20 Oct 2013

The Bahmani Sultanate: Emergence and Decline

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"The death of an old man like me is indeed of little moment, but to your Majesty, it will be the loss of an empire, and the ruin of your character"

(Mahmud Gawan's last words to Muhammad Shah)

Mahmud Gawan's madrasa (School) at Bidar

The Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga (1347-1528):

The Bahmani Kingdom was founded by some nobles of the Deccan who revolted against the repressive policies of Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq. Their revolt was successful and Alau'd-din Hasan Bahman Shah (1347-1358), became the first Muslim ruler of the Deccan with his capital at (in Karnataka, India) in 1347. The Kingdom was situated on the northern Deccan region up to the river Krishna. The rulers of the Bahmani Kingdom were often at war with the neighboring Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagara on the South. 

Muhammad Shah I (1358-1375) succeeded his father in 1358. He built two great mosques in Gulbarga, the Jama Masjid and Shah Bazar Masjid. He was followed by his son Alau'd-din Mujahid Shah (1375-1378) and Daud Shah (1378). Muhammad Shah II (1378-1397) succeeded his brother Daud Shah. He was followed by Ghiyas-ud-din Shah (1397) and Shams-ud-din Daud Shah II (1397). Taju'd-din Firuz (1397-1422) was a learned man, who had the knowledge in religious and natural sciences. He was an expert in the art of calligraphy and well versed in Arabic, Persian and Turkish and many other languages. He defeated Devaraya I of Vijayanagar and married his daughter. Firuz was succeeded by his brother Ahmad Shah Wali (1422-1436) who was considered to be a saint because of his connection with the Sufi saint Hazrat Gesu Daraz. He shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar. Alau'd-din Ahmad Shah II (1436-1458) succeeded his father and he gave preference to Afaquis (foreigners who came from over-seas and had become the natives of Deccan) over the Deccanis. During his reign the quarrel between Deccanis and Afaquis began to grow and that weakened the Kingdom. He was followed by his eldest son Alau'd-din Humayun Shah (1458-1461).

Decline of the Bahmani Sultanate: Death of Mahmud Gawan (1481):

Mahmud Gawan, the great Wazir of Bahmani Sultanate (1466-1481): Mahmud Gawan, a Persian merchant, came to Bidar in 1453. Due to his honesty and simplicity, Sultan Alau'd-din Ahmad Shah II offered him the post of a mansabdar in his court. During the reign of Humayun, Gawan was made his minister with the title of Malik't-tujjar. After Humayun's death, Gawan became the guardian of his eight-year old son, Nizam Shah Ahmad III (1461-1463). Muhammad Shah III (1463-1482), brother of Nizam Shah, made him the Prime Minister. Mahmud Gawan was a scholar and also a great administrator. The Sultanate reached the peak of its power during Gawan's ministry; the Kingdom extended from the Bay of Bengal in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west, including Goa and Kanchipuram. He maintained the political equilibrium between the Deccanis and Afaquis. He was also a great patron of arts. He built the Madrassa, the center of Islamic learning at Bidar in 1472, which attracted scholars from all over the world. Gawan improved the administration, organized finances, encouraged public education, reformed revenue system, disciplined army and removed corruption. On finding the works completed in so short time, Muhammad Shah exclaimed, "the Almighty hath bountifully conferred upon me two incalculable blessings; a great kingdom, and such a servant as Mahmud Gawan!" The King then took off his upper robe, and put it on the shoulders of Mahmud, took his in return, and put it on his own person.

Envious of the favour shown towards the minister, the Deccanis executed a plot against the minister; theyobtained a blank sheet of paper with Gawan's seal affixed on it and wrote a letter inviting the king of Orissa to invade the Bahmani Kingdom. When this letter was presented to the Sultan, Gawan was called to the court. Muhammad Shah asked him, "When any one is disloyal to his sovereign, and his crime be proved, what should be his punishment?" The Khwaja replied, "Let the abandoned wretch who practices treason against his lord meet with no mercy". The King then showed him the letter; upon seeing which, the minister, said, "The seal is mine, but not the letter, of which I have no knowledge". Muhammad Shah, who was at that time intoxicated with wine, ordered to execute Gawan without verifying any details. Thus died the loyal minister, at the age of seventy eight. Later the King regretted, when he learned the truth.

The death of Mahmud Gawan in 1481 marked the decline of the Bahmani Kingdom. Muhammad Shah was followed by his son Shihab-ud-din Mahmud (1482-1518) and during his reign, five powerful governors declared their independence: Malik Ahmed (Nizam Shahis of Ahmadnagar -1490), Fathullah Imad Shah (Imad Shahis of Berar -1490), Yusuf Adil Shah (Adil Shahis of Bijapur -1490) and Quli Qutub Shah (Qutub Shahis of Golconda -1518). Qasim Barid (1492-1505) became the de facto ruler of the Bahmani Sultanate (Barid Shahis of Bidar -1492). In 1504, his son Amir Barid (1504-1542) succeeded him. The last of the Bahmani Sultans: Ahmad Shah II (1518-1520), Ala-ud-din Shah (1520-1523) and Wali-ullah Shah (1523-1526) were mere puppets in the hands of Amir Barid. Kalim-ul-Lah Shah (1526-1528), brother of Wali-ullah, was the last Sultan of the Bahmani Kingdom. Upon hearing Babur's conquest of Delhi, he wrote to Babur offering him Berar and Daulatabad, if he would help him from the yoke of Amir Barid. The news however, leaked out and he fled to Bijapur, but later retired to Ahmadnagar. After the death of Kalim-ul-Lah, his son Ilham-ul-Lah proceeded to Mecca and never returned. Thus ended the Bahmani Sultanate!

Yusuf Adil Shah

1 comment:

  1. hello, is there any old maps of bahamani kingdom

    ReplyDelete