Indian History Part 68 The Qutb Shahis of Golconda Section II: Containing Instability

Canberra, 3 November 2018

Sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk was succeeded on the throne by his son Jamshid, who was not the appointed heir apparent. Jamshid had come to the throne by force after capturing and blinding his elder brother Qutb ud-Din. In combination with the rumours of his involvement in the murder of his father Qutb-ul-Mulk, it gave him a reputation of being harsh, violent and unscrupulous. On ascending the throne he ordered his younger brother, Ibrahim, to present himself at Golconda. Fearing for his life, especially after having seen the way in which Jamshid dealt with his elder brother, Ibrahim fled to Bidar instead of going to the Golconda court as ordered.

Jamshid followed his father’s reluctance to assume royal regalia and declare himself ‘king’, not claiming the title of ‘Shah’. Throughout his reign, he preferred to be referred to as Jamshid Khan. The reason for this display of humility is difficult to fathom and the contemporary records do not elaborate on the issue. Based on available, and scanty, records it is difficult to determine whether Jamshid was inherently a humble person or he did not want to draw too much attention to himself and therefore did not assume the royal title. The story of his accession to the throne point towards the non-assumption of royal prerogatives being more of a calculated move to remain uncontroversial rather than real humility. Jamshid also faced a hostile neighbourhood. From the beginning of his rule, the other Deccan Shahi kingdoms continually conspired to break up the cohesiveness of the Qutb Shahi rule in Golconda.

Ibrahim’s Fight and Flight

After having been given refuge in Bidar, Ibrahim instigated Ali Barid, then ruling the kingdom, to invade Golconda and lay siege to the citadel. Knowing that the invasion was undertaken under the influence of Ibrahim, Jamshid tried to appease Ibrahim with many offers of friendship, and extensive jagirs. However, Ibrahim remained unrelenting and continued the pursuit of military action. Jamshid then asked Burhan Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar for assistance in warding off the invasion. Accordingly, a Nizam Shahi army started to march towards Golconda. Ali Barid, fearing that he would be trapped between the Golconda and Ahmadnagar armies, hastily withdrew to Bidar. This left Ibrahim in a vulnerable position without the support of a strong military force. He immediately fed to Vijayanagar, taking refuge with the Raya there, returning to Golconda only after Jamshid’s death.

Ibrahim’s flight to Vijayanagar is indicative of the political environment of the Deccan and the Southern Peninsula at that time. It is obvious that there was enmity and adversarial activities between the various kingdoms, but equally obvious is that there was also co-operation and co-existence, demonstrated by the formation of alliances and coalitions. It is noteworthy that religion did not play any part in the formation of alliances, till a much later time. Both Hindu and Muslim nobles played equal parts in the administration and the military, as well as in determining the forward course of action of a particular kingdom. Therefore, Ibrahim fleeing to Vijayanagar and living under the protection of the Hindu king there till he felt it was safe to return to his country was not an extraordinary event, as it would have been in a later period. From the conditions in the Deccan during this time it becomes clear that religious persecution and bias came to the Peninsula at a later stage in the historical narrative of the region.

Jamshid Khan’s Reign

As Jamshid was consolidating his position, the alliance groupings in the Deccan were also solidifying. However, the alliances in the Deccan were notoriously fickle in their character and prone to rapid restructuring and for the pettiest of reasons. At the time of Jamshid coming to the throne, Burhan Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar, Darya Imad Shah of Berar and the Qutb Shahis in Golconda formed one bloc, while the Adil Shahis of Bijapur, Ali Barid in Bidar and Ibrahim in self-exile in Vijayanagar, formed the opposing group. Considering the history in the Deccan of restructuring alliances, the term ‘solidification’ is perhaps overstating the case. Suffice it to understand that the blocs mentioned remained so for a few years.

Once the threat to Golconda had vanished as quickly as it had emanated, Burhan Nizam Shah wanted to reclaim Sholapur that had earlier been lost to Bijapur and asked Jamshid for assistance. Jamshid had no option but to send Golconda forces to assist the Nizam Shahi army, since earlier Burhan had promptly come to his aid. On the combined Ahmadnagar-Golconda forces moving towards Sholapur, Ibrahim Adil Shah led his forces towards Parenda. A fierce but indecisive battle ensued. Although no victory was claimed, the Bijapur forces withdrew at the culmination of the fighting. A number of skirmishes continued between the two forces but none of them led either to larger battles or to any further decisive actions. The Golconda forces under Jamshid clashed directly with Ali Barid, and was more successful although even in this case, the Bidar army was not conclusively defeated. Jamshid managed to capture some Bidar territories around Kaulas and then retired to his kingdom.

