Indian History Part 68 The Qutb Shahis of Golconda-Hyderabad Section V: Plateauing and Decline

Canberra, 08 December 2018

Muhammad Quli was succeeded to the throne by Muhammad Qutb Shah, the son of his brother Muhammad Amin who had pre-deceased him. The nephew Muhammad was also Muhammad Quli’s son-in-law, having married his daughter Hayat Bakshi Begum in 1607. There was some fear amongst the nobles that other contenders to the throne may contest the succession, since Muhammad Quli had died without a direct male heir. The fear was founded on the fact that another of Muhammad Quli’s brothers, Muhammad Khudah Banda, had rebelled earlier and had been imprisoned in Golconda. Although he too had pre-deceased Muhammad Quli, his name was still revered by a section of influential nobles as well as by some of the general population. The Sunni population of the kingdom was particularly inclined towards supporting Khudah Banda and his progeny. In these circumstances, a succession struggle would not have been considered out of the ordinary.

In order to ensure that not even an incipient rebellion marred the succession, the efficient Peshwa, Mir Munim, had the crowning ceremony of the new king conducted on the same day that Muhammad Quli died. Such alacrity in crowning the new incumbent was not normal or standard practice. Even with all the precautions that were taken, the new king Muhammad Qutb Shah, inherited a crisis. Venkata II who had diplomatically bested Muhammad Quli when Golconda had earlier invaded the truncated Vijayanagar kingdom, now invaded Qutb Shahi territories. It is unclear whether the new ruler of Golconda had the wherewithal to respond effectively—both in terms of personal capability and also the strength and readiness of the Golconda army. Before the ruler and the army could be put to the test, providence interfered; Venkata II faced some domestic unrest in his capital Penukonda and he was forced to hold back the invasion before it could take hold; a fortunate turn of events for Golconda.

Muhammad Qutb Shah

On Muhammad’s ascension to the throne, the Persian Emperor send an embassy to Golconda to congratulate him, which paved the way for enhanced cooperation between the two kingdoms. Both Bijapur and Daulatabad, now the capital of the Nizam Shahis under Malik Ambar, also send envoys with gifts to Muhammad thus accepting his right to rule. The only military venture that was initiated during Muhammad Qutb Shah’s tenure was against Bastar, where a Golconda army under the command of Asva Rao had been trapped. A large relief force was send to relieve the trapped forces; the rebel ruler of Bastar, Partap Shah was defeated and surrendered; and the Golconda forces were successfully brought out. Partap Shah was subsequently reinstated by the Qutb Shahi king and permitted to continue ruling Bastar as a vassal.

The Mughal Threat

Muhammad Qutb Shah very consciously followed a policy of peace. There are few reasons for this somewhat inexplicable attitude, especially during an era in the sub-continent that was known for a universal expansionist attitude of the major dynasties, their ruthless acts and extreme bloodshed that accompanied all battles. The first reason was that temperamentally the king was inclined towards keeping the peace, being attuned to peaceful times from his youth. More important was the second reason—even though Muhammad has historically been considered a light weight as a king, he was acutely aware of the continuous rush of Mughal invasion from the north, that at times thrust deep into the Deccan, which was considered an existentialist threat. In view of this extreme challenge, Muhammad was keen to consolidate the existing kingdom and create, as well as strengthen existing, defences rather than attempt to expand his dominion. This was a pragmatic approach to the beginning of his rule.

At the same time, the Mughal invasion and their concerted fight against Malik Amber continued unabated. Ambar had successfully held off the Mughal force, confining them to Ahmadnagar and surrounds, before evicting them even from there. The mainstay of his forces was the Maratha army which was well-versed in the art of guerrilla warfare that was ideally suited to counter the heavy forces of the Mughals. Since the Ahmadnagar forces were not yet defeated, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir himself moved south to Mandu and also brought his son and heir apparent, Prince Khurram, with him to command the next invasion of Ahmadnagar. The threat to the Deccan had suddenly become very high.

Malik Ambar also realised the increasing danger that was approaching and asked both Bijapur and Golconda for assistance. However, both the kingdoms and their rulers were overawed by the might of the Mughal Empire that was on open display. Instead of helping their fellow-Deccan king, both the rulers opted to approach Prince Khurram entreating him to sign peace accords and paying him tribute. Realising that he was abandoned and left alone, Malik Ambar evacuated Ahmadnagar, once again withdrawing to Daulatabad. The Mughals again occupied Ahmadnagar and Jahangir titled his son Shah Jahan to honour this fairly easy triumph. However, Malik Ambar was highly regarded as a military commander by the Mughal forces and Shah Jahan did not press home the advantage that had been gained. In fact, Shah Jahan considered Ambar the only one capable of defending the Deccan and accepted a peace treaty with him.

