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The death of Harsha saw a period of political turmoil for about five centuries. The smaller kingdoms in north India kept fighting each other. Finally the Muslim rulers under Muhammad of Ghuri invaded and the Delhi sultanate began. 

Rajput’s Dynasty:  

Rajputs were dominant from 7th century to the 12th century till Muslim rule came to India. Then also the Rajput’s survived in smaller kingdoms. They were the main defenders of Hindu religion under Muslim aggression.

Gurjar Pratihara’s were dominant Rajput’s. The presence of Pratihara’s stopped the Muslim invaders under caliph in 8th century from coming into India.

However the Pratihara’s were involved in a triangular conflict with Pala’s of Bengal and Rashtrakuta’s of Deccan. This weakened them.

Palas were rulers of Bengal. Dharma pal was the founder of the Vikramshila University.

The Tomar’s were also valiant Rajput’s who captured Delhi. But the Rajput’s didn’t have political foresight and failed to unite against the Muslim invaders. Due to this they were defeated. India had to bear the shame of being under foreign rule.  

Arab invasions: 

The Islam religion was started by Prophet Muhammad in 622 AD. After his death his followers started the caliphate in Mecca. The caliph had a commander Muhammad bin Qasim who invaded and captured Sind. The subjects of Sind became protected subjects. The commander was withdrawn by the caliph. The capture of Sind led to diffusion of Indian culture abroad, Indian medicine, astronomy and numerals went off to Arab and Europe through them. Sind became a part of the Arab Empire.

The caliphate weakened and the Turkish governors became independent. One such governor Mahmud of Ghazni became a conqueror of North India. He defeated many Hindu kings and sacked and plundered many temples. His military conquests were due to his ability and leadership and also restless activity. His kingdom included Punjab and Afghanistan. The raids of Ghazni drained India of its manpower and wealth. It also opened the gates for future invasions from turkey and Afghanistan. The Hindushahi kingdom which guarded the Indian subcontinent was destroyed. Inclusion of Punjab and Afghanistan into Ghazni Empire made next Arab invasions possible.

The next Arab invader was Mahmud Ghuri. He captured Sind and Punjab. This brought him in direct confrontation with Prithviraj Chauhan. In the first battle of terrain he was defeated by Chauhan but Ghuri defeated him in the second battle and killed Prithviraj Chauhan. The defeat of Chauhan dented their prestige. It also led to the establishment of Turkish rule in India.

The general of Ghuri was Qutubuddin Aibak, he captured Delhi. Another general Muhammad Bin Bhaktiyar Khilji destroyed Nalanda and Vikramshila University. 

Failure of the Hindu kingdoms: 

  1. The Hindu kings were disunited. They exhausted their resources in mutual rivalries.
  2. The Arabs were motivated by religious zeal and vast wealth of India.
  3. The Hindu kings would be on the defensive. Also the caste ridden society meant that battles were the duty of kshatriyas only.
  4. The Arabs possessed fast moving cavalry and their techniques of warfare were superior compared to the Hindu kings.



The Delhi sultanate had a powerful administrative system. The authority extended as south as Madurai. It had an impact on the provincial kingdoms and also the Mughal administration. The sultans ran an Islamic Empire and believed themselves to be the caliph’s representative. The conditions of Non Muslims were poor here. The Ulemas paid an important role here.

The succession wasn’t of the eldest son and all children had equal rights. But the stability of the Empire depended on support of the nobles. The military superiority was the main factor in succession matters.


The administration had many posts and departments. The advisors of the sultan controlled all activities. The civil courts worked on Islamic law for Muslims and personal law of Hindus for their cases. The criminal system worked on procedures made by the sultan.

  1. The sultan had issued districts to nobles instead of payment by cash. The peasants had to pay one third of produce to sultan as tax. Besides this they also had to pay other taxes and lived a hand to mouth existence.
  1. Urbanisation increased and many towns were built. Trade and commerce to increase and links were established with Arabs, south East Asian. Roads and highways were maintained in a good manner. Guesthouses were created for travelers.
  1. Cotton and silk textiles became popular. Large scale sericulture made India less dependent on outsiders.
  1. Paper industry, leather industry, crafts making, carpet weaving and manufacture of gold, silver was popular.
  1. The caste system was dominant in Hindus. The practices like sati continued. They were treated like second class citizens and had to pay jiziya. They were not given high posts. Arabs, Turkish and Afghanistan residents came to India. They didn’t mix with the Indian Muslims. The foreigners brought the system of Purdah System in India.

