Indian History Part 66 The Adil Shahis of Bijapur, Section V: The Final Collapse

Canberra, 1 July 2018

The fall of Daulatabad and end of Malik Amber’s rule also heralded the beginning of the end of the Deccani Muslim kingdoms. (Malik Amber’s foray into the Deccan and his eventful rule is described in a later chapter in the section dealing with the Nizam Shahi kingdom of Ahmadnagar.) By the 1630s, the Nizam Shahi dynasty had ceased to exist, despite the heroic efforts of some loyal generals and ministers to keep the dynasty alive by proclaiming as king a distant relative of the last Nizam Shahi king. By 1635, only Bijapur and Golconda remained independent amongst the five Deccan Shahi kingdoms, which had replaced the Bahamani kingdom in the Peninsula. Berar and Bidar could be discounted in this calculation since throughout the history of the successor dynasties of the Deccan, both of them had remained insignificant entities of limited or even no influence in the broader flow of the geo-political events that were taking place.

By early 17th century, even Golconda and Bijapur had started to receive ambassadors from the Mughal court in Delhi, instructing them to pay tribute to the emperor and also stipulating the amount that was to be paid annually. They were also instructed to read the weekly ‘qutba’ in the name of the Delhi Emperor, signifying that both the Adil Shahi and Qutb Shahi kings in Bijapur and Golconda respectively were not independent rulers anymore. They had been subsumed into the greater empire, been reduced in status to vassal states and ruled at the pleasure of the Mughal Emperor. However, they had not been defeated in battle or been conquered, therefore nominally both the kingdoms remained independent.

The Delhi court also appointed officers to reside in the capital of both the kingdoms, who informed the emperor of all activities in them and also interfered in the affairs of state, giving guidance to the rulers whenever they felt it necessary. [This could have been the model that the British adopted when they instituted the concept of ‘Residents’ in a faraway time after they had assumed control over most of the sub-continent.] The power and stature of the Mughal Residents can be understood by the fact that both the Adil Shahi and Qutb Shahi kings went out of their capital to meet and escort the accredited officers to their courts. The Delhi Residents were representatives of the great emperor and could not be treated as mere nobles, even by kings. The reduced stature of the Deccan kings is also noticed in the manner in which the Delhi chroniclers of the time referred to them. From the time of the collapse of the Ahmadnagar kingdom, the Delhi scribes/historians refer to the Bijapur and Golconda kings as Adil Khan and Qutb-ul-Mulk, having done away with the title of Shah, which was customarily given to independent king.

Mahmud Adil Shah

Mahmud Adil Shah had succeeded his father to the throne in 1626. Bijapur continued to show outwardly that it was submissive to the orders of the great Mughal emperor, while surreptitiously assisting the Maratha chief, Shahaji, to continue with his acts of rebellion. This double-dealing led to the Mughals launching a punitive expedition against Bijapur. The Mughal army, laid waste to the countryside and ravaged the farmlands, although the actual fighting between the two forces were desultory at best. There were no decisive battles fought and a state of flux prevailed. However, Mahmud Adil Shah sued for peace, which was conditionally granted. The Bijapur king was to pay a tribute of 20,00,000 worth local currency in gold and jewellery to Delhi and also had to promise to reign in the Maratha chief. If Adil Shah failed to control the Marathas, then he would have to join the Mughals in fighting and defeating the Maratha forces. At this juncture the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was physically in the Deccan. On this one-sided peace being settled with Bijapur, he returned to Delhi. The emperor’s return to Delhi relieved the Deccan of the enormous financial strain of supporting the large imperial camp, which was a moving city by itself.

Since Shahaji did not stop his acts of rebellion, the Mughal forces, along with a coerced Bijapur army, mounted a combined offensive against his strongholds. The Maratha chief put up a strong opposition but was unable to withstand the might of the two armies. He was comprehensively defeated and forced to enter Bijapur service. Almost immediately Adil Shah send Shahaji to campaign in the Carnatic region, where the Maratha commander proved himself to be a powerful and victorious commander.

