The Bahmani Kingdom

The Bahmani Kingdom was founded by Alauddin Bahman Shah in the 1347 AD. With its capital at Gulbarga and later Bidar a total of eighteen Sultans ruled over this kingdom. Often at war with the neighboring Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagara, the Bahamanis disintegrated into independent sultanates called Deccan sultanates after the attack of Krishnadeva Raya and the death of the great Wazir of Bahmani Sultanate Mahmud Gawan.
Created On: Oct 21, 2015 16:51 IST

The first Independent Islamic Kingdom in South India was the Bahmani Sultanate or the Bahmani Kingdom. One of the great medieval Indian kingdoms, the Bahmani Sultanate was founded as a revolt against Muhammad bin Tughlaq of the Delhi Sultanate by Zafar Khan, of Turkish origin, who took the title of Ala-ud-din Hassan Bahman Shah. Establishing a strong rule with nearly 18 kings for about 200 years, the Southern King Krishnadeva Raya defeated the last ruler of Bahmani Empire after which it got disintegrated into 5 states around 1518 AD, collectively known as Deccan Sultanates and individually as: Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar, Qutubshahi of Golconda (Hyderabad), Baridshahis of Bidar, Imadshahi of Berar, Adilshahi of Bijapur.

Historical Background

In august 1347 AD, the Bahmani Kingdom rose to power under the Turkish Governor Ala-ud-din Hassan Bahman Shah, who revolted against the Sultan of Delhi Sultanate, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and was favored by Nazir uddin Ismail Shah (who had revolted against the Delhi Sultanate). The success of the revolt led to the establishment of an independent Deccan state with parts of the current day’s Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh which were within the territory of Delhi Sultanate. Setting up the capital between 1347 AD and 1425 AD, in Ahsanabad (gulbara), it was later moved to Muhammadabad (Bidar).

Constantly contesting the Vijyanagar Empire of Hindus, in the south, the power of sultanate reached its peak under Mahmud Gawan (serving as a prime minister and General to several sultans) during 1466-1481. He extended the empire by reconquering Goa which was under the Vijyanagar Empire. He also introduced administrative reforms and controlled many districts directly. His execution was ordered by a sultan and the Empire began collapsing after the sultan drank himself to death. The rampant Bahmani power was disintegrated by Krishna Dev Raya of Vijyanagar Empire and the Governors of important provinces like Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar, Bidar and Golconda, started declaring their Independence from Bahmani rule

Bijapur as an expansive successor states captured Bidar and was joined by Ahmadnagar and Golconda in struggle against Vijayanagar. All the Deccan sultanates together pooled their resources against the might of Vijyanagar and it suffered a crucial defeat in 1565 AD. At the same time the Deccan sultanates had to succumb to the Great Mughals, and were totally vanquished by Aurangzeb in 1686–7 AD.

Break-up of Bahmani Kingdom

The 16th century saw the Bahmani Kingdom fragment into smaller sultanates each governed by independent dynasty.

  • The Nizam Shahis of Admed Nagar (1490-1633 AD): the Nizam Shahi kingdom was founded by Malik Ahmed Bahri and was later conquered by Shah Jahan (A.D. 1633).
  • The Adilshahis of Bijapur (A.D. 1490-1686 AD): The kingdom of Bijapur was founded by Yusuf Adil Shah. The Gol Gumbaj, the tomb with world’s second largest dome was built by Adil Shahi ruler Muhammad Adil Shah. It is also famous for its whispering gallery. This kingdom was later annexed by Aurangzeb. Ibrahim Adil shah II wrote a book of songs called Kitab-i-Niwas in Dakhani Urdu; this contains a number of songs with different ragas.  
  • The Imadshahis’ of Berar (1490-1574 AD): the Imadshahi kingdom was founded by Fatullah Khan imad-ul-mulk and it was conquered by one of the Nizam-Shahi rulers of Ahmadnagar.
  • The Qutubshahis of Golconda (1518-1687 AD): Quli Qutub Shah founded the Qutubshahi dynasty and made Golconda his capital after building the famous Golconda fort. Another Qutubshahi ruler, Muhammad Quli Qutubshah, was the greatest of all and he founded the city of Hyderabad and built the Charminar in it. This kingdom was also later annexed by Aurangzeb. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah wrote the Kulliyat-i-Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in Dakhani urdu.
  • The Baridshahis of Bidar (1528-1619 AD): Ali Barid founded the kingdom and it was later annexed by Adilshahis of Bijapur.

Art and Culture under Bahmani Kingdom

The Bahmanis were enthusiasts of architecture and art and encouraged distinct styles with architects from different parts of the Muslim world and blended these with the local styles.

Ala-ud-din Bahman built a large number of buildings including the Jama masjid and the Bala Hisar. The monuments of Gulbarga were also built and when the capital was shifted to Bidar a d a large number of buildings  were constructed which include the forts, palaces, mosques and tombs prominent among which are the Rangin Mahal, Gagan Mahal, Chini Mahal and Nagin Mahal  (currently are in broken form).

The Persian scholar Mahmud Gawan (minister of Muhammad Shah III), built the well-known Madrasa in 1472 AD (building with three stories and has lecture halls, a library, a mosque and residential houses) which stands as a specimen of Bahmani architecture.

The Bahmanis got many forts rebuilt and modified for their suitability in case of military requirements.  These included the covered passages and bastions as an addition. Few forts were built at strategic places, keeping this structure in mind; some among these are the Gulbarga, Daulatabad, Gawilgarh, Narnala, Parenda, Raichur, etc

The architectural works also include idgahs (prayer houses) built at Daulatabad, Gulbarga, Bidar and Kovilkonda.  Their special feature is the parapet cresting and a dome in the middle above the central prayer-niche. Prayer niches were also provided in the walls. However some exquisite tombs were also built that had features like a square configuration on a raised area with sloping walls which gives an impression of single mass, low flat domes, high and slender arched doorways, with the use of enameled tile work.  Few of the significant tombs include the Ala-ud-din Hasan, Muhammad I and Muhammad II at Gulbarga and the tomb of Hazrat Zain-ud-din at Khuldabad. 
Another significant contribution to the architecture is the Ibrahim Rouza . 'Rouza' meaning garden was built by the ruler Ibrahim. The tomb is known for its minarets, stonework, calligraphic inscriptions, parapets, etc. and

A blend of both northern and southern styles with distinct elements can be seen. Gumbaz (the largest dome in the world) and Charminar in Hyderabad are also world-famous examples of Bahamani architecture.

An important heritage in the Indo-Islamic art was left by the Deccans, which included the language and Islamic tradition that spread in South India. Bahmani Kings patronized Hazrat Banda Nawaz (1321-1422 AD) the great Sufi saint (his dargah of Gulbarga is a pilgrimage to the Hindus and Muslims alike). He founded the Madrassa (institution) being a great scholar of Islamic wisdom, from his own funds on the line of universities of Samarkand and Khorasan.


The Bahmani Kingdom came as a powerful kingdom in the Medieval India and contributed richly to the architecture, culture and politics of the time. The period marks a time of constant struggle with the Vijayanagara Kingdom and series of successions to maintain the empire’s strength.

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