Rise of Provincial Dynasties: Gujarat

Rise of Provincial Dynasties: Gujarat

Western India: Gujarat, Malwa and Rajasthan

  • On account of their size, rich and fertile lands and salubrious climate, Gujarat and Malwa were always regarded as rich prizes.
    • Gujarat:
      • It was famous for excellent handicrafts and flourishing sea-ports from which much of north India’s sea-trade was conducted.
    • Malwa and Rajasthan:
      • They were important transit centres, linking the products of the Ganga valley with the sea-ports of Gujarat.
  • Hence, control over Malwa and Gujarat and the road link across Rajasthan had always been the concern of any imperial power in the north or south.
  • During the 15th century, Malwa and Gujarat balanced each other.
    • While both tried to bring the border states of Rajasthan under their domination, they were unable to make deep in-roads into Rajasthan, due to the rise of Mewar under Rana Kumbha.
    • But this balance began to break down during the early decades of the 16th century.


  • In 1299 Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan, Alauddin Khalji’s generals, succeeded in overthrowing Raja Karna Baghella, the Chalukya ruler and thus laid the foundation of the Sultanate rule in Gujarat.
  • The Delhi Sultans enjoyed supremacy over Gujarat throughout the 14th century.
  • However, symptoms of decline became evident from Feroz Shah’s reign onwards who entrusted the governorship of Gujarat to Shamsuddin Damghani.
  • Timur’s invasion (1398) provided the much sought for opportunity to the governors to break away with the centre and both Gujarat and Malwa became independent in all but name.
  • Soon after, in 1407, Zafar khan (who later assumed the title of Muzaffar Shah), the then Governor of Gujarat, established an independent kingdom in Gujarat.
  • The Kingdom of Gujarat since its inception had been constantly clashing with its neighbouring territories- Malwa, Rajputana, Khandesh and the Bahmani kingdoms.

Relationship with Malwa:

  • From the beginning, the kingdoms of Gujarat and Malwa were bitter rivals. The warfare between them did not, however, lead to any lasting change in their frontiers.
  • In 1408, Muzaffar Shah had defeated and imprisoned Hoshang Shah who succeeded Dilawar Khan as the ruler of Malwa.
    • Though Hoshang Shah had to accept the suzerainty of Muzaffar Shah, he was jealous of the rising power of Gujarat.
  • To undermine its power, the rulers of Malwa used to join hands with the enemies of Gujarat. But Ahmad Shah succeeded in crushing Hoshang Shah’s power.
  • Later during Qutbuddin Ahmad Shah II’s reign (1451-59), Mahmud Khalji of Malwa attacked Gujarat but he was repulsed.
    • Later, Mahmud Khalji allied with Qutbuddin Ahmad Shah II to confront Rana Kumbha of Mewar. But this move was purely a diplomatic one as Mahmud Khalji never left any opportunity to undermine the prestige of the rulers of Gujarat.
  • This bitter rivalry weakened the two kingdoms, and made it impossible for them to play a larger role in the politics of north India.

Relationship with Rajputana:

  • Another formidable power with which the rulers of Gujarat had been constantly at war was Rajputana.
  • The first Rajput kingdom to form part of Gujarat was Idar (1426). Soon, Ahmad Shah overran Dungarpur (1433).
  • Later, Qutbuddin (1451-59) and Mahmud Begarha (1459-151 1) had to face Rana Kumbha, the ruler of Mewar.
  • Rana Kumbha had occupied Sirohi, Abu and Nagaur, the latter being ruled by Ahmad Shah’s uncle, Feroz Khan. As a result, Rana Kumbha had to cope with the combined attack of Gujarat, Sirohi and Nagaur.
  • The final outcome was that the Rana had to sue for peace by paying huge indemnity. But Rana Kumbha retained his capital, Kumbhalgarh.
  • The Rajput state of Champaner also constantly clashed with Gujarat. But finally it was annexed to the Gujarat kingdom by Mahmud Begarha in 1483-84 who renamed it Muhammadabad and made it his second capital.
  • By Mahmud Begarha’s reign other small Rajput kingdoms of Junagarh, Sorath, Kutch and Dwarka were also subjugated.

Relationship with Bahmani and Khandesh:

  • The Bahmani ruler Feroz Shah maintained cordial relations with the Gujarati rulers.
  • But after his death (1397-1422), radical change came about with the accession of Ahmad Bahmani (1422-1436) who formed matrimonial alliance with the ruler of Khandesh.
  • When Rai Kanha of Jhalawar fled (1429), Khandesh and Bahmani rulers gave asylum to him. This infuriated Ahmad Shah Gujarati and he subjected them to a crushing defeat.
  • However, during Mahmud Begarha’s reign cordial relationship revived.
    • When Mahmud Khalji of Malwa attacked the Bahmani kingdom, Mahmud Begarha came to its rescue.
  • Mahmud Begarha also had friendly relation with the Khandesh rulers, but Adil Khan II ceased to pay tribute and joined hands with Ahmadnagar and Berar.
    • As a result, Mahmud Begarha attacked Khandesh and finally Adil Khan was compelled to accept suzerainty of Mahmud Begarha. But the latter did not annex either Khandesh or Daubtabad; instead, he confirmed their rulers on payment of tribute.