Immediately after the signing of the peace agreement, Shah Jahan fell from favour with the Emperor as a result of some court intrigue. He wanted to retreat to Bengal, where he felt he had some allies who would rally to his cause. Muhammad Qutb Shah permitted Shah Jahan’s entourage to pass through Golconda territory and Orissa, facilitating this flight of the Mughal prince. However, forces supporting Jahangir defeated Shah Jahan on his way to Bengal and he was forced to return. He had to spend the period of being out of favour in the Deccan. Seeing the divisions in the Mughal royalty and hoping to take advantage of the situation, Malik Amber welcomed Shah Jahan into his territories. However, before this intrigue could play out, Shah Jahan was reconciled with his father and the situation returned to normal in the Mughal court.

Trading with Foreigners

The Dutch East India Company was incorporated in 1602 and signed a treaty with Qutb Shahi officials in 1606 to establish ‘factories’ and trade with and in the Golconda kingdom. By 1610, the Dutch had established their factories, in reality warehouse, in Masulipatam and later in Pulicat. The English East India Company, that was later to ‘own’ India, had been established on 30 December 1600, but was slow to make inroads into the Deccan, establishing their factory in Golconda territory in Masulipatam only in 1611.

The diamond mines of the Golconda kingdom was initially a monopoly of the Dutch, who operated them on lease. In 1623, Muhammad Qutb Shah decided to cancel the lease and started to work the mines on his own, through royal officials posted to the mines permanently. He also established a strong maritime force to patrol the coastline and enforce law and order. This was the beginning of establishing regulations under which the foreigners were permitted to trade within the Deccan.


At this juncture, the entire narrative of Deccan history was overshadowed by three deaths—Muhammad Qutb Shah died on 30 January 1626; Malik Ambar died four months later on 11 May 1626; and Jahangir died 18 months later on 28 October 1627. 1626 was the end of an epoch in the Deccan. The precarious balance of power that had been maintained between the various kingdoms—mostly through military action by the others against any one of them becoming too powerful—had finally come to an end with these three deaths.

Shah Jahan became the Mughal Emperor; within a few years Ahmadnagar was finally and fully annexed after being dismembered; no obstacle now stood in the way of the Mughals in pursuing their expansionist strategy; and the two surviving Deccan kingdoms were not capable of putting up an insurmountable struggle against the Mughals—individually or even if they combined—who were now at the zenith of their power.

Abdullah Qutb Shah – The Onset of Decline

Muhammad dad three sons, of whom Abdullah the eldest succeeded him. Abdullah was born in 1614 and was being groomed to be the heir apparent, educated and brought up to assume the kingship at a future date, when his father died. He was only 12 years old when he came to the throne. However, the boy-king was accepted by both the Bijapur Adil Shahis and the Ahmadnagar Nizam Shahis. Surprisingly, he was also congratulated by Prince Khurram—now titled Shah Jahan by Jahangir—who was still having difficulties in his relationship with his father. The intimate, and sometimes nurturing, relationship with Iran also continued.

Following the death of Jahangir, a Mughal war of succession ensued, which brought a certain amount of relief for the entire Deccan since it loosened the stranglehold of the northern army and diluted their presence in the region. However, this relief was short-lived, as it was bound to have been. As soon as Shah Jahan won the succession and assumed power, the imperial attitude towards the Deccan changed—the Mughals would not rest until the entire region was annexed under the their banner.

Mughal Intervention

Shah Jahan was a demonstrated expansionist. He was not only determined to exterminate the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar who were already in their death throes, but had plans to annex both Golconda and Bijapur. While direct assaults were being mounted on Ahmadnagar, he also initiated moves to gain a foothold in Orissa from where he could harass the Qutb Shahis in the north-east. Accordingly, parts of Orissa were annexed and a Mughal governor appointed. The ultimate aim was to squeeze the Deccan kingdoms from two directions, into submission. Shah Jahan, now the all-powerful Mughal monarch, in full control of the vast empire after having settled the vicissitudes of the succession struggle, marched to Burhanpur in 1630 to personally guide the Deccan campaign. By 1633, the last Nizam Shahi king was imprisoned in the Mughal fort at Gwalior and his attention turned to the remaining two Deccan Shahi kingdoms.

