Mughal relations with the Deccan are important not only for the study of Akbar’s conquest of Khandesh, Berar and Ahmadnagar which took place in 1596 and 1600, but it is also important for understanding the factors and circumstances which gradually goaded Akbar to adopt an expansionist policy towards the Deccan.
As it is well known, the Deccani states, namely the Nizamshahi kingdom of Ahmadnagar, the Adilshahi kingdom of Bijapur, the Imadshahi kingdom of Berar, the Qutbul Mulk dynasty of Golkonda and the Barid family of Bidar came into existence as a result of the dis-integration of the Bahamani kingdom.
During the 14th Century, the Bahamani kingdom was a powerful state encompassing the entire Deccan and having its capital at Bidar. The process of the emergence of these independent states began during the reign of Sultan Mahmud Shah Bahmani (1482-1518). It was during his reign that in 1490, his governor, Malik Ahmad Nizamul Mulk, administering the territory in the area of present day Maharashtra, with his headquarters at Junar, declared himself independent and assumed the title of Nizam Shah. Side by side, two other governors also declared their independence: They were Adil Shah Yusuf of Bijapur, i.e., situated south of Godavari, on the western coastal regions of Maharashtra; and the governor of Berar, situated to the east of Ahmadabad and Bijapur and the wewst of Telangana region.
Then in 1508, Qutbul Mulk, the governor of Golkunda declared independence. Finally Bidar also passed into the hands of the Bahmani Wazir family – the Barids. Amir Barid declared himself the ruler in 1528 after eliminating the last Bahmani ruler. So starting in 1491 the process was completed by 1528.
Khandesh had also emerged independent of the Bahmani control and the Faruqis of Khandesh were having their headquarters at Burhanpur. The Nizamshahis were at Ahmadnagar. Daulatabad was another important place.
Let us briefly deal first with the geographical significance of these states and the territorial disputes which existed between them.
The territory of the Kingdom of Khandesh was roughly located in the Valley of Tapti: between Narbada and Tapti. Parts of it were controlled by Malwa. From Abul Fazl’s account of Pir Muhammad Khan Sarwani’s campaign against Baz Bahadur it appears that certain parts of Malwa region passed into the Mughal hands in 1562. According to Abul Fazl, Baz Bahadur was expelled to Bijagarh sarkar, which at this time was a part of Malwa region. Again in the same area, between Narbada and Tapti, towards the east was the region of Sultanpur, which was a source of long-standing dispute between Khandesh and Gujarat. For some time this place was under the control of the Gujaratis, but the Khandesh kingdom was trying to get it.
South of Tapti, the frontier of the Gujarati kingdom extended from the coast of Ahmadnagar and came face to face with the frontier of Khandesh. Sarkar of Nandurbar was at this time again a source of friction between Gujaratis and Khandesh.
The dispute over Sultanpur and Nandurbar was inherited by the Mughals from the Gujaratis in 1572.
The territory of Berar was located to the south-east of Khandesh. In fact its upper reaches were marked by Tapti. Towards south, Godavari demarcated the territory of Berar from Bidar and Golkunda. On the eastern and western side it was sandwiched between Gondwana and Bidar.
Berar’s territorial dispute with Ahmadnagar mainly revolved round a certain place, Pathri, on the left border of Godavari at a point close to the Ahmadnagar side which wanted to control it. There were repeated clashes between the two over this territory. Till 1518 Pathri was with Berar. It was then occupied by Nizamshahis and the same year it was rescued by Imaduddin. Burhan Nizamshah once again occupied it and it remained with Ahmadnagar down to 1564 when Ahmadnagar extinguished the Imadshahi dynasty. It resulted in total destruction of Berar and its annexation to Ahmadnagar.
Then it is significant to remember that the famous coastal port-town of Chaul, occupied by the Portuguese in 1507, was located on the Ahmadnagar coast, and was a part of the Ahmadnagar territory. The Portuguese gained this port from the Nizamshahi kingdom and there was a long standing dispute over it between the Portuguese and the Nizamshahis.
