Bahmani Sultanate
Map of the Bahmani Sultanate at its greatest extent[1]
Map of the Bahmani Sultanate at its greatest extent[1]
Common languagesPersian (official) [2]
Deccani Urdu
Sunni Islam[3]
Shia Islam[3][4]
• 1347–1358
Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah
• 1525–1527
Kalim-Allah Shah
Historical eraLate Medieval
• Established
3 August 1347
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Delhi Sultanate
Musunuri Nayaks
Vijayanagara Empire
Gajapati Empire
Deccan sultanates
Today part ofIndia

The Bahmani Sultanate (Persian: بهمنی سلطنت) was a Muslim empire that ruled the Deccan Plateau in South India. The Bahmani Sultanate came to power in 1347 during the Rebellion of Ismail Mukh after Ismail Mukh abdicated in favour of Zafar Khan, who would establish the Bahmani Sultanate. The Bahmani Sultanate was in perpetual war with its neighbors, including its rival, the Vijayanagara Empire.[6]

The Sultanate would begin its decline under the reign of Mahmood Shah. In 1518, the Bahmani Sultanate split up into the Deccan sultanates, ending its 180 year rule over the Deccan.[7][8]


Zafar Khan, the founder of the Bahmani Sultanate, was either of Afghan, or Turk origin.[9][10][11][12] Encyclopedia Iranica states him to be a Khorasani adventurer, who claimed descent from Bahrām Gōr.[13] According to the medieval historian Ferishta, his obscurity makes it difficult to track his origin, but he is nonetheless stated as of Afghan birth.[14] Ferishta further writes, Zafar Khan had earlier been a servant of a Brahmin astrologer at Delhi named Gangu (hence the name Hasan Gangu),[15][16] and says that he was from North India.[17] Historians have not found any corroboration for the legend,[18][19] but Barani, who was the court chronicler of Sultan Firuz Shah, as well as some other scholars have also called him as Hasan Gangu.[20] Another theory of origin for Zafar Khan is that he was of Brahman origin,[21] and that Bahman is a corrupted personalized form of Brahman,[22] with Hasan Gangu being Hindu Brahman who became Muslim.[23][21] However this view has been discredited by S.A.Q Husaini, who considers the idea of a Brahmin origin or Zafar Khan originally being a Hindu convert to Islam from Punjab untenable.[24]


Barani states that Hasan Gangu was "born in very humble circumstances. For the first thirty years of his life he was nothing more than a field laborer."[25] He was made a commander of a hundred horsemen by the Sultan who was pleased with his honesty. This sudden rise in the military and socio-economic ladder was common in this era of Muslim India.[26] Zafar Khan or Hasan Gangu was among the inhabitants of Delhi who were forced to migrate to the Deccan, to build a large Muslim settlement in the region of Daulatabad.[27] Zafar Khan was a man of ambition and looked forward to the adventure. He had long hoped to employ his body of horsemen in the Deccan region for slaying and plundering Hindus, as the Deccan was seen as the place of bounty in Muslim imagination at the time.[28] He was rewarded with an Iqta for taking part in the conquest of Kampili.[29] He made various raids against neighboring Hindus until he could gain influence and wealth and became a powerful military chief.[28]


Before the establishment of his kingdom, he was Governor of Deccan and a commander on behalf of Tughlaq. During the rebellion by the Amirs of the Deccan, led by the elderly Afghan, Ismail Mukh, also known as Nasir-ud-din Ismail Shah. On 3 August 1347, the Afghan noble Nasir-ud-Din Ismail Shah, whom the rebel amirs of the Deccan placed on the throne of Daulatabad in 1345) abdicated in favor of Zafar Khan, resulting the establishment of the Bahmani Kingdom with its headquarters at Hasanabad (Gulbarga). the Sultan of Delhi had besieged the rebels at the citadel of Daulatabad. As another rebellion had begun in Gujarat, the Sultan left and installed Shaikh Burhan-ud-din Bilgrami and Malik Jauhar and other nobles in charge of the siege. Meanwhile, as these nobles were unable to stop the Deccani amirs from pursuing the imperial army, Hasan Gangu, a native of Delhi, then being pursued by the governor of Berar, Imad-ul-Mulk, and was the leader to whom the Deccani Amirs had re-assembled, attacked and slew Imad-ul-Mulk and marched on towards Daulatabad. Here Hasan Gangu and the Deccani amirs put to flight the imperial forces which had been left to besiege. The rebels at Daulatabad had the sense to see Hasan Gangu as the man of the hour, and the proposal to crown Hasan Gangu, entitled Zafar Khan, was accepted without a dissentient voice on 3 August 1347.[31][32][33][34][35] His revolt was successful, and he established an independent state on the Deccan within the Delhi Sultanate's southern provinces with its headquarters at Hasanabad (Gulbarga) and all his coins were minted at Hasanabad.[31][36]

