Sultans of Delhi - Ala al-Din Muhammad aka Alauddin Khilji

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by 1934 Wreath Crown, Sep 18, 2020.

  1. 1934 Wreath Crown

    1934 Wreath Crown Well-Known Member

    Ala al-Din Muhammad (Alauddin Khilji), born Ali Gurshasp, was the most powerful and IMHO the most inaccurately portrayed rulers of the Khilji dynasty who were the Sultans of Delhi. Of Turkic origin, the Khilji tribe had settled in what is now modern Afghanistan and had adopted many Afghan customs.

    Ala al-Din ascended to the throne after killing his uncle and father-in-law, Jalal-ud-Din Firuz Shah (not his brightest or proudest moment). However, his rule of almost 20 years was one of military conquest, territorial expansion and consolidation combined with agricultural, economic, social and monetary reforms. His armies succeeded in annexing and subjugating large parts of Western, Central and Southern India in a series of military campaigns. However some historians portray him as a cruel, ruthless, ignorant and inflexible despot who did not favour learning and controlled the masses through impoverishment, authoritarianism and religious suppression.

    Delhi Sultanate at the time of Jalal-ud-Din's ascension

    Delhi Sultanate under Jalal-ud-Din.png

    Delhi Sultanate at its Maximum extent

    Map of Delhi Sultanate.png

    Yet, contrary to this projected image, he introduced tax reforms by centralization of the collection procedure and sidelining the local regional and village heads, met with and had spiritual discussions with religious leaders of all faiths, married two Hindu wives, introduced a system of price control to reduce inflation, considered creating a new religion (something that the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great tried unsuccessfully many centuries later), granted the highest positions in his army and court to individuals of different faiths and successfully defended his borders against the Mongol hoards by controlling local dissent and inflicting a heavy defeat on the Mongol raiders. He was often referred to as ‘Sikander Sani (Thani)’, or the Second Alexander.

    When a person contemplates forming a new religion and encourages the induction of persons of different faiths within his court, military generals and even personal bodyguards, I have difficulty in accepting him as a narrow minded, intolerant, ignorant bigot. To me it demonstrates an ability to accept other faiths and have a highly intelligent insight into human behavior and psyche. Only a person with high intellect and a willingness to accept alternative views and opinions would ever contemplate starting a new religion or belief.

    To put down rebellions and dissent with brutal force was commonplace in those days otherwise the ruler was seen as weak and indecisive. But I leave it to you all to form your own opinions about him as a man and a ruler.

    Now to the coin itself:

    INDIA, Islamic Sultanates of Delhi. ‘Ala al-Din Muhammad (Alauddin Khilji). AH 695-715 / AD 1296-1316. AV Tanka (25mm, 11.03 g, 5h). Dar al-Islam mint. Dated AH 709 (AD 1309/10). CIS D220; Friedberg 427.

    The coin is graded MS65 and would appear to be the highest grade gold Tanka I have found, to date, not just of a gold issue by Ala al-Din but of any of the Sultans of Delhi. The closest was an MS64 Tanka of Muhammad bin Tughluq, sold just a couple of months ago. I would love to hear if someone has similar coins or knows of a better preserved gold issue by the Sultans of Delhi.

    Ala Al-Din Khilji Tanka MS 65 Obv.jpg

    Ala Al-Din Khilji Tanka MS 65 Rev.jpg

    Please feel free to post your coins of the Delhi Sultanate or any interesting Islamic dynasty.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020
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  3. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    Thanks for giving some attention to this category of coins and showing this beautifull specimen.
    Historic accounts ofcourse are seldom fully objective. However, from what i read from a variety of sources i have a totally different opinion on Ala al-Din Muhammad as Sultan of Dehli. Yes, he was a great ruler, but i would put him in that category next to Jozef Stalin. I think he was primarily a paranoid dictator. As you say he reformed taxes. This seems to have had two objectives; first, maximize revenue for the Sultan's treasury and army expenditures. Secondly, crushing the powerbase of the (mainly Hindu) land gentry which largely regulated daily affairs in rural areas. The result was that agricultural production collapsed with famine as a consequence. Land laid barren for decades untill later reforms under the Tughluqs. The inflation which Ala al-Din tried to limit was so mainly caused by himself. He defended and expanded the Dehli sultanate. In the process he felt the need to order several documented mass murders of citizens. To guard his position, a secret police was formed which in scale and social effect seems best comparable with the 20th century Stasi in communist eastern Germany. Then lastly, his policy to put people with different backgrounds in key positions likely had nothing to do with open-mindedness. By this "divide and conquer"strategy he prevented that a united powerbase could form which might threaten his position.

    To get focus back to the coinage i present just a humble copper, but one which does have some explicit linkage with the splendid gold piece if we look at the inscription in arab script:
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2020
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  4. spirityoda

    spirityoda Coin Junky Supporter

    Interesting looking and it's gold.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2020
  5. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @1934 Wreath Crown..... Interesting write up and wow super coin!
    Here's a little 2 Gani....
    India - Delhi Sultan - ALA UD DIN KHILJI - Two Gani (AH 695-715) Billon
    3.40gr/15.86 MM
    Rev: MUHAMMAD SHAH in centre SRI SULTAN ALAVADININ Nagari around.
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  6. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Nice coins, interesting write-up and discussion!

