Published:  12:31 AM, 24 October 2019

Alauddin Khilji: A hero or a villain?

Alauddin Khilji: A hero or a villain?

Riffat Ahmed

In the pages of history, Alauddin Khilji has enormously scorched his mark deeply enough to be recognized even today. But who was he? Should we call him a villain or a national hero; an eyesore or a treasure? Before we fall onto the conclusions of these queries, let us first know a little bit about the man himself.

Alauddin Khilji was born in 1266 in the arms of India. He was the second and the most powerful ruler of the Khilji dynasty that ruled the Delhi; Sultanate in the Indian subcontinent. Alauddin instituted a number of significant administrative changes, related to revenues, price controls, and society.Born as Ali Gurshasp, Alauddin was a nephew and a son-in-law of his predecessor Jalaluddin.

When Jalaluddin became the Sultan of Delhi after deposing the Mamluks, Alauddin was given the position ofMaster of Ceremonies. Alauddin obtained the governorship of Kara in 1291 after suppressing a revolt against Jalaluddin, and the governorship of Awadh in 1296 after a profitable raid on Bhilsa.

In 1296, Alauddin raided Devagiri, and acquired loot to stage a successful revolt against Jalaluddin. After killing Jalaluddin, he consolidated his power in Delhi, and subjugated Jalaluddin's sons in Multan.

Over the next few years, Alauddin successfully fended off the Mongol invasions from the Chagatai Khanate, at Jaran-Manjur in 1297-1298, Sivistan in 1298, Kili in 1299, Delhi in 1303, and Amroha in 1305.

And thus, Alauddin Khilji can be referred to as a national hero, worthy of merit and credit, because his services to his nation truly deserve a standing ovation because the Mongols were not your ordinary conquerors.

They were different and used unique means to conquer kingdoms. To them, victory called for sending entire nations to rubbles, looting and plundering, killing the men and abducting and abusing the women and children. The Mongols spoke the language of terror and that was their only form of communication in war.

In 1306, his forces achieved a decisive victory against the Mongols near the Ravi riverbank, and in the subsequent years, his forces ransacked the Mongol territories in present-day Afghanistan. His military commanders successfully led his army against the Mongols.

If the Mongols had their way, India would face the same fate as one by one, countries like China, Baghdad, Russia and more had faced. The rivers of Baghdad had turned crimson and Baghdad fell to her knees, wounded to an inch of her life. It has been deemed that Russia was sent back years and years in terms of economy and intelligence, because of the sufferings caused by the Mongols. Today, there would be a vast difference in the economy of Russia had they not have had to deal with such a grievance.

Countries of Europe and America advanced in the Industrial Revolution much earlier on because they were fortunate enough to not be a victim of the onslaughts of the Mongols. The Mongols thus had left a negative effect on the total world economy with their attacks at that time. They had eradicated the population of the world vastly, slaughtering millions of people in the process.

And against soulless people of such coarse nature that is the Mongols, Alauddin Khilji bravely and intelligently stood his ground and fought for his land.Alauddin Khilji used his immense abilities of leadership, cunning wit, deductive calculating abilities and the discipline of his armies to fend off the Mongols.

He used similar battle tactics as Alexander the Great and had therefore adopted the nickname Alexander the Second. And thus, this man should be deemed to be one of the biggest pillars in India's foundation. The diverse culture of India that we see today, wouldn't exist today, were it not for this incredible man's leadership. So thus, we will undoubtedly remain grateful to this one of a kind man.

Alauddin Khilji was accused of torturing Hindus during his rule. But he never did such things particularly to Hindus. His tough methods of leadership and means of control over the law were extremely brute but remained equally on the heads of Hindus, Muslims and people of all religions in his kingdom.

If you evaluate the past with the mindset of today, you will only continue to create errors. The nature of those times was such that rulers from far and wide would come, battle, conquer and expand their kingdoms.

Khilji needed money for alms and soldiers. He snatched power from people but proved that he knew how to handle it better than the rulers present then. Khilji had done what he needed to in order to make his nation better than it was. And with these battles, Alauddin Khilji reformed the entire tax system of his kingdom under a well-organized beautiful web of laws.

Even though Khilji is not with us any longer, this tax system still continues to live with us today, followed by people in England. He is recognized worldwide for his tax reformation.

To bring this tax reformation into play, Alauddin Khilji increased the tax on farmers and most of the farmers were Hindus. The state of the farmers was very poor right then. They lacked even clothes and food. But it cannot be thought that only Hindus went through this.

Alauddin Khilji had proclaimed that if he was to rule the country properly, then he had to encourage the consequences of breaking the laws with extreme seriousness. Khilji had constructed extreme punishments including hanging the skulls of thieves and lawbreakers on a tower to set an example. The guilty would be punished equally no matter what religion he or she abided by.

Khilji thought of himself as a second Alexander. He had been ruthless and was not known to show mercy. He increased the espionage in the systems. He also encouraged the markets of Delhi and improved the food markets immensely. Khilji banned the consumption of alcohol in the sub continent. He made all these laws so that he could rule with a beautiful and strong iron hold. 

There are many conspiracy theories about Sultan Khilji's attack on Chittor in the sixteenth century, proclaiming his attack to be centered around how Khilji only attacked Chittor claiming King Ratan Sen to hand in his beautiful Queen Padmini. But after a lot said betrayals and treacheries, Sultan Khilji failed to bring back Padmini to his Harem. There aren't any mentions of such an occurence in any historical books by the Persian writers who wrote books about Khilji's life.

Amir Khusraw was an Indian poetwho dedicated his poem to Sultan Alauddin Khilji.Amir Khusraw had been present with Khilji during the Battle of Chittor, but did not mention the Padmini Conspiracy or any such names as Padmini in his writings. An epic fictionalized poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE is the earliest source of Padmavaat.

But it is only a fiction. Also films like Padmaavat portrayedAlauddin Khilji completely in a negative light. There is no truth to any such stories and it is nothing but a play of character assassination.Thus, presenting such misinterpretations of this great man, people are being manipulated to remember him very differently.

His ideals cannot be compared to the modern world, but at that time, that was what the people needed. And Khilji's leadership had caused a vast number of improvements in the systems of the country. Creating a division between Hindus and Muslims in the minds of people is far from right.

The Mongols attacked 5 or 6 times before the reign of Alauddin Khilji but they were small attacks. The Mongols used to send threatening letters of demands before attacking, demanding large sums of money and females. Alauddin Khilji's father's brother almost went to negotiation with them, but Khilji refused to strike up such deals and be under the fear of constant demands. He took responsibility for these threats being made to his nation even when the easier answer had been to meet the demands of the Mongols.

His uncle begged him to take the easier route out, but Khilji firmly stood his ground and said that if he did strike up such deals, he would be deemed as a weak ruler and would never be able to show his face to the people of his country. Thus, he did not rest until he drove the Mongols out during the main attacks. Indeed, we are lucky that the main attacks happened when Alauddin Khilji was present to fend them off. After Khilji's death, many men and women came to his grave to pray for the betterment of their own lives.

They called him a Sufi Saint.Alauddin Khilji saved the entire subcontinent of India from the grasp of a tragedy that would have been like no other and for that we truly owe him immensely. He only ruled for 20 years but he has given us many things within that timeframe. We have to take history as history. One cannot be a hero or a villain in history. It isn't black or white. It is what it is.


The writer is Chairperson of Siddiqui's International School and treasurer of Bangladesh English Medium Schools' Assistance Foundation (BEMSAF)

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