Balban, Ghiyas al-Din


Balban, Ghiyas al-Din
(?-1286)
   One of the slaves of Sultan Il-tutmish (1211-1236) who ascended the throne in 1266, Balban belonged to the Central Asian Turkish tribe of Ilbaris. The son of a chief commanding 10,000 families, Balban was captured in his early youth by the Mongols, who sold him into slavery. His first master, a rich merchant of Basra, sold him at Delhi to Iltutmish, who made him a royal attendant belonging to the famous Corps of Forty (chihilganis). Although Raziya Sultan (1236-1240) had made him the Lord of the Hunt (amir-i shikar), Balban eventually joined the disaffected nobles who overthrew her in 1240. Under Bahram Shah (1240-1242) and 'Ala al-Din Mas'ud (1242-1246), as the commandant of Rewari and Hansi, Balban distinguished himself in military operations against the Mongols.
   During Nasir al-Din Mahmud Shah's reign (1246-1266), Balban exercised regal powers as na'ib-i mumlikat. In 1252, he was removed from this position through a coup d'etat masterminded by Imad al-Din Rehan, an Indian Muslim, but soon regained his powers when Turkish nobles rallied behind him en masse. As na'ib-i mumlikat, Balban conducted successful military campaigns in Sind and Mewat, also against the Mongols. After Nasir al-Din Mahmud's death in 1266, Balban declared himself a sultan with the title Ghiyas al-Din. He subsequently harshly treated the chiefs in the Doab and Katehr regions and curbed the powers and emoluments of the old slave nobles. Many of them were eliminated secretly. He guarded vigorously the northwest frontier against the Mongols, who had succeeded in extending their sway up to Lahore.
   Balban is credited with establishing his firm control over provincial governors by a policy of blood and iron. The harsh suppression of Toghril in Bengal (1279) was one such case. Balban tried to revive the Sasanid notions of kingship to bolster his authority. He was stern and cruel, as well as a great believer in the superiority of noble birth; he did his best to exclude men of common origins from state service.

Historical dictionary of Medieval India. . 2011.


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