Unique Aspects of Wars in the Deccan

There are some peculiar, and unique aspects of wars that were fought in the Deccan during medieval times, especially during the period when the Shahi kings were ruling most of the region.

In all of the battles that were fought where decisive outcomes were achieved, the victorious forces never pursued the defeated, and normally fleeing, adversary. Neither did they put to death the captured leadership of the defeated adversary. A sense of ‘forgiveness’ seemed to be all pervasive. At the culmination of a battle, the defeated adversaries were permitted to ‘go away’, at times even being allowed to take their personal effects with them. Normally, it is seen that the victorious army did not inflict any serious or lasting punishment on the adversary. In the case of defeated kings, they were normally permitted to return to their capitals after having ceded some territory to the victor.

This lenient attitude towards the opponent could have been inculcated because of the fact that the all Shahi kingdoms fought each other in combinations of different alliances, with today’s friend being arrayed against an ally the next day. At some time or the other, each of the kingdoms fought against the others in alliance with some other kingdom. There were no permanent friends or enemies. Unusually harsh treatment of defeated opponents would have invited spirited revenge and reprisals. Even so, the attitude of forgiveness was fundamentally wrong in terms of warfighting and socio-political stability.

Permitting the adversary to go away after a defeat invariably led to rebellion and attacks a few months or years later, since the defeated leader would always want to prove his capability and not continue to live in ignominy for long. Defeated forces also tended to join up with other disgruntled elements to foment trouble against the victor. In all cases, lenient dealings with the defeated forces inevitably led to further trouble for the victorious forces and their king. Considering that the disadvantages of ‘forgiving’ the opponent far outweighed the advantages such dealings provided, it is difficult to fathom the behaviour. It could only have been the prospect of being defeated themselves at a future date that made the winning side so tolerant and merciful.

The two alliances continued to feud and Jamshid was still keen to defeat Ali Barid. He therefore once again approached Burhan Nizam Shah for assistance. Ahmadnagar and Berar forces were already marching to Bidar and Jamshid joined them with glee. In the ensuing battle, Bidar forces were defeated—Ausa was captured by Burhan and Udgir by Ala ud-Din Imad Shah who had succeeded Darya. Jamshid Khan occupied Medak.

The changing characteristics of alliances and the inherent intrigue that plagued the Deccan was now demonstrated. Ibrahim Adil Shah resorted to political manoeuvring to drive a wedge between the three members of the confederacy attacking Bidar. He ceded some of his own territory to Burhan Nizam Shah and appeased Ramaraja, the Vijayanagar prime minister by giving him a great amount of treasure. After having ensured that the Nizam Shahi and Vijayanagar forces would not interfere in the battle, Ibrahim Adil Shah send his army to attack Jamshid Khan, who was forced to retreat to Golconda. Ibrahim then imprisoned Ali Barid and annexed Bidar to Bijapur.

Golconda Diplomacy

With the annexation of Bidar by Ibrahim Adil Shah, Burhan Nizam Shah became uncomfortable with the growing power of the Bijapur ruler. Even though some sort of a non-aggression pact had been arrived at between the two kings earlier, Burhan send his forces to advance on Sholapur, the area of perpetual contention between Ahmadnagar and Bijapur. At Sholapur, Adil Shahi forces halted Burhan’s further advance. It is at this stage in the political developments in the Deccan that one gets a clear indication of the emerging influence of Golconda on the affairs of the region. Both the Nizam Shahi and the Adil Shahi kings, now confronting each other, asked for Jamshid Khan’s assistance—he had become the deciding factor in the region, perhaps in a de facto manner. His further actions from this point forward cemented the position.

Jamshid Khan went to Sholapur and through diplomatic negotiations diffused the situation. He persuaded Ibrahim Adil Shah to release Ali Barid and pay a large ‘donation’ to Burhan Nizam Shah while withdrawing voluntarily to Bijapur. Jamshid then proceeded to Bidar and reinstated Barid, giving him control of Bidar once again. The stature and power of the Telangana throne in Golconda was clearly visible—both the other major Deccan Shahi powers acceded to his ‘requests’, making Golconda an acknowledged and more than equal power. Considering that Jamshid had not crowned himself king, his position could be best described as the ‘uncrowned’ king of Telangana in the literal meaning of the term.

Immediately after this signal triumph of diplomacy, Jamshid Khan was struck by cancer and died about two years later in January 1550.

Jamshid Khan’s Achievements

Although he had ruled only for a brief period of time, Jamshid had managed to get himself ‘re-instated’ in the good graces of the other kings of the Deccan, managing to wipe away the taint of patricide apportioned to him, correctly or otherwise. Through his personal bravery, astute statesmanship and his application of military strategy he had made it necessary for the other kingdoms and dynasties to recognise not only his own personal competence, but the position of the dynasty itself. That the establishment of the position of Telangana was achieved without having to declare himself ‘king’ is a great achievement and testimony to Jamshid’s calibre as a ruler.

