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The study of the position of women in social sphere is an interesting work and it is helpful in investigating the actual position held by the women at any particular age. The historians have worked on gender history and tried to assess the role of women in various spheres in different periods. There are scholars who tend to look at the position of women as generally deplorable and same was thought of the women of Medieval Indian society. The common thought regarding the Muslim women is that she shares an inferior status in society as compared to her male counterpart. 1

My study entails an investigation of the elite or high culture women however as a comparison a cursory perusal of common women was deemed necessary. The significance of high culture is crucial as it is an essential segment of any culture.

Women have always been considered as an important and inseparable section of the society. It has been very correctly observed “Without consideration of women as subjects of social processes who constitute, reproduce and change social system, social sciences remain incomplete”. 2

As women are called “subjects of social process” one can determine how civilized a culture is, to gauge how they treat its women. Colonel James Tod also observes in a similar fashion, he opines “It is universally admitted that there is no better criterion of the refinement of a nation than the condition of the fair sex there in”. 3 The same view is supported by S. Sen when he states that “One way to judge the state of a nation is to study the status of women. In reality, the status of women represents the standard of culture of any age. The social status of the women of a country symbolizes the social spirit of the age”. 4 Thus an attempt has been made to find out the contribution of women in elevating the caliber of Sultanate society.





Reuben Levy, Social Structure of Islam, Cambridge University Press, Second Edition, 1957, Irfan Habib, ‘Exploring Medieval Gender History’ in S. Z. H. Jafri, Recording the Progress of Indian History, Primus Books, Delhi, 2012.

Prof Dube in ICHR sponsored seminar on Indian History, Punjab University, Chandigarh, February 1992.

James Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Oxford University Press, London, Vol. II, p. 709.

S. Ram, ed., Women Through Ages, Commonwealth Publishers, New Delhi, 2004, p. 15.


The purpose of my study is to examine the role of women in the Sultanate of Delhi. To find out how much involved the elite class ladies were in the politics and other matters. There was presence of women in various other fields also. The intention is to explore various fields where women played important roles. She contributed in the growth of the Sultanate by providing help in various fields. The position of women was not so in the pre-Sultanate times as it was in the Sultanate age. As a daughter, a woman lived under the ward ship of her father, as a wife under the tutelage of her husband and as a widow under the care of her eldest son. Generally, the idea behind the position of a woman had been a subordinate creature to men. And she was understood as someone meant for the service of the male and also dependent upon him in every stage of life.

The change in the political structure by the advent of the Muslims made social changes inevitable but for most of the historians’ history meant only the study of kings and their military exploits. Beside political history, economic and social histories were also studied by various historians. The study of gender history also gained importance keeping in view the idea of the complete study of social sciences. The present work seeks to examine the role of royal ladies in the Sultanate and their contribution in the political sphere and also towards the society.

Significant research has been undertaken keeping in mind various aspects of the Sultanate period. Such works have focused on military history, court politics, economy and administrative reforms. Some works have outlined history of all the dynasties of the Sultanate of Delhi.


The major works which provide an insight on the political aspect of the Sultanate are A Comprehensive History of India-The Delhi Sultanate 5 by Mohammad Habib and K. A. Nizami. Beside this comprehensive work there are two more works which deal with the political history of the Sultanate and provide a better understanding of the political conditions of the Sultanate. These are The foundation of

5 M. Habib, K.A. Nizami, A Comprehensive History of India-The Delhi Sultanate, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, Vol. V, 2006.


Muslim Rule in India 6 by A. B. M Habibullah and Some Aspects of Muslim Administration 7 by R. P. Tripathi. These works are quite descriptive in nature and provide description as well as offer analysis of the development of political matters.