Art and Architecture: 

  1. The Turks introduced arches, domes, minarets and decorations in Arabic script. Marbles and red, yellow sandstone’s were used to bring colour to buildings.
  1. Sarangi and Rabab were introduced during this period. New music qawwalis were also started.
  1. The Delhi sultans were patrons of learning and literature. Arabic and Persian literature was promoted. Theology and poetry was popular. Amir Khusrau, the Persian writer and poet was during this period.
  1. Literature movement led to development of Sanskrit books in medicine, music. Bhakti cult led to improvement in Gujarati and Marathi. Vijayanagar Empire patronized Telugu and Kannada.



The Bhakti movement in medieval India spread due to the influence of Islam.

The Islamic ideas were of monotheism, no idol worship, no casteism, equality and brotherhood of man. The influence of Sufi saints shaped the thinking of saints like Ramananda, Nanak and Kabir. 


The Sufism originated in Persia and came to India in the eleventh century. The Sufi saints that were famous were Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer.

The Sufis were revered by both Hindus and Muslims. Sufis stressed on love and devotion as effective means of realisation of god.

They said service to man is tantamount to service to god. Sufis believed in inner purity not external conduct. They believed in devotion to god instead of blindly following rituals. They inculcated a spirit of tolerance amongst their disciples.

Sufis protested against the materialism of caliphate as a religious and political institution and turned towards ascetism, mysticism. They believed Prophet as the perfect human being.

Sufis were led by sheikh or Pir. They had 12 communities or Silsila means a chain – linking master and devotees.

The Sufis believed a guru is necessary to reach spiritual development. They also preached meditation, pilgrimage, suppression of passion, fasting, prayer, charity. The influence of Sufism was seen on Bhakti movement. Their message of equality attracted the lower castes of Hinduism as they were oppressed.

The Mughal emperor Akbar too appreciated Sufi doctrines and they shaped his religious outlook.

Bhakti and Sufi movement succeeded in bringing Hindus and Muslims together due to their message of love, devotion. 

Bhakti movement: 

The Bhakti saints talked about God being Supreme Being and concept of one god. The message was self surrender to god and removal of caste and birth distinctions. 

They emphasized on complete devotion as the path to god and urged people to shed age old superstitions. However the Bhakti saints in early period belonged to Hinduism and recognized Hindu gods although they too preached message of love and unity. The teachers of this movement: Shankaracharya, Mirabai, Surdas, Tulsidas. 

The later Bhakti saints like Kabir, Nanak remained apostles of Bhakti movement. They learned from old masters but showed a novel path. They didn’t adhere to any particular religion.

They preached against idolatry, superstitions, casteism, polytheism, rituals and ceremonies. They believed in devotion as only way of salvation. They asked for unity amongst all religions. 

Contributions of saints:

  1. Ramananda: simplification of worship and disregarding of caste system were his contributions.
  1. Kabir: Disciple of Ramananda. Studied Hindu and Muslim religions both. He wanted to establish harmony between them.
  1. Guru Nanak: Founder of Sikhism. Attacked all ill effects of religion and gave a moral code for all.


Importance of Bhakti movement: 

  1.  The Bhakti saints spoke and wrote in regional languages. The movement provided an impetus to development of regional languages like Hindi, Marathi, and Kannada.
  1. The saints could establish close contact and appeal directly to the masses.
  1. They disregarded caste system and advocated equal status to women. Hence they were popular amongst the lower classes.
  1. The movement gave people a simple religion to show devotion to god and not rituals and sacrifices.



Vijaynagar and Bahamani Empires declared their independence due to the weakness of central authority under Muhammad bin Tuglaq. 

Vijaynagar Empire:

Political conditions:

The Vijaynagar kingdoms were ruled by Sangam, Suluvu, Tuluva and Aravidu. The kingdom was initially under influence of Kakatiyas of Warangal.

The decline of Hoysala kingdom enabled them to grow. The kingdom was in conflict with Bahamani kingdoms for Krishna Tungabhadra doab and Krishna Godavari delta.

The Sangama, Saluvu couldn’t win against the Bahamani kingdom. Then came the Tuluvus.

King Krishna dev raya:

He was the most powerful Tuluvu king. He was an able commander. He was the greatest Tuluvu king. He kept the invading Bahamani army in check. The Bahamani were replaced by the Delhi sultanate.

