Military organization of Lodis

The Lodi army consisted mainly of cavalry, elephant and infantry. Lodi horsemen were excellent riders and fine archers. They also had learnt some of the Mongol tactics viz.lying in ambush, luring away the enemy far from its strong base ; sending out scouts before engaging the enemy and avoiding a pitched battle when conscious of their own weakness. But they knew nothing about the famous flanking movements , the tulughma. The army consisted of regular recruits maintained by the Sultan at state expense and with jagirs, and irregulars supplied by the governors and jagirdars and nobles and equipped and paid by them.


The regular army mostly consisted of the Afghans of the various tribes but also had Rajputs, Miwatis, with a contingent of Mughals in the personal service of the Sultan and the princes. The army was raised by the ‘Chief Bakhshi (Bakhshi-i Mamalik) , whose position was like that of the Minister of War, assisted by his Deputy. He also played a double role as the pay-master of the forces, in which capacity he was a civil officer of the crown. Sikandar Lodi followed the practice of granting jagirs to soldiers and asked them to have their horses and arms from their jagirs. The regular army consisted of elephants, cavalry, foot, matchlock-bearers, archers and artillery men, and in times of war served under a commander-in-chief, who was the principal war Councillor when the King was personally present in the field. Thus Qutb Khan Lodi was Bahlul’s Commander-in-chief;  Mian Maruf bore that office for 30 years during the reign of Sultan Sikandar and Ibrahim, and ‘Azam Humayun Khan Sherwani that of Sultan Ibrahim. The holder of this office was known as the Amir-ul-umara.

The officer over ten ‘soldiers was known as Mir-i-Daha or Mir Daha, of 100 a Sadah, of 1,000 a Hazari. It is difficult to give in figure the idea of the Sultan’s standing army. Islam Khan Lodi, the uncle of Bahlul and governor of Sirhind had 12 thousand Afghan and Mughal soldiers. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi commanded about 100,000 soldiers at Panipat, consisting of regulars and feudal militia.The standing army of the Sultan does not seem to have been very much above 50 thousand. We do not know if branding was re-introduced by the Lodi Sultans to prevent fraudulent musters. Sikandar Lodi himself inspected recruits for determining their status and pay. A low born man had no chance of entering his service.

The feudal army

The major portion of the Lodi army consisted of feudal militia. Each local governor and jagirdar (which included many of the court-nobles) was expected to keep a contingent of cavalry according to his rank or ‘mansab’ which determined his pay. Darya Khan Lohani, governor of Bihar Sarkar, Nasir Khan Lohani, governor of Ghazipur (Sarkar) and Shaikhzada Muhammad Qurban Farmali, The feudal governor of Oudh (Sarkar) held mansabs of 30/40 thousand; ‘Azam Humayun Sherwani governor of Kalpi Sarkar of 12 thousand,! Bhikhan Khan of 7 thousand.  The provincial governors were paid salary out of the Sarkar exchequer, according to their military rank. The entire army received a share of the war-booty and was dissolved as soon as the campaign was over, or so soon as the king permitted them to go The concentration of military strength in the hands’ of jagirdars and governors was a source of weakness rather than of strength to the state and brought into existence a constant tug-of-war between the centrifugal and centripetal forces, which bore its worst fruit during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Lodi.

The mobilization order was given by the pitching of red tents and beating of drums. On the march, an advance party led the way and after halt at night-fall, the army camps assumed the proportions of a city. The baggage and stores and tent and the female members of the Sultan’s family remained in the rear and provisions of grain were supplied through the itinerant grain merchants—the banjaras’.

The battle formation consisted of the traditional five-fold divisions—the vanguard, the right, left, the , center and the rear. Some times different Afghan tribes took their position and battle in the right, left or center and the entire formation. ,army was commanded by the commander-in-chief, The main instrument of attack and defense consisted of the cavalry and elephant bearing archers, artillery being poor and slow in those days. The commander-in-chief or the Sultan took his position in the center, seated on an elephant which very often became the target of attack and whose flight, disability or death decided the chances of war. In a siege, the catapult’, the ballista were used for throwing stones and rockets; match-locks, mortars, artillery and gunpowder for battering walls.

The corps of elephants was prized more as a symbol of one’s dignity than as an efficient and properly integrated unit in the army as a whole. Elephants were mainly used in siege operations and in dispersing an army , disorganized by heavy cavalry charge. Infantry served mainly as a recruiting bade for the cavalry.

The war was generally begun with a skirmish, the parties retiring for rest and recuperation during nights, but night attack was always conceived of as a very effective method of probing the enemy strength. The practice of taking hostages was very common and prisoners of war especially the higher commands were well-treated. Qutb Khan Lodi a prisoner in Jaunpur was looked after by Bibi Raji, the mother of Husain Shah SharqI. Bahlul once conveyed to her husband Bibi Malka Jahan, the wife of Husain Shah taken captive in war. The only instance of violation of the immunity of an envoy we come across when Sultan Ibrahim Lodi imprisoned Babar’s envoy sent to Agra after the.capture of Lahore.

Afghan and Mughal cavalry

Lodi Archer


1- History of the Lodi Sultans of Delhi and Agra by Abdul Halim
, page.240-43

The First Afghan Empire in India, 1451-1526 A. D. by Awadh Bihari Pandey, page.244-246

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