There are certain works which deal with the history of the particular dynasties. Among these the work of Aziz Ahmad, Political History and Institutions of the Early Turkish Empire of Delhi (1206-1290) 8 is a detailed work on the history of the slave dynasty which initially ruled the Sultanate and paved the way for upcoming dynasties. This work studies the political history and political institutions of the slave dynasty. Likewise, History of the Khiljis 9 (1290-1320), a work by K. S. Lal is a descriptive work of the Khiljis. Agha Mahdi Husain’s two works are relevant for the study of Tughlaq dynasty, these are namely Tughlaq Dynasty 10 and Rise and Fall of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq 11 and for the detailed study of the reign of Firoz Tughlaq, J. M. Banerjee’s work, History of Firozshah Tughlaq 12 and Firoz Tughlaq 13 , the work of R. C. Jauhri, fulfills the need of study.

For the study of Lodi dynasty the pioneering works of Abdul Haleem The Lodi Sultans of Delhi and Agra 14 and Awadh Bihari Pandey’s work The First Afghan Empire in India (1451-1526) serve the purpose.

We find a good amount of work done on the social history of the Sultanate period. These works provide little information regarding the position of women in society in the Sultanate. Among these works Society and Culture in Medieval India (1206-1556) 15 by A. Rashid, deals with the position of women in society. K. M. Ashraf also provides some information about women. Mohammad Habib and K. A.

6 A. B. M. Habibullah, The Foundation of Muslim Rule in India, Central Publishing House, Allahabad, 1961.

7 R. P. Tripathi, Some Aspects of Muslim Administration, Central Book Depot, Allahabad, 1959.

8 Muhammad Aziz Ahmad, Political History and Institutions of the Early Turkish Empire of Delhi (1206-1290),Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, New Delhi, 1972.

9 K. S. Lal, History of the Khiljis, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1980.

10 Agha Mahdi Husain, Tughlaq Dynasty, S. Chand and Co. Ramnagar, New Delhi, Reprinted, 1976.

11 Agha Mahdi Husain, The Rise and Fall of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, Idarah-i-Adabiyat-i-Delli, Oriental series, No 9, Delhi, 1972.

12 J.M. Banerjee, History of Firozshah Tughalq, Munshiram Manoharlal Oriental Publishers, Delhi,


13 R.C. Jauhri, Firoz Tughlaq, Shivlal Agarwal Co., Agra, 1968.

14 Abdul Halim, The Lodi Sultans of Delhi and Agra, Idarah-i-Adabiyat –i-Delli, Delhi, 1974.

15 A. Rashid, Society and Culture in Medieval India, Firma K.L. Makhopadhyay, Calcutta, 1969. (pages. 129-148)


Nizami’s work Politics and Society during Early Medieval Period 16 also provides a deep insight into political history as well as social history of the Sultanate period. In this book we find a beautiful description of the majlis (social gathering) at the court of Jalaluddin Khilji where we find music and dance by the professional women, musicians and dancers at its zenith. The historians have covered almost every aspect of society. The edited work of Kiran Pawar provides good deal of knowledge into various topics in form of papers related to women.

The work of Lokesh Chandra Nand, Women in Delhi Sultanate 17 is a comprehensive work on women of the Sultanate period. It is noteworthy to mention here, an article of Pushpa Prasad on Female slavery, Female Slavery in 13 th Century Gujarat:Documents in Lekhapaddati 18 and two articles of Shadab Bano, first is Women performers and Prostitutes 19 and another is Women Slaves in Medieval India 20

It was 1970’s that the gender studies gained attention of the historians. Irfan Habib observes that ‘gender history is not only about women; it is about them as well as the society as a whole in which they are placed along with men’. 21 Similarly, famous archaeologist Gorden Childe observes that ‘women were the real originators of agriculture and of many associated inventions of the ‘Neolithic Revolution’. 22

Thus we see that before the initiation of gender studies, women were seen as an isolated class of society without much attention paid to them. The study of gender history attempts to treat women as an integral segment of society and as stated earlier the progress of any civilization depended on the treatment met to women.

16 M. Habib, K. A. Nizami, Politics and Society during Early Medieval Period, Vol. I and II, people’s publishing house, New Delhi, 1981.

