Tabakat-i Nasiri

Tabakat-i Nasiri of Abu ‘Umar Minhaju-d din, ‘Usman ibn Siraju-d din al Juzjani.
In The History of India as Told by its own HistoriansThe Posthumous Papers of the Late Sir H. M. Elliot. John Dowson, ed. 1st ed. 1867. 2nd ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, vol. 13.

  1. Overview

The Tabakat-i Nasiri is a history of the world from the earliest time to 658 H. (1260 CE).  Its author, Abu ‘Umar Minhaju-d din, ‘Usman ibn Siraju-d din al Juzjani, was descended from a noble family of Ghaznî which had been discplaced following the fall of the Ghaznivids.  His father, Maulana Siraju-d din, was the qazi of Muhammad Ghori’s army in India.  Minhaju-d Siraju-d came to India in 624 H. (1227 CE), and was appointed the director of Firozi College in Uch.  In 625 H. (August 1228 CE) entered the service of the Sultan of Delhi, Shamsu-d din Altamish.  He resigned during the brief rule Sultan Raziya, but was appointed Qazi of Delhi by her successor, Sultan Bahram Shah, in 639 H. (1241 CE)  When the Sultan was slain and deposed later that year, he resigned and retired to Lakhnauti in Bengal.  In 642 H. he returned to Delhi, and entered the service of Sultan Nasiru-d din Mahmud in 644 H (1246 CE).  It is believed that he outlived by several years the Sultan, who died in 664 H. (1266 CE).  The Tabakat-i Nasiri is dedicated to the Sultan, and extends to the fifteenth year of his rule (658 H., 1260 CE).

The first excerpt narrates Muhammad Bakhtiyar’s infamous raid on Bihar and his destruction of Nalanda, which occurred in 1193 CE.  This raid was undertaken under the rule of Qutb-ud-dîn Aibak, the de facto ruler of the Ghûrid holdings in Northern India, and the first of Sultan of Delhi following the death of Muhammad Ghûri in 1206 CE.

The second excerpt narrates events during the reign of Sultan Îltutmish.  He was the son-in-law of the first sultan of Delhi, Qutb-ud-dîn Airak.  Within a year of the latter’s death he deposed his son Ârâm Shâh, and placed himself on the throne, ruling until his death in 1236 CE.  The excerpts describe his conquest of Gwailor and Malwa.

The second excerpt contains descriptions of military ventures undertaken by Sultan Nâsir-ud dîn Mahmûd, who governed the Delhi sultanate from 1246-1266 CE, and who was a son of Sultan Îltutmish.  These ventures were undertaken by his general and successor Ghiyas-ud-dîn Balban, who prior to his reign was commonly called Ulugh Khan.  He was noted for his extreme brutality.  This was particularly manifest during the campaigns against the Hindus of the Doab undertaken in 1258-59 CE, and the campaign against the Meos south of Delhi in 1260 CE.  The latter expedition, and the ghastly torture and murder of the prisoners he undertook, are described herein.  He gradually gained de facto rule under Nâsir-ud dîn Mahmûd, who nominated him as his successor.  He ruled from 1266 through 1286 CE.

  1. Excerpts

Contents 1. Muhammad Bakhtiyar’s assault on Bihar
2. Events during the reign of Sultan Îltutmish
3. Events during the reign of Sultan Nâsir-ud dîn Mahmûd1.

