Lodi Kings Dominate Northern India Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Lodī Dynasty was the last of several Delhi sultanates. It came to an end when its army failed to win the Battle of Panipat against Mughal emperor Bābur. The fall of the Lodīs marked the beginning of Mughal rule, which became one of India’s most illustrious and long-lasting dynasties.

Summary of Event

The Lodī Dynasty was the last of the Delhi sultanates, which were originally established in 1192-1193 with the victory of military leader Muhammad of Ghor (d. 1206) over the Hindu Rājputs at the Battle of Tarain. Muhammad of Ghor was from Ghazni in modern Afghanistan, and most of the subsequent Delhi sultanate dynasties, including the Lodīs, were of Afghan origin. The sultans, or rulers, of the several sultanates were all Muslims, and conflicts were frequent between Muslim invaders and India’s majority Hindu population. Lodī Dynasty[Lodi Dynasty] Delhi sultanate Bahlūl Lodī Sikandar Lodī Ibrāhīm Lodī Bābur Bahlūl Lodī Kabīr Nānak Sikandar Lodī Ibrāhīm Lodī Rānā Sāngā Bābur

Islam Islam;India first gained a major presence in India in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries under the military leadership of sultan Maḥmūd of Ghazni (r. 997-1030), who plundered Indian cities and temples. Like Maḥmūd, most of the later Delhi sultanate rulers were from Afghanistan, the gateway into the Indian subcontinent long before the invasions of Alexander the Great in the 320’s b.c.e. The Delhi sultans, the last of whom were the Lodīs, ruled much of northern India for more than three centuries but were unable to extend their rule south into the Deccan.

Religious differences were not always paramount, however, and alliances were often made across the sectarian divide, and through the centuries, the fiercest opponents of the Delhi sultans were frequently their fellow Muslims.

Muhammad of Ghor was assassinated in 1206. One of his Turkish generals (Aibak) subsequently established what is called the Slave Dynasty, so named because when freed and given the opportunity, slaves were often both loyal and talented. The Slave Dynasty sultans ruled until 1290, to be followed by the Khaljīs from 1290 to 1320, the Tughluqs from 1320 to 1413, and the Sayyids from 1414 until 1451.

Through the centuries, the Delhi sultanate was challenged not only by rivals from within the Indian subcontinent but also from without, notably the Mongols from Asia. In 1398, Mongol warrior Tamerlane (Timur) sacked Delhi, massacring or enslaving most of the city’s Hindu population. Tamerlane abandoned northern India the following year, and the sultanate recovered, although it was smaller and more fragmented by the time the Lodīs assumed power in Delhi by deposing the last of the Sayyids in 1451.

The Lodīs were successful horse breeders, had been ennobled, and had ruled the Punjab, to the west of Delhi, under the Sayyids. The first of the Lodī sultans was Bahlūl Lodī, who reigned over Delhi and the Punjab for nearly four decades. His reputation was that of a just ruler, and during his reign, numerous Muslim herdsmen-peasants from Afghan settled in North India.

Like their Delhi sultanate predecessors, the Lodī kings were Muslims, but during the years of Lodī rule several non-Muslim religious movements achieved considerable significance. From the southern part of the subcontinent, a devotional Hinduism known as bhakti Bhakti movement spread north to the Ganges River area, giving Hinduism Hinduism a new vigor. Kabīr (1440-1518), an illiterate Muslim inspired by the teachings of a Hindu sage, abandoned the sectarianism of both Hinduism and Islam and founded a religious movement focused on simply loving God, which laid the foundation for Sikhism Sikhism . In the Lodī-ruled Punjab, the Hindu-born Nānak (1469-1539), influenced by the more democratic theology of Islam, abandoned the Hindu concept of caste and became the first guru, or divine teacher, of Sikhism, worshiping a single universal God. By the reign of Sikandar Lodī, Bahlūl’s son, India was divided and fragmented both politically and spiritually.

Sikandar Lodī ruled the Delhi sultanate from 1489 until 1517, and was praised by his contemporaries as the greatest of all Delhi sultans, a claim that should be accepted with suitable caution. Following the practice of his father, Sikandar was a patron of artistic and intellectual endeavors and was a poet. His mother was a Hindu, and a first love was a Hindu princess. Although new mystic sects blending Islam and Hindu emerged during his reign, Sikandar, perhaps because of guilt and as a reaction to the religion of his mother and his early love, was an orthodox Muslim. He also was more iconoclastic in his destruction of Hindu temples than his peers.

Sikandar also established a second capital city atĀgra, near Delhi, signifying his ambitions to expand Lodī rule farther south, and although much ofĀgra was destroyed by an earthquake in 1505, he immediately ordered its rebuilding. It was during his reign that the Portuguese, led by explorer Vasco da Gama, reached India in 1498, the first Europeans to reach South Asia by sea, an event that went unrecorded in Delhi.