During the Carnatic campaign, Shahaji, the Maratha chief, had reduced Mysore, Arcot and the entire Tanjore region all the way to the River Cauvery. In appreciation, Mahmud Shah gifted the Tanjore region as a personal jagir, or fiefdom, to Shahaji. Although he reigned for 30 years, Mahmud Shah was not successful in holding back the imperial army of the Mughals from encroaching his territories in the north. Almost as if in compensation, he extended his dominion to the south and south-east, well into the Carnatic. During these southern invasions and defensive actions against the Mughal army, Mahmud Shah did not take to the battlefield to lead his forces, preferring instead to stay in his capital and depute his generals to command the battles. He indulged in his passion for architecture and construction, building many handsome structures in Bijapur, including the celebrated Gol Gumbaz.

The Gol Gumbaz

The Gol Gumbaz is one of the most remarkable buildings in the world. The dome is built in ‘pendatives’ – an architectural process by which a square is gradually contracted into a circle. The Gol Gumbaz dome is bigger than that of the Pantheon in Rome and covers an area of 18,225 square feet. The structure was also used to house the tomb of Mahmud Adil Shah after his death. It is reported that the Gol Gumbaz took 10 years to build.

The Gol Gumbaz is a landmark building, visible from more than 25 miles distance. The only criticism of the building, mostly from modern architects, is that the entire structure lacks sufficient height to make it a truly grandiose and aesthetically great building.

Mahmud Adil Shah died in 1656. Although he achieved territorial expansion towards the Carnatic in the south, he was also forced to acquiesce to being a vassal of the great Mughal Emperor ruling in Delhi, becoming the first Adil Shahi ruler to accept this diminished status. Mahmud’s rule was the beginning of the end of the dynasty, although the crumbling of the edifice on which the Bijapur kingdom was built could not be noticed because of the outward stability of his reign.

It is certain that Mahmud was aware of the gradual decline in his status and therefore continued the clandestine support to the Marathas. Towards the end of Mahmud’s reign, the Marathas were led by Shahaji’s son, Shivaji, who was much more able than his father and also of a more volatile temperament. Shivaji increased the Maratha power in the Deccan and led an open rebellion against the Mughal power. He also revolted against his nominal sovereign, the Adil Shahi king of Bijapur who had been served by his father. (The rise and subsequent decline of Maratha power is covered in a separate volume that is forthcoming.)

Ali Adil Shah II

Mahmud was succeeded by his son, 19-year old Ali Adil Shah, to the kingship of Bijapur. At the time of his accession to the throne, the Mughal prince Aurangzeb was on his second tenure as the viceroy of the Deccan. Almost immediately on Ali Shah assuming the throne, Aurangzeb mounted an expedition against Bijapur. Contemporary and even few modern historians provide two reasons that were put forward by the Mughal prince for undertaking this unprovoked invasion. The first was that the Adil Shahi king was unable to control the rebellious activity of the Maratha Chief, Shivaji, which was the responsibility of the Adil Shah as per the peace treaty that had been enacted earlier between the Mughals and Bijapur. To some extent this was a true allegation. However, the Mughal should have devised a plan with the Bijapur king to subdue the arrogant Maratha chief, rather than invade the Adil Shahi kingdom.