[p. 53]

Malik Ghazi Ikhtiyaru-D Din Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji, Of Lakhnauti

It is related that this Muhammad Bakhtiyar was a Khil-ji, of Ghor, of the province of Garmsir.  He was a very smart, enterprising, bold, courageous, wise and experienced man.  He left his tribe and came to the Court of Sultan Mu’izzu-d din, at Ghaznin, and was placed in the diwan-i ‘arz (office for petitions), but as the chief of that department was not satisfied with him he was dismissed, and proceeded from Ghaznin to Hindustan.  When he reached the Court of Delhi, he was again rejected by the chief of the dilvan-i ‘arz of the city, and so he went [p. 54] on to Badaun, into the service of Hizbaru-d din Hasan, commander-in-Chief, where he obtained a suitable position.  After some time he went to Oudh in the service of Malik Hisamu-d din Ughlabak.  He had good horses and arms, and he had showed much activity and valour at many places, so he obtained Sahlat and Sahli1 in Jagir.  Being a bold and enterprising man he used to make incursions into the districts of Muni (Monghir), and Behar, and bring away much plunder until in this manner he obtained plenty of horses, arms, and men.  The fame of his bravery and of his plundering raids spread abroad, and a body of Khiljis joined him from Hindustan.  His exploits were reported to Sultan Kutbu-d din, and he sent him a dress and showed him great honour.  Being thus encouraged, he led his army to Behar and ravaged it.  In this manner he continued for a year or two to plunder the neighbourhood, and at last prepared to invade the country.

It is said by credible persons that he went to the gate of the fort of Behar with only two hundred horse, and began the war by taking the enemy unawares.  In the service of Bakhtiyar there were two brothers of great intelligence.  One of them was named Nizamu-d din and the other Shamsu-d din.  The compiler of this book met Samsu-d din at Lakhnauti in the year 641 H. (1243 A.D.) and heard the following story from him.  When Bakhtiyar reached the gate of the fort and fighting began, these two wise brothers were active in that army of heroes.  Muhammad Bakhtiyar with great vigour and audacity rushed in at the gate of the fort and gained possession of the place.  Great plunder fell into the hands of the victors.  Most of the inhabitants of the place were Brahmans with shaven heads.  They were put to death.  Large numbers of books were found there, and when the Muhammadans saw them they called for some persons [p. 55] to explain their contents, but all the men had been killed.  It was discovered that the whole fort and city was a place of study (madrasa).  In the Hindi language the word Behar (vihar) means a college.


[Refering to events during the reign of Sultan Îltutmish, r. 1211-1236 CE]

[p. 78]

In A.H. 629 [1232 CE] he marched for the conquest of Gwalior, and when his royal tents were pitched under the walls of the fort, Malik Deo,2 the accursed son of Basil the accursed, began the war.  For eleven months the camp remained under the fort.  In the month of Sha’ban of the same year the author of this book came to the Court from Delhi and obtained audience.  He was ordered to preach in turn at the door of the royal tent.  Discourses were appointed to be delivered three times every week, and during the month of Ramazan on every day.  But in other months the rule of three times was observed.  Ninety-five times religious assemblies were convened at the royal tents.  On both ‘Ids, viz. ‘Id-i fitr  and ‘Id-i azha’, the appropriate prayers were read at three different places in the army of Islam.  At one of these, at the fort of Gwalior on the northern side, this well- wisher of the government, Minhaj Siraj, was ordered on the ‘Id-i azha’ to read the Khutba and the prayers, and was honoured with the reward of a costly khil’at.  The same rule was observed until the fort was conquered, on Tuesday, the 26th of Safar A.H. 630 (November 1232).

The accursed Malik Deo went out of the fort in the night time and fled.  About seven hundred persons were ordered to receive punishment at the door of the royal tent.3  After this, promotions were made in the ranks of the nobles and great officers.  Malik Ziau-d din Muhammad Junaidi was appointed chief justice, and the commander-in-chief Rashidu-d din (peace be to him!) [p. 79] was made Kotwal, and Minhaj Siraj, the well-wisher of this government, was made law-officer, and was entrusted with the supervision of the preaching, and of all religious, moral, and judicial affairs.  Rich kihil’ats and valuable largesses were distributed.  May the Almighty aid the pure soul and generous heart of that most beneficent, heroic, and kind king!  His majesty started on his return from the fort on the 2nd of Rabi’ul awwal in the same year and pitched his tents that day at about one parasang towards Delhi from the walls of the fort.  A halt of five days was made there.  After he had reached the capital he sent, in A.H. 6324 (1234 A.D.), the army of Islam [went] towards Malwa and took the fort and city of Bhilsa.5 There was a temple there which was three hundred years in building.  It was about one hundred and five gaz high.  He demolished it.  From thence he proceeded to Ujjain, where there was a temple of Mahakal, which he destroyed, as well as the image of Bikaramajit, who was king of Ujjain, and reigned 1316 years before this time.  The Hindu era dates from his reign. Some other images cast in copper were carried with the stone image of Mahakal to Delhi.

