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The place of perceived outsiders (Turks, Persians, Moghuls) at the high table, soon raises the concerns of some Deccanis who conspire to disgrace the Bahmani Sultanate’s Persian-origin prime minister. Image: From a painting by Levnî, Surnâme, Topkapi Palace Museum Library

THE NEXT KEY DEVELOPMENTS occur under Sultan Muhammed Shah who is all of nine when he assumes the throne. Thankfully, it is a while before he exercises real authority. When he does, he displays qualities that honour his role as captain of the Bahmani destiny, however his impatience and temper will prove the undoing of the dynasty. Instead his rule will stand out for the flowering of someone else in his ranks: Yusuf Adil Shah. This industrious officer will go on to establish a dynasty of his own, and this appears to be his due, however he gets there by excelling in the service of the above mentioned flawed Sultan.

So, who is Yusuf Adil Shah? Some say he was Georgian slave who was bought in Iran.  A more popular version serves a more sensational story: he was the son of the Sultan of Turkey, Murad II.  As a young boy,  he was forced to flee his home country in the succession battle that ensued following his father’s death.  His mother had him taken away to Persia for a safe upbringing under the wings of the Suffee royal family, in the town of Saweh.  On turning sixteen, he decides to set off for India, following a strong personal belief that this is where his destiny lies. His instinct guides him well, for in the years after his arrival, he steadily wins the confidence of important people till he finds himself mentored by Khajeh Gawan, principal minister in the Bahmani Sultanate.

Whether Yusuf Adil Shah is  aware of it or not, by going to India, he takes himself to the birthplace of what will become Turkey’s favourite vegetable – the brinjal / aubergine. This enchanting member of the nightshade family will inspire a beguiling oil-based dish that legend holds had the power to make an imam faint under its spell – the imam bayildi. To stretch the connection a little more, Yusuf Adil Shah’s journey from Turkey and the Persian Gulf to Hindustan, is the journey of the brinjal in reverse.

As for the Bahmani reagent he serves, Sultan Muhammed Shah for all his failings manages to do a good job of holding off challenges and even making gains, due in large part to a talented team exemplified by the likes of Yusuf Adil Shah and his mentor, Khajeh Gawan. In the end however, the Sultan’s poor insight and temper, proves to be not only his undoing but the undoing of the Bahmani Sultanate. After putting Khajeh Gawan to death as punishment for  a letter that turns out to be forged by the minister’s enemies, the Sultan is deserted by his key Governors who are shocked by the rash elimination of a trusted and admired prime minister.

  • A History of the Deccan, by James Dunning Baker Gribble
  • Indian Food, A Historical Companion, by KT Achaya