AKBAR MAY BE MAKING POLITE overtures to the Deccan Sultanate, but previous Delhi-based powers had the region in their grasp. Centuries before, Turkish-origin Alauddin Khilji, the most powerful leader of the Delhi Sultanate, had conquered prominent Southern kingdoms: Devagiri under the Yadavas, the Kakatiya’s Warangal, and Madurai under the Pandyas. This was not surprising; this was a man who made no bones about his ambitions: he had coins minted with him being described as the second Alexander. However’s Khilji’s objective was largely to extract tributes to sustain his armies and the Delhi Sultanate; settling in the Deccan as a sovereign presence was out of the question. Devagiri, Hill of the Gods, was famed for its wealth. A shrewd strategist, Alauddin Khilji saw to it that Devagiri would capitulate to the demands of the Delhi Sultanate. To head this Deccan project, he deputed the redoubtable commander, Malik Kafur. In Devagiri, Khilji would have to negotiate with Devagiri’s ruling Seuna Yadavas under Ramachandra. On Khilji’s very first attempt on Devagiri, Ramachandra was force to cave in to Khilji’s demands. This would become a pattern at any future refusal of tribute payment. But appeasement was two-way. Ramachandra would be summoned to Delhi on one occasion to be conferred the title Rai Rayan. He was also given a region of Gujarat. Ramchandra reciprocated by giving his daughter Jatyapali, in marriage to Khilji. This was a critical alliance that paved the way for Khilji to make further inroads into the Deccan. Alauddin’s turn in the South was a hard act to follow. His successors would not match and a recalcitrant Devagiri would shake off the yoke at every opportunity. Devagiri, also called Daulatabad, would be the same city to which, decades later, the ill-starred Tughlaq, would shift the entire population of Delhi, before moving back. If Tughlaq’s own generals needed a convincing reason to abandon ship, nothing could be clearer than this. Sure enough, in a few years of Tughlaq and the population shifting out of Daulatabad, Zafar Khan, a general under Tughlaq declares automony from the Delhi Sultanate, and establishes what would be referred to as the Bahmani Sultanate. As South India’s first independent Sultanate, the Bahmanis shake off years of menace from Northern forces. Raised in Delhi, Hasan Gangu could not be a more suitable figure for the role: he is homegrown and has worked his way through the ranks. He has taken on the name of the brahmin mentor of his childhood and adolescence – Gangu, who foresaw greatness in the future of the one-time slave. In honour of his mentor, Hasan Gangu names the new Sultanate, Bahmani.
- Studies in Mughal History, Ashvini Agrawal