In A.H. 636, he led the armies of Hindustan towards Banyan.6  In this journey his majesty fell sick and was obliged his severe illness to return home.  Wednesday morning, the first of Sha’ban, was fixed by the astrologers for his entrance into Delhi, the seat of his government, and entered the city in a howda on the back of an elephant. [p. 80] His illness increased, and nineteen days after, on the 20th of Sha’ban, 633 H. (end of April, 1235), he departed from the perishable to the eternal world.  The period of his reign was twenty-six years.


[Refering to the Shamisiya Sultan-i Mu’azzam Nasiru-d dunya wau-d din Mahmud, who ruled from 644 H., 1246 H.]

[p. 109]

Eleventh Year of the Reign –Hijra 654 (1256 A.D)

At the beginning of the new year, in the month of Muharram, the royal army having achieved victory, marched triumphant towards Delhi under the protection [p. 110] of the Almighty, and reached the city on the 4th Rabi’u-l awwal.  When Katlagh Khan heard of the Sultan’s homeward march he began to interfere in the districts of Karra and Manikpur.  A battle followed between him and Arslan Khan Sanjar Chist, in which the latter was victorious.  Katlagh Khan could no longer remain in Hindustan, so he proceeded into Mawas, with the intention of proceeding to the highlands. He reached Santur,7 and there took refuge among the hills and tribes of those parts.  The royal army marched out to quell this disturbance on Tuesday, 20th Zi-1 hijja, and at the beginning of the following year the army went to Santur, and fought a battle with the Hindus of the mountains.  Katlagh Khan was with these mountaineers, and a party of nobles in the royal army, who had suspicious fears, went and joined him. They were unable to withstand the troops of the Sultan, so they turned their backs.  Ulugh Khan ravaged the whole of the hills with the sword, and penetrated as far as the town of Salmur, in the defiles and fastnesses of the mountains. No king had ever laid hold upon Salmur nor had any Musulman army reached it.  He now plundered it, and carried on a devastating warfare. So many of the rebellious Hindus were killed that the numbers cannot be computed or described.

[p. 114]

Fifteenth Year of the Reign –Hijra 658 (1260 A.D.)

The new year opened auspiciously.  On the 16th Ramazan Ulugh Khan was sent into the hills of Delhi, to chastise the rebel inhabitants of Mewat, and to intimidate their Deo.  Ten thousand horsemen in armour, and a large army of brave and warlike soldiers were under his command.  Great booty was gained, and many cattle captured. Defiles and passes were cleared, strong forts were taken, and numberless Hindus perished under the merciless swords of the soldiers of Islam.

I have resolved, upon reflection, to close my history at this place and with this victory.  If life and opportunity are given to me, I may hereafter record any remarkable events that may happen.  I beg the indulgent reader to forgive my errors, faults, and omissions, I pray that God may preserve in continued prosperity my gracious Sultan, and I hope that my composition of this work may be deemed meritorious both in this world and the next.