These were defeated by Vijaynagar army. Krishna dev raya also captured the Raichur doab and Bidar. He captured whole of Telangana and maintained friendly relations with Portuguese.

The king was a great patron of literature and encouraged Telugu work. He also was a Vaishnavaite but respected all religions.

He built and repaired many temples. But after his death the forces of Bidar, Golconda, Bijapur and Ahmednagar combined forces and defeated Vijaynagar. The reason for this was that the king Ramaraya tried to pit one sultan against the other. They also destroyed the great city. After this the Aravidu dynasty continued the Empire for another 100 years. 


  1. The king was the highest authority. Hereditary succession was practised. The king was assisted by a council.
  2. For efficient administration, the Empire was divided into mandalam, nadu, sthala and gram.
  3. The land revenue was source of income along with customs and taxes.
  4. The punishment system was harsh and mutilation or death by throwing to elephants was seen.
  5. Well maintained standing army was kept.

         Fig 1: Vijayanagar empire


  1. Caste system was prevalent – Brahmins enjoyed privileges.
  2. Splendor of houses and buildings was great.
  3. Silk and cotton clothes were used.
  4. Sati and polygamy was seen. Devdasi system was common. Thus women had an inferior status in society.
  5. Religious freedom was given. Muslims could build mosques and work in the administration.

 Economic conditions: 

  1. The agriculture was the most common profession. Kings undertook reforms like irrigation system for it.
  2. The peculiar feature of Vijayanagar kingdom was Walled cities, multiple layers of walls and Agriculture fields enclosed inside the walls. This was useful during seiges to ensure regular food supply.
  3. The internal and overseas trade was carried out and gold coins were used.
  4. Art of shipbuilding was developed. The trade was with Persia, South Africa, East Asian countries.

 Cultural contributions: 

  1. Vijayanagar style of temple building had some characteristic style like Gopuram and Mandapas with carved pillars. The Mandapas were used for seating the deity.
  2. Music, dancing was patronized.
  3. Casting of metal images and metal castings were prominent.
  4. Languages like Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil flourished in the period.


        Fig 2: Vijayanagar style of temples

Bahamani Kingdom: 

The kingdom extended from Arabian Sea to Bay of Bengal. It extended in west from Bombay to goa and in east from Kakinada to mouth of the river Krishna. The bahamani minister Mahmud Gawain was the reason for the increase in the kingdoms strength. Gawain suggested administrative reforms to improve control of sultan over nobles. The nobles disliked him and convinced the sultan to execute him. After gawans execution, the Empire weakened. The provincial governors declared autonomy. Thus five kingdoms were formed in 1526 viz. Ahmed nagar, Golconda, bidar, bijapur and Berar.



Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire. He captured Kabul from one of his uncles. He wanted to capture India and launched four expeditions for it.

When Babur was interested in invading India it had five sultans in Delhi, Malwa, Gujarat, Bengal and Deccan. The Rajput king Rana sanga and the Vijaynagar Empire were also prominent.

Babur defeated the Lahore governor Daulatkhan Lodi. He then met Ibrahim Lodi in the Panipat battle and

defeated him due to superior cavalry and artillery.

He also captured Rajput territories by defeating Rana Sanga and the Afghans at Bihar. His rule was short as he was constantly fighting the rebels to his rule.

Estimate of Babur: 

  1. He was a great statesman and a man of solid achievements.
  2. He was a scholar of Arabic and Persian.



He was the eldest son of Babur. Babur had divided the kingdom between the sons. Humayun fought the Gujarat sultan Bahadur shah and concluded a treaty with Sher shah for this. After Bahadur shahs defeat he imposed a governor for Gujarat. But Bahadur shah recovered his kingdom.

Meanwhile Sher shah had become stronger and Humayun was forced to fight him. Humayun was defeated and forced to flee. He tried to conclude a treaty with his brothers against Sher shah but they refused to help. Finally he had to face Sher shah alone and he was defeated and forced into exile for 15 years.

Humayun stayed with his wife at a Hindu kingdom. It was there that Akbar was born. He then defeated his brothers with the help of Iran. Due to the decline of the Sur dynasty he waged a war on the Afghans and captured the throne.

Though Humayun wasn’t a great general he was kind and generous. He was a learned scholar too. He died on falling from the steps of the balcony.

