In the early 14th Century, South India was subjected to repeated invasions by armies of the Delhi Sultanate. There were three separate invasions within a period of fifteen years. The first invasion was that of Malik Kafur in 1311 CE which sacked Madurai. Following this there were two more expeditions from the Delhi Sultanate - the second in 1314 CE led by Khusrav Khan and the third in 1323 CE by Ulugh Khan. These invasions shattered the Pandyan empire beyond revival. While the previous invasions were content with plunder, Ulugh Khan annexed the former Pandyan dominions to the Delhi Sultanate as the province of Ma'bar. Most of South India came under the Delhi's rule and was divided into five provinces - Devagiri, Tiling, Kampili, Dorasamudra and Ma'bar..
In 1325, Ulugh Khan acceded to the throne in Delhi as Muhammad bin Tughluq. His plans for invading Persia and Khorasan, bankrupted his treasury and led to the issuing of token currency. This led to counterfeiting and further worsened the sultanate's finances. He was unable to pay his huge army and the soldiers stationed in distant provinces revolted. The first province to rebel was Bengal and Ma'bar soon followed. The Governor of Ma'bar, Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared independence and set up the Madurai Sultanate. The exact year of founding of the Madurai Sultanate is not clear. Numismatic evidence points to 1335 CE as the founding year . The Persian historian Firishta however places the year of Ma'bar's revolt as 1340 CE.
Jalal-ud-Din Ahsan Khan
Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared independence from Delhi Sultanate around 1335 CE. His daughter was married to the historian Ibn Battuta and his son Ibrahim was the purse bearer of Muhammad bin Tughluq. When Tughluq heard of Jalaluddin's rebellion he had Ibrahim killed in retaliation. Jalaluddin is variously referred to as "Syed", "Hasan" or "Hussun" by the historians Firishta and Ziauddin Barani. Tughluq tried to conquer Ma'bar back in 1337 CE. But he fell ill at Bidar on the way to Ma'bar and had to return to Deogiri. His army was defeated by Jalaluddin. Jalaluddin was killed by one of his nobles in 1340 CE.
Ala-ud-Din Udauji and Qutb-ud-Din Firuz
After Jalaluddin's murder, Ala-ud-Din Udauji Shah took power in 1340 CE. He too was soon assassinated during a battle with Hindu armies. He was succeeded by his son in law Qutb-ud-Din Firuz Shah, who in turn was assassinated within forty days of taking power. Qutbuddin's killer Ghiyas-ud-din Dhamagani took over as Sultan in 1340.
Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani
Ghiyasuddin was originally a soldier in the service of Muhammad bin Tughluq. He consolidated his position by marrying a daughter of Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan. Ibn Battuta visited Madurai during his reign and wrote about Ghiyasuddin's atrocities. Ibn Battuta writes about how the sultan impaled hindus alive and cut the throats of women and children. An appalled Battuta wrote that it was for this reason that God fastened Ghiyasuddin's death.
Ghiyasuddin was defeated by the Hoysala king Veera Ballala III at first, but later managed to capture and kill Ballala in 1343 CE during the siege of Kannanur Koppam. Ghiyasuddin captured Balalla, robbed him of his wealth, had him killed and his stuffed body displayed on the walls of Madurai. Ghiyasuddin died in 1344 CE from the after effects of an aphrodisiac.
Ghiyasuddin was succeeded by his nephew Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Damghan Shah who killed all the officers likely to disturb his possession of the throne. Between 1344 and 1357 CE, the Madurai Sultanate went into a decline due to infighting and the rise of Vijayanagar in the North. This is inferred by the lack of any coinage issued during this period. However coins from 1358 to 1378 bearing the names of three Madurai Sultans - Shams-ud-Din Adil Shah, Fakhr-ud-Din Mubarak Shah and Ala-ud-Din Sikandar Shah - have been found. This indicates an interruption of the Muslim power during 1344-57 CE and a brief revival during 1357-78 CE.
The Vijayanagar empire under Bukka Raya I made a series of efforts to conquer Southern India. There were a series of Vijayanagar invasions in the middle of the fourteenth century which succeeded in initially restricting and finally ending the Madurai Sultanate's rule over South India. Vijayanagar's armies were led by Bukka's son Kumara Kampanna Udaiyar. Kampanna first subdued the Sampuvarayars in present day Kanchipuram district and then conquered Madurai. Kampanna's invasion has been chronicled in the sanskrit epic poem Madhura Vijayam (The conquest of Madurai) or Vira Kamparaya Charithram (History of Kampanna) written by Kampanna's wife Gangadevi. Kampanna's victory is symbolised by the restoration of Srirangam temple to its old glory in 1371 CE. Vijayanagar formally declared Madurai to be its possession during Harihara II's rule in 1378 CE
From contemporary historical accounts, the rulers of Madurai Sultanate come across as tyrants and persecutors of Hindus. Both Ibn Batutta's and Gangadevi's accounts contain graphic descriptions of atrocities committed by the Musilm Sultans on the Hindu population.
Ibn Batuta describes Ghiyasuddin Dhamgani's actions as:
“ the Hindu prisoners were divided into four sections and taken to each of the four gates of the great catcar. There, on the stakes they had carried, the prisoners were impaled. Afterwards their wives were killed and tied by their hair to these pales. Little children were massacred on the bosoms of their mothers and their corpses left there. Then, the camp was raised, and they started cutting down the trees of another forest. In the same manner did they treat their later Hindu prisoners. This is shameful conduct such as I have not known any other sovereign guilty of. It is for this that God hastened the death of Ghiyath-eddin.
One day whilst the Kadhi (Kazi) and I were having our food with (Ghiyazu-d-din), the Kazi to his right and I to his left, an infidel was brought before him accompanied by his wife and son aged seven years. The Sultan made a sign with his hand to the executioners to cut off the head of this man ; then he said to them in Arabic : ' and the son and the wife. ' They cut off their heads and I turned my eyes away. When I looked again, I saw their heads lying on the ground.
I was another time with the Sultan Ghiyath-eddin when a Hindu was brought into his presence. He uttered words I did not understand, and immediately several of his followers drew their daggers. I rose hurriedly, and he said to me ; ' Where are you going ' ? I replied : ' I am going to say my afternoon (4 o'clock) prayers. ' He understood my reason, smiled, and ordered the hands and feet of the idolater to be cut off. On my return I found the unfortunate swimming in his blood.
Gangadevi's Madhura Vijayam declares the Muslim rule to be the pain to the three worlds:
“ O mighty and brave king! Go forth then, and without further delay uproot from my lands this Kingdom of turuShkas, pain to the three worlds. Go forth my dear Lord, and securing your victory, establish One Hundred Victory Pillars in middle of the famed rAma-setu.
List of Madurai Sultans
|Sultan ||Years of Reign|
|Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan ||1335–1339 CE|
|Ala-ud-Din Udauji ||1339 CE|
|Qutb-ud-Din Firuz ||1339–1340 CE|
|Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani ||1340–1344 CE|
|Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Damghani ||1344–1356 CE|
|Shams-ud-Din Adil Shah ||1356–1358 CE|
|Fakhr-ud-Din Mubarak Shah ||1358–1368 CE|
|Ala-ud-Din Sikandar Shah ||1368–1378 CE|