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throne4NEW KINGS ARE SENSITIVE to effrontery – imagined and actual. In the case of the new Bahmani Sultan Mohammed Shah, all it takes is a gift of horses. On confronting the team of dealers on the clearly substandard steeds, he is peeved to hear that the original faultless specimens were replaced on the orders of a ruler whose territories they had passed through. So it’s off to Telangana again, where the unapologetic Raja gets the worst from the slighted Sultan. Revenge may have been extracted, but on their return trip back to Gulbarga, the Bahmani army is taken to the cleaners and return severely depleted. Thus begins a long standoff between the new Sultanate and one of their equally combative neighbours. Soon enough, the neighbouring Kingdom proposes some kind of truce. While initially uncertain, Sultan Mohammed caves in when he is told that it will be sealed with the gift of a special jewelled throne.

This is no ordinary throne. This gold plated, ebony seat stretches to a length of nine feet and is encrusted with jewels which are designed to be detached and replaced as needed. A verbal account of its details is sufficient to persuade the Sultan to give in to the plan. The throne has a name of its own – Firozeh – after its sky blue enamelling.

When the jewelled throne finally finds its way to the Court at the Bahmani capital of Gulbarga, the buntings and troupes are called out. The silver throne of his father is down over to the treasury, the new seat is placed in the Durbar hall and the Sultan calls for feasting and celebrations. The gift of the jewelled throne succeeds where it was meant to: it secures a degree of peace for the neighbouring kingdom of Telengana and of course secures the Raja’s position. A throne for a throne.

Coincidentally, centuries later, a Mughal ruler by the same name (Mohammed Shah) will have to do the opposite and turn over the priceless Peacock Throne to appease the rampaging forces of Nadir Shah. In other cases, a tangible throne will not be enough – what matters is total, unobstructed power. Such will be the case with Aurangzeb. Incensed at having to hear of his brother, Dara Shikoh’s natural claim to the throne, he hires assassins who break into Dara’s home just while he is preparing a meal of khichdi for his son and himself.

  • A History of the Deccan, by James Dunning Baker Gribble
  • Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656-1668, by Francois Bernier
  • Lalla Rookh: an oriental romance by Thomas Moore, by Thomas Moore