The main thrust against the Qutb Shahis came for the north-east, where their fort at Mansurgarh, which was considered impregnable because of its formidable defences, was overrun and captured by the Mughal governor with relative ease. Buoyed by this victory, and perhaps because of the ease with which the campaign was concluded, Shah Jahan now send two ‘firmans’—one to Bijapur and one to Abdullah Qutb Shahi. Firmans were orders that contained a list of demands to be fulfilled by the receiving kings, which were in effect ultimatums—a sort of, ‘do this and this and I will not send my army to attack you’, kind of documents. Implicit in a firman was the un-stated threat of the use of force and the intimidation that if the firman was not adhered to, the kingdom would be laid waste. Shah Jahan’s firmans were also unilateral in nature in terms of the demands and did not leave any latitude for negotiations.

The firman to Abdullah was followed up by an ‘Inquiyad Nama’, which could be translated to mean a ‘Deed of Submission’ that he was supposed to sign latest by May 1636. This Deed had provisions incorporated in it to make the Qutb Shahi fully subservient to the Mughal Emperor. Immediately after the Deed was presented, Abdullah was served with an ‘Ahd Nama’—this was not a firman, but more a treaty, which was nonetheless unilateral—that had already been signed by Shah Jahan on 29 August 1636. The Ahd Nama was not the final treaty document, but a preliminary to it. However, this treaty made, by unilateral Mughal decree, the Qutb Shah agree to accept a position of subservience. In this preliminary document, Qutb Shah was shorn off all his exalted royal titles and named only as Qutb-ul-Mulk and referred to as the ‘hereditary disciple’ of the Mughal Emperors.

Abdullah Qutb Shah of Golconda-Hyderabad was now reduced to an abject vassal, an object to be ordered about at will by the imperial Mughal monarch. He was also not master of his own mint, with all his coins being issued in the name of the Emperor. This was a debilitating blow to the prestige of the kingdom, for coins were one of the greatest privileges of medieval kings and indicated the independence, sovereignty and strength of the kingdom and its ruler. Along with the instructions to mint coins only on the Emperor’s name also came orders that the Qutb Shahi was not to indulge in foreign policy initiatives of his own, but that the Qutb Shahi’s relations with other kingdoms would be ‘looked after’ by the Mughal enterprise. There was now no difference between the Golconda king and a Mughal governor of a conquered province. It is remarkable that all this had been achieved by the capture of a single obscure, albeit strong, fort in the north-eastern extremity of the Qutb Shahi territories. Pure fear of the Mughal power had paralysed the Qutb Shahi leadership and reduced an already effete kingdom to the status of a protectorate of the Delhi monarch, without having offered any resistance or raised a single sword to protect its honour.

This abject surrender without even a token resistance brings to the fore the question of the appropriateness and acceptability of the Qutb Shahis ever having become ‘kings’ in their own right. It can be surmised that the so-called ‘dynasty’ was established because of the driving ambition of a single individual, who was endowed with above average capabilities and had the capacity to grasp an opportunity when it was presented, to carve out some territories and establish personal control. The fact that the territories were rich in natural resources and also included diamond mines were added advantages to maintaining control as a kingdom. The fact that the Golconda dynasty did not produce a single king of exemplary calibre, unlike the other two major Deccan Shahi kingdoms, speaks volumes about the mediocrity of the Qutb Shahi lineage.

The Next Twenty Years

Shah Jahan returned to Delhi after Abdullah had signed on the dotted line, accepting his vassal status to the Mughals without demurring. He left the Deccan in the hands of his 17-year old son, Aurangzeb, who was appointed the Viceroy of the Deccan. However, he had ruled for about eight years, the Mughal Emperor removed or retired Aurangzeb from his position as the Viceroy in 1644. In the next eight years, Shah Jahan appointed and removed five viceroys before re-instating his son once again into the powerful position in the Deccan. This slightly tumultuous period in the Deccan also paved the way to a sort of proxy control of the region, consciously permitted by the central authority in Delhi. During this period of nearly a decade, the Mughals were content to let the South Indian affairs be handled and controlled by vassal kingdoms and some strong men with proven loyalty to Delhi. The return of Aurangzeb to favour and his reappointment as the Viceroy in 1652 once again changed the flavour of the Mughal attitude to the Deccan. Importantly, it marked a concerted push to establish Mughal suzerainty over the entire Peninsula. Aurangzeb left no doubts in anyone’s mind that he would personally control and rule the Deccan and thereafter the entire South Indian peninsula.