17 Lokesh Chandra Nand, Women in Delhi Sultanate, Vohra Publishers, Allahabad, 1989.

18 Pushpa Prasad, ‘Female Slavery in 13 th Century Gujarat:Documents in Lekhapaddati’, Indian Historical Review, Vol. XV, No.1-2, 1988.

19 Shadab Bano, ‘Women Performers and Prostitutes’ in Studies in History, Sage Publications, 2011.

20 Shadab Bano, ‘Women Slaves in Medieval India’, Proceedings of Indian History Congress, 65 th session, Barielly, 2004

21 Irfan Habib, ‘Exploring Medieval Gender History’ in S. Z. H. Jafri ed., Recording the Progress of Indian History-Symposia papers of the Indian History Congress (1992-2010), Primus Books, Delhi,2012, p. 263.

22 V. Gorden Childe, What Happened in History, Cf, Irfan Habib, ‘Exploring Medieval Gender history’ op. cit., p. 263.


The present work deals with the royal ladies of the Sultanate. The main purpose of my study is to examine the role of women in the Sultanate of Delhi. To find out how much involved the elite class ladies were in the politics and different other matters. There was presence of women in various other fields. The purpose is to explore various roles in which women contributed towards the society. What was the extent of her contribution in the political and social growth and development of the Delhi Sultanate is studied in this work.


The Sultanate period has a rich treasure of Persian work. There are number of primary and secondary sources which acted as a store house of information for my thesis. These primary sources can be categorized in to chronicles, official histories and Sufi literature. I have culled information from these Persian sources. One of these sources are Tabaqat-i-Nasiri 23 of Minhaj us Siraj. This work contains historical events from the beginning of the world to 1261 A.D. i.e. the sixteenth regnal year of Nasiruddin Mahmud. The word tabaqat literally means the chapter and this work is divided into twenty three chapters. The author of this work was the qazi under Sultan Iltutmish. The accession of Sultan Razia was a political turnover. During her reign Minhaj us Siraj acted as the in charge of the Nasiriya College of Delhi. Therefore the information provided by Minhaj for the period of Razia is very reliable. He has written the events of her reign year wise.

Next to Minhaj is Ziauddin Barani and his work Tarikh-i-Firozshahi 24 for which he himself writes that This is a work of solid worth, which combines several virtues. If you consider it a history you will find in it an account of kings and maliks. If you search in this book for laws, government regulations and administrative affairs, you will not find it without them. If you want precepts and advice for kings and rulers, you will find them more plentiful and better presented in this book than in any other. And because everything I have written is true and correct, this history is worthy of

23 Minhaj-us-Siraj, Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, Vol. I, II, ed., Abdul Hai Habibi, Kabul, 1963.

24 Ziauddin Barani, Tarikh-i-Firozshahi, Vol. I, II, ed., Sheikh Abdur Rashid, Aligarh Muslim UNiversity, Aligarh, 1957.


credence. Also as I have put a lot of meaning in very few words, the example of mine deserves to be followed. 25

Barani was the courtier of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq for the time period of nearly seventeen years. He initiates writing history from Balban’s reign and ends with the six regnal year of Sultan Firozshah Tughlaq. Barani has given vivid description of the reigns of Jalaluddin Khilji and his nephew, son-in-law and successor Alauddin Khilji. The aged Jalaluddin Khilji had been overpowered by his chief queen Malika-i- Jahan. He used to take her advice in political matters and once when he wished to adopt the title of Al-mujahid fi Sabilillah he asked Malika-i-Jahan to gather the support of the nobility. After the death of Jalaluddin Khilji, Malika-i-Jahan affected the court politics by placing her son Qadr Khan with the title of Ruknuddin Firoz. He also writes about the relations of the Sultan with his wife and Malika-i-Jahan, we come to know by him that the relation was not so cordial.

