History of the Bahmani Sultanate

The Bahmani Sultanate, or Bahmanid Empire, was a Muslim state of the Deccan Plateau in southern India between 1347 and 1527, and was one of the great medieval kingdoms. It occupied the North Deccan region to the river Krishna. According to Muslim historians, a rebel chieftain of Saulatabad (an area around Ellora), was under Muhammad bin Tughlaq.


The sultanate was founded on 3 August 1347, by Governor Ala-ud-Din Hassan Bahman Shah/ Hasan Gangu/ Allauddin Hassan, who revolted against the Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughluq. Nazir uddin Ismail Shah who had revolted against the Delhi sultanate stepped down on that day in favour of Zafar Khan/Hassan Gangu who ascended the throne with the title of Alauddin Bahman Shah. His revolt was successful, and he established an independent state on the Deccan, including parts of present-day Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh within the Delhi Sultanate's southern provinces. The Bahmani contested the 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. About eighteen kings ruled during the nearly 200 years. After 1518, the kingdom was divided in four: Barishahi (Bidar), Kutbshahi (of Golkonda), Adamshahi (of Ahmadnagar), and Adilshahi (of Bijapur), known collectively as the Deccan sultanates.

Hasan Shah Zafar Khan was a servant of a Brahmin Gangu, who taught him, educated him, and made him a general in the army. In respect of his preceptor, he took the title Brahmin (Brahman), and gave the name to his Sultanate (Kingdom). Allauddin Hassan, a man of humble origin, assumed the name of Gangu Bahamani in memory of his patron, a Brahmin. While another theory claims he was a Brahmin convert; and form that source it got the name Bahmani.[1][2][3] In recent research according to the Islamic art and architecture of north Karnataka researcher Rehaman Patel refer to the late Sir W. Haig, on the basis of the Gulbarga fort Jama Masjid inscription which bears the surname Bahman Shah, for Alauddin, the founder of the dynasty, had concluded that all the information contained in Persian histories which stated that the king had been a slave of the Brahman Gangu, and had adopted the title Bahmani, a shortened form of Bahman Gangu, and old master, was false. The mention or incorporation of an amusing story is not extraordinary in books on history, but in this case the agreement of all absolutely clear record shall have been secured. The mere mention of the title Bahman Shah, or a reference to the descent of Bahmani kings from Bahman and Faridun in some inscriptions of the dynasty, may only be the eulogy of court panegyrists to please their king, and should not be treated seriously. Firishta’s opinion on this point is very illuminating and may be quoted here: ‘Alauddin Hasan being once asked how he contrived without great treasures or armies to attain royalty, he replied, by kindness to my friends, generosity to my enemies, and by courtesy and liberality to all mankind. It has been asserted that he was descended from Bahman, one of the ancient kings in Persia, and I, the author, have even probably only framed, after his accession to the throne, by flatterers and poets, for I believe his origin was too obscure to admit of being traced. The appellation of Bahmani he certainly took out of compliment to his master, Gangu, the Brahmin, a word often pronounced Bahman. The King himself was by birth an Afghan.’ He was the founder of the Bahamani Dynasty and ruled it under the title of Bahaman Shah. The Bahamani Sultanate was in constant war with its southern neighbour, the Vijayanagara Empire due to the fertile land between the two kingdoms called the Raichur Doab.

Firuz Shah Bahamani left his remarkable footprints over Bahmani history. He was a learned man and had knowledge of many religions and natural science. He wanted to develop the Deccan region as India's cultural hub. He waged three battles against the Vijaynagar Empire, and also extended his territories of Warangal. He gave up his kingdom and throne to his brother Ahmed shah I.

Agriculture was the main economic activity of Bahamani kingdom.

The nobles in the Bahmani Sultanate were classified into Deccanis (oldcomers) and Afaquis (newcomers). They were always divided on opinions. Mahmud Gawan was a minister in Bahamani Empire who expanded and extended the Bahamani Kingdom rapidly. He was an Afaqui making it difficult for him to win the trust and confidence of the Deccanis. He was executed at age seventy by Muhammad Shah of Deccan in the year 1482 for policies which made matters worse between Deccanis and Afaquis.


