’Alā‘-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh Founds the Bahmanī Sultanate Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh rebelled against the sultan of Delhi and founded the independent Bahmanī sultanate of the Deccan.

Summary of Event

The earliest Muslim state in India, the Delhi sultanate of the thirteenth century, extended from Punjab to Bengal. During the first half of the fourteenth century, the Khaljī Khaljī Dynasty[Khalji Dynasty] (1290-1320) and Tughluqid Tughluqid Dynasty (1320-1413) Dynasties expanded the sultanate into central and south India. Sultan Muḥammad ibn Tughluq Muḥammad ibn Tughluq (r. 1325-1351) ruled more of India than any previous sultan, but his conquests over extended the sultanate. During the 1340’, Bengal, Gujarat, and the Deccan rebelled. In the Deccan, the revolt was largely the work of ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh (also known asafār Khan). [kw]ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh Founds the Bahmanī Sultanate (1347) [kw]Bahmanī Sultanate, ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh Founds the (1347) Bahmanī sultanate[Bahmani sultanate] ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh India;1347: ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh Founds the Bahmanī Sultanate[2810] Expansion and land acquisition;1347: ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh Founds the Bahmanī Sultanate[2810] Government and politics;1347: ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh Founds the Bahmanī Sultanate[2810] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1347: ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh Founds the Bahmanī Sultanate[2810] ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Bahman Shāh

Bahman Shāh’s origins are obscure and under dispute. The historian Ferishta (c. 1560-c. 1620) located him in Delhi as the servant of a Brahmin, who foretold his future greatness. A crown was also prophesied for him by the celebrated Sufi mystic, Shaykh Niẓām-ud-Dīn Awliyā Niẓām-ud-Dīn Awliyā (1236-1325). Another tradition linked him to Bahman, son of Iskandar, a pre-Islamic Persian hero in the Shahnamah (c. 1010; the book of kings) composed by the poet Firdusi. More convincing is the assumption that he was the nephew of Hizabr-ud-Dīn Yusufafār Khan, a maternal nephew of Sultan ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Khaljī (1296-1316) and an acclaimed military commander slain fighting the Mongols outside the walls of Delhi, c. 1300.

Nothing is known of Bahman Shāh’s early life. By the 1330’, when he was in his forties, he was serving in the Deccan as a military commander (amīr-i sada, “emir of a hundred”) under its viceroy, Qiwan-ud-Dīn Qutlugh Khan, Qiwan-ud-Dīn Qutlugh Khan a trusted lieutenant of Sultan Muḥammad ibn Tughluq and an experienced soldier-administrator from whom he would have learned much. Qutlugh Khan ruled the Deccan for a decade from its capital of Devagiri (Deogir, later Daulatabad, India), but in 1344-1345, the sultan recalled him, contributing to the loss of the province three years later.

Muḥammad ibn Tughluq sent new men from Delhi to the Deccan to enforce order and enhance revenue collection. The historianiyā՚-ud-Dī Baranī describes them as men eager to shed blood, and the province awaited their arrival with apprehension. One of these newcomers, on reaching Dhar north of the Narbada River, summarily executed eighty military officers. When this news reached the Deccan, the military commanders (amīran-i sada) rose in revolt and killed the sultan’s commissioners sent to chastise them. The rebels then converged on Daulatabad, where the garrison went over to them. From that time (September, 1346), the Deccan was virtually independent of Delhi.

Hurriedly, the rebels chose a leader, the elderly Ismāl Mukh Afghan, whose appeal lay in the fact that his brother commanded the sultan’s army in Malwa and might defect to support his brother. Ismāl Mukh was acclaimed the first sultan of the Deccan under the title of Nāir-ud-Dīn Ismāl Shāh Nāṣir-ud-Dīn Ismāՙīl Shāh . Among his fellow conspirators who received honors was Bahman Shāh, who was granted the title ofafār Khan, a title made famous by his heroic uncle.

Muḥammad ibn Tughluq reacted to the news of the rebellion by setting out for Daulatabad with an avenging army, but after learning of a fresh revolt in Gujarat, he diverted his forces to that valuable province. Meanwhile, his local representative in the Deccan, ՙImād-ul-Mulk, set off to restore Tughluqid authority in the province, eventually capturing Bidar.afār Khan set off for Bidar to confront him, but with only twenty thousand horses, he hesitated to force an engagement. Reinforced by a further five thousand horses sent by Nāir-ud-Dīn Ismāl Shāh and fifteen thousand infantry provided by the raja of Tilangana, he defeated and killed ՙImād-ul-Mulk, whose fugitive forces either streamed into Bidar fort or made their way into Malwa.

Leaving his companion-in-arms, Malik Saif-ud-Dīn Ghūri Saif-ud-Dīn Ghūri , to besiege Bidar, afār Khan made a triumphant progress back to Daulatabad, where Nāir-ud-Dīn Ismāl Shāh, seeingafār Khan’s popularity with the army, prudently declared that he himself was unfit to retain the sultanate and recommended that the army chooseafār Khan in his stead.

