Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban-A Pining Father

In the year 1287, Kushki Lal (Red Palace), was again filled with mournful wails of men, women, wives, concubines, all. The wives of the deceased threw off their veils and dishevelled their hair in utter misery; for the length and the demonstrative nature of mourning.


Ghiyasuddin Balban had died. He was 81 years old.

This happened just a year after Prince Mohammad (Khan Shahid) was killed in a battle with the Mongol invaders at Multan (in 1286). He was the eldest and beloved son, of Ghiyasuddin Balban.

Balban was originally called name Baha-ud-din and was was an llbari Turk. Young Baha-ud-din was captured by the Mongols and taken to Ghazni and sold to Khawaja Jamal-ud-din of Basra, who brought him to Delhi in 1232 A.D. along with other slaves and sold all of them to Sultan Iltutmish (Razia Sultan’s father).



Ghiyasuddin Balban also aka Ulugh Khan was first appointed as a simple water carrier, but with his wit and intellect he rapidly rose to the position of Khasdar (king’s personal attendant) by the Sultan. He became one of the most notable of the forty Turkic nobles of Delhi, or the Chalissa constituted by Iltutmish. During the reign of Razia Sultan, he was the Amir-i Shikar or lord of the hunt, a position of some importance at the time, having military and political responsibilities.


Ziyauddin Barani the historian wrote that upon his death “the Maliks in grief at Balban’s death tore their garments and threw dust on their heads as they followed, bare-feet, the king’s bier to the burial ground at Darul Aman. For forty days, they mourned his death, and slept on the bare floor.”

“…….the corpse of Sultan Balban”, says Ziyauddin Barni, was taken out of Kushaki Lal (Red Palace) at night and buried in Darul Aman (the abode of safety).

He (Balban) had built a house which he called Darul Aman. All debtors who entered it had their debts discharged, and if a man who had killed another took refuge there, the Sultan bought him pardon from the friends of the deceased.

Ibn Batuta, commenting 50 years later (in 1336?), observed, “He (Balban) had built a house which he called Darul Aman. The Sultan was buried in this building and I have visited his tomb….”


Balban could not survive long after the death of his son, Muhammad, in 1286 at the hands of the Mongols. The shock was so great that the Sultan never recovered from it. When Balban realized that his end was coming near, he called his son Bughra Khan from Bengal to stay with him but Bughra Khan, was so afraid of the stern nature of his father, that he slipped away to Bengal.

Eventually, Balban appointed Kai-Khusrau, the son of Muhammad, as his heir and died soon after in 1287.

(However, when Balban died, Fakhr-ud-Din, the Kotwal of Delhi, set aside the nomination and chose for Muiz ud din Qaiqabad, son of Bughra Khan, to become ruler instead, he was only 17 years old).

Balban belonged to the famous band of Turkish slaves of Iltutmish, known as “The Forty (Chahelgan)”.

After Iltutmush, Razia Sultan and others, he was instrumental in overthrowing Ala ud din Masud (1242-1246) and putting Nasir-ud-din Mahmud (1246–1266) on the throne of Delhi.

Gratefuly, Nasir-ud-din placed all power in his hands and Kishlu Khan, the younger brother of Balban,was appointed Amir-i-Hajib or Lord Chamberlain.

In 1249, Balban married his daughter to Sultan Nasir-ud-din, the youngest son of Iltutmish. Hence now all power came into the hands of Balban.

In 1253, there was a temporary eclipse in the power of Balban. There were many Turkish nobles who were jealous of Balban as he had monopolized all power. Imad-ud-Din Raihan appointed himself at the head of all opponents of Balban. The Sultan also supported them. The result was that in 1253 Balban and his brother were dismissed and Raihan became Prime Minister.

Balban as Sultan:

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Coins in Balban’s Reign

When Nasir-ud-din Mahmud died in 1266, Balban himself became the Sultan at the age of 60. His accession to the throne, was not easy and he had to meet many difficulties.