So far as the territory of Bijapur is concerned, the frontiers of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar passed through the Maratha territory in such a manner that the Sarkar of Sholapur was in dispute between them.
Tungabhadra River demarcated Bijapur from Vijaynagar and the two had a long standing dispute over Tungabhadra and Krishna Dwar. Vijaynagar thought that the river Krishna was the frontier and not the Tungbhadra: over this region frequent wars occurred.
The Bijapur kingdom also had dispute with the small state of Bidar. It represented the heartland of the original Bahmani Empire. Therefore the rulers of Bidar had a natural tendency to think that the Gulbarga township in Bijapur belonged to them – it being originally the kingdom of the Bahmanis. So one source of conflict was Gulbarga; coveted by Bidar but controlled by Bijapur.
Adil Shah coveted Kalyani, which was within Bidar. It was situated close to Ahmadnagar frontier and the Bijapur control would have given them advantage over Nizamshahis conflict over Sholapur.
Lastly we come to Qutb Shahi state of Golkunda which was on the eastern coast and covered the Telegu speaking regions (Andhra). It was separated in the north from Orissa and Bidar by the river Godavari. Towards the south was the river Krishna which was accepted as the boundary separating the Vijayanagar Empire from Golkunda. Towards the west, it was flanked by Bidar.
Let us now deal with the second issue:
As far as the history of Akbar’s relations with Deccan states are concerned, Akbar’s involvement in the Deccan states starts with the conquest of Malwa in 1562. They became more deeper with the conquest of Gujarat in 1572, as after crossing Malwa, the Mughal frontiers advanced upto Khandesh and involved it in the conflicts. Malwa controlled Bijagarh and also sarkar Nandurbar. With the annexation of Gujarat, the Mughals came to have common frontier with Khandesh and Ahmadnagar as well. In addition, they also inherited yet another legacy: the dispute between the Khandesh and Gujarat over Sultanpur and Nandurbar. Both the places were occupied by the Mughals and this created a hostile feeling between them and the rulers of Khandesh.
Once the Mughals had occupied Malwa and Gujarat, they became increasingly involved in the Deccan states in general and Khandesh, Ahmadnagar and Berar in particular: more particularly Berar, as it was the territory through which it was possible to penetrate Ahmadnagar.
It was a result of this involvement that gradually the Mughals started developing ambitions to penetrate the Deccan peninsula first by trying to hegemonize over Khandesh and Berar tactically and then by force through military invasion in 1595. In 1596, Ahmadnagar was besieged and a treaty concluded when Nizamshah’s successor decided to give Berar to the Mughals. Four years later another expedition was launched and Ahmadnagar was captured and the last of its ruler sent to Gwalior and the kingdom was extinquished. Akbar also decided to extinguish the kingdom of Khandesh, though its ruler co-operated with the Mughals from 1595 onwards. But in 1600, Akbar felt that the ruler of Khandesh was conspiring against him. Asirgarh the second capital of Khandesh was also attacked and after a long siege it was captured and the Faruqi dynasty was extinguished. Khandesh, Berar and Ahmadnagar were included in the Mughal territory.
Thus, the history of Akbar’s relation with Deccan states became eventful roughly from 1562-63 after the conquest of Malwa when the Mughal frontiers were extended upto the confines of Khandesh across Narbada.
Then the second important landmark was 1572 when the conquest of Gujarat took place and the Mughal frontiers reached the western confines of Khandesh and the northwest of Ahmadnagar.
The third important landmark in this development was 1577 when Raja Ali Khan came to the throne in Khandesh. He was a prince of the Faruqi dynasty who had taken shelter in the Mughal Empire sometime before 1576 after falling out with the then ruler of Khandesh, Miran Muhammad, who was allied with Ahmadnagar. After Miran’s death in 1576, Raja Ali Khan returned to Khandesh with Akbar’s consent and was stalled as the ruler. This was a turning point. From this time, Khandesh was by and large allied with the Mughals and with Akbar.
