¤ Altamash - One of The Most Significant Kings of Slave
Eight months after Aram Shah took the reins of
Delhi his unhappy nobles
requested Malik Shams-ud-din Altamash, Aibaks son-in-law, to
takeover. and thus was crowned one of the most important kings of the
Slave dynasty. Altamash was a shrewd and intelligent man. He quickly
realized that, if anything was to be saved of the Turkish possessions
in India, he would have to strengthen the Sultanate and prevent the
Turkish nobles from breaking away and carving out independent domains
So, the first thing he did was to crush the highhanded Qutbi and
Muizzi Maliks and the governors of Multan and Bengal. Then he turned
to Yaldoz who was still a major threat. Not only did Altamash
pulverize the forces of Yaldoz, he also had the man captured and
sentenced to death. Next he turned his attention to the Rajputs, who
were beginning to throw their weight about after the death of Aibak.
The Chandellas had taken back Ajaigarh and Kalinjar, the Pratiharas
had reoccupied Gwalior, Narwar and Jhansi, the Chauhans of
Ranthambhore had won back Jodhpur, the Jalor Chauhans had moved in on
large areas of south-western Rajasthan
and the Jadon Bhattis had established their sovereignty with Alwar as
¤ His Endeavor With Rajputs
As soon as Altamash had freed himself from his other distractions he
decided to deal with the Rajputs. But it was not easy. The Rajputs put
up fierce resistance, especially in Jalor and Ajmer. Altamashs
army was completely unsuccessful against the Chandellas. Eventually
the king had to lead an attack himself but they still suffered heavy
Stung by this failure, Altamash again sent a large expedition to
Malwa in 1234-35. This expedition was much more successful but it has
been suggested that it was more a lesson-teaching exercise than any
serious attempt to hold Malwa. This is probably true as Altamash did
not attempt to garrison Ujjain and Bhilsa after plundering them. The
region he succeeded in holding was the fertile Doab area with Badaun,
Kanauj, Banaras and Rohilakhand.
¤ Encountering With Chingez Khan
But the greatest test for Altamash was still to come. In the year
1221AD, a certain Central Asian Mongol called Chingez Khan came and
camped along the Indus. Chingez had been travelling almost non-stop,
overrunning Western and Central Asia with astounding speed. Legends of
his great courage, ruthlessness and perspicuous leadership must of
course travelled to India by then.
Mercifully, though, Chingez had not come to invade India. He had come
chasing Jala-ud-din Manabarni, the last Shah of Khwarizm of Khiva,
with the intention of assigning him to death. This of course made
perfect military sense. Meanwhile, Jalal-ud-din reached the boundaries
of the Sultanate and had sent a frantic SOS to Delhi.
Altamash realized that he needed to watch his step here. Any move on
his part to help the Shah would lead to a confrontation with Chingez.
But then he couldnt afford to antagonize the Shah either, since
he had considerable forces of his own. So Altamash sent Jalal-ud-din
an extremely courteous letter saying that he, Altamash, would have
been more than happy to give him, the Shah, shelter but very much
feared that the harsh Indian summer would not suit His Excellency, so
he begged to be excused of the honor of being his host. It is not
known if Jalal-ud-din ever got back to Altamash. What is known is that
Jalal-ud-din tied up with the Khokars to plunder Multan, Sindh and
northern Gujrat. After that he went away to Persia with the Mongols
hot on his trail.
¤ The Death of Altamash
When Altamash died on April 29, 1236, he had just returned from yet
another of those military campaigns that dotted his restless life
this one in the Doab. The tomb of Altamash still stands in the complex
Qutub Minar, started by Aibak, which incidentally he found time
to get completed.
By all accounts and assessments Altamashs reign was a
remarkable success. It was under him that Lahore finally sank out of
the political scene and Delhi became the unquestioned capital. and not
only politically - it was also becoming a great centre for culture and
learning with many great scholars like Minhaj-us-Siraj, Hasan Nizami
and Muhammad Aufi based here. Altamash was also the first Muslim ruler
to lay down a basic administrative system to rule his scattered
territories, complete with proper revenue and finance departments,
district (iqta) divisions, local police systems and the works. It was
not an ideal system but it worked, and quite well too.
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