Alauddin Khilji, the second ruler of the Khilji Dynasty was one of the most powerful rulers to ever reign the Delhi Sultanate from 1296 A.D. to 1316 A.D.
He was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalaluddin Khilji, the Delhi Sultanate whose throne he usurped. Nothing much is known abut Alauddin’ past life.
It was only after he grew up to be the Amir-i-Tuzuk (equivalent to Master of Ceremonies), that he came to the limelight.
He was brought up by his late father Shihabuddin’s brother, Jalaluddin. Alauddin and his brother Almas Beg married both of Jalaluddin daughters.
However, it is rumored that Alauddin did not have a blissful marital life. His wife was of a dominating nature which lured him to engage in extra-marital affairs with a woman called Mahru whom he later married.
Even Jalaluddin’s wife had ill premonitions about Alauddin that he was planning to gain control of a small estate within Jalaluddin’s empire.
Alauddin once, helped crush a mutiny by the Governor of Kara Malik Chajju and as a gift, he has appointed the new Governor there by Jalaluddin.
However, the intrigues at Kara Malik Chajju courts provoked Alauddin to fight Jalaluddin for his own power.
Accession to the throne
The story of accession of Alauddin to the throne of the Delhi Sultanate is one of deceit and treachery. After Alauddin was made the Governor of Chajju, the courtiers there provoked Alauddin to combat Jalaluddin usurping the throne.
However, to bring this plan to fruition, an immense amount of wealth and army was needed.
Therefore, Alauddin raided few neighboring Hindu States, but surprisingly presented the money and wealth to Jalaluddin.
It was a tactful act to win over the Sultan’s confidence. Later, he raided the tremendous wealth of Devagiri in 1296. After the loot, he did not confront the Sultan, instead he took it and went to Chajju.
This was surprising for Jalaluddin, but his faith in his nephew clouded his rationale. Alauddin then pretended to feel guilty and asked for a personal pardon from Jalaluddin.
As a result, Jalaluddin set out for Chajju. On the way, he crossed the Ganga on a small boat with a meager troop.
Alauddin, pretending to embrace Jalaluddin, killed him, and proclaimed himself the new ruler of the Delhi Sultanate.
Highlights of his reign
After formal accession to the throne, it is said that Alauddin wanted to be popular and in order to portray himself as a public figure, he recruited an immense army without fitness checks, gave them a year and a half’s salary in advance, and it is even said that he distributed gold pieces from a catapult to the public.
The principal highlight of Alauddin’s reign was that he pushed for the consolidation of power and also appointed large number of employees in government offices.
Another notable feature of Alauddin’s reign is the system of organized and hierarchical taxation that was introduced.
This system was so advanced and ahead of its time, that is was being used in India even till the mid-20th century.
As per the previous system of taxation that ensued before Alauddin, there were middlemen, who collected taxes from the peasants and deposited them to the State treasury.
However, as corruption crippled into the system, these middle man who collected taxes, began to extract huge money from the poor farmers and deposited only a fraction of it to the State.
Alauddin was well aware of this loophole in the archaic taxation system and decided to change this.
As per his rule, everyone including the chaudharies and the muqaddams had to give away at least 50% of their earnings or produce from agriculture in order to fatten the State granaries and treasuries.
He imposed three forms of taxes namely – Bhaga, referring to Land Revenue, Bhoga meaning Cess, and Kar meant taxes.
In addition to income and agrarian taxes, Alauddin also imposed other taxes such as Ghaari (house tax), Charai (pasture tax), etc.
In order to realize his vision of taxation, he established a separate department for handling taxes, known as, Diwani-i-Mustakhraj.
Although the system of taxation introduced by Alauddin was extremely systematic and ahead of his time, it was no doubt an exorcism on the people.
As a result after he died, the system lost its sheen and widespread adaptation. However, other rulers implemented a milder version of that system.
Land reforms were another of his principal highlights. In order to facilitate State’s collection of taxes, he started a very stringent process of revenue on land.
He abolished small holdings and consolidated them. The owners of these lands who were chaudharies and muqaddams were relegated to poverty.
Alauddin was the first ruler to ever measure land with a definite fixed unit based system. The unit he used was called a biswa. Each biswa is 20th part of a modern day bigha.
Alauddin, during his reign also tried to enrich the State treasury by imposing taxes on people of other religion.
He did this under the pretext of propagating Islam, but the truth was, in a country of mostly Hindus, it would be extremely profitable to tax them for not following Islam.
He even made revolutionary market reforms fixing the price of articles almost similar to the modern day maximum retail price (M.R.P.). Alauddin even had special inspectors called Shahnas to keep the prices of commodities in check.
Alauddin, himself being a shrewd person, expected similar conduct from everyone else around him. In his old age, as he grew weaker and illness groped him, he distrusted almost everyone around him.
The only people whom he kept in his circle of confidence were his immediate family and his trusted slave, Malik Kafur.
As a result, he even started removing posts of amirs and ministers and concentrated all powers to his sons and Malik Kafur. He even abolished the office of the chief of ministers and executed him out of distrust.
Kafur was known to be extremely manipulative and had taken advantage of Alauddin’s immense trust and love in order to turn tables to his own personal favour.
On January of 1316, Alauddin died, leaving behind his empire. It is rumoured that Kafur was the one who had killed him for the throne. However, Alauddin’s eldest son Mubarak Khan took away the throne shortly after.