Ziauddin Barani has also dealt with the social aspect of the Sultanate period. He writes about women dancers and musicians at the court of Jalaluddin Khilji, emphasizes that music and dance was a regular feature of the court life of the Sultans. He writes at lengths on slavery, describes the slave market (bazaar-i-bardah) at Delhi. The description of slave market includes the process of selling of female slaves, their prices according to the work they performed. The prices were set according to the nature of work; those who only performed household chores were cheaper than those who were used as concubines. He also mentions about the brokers of the slave market.

By his work we come to know that when these slave girls went to fill the pitchers they were often molested by the mewatis. He confirms the authenticity of his work by writing that incorrect statements lower the prestige of the historian and reduce the value of his worth. Further, as a punishment for uttering lies, salvation is denied to him in the world hereafter. 26

25 Barani, Tarikh-i-Firozshahi, (Bib.Ind. 1860-62), 23, Cf. Mohibul Hasan, Historians of Medieval India, Meenakshi Prakashan, Delhi, 1968, p. 28.

26 Ibid.,p. 29


Malik Izzuddin Isami was also a contemporary historian of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. He composed his work Futuh-us-Salatin 27 in five months and nine days. He began on 9 th December 1348 A.D and completed on 14 th May 1349 A.D. Isami has criticized Razia for discarding purdah and appearing publicly unveiled. It is historian Isami who pen downs his negative thoughts for women in his work and almost dedicates a page on casting slur on women. According to him, it is women being inferior in intellect are suited only to work with spindle. 28 He also alleges Razia for her so called relations with her slave Jamaluddin Yaqut.

Ibn Battuta, was an important traveller who visited India in fourteenth century. He visited the court of Mohammad bin Tughlaq and stayed in India for several years and wrote his travelogue under the name of Rehla. The work of Ibn Battuta is considered as a very significant source of information. It gives the information related to women, the information contains the description of female slaves, beautiful women of Qarajil, female dancers and singers and social customs like sati, purdah and description of marriage ceremonies. It is Ibn Battutas’s Rehla which gives a very poignant description of women taken for being a sati.

A vivid description is given of the court of Makhduma-i-Jahan, the mother of Mohammad bin Tughlaq. The work Masalik al Absar fi mamalik al Amsar 29 can also be used in deriving information for the Sultanate period especially the period of Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq. The work was written by Shihabuddin Al umri. The strange thing about this work is that, the author of this work never visited India and his source of information were the people who visited India and their narration about historical events and geographical conditions of India. The work is translated by Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui and Qazi Mohammad Ahmad under the title A Fourteenth Century Arab Account of India under Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq 30 and also translated into English by Ottospies, Shaikh Abdur Rashid and S. Moinul Haque.

27 Abdul Malik Isami, Futuh-us-Salatin, ed., M. Usha, University of Madras, Madras, 1948.

28 Abdul Malik Isami, Futuh-us-Salatin, Eng. Tr., Agha Mahdi Husain, Asia Publishing House, Dept. of History, AMU, Aligarh, 1976, Vol. II, p. 254.

29 Shihabuddin al Umri, Masalik al Absar fi Mamalik al- Amsar, Eng. Tr., Ottospies, S. A. Rashid and S. M. Haque, Aligarh, 1943.

30 I. H. Siddiqui, Q. M. Ahmad, A Fourteenth Century Arab Account of India under Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq, Siddiqi Publishing House, Aligarh, 1971.


The present research work of mine has utilized many works of Amir Khusrau for gathering information on the social aspect of society concerning women. Amir Khusrau, the most dynamic historian of the Sultanate age has almost covered every aspect of society related to women. Along with Sufi bent of mind he was a historian, a poet of eminence and an accomplished musician. The works of Amir Khusrau from which information have been culled are Ijaz-i-Khusravi, Khazianul Futuh, Deval Rani Khizr Khan, Matlaul Anwar, Hasht Bihisht, Nuh Siphir.

Amir Khusrau’s Khazainul Futuh 31 was written when he was the court historian of Alauddin Khilji and due to this reason we can assert that the work is an authentic source of information as he must have based his narrative on authentic official records. Sultan Alauddin Khilji took measures to stop prostitution and prostitutes were lawfully married.

