The Delhi Sultanate is not a takeout. Sorry, that’s the Sultan’s Delhi on 1459 Beaver Creek Commons Drive.
No, the Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic empire based in Delhi that stretched over large parts of South Asia for 320 years, from 1206 to 1526 AD. Don’t confuse this with the Sultanate of Delhi, which is a Malay state in east Sumatra founded in 1630. Becha you didn’t know that existed. Neither did I.
So, how do you create a character from this place and time period?
- Gather as many authoritative books or videos on the region and time as you can.
- Figure out what kind of character you need: male/female, age, occupation, background, etc.
- Immerse yourself in those books or videos from step 1.
- Imagine yourself as the target character from step 2.
- Once you find that person, zero in on what that person’s daily life would be like.
- What would motivate him or her?
- What would his or her background be?
- What is his or her name?
- Finally, gather all that together and create a character sketch. The sketch can be as brief as a couple of sentences or several pages long. It all depends on how much your character shows up in your story. I like to add a picture of the character. It locks the character into my mind.
Let’s look at an example.
I Need a Roommate
I’m looking for a contemporary for Francisco, the main character in the first novel, “The Healing Stone.” Francisco needs a dorm roommate in the second novel in The Shadows of Time series. For reasons I can’t explain now, this roommate needed to come from the Pakistan region in 1212 AD.
Let’s give this roommate a common name from that period. Let’s call him Masud-ud-din Muiz, based on the name of the seventh Sultan of the Mamuluk Dynasty. Since his recruitment, the roommate goes simply by Masud.
Pakistan didn’t exist in the 13th century. As a nation, it didn’t exist until the partitioning of India in 1947 after British independence (Partition of India – 1947 Partition, History – India Partition 1947 (partitionmuseum.org)). So, what was there in the 13th century?
The Delhi Sultanate
Since we’re interested in a 16-year-old male coming from the Pakistani region in 1212, that would mean he was born in 1196 and grew up during the fall of the Ghurid Dynasty under Mohammed of Ghor. This Persianate dynasty had invaded the Indian subcontinent and forced conversion to Islam either through coercion, argument, suppression, or bloodshed. If Masud’s father was a scholar, he would have been part of the vanguard in converting Hindus to Islam. His father would have schooled his son in Islamic apologetics.
When he was eight years old, Masud would have heard of Mohammed of Ghor’s assignation and witnessed the dynasty’s collapse. He would have seen political and economic turmoil as the Delhi Sultanate rose from the ashes of the old dynasty.
Would his family go hungry?
Would they be threatened with violence?
Did they need to flee?
How to Create a Character from the Delhi Sultanate
The more an author digs into the history and culture of a region, the deeper a character he or she creates will grow. The main thing I was looking for here was a contemporary for Francisco, the main character in the first novel, “The Healing Stone.”
*** SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ THE HEALING STONE: Francisco fought against the Moors (specifically, the Almohads under the Caliph Muhammad al-Nasir), who were Muslim and claimed the Iberian Peninsula as their domain. They captured and enslaved Francisco following the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. END SPOILER ***
So, Francisco had two reasons to dislike Muslims. Making his roommate a former Muslim would challenge Francisco. And since I am a mean, vindictive author who enjoys watching his characters squirm, I made it so. No, really, Francisco needed the challenge for character growth and as a setup for what happens in book three in Africa.
Because of this, the roommate would be the son of a scholar, versed in Islamic tradition. When he gives reasons why he left Islam for Christianity, he’ll teach Francisco the best arguments that speak to the heart of a Muslim.
Hopefully, that whet your appetite to read books 2 and 3. 😊
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