With the support of the influential Indian Chishti Sufi Shaikhs, he was crowned "Alauddin Bahman Shah Sultan – Founder of the Bahmani Dynasty".[37] They bestowed upon him a robe allegedly worn by the Prophet. The extension of the Sufi's notion of spiritual sovereignty lent legitimacy to the planting of the Sultanate's political authority, where the land, people, and produce of the Deccan were merited state protection, no longer available for plunder with impunity. These Sufis legitimized the transplantation of Indo-Muslim rulership from one region in South Asia to another, converting the land of the Bahmanids into being recognized as Dar ul-Islam, while it was previously considered Dar ul-Harb.[38]

Turkish or Indo-Turkish troops, explorers, saints, and scholars moved from Delhi and North India to the Deccan with the establishment of the Bahmanid sultanate.[3] How many of these were Shi'ites is unclear.[3] Nonetheless, there is enough evidence to demonstrate that a number of nobility at the Bahmani court identified as Shi'ites or had significant Shi'ite inclinations.[a][3]

Alauddin was succeeded by his son Mohammed Shah I.[40] His conflicts with the Vijayanagar empire were singularly savage wars, as according to the historian Ferishta, "the population of the Carnatic was so reduced that it did not recover for several ages."[41] The Bahmanids' aggressive confrontation with the two main Hindu kingdoms of the southern Deccan, Warangal and Vijayanagara in the first Bahmani-Vijayanagar War, made them renowned among Muslims as warriors of the faith.[42]

The Vijayanagara empire and the Bahmanids fought over the control of the Godavari-basin, Tungabadhra Doab, and the Marathwada country, although they seldom required a pretext for declaring war,[43] as military conflicts were almost a regular feature and lasted as long as these kingdoms continued.[44] Military slavery involved captured slaves from Vijayanagara whom were then converted to islam and integrated into the host society, so they could begin military careers within the Bahmanid empire.[45][46]

Ghiyasuddin succeeded his father Muhammad II at the age of seventeen, but was blinded and imprisoned by a Turkic slave called Taghalchin,[47][48] who had held a grudge on the Sultan for the latter's refusal to appoint him as a governor. He had lured the Sultan into putting himself in the former's power, using the beauty of his daughter, who was accomplished in music and arts, and had introduced her to the Sultan at a feast.[49][50] He was succeeded by Shamsuddin, who was a puppet king under Taghalchin. Firuz and Ahmed, the sons of the fourth sultan Daud, marched to Gulbarga to avenge Ghiyasuddin. Firuz declared himself the sultan, and defeated Taghalchin's forces. Taghalchin was killed and Shamsuddin was blinded.[51]

Dakhani Horseman

Taj ud-Din Firuz Shah became the sultan in 1397.[52] Firuz Shah fought against the Vijayanagara Empire on many occasions and the rivalry between the two dynasties continued unabated throughout his reign, with victories in 1398 and 1406, but a defeat in 1419. One of his victories resulted in his marriage to Deva Raya's daughter.

Firuz Shah expanded the nobility by enabling Hindus and granting them high office.[53] In his reign, Sufis such as Gesudaraz, a Chishti saint who had immigrated from Dehli to Daulatabad, were prominent in court and daily life.[54] He was the first author to write in the Dakhni dialect of Urdu.[55] The Dakhni language became widespread, practised by various milieus from the court to the Sufis. It was established as a lingua franca of the Muslims of the Deccan, as not only the aspect of a dominant urban elite, but an expression of the regional religious identity.[56]

Firuz Shah was succeeded by his younger brother Ahmad Shah I Wali. Following the establishment of Bidar as capital of the sultanate in 1429,[57] Ahmad Shah I converted to Shi'ism.[3] Ahmad Shah's reign was marked by relentless military campaigns and expansionism. He imposed destruction and slaughter on Vijayanagara and finally captured the remnants of Warangal.[58]

Coinage of Ala al-Din Ahmad Shah II, who reigned from 1435 to 1458

Alauddin Ahmad II succeeded his father to the throne in 1436.[59] He ordered the construction of the Chand Minar. For the first half-century after the establishment of the Bahmanids, the original North Indian colonists and their sons had administered the empire quite independent of either the non-Muslim Hindus, or the Muslim foreign immigrants.

