Zoya Ansari describes an interesting Role of slaves in Delhi Sultanate
It was a custom in the Role of slaves in Delhi Sultanate during early Muslim rule in India to utilize slaves in all spheres of activity. Slavery was an accepted phenomenon in the medieval age and was widely in practice. Slaves undertook tasks to run any large medieval enterprise that in modern technological age machines perform. Since the slaves were considered loyal to a single source of command, therefore, they were taken to be the extension of the person and his ideology of their master. This unified identification was treated as a sacred trust that both the parties highly valued and respected doing their utmost to stay true to it in any circumstances. This unique relationship could be seen transcending the establishment and sustenance of the first Muslim ruling entity in the subcontinent known as the fabled Delhi sultanate.
During his expeditions to India in the end of 12th century Sultan Muhammad Ghauri brought ten thousand Afghan horsemen with him. All of this force was his slaves acquired from the fertile slave markets of Central Asia and trained them in high levels of martial arts. These slaves were personally indebted to the Sultan and their lives were the extension of his life and efforts. Owing to this unique bond, he completely trusted his slave contingent and widely used them as an important part of his armed forces. The dominance of slaves on his reign was so pervasive that his former slaves established a fully fledged dynasty after his assassination by Gakkhars in upper Punjab, various branches of it ruled the sultanate for more than three centuries.
These foreign slaves were known by their generic names as Turks (Turuksha) and Afghan and were permanent part of the army. In those days it was widely described that kingship is the army and the army kingship that is, the one was concomitant to the other. It was quite apt a description as the state they formed was military nature and it was their military prowess that kept them in power. Without army there was no kingdom and this harsh reality was proved again and again in the annals of Sultanate. Extension of Muslim rule in India was not possible without conquest and so the Sultanate was, by its very nature, committed to maintaining a large army. This remained a constant factor not only in the Delhi Sultanate but also the Mughal Empire following up to the British rule.
Slaves were trusted as bodyguards of the ruler and were known as Jandars. This contingent was invariably recruited from the ranks of personal slaves called ghilman and mamalik. To keep vast swathes under sway, slaves, imported as youths from peripheral regions, were trained at the royal Court and came out as a fighting and administrative elite loyal to the king only, and by consequence his comrades in arms. Their loyalty was supposed to be tried and tested as they had qualified to be the part of the ruling elite through their consistent exertion, both in the field of battle as well as the governance of the kingdom. This tradition of obtaining slaves by all methods and from all regions was continued by Delhi sultans and accordingly foreign slaves were purchased from all countries and nationalities. There were Turks, Persians, Seljuqs, Oghuz (who later formed the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires), Afghans and Khiljis. These nationalities essentially formed the ranks of the armies of Ghaznavids and Ghaurids and later became part of Muslim sultanate in India.
The first organised Muslim rule in the subcontinent was established by Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak himself a manumitted slave of Muhammad Ghauri. During his early reign the second Sultan of Delhi Sultanate, Iltutmish, avoided giving asylum to Jalaluddin Mangbarni of Khwarzim, fleeing before Chinghis Khan whose large contingent of slaves however settled in the northern parts of the subcontinent and became a pool from where future army recruitment was drawn. The most prudent of the Delhi Sultans, Iltutmish absorbed soldiers of the fleeing army of Khwarizmi Shah followed by Chinghis Khan. Sultan Balban introduced Persian style of strict court protocol and raised position of the Sultan many notches higher than the nobility. To prove his superior position Balban was flanked in his royal processions by hundreds of Sistani, Ghauri, Samarqandi and Arab slave soldiers with drawn swords creating a fearful spectacle. In addition he appointed three thousand Afghan horse and foot in his campaigns against the Mewatis and thousands of others for garrisoning difficult forts that were liable to be contested, particularly in the frontier regions. Like the Afghans, the Mongols were enslaved or persuaded to join the forces of the Khiljis. They were called neo-Muslims (Nau-Muslims) during the reign of Alauddin Khilji.
Persian element in the rank of officers and men was also prominent. Raziyah Sultana tried to break the grip of Persian and Turkish element in the army by replacing them with purchased Abyssinian slave-soldiers and officers. She had to pay the price of this change with her life. By the time of Firoz Shah Tughlaq indigenous slaves began to replace foreigners. By this time when the Sultan went out in state the slaves accompanied him in corps formations fully armed comprising of the fighting men riding on male buffaloes and slaves from Hazara mounted on Arab and Turkish horses. About 40,000 indigenous slaves guarded him every day in readiness. The indigenous slaves were given as present to the Sultan by the nobility and were also obtained as part of the tribute from subordinate states or enslaved during campaigns. Once broken and trained into loyalty and service they were easily drafted into the army. Most Hindus soldiers belonged to the infantry wing and were called Paiks.
The age factor was considered significant while procuring local slaves or getting them as captives. It was thought that once these boys grew up they will hardly remember their parentage or nativity and will stay loyal to their master. Many Paiks were recruited from the open market. Alauddin Khilji, as governor of Kara, recruited 2,000 Paiks and with their assistance took the rich fort of Devagiri obtaining heavy booty from there that he used to topple his uncle Sultan Jalaluddin Khilji in 1296. The Paiks were assigned to undertake sundry duties such as feeding, grooming and looking after the horses of the cavalrymen who had a superior status. The ranks of Alauddin Khilji’s cavalry had 70,000 cavalrymen beside other ranks. Thousands of slaves were required to take care of the horse and elephant stables.
They were used to clear jungles for facilitating armed campaigns and clearing roads for army marches. While on a march they were assigned to set up camps by fitting tents in a circumference of twelve thousand five hundred and forty six yards (about ten kilometer square). They were ordered to build Gargach, a covered platform on wheels for reaching the base of the fort under protection. They also fixed Sabats, platforms raised from the ground to reach the top of the fort during assault. They were mostly rated to be steadfast fighters and added strength to Muslim armies. It is rightly observed that they formed the core of the Delhi Sultanate and their impact was wide and long-lasting. TW