Bahmani Architecture and Culture: The Tomb of Ahmad Shah in Bidar

3 December 2021

After the move of the headquarters of the Bahmani kingdom from Gulbarga to the third capital Bidar by Ahmad I Shah (r.1422-36) in c.1430, followed by the rule of his son Ala al-Din Ahmad II (r.1436-1458), the Bahmani kingdom reached its greatest glory. The affluent city with its religious and civic institutions was connected to a formidable citadel with palaces and elaborate water systems that overlooked the fertile valley of the Manjira. Northeast of this fort and next to a water reservoir, that no longer exists, was the royal necropolis of the Bahmani sultans that ruled effectively from Bidar till 1490 and as puppets of the Baridi governors of Bidar for another twenty years.

The first mausoleum to be built in the royal necropolis of Ashtur northeast of the fort  was that of the founder of Bidar Ahmad I Shah. His majestic tomb sits on the eastern edge of the platform that also accommodates the equally magnificent sepulchre of his son located along  the axis of his father’s mihrab. From there one could gaze at the water reservoir that unfolded below the platform.

Ala al-Din was the consolidator of a new religio-political kingship introduced by his father under the influence of the unitary cosmography of Shah Nimatullah, expressed in the poetic verses that are inscribed on the walls of the tomb of Ahmad Shah, whose sacred kingship was recognised by Shah Nimatullah during the sultans life.

The themes that adorn the walls of this unique sepulchre are painted in vibrant colours. They attest to the influence of local and Islamic visual traditions to pictorialize the mystical unitary philosophy with political reverberations, expounded on the walls of Ahmad Shah’s mausoleum.

Dr. Mondini, Dr. Philon and Dr. Gupta approached this remarkable monument from the various perspectives of their research that ranged from politico-religious, social and art historical.



Helen Philon

Helen Philon is an archaeologist, scholar and lifelong academic with a MPh in Pre-Islamic Art from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and wrote her PhD thesis on Bahmani architecture in the Deccan at the same institution. She has worked in the Middle East and South Asia, travelling extensively throughout these regions, and published a long list of works on architecture and ceramics.

Sara Mondini

Sara Mondini is adjunct professor and temporary research fellow at the Venice Ca’ Foscari University (Italy). She holds a PhD in Oriental Studies from Venice Ca’ Foscari University (2009) and since 2009 she has been adjunct professor of Art History of India and Central Asia (BA), South Asian Visual Culture (BA) and Indian Modern and Contemporary Art (MA) at the same university. Since 2016, she is also adjunct professor at the FIT-Fashion Institute of Technology at Milan Politecnico, Milan (Italy) where she teaches Art and Civilization of the Islamic World (BA) and East Asian Art and Civilization (BA). She has conducted extensive research on Indo-Islamic, Indian and Islamic art and architecture in India, Middle-East, and North Africa, that have led to the publication of several articles. She is currently conducting research on the patronage of sacred Islamic architecture in South Asia, from both a stylistic and a socio-political point of view, by focusing on its transformation and perception across the centuries and on the way in which shared and/or contested sacred spaces are understood.

Dr Vivek Gupta

Dr Vivek Gupta is Postdoctoral Associate in Islamic Art (2020-2023) at the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge where he is also affiliated with Jesus College. He completed his PhD at SOAS, University of London, with a thesis entitled Wonder Reoriented: Manuscripts and Experience in Islamicate Societies of South Asia (ca. 1450–1600).