The Qutb Shahs of Golconda-Hyderabad traced the genesis of their imperial legacy to the Bahmani Kingdom which flourished in the Deccan from 1347 to 1525, with its capital first at Gulbarga and at Bidar.
During the twilight period of the Bahamani realm, with gradual disintegration from the last quarter of the fifteenth century, there evolved five independent kingdoms in the Deccan. Qutb Shahi kingdom (1512-1687) was one of them with its capital at Golconda at first and later Hyderabad. The other kingdoms were: Imad Shahi of Herar (1484-1568) with its capital at Ellichpur; the Adil Shahi (1489-1686) with its capital at Bijapur; the Nizam Shahi (1490-1633) with its capital at Ahmednagar and the Barid Shahi (1492-1609) with its capital at Bidar.
During the Bahmani period there was a great influx of foreign immigrants to the Deccan from Turkistan, Iran, Arabia, Africa, Iraq, etc., who were generously welcomed by the Bahmani rulers and were patronized for their learning and cultural activities. And with them foreign culture percolated in the Deccan. The immigration may be attributed partially to the political upheavals in their countries and partly to seek career and future.
Sultan-Quli, the founder of the Qutb Shahi Kingdom of Golconda was one such immigrant from Turkistan. He, accompanied with his uncle Allah Quli, arrived at the Bahmani capital Muhammadabad Bidar towards the end of the 15th century.
The foreign immigrants gradually dominated the society and captured the entire government machinery. Almost all the posts in the civil and the military departments were taken over by the foreigners. While the other group, the Deccanis were unable to compete with the foreigners: thus resulting in factionalism.
The society in the Deccan was a strange combination of people of different ethnic origin, race, religion, culture etc. The culture and civilization of Golconda-Hyderabad has been one of synthesis. Muslims and Hindus constituted the population. The former were in minority: but adopted secular policies in political and social life. Since both the Muslims and Hindus were compassionate with and understanding, they lived harmoniously. The Hindus enjoyed the confidence of the Muslim rulers and some of them occupied high posts, both in administration as well as in military. The culture and civilization of the one influenced that of the other in various facets, Humanism of the two cultures blended resulting in harmony among all its citizens.
But the culture synthesis and the feeling of love and friendship which developed during the Qutb Shahi period, and which continued during the Asaf Jahi period was not the work of the rulers alone. The rulers no doubt extended patronage in various ways, and deserve appreciation, however, equal credit may be given to those who were also instrumental in creating such and atmosphere. One group suggests Suleiman Siddique among them comprised of the Sufi saints and their Khankahs, where love, friendship, tolerance and humanity were taught and practiced. And during the Qutb Shahi period twenty seven Sufi saints have lived with their Khankahs in Hyderabad and in its vicinity. They must have played an important role in the creation of a secular atmosphere. The institution of Ashur Khanas was also one of the centres of cultural amity, suggests another scholar, Sadiq Naqvi. According to the contemporary sources “the whole population whether Muslim or non-Muslim used to pay homage in Ashur Khanas and while doing so the difference of culture, religion and cast were forgotten”
The Qutb Shahi Sultans participated in the festivals of non-muslims and encouraged his nobility to do so. There are as many as nine poems on Basant in the collection of Qutb Shahi poems. So, it was not one side affair. Thus the Qutb Shahs and later the Nizams of Hyderabad created an atmosphere in which people attached importance to the human values. Their culture comprehended various facets of life from which emerged a harmonious fusion of diverse elements into a secular State, “the gulf between the conqueror and the conquered generally maintained by the Muslims in the north did not exist at all in the south” states Iftikhar Ahmad Ghauri. While another scholar S.K Sinha states: “The whole Deccan where social and religious synthesis was so perfect that it became a firm foundation for the Indian Nationalism to grow and build itself into a prodigious force against the British imperialism”. Another scholar Karen Leonard, commenting on cultural systhesis in Hyderabad says: “Certainly Hyderabad’s heterogeneous society included both Muslims and Hindus, and men of diverse ethnic, racial, religious and social back grounds achieved success within the Nizam’s State".
Thus, Golconda Kingdom first and later Hyderabad State under the Nizams, exemplified a cultural synthesis.
This illustrated history reveals that Golconda and Hyderabad were the centres of synthesis of different Indian and foreign cultures and from which evolved a “secular character” of the Quth Shahi kingdom, people and Government. The composite civilization that evolved came to be known first as the “Deccani culture” and later perfected by Asaf Jahi rulers, their nobility and the people as the “Hyderabadi culture”.
The founder of the Qutb Shahi rule in the Deccan was Sultan-Quli, son of Owais Quli, who belonged to the Turkoman tribe of Qara Quyunlu of Hamadan in Iran with the family emblem of Black Sheep. Apparently the name Sultan-Quli may suggest royal dignity. However, it is not the case. The epithet ‘Sultan’ is only a part of his name. Sultan-Quli and Allah Quli visited Deccan twice. During their first visit, Sultan Mahmud Shah bahmani received them in the audience and were awarded liberal annuity for their subsistence. Mahmud Shah was much pleased with Sultan-Quli and enlisted him in the body of favourite courtier. The auther of Tarikh-i-Qutb Shahi refers to a hunting incident in which Sultan-Quli was very successful and gained royal confidence and appreciation. Consequently, the Sultan granted him 150 Arab Turkish, and Iraqi horses in harness, and also assigned to him the Jagir of Kurangal for his expenses, and invested him with the tittle of ‘Khawas Khan’. Ferishta attributes Sultan-Quli’s prominence mainly to his literary and military talents; in another case he proved his military competence by successfully restoring peace and order in the trubulent districts by conciliation and intimidation. Thus he was addressed in a farman with a pen-name of the “Master of the Sword and Pen”.
