Mahmud Gawan served with a great distinction as Prime Minister of three Bahamni Sultans for about twenty three years from 1458 to 1481 A.D.
On account of his contribution to the Bahamni in making rapid progress in different fields, Ferishta described Gawan as a fruit of the royal garden and wrote an eulogy of him in about 40 lines.
‘Devotion’ was the world which could sum up his whole life — work, character and aim. At the last moment of his life he said his prayer in these words,
“I am old and do not mind my death but my death is bound to come because of destiny. I thank God that he gave me an opportunity to lay down my life in the cause of the dynasty.”
It has been rightly remarked about him, “By virtue of his conspicuous ability, skilful diplomacy and successful military campaigns, he brought the dominion of the Bahamnis to an extent ever achieved by former sovereigns.”
Gawan led a successful expedition against the combined armies of Orissa and Khandesh.
He occupied the fertile areas of Bidar, Daultabad and Berar.
With the help of Sultan of Gujarat, he defeated the ruler of Malwa.
He established Bahamni control over the western coast as far as Dabhol and Goa. The possession of these two ports had two-fold advantage. First, it led to increase sea trade of the Kingdom with Iran and Iraq. Internal trade also increased. Second, it weakened the power of its arch-enemy Vijayanagare Kingdom.
Very diplomatically, Gawan secured the help of the Sultans of Jaunpur, Bengal and Gujarat to subdue the powerful ruler of Malwa. Ultimately peace was restored between Malwa and Bahamni Kingdoms.
Gawan introduced the following administrative reforms:
(i) The existing four provinces were divided into two each and created eight ‘Tarafs’.
(ii) He reduced the powers of the governors of these ‘Tarafs’ (Provinces).
(iii) In each of these eight ‘Tarafs’ some areas were kept reserve for the control of the Central Government and for their administrative control, officials were appointed by the Centre.
(iv) Orders were issued by him for placing one fort in each province under the charge of the governor and others under the control of military commanders appointed by the Sultan.
(v) He put a check on the powers of the nobles.
(vi) He introduced a fair system of justice.
Development of agriculture:
The entire agricultural land was surveyed and land revenue fixed.
He exercised strict control over local officials to ensure that they took interest in the development of agriculture and do not charge more than the fixed revenue,
He took several measures to spread education. He opened a ‘Madrasa’ an institution of higher learning at Bidar. The building was of three storeys and was made beautiful with the use of lovely red titles. Several scholars for this ‘Madrasa’ were invited from Iran and Iraq. Free board and lodging were provided. A library containing about 3000 books was established.
Service conditions of the soldiers were improved. Better discipline was enforced in the army.
Although he was at the helm of affairs of the state, he lived a very simple life. He cooked food in earthen vessels and slept on mattress. He was a great scholar and wrote two books. He loved the company of scholars. On every Friday night, he used to visit various places of worship of the Muslims. He gave help to the poor and the needy.
However, there was a blot on the character of this saintly person. He was very enthusiastic in the persecution of Non-Muslims. He ordered the destruction of several temples.
Sad end of Gawan:
Achievements of Gawan, invited the jealousy of the Indian Muslim nobles and through a conspiracy against him they succeeded in getting death orders for him from the Sultan when he was drunk. When the Sultan came to know about the real truth, he was deeply grieved and died within a year of the murder of his faithful Prime Minister. With the death of Gawan, all the cohesion and the power of the Bahamni Kingdom began to disappear.