9.1 The Delhi Sultanate and Mughal India

Invasions and migrations had long shaped the Indian subcontinent, contributing to its diverse cultures. Centuries after the rise of Islam in the Middle East, Muslim invaders conquered much of northern India. The arrival of Islam brought changes to India as great as those caused by the Aryan migrations 2,000 years earlier. As Muslims mingled with Indians, each civilization absorbed elements from the other.

Illustration of a man seated on a throne under an elaborate tent, surrounded by attendants holding urns and serving accessories.

Akbar's tolerance of different Indian cultures and his willingness to include them in government was one of his strengths as a ruler.


  • Describe the effects of the Delhi sultanate on India.
  • Explain how Muslim and Hindu civilizations interacted in India.
  • Describe the historical origins and central ideas of Sikhism.
  • Summarize the policies of Akbar that strengthened Mughal India.

Key Terms

  • sultan
  • Delhi
  • rajah
  • Sikhism
  • Babur
  • Mughal
  • Akbar
  • Nur Jahan
  • Shah Jahan
  • Taj Mahal

The Delhi Sultanate

Struggles for Power

After the Gupta empire fell in about 550, India again fragmented into many local kingdoms. Rival princes battled for control of the northern plain. Despite power struggles, Indian culture flourished. Hindu and Buddhist rulers spent huge sums to build and decorate magnificent temples. Trade networks linked India to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and China.

Although Muslims conquered the Indus Valley in 711, they advanced no farther into the subcontinent. Then around 1000, Muslim Turks and Afghans pushed into India. They were fierce warriors with a tradition of conquest. Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni pillaged much of the north, but he did not settle there.

Muslim Invaders Triumph

In the late 1100s, the sultan, or Muslim ruler, of Ghur defeated Hindu armies across the northern plain and made Delhi his capital. From there, his successors organized a sultanate, or land ruled by a sultan. The Delhi sultanate, which lasted from 1206 to 1526, marked the start of Muslim rule in northern India.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments