Dome Diaries – Part II: Adil Shahi and curse of the Maratha

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue


The battle of Talikota in 1565 AD and the ensuing defeat of Vijayanagara empire ushered in a period of relative stability, which resulted in prosperity for all the Deccan sultanates. It was particularly so for the Adil Shahis of Bijapur as they shared the longest border with Vijayanagara. Post Talikota Adil Shahi diplomacy was a perfect balance between marriage alliances (with Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar and Qutb Shahis of Golconda) and military campaigns (against Barid Shahis of Bidar). The idea of peace is a relative term, and in medieval India it could be gauged by comparing the length of the reigns of different rulers. Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the sixth Sultan of Bijapur and later his son Mohammed Adil Shah reigned over Bijapur of eight decades. The Bijapur sultanate remained in existence for two centuries in total. Now, that’s peaceful!

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Image: A Canna Red King Humbert flower with Gagan Mahal in the background, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Absence of any threat from Vijayanagara and the diplomacy with other Deccan sultanates meant Bijapur could now exert its control over the majority of the newly conquered area, and most importantly over the very fertile Raichur doab. Steady revenue inflows from the Raichur doab and other conquered  dominions down south, and the immense wealth that was plundered after sacking of the capital of Vijayanagara, improved Bijapur’s finances by manifolds. This newfound abundance was used in uplifting the lifestyle of the subjects, creating architectural marvels, and patronizing art.

The Jagadguru Badshah:

After the demise of Ali Adil Shah I in 1579 AD, his adopted son Ibrahim Adil Shah II took over the reign as Sultan of Bijapur. The new Sultan was a class apart from his predecessors, and would stay so from his successors too. His reign would last for five decades, one fourths of Bijapur sultanate’s total existence. These five decades would unquestionably be the golden period of Bijapur sultanate. The sultanate would transform from religious tolerance as a state policy to religious inclusion, thanks to the Sultan’s efforts to bring cultural harmony between Shias and Sunnis, and Hindus and Muslims.

Ibrahim Adil Shah II would go on to become an acclaimed poet, in addition to being an able and just ruler. He is credited with composing Kitab-e-Navras, which is a collection of 59 poems and 17 couplets, dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganapati, his queen Chaand Sultana, and also his Tanpura “Moti Khan” and his elephant “Atis Khan”, among other things.

All of this earned him the title of “Jagadguru Badshah”. In addition, Ibrahim Adil Shah II gave Bijapur its most prized possession. No, it is not the Gol Gumbaz. He commissioned building of a very ornate mausoleum for his queen consort, Taj Sultana. And by doing so, in all probability he laid the foundation of the idea to dedicate grand mausoleums to consorts, which culminated in the grandest of them all, the Taj Mahal in Agra. Though the mausoleum he had commissioned was built for his queen consort, he was the one to die first and to be buried there. Hence, the mausoleum got its name, Ibrahim Rouza, also called the Black Taj, or the Taj of Deccan (contested, as Bibi ka Maqbara in Aurangabad is also known as the Taj of Deccan).

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Image: The corridor outside the catacomb of Ibrahim Rouza, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

With the demise of Ibrahim Adil Shah II in 1627 AD, Bijapur would near the end of its golden period.

Mohammaed Adil Shah and the curse of the Maratha:

Mohammed Adil Shah took over the throne of Bijapur after his father’s death in 1627 AD. He took over the reigns of Bijapur when the sultanate was at its zenith, and he tried his best to live up to his father’s reputation in his three decades of rule. His efforts were mainly focused on improving the socio-economic and educational standards of his subjects, and succeeded to a large extent.

However, his best known contributions to the history would be these two: 1) Gol Gumbaz, his mausoleum, which is the world’s second largest freestanding dome, and dominates the Bijapuri skyline to date; and 2) His dealing with the revolt of Shahji (Shivaji’s father) and later Shivaji, which turned the Marathas against Bijapur and shaped the present of India as we know today.


