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A Wide-spectrum Analysis

Meena Bhargava

By Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui
2006, pp. 322, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 12 December 2007

Authority and Kingship under the Sultans of Delhi is rather complex in the sense that it begins on a promising note but does not achieve all. Reinforcing the thesis of centralization, the main crux of the argument—the Sultanate represented a centralized polity that was further embarked upon with a vengeance in the sixteenth century—remains the same like that of A.B.M. Habibullah, K.A. Nizami, Irfan Habib and others, though the author expresses disagreements with them (which of course is refreshing) on certain facts and interpretations. These disagreements, however, do not sway Siddiqui. He remains focussed on dynastic political history, dealing with Sultans and the nobility, ulama, assignment of iqtas, imperialism, expansionism, provincial organization with some discussion of buildings as an evidence of Indo-Muslim urban planning and its architectural elements.   Siddiqui argues that since the modern scholars have not studied the iqta adequately, he reappraises it in this book. He also suggests that his objective in discussing the Sultanate polity is to understand the significance of traditions and rituals connected with it, because it were the latter that enhanced the dabdaba-i-shahi (pomp and splendour of the royal court) and the social development during this period. The author also observes that the institutions of the Sultanate were built on a sophisticated political system that outlasted the Sultanate leaving behind a prominent legacy. But whatever is different and interesting is overwhelmed at several places by monotonous descriptions and narration. Though this style dominates the larger part of the book, the chapter ‘Waterworks and the Irrigation System’ has an added importance for its value to environmental studies in medieval India.   Discussing the nature of authority and kingship, Siddiqui exemplifies the different models that the Ghurid rulers followed in their ancestral domain of Ghur and in their other empires. The two models of Sultanate polity—Ghaznavid and Saljuq—evolved in Central Asia, were emulated by the Sultans of subsequent dynasties. For instance, Sultan Muizuddin Muhammad bin Sam followed the Ghaznavid tradition both in Ghazna and in his Indian dominion. Reconstructing the history of the Sultanate of Ghur and its impact on the life and culture of India, the author comments on the ethnic origin of the Ghurid Sultans and the Islamization of the region of Ghur, which he finds to be a controversial subject. He argues that although the modern scholars have based their interpretations on the evidences provided by medieval ...

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