Nuh Siphir 32 , the Masnavi by Khusrau was completed in the month of Jamad I, 718 A.H., when the poet was almost 67 years of age and celebrates the glories of Mubarak Shah Khilji’s reign. The poem is divided into nine parts of unequal lengths each being named a ‘siphir’ peculiar to one of the nine heavenly bodies, headed by an introductory verse and concluded by a gazal. The work has beautifully described the birth celebrations of Prince Mohammad. The description of the jashn contains the presence of beautiful dancing girls of India and Persia. 33

The description of dancing girls is very picturesque, the Indian girls are shown having sandaled and bejeweled foreheads, pearls filling the parting of their hair, diamond pendants in their noses, clad in fine garments presents a charming picture of these dancing girls. 34 Beside this kind of description Khusrau also writes about sati.

Amir Khusrau’s work Ijaz-i-Khusravi 35 a voluminous work of five volumes presents a detailed account of the society and deals with almost every issue related with women. The poet talks about music and musicians and mention one female

31 Amir Khusrau, Khazainul Futuh, ed., Mohammad Wahid Mirza, Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1953.

32 Amir Khusrau, Nuh Siphir, MS, Habibganj Collection, 50/16, Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

33 Mohammad Wahid Mirza, The Life and Works of Amir Khusrau, Idarah-i-Adabiyat-i-Delli, Delhi, 1974, p. 187.

34 Ibid., p. 187, footnote.6.

35 Amir Khusrau, Ijaz-i-Khusravi, Vol. I, II, III, IV, V, Naval Kishore, Lucknow, 1876.


singer named as Turmati Khatoon. 36 The source also gives a long list of musical instruments like sarood, chang, dholak, rabaab, damdama, tambora etc. Beside music and musicians Ijaz-i-Khusravi provides details of cosmetics and apparels of women. Amir Khusrau has not left any aspect related to women. In volume four and five 37 he mentions about public women, their activities and the incidents related to the prostitutes. Maulana Shams Asadi visited a public woman is also informed to the readers. 38

Hasht Bihisht 39 (The eight paradises) of Amir Khusrau contains 3,350 couplets. The work provides information about the attitude of Amir Khusrau towards the fair sex. The long sermons to his daughter and to all women folk in Hasht Bihisht are an advice of Khusrau to all women to be chaste and pure in morals and follow purdah. The advices of Amir Khusrau to women in general by the means of his daughter in Hasht Bihisht and Matlaul Anwar 40 are almost the same. The twentieth and last part of Matlaul Anwar is devoted to the women. Like Hasht Bihisht, it also contains advices to his daughter , and to women in general. The poet lays great emphasis on the loyalty of women, advices them to observe purdah, tells them the way to domestic peace and amity.

Deval Rani Khizr Khan 41 a masnavi of Amir Khusrau is also known as Ashiqa or Ishqiya. The work is the narration of the love story of Prince Khizr Khan and a Hindu princess Deval Rani, the daughter of King Rai Karan of the conquered Kingdom of Gujarat by Alauddin Khilji. The work has a beautiful description of the marriage ceremony of them. The description of beautiful Indian and Iranian dancers, the female singers, the vivid description of the marriage ceremonies like rukhsati and Jalwa provide interesting details of those times.

The sources of Amir Khusrau are helpful in providing information till the age of Tughlaqs. For the Lodi period there are other numbers of sources utilized. The important Lodi Sultans were Bahlul Lodi, Sikandar Lodi and Ibrahim Lodi. There is

36 Ijaz-i-Khusravi, Vol. II, p. 282.

37 Ibid., Vol. V, p. 130, p. 151.

38 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 206.

39 Amir Khusrau, Hasht Bihisht, ed., Syed Sulaiman Ashraf, Aligarh Institute Press, Aligarh, 1918.

40 Amir Khusrau, Matlaul Anwar, Naval Kishore, Lucknow, 1302 A.H.

41 Amir Khusrau, Deval Rani Khizr Khan, Silsilah Kulliyat-i-Khusrau, Aligarh, 1916.


no complete contemporary history of their rule over India and one has to depend on books written under Akbar and Jahangir.