[p. 122]

On Thursday, 6th Zi-l ka’da, his majesty returned to the capital, which he reached on Thursday, 2nd Muharram, 645 H.  [late 1247, early 1248 CE]  The perseverance and resolution of Ulugh Khan had been the means of showing to the army of Turkistan and the Mughals such bravery and generalship that in the course of this year no one came from the upper parts towards Sindh.  So Ulugh Khan represented to his Majesty, in the month of Sha’ban, that the opportunity was favourable for making an expedition into Hindustan.  The Mawas and Ranas had not been pinched for several years, but some coercion might now be exercised on them, by which spoil would fall into the hands of the soldiers of Islam, and wealth would be gained to strengthen the hands of the State in resisting the Mughals.  The royal armies accordingly marched to Hindustan, passing down the Doab between the Ganges and Jumna.  After some fighting, the fort of Nandana8was captured, and Ulugh Khan was sent with some other generals and a Muhammadan force to oppose Dalaki wa Malaki.  This was a Rana in the vicinity of the Jumna, between Kalinjar and Kara, over whom the Rais of Kalinjal and Malwa had no authority.  He had numerous followers and ample wealth; he ruled wisely; his fortresses were strong and secure; in his territories the defiles were arduous, the mountains rugged, and the jungles many.  No Muhamlnadan army had ever penetrated to his dwelling place.  When Ulugh Khan reached his abode, the Rana took such care for the safety of himself and his family, that he kept quiet from the dawn till the time of evening prayer, and when it grew dark he fled to some secure place. At daybreak, the Muhammadan army entered his abode, [p. 123] and then pursued him, but the accursed infidel had escaped into the lofty mountains, to an inaccessible spot impossible to reach except by stratagem, and the use of ropes and ladders.  Ulugh Khan incited his soldiers to the attempt, and, under his able direction they succeeded in taking the place.  All the infidel’s wives, dependants, and children fell into the hands of the victors with much cattle, many horses and slaves. Indeed, the spoil that was secured exceeded all computation.  At the beginning of Shawwal 645 H. (Feb. 1248), the force returned to the royal camp with their booty, and after Id-i azha’ the whole army marched towards the capital, which it reached on the 4th Muharram, 646 H. (April 1248).  A full poetical account of this campaign, in which the several victories are recounted, has been composed; the book is called Nasiri nama.

In Sha’ban, 646 H. (Nov. 1248), the royal army marched through the upper country to the neighbourhood of the Biyah, and then returned to the capital.  Ulugh Khan with several nobles under him, was sent with an ample force towards Rantambhor, to overrun the mountains of Mewat and the country of Bahar-deo, who was the greatest of the Rais of Hindustan.  He ravaged the whole of those territories and gained a large booty.  Malik Bahau-d din Aibak was slain under the fort of Rantambhor, on Sunday, in the month of Zi-1 hijja 646, while Ulugh Khan was engaged fighting in another quarter.  The Khan’s soldiers showed great courage and fought well; they sent many of the infidels to the hell, and secured great spoil; after which they returned to the capital.

On Monday, 3rd Safar, 647 H. (May, 1249), they arrived at Dehli.  In the course of this year his majesty was pleased to recognize the great ability and distinguished services of his general.  He therefore promoted [p. 124] him from the rank of a Malik and the office of the lord chamberlain to the dignity of a Khan, and on Tuesday, 3rd Rajab, 647 H., he named him lieutenant of the government, army, and royal fortune (bakhtiyari), with the title of Ulugh Khan.  The truth of the adage that “the worth of titles is revealed by heaven,” was proved in this case, for from that day forth the services of Ulugh Khan to the house of Nasir became still more conspicuous.  When he was thus promoted, his brother Kishli Khan Aibak, master of the horse, became lord chamberlain.  He was a nobleman of kind and generous character, and endowed with many virtues.  Malik Taju-d din Sanjar, Tabar Khan, became deputy of the lord chamberlain, and my excellent dear son Alau-d din Ayyaz Tabor Khan Zanjani who was Amiru-l hujjab (superintendent of the royal door-keepers), was made deputy wakildar.  These appointments were made on Friday, 6th Rajab 647, and Ikhtiyaru-d din Itigin, the long-haired, who had been deputy, now became master of the horse.

