Pre-Mughal Muslim India

As I have mentioned in previous posts (see posts of 2008.03.28 and 2009.03.06), Islam in India is not at all synonymous with the Mughals, who were really the last in a series of Muslim powers to arise in India. In this post, I wanted to go over some of many Muslim rulers of India that existed prior to the Mughal rulers, and to show some of their grand architectural remains.

The story of Muslim rulers in India starts with Mohammad Ghori, who invaded from now Afghanistan into now India and Pakistan in the 12th century. Muhammad’s general, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, established the Delhi Sultanate, which through various dynasties lasted until the arrival of the Mughals in the 16th century. The most notable of the Delhi Sultans included Shams ud din Iltutmish (1210-1235) and Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325-1351). It is during the rule of Sultan Mohammad bin Tughluq that Ibn Battuta landed in India, acting as a waqif, or judge (see post of 2009.01.23).

Qutb-ud-din Aybak ordered the construction of the Qutb Minar (in now southern Delhi) as a symbol of his establishment of Muslim rule in North India. One of the most spectacular architectural ruins anywhere, and said to resemble precedents in Afghanistan, it is perhaps the greatest symbol of the Delhi Sultanate. The Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque in the Qutb complex is said to be a conversion from Hindu or Jain temples–post to come.

The Qutb Minar

The Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, with the Minar in the background

Tomb of Iltutmish, in the Qutb complex

Ruins of Tughluqabad, located to the south of New Delhi

Daulatabad, or Deogiri Fort. In 1327, Tughluq forced the entire population of Delhi to move to Daulatabad, thousand of miles away in the Deccan, a horrible and failed experiment.

Some of the tombs of the Lodi and Sayyid dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate are in an undervisited Delhi park known as the Lodi Gardens.

The Delhi Sultanate held on to power in the core northern areas around Delhi for most of its duration, but conquests outside of Delhi often split off into other sultanates and kingdoms, resulting in a great number of other Muslim rulers in the Subcontinent.

The Bahmani Sultanate, founded by a governor of Tughluq, ruled over much of the Deccan from 1347 to 1527, but then splintered into various smaller kingdoms, the most important of which was Golconda/Hyderabad. The Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda was originally founded by a minister for the Bahmani Sultanate, and at its height built the new city of Hyderabad nearby. Hyderabad was eventually conquered by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, but then restored to independent rule under the Nizams, when Mughal control grew weak. For more information on the history of Hyderabad, see my post of 2008.03.28.

Golconda Fort. One of Golconda’s great claims to fame is as the origin of most of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the Koh-i-Noor, now part of the British crown jewels, the Darya-ye Noor, part of the Iranian crown jewels and the Hope diamond, now part of the U.S. Smithsonian collection.

Qutb Shahi Tombs details. Note the Iranian influence of the glazed tiles in the second picture below.

Hyderabad’s famous Char Minar, built in 1591

Jaunpur, located near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, became an independent state controlled by the Sharqi dynasty after the 1398 sacking of Delhi by Tamerlane substantially weakened the Delhi Sultanate. Mughal Emperor Akbar incorporated Jaunpur into the Mughal Empire in 1559.

Atala Mosque, Jaunpur, built in 1423

Friday Mosque, Jaunpur, built in 1470. The Sharqi dynasty developed its own particular architectural styles, as seen in the Atala and Friday Mosques.

Medresa student, Friday Mosque, Jaunpur

The Ilyas Shah dynasty was created in Bengal in 1338, during another period of Delhi Sultanate weakness, and had its capitals at the cities of Gour and Pandua, located in West Bengal some 250 miles to the north of now Calcutta. Mughal Emperor Akbar incorporated the region into the Mughal Empire in 1576.

Adina, or Friday, Mosque, Pandua, which was built around 1430 and is said to incorporate parts of a Hindu temple (post to come). It was at one time the largest mosque in what is now India.

Bara Sona, or Big Golden, Mosque, Gour, built in 1526 by Sultan Nusrat Shah

Qadam Rasul Mosque, Gour, built in 1513 by Sultan Nusrat Shah and said to house a footprint of Mohammed

A contemporary of the early Mughals, Sher Shah Suri was a Muslim ruler who founded the Sur dynasty in 1540, based out of Sasaram in now Bihar. Sher Shah Suri was able to defeat Humayun, leaving him to retreat and seek assistance from Safavid Iran (see post of 2009.02.16), but was killed in battle after a reign of only five years.

Tomb of Isa Khan Niazi, an Afghan noble in the court of Sher Shah Suri, located near Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi

The Ghuri Kingdom, or Malwa Sultanate, of Mandu (now Madhya Pradesh) was established by Dilawar Khan, then governor of Malwa, when Delhi was sacked by Tamerlane. First Humayun, and later Akbar, added it to the Mughal Empire.

Mandu’s Jahaz Mahal, or Palace of the Winds

Malwa Sultan Hoshang Shah’s Tomb at Mandu is said to be a precursor to the Taj Mahal

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