Golconda, now a vassal state of the Mughals, was under the virtual control of its Mir Jumla, Muhammad Said. Through calculated actions, he had amassed great wealth and become the real power in the kingdom. He had also made Gandikotta as the headquarters for his vast estates, which naturally became an alternative and virtual capital of the kingdom. Under direct instructions of Shah Jahan, Muhammad Said invaded and captured most of the remaining free territory of the old Vijayanagar Empire, the truncated parts now named Karnataka.

Abdullah Qutb Shah in the meantime had become completely servile and fawned on the Mughal Emperor—he wrote long and effusively abject letters to Shah Jahan wooing favours from him; and paid inordinate respect to the Mughal envoys in the Golconda court, hoping to remain in the good books of the Mughals. He also wrote entreating letters to Prince Dara Shikoh, the heir apparent to Shah Jahan and also the principle advisor to the emperor. These letters, some of which have survived to this day, confirm the conquest of Karnataka by Muhammad Said. Gradually, but certainly, Golconda had become subservient to the Mughals, accepting and readily adjusting to this new and bitter reality. Even though he assumed a servile position when dealing with the Mughals, Abdullah continued to try and assert his independent power within his kingdom. Muhammad Said’s assumption of great power and status, with the tacit support of the Mughal representatives, was resented by Abdullah who continually tried to curtail the power and position of eminence of his Mir Jumla.

A petty and avoidable incident brought this brewing rivalry between king and prime minister into open confrontation. Muhammad Said’s son, Muhammad Amin, was arrogant and accustomed to being a wastrel based on his father’s position and power. One day, when he was dead drunk, he went to the palace and sat on the throne. If that act itself was not a grave provocation, he was also violently sick while sitting on the throne. Abdullah had no option but to act—Muhammad Amin was arrested and confined in the fort at Kovilkonda, all his property was confiscated and annexed to the royal estates, and Abdullah send out summons for Muhammad Said to present himself in the royal court.

The Mir Jumla refused to obey his king or to apologise for the behaviour of his son. Instead, he established contact with Aurangzeb and started negotiations for the Mughals to invade the Qutb Shahi kingdom. Muhammad Said was also shrewd enough to think about alternative courses of action in case the Mughals did not come to his aid and send messages to both the Adil Shahi king in Bijapur and the Shah of Persia, seeking asylum in their respective domains. It is a separate matter that both the kings refused to provide him asylum. Muhammad Said requested Aurangzeb to invade and annex the kingdom of Golconda, of which he was Mir Jumla, the prime minister. He also promised to defray the costs that the Mughal army would incur in the campaign, calculated at 50,000 rupees per day. In today’s terms the situation would look very awkward, in that the Prime Minister of a sovereign state was asking its sworn enemy to attack and annex the state so that he could continue to be a powerful person. Such a person’s loyalty, integrity, love of country and the sense of independence would all be under a cloud. However, the medieval Deccan was a strange region, such actions seemed common place—one’s roots and country did not seem to have been held in high esteem and their betrayal to further self-interests was common place.

By now Shah Jahan also ordered Aurangzeb to march on Hyderabad, although the army was already on the move. The Mughal army was commanded by Aurangzeb’s son Prince Muhammad Sultan and reached Husain Sagar, the lake outside Hyderabad, on 22 January 1656. Throughout the development of this invasion, Abdullah had been servile and conciliatory towards the Mughal viceroy, only requesting that the invasion be stopped and indicating that he was willing to pay tribute/ransom to ensure that his kingdom was left alone. However, when Hyderabad was encircled, he showed some initiative and fled to Golconda, the older capital of the kingdom. The Mughals occupied, pillaged and burned Hyderabad in short order. Aurangzeb now carried out a great feat of military manoeuvre. He undertook a number of forced marches and personally reached the scene of battle, having covered 630 kilometres in just 18 days. Thereafter, the Mughals marched to Golconda and laid siege to the city.

Abdullah, realising that Aurangzeb was personally conducting the campaign now, send tribute and begged for the cessation of hostilities. He also requested an audience for his mother with the Mughal viceroy of the Deccan. Haughty Aurangzeb declined both and instead tightened the siege even further. However, Shah Jahan had been following the sequence of events from Delhi and appreciated the helplessness of Abdullah deep in the Deccan.  On the sane advice of Dara Shikoh, he granted Abdullah a free pardon. Now Aurangzeb’s duplicity and cunningness, which was to later become hallmarks of all his dealings, was put on public display and also chronicled meticulously by both Mughal and Deccan scribes.

