THE RISE TO POWER of Delhi-bred Bahman Shah in the Deccan in 1347, does not come out of the blue. He has networked here extensively. As Tughlaq’s general, he had earlier been deputed to the Deccan to head the Finance Department in Daulatabad. It is fair to say he cultivated the company of the powerful. For when everything finally comes together a few years after Tughlaq moves back to Delhi with his population in tow, the political decks are cleared for Bahman to announce a rebellion. In a few years, he orders the making of a victory tower (Chand Minar) in honour of the successful rebellion, before he assumes leadership of an independent Sultanate. This is only made possible with good will and active support from local amirs of Daulatabad, and the backing of the kings of neighbouring Telangana and the newly-emerged Vijayanagara.
A change of capital is advisable. As long as Bahman is in Daulatabad, he finds himself looking over his shoulder. The continuing water scarcity that years earlier had famously out Tughlaq, remains an issue. Yet Tughlaq’s foolhardy scheme had one golden lining – it lead to the invention of a meal that remains a signature dish in the region today. The story goes that in order to feed his population during the journey, Tughlaq’s bawarchis turned to the most serviceable techniques under the circumstances: they dug out ovens at every meal stop to turn out numerous naans. A massive cauldron was enlisted to prepare spiced mutton: qaliyan. In fact it becomes the preferred staple of the later Mughal army camps stationed in Deccan. The pairing of naan-qaliyan continues to be a trademark specialty of the region of Aurangabad.
The naans in question are not just any naans – they have the special quality of softness that remains for days. These naans remain a specialty of modern day Aurangabad. Often eggs and milk are also added in the preparation of these naans. But what makes them stand apart visually is that they are golden yellow from the turmeric water brushing they receive fresh from the oven.
Tughlaq brought qualiyan to Daulatabad, now the army favourite is taken further when Bahman moves his capital. He shifts the seat of the sultanate to the more fertile Gulbarga which also brings with it some reflected pedigree, situated as it is not far from the regal capital of the ancient Rashtrakutas. In a few years, when the Bahmanis make a conquest of the Deccani kingdoms to the South East, they will also take note of the change in cuisine: from the breads and preference for pungency in the South West, to rice and the mastery over sour flavours in the Southeast.
But the Bahmanis also carry new flavours from different lands. Culturally, the seat of the Sultanate is marked by its cosmopolitanism – Dakhni, Abyssinian, Transoxonian and Persian. All this reflects in the cuisine as well. Coincidentally, the name Bahman shares an association with Persia. Bahman is the name of the protagonist of the Persian epic, Shah Nama. The epic starts with the story of creation and the dawn of the civilizational arts that include fire, cooking and metallurgy.
The Persians will come to have a more pronounced presence and influence in the Deccan region than they will in the North, even under the Mughals. One of the later and most notable Bahmani rulers, Mahmud Gawan, will have been born in Persia.
- Mahadev Govind Ranade, Volume 3, edited by Verinder Grover
- Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates, by George Michell, Mark Zebrowski
- The Political Economy of Commerce: Southern India 1500-1650, by Sanjay Subrahmanyam
- The Foodie – Dawat-e-Aurangabad (TV show)