Image: One of the canons outside the museum near Gol Gumbaz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

The Marathas had fought alongside the Deccan sultanates in the battle of Talikota against the Vijayanagara empire. However, events leading up to Bijapur’s alliance with the Mughals during Shah Jahan’s campaign against the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar saw Shahji’s Maratha forces fighting for the sovereignty of the Nizam Shahis. During this campaign Shahji is credited with the decimation of the combined Mughal and Adil Shahi forces manifolds larger than that of his Marathas. Unfavorable turn of events would see Shahji accepting Adil Shahi supremacy and being deputed to manage the jagir of Bangalore, further south.

Shahji would then send his son Shivaji and wife Jijabai to manage his jagirs in Pune. Driven by the vengeance to correct the injustice done to his father by the Adil Shahis, Shivaji would start taking over Bijapur territories, capturing his first fort at a tender age of fifteen. Shivaji’s “misadventures” would “compel” Mohammed Adil Shah to let lose his trusted general Afzal Khan, to teach Shivaji a lesson. This decision, as the Adil Shahis would realize later, would cost them dearly.

Afzal Khan was a big man driven by a strong desire to prove his worth. Notwithstanding Afzal Khan’s bravery on battlefields and physical built, he was of questionable repute and on many occasions had used deception to his advantage. Till this point in time, Marathas were unaffected by the ongoing rivalry between Shivaji and Adil Shahis.

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Image: A priest in Tulja Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, Maharashtra, India

On a relentless pursuit, Afzal Khan would then kill Shivaji’s elder brother Sambhaji using deception, after having asked him to come for negotiations. Sometime later, to provoke and drive out Shivaji, Afzal Khan would attack on the Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, and Vittala temple, in Pandharpur, desecrating the temples in the process. This was a stark departure from Adil Shahi state policy of religious tolerance and inclusion. These events would slowly turn the tides in favor of Shivaji, when other Maratha clans and sub-clans would rally behind him against the Bijapuri forces, grossly angered and humiliated by Afzal Khan’s actions.

Shivaji would kill Afzal Khan, when the latter would try to kill him using the same tactic he had used against Sambhaji, and in the ensuing battle of Pratapgadh, Bijapuri forces would be annihilated. Even after the defeat of Bijapuri forces in subsequent battles with the Marathas, Shah Jahan would still be respecting his treaty with Mohammed Adil Shah, and would allow the latter rule over a sovereign Bijapur. But this wouldn’t last long.

After Mohammed Adil Shah’s demise, his son Ali Adil Shah II would ascend the throne. Constant fighting with the Marathas had already weakened the Bijapur sultanate by then. And a few years later Shah Jahan would give in to the pressure from Aurangzeb and sanction a war against Bijapur to annex it into the Mughal empire. Ali Adil Shah II would die as the last independent Sultan of Bijapur, in 1672 AD. Mughal’s under Aurangzeb would finally annex Bijpaur in 1686 AD. This would give rise to the last of the three most bitterly fought rivalries of the Indian subcontinent of that millenium, that of Shivaji and Aurangzeb (the first being between Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammed of Ghor, and the second between Rana Pratap and Akbar).


There, two centuries of Adil Shahi history of Bijapur in two parts of “Dome Diaries”. It is fascinating how a certain event leads to a chain of events that change the course of time. For example, had Mohammed Adil Shah tried to negotiate with Shivaji instead of using a military commander like Afzal Khan, India’s past and present would have been entirely different.

Unfortunately, we have not been fully appraised of the past that has shaped our present. I have been reading about history of ancient and medieval India for some time now. It fascinates how (un)related events of India of the past that shaped up the India of today, are (conveniently) ignored by our history books. Few weeks ago, I had written a small piece on drawing parallels during medieval India, and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.


Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame (in order of appearance): 1) A Canna Red King Humbert flower with Gagan Mahal in the background, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Gagan Mahal is one of the many palaces in Bijapur.

2) The corridor outside the catacomb in Ibrahim Rouza, Bijapur, Karnataka, India.

3) One of the many canons outside the museum near Gol Gumbaz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. The inscriptions on the face are names of the twelve Imams of the Shia Muslims. This canon is believed to have adorned one of the many bastions on the fort wall, during the reign of Ali Adil Shah I.

4) A priest of Tulja Bhavani, inside the Tulja Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, Maharashtra, India.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Published by

Amrit Panigrahy

Amrit is a freelance photographer and a storyteller.

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