Malik Kafur

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Malik Kafur (died 1316), also known as Taj al-Din Izz al-Dawla, was a prominent slave-general of the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji. He was captured by Alauddin's general Nusrat Khan during the 1299 invasion of Gujarat, and rose to prominence in the 1300s.

As a commander of Alauddin's forces, Kafur defeated the Mongol invaders in 1306. Subsequently, he led a series of expeditions in the southern part of India, against the Yadavas (1308), the Kakatiyas (1310), the Hoysalas (1311), and the Pandyas (1311).


  • The medieval historian, Ziauddin Barni described the invasion of Devagiri,
    Malik Naib Kafur reached Deogir and laid the country waste. He made Ramdeo and his sons prisoners, and took his treasures, as well as elephants. Great spoil fell into his hands .. and he returned with it triumphant to Dehli, carrying with him Ramdeo. The Sultan showed great favour to the Rai and sent him back in great honour ... to Deogir, which place he confirmed in his possession. The Rai was ever afterwards obedient, and sent his tribute regularly as long as he lived.
    • Barani, in (Elliot and Dowson Vol. III: 200-201). quoted from Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Episodes from Indian history.244
  • Thereafter, Malik Kafur set out for Warangal, which he reached in 1310. It was then ruled by the Kakatiya king, Prataprudradeva. Amir Khusrau (1253-1325) provided details of the siege of the double-walled city,
    The wall of Arangal was made of mud, but so strong that a spear of steel could not pierce it: and if a ball from a western catapult were to strike against it, it would rebound like a nut with which children play with...
    Orders were issued that every man should erect behind his own tent a kath-gar, that is a wooden defence. The trees were cut with axes and felled, notwithstanding their groans: and the Hindus, who worship trees, could not at that time come to the rescue of their idols, so that every cursed tree which was in that capital of idolatry was cut down to the roots; and clever carpenters applied the sharp iron to shape the blocks, so that a wooden fortress was drawn around the army of such stability, that if fire had rained from heaven their camp would have been unscathed...The Naib Amir gave daily orders to attack the chiefs of Laddar Deo (Prataprudradeva), and he also ordered the ‘western stoneballs’ to be thrown at the wall from every direction’ to demolish it, and reduce it to powder...
    The Malik took the entire wealth of the Rai which was brought, and threatened a general massacre, if it should be found that the Rai had reserved anything for himself. An engagement was then entered into that the Rai should send jizya annually to Dehli. The Malik left Arangal on the 16th of Shawwal (March 1310 AD) with all his booty, and a thousand animals groaned under the weight of the treasure”.
    • Khusrau in (Elliot and Dowson Vol. III: 80-84, 202-203). quoted from Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Episodes from Indian history.244ff
  • In 1311 ce, Malik Kafur again set out for the south, this time against the Hoysala ruler, Vira Ballala III (1291-1342 ce) of Dwarasamudra, and the Pandya kingdom in the far south... Vira Ballala rushed back, but the vicious nature of the invasion forced him to propose a settlement. Malik Kafur was reported to have responded,
    ... he was sent with the object of converting him to Muhammadanism, or of making him zimmi (one who could enjoy the same political privileges as the Muhammadans on payment of jiziya) and subject to pay tax, or of slaying him, if neither of these terms were assented to.
    • (Aiyangar 1971: 98), quoted from Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Episodes from Indian history.245
  • It seems likely there were other settlements of these Muhammadans even in the interior of the country. In the course of his description of the campaign of Malik Kafur in the Tamil country, Amir Khusru says ‘ Thither (to Kandur) the Malik pursued the ‘ yellow-faced Bir’, and at Kandur was joined by some Mussalmans who had been subjects of the Hindus, now no longer able to offer them protection. They were half Hindus, and were not strict in their religious observ- ance, but, ‘as they could repeat the Kalima (the Confession of Faith of the Muhammadans), the Malik of Islam spared their lives. Though they were worthy of death, yet as they were Mussalmans, they were pardoned.’’ This shows that at Kandur, which I have identified with Kannanir, near Srirangam, there was a settlement of Muhammadans quite different from the northern Mussalmans, who came along with the invaders.
    • Krishnaswami Aiyangar Sakkottai. 1921. South India and Her Muhammadan Invaders by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Oxford: University Press. 72
  • According to Amir Khusru ‘the Malik represented that on the coast of Ma’bar were 500 elephants, larger than those which had been presented to the Sultan from Arangal, and that when he was engaged in the conquest of that place he had thought of possessing himself of them and that now, as the wise determination of the king, he combined the extirpation of the idolaters with this object, he was more than ever rejoiced to enter on this grand enterprise.” Amir Khusru makes it appear that having seen all the country from the hills of Ghazni to the mouths of the Ganges reduced to subjection and having effectively destroyed the prevalence of the ‘Satanism’ of the Hindus by the destruction of their temples and providing in their stead places for the criers to prayers in mosques, Alau-d-din was consumed with the idea of spreading the light of the Muhammadan religion in the Dekhan and South India. According to the same authority Ma’bar was so distant from the city of Delhi ‘that a man travelling with all expedition could only reach it after a journey of twelve months,’ and there ‘ the arrow of any holy warrior had not yet reached.’ Apart from this statement of Amir Khusru, the object of this expedition is made quite clear in what he puts in the mouth of Malik Kafur himself that what he actually coveted were the elephants of better breed, and, what went along with them of course, other items of wealth.
    • Krishnaswami Aiyangar Sakkottai. 1921. South India and Her Muhammadan Invaders by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Oxford: University Press. 91
  • Here he heard that in Brahmastpuri there was a golden idol, round which many elephants were stabled.' Malik Kafur started on a night expedition against this place and in the morning seized no less than 250 elephants. He then determined on razing the beautiful temple to the ground — ' you might say that it was the Paradise of Shaddad, which, after being lost, those " hellites " had found, and that it was the golden Lanka of Ram ' — ' in short, it was the holy place of the Hindus, which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care,' and the heads of the Brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents. ' The stone idols called Ling Mahadeo, which had been a long time established at that place, up to this time, the kick of the horse of Islam had not attempted to break.' The Musalmans destroyed all the Lings, ' and Deo Narain fell down, and the other gods who had fixed their seats there raised their feet, and jumped so high, that at one leap they reached the fort of Lanka, and in that affright the Lings themselves would have fled had they had any legs to stand on.' Much gold and many valuable jewels fell into the hands of the Musalmans, who returned to the royal canopy, after executing their holy project, on the 13th of Zi-1-ka'da A.H. 710 (A.D. April 1311). They destroyed all the temples at Birdhul, and placed the plunder in the public treasury.
    • Krishnaswami Aiyangar Sakkottai. 1921. South India and Her Muhammadan Invaders by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Oxford: University Press. 99
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