In the beginning of the sixteenth century, there were seven principal states in the Deccan namely:

(i) Khandesh

(ii) Berar

(iii) Ahmednagar,

Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy

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(iv) Bijapur

(v) Golkunda,

(vi) Bidar and


(vii) Vijayanagar

Of the seven states, five were the offshoots of the Bahamni Kingdom which came to an end in 1538.

The kingdoms were split into five independent states as under:

(i) The Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar,


(ii) The Imad Shahi of Berar

(iii) The Adil Shahi of Bijapur

(iv) The Badri Shahi of Bidar and

(v) Qutb Shahi of Golkunda.

The most important characteristics of the political situation in the Deccan was that all these states were constantly at war with each other. In 1565, four of the Muslim states namely Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Golkunda and Bidar formed a confederacy and fought against the Hindu State of Vijayanagara in the Battle of Talikota and gave a crushing defeat to Vijayanagara. Thereafter Ahmednagar conquerred Berar in 1574 and Bijapur annexed Bidar in 1618-1619. The Marathas also emerged as great power in the Deccan.

Mughal Rulers in the Deccan:


Akbar occupied a part of Ahmednagar and the rest was occupied by Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb annexed the states of Bijapur and Golkunda. In spite of best efforts, Aurangzeb failed to subdue Shivaji who was successful in establishing a strong empire in Maharashtra.

Babur and the Deccan:

Babur’s stay was very short-lived and he could not pay attention to the Deccan. He has simply mentioned the Deccan states in his ‘Memoires’.

Humayun and the Deccan:

Humayun had not inherited an organised empire. He himself had to leave India and give way to Sher Shah and his successors during the period 1540 to 1555. After his exile from India, he could rule for a few months only.

Akbar and the Deccan:

Akbar was the first Mughal ruler who paid his attention towards the Deccan.

Following were the reasons for his interest in the Deccan:

1. Akbar’s expansionist and imperialist policy.

2. Lack of political unity among the warring Southern states.

3. Failure of the Rajput’s to form any kingdom in the south.

4. Bringing about the cultural unity of the two regions of India—north and south.

5. Bringing about the political unity of India.

6. Akbar’s desire to get the wealth of the Deccan.

7. Nearness of the Deccan territories to Gujarat and Malwa regions which Akbar has already annexed to his empire.

8. Settling of religious rivalries in the Muslim states of the Deccan.

9. Refusal of the Deccan states to accept the suzerainty of Akbar.

Campaigns of Akbar in Deccan:

Diplomatic offensive:

Akbar launched a diplomatic offensive against the Deccan States in 1593. He sent his missions to all these states asking them to accept Mughal suzerainty. Only Khandesh accepted this offer.

Strong resistance by Chand Bibi:

In 1595, there was infighting in Ahmednagar over the succession issue. Akbar found this the appropriate occasion to attack this state. So Akbar sent a strong force under Khan-i- Khanan Abdul Rahim and Murad (son of Akbar) for the conquest of Ahmednagar.

Chand Bibi who was acting as a regent for the young prince offered a gallant resistance. She made her name in the annals of history for her bravery and even Akbar had to accept this fact. After a close sieze of the fort of Ahmednagar for four months, the two sides came to an agreement. It was agreed to cede Berar to the Mughals in return for the recognition of the claim of the prince of Ahmednagar.

The proposal of annexation of Berar alarmed the Deccan states and they created obstruction in handing over Berar to the Mughals as they felt that the Mughals might get permanent hold in the Deccan. Soon a combined force of Bijapur, Golkunda and Ahmednagar faced the Mughal forces. Chand Bibi could not defend Ahmednagar this time on account of intrigues in her own camp. She was either killed or she committed suicide. With her death, all resistance collapsed. The fort of Ahmednagar fell to the Mughals. The fort of Asirgarh in Khandesh was captured in 1601 after giving bribes to some nobles of Khandesh.

Results of Akbar’s Deccan policy:

(1) Three areas of Deccan i.e. Ahmednagar, Berar and fort of Asirgarh were annexed to the Mughal empire.

(2) Akbar got several important forts.

(3) The Mughals got a foothold in the Deccan.

Jahangir and the Deccan:

Malik Amber’s brave resistance:

Akbar’s conquest of Ahmednagar proved to be transitory. Since Jahangir was busy in other affairs, Malik Amber, the officer at Ahmednagar declared independence. Jahangir made three attempts in 1608, 1611 and 1612 to conquer Ahmadnagar but all these failed. At last in 1617, prince Khurram (later on he became Shah Jahan) was successful in getting back all the territories.

Prince Khurram received several precious presents and he was highly honoured by emperor Jahangir. The victory over Malik Amber was short-lived. He started offensive against the Mughals. Prince Khurram was again sent to Ahmednagar to subdue Malik Amber. Malik Amber had to enter into a very humiliating treaty which again lasted for a few years only. Until his death in 1626, Malik Amber kept the Mughals at bay.

Failure of Jahangir’s policy in the Deccan Jahangir failed on account of the following factors:

(a) Diplomacy and bravery of Malik Amber of Ahmednagar.

(b) Corruption in the Mughal army.

(c) Mutual rivalry among the Mughal nobles and military officials.

(d) Revolts of Jahangir’s princes.

Shah Jahan’s Deccan Policy:

Shah Jahan’s Deccan policy was prompted by political as well as religious motives. Being a staunch Sunni he wanted to crush the Shia States of Deccan which had not accepted the Mughal supremacy.

Shah Jahan, (earlier Prince Khurram) was quite familiar with the situation in the Deccan. During the reign of Jahangir, he had led two expeditions and won name and fame.

Shah Jahan secured a positive gain in the extension of his authority over the Deccan during his reign of over twenty-eight years. The Treaty of 1636 with Bijapur and Golkunda proved his skill as a statesman. The suzerainty of Mughal emperor was accepted by these states. Shah Jahan abstained from interfering in the internal affairs of these two states.

Most of the part of Ahmednagar was annexed to his empire.

The Deccan policy of Shah Jahan proved to be very successful.

Aurangzeb and his Deccan Policy:

Aurangzeb spent almost second half of his reign in the protracted warfare lasting about 25 years in the Deccan. During this period he remained away from the North.

Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy was prompted by the following considerations:

1. Extension of his kingdom.

2. Intolerance against the Shia kingdoms of Bijapur and Golkunda— the kingdoms which had declared independence during the war of succession.

3. Crushing the rising powers of the Marathas.

4. Acquiring the wealth of the rich kingdoms of the South.

While Aurangzeb was able to annex the kingdoms of Bijapur and Golkunda, he failed against Shivaji. Even after Shivaji’s death, he failed in suppressing the Marathas completely and till the end he remained a victim of Maratha attacks.

Effects of the Deccan policy of Aurangzeb:

Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy has been universally denounced as baleful and blundering. According to Dr. V.S. Smith, Deccan was “the grave of Aurangzeb’s reputation as well of his body.” (Aurangzeb’s death took place in the Deccan). In the words of Sir J.N. Sarkar, “If Spanish ulcer ruined Napoleon, the Deccan ulcer ruined Aurangzeb.”