The second reason provided could also have been true, but the evidence is a bit more tenuous. Mahmud Adil Shah did not have any children and therefore the queen had adopted an orphan into the royal family and brought him up as her son and the heir apparent. In fact, during the initial phase of Ali Shah’s rule, the queen acted as the Regent. The Muslim records of the time do not mention the adoption, but provides oblique references to the fact that the queen could not bear children. [This is once again a questionable reference and wrong in all probabilities, since the Islamic religion permitted multiple marriages and nothing could have stopped the king from marrying again, especially when he was not able to have children with his first queen. Medieval kings, irrespective of their religion married many princesses and had multiple sons from different queens to ensure the progression of the dynasty.] The adoption of Ali Shah is only confirmed by the reports of two European travellers, Tavenier and Thevenot, who visited Bijapur during this time and left accounts of the socio-political situation in the Adil Shahi kingdom. There is no need to doubt the words of these two Europeans, since the adoption was also given as the reason by Aurangzeb for his invasion. According to Muslim law, adopted children were not recognised as the lawful heirs to the father’s property. Aurangzeb claimed that in the absence of a natural heir, the Bijapur kingdom lapsed to the Mughal Empire, since it was a vassal state.

Aurangzeb laid siege to Bijapur with a large army, refusing all offers for peace provided by Ali Shah. Even though peace overtures were being made, the Adil Shahi kingdom offered stiff and obstinate defence. While the siege was in progress, information was received that the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had fallen ill making it necessary for Aurangzeb to proceed to Delhi in haste. He accepted a rapidly concluded peace treaty that gave him an enormous tribute, lifted the siege and started his march back to Delhi with a large, powerful and rich army, which was personally loyal to him.

The Afzal Khan Episode

As soon as Aurangzeb departed from the Deccan, Shivaji who had been lying low for some time, took the opportunity to carry out a series of raids into imperial Mughal, as well as Bijapur, territories. Irritated by this affront, Ali Shah decided to crush the Marathas for good. He gathered a large army and placed it under the command of Afzal Khan, an experienced and trusted general, giving him explicit instructions to defeat and eliminate Shivaji. In 1659, Afzal Khan set out with the huge army consisting of 5000 cavalry, 7000 specially-trained infantry and a large artillery force. The specially trained force was meant to cater for the hilly terrain at the core of the Maratha territory and to neutralise the guerrilla tactics that Shivaji habitually employed.

As the Bijapur army advanced ponderously, Shivaji kept retreating while carrying out hit and run raids at random. The large army was enticed to enter the Mahabaleshwar hills, bringing them close to the Maratha stronghold at the fort of Pratapgarh. Here, Shivaji proposed a one-on-one meeting with Afzal Khan to discuss terms to arrive at an amicable peace, giving the impression that he was overwhelmed by the strength displayed by the Bijapur general and his powerful army. Sure of his superior strength, Afzal Khan agreed to the meeting without any aides. Arriving alone at the designated meeting area, Shivaji surprised the Bijapur general by attacking him with two daggers. Although Afzal Khan attempted to retaliate, he succumbed to his injuries. Earlier Shivaji had instructed his forces to surreptitiously surround the Bijapur army. While the attack on the person of the general was being carried out, the Maratha forces simultaneously attacked the Bijapur army. Leaderless, the Bijapur army fled in confusion, with a large number of them being killed in the melee.

Following this defeat of the Bijapur army, Shivaji plundered the kingdom, reaching to the wall of the capital itself. Ali Adil Shah could not countenance this brazen act of the Maratha chief and raised another army to bring him to heel. He entrusted the command of the army to Fazl Khan, son of the slain Afzal Khan, who was also a reputed general. However, this time the king accompanied the army in its march into Maratha territory. Shivaji once again adopted his usual guerrilla tactics and withdrew from the plains of Bijapur into the hilly, Maratha country. His intent was to draw the Bijapur forces far away from their home base and then prolong the war indefinitely in order to logistically wear out the Adil Shahi army. However, in the few unavoidable pitched battles that had to be fought during the retreat, the Bijapur forces were decisively victorious.

