Administrative Structure Delhi Sultanate

With the expansion and consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate, new administrative institutions also started emerging.

The administrative structures and institutions introduced in India were influenced by the Mongols, Seljukids, etc, brought by the new rulers.

During the Sultanate period, administrative institutions emerged at different levels – central, provincial and local.

During the Sultanate period, the administrative apparatus was headed by the Sultan who was helped by various nobles.

There were various other offices along with the office of the Sultan.

There was a council of Ministers Majlis-i-Khalwat to assist the Sultan.



The Sultan was the central figure in the administrative setup.

He was the head of the civil administration and Supreme Commander of the army.

He made all the appointments and promotions.

He was also the head of the Judiciary.

The position of the Sultan was always under pressure from the powerful group of nobility and Ulema.

Sultans of Delhi adopted various strategies to keep these groups under control.

Balban kept the nobles firmly under his control.

The personality of the Sultan played a significant role in the administrative structure of the Sultanate.



The nobles were the most important functionaries of the state and enjoyed high social status.In the initial stage, they were those commanders who came with the victorious army.

Over a period of time, their descendants formed the main strength and some Indian groups also emerged.

Nobles, particularly those who were based at Delhi, emerged as a very powerful group and at times even played a role in the selection of the sultan.

The nobility was not a homogeneous class.

There were different groups within the nobility and often there were inter-group clashes and rivalries.

The group of chahalgan (a group of 40 nobles), which was created by Iltutmish, also emerged very powerful.

Balban was the first Sultan to bring the nobility firmly under his control (interestingly, he had been a part of chalalgan earlier).

Qutubuddin Aibak and Iltutmish had considered the nobles at par with themselves.


Balban maintained distance from the nobility and enforced strict code of conduct for himself and for the nobility.

He also emphasized on high blood and made it criteria for occupying high positions and offices.


During the rule of the Khalji and Tughlaqs, the nobility was opened to people of diverse backgrounds.

The low caste people, both Hindus, and Muslims, joined the nobility and could rise to high positions especially under Muhammad Bin Tughlaq.

During the Lodi period, the Afghan concept of equality became important when the Sultan was considered “first among equals”.

Thus the nobles enjoyed equal status with the Sultan.

Some of the Lodi Sultans like Sikandar Lodi and Ibrahim Lodi found this uncomfortable and tried to bring the nobles under their control.

The nobles resisted this which resulted in the trouble for both the Sultans.



The religious intellectual group of Muslims was collectively referred as Ulema.

People of this group managed religious matters and interpreted religious regulations for Sultan.

They were also in charge of judicial matters and worked as Qazis at various levels.

This group used to pressurize the sultan to run the Sultanate as per the religious laws of Islam.

Sultan like Alauddin Khalji could ignore the opinions of Ulema on a number of issues but some followed their line.



After Sultan, the most important office was the Diwan-i-Wizarat, headed by the wazir.

His role was of a general supervisor over all departments, though he was one of the four important departmental heads.

He was the chief advisor to the Sultan.

The main functions of the wazir were:

[1] to look after the financial organization of the State,

[2] to give advice to the Sultan, 

[3] to lead military expeditions at Sultan’s behest.

[4] The wizarat or the office of wazir also kept a check on land revenue collections.

[5] Further, the Mints, the intelligence departments, the royal buildings and other bodies affiliated to the royal court were supervised by the wizarat.


Departments which worked under the wizarat:

[1] Mustaufi-i-Mumalik (Auditor-General)

[2] Mushrif-i-Mumalik (Accountant General)

[3] Majmuadar (Keeper of loans and balances from the treasury)

[4] Diwan-i -Waqoof (to supervise expenditure)

[5] Diwan-i- Mustakharaj (to look into the arrears of revenue payments)

[6] Diwan-i-Amir Kohi (to bring uncultivated land into cultivation through state support).



DIWAN-I-ARZ department was set up to look after the military organization of the empire.

It was headed by Ariz-i-Mumalik.

He was responsible for the administration of military affairs.

He maintained royal contingent, recruited the soldiers, ensured the discipline and fitness of the army, inspected the troops maintained by the Iqta-holders, examined the horses and branded them with the royal insignia.

Alauddin Khalji introduced the system of Dagh (branding) and huliya (description) and cash payment to the soldiers in order to strengthen his control over the army.



DIWAN-I-INSHA department looked after the state correspondence.

It was headed by Dabir-i- Khas.

He drafted and dispatched royal orders and received reports from various officers.

The Dabir was the formal channel of communication between the center and other regions of the empire.

He was also a sort of private secretary of the Sultan and was responsible for writing the farmans.

The Barid-i-Mumalik was the head of the state news gathering and dealt with intelligence.

At the local level, there were barids who used to send regular news concerning the matters of the state to the central office.

Apart from barids, another set of reporters also existed who were known as Munihiyan.



This department dealt with the administration of Justice.

It was headed by Sadr-us-Sadr who was also the qazi-i-mumalik.

He was the highest religious officer and took care of ecclesiastical affairs.

He also appointed the qazis (judges) and approved various charitable grants like waqfwazifaIdrar, etc.

The Sultan was the highest court of appeal in both civil and criminal matters. Next to him was Qazi-i-mumalik.

The Muhtasibs (Public Censors) assisted the judicial department.

Their main task was to see that there was no public infringement of the tenets of Islam.



There were a number of smaller departments at the center which helped in the everyday administration of the empire.

Wakil-i-dar looked after the royal household and managed the personal services of the Sultan.

Amir-i-Hajib looked after the royal ceremonies.

Sar-i-Jandar looked after the royal bodyguards.

Amir-i-Akhur looked after the establishment of horses and Shahnah-i-fil looked after the establishment of elephants.

Amir-i-Majlis looked after the arrangement of meetings and special ceremonies.

The Royal workshops (Karkhanas) played an important role in the administrative system of the Sultanate.

The needs of the royal household were met through Karkhanas.


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