Malik Kafur

The last act of Malik Naib Kafur, A.D. 1316

Malik Kafur (died 1316) was a prominent general of Alauddin Khilji. Originally he was a handsome Hindu named Manik; he was captured in a raid on Khambhat.[1] He became the favourite of Alauddin Khilji. He led three campaigns in Southern India from 1294 to 1316 AD, and set the stage for the consequent arrival of the Madurai Sultanate.[2][3]

Early life

Malik Kafur was a eunuch slave who became a general in the army of Alauddin Khilji, ruler of the Delhi sultanate from 1296 to 1316 A.D. He was originally seized by Alauddin’s army after the army conquered the city of Khambhat. It is theorized Alauddin Khilji fell in love with the effeminate beauty of Malik Kafur, castrated and converted him to Islam.[4] Kafur was also called "Thousand Dinar Kafur", probably the amount paid by sultan for his possession. The sultan had homosexual relation with Kafur.[5][6][7][8]

Wars and conquests

Kafur quickly came to play an important role in the Khilji dynasty, and was consequently made a Military General, earning the title "Naib"—an honorific title for a military commander as noted by Ziauddin Barani.[9] In 1294, Kafur led the Sultan's army for attacking the capital city of the Yadava kingdom of Devagiri, which was ruled by Ramdeva. The king's son Sankardeva was slain in the battle.[10] In 1305, Kafur defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Amroha.

Later between 1309 and 1311 Malik Kafur has led two successful campaigns in South India. The first was against the Kakatiyas of Warangal and the second against Hoysalas of Halebidu. Kafur defeated the Kakatiyas, winning an indemnity and making the Kakatiya a vassal of the Sultanate.[11] The booty from Warangal included the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond.[12] During the course of the attack on Halebid, he laid siege to the famous Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu and defeated Veera Ballala III.

Later, Kafur made a third attempt in the South, where he tried to enter the Tamil kingdoms. He defeated the exhausted Pandyan army which lost its prime water source of Kaveri river in the hot summer of 1311. He captured emperor Sundara Pandian and laid siege to the capital of Madurai. Kafur's siege on Madurai continued for weeks, however, it turned futile as his army lacked any Ballistas or Trebuchets and relied on Battering Rams of inferior quality. On the other hand, continuous archery attack by Pandyan soldiers and surprise cavalry attacks on the Delhi Sultanate infantry during night times tremendously increased the casualties on Kafur's side with Kafur losing about half of his army. Kafur negotiated with Veera Pandiyan, who agreed to give all the wealth in the treasury, half of the rations and all elephants in exchange for leaving Meenakshi Temple and releasing his brother Sundara Pandiyan.[13][14] Kafur was made Malik Naib, the senior commander of the army, after the southern campaigns.[15] In 1318, Malik Kafur killed Raja Harapal, the last king of Yadavas.[16]


After Kafur masterminded the death of Alauddin Khilji in 1316, he blinded the heir apparent Khizr Khan and Shadi Khan. He installed Umar Khan, Khilji's 3-year-old son on the throne. Mubarak Khan, Khilji's third son escaped the blinding attempt and later Malik was assassinated by his soldiers whom he sent to blind Mubarak. He told all the soldiers that he has killed other people the same as him and wanted to take the rule by himself, so he told them to kill him at night.[17][18]


For the first time in the recorded history of India, a part of South India came under Delhi's rule after Malik Kafur's expeditions in the Deccan. Kafur's campaigns paved the way for the establishment of Delhi Sultanate rule over parts of the Andhra and Karnataka and laying the foundation for the short-lived Madurai Sultanate.[19]


  1. The Muntakhabu-’rukh, Volume 1, chpt. 59
  2. Keay, J. India, 2001, p. 257, Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3797-0
  3. The history of India, By John McLeod, p. 36
  4. The history of India, By John McLeod, pg. 36
  5. Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History, Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, Palgrave, 2001, p. 132; ISBN 0312293240
  6. Peter Jackson (2003). The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History. Cambridge University Press. p. 177. ISBN 0521543290.
  7. Iqtidar Alam Khan (2008). Historical Dictionary of Medieval India. Scarecrow Press. p. 59. ISBN 0810864010.
  8. Satish Chandra Misra (1982). The Rise of Muslim Power in Gujarat: A History of Gujarat from 1298 to 1442. Universitas Michigan. p. 90.. The very same title was bestowed to one of greatest Khilji military general who repelled the Chagatai Khanate repeated invasions into India, Malik Hizbaruddin Zafar Khan
  9. Kidnapped castrated boy
  10. Decisive Battles India Lost (326 BC to 1803 AD);Jaywant Jogleka;, 2006; ISBN 9781847283023
  11. Studies in Islamic History and Civilizaion, David Ayalon, BRILL, 1986, p. 271;ISBN 965-264-014-X
  12. A History of India, Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, Edition: 3, Routledge, 1998, p. 160; ISBN 0-415-15482-0
  13. A Comprehensive History of India: Comprehensive history of medieval India by B.N. Puri, M.N. Das p.42
  14. A military history of medieval India by Gurcharn Singh Sandhu p.236
  15. Khilji's Commander
  16. Famous Monuments of India; Anu Sharma ; Pinnacle Technology, 2011; ISBN 9781618205452
  17. Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. p. 88. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  18. Gopal, Madan (1990). K. S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 217.
  19. Nilakanta Sastri, p. 213
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