Aurangzeb suppressed the document, firman, which gave a free pardon to Abdullah, even though it had come direct from the great emperor himself. He coerced Abdullah, who was unaware that he had already been pardoned, into promising to have his daughter married to Prince Muhammad Sultan with a large accompanying dowry. Aurangzeb then condescendingly granted an audience to the Queen-mother, Hayat Bakshi Begum. The meeting took place on 8 March 1656. Even after coercing the hapless Abdullah and keeping him in the dark about the royal pardon, Aurangzeb was not finished. He demanded, and got, one crore rupees as payment for not looting Golconda and more importantly, got a promise from the Qutb Shahi matriarch that his son Sultan, betrothed to Abdullah’s daughter, would succeed to the throne of Golconda on Abdullah’s death. On the acceptance of these terms, Abdullah was given the free pardon firman and within less than a month the marriage was solemnised, on 4 April.

The initiator of this entire sequence of events, Muhammad Said now arrived at Bolarum in the outskirts of Hyderabad and was received by the Mughal nobility and given a robe of honour. He went on to join Aurangzeb’s camp and was granted the title Muazzam Khan. The defection of the Mir Jumla and his instigation of actions against his own kingdom and king is an important point in the history of Golconda and one that would reverberate across the entire Deccan. Betrayals were not unknown, but betrayal on this grand a scale was the opening of a new door in the diminishing moral stature of the nobility of the Deccan.

The Mughal War of Succession

Almost immediately after this demeaning peace was agreed upon by Aurangzeb, in 1658-59, the Mughal Empire was shaken by the vehemence of a succession struggle that erupted. Aurangzeb was the victor—he inflicted military defeat on his brothers and subsequently murdered all of them; imprisoned his father in a small part of Agra fort; and crowned himself Emperor on 5 June 1659. While the turmoil in the Mughal Empire was gradually stabilising, another momentous event was taking place in South India. A rebellion was successfully waged in the western hinterland of the Peninsula, which saw the phenomenal rise and rapid establishment of Shivaji as the Maratha chieftain of an emerging kingdom. The first Maratha-Mughal encounter took place around the same time. A bit later Shivaji was crowned as the ‘Chhatrapati’, king of the Marathas. (The history of the Marathas will be covered in a forthcoming volume in this series.)

Aurangzeb, now the emperor, was pre-occupied with controlling other parts of the vast empire that he had forcibly taken over, and therefore the minor Qutb Shahi territories in the Deccan were not a priority anymore. The neglect was also because Muhammad Sultan, the heir apparent foisted on the Qutb Shahis, had unfortunately joined the wrong side of the Mughal succession struggle and had been captured and imprisoned for life by his father, Aurangzeb.

Muhammad Said’s defection created another schism between the Mughals and the Qutb Shahis. Since Aurangzeb was busy in the north, Abdullah decided to claim the conquered Karnataka territory for the Qutb Shahis, since the areas had been captured by his Mir Jumla. The Mughals, however, also laid claim to the territory since Muhammad Said was now a high-ranking Mughal noble. In affirmation of this claim, the Mughals once again overran the entire Karnataka region, barring the forts at Siddhoust and Gandikota, which continued to remain within the Qutb Shahi kingdom.

The war of succession and subsequent diversions had initially held Aurangzeb’s inclination and ambition to annex the Golconda kingdom in check, and the rise of Shivaji had further delayed the project. In effect, the Qutb Shahis had survived as a dynasty for some time now purely because of a sequence of events over which they had no control or influence. Such are the vagaries of history, clearly visible when viewed through the prism of hindsight.

Bijapur Interlude

The Mughals, under the guidance of the new emperor Aurangzeb, renewed their efforts to annex the remaining two Deccan Shahi kingdoms, starting with Bijapur. The Mughal army under Raja Man Singh moved south and engaged Bijapur forces in December 1665. Man Singh adopted a strategy of diplomatic initiatives to neutralise would-be allies, first by concluding a treaty with the Marathas and then by attempting to do the same with Golconda. Shivaji studiously kept away from interfering with the Mughal army and its invasion of Bijapur. However, Abdullah did not sign the treaty of neutrality and when Bijapur asked for assistance, he decided to go to his brother-in-law Ali Adil Shah’s assistance. A Qutb Shahi army of 12,000 cavalry and over 40,000 infantry under the command of Neknam Khan joined forces with the Bijapur army.