Quoting Barani, “Fear of the governing power, which is the basis of all good government, and the sources of the glory and splendour of the state, had departed from the hearts of all men and the country had fallen into a wretched condition.”

As Sultan of Delhi, Balban was also exposed to Mongol raids. The menace of the Mongols became intense and frequent during that time.

Hence, Balban put his son Muhammad in charge of the Southern frontier. Muhammad made Multan as his headquarters. The Mongols invaded-again in 1279 and 1285. These invasions were so great that they strained all the might and resources of the Sultan.

The Mongols were defeated and driven away. In 1286, the Mongols reappeared and this time but Prince Muhammad was killed and Poet Amir Khusru was also captured.

Destruction of “Chalissa “:

William Allan Slave Market Cornucopia No 7

Balban destroyed the Challissa’ (The Forty). He was apprehensive that “The Forty” would never allow him to exercise all the powers of Sultan. He had not forgotten that they had reduced the Sultan to the position of a figure-head by usurping all his powers.


Balban organised a very efficient system of espionage. Secret reporters were put in every department. Secret News-writers were stationed in every province and in every district.

Sultanate of the Sultan-Balban:

Balban gave up wine and jovial company as soon as he came to the throne,. He introduced the Sijda or prostration and Paibos or kissing the feet of the monarch in the court as the normal form of salutation for the Sultan. He introduced the system of Nauroz to add to the dignity of his court.

According to Balban, kingship was the vice regency of God on earth (Niyabat-i-Khudai). (Prof. K.A. Nizami)

Balban believed in despotism and always kept himself aloof from the people. He refused to talk to the common people. Fakhr Baoni, a rich man of Delhi, bribed the officers of the household to secure him an audience with the Sultan but the Sultan turned down the request of the officers.

Balban was very rigid about decorum. He never appeared in the court without his full regalia and royal paraphernalia.

Even his personal servant’s never saw him without his royal apparel, socks and cap. Balban made a distinction between the high born and, the low born, and he refused to come into contact with the low born or to appoint them to any office in tire administration. He dismissed low born persons from all important offices.

The Tomb

In Mehrauli Delhi, there is the tomb of Khan Shahid son of Ghiyasuddin Balban but no grave.

To the east of Balban’s tomb, lies a ruined rectangular structure said to be the grave of Khan Shahid, Balban’s son, whose original name was Muhammad, who died fighting against the Mongols near Multan in 1285.). The grave stone smells good always, owing to a local fakir who comes religiously on Fridays and applies perfume on it.


Ruins of Balban’s Tomb and Grave of Khan Shahid?


Kushki Lal

R.V. Smith writes: Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlak in the 14th Century liked Ibn Batuta, the Moroccan traveller much that he was made Chief Qazi of Delhi, Ibn Batuta came in 1333 and remained here till 1342. He was privileged to stay in Lal Mahal aka Kushki Lal, built by Ghiyasuddin Balban in 1240 before the latter ascended the throne.


Kushki Lal


Kushki Lal aka Lal Mahal – Almost destroyed

According to Maulvi Zafar Hasan, Kushki Lal, was a magnificent building which was a structure raised on a chabutra (platform). Constructed of red sandstone, it consisted of a “central domed apartment, with dalaans forming a verandah on all four sides. The latter had red sandstone pillars very simply ornamented and lintels supporting a flat roof of the same material over which were chattris (canopies) on the east, west and south, the northern chhatri having disappeared. Some 25 feet to the north-west of the dome on the same chabutra was a double-storied chhatri which was connected originally with the palace”.

Balban also commissioned Quila-i-Marzghan near Kushki Lal, after he became king)

Where is Darul Aman and where is the grave of Ghiyasuddin Balban? Some say, that the tomb of Balban is the location of his Darul Aman and that the cenotaph was stolen owing to it being made of valuable stone.

Compiled from several internet sources

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