IN the Tabkat Nasiri an account is given of the ancestry and early life of Shams-ud-din Altamsh, who rose to be the greatest of the slave-kings of Delhi. At first sight it seems remarkable that the most majestic and beautiful remaining buildings at the Kutb were the works of these slavekings. But this fact undoubtedly testifies to the ambition and energy with which this race of sovereigns was endowed. Notwithstanding the inferior breeding of his parents, Altamsh is said to have been able to trace his descent fi'om a noble family. Like the Joseph of scripture history, he was looked on with jealousy by his brothers on account of the partiality shown to him by his father. Whilst out hunting these brothers stripped and sold him to a merchant who carried him to Bokhara. Here he was sold to a prince who educated him. He was owned by various people and eventually purchased by Kutbuddin at Delhi, for 50,000 pieces of silver.1 Profiting by the education given to him, Altamsh displayed talents whereby he was able to ingratiate himself with, and obtain the good opinion of, his master, whose second daughter he marr ied. After holding an appointment as Governor of Gwalior, Bulandshahar and Budaon—he became, in A.D. 1210, General-in-Chief to Kutb-ud-din, and on his master's death, marched to Delhi and expelled Aram, his son. On his coming to the throne Altamsh was supported by man}- chiefs and princes, but Farukh one of his generals rebelled and collected a large force of malcontents to oppose him before Delhi; the Enmeror was victorious in the fight, and established himself thus more securely on the throne. The Kalif of Bagdad recognized the independence of Shams-ud-din Altamsh's government, and this recognition was the first to be accorded by any of the supreme Muhammadan potentates to an Indian monarch. In a.d. 1215, he was engaged in subduing Taj-ud-din Yilduz—King of Ghazni, who, after having professed to acknowledge Ms sovereignty, marched on Tahnesar; but Yilduz was defeated, and Shams-ud-din imprisoned him at Budaon, where he was buried. During the year a.d. 1217 Altamsh defeated his brother-in-law, Nasir-ud-din Kubachah, placed his heir apparent on the throne of Lahore. In a. d. 1225, he went to Bengal to exact tribute from Ghias-ud-din, the reigning Prince, whom he deposed. Altamsh left Xasir-ud-din, his son, in possession of Behar.
The embassy from Arabia, bringing the royal robes from the Khalif of Bagdad, arrived in a.d. 1229, at Delhi, and was received with great joy and rejoicing. Altamsh soon after turned his attention to Gwalior, which had fallen into the hands of the Hindus, and, after a long siege, captured the fortress. He next marched to Malwa and reduced the Fort of Bhilsa, in Bhopal (luckily he did not penetrate so far as Sanchi, where, there can be little doubt, in accordance with his inherent antipathy to Hindu structures, he would have demolished the magnificent ruins of the Buddhist gateways surrounding the Great Tope). He next attacked Ugain, and there destroyed a very large temple, the erection of which is stated to have taken 300 years. He returned to Delhi with the images of Vikramaditya and Mahadeva in stone, also with several brass idols taken from the temple, and had them all broken on the door of the great Masjid at the Kutb.1 Altamsh fell sick in A. D. 1236, and died the same year at Delhi, where he was buried. (See pages 101-3, and Photographs XVII. and XVIII. for the account and description of his tomb.)
His reign lasted twenty-six years, and history shows him to have been an enterprising and, at the same time, a good prince. The erection of the upper stories of the magnificent Minar would alone suffice to hand down his name and memory. But he also elevated the status of his empire to that of one of the finest in the world, and did so moreover at a period of the Muhammadan History of India made critical both by frequent but futile aggressions on the border by the Moguls, and by the jealousy which his antecedents and relations with his predecessor aroused amongst the nobles and princes of the dominion.
All Hindustan, with the exception of a few remote districts, acknowledged the sovereignty of Delhi during his reign; the obedience of the various dependencies varying, however, in different degrees from complete subjection to almost independent vassalage. In succeeding reigns it therefore frequently happened that the rule of weak princes threw the country into great confusion, from which it required a vigorous monarch to re-establish order.
The inscriptions which Shams-ud-din placed upon the works carried out under his directions are to be found :
I. Over the doorway of the second story of the Kutb Minar.
II. On the upper band of the second story.
III. On the third story, over the doorway.
IV. On the centre arch of the Masjid.
During the reign of this Emperor, the Masjid-i-Kutb-ul-islam was enlarged by the erection of two Gateways to the north and south, and by the adaptation of a portion of the remaining Hindu columns in the construction of a new court, about six times the size of the original one. The Colonnade of this Court has to me the appearance of being hi situ as the Hindus placed it, General Cunningham, in estimating the pillars of the first Mosque and in testing the validity of the assertion inscribed on the east Gate, that they composed twenty-seven temples, does not include these outer pillars. It is possible that Shams-ud-din, in making his enclosing Colonnade, took advantage of some of the pillars which probably formed a portion of the palace of Raja Pithora, alluded to by Syud Ahmed as having been constructed in the year a. d. 1143. Each of the two additional Gateways consists of ranges of five arches, the centre one being the largest; according to the General, they were intended to form new and separate Mosques and not merely extensions of the Juniina Masjid. He holds that the niche (see F on Plan No. II.) in the middle of the wall behind the northern wing, affords evidence to justify this supposition. However, the words of Syud Ahmed are merely : —
"The Sultan Shams-ud-din Altamsh wished to enlarge this Mosque, and in 627 a. h. (1229 a.d.) he had three1 new doorways erected on the north flank and on the south flank, and he increased the area of this Masjid to the outer halls of the Raja Pithora's buildings." The doorways have been ornamented with a carved exterior of red sandstone, and on the surface are engraved verses out of the Koran, some in Nuskh, others in Kufic letters, so as to produce beautiful arabesques and floral patterns. On the left of the central Gate are inscribed the words : " During the months of the year (a.h.) 627," which was the period of erection.
The length of the whole range of Gateways of the Jumma Masjid is three hundred and eighty-four feet, and the breadth of the enclosure is four hundred and eighteen feet. The Minar stands in the centre of the length, and at a distance of eleven feet from the Colonnade. (See C on Plan.)
It is said by Syud Ahmed that in a.d. 1233, Shams-ud-din having conquered Malwa and Uo-ain, destroyed a temple dedicated to Mahadeva, and brought the images to the Gateways of his Mosque, where he had them destroyed (see page 94). The range of arches on the south flank of the Great Masjid are much ruined. The central opening of twenty-four feet width has lost the upper part of the arch and the arch on the left is in a tottering condition.
- 1. 1,00000 jitals. See Thomas' " Pathau Kings of Delhi."