Once the Marathas were ensconced in their own territory, they emerged out of the hills and carried out successful hit-and-run raids into the fringes of the Bijapur forces at will, repeatedly harrying the Muslim army. Even though Fazl Khan fought with great bravery and tactical skill, he was unable to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion. After a drawn out campaign in which no one was gaining any recognisable edge, a sort of peace was concluded in 1662, with a two-way bargain being arrived at after negotiations. It was decided that Shivaji would acknowledge Ali Shah as his suzerain in return for which he would be permitted to retain all his conquests as Maratha territory. The territory ceded encompassed the entire Konkan coast from Kalyan to Goa as well as the region above the Sahaydri mountain ranges starting from the River Bhima all the way to River Varna, a strip of land about 130 miles long and 100 miles wide. From the terms of the peace it is obvious that the Maratha chief was able to dominate the negotiations. It was also an indication of the waning power of the Adil Shahi dynasty.

The peace lasted for about six years during which Bijapur showed some signs of rejuvenation. However, this was a deceptive indicator. In reality, the kingdom was gradually decaying from the inside while retaining an external illusion of strength and domination.

Traveller’s Tales

Few European travellers visited Bijapur around 1648-50 and left fairly accurate descriptions of the capital and the kingdom. Descriptions of Bijapur so far had always included ecstatic descriptions of the beauty and magnificence of the architectural splendours that is supposed to have abounded around the capital. It is noteworthy that mid-17th century write-ups of Bijapur does not mention its architectural wonders, but only mentions the large number of goldsmiths and jewellers who plied their trade in the market. This change in the description has to be interpreted as the decline in the wealth available at the treasury for the king to indulge in building great monuments. It is certain that the Adil Shahis were already on the path of decline and eventual fall.

The Dutch traveller Baldoeus visited Bijapur in 1660, or thereabouts. He estimated the size of the kingdom to be about 250 leagues long and 150 leagues wide. (One league can be approximately assumed to be three miles, although the exact measurement vary in different places between three and 3.45 miles) However, even Baldoeus does not mention any particular building or public works as being of particular interest. This absence of any mention of building works of note indicate the gradual decline of the dynasty’s capacity to expend wealth on the beautification of the capital and their inability to undertake welfare activities because of lack of resources.

It is obvious that by the mid-17th century, the Adil Shahi king was merely clinging to power and that storms were battering the dynasty.

The Mughal Interlude

In 1666, a Mughal force under the Rajput general Jai Singh marched into Bijapur, ostensibly to collect the arrears in tribute to the Mughal Emperor that had remained unpaid by the Adil Shahis. Ali Shah recognised the threat and offered to pay the entire amount due, but Jai Singh refused to accept the offer. Left with no choice but to fight, Ali Shah raised a large force to face-off with the Mughal forces. It is highly likely that Shivaji, always at odds with the Mughals whom he considered to be foreigners, also contributed to the Bijapur army. Bijapur still had some of the old spark left and put up a strong and spirited defence. During the ensuing battle and siege, the Mughal army was hit by a plague that decimated their ranks. Jai Singh was defeated and was forced to retire to Kirkee, renamed Aurangabad since it had been Aurangzeb’s headquarters while he was on his second tour as viceroy of the Deccan. Some narratives also mention the township as Daulatabad, although the authenticity of this claim is suspect.

Even though the Mughal forces withdrew from Bijapur, Ali Shah could not take advantage of the victory. The kingdom was far too weak to undertake any offensive action against the retreating adversary. Ali Shah could not even enforce his will. Although Bijapur had been saved, the ‘victory’ came at a high price. Ali Shah had first to make major concessions to Shivaji for his assistance and also agree to pay a yearly tribute to the Maratha chief. The tables had been clearly turned by the vassal against the master. The annual tribute was intended to stop Shivaji from enforcing a levy, called chouth, over Bijapur territory. Ali Adil Shah had lost control over his kingdom. Bijapur was now at the mercy of the Maratha chief and open to invasions by the Mughal forces.


Chouth was a levy, which was the equivalent of one quarter of the total revenue that was produced. The Marathas levied this tax over all the territories that they controlled, even temporarily, and also on territories that they raided. By paying ‘chouth’, the districts, even if they were not ruled or even under the control of the Marathas, avoided debilitating raids that they mounted on territories that did not comply.

