vol. I, Blochmann, pp. 140-150.

61 Ibid., pp. 131-139.

62 Ibid.

63 Ain., vol. I, pp. 129-30, 223; Smith, p. 38; Tuzuk, vol. I, pp. 237, 261, 287-89, 323, 400, 418, 432.

64 Ibid., pp. 150-156.

65 Ibid., pp. 160-61.

66 Barani, pp. 145, 319; Ibn Battutah, p. 14.

67 Ain., Blochmann, vol. I, pp. 147-49 169-70.

68 Tuzuk, I, pp. 374-75.

69 Ibid., pp. 394-95.

70 Badaoni, II, p. 190 as cited in Ain., I, p. 252.

71 Ain., Blochmann, p. 253.

72 Pelsaert, p. 54.

73 Habibullah, p. 238.

74 Manucci, vol. IV, pp. 409ff.

75 Ain., vol. I, p. 119.

76 Ibid., pp. 115-123.

77 Barani, pp. 60, 141.

78 Afif, pp. 222-223.

79 Ibn Battutah, pp. 150-51. Also listed in Ishwari Prasad, Qaraunah Turks, pp. 138-39.

80 Afif, p. 339.

81 Ibid., pp. 337-38, 370.

82 Bernier, pp. 255-56.

83 Ain., vol. I, pp. 93-94.

84 Ibid., p. 170.

85 Jadunath Sarkar, Mughal Administration, Calcutta, 1952, p. 9.

86 Ain., vol. I, p. 94.

87 Bernier, p. 258-59.

88 Ain., vol. I, pp. 93-94, 95-102.

89 Manucci, vol. II, P. 341. Also Bernier, p. 258.

90 Abdul Aziz, Arms and Jewellery of the Indian Mughals, pp. 212-13.

91 Ain., I vol. I, pp. 93-102.

92 Ain., vol. I, pp. 98-100; Lahori, vol. II, Pt 1, pp. 363-64; Manucci, vol. II, p. 340.

93 Ain., I, pp. 83-93; Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 271.

94 R.K. Mukerjee, Economic History of India, pp. 117-19.

95 Terry in Foster's, Early Travels, p. 302.

96 Manrique, vol. I, p. 56, vol. II pp. 147, 180, 424.

97 Manucci, vol. II, p. 430.

98 Bernier, pp. 128, 292, 258-59, 402-403.

99 Tuzuk, vol. II, pp. 80-82; Manucci, vol. II, p. 339.

100 Minhaj, pp. 157-60.

101 Ferishtah, vol. I, p. 66, 67.

102 Barani, p. 145.

103 Ferishtah, vol. I, pp. 73, 75.

104 Masalik, cited by Qureshi, Administration, pp. 16o-61.

105 Afif, pp. 95, 97. Incidentally, it indicates the lowly position of wives in the medieval Muslim household.

106 Ibid., p. 400.

107 Ibid., p. 94.

108 Ibn Battutah, trs. Mahdi Husain, p. 140.

109 Ibid., pp. 67-72.

110 Ibid., p. 105-107.

111 Minhaj, p. 315; Niamatullah, N.B. Roy trs., pp. 12, 13; Yahiya, p. 183; Farishtah, vol. I, p. 163; Nizamuddin, vol. I, p. 266.

112 Farishtah, vol. II, pp. 305-306.

113 Abdul Haqq, Akhbar-ul-Akhiyar, pp. 195-96; Abdullah, Tarikh-i-Daudi, pp. 60-63.

114 Ahmad Yadgar, Tarikh-i-Salatin-i-Afghana, p. 46. Also Badaoni, Ranking, vol. I, p. 427.

115 Abbas Sarwani, Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi, trs. E.D. vol. IV, pp. 390, 424.

116 Babur Nama, p. 522, 527.

117 Ibid., pp. 578-79.

118 Gulbadan Begum, Humayun Nama, pp. 94-97; Babur Nama, p. 522. Erskine puts the Shahrukhi at about one shilling; Steingass the ashrafi equal to 16 rupias. p. 95 n. 3.

119 Tuzuk, vol. I. p. 380.

120 To be distinguished from Sikandara, the place where Akbar's tomb stands and which lies some distance west of the river, Pelsaert, p. 4n.

121 De Laet, p. 41; Pelsaert, pp. 4-5.

122 D. Pant, Commercial Policy of the Mughal Emperors, pp. 106-079, 164.

123 English Factory Records (1642-45), p. 148.

124 Thomas Roe and John Fryer, Travels in India in the Seventeenth Century, p. 144.

125 Lal, Mughal Harem, p. 74.

126 Saksena, Shahjahan pp. 63-64.

127 Lahori, vol. I, Pt. II, p. 51; also vol. II, Pt. 1, p. 207.

128 Manucci, vol. I, pp. 67, 216.

129 Ibid., p. 216. For further references see my Mughal Harem, pp. 94-95, 107.

130 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 10, 79; Alamgir Nama I, p. 368.

131 For repeated references to this fact in one book alone see Barani, pp. 103, 117, 433-35, 440-42, 538-44.

132 Afif, pp. 80, 132-33, 349ff. Also Barani, pp. 145, 203, 291, 360, 426, 558-61, 597.

133 Afif, pp. 179ff., 196.

134 Tarikh-i-Salim Shahi, p. 16.

135 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 10.