However, the later Bahmani Sultans, mainly starting from his father Ahmad Shah Wali I, began to recruit foreigners from overseas, whether because of depletion among the ranks of the original settlers, or the feelings of dependency upon the Persian courtly model, or both.[60] This resulted in factional strife that first became acute in the reign of his son Alauddin Ahmad Shah II.[61] In 1446, the powerful Dakhani nobles persuaded the Sultan that the Persians were responsible for the failure of the Konkan invasion.[62]

The Sultan, drunk, condoned a terrible massacre of Persian Shi'a Sayyids by the Sunni Dakhani nobles and their Sunni Abyssinian slaves.[63] A few survivors escaped the massacre dressed in women's clothing and convinced the Sultan of their innocence.[64] Ashamed of his own folly, the Sultan punished the Dakhani leaders who were responsible for the massacre, putting them to death or throwing them in prison, and reduced their families to beggary.[65] It is noteworthy that the accounts of the violent events included exaggerations as it came from the pen of the chroniclers who were themselves mainly foreigners and products of Safavid Persia.[66]

Mahmud Gawan Madrasa was built by Mahmud Gawan, the Wazir of the Bahmani Sultanate as the centre of religious as well as secular education.[67]

The eldest sons of Humayun Shah, Nizam-Ud-Din Ahmad III and Muhammad Shah III Lashkari ascended the throne successively, while they were young boys. The vizier Mahmud Gawan ruled as regent during this period, until Muhammad Shah reached age. Mahmud Gawan is known for setting up the Mahmud Gawan Madrasa, a center of religious as well as secular education.[67] Gawan was considered a great statesman, and a poet of repute.

Mahmud Gawan was caught in a struggle between a rivalry between two groups of nobles, the Dakhanis and the Afaqis. The Dakhanis made the indigenous Muslim elite of the Bahmanid dynasty, being descendants of Sunni immigrants from Northern India, while the Afaqis were foreign newcomers from the West such as Gawan, who were mostly Shi'is.[68][69] The Dakhanis believed that the privileges, patronage and positions of power in the Sultanate should have been reserved solely for them.[70]

The divisions included sectarian religious divisions where the Afaqis were looked upon heretics by the Sunnis as the former were Shi'as,[71] while Eaton cites a linguistic divide where the Dakhanis spoke Dakhni while the Afaqis favored the Persian language.[72] Although Mahmud Gawan was a foreigner, he attempted to reconcile the factions and strengthen the Sultanate by allotting offices to the Dakhanis.

Nonetheless, Mahmud Gawan found it difficult to win their confidence; the party strife could not be stopped and his opponents eventually managed to poison the ears of the Sultan.[73] Mahmud Gawan was executed by Muhammad Shah III, an act that the latter regretted until he died in 1482.[74] Upon his death, Nizam-ul-Mulk Bahri, the father of the founder of the Nizam Shahi dynasty became the regent of the king.[75] Nizam-ul-Mulk, as leader of the Dakhani party, led a cold-blooded massacre of Iranian Georgians and Turkmens in the capital of Bidar.[76][77]

The sultanate included parts of the modern states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Telangana. It vied for control of the Deccan with the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire to the south. The Bahmani capital was Ahsanabad (Gulbarga) between 1347 and 1425, when it was moved to Muhammadabad (Bidar). The sultanate reached the peak of its power during the vizierate (1466–1481) of Mahmud Gawan.[78]

Later rulers and decline

Muhammad Shah II was succeeded by his son Mahmood Shah Bahmani II, the last Bahmani ruler to have real power.[79] In 1501, Mahmud Shah Bahmani united his amirs and wazirs in an agreement to wage annual Jihad against Vijayanagara. The expeditions were financially ruinous.[80]

The independent Nizam Shahi Sultanate was founded by the son of the regent of Muhammad Shah II, Nizam-ul-Mulk Bahri

The last Bahmani Sultans were puppet monarchs under their Barid Shahi Prime Ministers, who were de facto rulers. After 1518 the sultanate broke up into five states: Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar, Qutb Shahi of Golconda (Hyderabad), Barid Shahi of Bidar, Imad Shahi of Berar, Adil Shahi of Bijapur. They are collectively known as the "Deccan Sultanates".[7]


Modern scholars like Sherwani, and Eaton have based their accounts of the Bahmani dynasty mainly upon the medieval chronicles of Firishta, and Syed Ali Tabatabai. Other contemporary works were Sivatatva Chintamani and Guru Charitra. Afanasy Nikitin traveled this kingdom. He contrasts the huge "wealth of the nobility with the wretchedness of the peasantry and the frugality of the Hindus".[81]