As a result of this, ground was prepared for the induction of Khandesh into the Mughal area of influence. It was not annexed by Akbar till 1600. Till then he treated it as an area of influence and preserved the right to march through it when he had to go to Ahmadnagar or the territory of Berar.
Then another landmark was in 1583, when Akbar formally approached all the rulers of the Deccan, including Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golkunda, to accept his overlordship. This policy of Akbar also highlighted by the subsequent developments indicating that Akbar was not averse to take military action and force for forcing Ahmadnagar and others to accept his overlordship.
Then the final landmark was in 1595 when a decision was taken by Akbar to launch a full fledged military offensive against Ahmadnagar with the aim of annexing Berar and Ahmadnagar to the Empire. In 1577 was followed the policy of persuasion. From 1595, the policy was to annex Ahmadnagar and Berar by force and to secure the allegiance of other states, Bijapur, Golkunda, Bidar etc through intimidation. This policy culminated in the annexation of Khandesh in the same year with the fall of Asirgarh.
Keeping in mind these landmarks, the history of this can be again divided in three phases: (1) From 1562 to 1582 when Akbar is interested in the Deccan as his frontiers reached the confines of the Deccan but he did not take any concrete moves to bring military pressure to force an acceptance of Mughal overlordship. The only exception was Khandesh, but it was not a Bahmani kingdom but an independent power which was in between the Nizamshahis and the Bahmanis. So far as Akbar was concerned, his design was to keep Khandesh on his side and so military pressure was resorted to. But for other states there is no indication that any workable military of diplomatic pressure was built or resorted to. But then diplomatic contacts were established with Ahmadnagar, Bidar, Golkunda and Bijapur. There were exchanges of letters and presents.
In 1562 after Malwa had been conquered, the Mughal commander Pir Muhammad Khan crossed Narbada in pursuit of Baz Bahadur, the ruler of Malwa, and occupied Bijagarh, an important stronghold to the south of Narbada which till time belonged to Malwa. After having occupied Bijagarh, Pir Muhammad was encouraged to march upon Burhanpur, the capital of Khandesh, on the pleas that the ruler of Khandesh, Miran Muhammad had given shelter to Baz Bahadur.
But the Mughal advance into Khandesh and the occupation of Burhanpur created a sharp reaction in the Deccan resulting in the establishment of an alliance between the Rulers of Khandesh, Ahmadnagar and Berar as well as the remnant forces of Baz Bahadur. These joint forces advanced against Pir Muhammad and forced him to vacate regions south to the south of Narbada. In fact in trying to cross Narbada, Pir Muhammad was killed and in this manner the first ever attempt made by the Mughals to gain control of the Khandesh territory resulted in a failure.
But then it should be remembered that Pir Muhammad’s advance on Burhanpur was on his own initiative and not on the orders of the central authority. And thus no further moves to avenge Pir Muhammad’s death or defeat were made. It was explained away as a consequence of his own rash action.
From this time down to 1572, we find although there were occasional diplomatic contacts of the Mughals with the rulers of Khandesh and Ahmadnagar as well, but there were no cordial relations with the Deccanis.
But the situation underwent a radical change in 1572. Mirza Muhammad Husain, who had rebelled against Akbar and had a large Mughal retinue, now took shelter with the ruler of Ahmadnagar. So now Akbar acquired a grievance against the ruler of Ahmadnagar for giving the rebel shelter.
Abul Fazl writes in the Akbarnama that in 1572 itself Akbar received the envoy of Murtuza Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar at Agra who brought with him many precious presents as well as a letter of Murtuza Nizam Shah explaining the position of Ahmadnagar ruler regarding the rebel Mirza. The person who brought this letter was Mir Muhammad Rizvi Mashhadi. According to Abul Fazl, Murtuza Nizam Shah assured Akbar to drive out the Mirza but refused to accede to Akbar’s demand that the Mirzas be arrested by the Ahmadnagar authorities and be handed over to the Mughals.
