Rule of the Independent Sultans (1338-1538)

There are many rulers in Bangal, they were independent here are some descriptions of the rule of the independent sultans.

Rule of the independent sultans in Bangal


Following the establishment of Fakhruddin as an independent Sultan of Sonargaon, Bengal experienced a period when independent Sultans ruled for nearly two centuries. During this time, significant developments took place in the art and culture of Bengal.

Fakhruddin had established himself as an independent Sultan of Sonargaon and after his death in 1349 was succeeded by his son, Gazi Shah. However, more significant events were happening in Lakhnauti, where an army commander, Ali Mubarak, seized control and established an independent kingdom.

In 1342 he was overthrown and killed by his foster brother. Haji Iliyas, who established the Iliyas Shahi Dynasty which ruled Bengal for the next hundred years.

The Ilyas Shahi Dynasty

The King of Bengal

Haji Ilyas, the founder of the Ilyas Shahi Dynasty, took control of Lakhniuti in 1342 and assumed the long title of Sultan Shamsuddin Abul Muzaffar Iliyas Shah.

Some historians think that Iliyas was the first ruler who brought the three major geographical units of Satgaon, Sonargaon, and Lakhnauti under a single authority. It is probably because of this that he called himself Shah-i-Bangala or the king of Bengal.

Haji Iliyas’s rise as an independent ruler in Bengal Offended the Sultan in Delhi. Sultan Firuz Tughluq invaded Bengal with an enormous army n 1353. Though Firuz had some temporary success, he could not crush Haji Iliyas who continued to rule freely.

In fact, he not only succeeded in resisting external threats to his kingdom, but he also extended his authority in Bihar, Nepal, Orissa, and Assam.

So although Fakhruddin started the process of an independent Bengal in 1338, it was Haji Iliyas who the real founder.

Continued resistance against Delhi

Haji Iliyas was succeeded by his son, Sikandar Shah, who ruled a prosperous and politically stable Bengal for about thirty years and died young 1390. Sultan Firuz of Delhi invaded Bengal again in 1359, but Sikandar, like his father, successfully faced the imperial army of Delhi.

After this date, the Sultans of Delhi realized the growing strength of the Sultans of Bengal and they did not try to capture Bengal for quite a long time.

Culture and justice

Sikandar Shah was succeeded by his son, Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah (1390-1410). Ghiyasuddin was an able ruler. He exchanged embassies with the Chinese Emperor and maintained correspondences with the famous poet, Hafiz of Iran. He also Lavishly patronized several madrassas in Mecca and Medina.

Ghiyasuddin was also famous for his respect for law and justice. It is said that he once told the Chef justice of his kingdom that though he was the sultan, he was not above the law. Ghiyasuddin was fortunate that during his reign there were no invasions by the Delhi Sultanate and so he had no wars to fight.

The Ganesh Dynasty

the_rule_of_the_iIndependent_sultans (1338-1538)
The Rule of the Independent Sultans (1338-1538)

Political instability

The death of Ghiyasuddin Azam was followed by political instability. His son, Saifuddin Hamza Shah, was murdered by his slave, Shihabuddin, who took control but was soon murdered himself, Taking advantage of the confusion, a Brahman noble of Dinajpur, Raja Ganesh, assumed power in Bengal.

Hinduism vs. Islam

Though Raja Ganesh commanded great authority. the could not stay in power for long due to constant pressures from Muslim nobles. He is said to have appointed many Hindus in high posts and persecuted many Sufis.

Sultan Ibrahim Sarki brought a force from Jaipur and Raja Gonesh was forced to abdicate the kingdom in favor of his son, Jadu, who agreed to embrace Islam and was named Jalaluddin Mohammad Shah. Jalaluddin (1415-1432) maintained good relations with the religious institutions and personalities of  Bengal who had been persecuted during the time of his father.

However, after Ibrahim Sarki left Bengal, Ganesh reassumed power and reconverted his son to Hinduism. Only after Ganesh’s death in 1418 did Jalaluddin return to Islam.

Bengali and Persian court languages

During Jalaluddin’s reign, Bengali became a court language alongside Persian. A New era of patronization of Bengali language and culture started and this process received momentum in the era of the Hussian Shahi Dynasty that followed.

The return of the Iliyas Shahi Dynasty

Jalaluddin’s son, Shamshuddin Ahmad Shah, has been described by some historians as a just ruler and by others oppressive. He was murdered by his slave, Nasir Khan, who ascended the throne. This made the nobles outraged and they killed him and restored the Iliyas Shahi Dynasty by installing Nasiruddin Mahmood Shah, grandson of Haji Iliyas (1442 AD).

He ruled for seventeen years (1433-1459), and during his reign, the boundary of Bengal was greatly extended.

Nasiruddin was succeeded by his son, Rukhunuddin barback Shah(1459-1574). Tuknuddin had brought a large number of slaves of Ethiopian origin who became politically powerful over time. Soon after Ruknuddin’s death, the activities of some of these Slaves created political instability. Between 1487 and 1493, four of the slaves became Sultans and were killed by rivals.

A period of unrest was finally brought to an end when a noble of Arab origin named said Hussain assumed power (1494) and entitled himself as Aladdin Hussian Shah. Thus the Hussain Shahi Dynasty was established.

Art and culture during the Iliyas Shahi Dynasty

With the establishment of Iliyas Shahi Dynasty, the initial unrest and political instability were brought to a minimum. Therefore the Sultans could pay more attention to the development of art and culture.

In the field of architecture, the most spectacular achievement was the famous Adina Mosque in Pandua, built by Sikandar Shah in 1375. The mosque was not only larger than the largest mosque of the Delhi Sultans of the time, but it was also the largest mosque in the whole subcontinent of India.

