In this article we will discuss about administration of India under the Bahmani kingdom during medieval period.
The rulers of the Bahmani kingdom accepted Abbasaid-Khalifas as their overlord though, in fact, they were independent rulers and behaved accordingly. The first ruler of the kingdom, Bahman Shah could not get much time to look after the administration as he mostly remained busy in fighting.
Muhammad Tughluq had divided his territories in the Deccan into four provinces. Bahman Shah kept that arrangement as it was except that he appointed his own officers everywhere. Muhammad Shah I divided the kingdom into four Atrafs (provinces) whose capitals were Daultabad, Berar, Bidar and Gulbarga respectively.
Provincial governors called Tarfdars with extensive administrative and military powers were appointed in each of these provinces. Tarfdar collected revenue from his province, organised the provincial army and appointed all civil and military officers of his province. Sometimes Tarfdars were appointed ministers of the king as well.
When the kingdom became further extensive and Mahmud Gavan worked as prime minister, the number of provinces was raised from four to eight. Mahmud Gavan attempted to restrict the powers of provincial governors and, for that purpose, fixed some land as the land of the Sultan in each province which was managed by the officers of the central government. Provinces or Atrafs were divided into Sarkars and Sarkars were divided into Paraganas for the convenience of administration. The lowest unit of the administration was the village.
The head of the state was the Sultan who enjoyed all executive, legislative and judicial powers within the state. There was no legal limit to his powers and some of them called themselves the representatives of God on earth. But, in practice, the powers of the Sultan were limited by the powers and advice of powerful ministers and nobles.
The Sultan was assisted by ministers in the administration. The prime minister was called Vakil-us-Sultanat, the finance minister Amir-i-Jumla and the foreign minister Vazir-i-Asraf. There were two other ministers called the Vazir-i-kul and the Peshwa but their responsibilities were not fixed up.
Sometimes the provincial Tarfdars were also appointed as ministers. The chief judicial officer, after the Sultan, was called the Sadr-i-Jahar. Besides being the judicial officer, he looked after religious affairs and charitable works performed by the state.
The Bahmani kingdom constantly fought against neighbouring Hindu states and therefore, had to keep a large standing army. The head of the army, after the Sultan, was called the Amir-ul-umra. The Sultan kept his personal bodyguards called the Khas-i-Khel. The Bahmani kingdom maintained an artillery as well besides the cavalry, the infantry and war-elephants.
Shihabuddin Ahmad I introduced Mansabdari system in the army wherein the military officers were assigned jagirs according to their mansabs or ranks to meet the expenses of the armies raised by them. The civilian officers were also assigned mansabs with a view to fix up their salaries.
However, the Jagirdars were required to submit the statement of their income and expenditure to the Central government. The officers incharge of forts, Kiledars were also directly responsible to the central government.
Sultans, mansabdars and the nobles enjoyed all sorts of luxuries which was a proof that the Bahmani kingdom was prosperous. However, no evidence is available regarding condition of ordinary people. Probably, as in other parts of India, the common people led a simple life.
The Bahmani kingdom helped in the growth of Muslim culture in south India. Followers of Islam from north India and foreign countries established themselves in the Bahmani kingdom. Different rulers patronized Muslim scholars and religious preachers.
Even after the disintegration of the Bahmani kingdom, the rulers of those states which arose on the ruins of it patronized Muslim saints, scholars, artists, etc., and constructed madarsas and several other buildings, and, thus, participated in spreading the Muslim culture in south India.
The conflict with Hindu rulers of south India also forced the rulers of the Bahmani kingdom to provide political and cultural leadership to Islam in the South. Thus, the Bahmani kingdom contributed towards the politics and culture of south India for a long time.