The dynasty patronized Indo-Muslim and Persian culture from Northern India and the Middle East.[82] However, the society of the Bahmnanis were dominated prominently by Iranians, Afghans, and Turks.[83] They also had considerable and social influence such as with the celebration of Nowruz by Bahmani rulers.[83] This also comes as Mohammed Shah I ascended the throne on Nowruz.[84] According to Khafi Khan and Ferishta, musicians flocked to the court from Lahore, Delhi, Persia and Khorasan.[85]

The Bahmani Sultans were patrons of the Persian language, culture and literature, and some members of the dynasty became well-versed in that language and composed its literature in that language.[86]

Bahmani Tombs in Bidar district

The first sultan, Alauddin Bahman Shah is noted to have captured 1,000 singing and dancing girls from Hindu temples after he battled the northern Carnatic chieftains. The later Bahmanis also enslaved civilian women and children in wars; many of them were converted to Islam in captivity.[87][88]

The craftspersons of Bidar were so famed for their inlay work on copper and silver that it came to be known as Bidri.[89] Firuz Shah, having a passion for languages, married a large number of Indians of various ethnicities, Georgians, Iranians and Arabs, to practise speaking their languages with them. In addition he was known for speaking several Indian languages.[90][91]


Haft Gumbaz, tomb of Taj-ud-Din Firuz Shah in Kalaburagi

The Persianate Indo-Islamic style of architecture developed during this period was later adopted by the Deccan Sultanates as well.

The Gulbarga Fort, Haft Gumbaz, and Jama Masjid in Gulbarga, Bidar Fort and Madrasa Mahmud Gawan[67] in Bidar, are the major architectural contributions.

The later rulers are buried in an elaborate tomb complex, known as the Bahmani Tombs.[92] The exterior of one of the tombs is decorated with coloured tiles. Arabic, Persian and Urdu inscriptions are inscribed inside the tombs.[92][93]

The Bahmani rulers made some beautiful tombs and mosques in Bidar and Gulbarga. They also built many forts at Daulatabad, Golconda and Raichur. The architecture was highly influenced by Persian architecture. They invited architects from Persia, Turkey and Arabia. Some of the magnificent structures built by the Bahmanis were the Jami Masjid at Gulbarga, Chandand Minar and the Mahmud Gawan Madrasa at Bidar.[citation needed]

Turquoise Throne

Main article: Takht-i-Firoza

The Turquoise Throne (Hindustani: Takht-e-firozā, Hindi: तख़्त-ए-फ़िरोज़ा) was a famous jeweled royal throne mentioned by Firishta. It was the seat of the Sultans of the Bahmani Empire of Deccan in India since Mohammed Shah I (reigned 1358CE–1375CE). It was a gift by Musunuri Kapaya Nayaka, then Rai (i.e. king) of Telangana.[94]: 77–78  It was mentioned by Firishta that on March 23, 1363CE,[b] this throne replaced the earlier Throne made of silver on which Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah, the first Bahmani sultan used to sit.

Family tree and List of rulers

Main article: List of Bahmani rulers

See also



  1. ^ Stephen F. Dale refers to the Bahmani as Shi'i Muslims.[39]
  2. ^ Firishta mentioned that the Sultan Bahman Shah first sat on the new throne (i.e. takht-e-firoza) on Nowruz, the Persian new year following the autumnal solstice in 764AH.[94]: 102 


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  8. ^ history of the decan. Mittal Publications. 1990. p. 15.
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  10. ^ Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (2004). A History of India. Psychology Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780415329200. The Bahmani sultanate of the Deccan Soon after Muhammad Tughluq left Daulatabad, the city was conquered by Zafar Khan, a Turkish or Afghan officer of unknown descent, had earlier participated in a mutiny of troops in Gujarat.
  11. ^ Wink, André (2020). The Making of the Indo-Islamic World C.700-1800 CE. Cambridge University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9781108417747. Finally, and more importantly, the independent Bahmani dynasty of the Deccan was founded in 1348 by Zafar Khan, probably an Afghan who broke away from Delhi with the support of Afghan and Mongol "New Muslims"
  12. ^ Kerr, Gordon (2017). A Short History of India: From the Earliest Civilisations to Today's Economic Powerhouse. Oldcastle Books Ltd. p. 160. ISBN 9781843449232. In the early fourteenth century, the Muslim Bahmani kingdom of the Deccan emerged following Alauddin's conquest of the south. Zafar Khan, an Afghan general and governor appointed by Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq, was victorious against the troops of the Delhi Sultanate, establishing the Bahmani kingdom with its capital at Ahsanabad (modern-day Gulbarga).
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