136 Barani, p. 243; Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 105.

137 Lal, Khaljis, p. 62.

138 Afif, p. 349.

139 For detailed references see Lal, The Mughal Harem, pp. 78, 87-88.

140 Afif, pp. 349ff; Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 9.

141 Tarikh-i-Salim Shahi, p. 13.

142 Niamatullah, Makhzan-i-Afghani, fols. 66(b), 68(a); Dorn, vol. I, p. 66; Rizqullah, Waqiat-i-Mushtaqi, fols. 7 a, b.

143 Nizamuddhin Ahmad, Tabqat-i-Akbari, vol. I, p. 336.

144 Yusuf Husain Khan, Glimpses of Medieval Indian Culture, pp. 69, 74.

145 Abbas Sarwani, E.D. vol. IV, pp. 410, 424.

146 Waqiat-i-Mushtaqi, E.D. vol. IV, p. 549.

147 P. Saran, op. cit., p. 101.

148 Abbas Sarwani, p. 423; Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzib, p. 154.

149 Sharma, Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperor, p. 107.

150 Tuzuk, vol. I, pp. 81, 107, 111, 115, pp. 127-28.

151 Mu'awiyah founded the line of Umayyad Caliphs at Damascus (CE 661), the Abbasids became Caliphs at Baghdad (CE 750) and Samarra (CE 836), and another line of Ummayad Caliphs ruled at Cordova or Qurtuba (CE 756). The Fatimid Caliphs were rulers in Cairo up to CE 1751 and the Ayyubids up to 1836.

Ruben Levy, The Baghdad Chronicle, p. 13.

J.H. Kramer in Sir Thomas Arnold, The Legacy of Islam, pp. 79-80.

Ruben Levy, The Social Structure of Islam p. 282.

152 Murray Titus, Islam in India and Pakistan, p. 55; Al-Biladuri, E.D. vol. I, p. 201. Also E.D. vol. I, Appendix, p. 462.

Khuda Baksh, Orient Under the Caliphs, p. 218.

Istakhri, E.D. vol. I, p. 28.

153 Al-Kufi, Chachnama, trs. Kalichbeg, pp. 154, 163; E.D. vol. I, pp. 172-173,181.

154 Al-Biladuri, E.D. vol. I., p. 123. See also Elliot's Appendix, vol. I, p. 470 and n.

155 C.E. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids, p. 53-54.

Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment, p. 5.

Hodivala, Studies in Indo-Muslim History, p. 176.

156 Baihaqi as cited in R.P. Tripathi, op. cit., pp. 10-11.

157 Minhaj Siraj, Tabqat-i-Nasiri, Raverty, I, p. 61 and n. 4.

158 C.H.I. III, p. 159. Also Ibn Battutah, p. 73.

159 Barani, p. 493.

160 Thomas, Chronicles, pp. 207-16, 249-53, 259-60.

161 Yahiya, Tarikh-i-Mubarak Shahi, Persian text, p. 218; Lal, Twilight, p. 93 n. 50.

162 Muhammad Bihamad Khani, Tarikh-i-Muhammadi, trs. M. Zaki, p. 95.

163 Thomas, Chronicles, pp. 194, 197, 321-22.

164 Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture, p. 10; C.H.I.III, p. 358.

165 Anwar Shaikh, Islam, The Arab National Movement, p. 24, also p. 42.

166 Z.A. Desai, "Arabic Inscriptions of the Rajput period from Gujarat", Epigraphia Indica - Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1961, pp. 1-24. Also S.C. Misra, Muslim Communities in Gujarat, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1964, pp. 5-7.

167 Babur Nama, pp. 522-23.

168 Gulbadan Begum,. Humayun Nama, p. 69.

169 Tarikh-i-Salim Shahi, pp. 16-17.

170 Mukerjee, Economic History of India, p. 92.

171 K.S. Lal, The Mughal Harem, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1988.

172 Barani, p. 164.

173 Ibid, p. 157.

174 Manucci, vol. II, p. 397.

175 Afif, pp. 40, 116.

176 Ibid., p. 401.

177 Ibid., p. 43.

178 Ibid., pp. 288-89.

179 Ibid., pp. 399-400.

180 The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe, pp. 411-13.

181 Tuzuk, vol. I, p. 395.

182 Ibid., p. 401.

183 Ibid., p. 397.

184 Ibid., p. 385.

185 Ibn Battutah, pp. 15-16, 65-66, trs. Rizvi, Tughlaq Kalin Bharat, vol. I, pp. 166-67,190-91; Al-Umari, Masalik, p. 579; Alqalqashinidi, Subh-ul-Asha, p. 50; Ashraf, Life and Conditions of the People of Hindustan, pp. 282-83; Lat, Twilight, pp. 274-75.

186 Edward Terry, A Voyage to Fast India, pp. 195-98 cited in Smith, Akbar the Great Mogul, pp. 293-94.

187 Manrique, Travels, vol. II, pp. 113, 120.

188 Quran, Surah 52, ayats 17-24; Surah 55, ayats 12-36.


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