Sher shah: Sur Dynasty

Initially he worked under the sultan of Bihar. But later he defeated Humayun and became the emperor of Delhi. He waged extensive battles to expand his Empire. His kingdom now consisted of all North India except Gujarat, Assam and Kashmir.


  1. He was an able commander and an efficient administrator. For convenience of administration the kingdom was divided into many smaller units.
  2. He organized the kingdom under seven departments. He was assisted by a council of four ministers.
  3. Land revenue was the chief source of revenue. He surveyed land and then decided the revenue.
  4. He also introduced a new coin for circulation.
  5. His main contribution was building of highways for communication. They improved the convenience of travel. He also built rest houses for travelers.
  6. The police was reorganized to reduce crime.
  7. He was a devout Muslim but tolerant of all religions. He also appointed Hindus in administration.

He died in 1545 and his successors continued to rule to 1555 when Humayun recaptured Delhi.

Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar:

He ascended throne at a dangerous time. The Afghan general Hemu had come to Panipat to fight Akbar and capture Delhi. Hemu was at a point of victory but by luck an arrow pierced his eye and he fell unconscious.

The Mughals were victorious. Initial years of Akbar were under the guardianship of Bairam khan. But after 5 years he relieved Bairam khan and sent him to Mecca. Akbar’s military conquests were extensive he captured territories from Gujarat to Bengal and strengthened the northwest frontier.


  1. Akbar married a Rajputs princess. This was the turning point of the Empire. Rajputs submitted to the Mughals. They were appointed to senior positions. The Rajputs served Mughals for four centuries. This alliance ensured peace in Rajasthan. Akbar thus secured the support of the bravest warriors.
  1. He was a devout Muslim but tolerant towards other religions. He abolished the pilgrim tax and jiziya.

     He also setup an Ibadat khana where people of all religions could come to discuss  doctrines.

  1. He also disliked the interference of Ulemas in administration. He established his own faith din i ilahi but after his death it fizzled out.
  1. The land revenue was made with help of Raja Todar Mal. Land was carefully surveyed. Payments were made in cash.
  1. Akbar started a mansabdari system. It was assigning ranks to nobles. Each mansabdars had to maintain cavalry as per his rank.


He succeeded Akbar. His rule too was troubled by rebellions from his son prince Khurram but after defeating him he was killed. His supported Guru Arjun Singh too was beheaded. Jahangir married Nur jahan.

Nur jahan formed a junta in the Mughal court and created a second faction. This was hated by prince Shah jahan who believed the emperor was in complete control of Nur jahan. Nur jahan used to dominate the court and introduced Persian art and culture. She was a constant companion of Jahangir.

The rise of Shah Jahan was due to his personal ambition. He rose in rebellion and Jahangir forced him into exile to Kandahar. But after the emperors death Shah Jahan returned and captured throne with the help of nobles and the army. Nur jahan was pensioned off.

Shah Jahan:

Shah Jahan was eager to capture the ancestral lands of Kandahar. He waged a prolonged battle for this but the Mughals lost 5000 men. He later realised the futility of this and gave up. His Deccan policy was more successful.

He defeated the sultan of Ahmadnagar and signed treaties with sultans of Bijapur and Golconda. The Deccan provinces were put under the command of Aurangzeb.

At the end of his reign the sons of Shah Jahan had continues fights for the throne. Finally Aurangzeb won and he forced Shah Jahan to abdicate. The emperor was then confined to the female apartments of the Agra fort where he lived for another 8 years nursed by his daughter. He died and buried in his wife’s tomb besides the Taj Mahal.


Though Aurangzeb was the ablest of all Mughal kings, He led to the decline of the Mughal Empire.

The expansionist policies of Aurangzeb in the Deccan led to annexation of the Qutubshahi [Hyderabad] and Adilshahi [Bijapur].

This brought him in direct confrontation with the Marathas. His religious intolerance also created hatred amongst the Rajputs, Jats, Sikhs and Deccan sultanates who were Shias.

The beheading of Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur transformed them into a warring community. He started a policy of imposing Islamic taxes on non Muslims. He destroyed Hindu temples. But in spite of this he was a disciplined person. He banned music, drinking, intoxicants from his kingdom.

He used to copy Quran and sell those copies to earn money for personal use.

Even though he extended the Mughal Empire from northwest frontier to the south his lack of political foresight led to his downfall and finally the ruin of the Empire.



The Mughals didn’t believe in the right of eldest son to throne. This caused conflicts between the successors and caused loss of manpower.