The important source is Tarikh-i-Daudi 42 composed in 1575-76 A.D. by Abdullah and dedicated to Daud Shah of Bengal.

The next important source is Waqiat-e-Mushtaqui 43 by Rizquallah Mushtaqui. It is a collection of detached narrative and anecdotes relating to the period of the Lodi and Sur dynasties. It contains accounts of the nobles of the Lodi period, description of their life style particularly their harem is very informative. The Waqiat-e-Mushtaqui is the only source of the Sultanate period where we find mention of female thugs and women involved in road side robbery.

The Tarikh-i-Khan-i-Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani 44 by Niamat Allah bin Khwaja Habib Allah is an important work on the general history of the Afghans in India from the time of Bahlul Lodi to the death of Khwaja Usman (1612), when Afghans lost all power and finally submitted to Jahangir. Tarikh-i-Shahi of Ahmad Yadgar is mainly the history of Lodi and the Sur dynasty.

Near contemporary sources utilized are Tabaqat-i-Akbari of Nizamuddin Ahmad, Muntakab-ut-Tawarikh of Badauni, Tarikh-i-Mubarakshahi of Yahya Sirhindi and Tarikh-i-Ferishta of Ferishta.

Apart from official chronicles and historical works there is Sufi literature which is a storehouse of information about the society during the period of study. In the words of K. A. Nizami, the mystic literature has however greater historical value than any other type of non-political literature produced in India during the medieval period. 45 Thus mystic literature provides a deep insight of the society of the period. The Sufi literature is of two types (a) Malfuzat and (b) General works on mystic subjects. Malfuz writing is one of the most important literary inventions of medieval

42 Abdullah, Tarikh-i-Daudi,ed., Shaikh Abdur Rashid, Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, 1954.

43 Rizquallah Mushtaqui, Waqiat-e-Mushtaqui, ed., I. H. Siddiqi, Rampur, 2002.

44 Khwaja Niamatullah, Tarikh-i-Khan-i-Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani, ed., Sayyid Mohammad Imaduddin, Dacca, 1960, Vol. 1.

45 K. A. Nizami, Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2000, p. 392.


India. These were the records of the conversation of the Sufi saints. Through their records of conversation we can have an overall glimpse of the medieval society. Following are some mystic works of the Sultanate age from which I have culled the information for my work. Among the sources useful for the purpose is the famous malfuzat, Fawaid-ul-Fuad 46 of Amir Hasan Sijzi which contains the conversations of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya from 707 A.H to 722 A.H. Amir Hasan Sijzi decided to write down whatever he heard from his master, Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya.

Another important malfuz literature consulted is Khair-ul-Majalis 47 . It is a compilation of the sayings of Shaikh Nasiruddin Chirag Dehlavi by his disciple Maulana Hamid Qalandar.

Akhbar-ul-Akhyar 48 of Sheikh Abdul Haqq Muhaddis Dehlavi is a biographical work of Indian Sufis of the four main orders which flourished between the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. Akhbar-ul-Akhyar becomes more important for imparting information about women Sufis as it contains a particular chapter on female Sufis.

Siyar-ul-Auliya is a work of biographies of the Chisti saints by Mir Khurd in the reign of Firozshah Tughlaq. K.A. Nizami calls this work “a mine of information for the religious and cultural life of the Sultanate period”. Siyar-ul-Arifin by Sheikh Jamali is also a biographical work of the Chisti saints; he finished the work in the reign of emperor Humayun.

Muslim invasions started in India from eleventh centuries onwards but the thirteenth century witnessed the consolidation of Muslim power in India by the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate. The influx of the people was of mixed origin and ruling elite comprised of Muslims who were Turks, Afghans, and Central Asians.