On Tuesday, 25th Sha’ban, 649 H. (Nov. 1251) the royal army marched towards Malwa and Kalinjar. When Ulugh Khan arrived there with the army of Islam, he defeated Jahir of Ijari, a great rana, who had a large army and many adherents, and destroyed both him and his kingdom.  This Jahir, rana of Ijari, was an active and able man.  In the reign of Sa’id Shamsu-d din in the year 632 H. (1234) the army [p. 125] of Islam was sent from Bayana Sultan-kot, Kanauj, Mahr, Mahawan and Gwalior, against Kalinjar and Jamu, under the command of Malik Nusratu-d din Tabasi who was distinguished above all the generals of the time for courage, boldness ability, and generalship.  The army marched on fifty days from Gwalior and great booty fell into its hands, so much that the imperial fifth amounted to nearly twenty-two lacs.  When they returned from Kalinjar they were encountered by this Rana of Ijari, who seized upon the defiles on the river Sindi in the road of the returning army.  The author heard Nusratu-d din Tabasi say, “No enemy in Hindustan had ever seen my back but this Hindu fellow of Ijari attacked me as a wolf falls upon a flock of sheep, I was obliged to retire before him until I reached a position where I turned upon him and drove him back.”  I tell this story so that my readers may clearly perceive what courage and generalship Ulugh Khan exhibited when he defeated and put to flight such a foe.  He further took from him the fortress of Bazor9 and his conduct and feats in this campaign will stand as a lasting memorial of him.

[p. 138]

At the beginning of 658 H. (December, 1259) Ulugh Khan resolved upon a campaign in the hills near the capital.  These hills were inhabited by a turbulent people, who committed depredations on the roads, plundered the goods of Musulmans, drove away the cultivators, and ravaged the villages in the districts of Harriana, the Siwalik hills, and Bayana.  Three years before they had carried off from Hansi a drove of camels and a number of the people of Ulugh Khan.  Their chief was a Hindu named Malka, a fierce and desperate fellow.  It was he who carried off the camels, and he formented disturbances among the Hindus from the hills to Rantambhor.  But when he did these things the army was otherwise engaged, and the soldiers and followers of Ulugh Khan had not the means of transporting their baggage and implements.  Ulugh Khan and all the princes and nobles were sorely vexed, but it was then impossible to do anything, as the army was fully employed in repelling the Mughal forces, which had attacked the frontiers of Islam in Sindh, at Lahore, and in the vicinity of the river Biyah.  At length ambassadors to the Sultan came to Khurasan from ‘Irak, on the part of Hulaku Mughal, son of Toli, son of Changiz Khan, and orders were given that the embassy was to halt at Maruta.10

Ulugh Khan and other nobles, with the royal troops and their own followers, suddenly resolved upon a campaign in the hills, and made the first march in advance on Monday, 4th Safar, 658.  In their first forced march (kashish) they accomplished neatly fifty kos, and fell unexpectedly upon the rebels.  These retreated to the summits of the mountains, to the defiles, to deep gorges and narrow valleys, but they were all taken and put to [p. 139] the sword. For twenty days the troops traversed the hills in all directions.  The villages and habitations of the mountaineers were on the summits of the loftiest hills and rocks, and were of great strength, but they were all taken and ravaged by order of Ulugh Khan, and the inhabitants who were thieves, robbers, and highwaymen were all slain.  A silver tanka was offered for every head, and two tankas for every man brought in alive.  Eager for these rewards the soldiers climbed the highest hills, and penetrated the ravines and deepest gorges, and brought in heads and captives; especially the Afghans, a body of whom, amounting to three thousand horse and foot, was in the service of Ulugh Khan. These men were very bold and daring, and in fact the whole army, nobles and chiefs, Turks and Taziks, exhibited great bravery, and their feats will remain recorded in history. Fortune now so favoured Ulugh Khan that he was able to penetrate to a fastness which no Musulman army had ever reached, and that Hindu rebel who had carried off the camels was taken prisoner with his children and dependants. Two hundred and fifty of the chiefs of the rebels were captured. One hundred and forty-two horses were led away to the royal stables, and six bags of tankas, amounting to thirty thousand tankas were taken from the Ranas of the hills and the Rais of Sind and sent to the royal treasury.

