The Millenial City of the Telugu Sultans

Sam Dalrymple

In the late 15th century, an adventurer called Qutb Quli Shah set sail from Persia to work under in the Bahmani Empire. But as that empire collapsed, Qutb Quli took control and established the Qutb Shahi Sultanate.

Over time, the Sultanate grew immensely wealthy, and until the 1700s, the kingdom was the only known source of diamonds. The Kohinoor, Darianoor, Orlov, Jacob and Nizam diamonds all originated here.

In the year 1000 of the Islamic Calendar (1591 AD), Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah established a new capital called Hyderabad, partly influenced by the old Kakatiya capital of Warangal. The Char Minar and Char Kaman gateways (photos 5-6) for example, were inspired by Warangal’s four Torana Gateways.

Inundated with wealth, the Qutb Shahi rulers would preside over a fascinating hybrid court, gradually becoming so Indianized that they were referred to as the ‘Telugu Sultans’. Hindus became as prominent in the administration as Muslims, and new Hindu temples were patronised alongside Muslim mosques and shrines.

The Shia Muslim festival of Muharram would become celebrated by all the kingdoms communities as Peerla Panduga. Similarly, the festivals of other communities and their gods—such as Bathukamma and Mallanna—also became part of Hyderabad’s urban fabric.

Abdul Qadir Khan was a typical nobleman in the Qutb Shahi court. Although a Muslim, Khan patronised a Telugu translation of the Mahabharata called the Yayati Citramu.

In 1687, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb attacked Hyderabad, and most of the Qutb Shahi capital was demolished. However, the Millenial City of the Telugu Sultans survives in a few small areas if you know where to look.

The obvious example is the Char Minar in Hyderabad’s Old City, but the nearby Badshahi Ashurkhana – one of the most beautiful Shia shrines in all of India – also deserves mention. Further to the west, you can also visit the @qutbshahiheritage and scale the walls of the great Qutb Shahi citadel of Golconda.

The Deccan Heritage Foundation x Sam Dalrymple – A series that uncovers the history of Hyderabad through the eyes of Historian Sam Dalrymple. This article originally appeared on the Deccan Heritage Foundation Instagram page.

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