Turkan-i-Chihalgani: Corps of Forty

The Corps of Forty, also known as Dal Chalisa or Turkan-i-Chihalgani, was a council of 40 mostly Turkic slave Amirs who served as administrators for the Delhi Sultanate during the 13th and 14th centuries. The council was made up of mostly Turkic slaves, also known as “Ghulams” or “Mamluks“, who were purchased as children and trained as soldiers and administrators.

Moreover, they were considered elite soldiers and were highly valued by the sultan for their military skills and loyalty. Further, they were also responsible for governing the sultanate’s territories, collecting taxes, and maintaining order. The council was said to have had great influence over the sultanate’s politics and administration and played a significant role in the administration of the sultanate as per the wishes of the sultan.

Turkan-i-ChihalganiCorps of Forty
Established byShamsuddin Iltutmish
Abolished byGhiyas-ud-din Balban
Total membersAround 40 (Turks)
ObjectiveBring Turks Power

What is Turkan-i-Chihalgani?

Turkan-i-Chihalgani was an institution organized by Iltutmish. This institution played a great significance in the history of the Delhi Sultanate. After the death of Qutbuddin Aibak, Iltutmish became the Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate and declared Delhi as the capital of the Sultanate.

When he became the Sultan, he had to face many challenges and these challenges were internal as well as external. Among the external challenges, the biggest challenge was the Mongols and Genghis Khan. So, he used to protect his territory from foreign invaders, and at the same time, he wanted to provide an empire with a Solid Administrative Mechanism.

In order to tackle all these challenges, Sultan Iltutmish carried out some reforms, and in one of these reforms, he organized the Chihalgani system.

Important Elements of Turkan-i-Chihalgani

  • Turkan-i-Chihalgani is also called the Corps of Forty. The Corps of Forty was an Elite Corp. Further, Loyalists were recruited into this by the Sultan itself.
  • There were not always 40 people in this system. As per the historical sources of Barani, these are slave officers and the number did not matter, although 25 people have also been seen.
  • All of them had elite status, and at the same time, they also enjoyed other privileges as well.
  • Turkan-i-Chihalgani had a problem of internal conflict. As there was no cooperation among the members of Chihalgani they wanted to make themselves superior.
  • During the reign of Iltutmish, Turkan-i-Chihalgani contributed immensely. It helped in strengthening the Sultanate and at the same time it also helped in running day-to-day administration. 
  • Further, Chihalgani carried out Various military campaigns and did territorial expansion.

After the death of Iltutmish, the members became very ambitious and indisciplined. Instead of serving the state as loyal officers,  these members assumed the role of kingmakers.

Additionally, the Corps of Forty supported the weak contender for the throne to consolidate power in their own hands. This was a strategic move, as they wanted to maintain control over the administration and decision-making processes of the Delhi Sultanate.

Moreover, the members of the Corps of Forty were not united and often acted based on their own individual interests. This resulted in frequent infighting and political maneuvering, as they competed for power and influence within the Sultanate.

Their actions contributed to the instability and weakened the overall stability of the Delhi Sultanate, as the focus shifted from expanding the empire and serving the people to personal power struggles and political maneuvering.

Overall, the legacy of the Corps of Forty remains complex, as they played a significant role in the establishment and expansion of the Delhi Sultanate, but also contributed to its instability and weakened its unity.

How did this institution evolve with the passage of time?

Rukn-u-Din Firoz Shah & Razia:

  • After the death of Iltutmish Firoz Shah sat on the throne. But Iltutmish wanted to put his daughter Razia on the throne.
  • Turkan-e-Chahalgani did not allow Razia to sit on the throne, the main reason was that Razia was bringing a non-Turkish group that was supposed to replace Chihalgani.
  • Razia believed that the Chihalgani group was no longer loyal to the Sultan, so it was appropriate to replace it for the good of the Sultanate.
  • That’s why Firoz Shah was put on the throne of the Delhi Sultanate like a puppet.
  • Although Razia sat on the throne once with the help of the Delhi people, after some time she was killed.


  • During the reign of Nasiruddin, Balban emerged as the real power behind the Throne.
  • However, Balban was also a member of Chahalgani.
  • Further, Balban was appointed as a deputy Sultan by Nasiruddin.

Balban Abolished Turkan-i-Chihalgani

Balban captured the throne and sat on the throne after the death of Nasir-ud-din-Mahmud. He was very much aware of the degenerated character of Turkan-i-Chahalgani. So, he started crushing this institution with the policy of “Blood and Iron”. Under Blood & Iron policy:

  • Many were poisoned
  • Many were dismissed from the post on the basis of age and efficiency.
  • Terrified into Submission by giving tough punishment.

This is how Balban successfully abolished Turkan-I-Chahalgani and it was no longer a threat to power.

Turkan-i-Chihalgani (Abolish Introduced0


In conclusion, Turkan-i-Chihalgani, also known as the Corps of Forty, was a group of Turkish soldiers and slaves who played a crucial role in the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in India. As military leaders, they helped to expand the Sultanate’s territories and establish its power, and as rulers, they contributed to the development of the administration, culture, and society of the Sultanate.

What is the meaning of “Turkan-i-Chihalgani”?

“Turkan-i-Chihalgani” is a phrase in the Mongolian language meaning “40 Turks.”

Who introduced the Turkan-i-Chihalgani?

The Turkan-i-Chihalgani were introduced during the reign of Iltutmish, the third ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in India.

Who abolished Turkan i Chihalgani?

Ghyasuddin Balban abolish turkan i chihalgani. He did this as part of his efforts to centralize power and assert his authority over the Turkic nobles and military officers who had previously held significant influence in the Delhi Sultanate.

So, this is all about Turkan-i-Chahalgani. It’s an important institution because it has great significance in the history of the Delhi Sultanate. So, do not miss this topic if you are a UPSC aspirant.

Thank You!

Related Links:

History of IltutmishHistory of Balban
Ain-i-DashalaIqta System
Blood and Iron Policy of BalbanAchievements of Razia Sultana
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