In 1347,afār Khan was crowned sultan by the Sufi saint, Shaykh Siraj-ud-Dīn Junaydi, Siraj-ud-Dīn Junaydi assuming the titulature of ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Ḥasan Bahman Shāh. He then distributed the honors, titles, and largess expected from a new ruler. Four hundred pounds weight of gold and a thousand pounds weight of silver were distributed to charities in the name of Shaykh Niẓām-ud-Dīn Awliyā, who had foretold that Bahman Shāh would one day gain a throne. His eldest son, Muḥammad (the future sultan Muḥammad I, 1358-1375), was designated heir-apparent with the title ofafār Khan, and married the daughter of Saif-ud-Dīn Ghūri, who, returning triumphantly from Bidar, was appointed vakil-i mutlaq (chief minister).

Bahman Shāh’s position at his accession was not an easy one. Despite the diverse terrain of the Deccan, the central core consisted of stony wolds, broken by deep escarpments and crowned by rocky crags on which were perched innumerable forts. It was a land easy for a possessor to retain but difficult for an outsider to conquer. Some officers willingly supported him, others grudgingly, nursing their own ambitions, while others were loyal to the Tughluqs. Among the Hindu rajas and chieftains, some held back, hedging their bets. Also, the new regime had dangerous neighbors: To the north, Malwa was loyal to Delhi; to the east, the Hindu kingdom of Tilangana, with its capital at Warangal, was formidable; most dangerous was the newly founded Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar Vijayanagar , south of the Tungabhadra.

At his accession, Bahman Shāh was said to have dreamed of conquering the far south, but his prudent henchman, Saif-ud-Dīn Ghūri, advised against it, reminding him that the campaigns of ՙAlā՚-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Khaljī and Muḥammad ibn Tughluq had contributed to the misfortunes of their last days; rather, he urged consolidation in the Deccan and aggression against Malwa and Gujarat. Consequently, for the next four years, Bahman Shāh concentrated on suppressing refractory chieftains and disloyal subordinates. Reportedly, fearful of leaving the impregnable defences of Daulatabad, he was visited in a dream by Uwais Qarani (a legendary contemporary of the Prophet Muḥammad), who assured him of victory if he would take the field in person. Fortified by the saint’s assurances, he set out for Gulbarga, only to learn of the death of Muḥammad ibn Tughluq (March, 1351), which made the future independence of the Deccan virtually certain. Bahman Shāh then made Gulbarga, in place of Daulatabad, the capital of the new sultanate.

Bahman Shāh strengthened Gulbarga’s fortifications, and within the citadel, he probably initiated the building of the Jami Masjid Jami Masjid (congregational mosque), completed in 1367 by a Persian architect from Qazvin, and also the solid donjon known as the Bala Hisar. A surviving inscription, dated 1353-1354 (the earliest Muslim inscription known in south India), records another mosque in Gulbarga, no longer extant, founded by Bahman Shāh’s vakil-i mutlaq, Saif-ud-Dīn Ghūri.

Bahman Shāh remained active throughout the remainder of his reign. In the west, he conquered Kolhapur, Goa, and Dabhol (south of modern Bombay), which became the main port of the sultanate, while his forces pressed north into Malwa and occupied Warangal in the east. By the time of his death, the new state stretched from the Narbada southward to the Tungabhadra and from the Arabian Sea almost to the Bay of Bengal.

He was a plain soldier, and ceaseless campaigning left him little time to cultivate the arts of peace, although he is identified with one major work of literature, the Futūḥ al-Salātīn (fourteenth century; Futuhus-salatin by Isami, 1948) of ՙAbd al-Malik ՙIṣāmī, an epic account of India’s Muslim rulers inspired by Firdusi’s Shahnamah. As a successful rebel who had usurped a kingdom by force, Bahman Shāh sought the legitimizing approval of the charismatic Sufi shaykhs who dominated the religious life of the period. Therefore, he honored Shaykh Niẓām-ud-Dīn Awliyā in distant Delhi and regarded Shaykh Siraj-ud-Dīn Junaydi as his spiritual mentor. Although the latter did not finally settle in Gulbarga until after Bahman Shāh’s death, the sultan’s tomb is located adjacent to the saint’.


Bahman Shāh’s founding of an independent sultanate in the Deccan marked the end of a single, Delhi-based Muslim state in India and heralded the emergence of regional sultanates that would develop their own distinctive cultural traditions and artistic styles. The Bahmanī sultanate served a dual function: of extending the Islamic presence southward while barring the northern expansion of the Hindu Vijayanagar kingdom.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Briggs, John. History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India. 4 vols. 1829. Reprint. Calcutta, India: Editions Indian, 1966. Translation of some of the work of the Deccani chronicler, Ferishta.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Husaini, S. A. Q. Bahman Shāh. Calcutta, India: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1960. The only biography of the sultan.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jackson, Peter. The Delhi Sultanate. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999. The best general account of the period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Michell, George, and Mark Zebrowski. Architecture and Art of the Deccani Sultanates. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Outstanding for the arts.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sherwani, H. K. The Bahmanis of the Deccan. Delhi, India: Munshiram Manocharlal, 1985. Excellent account of the dynasty.

Categories: History