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What you should know about Bahmani empire that the BJP doesn’t want celebrated

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The Bahmani sultanate, despite what the BJP believes, influenced Karnataka greatly.

The Congress and BJP are currently at loggerheads in Karnataka over the celebration of the ‘Bahmani Utsava’, following the controversial celebration of Tipu Jayanti. The Karnataka government’s decision to hold a three-day festival, celebrating the contributions of the Bahmani sultanate to the region’s culture and history, has met with resistance from the BJP.

Sharan Prakash Patil, minister in-charge of Gulbarga, told ThePrint that the three-day literary event will focus on the history, culture and cuisine of the Bahmanis, and look at how they enriched the Deccan areas.

However, BJP leaders, like Shobha Karandlaje, oppose the celebration of what is seen as ‘Muslim rule’ in the Deccan plateau. They’ve argued that the Bahmani Muslim rulers in the past have tortured and killed people in Karnataka and questioned the celebrations.

So who are the Bahmani Muslims?

The first rulers of a unified Deccan

The Bahmani sultanate, or the Bahmani empire, was established in 1347 by a Turkish general named Alauddin Bahman Shah, who had revolted against Mohammed bin Tughlaq of the Delhi Sultanate.

Bahman Shah made Kalaburgi (or Gulbarga) his capital in Karnataka, and set up an empire that would rule the Deccan for nearly 200 years.

A map of the Bahmani Empire, from Haroon Khan Sherwani’s ‘The Bahmanis of the Deccan’

There were 14 sultans who ruled over the kingdom over the two centuries, but the empire reached its peak under the vizierate of an adept minister named Mahmud Gawan. There is not much popular literature on the sultanate, with the main source being Persian historian Ferishta’s Tairikh-i-Firishta, translated into English as The History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power.

Knowledge about the empire is largely based on architectural remnants, coins, and accounts like Ferishta’s. The sultanate’s capital was Gulbarga (known as Ahsanabad at the time) till 1425, after which it shifted to Bidar (then known as Muhammadabad) until it disintegrated in 1527.

The sultanate disintegrated after losing a battle to King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara, after which the last vestiges of Bahmani empire were destroyed. The sultanate then dissolved into five kingdoms where are collectively known as the Deccan Sultanates: Qutb Shahi of Golconda (now known as Hyderabad), Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar, Barid Shahi of Bidar, Imad Shahi of Berar and Adil Shahi of Bijapur.

Wars with Hindu neighbours

The Vijayanagara empire was the biggest rival of the Bahmani empire. The two empires were constantly locked in conflict, mainly over territory. The first war reportedly took place in 1399, and the second one took place in 1407.

Vijayanagara lost both wars, and Ferishta’s accounts record that the sultan at the time married the Princess of Vijayanagara in 1408.

After 1442, Ferishta writes that the king of Vijayanagara, Deva Raya II, evaluated why his army kept losing and the empire undertook massive military reforms to counter their rivals.

Excerpts from H.K. Sherwani’s ‘The Bahmanis of the Deccan’ quotes Ferishta’s words about how Deva Raya II set about trying to reform his military by learning from his Muslim rivals.

Text from Haroon Khan Sherwani’s ‘The Bahmanis of the Deccan’
Text from Haroon Khan Sherwani’s ‘The Bahmanis of the Deccan’

He “gave orders to enlist Mussulmans (Muslims) in his service, allotting them estates, and erecting a mosque for their use in the city of Beejanuggur (Vijayanagara). He also commended that no one should molest them in the exercise of their religion, and moreover, he ordered a Koran to be placed before his throne on a rich desk, so that the faithful might before the ceremony of obeisance in his presence without sinning against their laws.”

How the Bahmanis contributed to Indian culture

The BJP says the Muslim sultanate should not be celebrated because of the destruction of Hindu life that they caused. However, while the two empires were certainly at war with each other, they were also fighting off other rivals.

The Vijayanagara kingdom, for example, was also warring with the Gajapatis from Odisha and the Zamorin of Calicut.

History suggests that the Bahmani Sultanate did more good than harm to the Deccan civilisation. The Bahmanis contributed a lot to the culture and architecture of the time.

Their distinctive style was a blend of Persian, Turkish, Arabic and local traditions. The Gol Gumbaz, the Charminar, and the Gulbarga Fort are all results of Bahmani influence.

Gol Gumbaz

Dakhani Urdu became the popular language, and Dakhani poetry flourished at the time— and is still performed in Hyderabad today.

The Bahmanis patronised the Sufi saint Hazrat Banda Nawaz, and his dargah in Gulbarga is a still a pilgrimage site. The famous metal handicraft style of Bidri also comes from the Bahmanis: the term ‘Bidri’ originates from Bidar.

Bidri work


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  1. Hindu Neighbors. More we speak facts, more lies are peddled by The Print.
    They were traitors and Hindus were not their neighbors. They were invaders into Hindu lands.
    The author parents have not given him a proper care and is civilization bankrupt but not an ounce of ambiguity exists on insane and inhumane mind of author.
    Once the author and family should taste the atrocities of yavanas .
    The Great Sri Krishna Devaraya showed who is mighty and how these traitors went into gutters. Jai Virupaksha.

  2. Bahman also known as Wahman in then Persia. Stories of Bahman / Wahman are much similar with Persuram. Kay Bahman was great Iranian emperor before islamisation of Persia.

  3. This is naive article and their contribution is few lines. If article is written on destruction and damage done to property , culture and lifes lost their contribution is minuscule

  4. Hardly anybody knows about Bahamani rulers in present day Karnataka,while on the other hand every Kannadiga and Telugus) is proud of Vijayanagar empire particularly Krishnadevaraya.Siddaramaiah started Tipu Jayanti after his failed Ahinda movement,but he does not want to honour Vijayanagar Hindu kings.Siddu’s unabashed vote bank politics the main part being Muslim appeasement is the sole reason for this Bahamani celebrations.

    • The author is a moron. Please go and visit hampi before writing any such worthless crap. Examples of secularism include loot and pillage of a hindu kingdom and its temples and idols defaced.

  5. All said and done it is a fact that Muslims came to India as invaders, defeated Indian kings in almost all parts of India. Hindu society was divided mainly due to casteism and with occasional revolt & few successes in some areas influential sections of society made adjustments with Muslim rulers otherwise Muslims could not have ruled India for such a long time. Hindus have still not properly researched reasons of their defeat. Even today dominant sections of society whom we call secular indulging in vote Bank politics and intellectuals & media also sympathetic to them without realising fate of their future generations.
    Clearly it is wrong to blame present generation of Muslims for previous Muslim Rule or atrocities and brutalities committed by them for hundreds of years. But Muslims need to understand that India is now their nation and they will have to exhibit this also by their utterances and actions. Hindus on their part mainly the fringe should also realise that only Hindu-Muslim unity can guarantee strong & prosperous India.
    But the way Seculars and their friends in media continuously toe the line of vote Bank politics situation is likely to go on worsening. It will not benefit anybody.
    Their are many Muslim & Christian countries but that does not guarantee better life to poor and weaker sections of their society. Even if India becomes Hindu Rashtra it will not guarantee better life to poor and weaker sections of society.
    As a whole human civilisation is moving forward in all possible areas and scientific research and innovations are making human life better. So every Indian should try to understand which people are trying to misguide people, specially poor and ignorant. Because in democracy we all will be responsible for misfortune of our future generations.

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