Other important monuments erected during the Iliyas Shahi period were the tomb of Ghiyasuddin Azam shah at Sonargaon, the Kotwali Darwaza, the Dakhil Darwaza, the Nim Darwaza, the Tantipara mosque, the Kadamrasul Masjid and the Darasbari Mosque of Gaur, and the Sona Masjid of Pandua.

Under the patronage of Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah, Shah Muhammad Sagir wrote his famous poem, Yusuf-Zulekha. It brought about a revolution in Bengali Literature, which was greatly enriched with the addition of the religious stories of Islam and the introduction of the romantic tale as a new theme for Bengali poets. Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah asked Krittivas to write the Ramayana in Bengali.

Ruknuddin Barbak Shah extended his patronage to Muslim and Hindu scholars alike. During his reign, Zainuddin composed the Resulbijay and Ibrahim Qayum Faruqi composed the Safarnamah. Ruknuddin Barbak Shah equally extended his patronage to Hindu scholars and poets-during his reign, Raimukuta Brhaspati acquired fame and glory, and Barbak Shah honored Maladhar Basu, the compiler of the Srikrishnavijay, with the title of ‘Gunaraj Khan’.

The Hussain Shahi Dynasty

Extending the boundaries of Bengal

Alauddin Hussain Shah Extends the boundaries of Bengal by conquering Kamarupa and Kamta, annexing Comilla and Chittagong to his kingdom, and sending expeditions to Orissa. He also repulsed an attack by Sikander Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi. He gave away some of his powers to his son, Prince Nusrat  Shah, who was a skilled administrator.

Keeping Bengal safe from Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire

After the death of Hussain Shah, Nusrat Shah (1519-1532) ascended the throne of Bengal. He was an able ruler like his father. Nusrat cleverly tried to avoid any confrontation with Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire, who had appeared in the eastern Indian scene after his victory at Panipat (1526).

Nusrat professed neutrality and avoided having any connection with the anti-Mughal confederacy that was formed by Mahmud Lodi with Afghan Chiefs. When Babur sent an expedition to Bengal, Nusrat shah concluded a treaty which made Bengal safe.

Independence of Bengal lost to Sher Shah, the Afghan leader

Nusrat Shah was killed by an Assassin in 1532 and succeeded by Alauddin Feruz Shah and then Ghiasuddin Mahmud. But they could not reverse the trend of decline of the Husain Shahi Dynasty that had started after the death of Nusrat Shah.

Meanwhile, the Afghans grew stronger under the leadership so Sher Shah, who posed a great threat to the Mughals in Delhi as well as the Sultans of Bengal and when he captured Gaur in 1538, the independent status of Bengal was finally lost.

Art and culture during the Hussain Shahi Dynasty

The Hussain Shahi Dynasty was marked by a long spell of undisturbed peace, prosperity, communal harmony, and the development of Bengali culture and literature. This is why the Hussain Shahi era is considered the golden age of the Bengal sultanate.

The rulers of this period took an active interest in the growth of local literature by patronizing the major poets of the time. The sultans, because of their close association with the local people, gave status and dignity to the Bangla language which now began to play the role that was earlier played by Sanskrit in the pre-Muslim period.

Kavindra Parameshvara and Shrikara Nandi, the translators of the Mahabharata, were patronized by Paragal Khan and his son Chhuti Khan respectively, both being governors of Chittagong under Hussain shah.

Of the few writers of Vaisnava padas, Yashraj Khan, served as an official of Husain Shah. Shaikh Zahid composed his yogic philosophy Adya Parichaya in 1498-99 AD, one of the earliest specimens of Bangla poems dealing with ideas.

The period also marked the growth of secular elements in Bangla literature. Shridhara, the author of Vidya Sundara, received patronage from Prince Firuz, son of Nusrat Shah.

During the Hussain Shahi period, Bengal’s contributions to architecture and calligraphy were significant. Architecture and calligraphy were largely the product of court patronage. The case was probably similar to music, particularly its classical branch which seems to have flourished in the court.

The reign of nurse Shah witnessed a sudden flowering of pictorial art as is evidenced by the ten folio illustrations of the first part of the Sikandarnamah, known as the Sharafnamah, which details the exploits of Alexander in the East.

By the time the Hussain Shahi rulers came to power, Bengal had already developed a tradition of architecture. The Iliyas Shahi rulers had started a rich architectural tradition with an individuality of its own. Hussain Shahi architecture is a continuation of this earlier tradition.

The ruins of the Darasbarl Madrassa at Gaur (on the Bangladesh side of the medieval city) exhibit the vigor of the building art in the period. The Gumti gate, the Qadam Rasal, the Jahanian Mosque, the Bara Sona Mosque, and the Chota Soan mosque show the glorious brick style of Bengal developed in the Hussain shahi period.

The building built outside the metropolis. The sura mosque and Hemtabad mosque in Dinajpur, the Bagha mosque, the Navara mosque in  Pabna, the Majlis Aulia mosque of Pathrail in Faridpur, the Sankarpasha mosque of Sylhet and the Goaldi mosque in Sonargaon are some excellent examples of the period.

The bara Sona mosque and the Chhota Sona mosque have a spirit of ornamentation which most of the earlier structures lack.

In this period, we find a predominance of the stone cutters art. The architecture of the period clearly reveals local influences and gives expression to Bengal’s life and culture. The old Terracotta, which had its revival in the earlier period of Muslim rule, continued under the Hussain Shahi rulers.

The local elements, which found expression in the architecture of the period, include the curvature of the cornice and the copy of the Chautala. The Hussain Shahi artists copied the terracotta art on stones. In its rich ornamentation, the Hussain Shahi style stands in strong contrast with the rather austere style of the previous phase.

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