Rise of Ala-ud-din Khilji: How He Conquered Devagiri in 1296

During the reign of his uncle, Sultan Jalal-ud-din Khilji, Ala-ud-din led an army to Devagiri, the capital of the Yadava dynasty in the Deccan. At the time, Ramadeva, also known as Ramachandra Deva (r: 1271-1311) was the ruler of Devagiri, while Ala-ud-din was the governor of Kara and Oudh. 

Ramadeva's kingdom was renowned for its wealth and prosperity, making it a prime target for Ala-ud-din, who was in dire need of funds. Tired of the constant intrigues of his wife (the daughter of Jalal-ud-din Khilji) and mother-in-law (the wife of Jalal-ud-din Khilji), Ala-ud-din desired to escape to a distant place and live there in peace. Upon hearing of the wealth and majestic elephants of Devagiri, Ala-ud-din gathered his forces and set out to conquer the land. 


Unfortunately for the Raja, his eldest son Singhana was away on an expedition with the majority of their troops. As the invader approached, Ramadeva was filled with great distress. Nevertheless, he managed to gather a small army of two or three thousand men and sent them under the leadership of his general Kanhan to Lasura. Two women, skilled in the art of warfare, also joined Kanhan's forces with a large retinue.

Ala-ud-din was surprised by the fierce resistance put up by Kanhan's troops, which forced him to retreat some distance. However, in the second charge, Kanhan's forces were defeated. Before advancing further, Ala-ud-din addressed his officers, warning them of the tough battle ahead. He remarked, "In a country, where women do not retreat before us...I do not know what men would do to us on the battlefield." However, his soldiers, without hesitation, pledged once again to fight and emerge victorious.

According to Barani, the inhabitants of that region were completely unaware of the Musalmans, and no Musalman ruler had ever ventured so far. However, Ala-ud-din swiftly made his way to Devagiri. The Raja took refuge within the fort. Ala-ud-din laid siege to the fort and spread rumors that he was only the vanguard of a much larger army of Sultan Jalal-ud-din Khilji. This caused widespread panic among the populace. Many Brahmins, merchants, and inhabitants of the city were taken prisoner.

After realizing that victory was out of reach, the Raja decided to pursue peace negotiations. He wrote to Ala-ud-din, humbly acknowledging the impolitic and rash nature of his invasion, but warning him of the many armies of the Rajas of the Deccan that could surround him, preventing him from leaving the dominion alive. The Rajas of Malwa, Khandesh, and Gondwana each commanded armies of 40 or 50,000 men, and it was unlikely that they would permit Ala-ud-din to escape unmolested. Therefore, the Raja advised Alal-ud-din to retire in time by accepting a moderate sum. This sum, combined with the spoils he had already acquired, would compensate him for the expenses of his expedition. 

Ala-ud-din gladly accepted the Raja's proposal and received fifty maunds of gold, a large quantity of pearls and jewels, fifty elephants, and thousands of horses. He then released the prisoners and promised to abandon the place.

Devagiri Fort

Ala-ud-din was on the brink of retreat when Singhana, who had just returned from his expedition, advanced with a formidable army. According to Ferishta, Singhana's army outnumbered the enemy three to one. Despite Ramadeva's advice to honor the peace treaty with the invader, the prince sent a threatening message to Ala-ud-din. The message read, "If you value your life and safety, return what you have plundered and quietly retreat, rejoicing in your lucky escape". 

However, Ala-ud-din was determined to conquer or die. He divided his army into two, sending one under Nusrat Khan to besiege the fort where Ramadeva was held captive, while he led the other against Singhana. The troops with Ala-ud-din began to falter. Upon receiving news of the situation, Nusrat Khan left the fort and joined his master. The Hindus believed that Jalal-ud-din's army had arrived, and fled in panic.

Ala-ud-din thus emerged victorious and renewed the siege with great vigor. He even displayed to the garrison many of the Rajas' relatives who had been taken prisoner in the battle. The Raja sent messengers to hasten the arrival of reinforcements from neighboring Rajas of Gulbarga, Telangana, Malwa, and Khandesh. However, his greatest concern was the lack of provisions. 

He found no other remedy but to propose a second negotiation with Ala-ud-din. In his letter to Ala-ud-din, the Raja made it clear that he should not be held responsible for his son's rashness, which had led to the breaking of the conditions between them. As per the peace treaty, Ala-ud-din received an enormous amount of precious commodities, including six hundred maunds of gold, seven maunds of pearl, two maunds of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, one thousand maunds of silver, and four thousand pieces of silk. He also demanded the cession of Achalpur and its dependencies.

Ramadeva also offered his daughter's hand in marriage to Ala-ud-din, who later became the mother of Shihab-ud-din Omar, the infant king who was placed on the throne by Malik Kafur after Ala-ud-din's death.

With this grandiose loot, Ala-ud-din returned to Kara in a triumphant manner. It was this very treasure that enabled Ala-ud-din to raise an army, overthrow his uncle Sultan Jalal-ud-din Khilji, and gain the support of the people of Delhi. Ultimately, this led to his accession as the new Sultan of Delhi.


History of the Khaljis By K. S. Lal
Career of Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji By N. B. Ray