Thus it appears that Ahmadnagar was not meeting Akbar’s demand fully, thus giving rise to Mughal grievance.
Then sometime in 1572-76, it seems that Akbar decided to extend his influence over Khandesh. He was tempted to do so for obvious reasons. The ruler of Khandesh, Miran Muhammad Shah was closely allied with Murtuza Nizam Shah with whom Akbar nursed a grievance.
To bring force on Nizam Shah, the Mughals needed a foothold in the Khandesh region, without which the pressure could not be built.
Akbar gave shelter to Raja Ali Khan, the prince of the Faruqi dynasty; he extended him a mansab and jagir in Malwa from where he would be threat to Miran Shah at Khandesh.
Another indication of the changed orientation was the general mobilation which Akbar ordered in 1576 under the command of Shihabuddin Ahmad Khan, the Mughal governor of Malwa with the declared aim of invading Khandesh – but the intriguing aspect of this evidence is that Abul Fazl mentions this just once and then does not report what actually happened thereafter: whether the penetration occurred, pressure exerted on Khandesh or not? But then mobilization along Narbada is reported. It was probably just a show of force by the Mughals probably.
For Akbar, a very fortunate development took place the same year. Miran Shah died and his death enabled Raja Ali Khan to establish himself at Burhanpur with Mughal consent.
With him coming to the throne, the whole nature of Mughal relations with Khandesh underwent a basic transformation. Raja Ali Khan made it abundantly clear that he accepted Akbar’s formal over-lordship by not assuming the title of Shah. He simply continued to call himself Raja. Secondly, his close ties with Akbar and the Mughal officers stationed at Malwa made him a suspect in the eyes of Ahmadnagar.
He had no option but be on the right side of the Mughals by and large. Still he was not in favour of conceding to Akbar the right to pass through the territory of Khandesh in his future campaigns and expeditions against Ahmadnagar or Berar. This question became important in 1574 when the Ahmadnagar kingdom overran the kingdom of Berar and a large number of the Berari nobles who were not reconciled to the establishment of the Nizamshahi control over their territory came to Khandesh with the intention of going to the Mughal court to seek its help to re-establish their lost territory. Raja Ali Khan correctly anticipated that if these nobles were allowed to proceed to Malwa – the Mughal territory, this would create a serious problem for him, as the Mughals being hostile, would miss no opportunity of doing something to humiliate the Nizamshahis and the request of the nobles of Berar would serve Akbar with a pretext of doing so. And if he decided so, there was no option but for the Mughal forces to march through Khandesh territory. So if these nobles reached Akbar’s court, it was very likely that Akbar would demand a right of passage which Raja Ali Khan was not prepared to concede, but was not in a position to resist as well.
Thus the nobles were to be prevented from going to the Mughal court. This action of Raja Ali Khan was interpreted as a hostile action and Akbar ordered a general mobilization of troops in 1577. The command was given to Shahbaz Khan, mirbakhshi, with the declared aim of marching into Deccan (i.e., Khandesh & Berar).
But this was again meant not for actual invasion but aimed at making some kind of a demonstration of military might as done on the earlier occasion, in order to make the ruler of Khandesh change his overall attitude. Abul Fazl says after sometime, the orders were reversed and the troops dispersed.
Probably by the show of force, the submission of Raja Ali Khan was temporarily achieved and the tensions between the two eased. It appears so because we find that in 1577 once again there arrived an embassy from Murtuza Nizamul Mulk with a letter carried by his envoy, Waqar Khan, couched in a cordial language and accompanied by precious presents including a large number of elephants.
Up till 1581 the relations between the Mughals and the Deccan were no longer very tense. They were marked with friendly exchanges, particularly with Khandesh and Ahmadnagar.
In January 1580, Akbar sent one of his important nobles, Peshrau Khan, as his envoy to Ahmadnagar. Abul Fazl says that the ruler of Ahmadnagar who had become almost insane by this time and had completely withdrawn from active life, went out of his way in meeting Akbar’s envoy and sent him back with one of his own officers who, again, carried all sorts of presents. This envoy, in 1580 was Asaf Khan.