It is a fact that over a century later, the Marathas in the zenith of their power, was able to levy chouth over the greater part of the entire sub-continent—from the River Cauvery in the south to the River Ganga and the foothills of the Himalayan ranges in the north.

Soon after repelling the Mughals, in 1672, Ali Adil Shah died. He was succeeded to the throne by his 5-year old son, Sikandar Adil Shah. This accession was immediately followed by a bitter civil war initiated by rival factions vying for power. A senior noble, Khawas Khan had assumed the role of the Regent to the infant-king and was initially supported by two other powerful ministers—Abdul Karim and Muzafar Khan.

A Second Mughal Intervention

Not long after placing Sikandar Shah on the throne, the ministers and the Regent fell out with each other, starting a bitter rivalry. It is reported in some chronicles that the quarrel between the ministers was instigated by some Brahmin agents owing allegiance to Shivaji. However, this cannot be verified. Khawas, unable to control the feuding ministers, appealed to the Mughal Emperor for assistance and promised the hand of a Bijapur princess in marriage to one of the emperor’s sons. The emperor send an army under the command of Khan Jahan, ostensibly to assist the Regent and then to escort the princess to Delhi, but in reality with the express order to annex Bijapur to the empire.

Before the Mughal army could reach Bijapur, the people came to know of the Regent’s approach to the Mughal Emperor that was considered treachery and rose up in indignant revolt. They murdered Khawas Khan and replaced him with Abdul Karim as the Regent. The new Regent and the people of Bijapur got together and started preparations to oppose the Mughal army. Popular support for Abdul Karim’s preparations for the defence of the kingdom was overwhelming. In the ensuing battle for Bijapur, the Mughal army was defeated and forced to move out of Adil Shahi territory.

Aurangzeb, now the emperor in Delhi, attempted diplomatic measures to seize control of Bijapur, He send an agent to the Adil Shahi court, nominally an overture as a mark of friendship, but in reality with a clear mission to subvert the loyalty of the nobles and to divide them. A period of confusion and danger for the Bijapur kingdom ensued. Never one to pass an opportunity to enhance his own position, Shivaji who had already declared himself Raja in 1674, rapidly consolidated the jagir of Tanjore and Gingee that had been granted to his father earlier by Mahmud Adil Shah.

Capture of Tanjore – The Truth

Many accounts in Indian historical narrative mention that Tanjore (Thanjavur) was captured by the Marathas under the leadership of Shivaji. This is incorrect. Tanjore and the supposedly impregnable fort at Gingee were captured by Bijapur forces despatched by Mahmud Adil Shah in 1637. The invasion of the Carnatic was an attempt by the Adil Shah to increase his territorial holdings as compensation for the loss of territory in the north.

This Bijapur expedition to the south was commanded by Shahaji, the Maratha chief and Shivaji’s father, who had been forced to join the service of the Adil Shahi king after a long career as a rebel commander. Since he was an extremely successful military commander, he was subsequently given Tanjore and Gingee as a personal jagir by Mahmud Adil Shah. Therefore, the region remained Bijapur territory and was not ‘conquered’ by the Marathas.

The Maratha Intrigue

While Shahaji was still serving as a vassal to the Bijapur king, his son Shivaji had risen in revolt in the traditional Maratha territories. In response, the Adil Shahi king imprisoned Shahaji for a period of time hoping to subdue his troublesome son and when this attempt failed, had send a force under Shahaji himself to quell the rebellion. Nothing much was achieved by this expedition. By this time Bijapur had weakened as an independent state and Shivaji continued his ‘independent’ rule of the territories that he controlled. He now took over the territories that had been granted as jagir to his father—Tanjore and Gingee—added Vellore to the holdings and placed his step-brother Venkoji in charge. Venkoji was placed as Shivaji’s deputy and not of Adil Shah, the Bijapur king.