When Jamshid inherited the throne and came to power, he could not count a single friend amongst the Deccan kings and chiefs. The strength of his character shone through at this difficult time; instead of becoming despondent at the unsavoury situation that he was in, he faced it calmly, took the bull by the horns and by sheer fortitude turned his fortunes around. His achievement in firmly establishing the dynasty was demonstrated during the almost two years of his debilitating illness before his death. Even though he was almost fully bedridden, not one of the squabbling and warring kings of the region attacked his kingdom, a silent testimony to the stature that he had attained in a short period of time. It can indeed be speculated that had Jamshid reigned for a longer period of time, the history of Telangana and the Golconda dynasty would have been very different to what transpired after his death.

Two far-reaching trends started during Jamshid Khan’s brief reign in Golconda. First, from the very beginning of his reign, Jamshid was a patron of Persian literature. While such patronage itself was not out of the ordinary, the Golconda patronage encouraged and later led to a distinct literary development. The royal support was unflinching and the literary efforts later blossomed into the development of the local Telugu language. More importantly, the trend led to the development of the Dakhni language and literature in the Golconda court that spread further to all of the Deccan.

The second was the beginning of administrative reforms in the Telangana region. Jamshid was the first to establish districts in Telangana and make them the basic units for administrative purposes. The emphasis on administration initiated the later creation of a core administrative cadre in the Golconda kingdom. Hindus played an increasingly important role in the general administration of the kingdom, which remained a hallmark of the Golconda kings throughout their dynastic rule. The lesser Hindu aristocrats, called ‘naikwaris’, became a predominant section of the administrative machinery. They were personally loyal to the king and many of them rose to prominence amongst the nobles of the kingdom.

Unstable Aftermath

On the death of Jamshid Khan, his minor son Subhan was elevated to the throne. Subhan was between two and seven years old at this time, according to different sources. Inevitably, as has been seen repeatedly through the history of the sub-continent, the placement of a minor on the throne almost immediately declined into palace intrigues and power struggles. Although two nobles were instrumental in ensuring that the minor prince was crowned as the nominal ruler, the Queen-mother appointed her favourite noble, Saif Khan, as the Peshwa. Obviously the power struggle intensified with this partisan appointment and one of the squabbling factions requested Ibrahim to return from his self-imposed exile in Vijayanagar and take over the kingdom.

Jamshid Khan had appointed Jagadeva Rao, a Hindu naikwari, as the governor of Kaulas, who now came into prominence. There was another brother of Jamshid and Ibrahim, Daulat Khan, who was considered mentally ‘ill’ and had been imprisoned in Bhongir by Jamshid. Jagadeva Rao had Daulat released on the condition that he would hold the Golconda throne till such times as Ibrahim returned to claim it. Daulat agreed to the condition and accordingly was proclaimed king. However, Saif Khan now titled Ain-ul-Mulk, marched to Bhongir and defeated the Jagadev Rao-Daulat Khan army, although Tufail Khan, the prime minister of Berar who had usurped power from the Imad Shahi king, send forces in assistance to Daulat Khan. Bhongir was starved into submission and both Daulat Khan and Jagadeva Rao were imprisoned.

With the defeat of Jagadeva Rao, Saif Khan was in virtual control of Golconda. However, he had not made any friends in the court, especially since he dealt with the nobles in a high-handed manner. A large number of these nobles invited Ibrahim to come out of exile and Ibrahim finally obliged, marching out of Vijayanagar towards Golconda. Ibrahim was accompanied to the border of Vijayanagar Empire by Ramaraja himself, the powerful minister ruling Vijayanagar. This action is indicative of the esteem in which Ibrahim was held in Vijayanagar, although he had been a refugee in that court for seven years.

Ibrahim reached the fort at Kovilkonda in the early summer of 1550 and arrived at Golconda in July of the same year. At Kovilkonda, Ibrahim appointed Mustafa Khan the Mir Jumla of the kingdom, the first time this appointment and title appear in Deccan history. The appointment subsequently became the most important one in the kingdom, combining administrative, financial and military responsibilities in one position—a super prime minister. It can be assumed that the establishment of this position diluted the power and prestige of the ‘Peshwa’ who had so far been considered the senior-most noble in court. Prior to Ibrahim arriving in Golconda, Saif Khan Ain-ul-Mulk absconded from the fort with a body of troops, paying homage to the new king through a messenger. He took refuge in Ahmadnagar with the Nizam Shahis. It is reported that Ibrahim conducted ritual mourning for his father and also prayed at his tomb before being crowned as king—Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah.

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2018]
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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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