The Bahmanis encouraged a distinct style by inviting architects from various parts of the Muslim world and blending them with local styles. The resulting culture was a blend of both northern and southern styles and had its own distinct elements. Gumbaj (the largest dome in the world) and Charminar located at Hyderabad are world-famous examples of Bahamani architecture.

The Deccans left an important heritage of the Indo-Islamic art, language and spread Islamic tradition in South India. Hazrat Banda Nawaz (1321 - 1422 CE) the great Sufi saint was patronized by the Bahamani kings. His dargah of Gulbarga is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and Muslims alike. A great scholar of Islamic lore, he founded the Madrassa (institution) from his own funds on the line of universities of Samarkand and Khorasan. A selfless worker, he became a prime-minister of Bahamani king Mahmud III (1462–82), whom he had tutored in earlier days. Gawan became a victim of the palace intrigue and was beheaded by the drunken king. The later kings of the Bahamani dynasty were too weak to keep the kingdom intact, leading to breakup.

List of Bahmani Sultans

During the 191 years of Bahmani reign, the following rulers ruled with Gulbarga and Bidar as their capital:

Gulbarga Period (75 years )

Aladdin Hassan Bahman Shah (August 3, 1347 – Feb 11, 1358 AD)

His original name was Hasan Gangu or Hansan Kanku, and he was also known as Abu'l Muzaffar, Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah and by his title of Zafar Khan. He was the son of Kaikaus, son of Muhammad, son of Ali (disputed).

Nasir-ud-din Ismail Shah asked Zafar Khan to become the King with the title of ‘Sikandar- uth- thani Ala-ud-din Hasan Bahman Shah al-wali’. The new King was crowned on Friday Aug 3, 1347 in the mosque of Qtub-ud-din Mubarak Shah Khalji at Daulatabad. According to one historian, Hasan was the nephew of Malik Hizhbar-ud-din entitled Zafar Khan' Alai, who was killed in 1298 AD when Hasan was only 6 years old.

The first act of the new king was to transfer his title of Zafar Khan to prince Muhammad. King adopted the title of Bahman. He sent Qutbul Mulk who conquered Kotgir, Maram, Mahendri and Akkal Kot. Qir Khan was sent to conquer Kalyan. After the news of this great victory of Kalyan, King renamed Daulatabad to Fatahabad.

Sikandar was sent to Malkher which was held by the Hindu Zamindars who opposed first but subdued later. Krishna Nayak of Tilangana entered into treaty and became friend of Sikandar and loyal to the King. Quir Khan revolted and was beheaded by the king. The King then renamed Gulbarga to Ahsanabad and made it the capital of Deccan.

The King died on Rabi-ul-awwal 1, Feb 11, 1358 at the age of 67.

Silver Coins struck in the name of Bahman Shah in 760 AH indicates that he might have died some time in 760 AH and hence Muhammad Shah I ascended the throne in 760 AH.

Muhammed Shah I (Feb 11, 1358 - April 21, 1375)

Muhammad Shah, was the son of Bahman Shah. He is better known as the organizer of Bahmani Kingdom and founder of its institutions. His replaced his father's silver throne by the magnificent ‘Takht-e-Firoza’ (Turquoise Throne) on March 23, 1363 presented to him by Raya of Tilangana. He constructed ‘Jama Masjid’ in Gulbarga Fort and Shah Bazaar Masjid in Gulbarga town. Like his father Mohammed was involved in wars with Vijayanagar. He also became embroiled in wars with Warangal. Sultan invaded Tilangana, Kanya Nayak offered Huns, elephants and horses along with Golkunda Town. The Sultan died on Zi-qada April 21, 1375 from alcohol poisoning.

Silver and gold coins were struck in the name of Muhammad Shah I. No silver coin of his successor Mujahid Shah is known. Mujahid Shah's Gold coin is known. This indicates that Muhammad Shah I might have died in 1375 and the coins issued posthumously.

Aladdin Mujahid Shah (April 21, 1375 - April 16, 1378)

Son of Mohammad Shah. Aladdin Mujahid Shah took the throne at age 19. He was murdered by Masud Khan (son of Mubarak Khan) and Daud Khan.

Da'ud Shah (April 16, 1378 - May 21, 1378)

Son of Mohammed Shah.

Da'ud Shah was immediately proclaimed king of Deccan. It is said that Ruh Parwar Agha (Mujahid's sister) had Daud murdered through a royal slave Bakah while he was attending Friday prayer of Muharram, in the great mosque of Gulbarga Fort.

