Sikandar Lodi, whose original name was Nizam Khan, ascended the throne of Delhi in 1489 A.D. and ruled up to 1517 A.D. He has been generally regarded as the greatest Sultan of the Lodi dynasty.
Sikandar Lodi was the son of Bahlul Lodi and his mother was a Hindu goldsmith women. After the death of Bahlul Lodi, he became the Sultan of Delhi Sultanate.
Sikandar Lodi was a great conqueror and a very good administrator. He revived the glory of Delhi Sultanates by expanding the boundaries of his empire. He took effective administrative steps for effective management. He also did a lot for the welfare of the poor people.
Struggle for succession
Bahlol Lodi nominated his son Nizam Khan as his successor. But after the death of Bahlol Lodi the Afghan oligarchy tried to place their own candidates on the throne of Delhi. One group supported the claim of Barbak Shah, the elder brother of Nizam Khan. Another group supported the claim of Azam Humayun. However, due to strong advocacy of his mother and nomination of Nizam by his father, his candidature could not be set aside. Nizam Khan ascended his father’s throne in 1489 with the title Sikandar Shah Lodi.
Sikandar Lodi was a brave soldier who, soon after his accession to the throne, set himself to the task of preserving and extending the authority of the Delhi Empire.
- First of all he set his hands on those chiefs from whom he feared disorder and rebellion.
- Then he marched against his elder brother Barbak, who had assumed the title of an independent king. He was defeated and taken prisoner but was later on released.
- Then setting his house in order he paid his attention towards Hussain Sharqi of Jaunpur who was once again busy making preparation for the recovery of his ancestral dominions. Husain Sharqi was defeated near Banaras and his army was put to an utter rout. Thus the whole of Jaunpur passed into his hands.
- In 1495 Bihar was easily conquered and the Sultan appointed his own officers to carry on the work of administration.
- As the Sultan wanted to carry on the work of consolidation side by side with his conquests he, instead of fighting with the ruler of Bengal, concluded a treaty with him and thus saved much of his resources.
- The princes of Dholpur, Chanderi and Gwalior were also subdued.
- With a view to exercising an effective control over his governors and fief-holders of Etawah, Biyana, Koil, Gwalior and Dholpur, Sikandar Lodi laid the foundation of a new city of Agra in 1503 A.D. and made it as the headquarters of his army.
- All those Afgan jagirdars who were inciting Fateh Khan, Sultan’s brother, to rise in revolt against the king were severely punished.
Sikandar Lodi was not only a brave soldier but also a great administrator. Though mainly engaged in waging wars against the hostile neighbours and rebellious governors, he tried to organize the state machinery on efficient lines.
- First of all he took various steps against the Afghan nobles and suppressed their individualistic tendencies very firmly. The accounts of various fief-holders were thoroughly checked and cases of embezzlement were severely punished.
- A strict eye was kept on the provisional governors so much so that they began to receive the royal farmans well in advance by meeting the royal messenger on the way.
- An efficient system of espionage was maintained to keep a strict watch over the provincial governors, nobles and other lawless elements of the state.
- Like Balban he always maintained the dignity of his office and did not mix so freely with the people. He never assigned any high post to a man of low birth.
- The interest of the poor was thoroughly looked after. Every year a list of the poor was presented to him and he gave them six months provisions according to their requirement.
- Every attempt was made to encourage agriculture. He took personal interest in the development of agriculture. Several corn duties were abolished to give impetus to agriculture.
- For the promotion of trade various new roads were constructed and every attempt was made to render them free from thieves and robbers. In this way Sikandar Lodi organized and regulated the whole machinery of his administration.
- The nobles holding jagirs were required to submit correct account of income and expenditure.
- Every morning he studied report about price level of good stuff and other necessary articles. He always took prompt steps to check upward rating of price. He was eager that people must buy their essentials at a cheap rate.
- He made traffic in the highways safe and suppressed bandits and robbers.
- Sikandar Lodi introduced uniform system of weights and measures throughout his kingdom. The rent rolls which he prepared were of great value. Even Babur used them to fix rent, according to Edward Thomas.
- Sikandar was careful to organize charitable institutions under him. His philanthropic activities remind one of his predecessors Firuz Shah Tughluz. He granted bi-annual, weekly and daily allowances to poor and needy person. He distributed cooked and uncooked food among the poor, not only in the capital but also in the provinces.
Character and Achievements
He had been generally acclaimed as the greatest of the Lodi Sultans:
- He was a great conqueror who tried to revive the greatness of the Delhi Sultanate. He greatly extended the boundaries of his empire by annexing Jaunpur, Chanderi, Dholpur and Gwalior. He successfully kept the turbulent chiefs and the rebellious governors under his control.
- He was also a good administrator. He devised various ways and means to crush the individualistic tendencies of the various fief-holders and governors with a heavy hand. Their accounts were specially checked and cases of embezzlement were severely dealt with. Every step was taken for the encouragement of agriculture and trade and commerce. Nothing was spared for the welfare of the people.
- Sikandar was also a great lover of justice. He himself heard the complaints of even the poorest of his subjects and gave judgment with impartiality.
- He was also a great patron of art and literature. He founded the new city of Agra and decorated it with many splendid buildings and great edifices. He himself was a great scholar who could compose verses in elegant Persian. He possessed a retentive memory and could store a good deal of useful knowledge. He extended his patronage to the learned and caused many great works of Sanskrit to be translated into Persian,
- All contemporary chroniclers are lyrical in describing Sultan Sikandar as a very handsome looking person. Any how to his physical charm, the Sultan added qualities of head and heart. The vices of the age did not touch him.
- He was a pious Muslim, who said his prayers regularly and observed the fast of Ramdan. He was a scholar and could compose poems in Persian.
- However, in spite of his being a good administrator Sikandar Lodi was not a far sighted statesman. Sikandar Lodi encouraged Hindus to embrace Islam and for this purpose he employed both sword and money.
Sikandar was no doubt a fanatic ruler but still most of the historians regard Sikandar Lodi as the ablest of all the rulers of his dynasty.
Almost all modern historians agree that Sikandar was the greatest among all Lodi Sultans of Delhi. Sikandar Lodi was a very energetic and able Sultan. While he fought lifelong battle against his opponents, enemies and rebels he found time to look after domestic problems of government and details of administration. He was not a power intoxicating ruler. He was extra-ordinary handsome and tolerably courageous. Though not a great general, he was a moderately successful war lord who suppressed all his opponents and rebellious chiefs. He was tolerably learned and could compose poems in Persian.
Sikandar Lodi died in 1517 and was succeeded by his son, Ibrahim Lodi.