A large number of contemporary sources survive till date that help us in the reconstruction of the period of Delhi Sultanate.
Arabic and Persian Sources
- Abu Raihan Alberuni, Kitab-ul-Hind English translation by E.C. Sachau, Alberuni’s India: It provides a valuable knowledge of the society and culture of Indian people during the 11th century.
- Ali Kufi, Chachnama, 1216-17 CE: It is a Persian version of early 8th century Arabic work which primarily deals with Arab conquest of Sind (712 CE) and contemporary rulers of Sind.
- Fakhr i Mudabbir, Adab ul Harb wa Shuja’at, 1228 CE: It deals mainly with the art of warfare.
- Alauddin Ata Malik Juwaini, Tarikh-i-Jahankusha: It is an important account of the Mongols from the time of the rise of Chengiz Khan. It gives information on Chengiz Khan’s pursuit against Jalaluddin Mangbarni in the cis-Indus region.
- Nizam ul Mulk Tusi, Siyasatnama: It is a detail account of the institution of slave-household, their training etc. during the rule of early Turkish Sultans.
- Sadruddin Hasan Nizami, Taj-ul-Maasir: It is the first official account of the Delhi Sultanate. It deals with the campaigns of Muizuddin Muhammad Sam, Qutbuddin Aibek and Iltutmish. It covers the period from 1191 to 1229 CE.
- Minhaj-us-Siraj, Tabaqat-i-Nasiri: Minhaj held the posts of qazi, khatib, sadr-i-jahan and principal of Nasiriya madrasa. Tabaqat begins from the account of Prophet and terminates at Nasiruddin Mahmud (1266 CE). It is the most authentic source for the study of early Turkish dynasties. It provides a comprehensive study on campaigns, Sultans, maliks, amirs and ulemas etc.
- Amir Khusrau: He was one of the most professional historian, greatest writer and poet of the early medieval India. His account covers five Sultans – Balban, Jalaluddin Khalji, Alauddin Khalji, Mubarak Khalji and Ghiyasuddin Tughluq. He was the first Persian poet who used Hindi/Sanskrit words in his writings. His principal works are:
- Miftah-ul-Futuh: Contains an account of the military campaigns of Jalaluddin Khalji in poetry.
- Qiran us Sadain: Deals with Bughra Khan’s meeting with his son Kaiqubad. It also depicts the contemporary society.
- Dewal Rani Khizr Khan: It is a masnavi on romantic adventures of Khizr Khan, son of Alauddin Khalji with Dewal Rani daughter of Rai Karan of Gujarat. It also contains a brief account of Alauddin’s expeditions.
- Khazain-ul-Futuh or Tarikh-i-Ilahi: It is a historiographical composition in prose which describes the conquests and other achievements of Alauddin Khalji.
- Tughluq Nama: It was composed to commemorate the victory of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq over Khusrau Khan (1320 CE) leading to the establishment of a new ruling dynasty.
- Ijazi-Khusravi: It is primarily a collection of letters, documents, petitions etc. drafted by Amir Khusrau.
- Yanya Sirhindi’s Tarikh-i Mubarak Shahi, 1434-35 CE: It covers the history from Shihabuddin Muhammad Ghori onwards. This account is significant for the study of nobles during the Saiyyid period. Ibu Fazlullah al Umari, Masalik Absar, a voluminous Arabic work, contains important information regarding the socio economic conditions during the reign of Muhammad-binTughlaq.
- Isami’s, Futuh-us-Salatin: This work is dedicated to Alauddin Bahman Shah. It covers a period of 350 years (999-1350 CE). It is written in versified form. Isami is highly critical of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s projects while applauds the achievements of Alauddin Bahman Shah.
- Ziauddin Barani’s Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi and Fatawa-i-Jahandari: Barani joined the service of Muhammad Tughlaq in 10th year of his reign and remained in the service for 17 years. But later he had to leave the job in disgrace during Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s reign. Barani’s Tarikh-iFiruz Shahi (1259-1359 CE) preserves the history of the Delhi Sultanate for a full century. Fatwai-Jahandari is primarily a work on political philosophy and was written in continuation of Tarikh-iFiruz Shahi and sums up the ideas which are already mentioned by Barani in his Tarikh. It contains ideas and aspirations of governing class. Barani has emphasised the concept of free born and condemned the ‘law born’. It deals with king, justice, army, intelligence etc. It also describes Islamic theory of Kingship.
- Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s Futuhat-i-Firuz Shahi: It provides an insight into the thoughts and policies of Firuz Shah Tughlaq.
- Shams Siraj Afif’s Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi: It is a detailed account of Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s reign. This work was composed after Timur’s invasion of India. Afif praises the peace and prosperity prevailing during the reign of Firuz Shah Tughlaq.
- Sharafuddin Ali Yazdi’s Zafarnama, 1424-25 CE: It provides important information of Timur’s invasion.
- Muhammad Daud Shadiabadi’s Miftah-ul-Fuzala, 1468-69 CE: A Persian lexicon, comprises useful sketches that is helpful in understanding the development of technology during the Sultanate period.
Malfuzat literature may be defined as discourses, conversations, and sermons delivered by the Sufis in the assemblies of learned persons and recorded by their disciples.