Ahmad Shah I (1411-42):

  • The real founder of the Gujarat Sultanate was, however, Ahmad Shah I (1411-42), the grandson of Muzaffar Shah.
  • During his long reign, he brought the nobility under control, settled the administration, and expanded and consolidated the kingdom.
  • He shifted the capital from Patan to the new founded city of Ahmedabad, the foundation of which he laid in 1413.
  • He was strict in his justice and he had his own son-in-law executed for a murder.
Silver tanka of Qutb ud-Din Ahmad Shah II (1451-1458) of Gujarat,
Copper coin of Muzaffir Shah
  • Ahmad Shah tried to extend his control over the Rajput states in the Saurashtra region, as well as those located on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border.
  • In Saurashtra, he defeated and captured the strong fort of Girnar, but restored it to the Raja on his promise to pay tribute.
  • He then attacked Sidhpur, the famous Hindu pilgrim centre, and levelled to the ground many of the beautiful temples there.
  • In addition to peshkash or annual tribute, he imposed jizyah for the first time on the Hindu rulers in Gujarat.
  • But he also inducted Hindus in government. Manik Chand and Motichand, belonging to the bania, were ministers under him.
  • He also fought the Muslim rulers of the time, i.e. the Muslim rulers of Malwa, Khandesh and the Deccan.
  • He brought the Rajput states of Jhalawar, Bundi, Dungarpur, etc., under his control.

Mahmud Begarha (1459 to 1511):

  • The successors of Ahmad Shah continued his policy of expansion and consolidation.
  • The most famous sultan of Gujarat was Mahmud Begarha (great-grandson of Ahmad Shah I).
  • He was called Begarha because he captured two of the most powerful forts (garhs):
    • Girnar in Saurashtra (now called Junagarh) and
    • Champaner in south Gujarat.
  • Girnar:
    • The ruler of Girnar had paid tribute regularly, but Mahmud Begarha decided to annex his kingdom as a part of his policy of bringing Saurashtra under full control.
    • Saurashtra was a rich and prosperous region and had many fertile tracts and flourishing ports but it was also infested by robbers and seapirates who preyed on trade and shipping.
    • The powerful fort of Girnar was considered suitable not only for administering Saurashtra, but also as a base of operations against Sindh.
    • After the fall of the fort, the raja embraced Islam and was enrolled in the service of the sultan.
    • The sultan founded at the foot of the hill a new town called Mustafabad (now Junagadh). He built many lofty buildings there and asked all his nobles to do the same. Thus, it became the second capital of Gujarat.
  • Dwarka:
    • Mahmud Begarha sacked Dwarka because it harboured pirates who ravaged the traders. The campaign was also used to raze the famous Hindu temples there.
  • Champaner:
    • The fort of Champaner (Pavagadh fort) was strategically located for the Sultan’s plans of bringing Khandesh and Malwa under his control.
    • The ruler, though a feudatory of Gujarat, had close relations with the sultan of Malwa.
    • Champaner fell in 1454 after the gallant raja and his followers, despairing of help from any quarter, performed the jauhar ceremony and fought to the last man.
    • Mahmud constructed a new town called Muhammadabad near Champaner. He laid out many gardens there and made it his principal place of residence.
  • Dealing with Portuguese:
    • Portuguese who were interfering with Gujarat’s trade with the countries of West Asia.
    • He received help from the rulers of Egypt and the Ottoman who sent their generals Amir Hussain and Sulaiman Rais.
      • The combined force at first succeeded in defeating the Portuguese flotilla at Chaul in 1508 but, later in 1509, Albuquerque completely crushed them.
      • As a result, in 1510 Mahmud Begarha entered into an alliance with the Portuguese and extracted assurance for the safety of Gujarati ships in the Arabian.
  • Capturing of Bombay:
    • The Sultan is also credited with capturing the island of Bombay from the Koli (fisherman) tribe, they were vassal of Bahmani Sultanate.
    • Later one of his descendants Bahadur Shah, handed the island over to the Portuguese in 1535.
  • Trade and commerce:
    • During the long and peaceful reign of Mahmud Begarha, trade and commerce prospered.
    • He constructed many caravan-sarais and inns for the comfort of the travellers.
    • The merchants were happy because roads were safe for traffic.
  • Education:
    • Though Mahmud Begarha had never received a systematic education, he had gained considerable knowledge by his constant association with the learned men.
    • Many works were translated from Arabic into Persian during his reign.
    • His court poet was Udayaraja who composed in Sanskrit.
  • Appearance and food:
    • Mahmud Begarha had a striking appearance.
    • He had a flowing beard which reached up to his waist, and his moustache was so long that he tied it over his head.
    • According to a traveller, Barbosa, Mahmud, from his childhood, had been nourished on some poison so that if a fly settled on his hand, it swelled and immediately lay dead.
    • Mahmud was also famous for his voracious appetite for food.
  • Matrimonial relations with Rajput:
    • From the beginning, the rulers of Gujarat adopted a policy of entering into matrimonial relations with some of their subordinate Rajput rulers.
    • The mother of Muzaffar Shah II was a Rajput, and he himself married a number of Rajput princesses.
    • Although many Hindus rose in the service of the Gujarati rulers, such as Rajya Rayan who was the chief Hindu noble of Mahmud Begarha, and Malik Gopi who was the chief minister, the policy of matrimonial alliances neither brought any changes in the overall policies of the sultans, nor brought the concerned families into a closer political union.
  • In 1508, the Delhi Sultan Sikandar Lodi sent an embassy to Gujarat.
    • The embassies of Sikandar Lodi and that of Ismail Safavi of Iran greatly increased the prestige of the Gujarati ruler.
    • It also suggests the important place Mahmud Begarha occupied in the contemporary national and international scene.
  • The Gujarat kingdom remained a powerful, well-administered and prosperous state of the country, and was powerful enough not to allow any serious encroachments on its territories and ports by the Portuguese. However, its efforts under Bahadur Shah to dominate Malwa and Rajasthan led to a clash with the Mughals and proved its undoing.

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