Sultan-Quli’s successes and strategy during 1474-1496 in other military campaigns earned him the tittle of “Qutb-ul-Mulk”, and later that of ‘Amir-ul-Umara’. Then he was appointed Tarafdar (governor) of Telangana, and the fort of Golconda was added to his jagir in 1496.
3. The Dawn of the Qutub Shahi Kingdom – 1518
From Sultan-Quli’s jagir of Golconda, originally called Mangal, evolved the kingdom of Golconda. When he was made the tarafdar of Telengana in 1495 by the Bahmani Sultan, his headquarters were some where away from Golconda hill. Qwing to its strategic geographical situation, Sultan-Quli, rebuilt the mud-fort and re-named it as ‘Muhammad Nagar’. In 1518 Sultan-Quli assumed undeclared independent rule and made Golconda capital of the kingdom, after the death of Sultan Mahmud Bahmani. The defence of the hill was sufficiently strengthened to serve as a military post. The citizens living in it are protected by the strong rampat on the out-skrits. The fort-city established with public buildings, palaces, rest houses, public baths, mosques, gardens, etc. The plan of Golconda fort as it exists today, is mainly Sultan-Quli’s design, It attracted hundreds of people to settle down. According to the Qutb Shahi histories, Tarrikh-i-Qutb Shahi and Tarikh-i-Qutbia: “the new city became enviable and also gave an impetus for further progress within a very short time”. The Jami-Masjid, adjoining the Bala Hisar entrance of the fort, was built by him. The mosque is plain massive building, with-out any prominent domes or minarets, and has a Persian inscription at its title Qutbul-Mulk. The inscription records that the mosque was constructed during the reign of Mahmud Shah, son of Muhammed Shah Bahmani. Thus, suggesting that he owed allegiance to the Bahamani King and did not declare independence.
Sultan-Quli ruled for about 50 years over Telangana, firstly, as governor for 24 years and as a ruler for 26 years. At the time of his assassination in1542, the Golconda kingdom extended from Warangal to the coast of Machlipatnam.
4. Sultan-Quli’s Successors
Sultan-Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk was succeeded by his son Jamshid Quli who ruled for seven years until 1550. He was succeeded by Subhan who ruled only a few months.
The kingdom entered a new era in the reign of Ibrahim Qutb Shah. He was the sixth youngest son of Sultan-Quli. He ruled for thirty years 1550-1580, and during his period the kingdom reached its height in all directions.The famous battle of “Bannihatti” between the confederate States of Golconda, Bijapur and Ahmednagar against Vijaynagara took place during his reign in 1565. The kingdom expanded territorially. Administrative and military reforms were made. According to Tarikh-i-Qutb Shahi, Ibrahim Qutb Shah was the first ruler of the dynasty to adopt royal title and issue coins in his name. He patronized Telugu literature, the liking for which he acquired to other religions and did not differentiate between castes and creed. He patronized Persian as well, and was responsible for its literary fluorescence and the slow but sure rise of the Deccani idiom which later flowered into Urdu.Ibrahim undertook construction of many public works. He strengthened the fortifition of the capital. To accommodate the increasing population of Golconda and the need to expand the capital beyond the fort led Ibrahim to the construction of the magnificent bridge on the river Musi in 1578. It was originally called by its Telugu name Narva (cause-way). However it is popularly known as Purana pul (old Bridge). This facilitated later on, the foundation of Hyderabad. Another land mark of modern Hyderabad, the Hussain Sagar, was built by Ibrahim’s son-in-law, Hussain Shah Wali. He also built several mosques.
Ferishta recounts that Ibrahim rebuilt the fortifications around Golconda with stone and mortar, established the lungar (arms-house) and constructed a black platform (Kala Chabutra), besides numerous tanks, mosques and colleges. The officials and the nobility took advantage of the security provided by the ramparts thus extended, and built their dwelling places with in the fort. The fortress-city became resplendent with gardens, baths, wide streets and shops belonging to various traders.
No doubt it is Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah who had left his name to posterity by founding the city of Hyderabad, but it was his father Ibrahim who showed the way first by trying to expand the city of Golconda westward where Ibrahim Bagh is now situated, and then construction a bridge, now called Purana Pul (old bridge) on the river Musi in 1578. It is built over the corbelled arches and thus suggest the advance engineering skill of the Qutb Shahi period. The Purana pul is the first landmark which facilitated creation of Hyderabad City and expansion in the southward direction, The bridge has a legend on in implying, “as sage from flood as pearl in its Oyster” Ibrahim also ordered the construction of a beautiful artificial lake called the Hussain Sagar and another artificial lake sixteen mile from the capital at a new town called Ibrabhimpatnam. These lakes still exist and serve the irrigational needs of the people.
After reigning quite ably for over thirty-one lunar years, Ibrahim died on 5th June, 1590.