There was a bit of a scuffle between the brothers for control of this territory with Venkoji claiming independent control of the entire jagir, which Shivaji opposed and managed to stop. Thereafter, Venkoji ruled as the deputy to Shivaji. This episode of the disagreement between the two brothers is beyond the scope of this narrative and will be described in a later volume that narrates the history of the Marathas. Here it is only necessary to assert that the Carnatic Maratha kingdom was not the result of Maratha conquest, but created by Maratha enterprise made possible by the decline and weakness of the Adil Shahi dynasty. Venkoji went on to become the founder of the Tanjore Maratha dynasty that lasted till the last decade of the 19th century. Of course, like most other Indian dynasties of the time, the later day kings of the dynasty were only nominal kings whose rule was restricted to small territorial holdings. Thus the southern territories of the Adil Shahi kingdom passed on to the Marathas.

After establishing control of his holdings in the Carnatic, Shivaji went on to create an alliance with the Qutb Shahi king of Golconda with the aim of annexing Bijapur and dividing it between them.

The Third Mughal Attempt

When the Bijapur Regent came to know of the Maratha-Qutb Shahi plan to annex Bijapur, he sought the assistance of the Mughal general in the region. Together, the Bijapur-Mughal combine mounted a pre-emptive attack on Golconda. Although the Bijapur army had repeatedly shown their mettle in the defence of their capital, a number of extraneous factors intervened to make this invasion of Golconda a bitter defeat. On the retreat, the Bijapur army, which had not been paid for some months, mutinied. At this ignoble moment in the once powerful Bijapur army, the Abyssinian governor of Adoni, Masud Khan, stepped in to take opportunistic control. He paid off some elements of the army and disbanded the rest, and proclaimed himself the senior minster.

Aurangzeb was not happy with this arrangement and demanded that Bijapur pay the arrears of tribute that was due and also fulfil the terms of the treaty, which had stipulated sending a Bijapur princess to Delhi to cement a matrimonial alliance. Masud Khan rejected the demand and refused to either pay tribute or send a reluctant princess to Delhi. As was the normal flow of events, a Mughal army under Dilawar Khan was despatched and laid siege to Bijapur. It is reported as an aside that the designated Bijapur princess, even though she was not happy with being given away to a Mughal prince, voluntarily went over to the Mughal amp to avoid Bijapur being brought under siege. However, the Mughal commander refused to lift the siege of the capital.

With the siege becoming desperate, Masud Khan turned to Shivaji for help. In return he promised to hand over the Raichur Doab to the Marathas. Shivaji led his forces in assistance and ravaged the rear of the Mughal army all the way to their base in Aurangabad. However, Dilawar Khan proved to be obstinate and continued with the siege of Bijapur. True to the promise that he had given the Adil Shahi Regent, Shivaji now turned around and attacked the rear of the Mughal army surrounding Bijapur and started to cut their supply lines. Unable to create a breach to defeat the defending Bijapur forces and harried by the interdiction in the rear by the very capable Maratha forces, Dilawar was forced to lift the siege and retire to Mughal territory. Bijapur had been saved again by a slender thread and at a very high cost. The transfer of the Raichur Doab to the Marathas for their help reduced the once grand kingdom to a minor province enclosed within the expanding Maratha territory.

The Beginning of the End

The people of Bijapur were unhappy with the turn of events and the complete reduction in status and power of the kingdom. On popular demand, Masud Khan the architect of the dubious victory, was forced to step down and two other nobles, Shirza Khan and Syed Makhtum, were elevated to the senior ministers’ role. In this interim period Shivaji died and had been succeeded by his son Sambaji to the leadership of the Marathas. The new ministers of Bijapur now made an error of judgement that was to prove fatal for the Adil Shahi dynasty.

