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Iwaz Khalji

Iwaz Khalji (H 609-624/1212-1227 AD) sultan of the kingdom of lakhnauti (gaur) from 609-624 AH corresponding to 1212 to 1227AD. Son of Hussain and a humble native of Garamsir in northern Afghanistan, his original name was Husamuddin Iwaz Khalji. It is said that in his early life he was an ass-driver carrying loads to distant places. During one such travels he pleased some saints with food and drink and they blessed him and bade him to go to Hindustan.

On the way Iwaz met bakhtiyar khalji and they reached India in 1195 AD. He took a leading part in the sack of the Odandapura Vihara as the deputy of Bakhtiyar. His exploits in Bihar drew the attention of Bakhtiyar who, after the conquest of Lakhnauti granted Iwaz the jagir of Kangori, which lay southeast of devkot (Deokot or Devikot).

Bakhtiyar's death was followed by an internal feud among his lieutenants. At this critical juncture Qaimaz Rumi, governor of Oudh invaded Bengal under the order of Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak. Iwaz, a practical man of politics, welcomed the imperial army. Rumi, after successfully settling the affairs of Bengal installed him as a vassal of Delhi and departed for Oudh. Iwaz retained this position till ali mardan khalji's reappearance in Bengal in 1210 as the viceroy of the Delhi Sultanate. On Ali Mardan's arrival, Iwaz retired to his post making over the charge of the province to Ali Mardan. His policy of blood and iron, however, soon made Ali Mardan unpopular. Taking advantage of this situation Iwaz organised the discontented Khalji nobles, killed Ali Mardan and ascended the throne of Bengal with the title of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Iwaz Khalji in 1212 AD.

Soon Iwaz Khalji consolidated his authority at Lakhnauti. He recalled the Khalji nobles exiled by Ali Mardan, redressed their sufferings and succeeded in winning over the Turkish soldiers to his side. One of his earliest steps was retransferring of the capital from Devkot to Lakhnauti where he built entirely a new city. By the west of this city a river then flowed. For the sake of defence Iwaz Khalji enclosed the other three sides of the capital by a high earthen rampart. Besides, with the same purpose, he built a fort-town at Basankot adjacent to the capital city. Iwaz was the first to realise the importance of a navy for a riverine country like Bengal and built a flotilla of war-boats to face any aggression. For defence as well as for administrative purposes, he connected the capital city with the outlying towns of Devkot and Lakhnur by an embankment with ferries on the Ganges and other rivers. In order to protect his kingdom from the annual floods he constructed a series of dykes with arched bridges.

After establishing peace in Lakhnauti, Iwaz Khalji turned his attention towards the expansion of his kingdom towards the south and the east. minhaj-i-siraj says that he conquered and annexed Lakhnur to his Kingdom and captured many elephants, much wealth and treasures came to his hand and he posted his own Amirs there. It appears that the neighbouring states of Jajnagar, Bang, Kamrup and Tirhut all sent tributes to Ghiyasuddin Iwaz Khalji.

Sultan Ghiyasuddin Iwaz Khalji issued coins and read the Khutbah in his own name. In order to stabilise his political position against Sultan iltutmish he tried to show his connection with the Ghurid ruling family of Ghazna. Besides, he also invoked the name of the Khalifah of Baghdad on his coins. The main objective of invoking the name of the Khalifah was to enhance his position in the eyes of the local people and to place himself equal to the sultan of Delhi. Equally important were his measures for the promotion of Islam in the country. On the coins he described himself as the 'Helper of the Commander of the faithful'. He also extended patronage to men of learning and built a number of mosques. He gave pensions to good men among the ulama, the mashaikh and the sayyads.

The sultans of Delhi always cast their suspicious eyes towards Bengal. Hence, when Iwaz started functioning as an independent ruler, Iltutmish got annoyed. No sooner had he freed himself from his pre-occupations with the internal troubles and Mongol invasions than Iltutmish marched with a large army to bring Bihar and Bengal under his control. He took possession of Bihar without opposition in 1225. Iwaz Khalji rose to the occasion and moved out from his capital with his army and fleet to prevent the imperial army from crossing the Ganges. Perhaps he gave resistance to the imperial army at the teliagarhi pass of the Rajmahal hills. According to Minhaj a treaty was concluded between the two sides and Iwaz had to pay an indemnity of eighty lakh tankas and thirty-eight elephants. Iwaz acknowledged the authority of the Delhi sultan and undertook to read the Khutbah and issue coins in his name. The Delhi sultan, on the other hand, allowed Iwaz Khalji to retain the government of Lakhnauti.

Leaving alauddin jani in charge of Bihar Iltutmish returned to Delhi. But hardly had he turned his back when Iwaz expelled Alauddin Jani from Bihar and made further aggressions. Iwaz Khalji rightly realised that Iltutmish would certainly come back to attack Bengal again. In the meantime, there arose a chaotic condition in Oudh due to the serious upsurge of the Hindus. Iltutmish sent his eldest son Nasiruddin Mahmood to quell down the rebellion. Supposing that it would take time for the prince to attack Bengal due to his preoccupations in Oudh, Iwaz marched towards eastern Bengal in 1227 AD leaving his capital unprotected. Nasiruddin, however, made a sudden dash for Bengal from Oudh. Iwaz Khalji hurriedly returned and fought a pitched battle with the Delhi forces near Lakhnauti but was defeated. Thus came to an end the significant and constructive regime of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Iwaz Khalji who had contributed to the consolidation of Muslim rule in Bengal in its early phase. [ABM Shamsuddin Ahmed]