    @1934 Wreath Crown 's gold tanka is quite stunning. My coins of this ruler, on the other hand, are just humble and unassuming copper and billon types:

    Orient, MA – Delhi Sultanat, Muhammad II, 1296–1315, 6 gani.png
    Delhi Sultanate, under Ala ud-Din Muhammad Khalji, BI 6 gani, 1297–1316 AD. Obv: “abu ‘l muzaffar muhammad shah al-sultan”. Rev: “al-sultan al-azam ala' al-dunya wa'l din”. 16mm, 3.62g. Ref: GG D232.

    Orient, MA – Delhi Sultanat, Muhammad II, 1296–1315, 2 gani, Tye 419.png
    Delhi Sultanate, under Ala ud-Din Muhammad Khalji, AE 2 gani, 1297–1316 AD. Obv: “shah Muhammad” in circle; around, legend in Nagari: “Sri sultan Alavadin” (mostly off flan). Rev: “al-sultan al-azam ala' al-dunya wa'l din”. 16mm, 3.26g. Ref: GG D233.
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  7. 1934 Wreath Crown

    1934 Wreath Crown Well-Known Member

    It all depends on WHO wrote history and for WHOSE consumption. Till 30-40 years ago Alfred the Great was portrayed as a courageous if somewhat reluctant warrior hero who united England. Yet modern historians now portray him as a selfish weakling who exploited the bravery and honour of others and connived to retain his power base and throne.

    The local Indian landed gentry were exploiting the poorer peasants under their control (and are even to this day) and again plotted against Delhi to cause a famine. There was no natural reason for food shortages in that fertile area around Delhi. As for his policy of integrating the locals, hitherto an unprecedented practice, to project it as a divide and rule policy is rather unfair.

    Also if you follow developments, the Taj Mahal according to recent theories was never built by Shah Jahan but rather a Rajput Hindu king whom Shah Jahan duped into selling his property, the Muslim rulers/kings/emperors never won a single battle without resorting to treachery and bribery or were just plain lucky because the other guys war elephant bolted from the battlefield. Wow that's 800 years of being damn lucky and being able to fool an entire population don't you think!!!

    Who united the hundreds of warring princely states to make a unified greater sub-continent? Like I said, it all depends who has written or rather re-written history (Wikipedia), from what perspective and for whose consumption. I rest my case.
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  8. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    I am afraid your case won't hold in court. And if you are implying i based my opinion on Wikipedia, you are wrong. I actually read most of the available primary sources on the period, you might to. But let's just agree to disagree. For the purpose of this forum it seems good for the readers to know that there are different views. As you also seem to suggest, i agree that objective discussion on the history of the region is negatively affected by current Hindu-Muslim controversies (i am neither).

    As we both seem to have an interest in how stately affairs were run in this period, i think you might also be interested in the coin below. Or actually it is not a coin, but one of the oldest known tax-tokens of the region.

    (AE 17 mm, 2.11 gr)
    Obv: Elephant with rider holding spear to left in serrated circle.
    Rev: “Danganah / al-sultan al-a’zam / Muhammad bin al-sultan /Shafurqan.

    This token was issued in the city of Shafurqan during the reign of Ala al-Din Muhammad Khwarezmshah (1200-1220 CE).
    Its use is revealed by the top line of the legend side on the right. This reads "Danganah" in Arab. Danganah was a customs duty which had to be paid on top of the taxes which were levied on goods imported into the city. This tax was a cause of much discontent, as tariffs were set at will by local officials (with consent of the Sultan) and the proceeds used to fill their pockets.

    This tax persisted in the region until being abolished during the tax reforms in the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq of Dehli (1351-1388 CE).
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2020
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  9. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Yes. Surely Alauddin Khilji was great by any standards. Seems to me most Sultanate, Suri and Early Moghul rulers tried (and largely failed) to live up to the standards he had set. Interesting that (like Akbar and Charlemagne) its suggested he never learned to read and was thus perhaps somewhere on the dyslexic spectrum. Kind of fits with his independence of mind - in rejecting orthodox Islam and supporting the efforts of the Hindu guy in the street etc. He was kind of hard on tipplers though.....

  10. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    Rob, your remark on Alauddin's hardness prompts me to note a thought which manifested itself when i first looked at the gold specimen 1934WreathCrown posted.
    For this specimen has an engraving error, in the honorary title Iskandar.
    Iskandar in Arab should be written سکندر, with a diacritic dot above the "nun". That's how it is written on most of the specimen of the type which i have seen and also on the first bronze i posted.
    In this specimen, the diacritic dot is replaced by an oblique line which almost touches the top of the following "dal". Because of this, it almost looks like it reads
    سکنکر "Iskankar".
    Now probably this is all a co-incidence, but i thought it quite remarkable, for Kankar in Hindi means "limestone", an important building material. Its name probably is derived from Sanskrit "Karkara" which means "rock-hard".
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  11. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    1934 W.C., That's a handsome looking gold Tanka struck from fresh dies :D. Many years ago I sent the silver Tanka pictured to NGC for slabbing & they returned it to me saying they didn't attribute & slab coins like that, so I sent it to ICG. I know nothing about Islamic coins & don't know if ICG got this right o_O. What do you think ?

    AR Tanka, 1296-1316.jpg
    10.9 gm, 29 mm
  12. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    That's a nice silver tanka Al Kowsky ! Attribution is correct.
    This one also has the "Alexander the second" title in the top line on the left. And like 1934WreathCrown's it is also from Dar al-Islam mint.
    For reference: Goron&Goenka D225.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
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  13. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    THCoins, Many thanks for the info :D!
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