Muhammad Shah II (May 21, 1378 - April 20, 1397 AD)

Son of Muhammad Shah.

After avenging her brother's death, Ruh Parwar blinded Sanjar ( S/o Daud I ). She put Muhammad II on the throne. Muhammad Shah II's 19-year reign was one of the most peaceful period in Bahmani history. He had no son and adopted two sons Firoz Shah and Ahmad I from his uncle Ahmad Khan, son of Bahman Shah. After the birth of Tahmatan Shah, Muhammad on his death bed wished that his son would succeed him and Firoz and Ahmad should pay homage to him.

Muhammad died of typhoid. The next day the grand old man of the Deccan Mallik, Saif-ud-din Ghori died, having lived through five reigns and who was the Prime Minister of Bahmani State.

Ghiyath ud-Din Shah (April 20, 1397 - June 14, 1397 AD)

Also known as Ghiyas-Ud-Din-Tahmatan Shah, son of Mohammad Shah II.

Tahmatan Shah succeeded to the throne without any trouble. However, Taghalchin (Turkish slave) who wanted to be the Prime Minister arranged a big feast at which king was also invited. Taghalchin blinded the king on Ramadan, and imprisoned him at Sagar.

Shams-ud-Din Shah II (June 14, 1397 AD - Nov 15, 1397 AD)

Also known as Shams-ud-Din Da'ud Shah II, son of Mohammad Shah II.

The boy king was made to promote Taghalchin to be the Malik Naib and Mir Jumla of the kingdom. The manumitted slave girl who was Shamsuddin's mother was raised to the rank and title of Makhduma-i-Jahan (Dowager Queen). Taghalchin tried to persuade Shamsuddin to imprison Firoz and Ahmad and asked the king's mother to have them executed. On hearing of the conspiracy the two brothers fled to Sagar. Firoz proclaimed himself king and made his younger brother Prime Minister. He had the blind boy Ghiyasuddin Tahmatan with him. He directly attacked the Darbar Hall. Taghalchin and his son were killed. Daud II was blinded and allowed to move Mecca with his mother. Shamsuddin Daud II died in 1414 AD at Mecca.

Taj ud-Din Firuz Shah (Firoz Shah Bahmani) (Nov 16, 1397 - Sep 22, 1422 AD)

Son of Ahmad Khan, grandson of Bahman Shah.

Firoz Shah was one of the most learned Indian sovereigns. He was a good calligrapher and poet (poetic name Uruji or Firozi). Among other public works he undertook the construction of an Observatory on the chain of hills near Daulatabad called Balaghat which could not be completed due to his death.

‘Hazrat Khwaja Syed Muhammad Gesu Draz’ was a Sufi (saint) and was deeply related with the Bahmani kings and the people of Gulbarga. He was the son of Syed Yusuf, who came to Daulatabad in the reign of Muhammad Tughlaq. Hazrat was born on Jan 30, 1331 and started living near ‘Gulbarga Jama Masjid’. He died on Nov 1, 1422 AD at the age of 105 years.

Firoz Shah paid tribute to him. He gave him many villages for his maintenance. He spoke and could translate Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali and other languages. He tamed prince Bukka and Harihara of Vijayanagar and Narasingha of Kherla in battle.

Firoz's army tried to kill Ahmad Khan but was defeated in battle fought cleverly by Ahmad. The gates of the city opened for Ahmad and he was taken to dying king Firoz, who died on Sep 28, 1422.

Bidar Period (116 years)

Ahmad Shah I Wali (1422–1436)

Also known as Ahmed Shah Al Wali Bahamani and Shihab-Ud-Din Ahmad I, he was the son of Ahmad Khan and grandson of Bahman Shah.

At the beginning of his reign he suffered the shock of the death of ‘Hazrat Khwaja Syed Muhammad Gesu Draz’. He shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar. He made Khalaf Hasan Basri his Wakil-e-Saltanate (Prime Minister).

He constructed the Tomb of Gesu Daraz at Gulbarga and buildings at Bidar.

Ahmad Shah attacked Vijayanagar and overpowered Vijayaraya I. In the last year of his reign he appointed his eldest son Ala-ud-din Zafar Khan as his heir. He died after a short illness.