- Amir Hasan Sijzi’s, Fawaid-ul-Fuad: It contains the conversation of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya from 1307 to 1322 CE. It throws valuable light on the religion, culture and literature of the period.
- Hamid Qalandar, Khair-en-ul-Majalis: It is a compilation of the conversation of Shaikh Nasiruddin Chirag Dehlavi. This work is not only important for the study of mysticism but also provides valuable importance about the market control policy of Alauddin Khalji, impact of Mongol invasion etc.
Accounts of Travelers
- Marco Polo: He was a Venetian traveler who visited the court of Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan in 1274 CE. On his return journey he passed through Eastern and Western coast of India. His account is very important for understanding commercial activities during the late 13th century. He has also described the life and conditions of common people.
- Ibn Battuta’s Rihla 1325-1342 CE: Ibn Battuta was an Arab traveler of Morocco. He was the qazi of Delhi for 8 years under the reign of Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq. He provides a graphic account of Sultan’s character, his projects and contemporary socio-economic conditions. His work is also significant for geographical details. The area which he covered is important for the study of routes etc.
- Abdur Razzak’s Matlaus Sadain wa Majmaul Bahrain: The author was a Persian scholar, sent as an ambassdor to the court of Vijaynagar (1442-43 CE). He describes in detail his journey to the Vijaynagar court, life-style of the king, nobles, socio-economic and cultural life of the Deccan etc.
- Nicolo Conti: He was a Venetian traveler who visited Malabar Coast in 1420 CE. He provides useful information on the life at Vijaynagar court, its society and economy during the reign of Devaraya Il.
- Domingos Paes: He was a Portuguese traveler who visited India (1500-02 CE) and describes life at Vijaynagar Empire.
- Duarte Barbosa: He was a Portuguese official in Cochin during 1500-16 CE. His account is also important to study the Vijaynagar rule.
- Athanasius Nikitin: He was a Russian trader who visited Deccan around 1470 CE. He describes the court, army and condition of people under Bahmani rule.
- F.Nuniz: He was a Portuguese horse dealer who stayed in the Vijaynagar Empire during 1535-7. His account is valuable to study the court intrigues and civil war during this period.
- Tome Pires: He was a European traveler who visited India during the first decade of the 16th century. He gives a graphic account of the trade at Cambay and Malacca.
Assam Buranjis: To understand the regional history of Assam, especially that of the Ahoms, Buranji literature is the most important. Burangis were composed in Ahom dialect. Ahom kings, priests and nobles had the tradition to record the events of their time. That record was known as the Buranji. Later on, Buranji literature was composed in Assamese language. Some of the important Buranjis are Deodhai Asom Buranji, Tunq Khunqia Buranji, Kachri Buranji Jaintia Buranji etc.
Krishna Deva Raya’s Amuktamalyada: It is a poetic work which primarily deals with the principles of political administration by the monarch.
Khwaja Mahmud Gawan’s Riyaz-ul-Insha: It is a collection of letters of the Bahmani Wazir Khwaja Mahmud Gawan. It throws light on Mahmud Gawan’s personal life, diplomatic relations, campaigns, court politics etc.
Muhammad Abdir Rahman us Sakhani’s, Zau-ul-Lami: It is a voluminous work which provides the biographical details of the great personalities of the Deccan during the 15th century.
For studying the historical development between 13th and 15th century CE Kashmir numerous Sanskrit and Persian sources are available. Sanskrit works includes Lokaprakasa of Kshemendra which throws light on the socio-economic and administrative conditions of Kashmir. Similarly, Rajatarangini of Jonaraja (up to 1459 CE) and of Srivara (up to1486 CE) brings the account of Kalhana update up to 1486 CE. Among the contemporary Persian works includes Baharistan-i Shahi, Malfuzat-i-Timur and Tarikh-i-Rashidi of Mirza Haider Doughlat are important works which describes the socio-economic, administrative and political structure of Kashmir during the 13th to 15th centuries.
- The Delhi Sultans did not leave behind enough epigraphic evidence of historical importance although their coins have proved to be very significant in fixing the chronology of events and correcting or ascertaining the genealogical tables of the rulers.
- The archaeological sources are of immense importance in the reconstruction of the history of South India and all those regional states which remained outside the influence of Muslim domination during the early medieval period.
- The monuments of the Sultanate period give us an insight into the culture of the times. They are a living testimony to the intermingling of the Hindu and Muslim architectural traditions and structural designs; they reveal, in clear-cut terms, the living conditions, faiths and beliefs, and the sociocultural outlook of the sovereigns and the upper sections of the early medieval society.
- The inscriptions have been published mostly in the Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica, Epigraphia Indica and other antiquarian journals. A collection of all the inscriptions published in the Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica (1907-38 CE), chronologically arranged with summaries, is given by V.S. Bendrey in A Study of Muslim Inscriptions.
- Edward Thomas extensively used the numismatic sources in The Chronicles of the Pathan Kings of Delhi. His work is supplemented by the catalogues of coins in various museums of India and England.
- The researches conducted by Percy Brown, Burgess, Fergusson, Havell, Cousens, John Marshall and many other specialists in art and architecture provide ample material to the historiographer, interested in the reconstruction of the history of the early medieval India.