The last of the three Lodī sultans was Ibrāhīm, who ascended the throne with the death of his father in 1517. Ibrāhīm’s reign was a troubled one. Because of his aristocratic and indolent ways, he failed to maintain the loyalty of many of those who served Sikandar, and he faced several uprisings, including one by his younger brother, whom Ibrāhīm captured and executed. A rebellion also occurred in Bihar, to the east of Delhi, and another in Lahore in the Punjab, led by his uncle. Rānā Sāngā of Mewar, the raja (chief) of the Hindu Rājput confederacy, headed another uprising against the Lodī sultan, in 1527.

The demise of the Lodī sultans and Ibrāhīm came not from within India, however, but from the Lodī homeland, from Afghanistan, where Bābur, a direct descendant of Tamerlane, had imperial ambitions. Initially, Bābur focused on reestablishing the old Mongol Empire Mongol Empire;invasion of India in Central Asia, although he did lead forays into India in 1505 and 1519, but on neither occasion did he try to maintain a foothold in the subcontinent. In 1525, he launched a major invasion.

Because of their expert mastery of horses, Bābur’s forces, like all Mughal armies, were both swift and mobile. That mobility gave them an advantage over larger armies, not least in India, where the debilitating climate made it difficult to breed sufficient numbers of horses for war. In addition, Bābur, although a skilled archer, was well acquainted with cannon and matchlock guns, a characteristic similar to what was occurring in the west in the Muslim empires of the Ottomans in modern Turkey and the Ṣafavids in Persia (Iran). There is little evidence to indicate that Ibrāhīm and the Lodīs had gunpowder technology at their disposal.

During Bābur’s 1525 invasion, the Hindu Rājputs were still in rebellion and the Lodī family was not united, for it was Ibrāhīm’s uncle who urged Bābur to attack the Delhi sultanate. Ibrāhīm’s Lodī army met Bābur at Panipat, Panipat, First Battle of (1526) north and west of Delhi, on April 21, 1526. Even though the Lodī forces outnumbered those of Bābur ten to one, it helped that Bābur was an experienced and successful military leader, much more so than Ibrāhīm. After a standoff of several days, the Lodī army attacked Bābur’s impregnable defensive position, and as the battle raged, the larger army became increasingly concentrated and immobilized. It is estimated that fifteen thousand Lodī warriors died at the Battle of Panipat, including Ibrāhīm. The Lodī Dynasty and the Delhi sultanate had come to an end.


It is not clear if Ibrāhīm Lodī’s failure at the Battle of Panipat was a result of his own inadequacies, or if the loss resulted from the superior military experience of Bābur (or Bābur’s mastery of gunpowder). Nevertheless, whatever the cause, the defeat of the Lodī sultans in 1526 proved to be one of the major turning points in the history of India. Bābur established Mughal rule, and his successors, including his son Humāyūn, Akbar, Jahāngīr, Shāh Jahān, and ՙĀlamgīr, made the Mughals one of India’s most famous and glorious dynasties.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bakshi, S. R., ed. Advanced History of Medieval India. 3 vols. Rev ed. New Delhi, India: Anmol, 2003. Volume 1 covers the period 712-1525, which includes a section on the Lodī Dynasty.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Haig, W., ed. The Cambridge History of India: Turks and Afghans. Vol. 3. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1922. The third volume of this multivolume history of India includes a discussion of the reigns of the Lodī sultans.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jayapalan, N. Medieval History of India. Delhi, India: Atlantic, 2001. This history of medieval India includes a discussion of the Delhi sultanate and the Lodī kings.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Qureshi, Ishtiaq Husain. Administration of the Sultanate of Delhi. 1942. Reprint. New Delhi, India: Oriental Books Reprint, 1996. Qureshi’s study remains the foremost analysis of the administrative and political structures of the Delhi sultanate.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Streusand, Douglas E. The Formation of the Mughal Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Examines Bābur’s conquest of the Lodīs and the establishment of India’s Mughal Dynasty.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. This widely accessible and well-written work includes a description of the Delhi sultans and Bābur’s conquest of India.

1459: Rāo Jodha Founds Jodhpur

Early 16th cent.: Devotional Bhakti Traditions Emerge

1507: End of the Timurid Dynasty

Dec. 2, 1510: Battle of Merv Establishes the Shaybānīd Dynasty

Apr. 21, 1526: First Battle of Panipat

Mar. 17, 1527: Battle of KhĀnua

Dec. 30, 1530: Humāyūn Inherits the Throne in India

1540-1545: Shēr Shāh Sūr Becomes Emperor of Delhi

1556-1605: Reign of Akbar

1578: First Dalai Lama Becomes Buddhist Spiritual Leader

Feb., 1586: Annexation of Kashmir

1598: Astrakhanid Dynasty Is Established

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