Ahmad Shah brought artisans from Muslim lands, including metalworker Abdulla-bin-Kaiser, who was the father of bidriware, the inlaying of zinc alloy with silver and gold.

Ahmed Shah's, and his empress' tombs are located in Ashtur village and are the subject of an annual ‘urs’, or anniversary of death festival.

Ahmad Shah II (Apr 17, 1436 - May 6, 1458 AD)

Son of Ahmad Shah I.

Ahmad I was a successful king and was regarded as a saint. His son Zafar Khan the title of Ahmad on his accession. He gave preference to newcomers in his cabinet. This created a conflict. He married the daughter of Raja of Sangmeswar and gave her the title of Zeba Chehra, apart from the daughter of Nasir Khan Faruqi of Khandesh ‘Agha Zainab’.

This king died early due to his wound in his shin.

Silver Coins struck in the name of Ahmad Shah II in 838 AH have been reported. No coin of Ahmad Shah I has been reported. This confirms that Ahmad Shah II ascended the throne in 838 AH when Ahmad I was alive.

Humayun Zalim Shah (May 7, 1458 - Sep 4, 1461 AD)

Son of Ahmad Shah II.

Ahmad Shah II nominated his eldest son Humayun his heir. King made Khwaja Mahmud Gawan, Malik-ut-tujjar, trafdar of Bijapur and Wakil-e-Sultunate giving him full control of military matters. Humayun was a short-tempered and cruel man. He named his cousin Sikandar Khan as Sipahsalar. Sikandar became rebellious and was crushed with the help of Mahmud Gawan. Humayun died on Sep 4, 1461.

Coins struck in his name indicate that he might have died some time in Sep 4, 1461.

Nizam-Ud-Din Ahmad III (Sep 4, 1461 - Jul 30, 1463 AD)

Also known as Nizam Shah, son of Humayun Shah.

On Humayun's death his son Ahmad succeeded to the throne as Nizam-ud-din Ahmad III at the age of 8 in 1461. He was escorted to the throne by Shah Muhib-ul-la and Syed-us-Sadat Syed Hanif. Ahmad II nominated a council of Regency consisting of Khwaja-e-Jahan Turk, Mahmud Gawan with the Dowager Queen Makhduma-e-Jahan Nargis Begum. Master mind that ruled the country during the short reign of Ahmad Shah III was that of the great queen. The political prisoners of Humayun period were released. Ahmad III died on his wedding night.

Muhammad Shah III Lashkari (Jul 30, 1463 - Mar 26, 1482 AD)

Also known as Shams-Ud-Din Muhammad Shah III, son of Humayun Shah, younger brother of Ahmad III.

Shamsuddin Muhammad was between 9 and 10 years old when he succeeded his brother. He was escorted to the Turquoise Throne by Shah Mohib-ul-lah (who was released by his captor Mahmud Khalji of Malwa) and Syed Hanif. Nizam-ul-mulk murdered Khwaja-e-Jahan Turk (one of the member of the three party committee of Regency after the death of Humayun ) ) at the insistence of Queen in the presence of boy king in 870 AH.

Muhammad Shah III got married at age 14. The Dowager Queen then retired from an active role. Malik-ut-tujjar Mahmud Gawan was made Prime Minister. Gawan helped the Bahmani State attain prosperity unequalled in the whole of its history. During this period Parenda Fort, Great College of Bidar and Madarsa at Bidar were built. Kherla was besieged in 872 AH. Kapileswar of Orissa was defeated in 1470 AD. Goa was annexed on 20th of Shaban 876 AH. Queen Dowager died in 877 AH.

The boundaries of Bahmani Kingdom now touched the Bay of Bengal in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west. Gawan was one of the first ministers in Medieval India to order a systematic measurement of land, fixing the boundaries of villages and towns and making a thorough enquiry into the assessment of revenue.

The King annexed Kanchi on 1st Muharram, 886 AH. This was the southernmost point ever reached by Bahmani. Nobles conspired against Gawan and prepared a false paper claiming he wanted Deccan to be partitioned between him and Purushottum of Orissa. The King sentenced him to death on 5th Safar 886 AH at age 73. Later King discovered that Khwaja was innocent. He appointed his son Mahmud as his heir. He died on 5th Safar 887 AH.

A silver Tanka of about 11 grams from the treasury of Muhammad Shah III was found that dated to 1472.

