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The Ignored Elites: Turks, Mongols and a Persian Secretarial Class in the Early Delhi Sultanate

  • SUNIL KUMAR (a1)
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  • Published online: 01 January 2009

The consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate coincided with the Mongol devastation of Transoxiana, Iran and Afghanistan. This paper studies the Persian literature of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries invested as it was in the projection of the court of the Delhi Sultans as the ‘sanctuary of Islam’, where the Muslim community was safe from the marauding infidel Mongols. The binaries on which the qualities of the accursed Mongols and the monolithic Muslim community were framed ignored the fact that a large number of Sultanate elites and monarchs were of Turkish/Mongol ethnicity or had a history of prior service in their armed contingents. While drawing attention to the narrative strategies deployed by Sultanate chroniclers to obscure the humble frontier origins of its lords and masters, my paper also elaborates on steppe traditions and rituals prevalent in early-fourteenth-century Delhi. All of these underlined the heterogeneity of Muslim Sultanate society and politics in the capital, a complexity that the Persian litterateurs were loath to acknowledge in their records.

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Charles J. Halperin , ‘The Kipchak connection: The Ilkhans, the Mamluks and Ayn Jalut’ in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. 63, (2000), pp. 229–45

John M. Smith Jr., ‘Mongol and nomadic taxation’ in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 30 (1970), pp. 4885

I.P. Petrushevsky , ‘The socio-economic condition of Iran under the Il-Khans’, in J.A. Boyle (ed.), Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), Vol. 5, pp. 483537

P.M. Holt , ‘The position and power of the Mamluk Sultan’ in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. 38, (1975), p. 245

Simon Digby , ‘Iletmish or Iltutmish? A reconsideration of the name of the Delhi Sultan’ in Iran, Vol. 8, (1970), pp. 5764

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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-asian-studies
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