1.      The European trading companies came to India in this period. The wealth and prosperity of the aristocrats was high and that of the poor was miserable.

2.      The Mughal nobility came from Turks and Afghans. They had their own expenses and had a large number of servants, horses and elephants. The nobles made expensive presents to the emperor. The foreign nobles had made India their permanent resident and had assimilated in it.

3.      The clothes of cotton and silk were worn by upper classes. The poor had to live on minimum clothes. The staple food was rice, millets and pulses. The presence of cattle made milk and milk products common.

4.      Agriculture was the common occupation. Though no new agriculture technique was developed but India could export surplus rice to neighbour countries.

5.      Trading communities belonged to many castes. They carried internal and external trade by land and sea routes. The balance of trade was in India favour and so gold and silver were imported. The English and Dutch traders too entered the Indian market at this time.

Cultural development:

The art, architecture, music, dance and paintings were influenced by Turko – Iranian culture brought into India by the Mughals.

Art and architecture:

  1. Mughals were fond of gardens with running water. The large scale constructions began with Akbar’s reign. His buildings were built in red sandstone.

2.      Pietra Dura style of decoration which consisted of white marble with floral designs of precious stones.


Fig 2: Pietra dura of Taj Mahal

  1. Char Bagh – Rectangular garden enclosed in walls and divided into four parts by artificial channels.


4.      The construction style of the Mughals was a central dome and surrounding the building with four minarets. The influence of the Mughal architecture continued till the 19th century and its impact is seen in the provincial kingdoms.

Paintings and music:

1.      Mughal painting was initiated by Humayun and reached climax during Jahangir’s reign.

2.      The style of painting was miniaturized paintings. The scenes of hunting, battles, royal court could be seen. Paintings and calligraphy can be seen from the paintings. Later on European influence can also be seen.

3.      Mughals were patrons of music. Akbar had Tansen who composed ragas.

Language and Literature:

1.      The Mughals were patrons of literature. The language that was most widespread in the Empire was Persian.

2.      Many historical works were written in this period. The bigotry towards religion wasn’t seen in literature as many Mughals converted epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, Upanishads and gita into Persian.

3.      The regional languages like Oriya, Rajasthani, Bengali, Gujarati also developed in this period.



The Marathas held important positions in the Deccan sultanate. But Shivaji and his father shahaji were responsible for the establishment of Maratha kingdom. The peculiarity of the region like the mountains and the dense forest led them to adopt guerrilla tactics.

Raja Shivaji:

He inherited the jagir of Poona from his father. He had initially captured many forts from the Bijapur kingdom. The defeat of Chanda Rao More of Javli gave him domination over the Mavala region.

He attacked the Bijapur kingdom and captured many forts. The sultan sent Afzal khan to capture him but Khan was killed by Shivaji in a daring manner.

The Emperor Aurangzeb watched the growing popularity of Shivaji. He sent Shaista Khan to defeat Shivaji. Shivaji lost Poona to Shaista khan but in a daring raid Shivaji attacked the Mughal camp and killed Shaista khan’s son and injured him. Shaista khan was recalled by the emperor.

Shivaji then attacked the Mughal port of Surat and plundered it. This time Aurangzeb sent Mirza Raje Jai Singh to capture Shivaji. In the siege of Purandar fort Shivaji had to negotiate with Jai Singh and signed the treaty of purandar. Shivaji had to give up majority of his forts and owe allegiance to the Mughals.

His minor son Shambaji was given a Mansab.

Shivaji visited Agra but was imprisoned. He escaped by cunning and return to mavala. He started his conquest against the Mughals and recaptured all lost territories.

He crowned himself Chhatrapati in Raigad.                                               

 Maratha Administration: 

Shivaji was an able administrator and a great military commander. The king was the pivot in the administration and was assisted by ministers directly responsible to him.

  1. Most of the administrative reforms of Shivaji were influenced by the Delhi sultanates.
  1. He collected land revenue after surveying land. He appointed his own revenue officials.
  1. Chauth and sardeshmukhi were taxes collected in the neighbouring territories of Mughals or sultans. Chauth was one fourth of the land revenue to be paid to avoid raids by Marathas. Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of 10% on lands Marathas claimed as hereditary rights.
  1. The army and navy played an important role in his system. The army of 30000-40000 was maintained. Mavli foot soldiers played an important role here.

Shivaji was a daring soldier and military genius. He captured around 240 forts. He built a navy and hence called Father of the Indian Navy.