Muhammad Shah IV (Mar 26, 1482 - Dec 27, 1518 AD)

Also known as Mahmud Shah and Shihab-Ud-Din Mahmud, son of Muhammad Shah III.

The long reign of Mahmud Shah was a period of gradual weakening of the state. He ascended the throne at age 12, when new-comers had been overthrown. The new Regency was formed with the Queen as president. Qasim Barid was entitled with Barid-ul-mumalik.

The King indulged himself and spent so much money that he had to extract many jewels from the Turquoise throne at Barid's instigation and forced Mahmud to make him Prime Minister of the kingdom. Malik Ahmad Nizamul-mulk revolted and built a palace, making it the center of his newly created capital, which he named after himself, Ahmadnagar. Qutbul-Mulk was appointed as the Governor of Tilangana in 1495-96 AD. He controlled Warrangal, Rajakonda, Dewarkonda and Kovilkonda. Barid died and was succeeded by his son Amir Barid. Ahmad Nizam died and succeeded by his son Burhan. The Sultan died on Dec 27, 1518.

Ahmad Shah III (Dec 27, 1518 - Dec 15, 1520)

Also known as Ahmad IV(?), son of Mahmud Shah.

Amir Barid was very clever. He put Mahmud's son Ahmad on the throne. Amir Barid was careful that king should not leave the palace and set out to spoil his life and morals. The new Sultan was forced to break up the ancient crown of the Bahmanis, worth 15 lakhs of Rupees and sell the jewels to provide himself with the means of ease and pleasure. He died on Dec 15, 1520.

After 1518 the sultanate broke up into five states, Ahmednagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur, and Golconda, known collectively as the Deccan sultanates.

Aladdin Shah (Dec 28, 1520 - Mar 5, 1523 AD)

Son of Ahmad Shah IV(?).

Amir Barid's wish to become king was rekindled with Ahmad's death. He put the crown on Ahmad's son Ala-ud-din on Dec 28, 1520. The new Sultan was wise and courageous. Amir Barid conspired against him and he was dethroned.

Wali-Allah Shah (Mar 5, 1523 - 1526 AD)

Also known as Wali-Ul-Lah Shah, son of Mahmud Shah.

Amir Barid put Waliullah son of Mahmud on throne. He was imprisoned in his own zanana (ladies room) and lived on bread and clothes provided to him by his master. Barid married the pretty Bibi Sitti, Ahmad's widow who was just 22-23. He was now a royal kinsman and was free to enter the zanana apartment of the palace. He began to make love with the queen. When the Sultan resisted he was poisoned.

The existence of coins of Waliullah and the absence of coins of Alauddin Shah indicate that the latter was dethroned and Waliullah ascended the throne.

Coins struck in the name of Kalimullah indicate that Wali-ullah died in 1526 AD.

Kalim-Allah Shah (1526 - 1527 AD)

Also known as Kalim-Ul-Lah Shah, son of Mahmud Shah.

After 1538 Bahamani Empire gets converted into 5 shahis. Kalimullah Shah was the last king of the Bahmani Dynasty. He was closely guarded by Amir Barid. A new political force had now appeared on the Indian Horizon in the person of Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur. All the Deccan rulers, i.e. Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar and Burhanpur sent their congratulations to the Mughal conqueror. Kalimulla wrote to Babur to request a rescue from Amir Barid. This news was leaked and fearing for his life, Kalimullah Shah fled to Bijapur in 1527 AD. He was not welcomed there. He left for Ahmadnagar. He was first received well by Burhan Nizamul Mulk, but never again called in open court.

He died in that city. The shahis rulers planned to murder him after he was deposed because they thought that he could regain the position. His coffin was brought to Bidar. His date of death could not be confirmed. After the death of Kalimullah his son Ilhamullah proceeded to Mecca and never returned.

Coins struck in his name in 951 and 952 AH say that the sultan must have stayed for many years at Ahmadnagar.

Coins struck in his name indicate that he ascended the throne in 1527.


  1. Bhattacharya, Sachchidananada. A Dictionary of Indian History (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1972) p. 100
  2. Cathal J. Nolan (2006). The Age of Wars of Religion, 1000-1650: An Encyclopedia of Global ..., Volym 1. p. 437.
  3. The Discovery of India, J.L.Nehru
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