Khilji Sultans of Delhi

The Khilji (more correctly Khalji) people were Turks by origin. The fact of their Turkish origin is supported by Seljuqnama, Tarikh-i-Guzida and other sources. According to the author of Seljuqnama, Turk, the son of Yafis, had eleven sons, one of whom was Khalj. Fakhr-i-Mudabbir (c.1229 AD) who made special inquiries about the genealogies and ethnic origins of tribes considers Khalj the eleventh tribe of the Turks. The anonymous author of Hudud al- Alam (c.982 AD), Ibn Hauqal (Kitabal-Masalik wa’l Mamalik, c.977 AD) and Istakhri (Masalik wa’l Mamalik, c.930 AD) refer to them as Turks. The fourteenth century Indo-Persian lexicon, Dastar ul Afazil , explains the meaning of Khalaj as the name of the wilayat of Turks. But as they had resided in Afghanistan so long that they were no longer regarded as Turks. Their rise, therefore, was disliked by the Turks.

It appears that Khiljis in 13th century did not identify themselves as Afghans (Pashtuns). The poet and court historian Amir Khusrao (1253 – 1325), mentions the bloody wars of Jalaluddin Khalj against his enemies including Afghans (Pashtuns);

“… He (Chhajju ) must have heard how from Ghazna, Kirman (Kurram), and Barghand, I have extended my conquests as far as Darband; how I have issued orders for the shedding of the blood of my enemies, who have become like worms, when they hear the whizzing of my Kirmani blade; how, at ono time, from the heads of the Mongols, I have filled my cup with blood, and stuck their inverted skulls upon the top of my standards; how, at another time, my spears have wounded the Afghans, until the hills resounded with lamentations ; how, at another time, I made the blood flow in Janjuha, so that a boat might have glided within the hills of Jud. The Hindus themselves cannot conceive how full I have made hell. What did that ignorant thoughtless man imagine that he dared advance his foot into my territory?’ [“Miftah-ul-Fatuh” as translated by Elliot]

As the poet was particular favourite of Sultan Jalaluddin and as his works were read in his presence, Amir Khusrao would not have made this hard remark against the Afghans, if the Sultan and his courtiers identified themselves as Afghans.

H.G.Raverty dismisses the connection of Khaljis with Ghilzai Afghans on the following grounds;

“The most absurd statements have been made with respect to the people named Khalj. the plural of which, according to the ‘Arab mode of writing, is Akhlaj. It is also written, but rarely, Khalaj; but some few Muhammadan Indian authors write it Khilj and Khilji, and most European writers have followed them [Dow, however, makes ” Chilligies” of them, although Firishtah writes the word خلج like other Muhammadan authors]; but, according to the fertile imaginations of Europeans, the Khalj— خلج —tribe and Ghalzi —غلزی —tribe are one people—in fact, some roundly assert that the Khalj are one and the same race as the Afghan tribe of Ghalzi, without there being a shadow of authority for such an assertion in any Muhammadan writer whatever. Because the Khalj happened, in the days of the Ghurian Sultans [and long prior], to have been located in that part of Khurasan now included in what in the present day is styled by the general name of Afghanistan—a comparatively modern designation—such writers, in their innocency, jumped at the conclusion that they were Afghans, and, more than that, that the Khalj and Ghalzi must be one and the same people. The name of the Afghan tribe is written Ghalzi, which is the plural form. Some Afghan tribes use the letter ” j ” in place of “z ” in all words, and, as some pronounce the above name Ghalji, those who know nothing of the Khalj Turks and their antecedents, assume that they are Ghalzi Afghans, or rather that the latter are Khalj Turks.

The Khalj are a Turkish tribe, on account of whom will be found in all the histories of that race—the Shajirah-ul-Atrak, Jami’-ut-Tawarikh, Introduction to the Zafar Namah,; and a portion of them had settled in Garmsir long prior to the period under discussion, from whence they came into Hindustan and entered the service of Sultan Mu’izz-ud-Din.”

Some of the clans of Ghilzai Pashtuns could be descendants of Khaljis

There is a possibility that some of the Ghilzai clans could be descendants of the Khalji Turks.

Najib Bakran’s geography Jahan-nama, written (circa AD, 1200-1220) on the eve of the Mongol invasion, contains a particularly interesting paragraph on the changes which Khalj tribe was undergoing in Zabulistan: “The Khalaj are a tribe of Turks who from the Khallukh limits migrated to Zabulistan. Among the districts of Ghazni there is a steppe where they reside. Then, on account of the heat of the air, their complexion has changed and tended towards blackness; the tongue (zuban) too has undergone alterations and become a different language (lughat).” [7]

Nassar clan is disowned by Ghilzais. The Hotak Ghilzais believe that the Nassars had been their ‘hamsayas’ (denizen). The Tokhi division also affirms that the Nassars have been their hamsayas (denizens) which literally means ‘under the same shadow’. As in case of Nassars, the Kharotis’ origin is also shrouded in doubt. They were initially considered ‘hamsayas’ [8]. Both Nassars and Kharotis could be descendants of Khalji Turks.


1- Elliot, “The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians”, Vol-III, p-573
2- New Indian Antiquary Vol.2, p-521
3- According to Cambridge history of Islam , Volume 2, p-9).
4- “The Turks and their migration to Central Asia and India: analysis of the historical information on the Turks and Turkestan in early medieval Indo-Persian sources”, I.H.Sadiqui
5- “History of the Khaljis” by K.S.Lal, p-15
6-  “Tabakat-i-Nasiri”, p-548
8- “History of the Pathans, Vol-III, p-217, p-226

Imaginary portrait of Sultan Jalaluddin Firuz Khalji (seated on throne), c.1640.



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