In the face of this large force, the Mughal army was forced to retreat without indulging in any major battle, or being defeated in the battlefield. They withdrew initially to Dharur and then to Aurangabad. On the withdrawal of the Mughal army, the Qutb Shahi forces were ordered home.

The Deccan Shahi kingdoms, especially Bijapur and Golconda, shared a somewhat strange relationship with each other. The royal houses were closely connected through matrimonial alliances, which were more often than not, marriages of convenience organised by the kings for sealing treaties and ensuring assistance. By the late-1500s, it had become natural for the Adil Shahis and Qutb Shahis to seek alliances with each other since no other successor state to the Bahmanis existed. These two houses were the last remaining bulwarks of the fast vanishing Deccan Shahi royalty. The underlying reason for marriages between the royal houses can therefore be easily understood. Layered on top of this was the pragmatic and expansionist ambition of the ruling kings that almost always led to border disputes and frontier clashes, which in turn turned into avoidable military incursions. Therefore, even though marriages were routinely conducted between them, the Deccan Shahi kingdoms mostly remained at loggerheads with each other from a security perspective. The coming together of the three kingdoms, as in the formation of the confederacy against the Vijayanagar Empire, was the exception and not the rule.

There was also a redeeming factor, at least in the earlier history of the successor states. If a foreign army entered the Deccan, the internal quarrels were forgotten and the Shahi armies came together to ward off the intruder. However, immediately on the threat being diffused, the kingdoms went back to their bickering and quarrelling ways, sowing the seeds for disunity in the long term. The Mughals, from the time of Akbar, had studied and understood the dynamics of Deccan Shahi politics. They would later use this knowledge and serve ultimatums simultaneously to the multiple Deccan rulers in order to stop them assisting each other. By being placed under threat simultaneously, the Mughals denied the Shahi kings mutual help and the ability to present a unified front to a common enemy.

Ever since the great Vijayanagar Empire had been reduced to a mere stump of a kingdom, both Bijapur and Golconda had aspired to annex the remaining territories. Bijapur was the first to act, invading and capturing Ikkeri and surroundings; while at the same time the Golconda army under Muhammad Said overran the Karnataka region (mentioned earlier). In 1662, Abdullah named Riza Quli Beg, titled Neknam Khan, the governor of Karnataka. The simultaneous invasion brought Bijapur and Golconda into direct confrontation with each other. Abdullah, always a peace-loving person adopted a more conciliatory approach rather than continue the confrontation, thereby avoiding the necessity for military action. This action of his has been described as ‘weak-kneed’ by contemporary chroniclers and even later-day historians have portrayed Abdullah as being placid and non-aggressive by nature, based on this episode. [One wonders whether the fact that the Qutb Shahi ancestor in Persia would not fight even to claim his own patrimony, preferring peace to conflict, has anything to do with the unusually soft attitude that seemed to have been a common character trait among the Golconda kings.]

Abdullah’s Last days

The peace overtures and the Qutb Shahi assistance to Bijapur at the Mughal invasion combined not only to cover the rift between the two kingdoms, but also assisted in cementing the relationship. At this stage, the Mughal attempts to annex the Deccan and Karnataka and make them appendages of the great empire faltered. Aurangzeb was preoccupied with running his vast monarchy with little time to concentrate on the Deccan. Muhammad Said, who in the first place had assisted Aurangzeb to gain traction in the region was now concentrating on Bihar and Bengal and there was no one in the Mughal hierarchy interested in guiding the actions in South India. From this perspective, a semblance of stability percolated over the Deccan Shahi kingdoms.

It was around this time that the Dutch and English trading companies had started to assert themselves in the Madras region. Neknam Khan, the Qutb Shahi governor of Karnataka under whose jurisdiction the region fell, was an astute negotiator and a resourceful military commander. Actually the Dutch and English factories were located at the edge of the outskirts of Qutb Shahi territories. Both did not want to be controlled by Neknam Khan and challenged his authority to control and regulate them. However, Neknam managed to contain the Dutch traders, somewhat amicably. Then he blockaded Madras twice, the second time in 1670, and then established a Qutb Shahi warehouse within Fort Saint George after a brief siege of the fort that lasted little more than a month. He forced the recalcitrant English governor to accept Qutb Shahi terms for the continuation of trade in the region.

Neknam Khan died in March 1672, immediately after the arrangements with the English were ratified by the king. Three weeks later Abdullah Qutb Shah also died, leaving only three daughters and no male heir to follow him to the throne.

© [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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