The ministers, perceiving—wrongly as it turned out—that with the death of Shivaji, the Maratha power was waning, demanded the return of the territory granted to the Maratha king, from his son Sambaji. The demand was refused and the Bijapur kingdom did not have the military might to retake the territories by force. Although the status quo prevailed without any military confrontation, the demand managed to alienate the Marathas who had so far maintained a reasonably benign relationship with the Adil Shahi kings. With this one intemperate act of the new and inexperienced ministers of Bijapur, the Adil Shahis lost the only reliable ally who could have come to their assistance to hold back the repeated attempts of the Mughals to annex their kingdom. The Adil Shahis and the Marathas had shared an intimate relationship that oscillated between friendship and indifference under different circumstances. The rupture of this connection with the Marathas spelt the beginning of the end of the Bijapur kingdom as an independent entity. The end was now not only inevitable, but also very near.

The Final Collapse

Bijapur now went through a few years of relative peace, for the last time in its eventful history of the Adil Shahis. The Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, never gave up his intention to subdue and annex the Deccan, more for religious reasons than any ambition to increase the territorial holdings of his empire. He was a bigoted religious fanatic who held the Deccan Muslim kingdoms in equal and utter contempt as he did the Marathas. Aurangzeb considered the Marathas infidels who were accursed heathens and ‘vile dogs’. The Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan he considered to be detestable heretics. His ire was particularly directed at Bijapur and Golconda, the two surviving kingdoms that also happened to follow the Shia persuasion in their religion. Further, these kingdoms also permitted infidels to thrive in their territories; for example, the chief minister of Golconda was a Hindu; and both states practised a policy of tolerance towards Christians.

Aurangzeb had also noticed, during his extended stay in the Deccan, that a number of Hindu practices and even superstitions had crept into the daily religious rituals of the Deccan Muslim community. In the 300 years of ‘independent’ practice of the Islamic faith in the peninsula, a great intimacy had developed between the races and religions that mingled together more harmoniously than anywhere else in the sub-continent. There was not only mutual tolerance, but a strong affection had developed between the Muslim rulers and their Hindu subjects in the kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda. This robust link was weakened only by the decline of the Adil Shahi power. For these reasons, the religious fanaticism of the Mughal Emperor made him abhor the Deccan Muslims as much as he hated the heathen Hindus.

In 1683, Aurangzeb gathered a large army and started his final assault on the Deccan, which was to last for the next 24 years and from which the emperor would not return to his capital in Delhi. The army that moved out of Delhi was so large that it fell upon all in its way like an avalanche in slow-motion, grinding everything in its path to powder and sweeping away all obstructions that sprang up before it in its own ponderous manner. By 1685, Sholapur had fallen to the Mughals and Bijapur was firmly sighted in Mughal eyes. By the time Mughal advance outposts reached the vicinity of the River Bhima, Bijapur forces and the population had rallied behind their ruler as in earlier times, and put forward a cohesive defence. They achieved some initial success against the advance parties of the Mughal army. Gradually, and inexorably, the Mughal commanders kept tightening the net around Bijapur, closing in without any let up.

The Adil Shahi forces were well-officered and efficient. But the might of the Mughal army was such that they had to continually fall back. The odds against them were very heavy. Even so, the defence of Bijapur was extremely well conducted. Bijapur is situated in the middle of a vast wasteland that is almost a desert. The Mughal forces unable to live off the land, suffered great privation through the lack of adequate provisions and were unable to make an impression on the defenders. As the siege dragged on, Aurangzeb personally took charge of the operation. Even then the defence of Bijapur continued with great gusto. Finally, the garrison of indomitable fighters succumbed to hunger, rather than the military might of the Mughals, and capitulated on 15 October 1686.

Sikandar Adil Shah, the last of the Adil Shahi kings, was imprisoned in his own capital and poisoned to death a year later on Aurangzeb’s direct orders. Bijapur was annexed as a Mughal province—a once great kingdom reduced to vassalage and the dynasty made extinct on account of the religious intolerance by the last emperor of yet another magnificent Muslim dynasty.

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About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Political and Defence Analyst specialising in military strategy, national security, and international politics. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

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