In the course of twenty days this great work was accomplished, and the army returned to the capital on the 24th Rabi’u-l awwal, 658.  His Majesty with a great retinue of chiefs and nobles, came forth to the plain of Hauz-rani to meet him, and a grand Court was held in which many honours and rewards were bestowed.  After a stay of two days in the capital the Court went [p. 140] forth again to Hauz-rani on a mission of revenge.   The elephants were prepared and the Turks made ready their trenchant swords.  By royal command many of the rebels were cast under the feet of elephants, and the fierce Turks cut the bodies of the Hindus in two.  About a hundred met their death at the hands of the flayers, being skinned from head to foot; their skins were all stuffed with straw, and some of them were hung over every gate of the city. The plain of Hauz-rani and the gates of Delhi remembered no punishment like this, nor had anyone ever heard such a tale of horror.

Ulugh Khan now represented to the Sultan that the Mughal ambassador in Khurasan should be brought the Court and be granted an interview.  On Wednesday, 7th Rabi’u-1 awwal, the Court proceeded to the Kushk-i sabz {green palace) and Ulugh Khan gave orders for armed men to be collected from all quarters round Delhi to the number of two hundred thousand foot and fifty thousand horse, with banners and accoutrements.  Great numbers of armed men of all ranks went out of the city and assembled in the new city of Kilu-ghari, at the royal residence, where they were drawn up shoulder to shoulder in twenty lines.

When the ambassadors arrived, and their eyes fell upon this vast multitude, they were stricken with fear … and it is certain that on seeing the elephants some of them fell from their horses.  On the ambassadors entering the city they were received with the greatest honour, and were conducted before the throne with the highest possible ceremony.  The palace was decked out in the most splendid array, and all the princes and nobles and officers attended in gorgeous dresses.  A poem written by the author of this work was recited before the throne.  After the reception the ambassadors were conducted in great state to the place appointed for their abode.

[p. 141]

Let us return to the thread of our history. The last event which I have to record is this.  When Ulugh Khan carried war into the hills, and punished the rebels in the way we have related, a number of them escaped by flight.  They now again took to plundering on the highways, and murdering Musulmans, so that the roads became dangerous.  This being reported to the Khan, he sent emissaries and spies to find out the places where the rebels had taken refuge, and to make a full report of their state and condition.  On Monday, 24th Rajab, 658 (July, 1260), he marched from Delhi with his own forces, the main army, and the forces of several chiefs.  He hastened towards the hills, and accomplishing more than fifty kos in one day’s journey (!) he fell upon the insurgents unawares and captured them all, to the number of twelve thousand –men, women, and children– whom he put to the sword.  All their valleys and strongholds were overrun and cleared, and great booty captured.  Thanks be to God for this victory of Islam!


  1. Var.salmat, sanlast.
  2. Firishta has the more likely name of “Deobal”.
  3. Firishta says three hundred were put to death. Siyasat,the word here employed, signifies punishment inflicted at the discretion of a judge in cases not provided for by law, and there is no doubt that the punishment of death is intended.
  4. “631” in some copies.
  5. In one copy the name isBhilastan,and in another Bilistan.  This is probably the same as the Bhyalastan or Mahabalastan of Biruni.  See vol. I p. 59 of the original edition.
  6. Var.Badhyanand Bayana.  Firishta, the Turkh i-Badauni, and the Tabakat-i Akbari agree in saying Multan.
  7. These two names are writtenmawazand santur (Var. satur).  The former is probably Mewar, and the hills the Aravalli mountains.  Briggs says there is a town called Santpur, near Abu.  Thornton has a “Santoo”, 84 miles S. S. W. from Jodhpur.
  8. Var.talandaand talsanda.
  9. Var.bazol, barole.
  10. Var.naruya, baruta, baruna.