The Turks had a very liberal attitude towards women and they enjoyed a privileged position. The Khitai Turks, from whom many nobles of Delhi Sultanate shared their origin, were for several years in the 12 th century, successively ruled in full

46 Amir Hasn Sijzi, Fawaid-ul-Fuad, ed., Khwaja Hasan Sani Nizami Dehlavi, Urdu Academy, Delhi, 1992.

47 Hamid Qalandar, Khair-ul-Majalis, ed., K. A. Nizami, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, 1959.

48 Sheikh Abdul Haqq Muhaddis, Akhbar-ul-Akhyar, Matba-i-Mohammadi, Dehli, 1283, A.H.


sovereignty by the widow of deceased Gur Khan and his daughter Koyunk Khatoon. In this way they participated in an active manner in the politics of their country.

Keeping in mind the societal and political conditions of women in these countries and presence of these races in Indian ruling elite my research work is an enquiry of the position of the women in the Delhi Sultanate. With this aim the research work is divided into certain chapters which basically revolve around women from the thirteenth century to the year 1526 A.D.


The first chapter of the thesis Position of Women in Pre Medieval Period- Changes and Continuities is an attempt to examine the place accorded to women in the pre-Sultanate India, the practices related to women which prevailed in the pre- Sultanate era and to find out what were the changes in the condition of women when the power shifted from the scattered non Muslim states to the centralized Sultanate.

The women have always played an integral part in the political matters whether it is the ancient Indian society or the establishment of Muslim rule. The second chapter of my thesis Aristocratic Women, Sultan and Rulers is a research work of the aristocratic ladies who were involved in politics directly or indirectly. Razia, the first lady had the opportunity to participate directly in the political matters. She was the Sultan with her name on the coins and ruled for complete four years. For the convenience of the study this chapter is divided into two parts. The first part of the chapter is related to the first empress in the Sultanate period, Razia. The chapter discusses the conditions when Razia ascended the throne the difficulties she faced before and after her accession. Her military campaigns and ultimately how her reign came to an end.

There were ladies in the harem like mother of the Sultan, chief queen and sometime sisters of the Sultan who exercised considerable influence on the Sultan. For example the wife of Jalaluddin Khilji and sister of Mohammad bin Tughlaq. Most of the times, these ladies are found intriguing for the accession of their son to the throne. The second part of this chapter is a chronological research work of these royal ladies who indirectly affected the court politics.


The third chapter Women in various roles in society during the Sultanate period is an attempt to explore what were the roles assigned to women during those days. The existence of music and dance as source of entertainment was not possible without the involvement of women musicians and dancers. Ziauddin Barani and Amir Khusrau have reflected in their work many aspects of music and dance. Among the practices related with women, prostitution and female slavery are discussed at lengths in this chapter. Concubines and eunuchs are also dealt in short in this chapter. By the inquisitive study of sources I have found that women also acted as spies, scavengers, wet nurse, female daroghas, female clerks and were also shopkeepers.

The fourth chapter Sufi and Bhakti Women proposes the study of the saintly ladies of the Sultanate age. Among these ladies there were eminent Sufi women like mother of Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya named Bibi Zulaikha, mother of Baba Farid named Bibi Qarasum Masuma, daughters of Baba Farid and other ladies who had Sufi bent of mind. The chapter also deals with the views of Sufis regarding marriage and celibacy and their attitude towards women folk.

The acting force behind Bhaktism was Sufism and hence both these aspects were related with each other. The Bhakti saints had a liberal attitude towards women and respected them. Few of the women who were immersed in Bhakti and devotion of their Lord are mentioned in this chapter.

The fifth and last chapter of my thesis is Society and Women is a detailed study of the various customs and practices related with the women of the Sultanate age. Education imparted to the ladies, the marriage and customs related with it, polygamy, divorce, position of widow in the society, purdah, Sati, Jauhar, are some topics which are worked out in this chapter. The chapter also throws light on the apparels of women, cosmetics and the jewellery of that age.

The present study is an earnest endeavor to offer a comprehensive investigation related with the women. The royalty or lower strata women both have been studied so as to render completeness to our theme.