From 1582 onwards, it seems Akbar followed a policy of forcing Deccan states, particularly Ahmadnagar, to accept Mughal over-lordship. Akbar tried to obtain his objective through diplomatic as well as military pressure.
Instance of this are the letters that Akbar sent to all the Deccani rulers including the ruler of Ahmadnagar, advising them to accept his over-lordship. But this move does not appear to have been very fruitful: In reply to this letter, all Deccani states wrote back courteous letters expressing friendly sentiments for Akbar but abstaining from any clear statement of acceptance of Mughal over-lordship.
Another similar kind of move, with similar nature was Akbar’s decision to give shelter to Burhan, the younger brother of Murtuza Nizam Shah whom he had first imprisoned and when he escaped, made attempts to eliminate him. Burhan first took shelter at Bijapur and subsequently came over to Gujarat from where he proceeded to Fathpur Sikri. Akbar admitted him as a noble and a jagir was awarded. This was in fact a very hostile posture directed towards Ahmadnagar ruler and indicated Akbar’s plan to use Burhan as his pawn in any future conflict with Murtuza Nizamshah.
Subsequently in March 1585, when there was an attempt on the part of the nobles of Berar to overthrow the Ahmadnagar domination and revive the Berar principality which had been extinguished as a result of annexation of Berar to Ahmadnagar in 1574, Akbar came forward to extend moral support and material help to these nobles. After this rebellion was crushed by Ahmadnagar, the nobles of Berar crossed into Khandesh and took shelter with Raja Ali Khan. Subsequently on Akbar’s direction, Raja Ali Khan sent these people to the Mughal province of Malwa, where they were provided with rich jagirs for their maintenance. So once again Akbar was trying to pay back to Murtuza Nizamshah for his hostile action of giving shelter to Muhammad Husain Mirza and also for his refusal to hand him over to Akbar when such a demand was made by him. This action of Akbar was again a clear indication of a particular hostility that he felt against Ahmadnagar Kingdom and it testified of his plans to take military measures for suppressing the Nizamshahi kingdom. This happened in 1585. Then in the next year, in March 1586 Akbar deputed Khan-i Azam Mirza Aziz Koka, the governor of Gujarat, and Shihabuddin Ahmad Khan, the governor of Malwas, to join their forces and advance to conquer Berar. They were also directed to take with them Berari officials and nobles who had taken shelter in Malwa. On this occasion, attempt was also made by Akbar to persuade Raja Ali Khan to join the expedition against the Ahmadnagar authorities at Berar.
The Raja however was greatly panicked by this sudden decision, which also meant the passing of Mughal forces across Khandesh territory on many points: It was to proceed to Berar across Khandesh territory north of river Tapti. The forces led by Shihabuddin Khan were to cross Burhanpur and Asirgarh before they could reach Berar region. Thus Raja Ali Khan panicked.
So in 1586, before they could reach Berar, the Mughals were confronted in the Khandesh principality by the joint forces of Ahmadnagar and Khandesh. The story of this expedition is rather long. In the beginning the Mughal officers, Mirza Aziz Koka and Shihabuddin Khan could get not synchronize their moves, thus could get no upper hand. Subsequently, the forces of Mirza Aziz Koka decided to avoid the enemy and tried to reach Berar sidetracking the forces of Ahmadnagar and Khandesh. They tried to penetrate Berar from the north. But the attempt was not successful. While withdrawing to Gujarat, they were followed and serious losses were inflicted on the Mughals. Koka, when he reached Nandurbar, purchased peace with Khandesh and Ahmadnagar. The talks were conducted by Abu Turab Wali. The only condition of peace was that the Deccanis would not invade the Mughal territory of Gujarat. So the attempt to dislodge the Ahmadnagar authority from Berar failed partly on account of Raja Ali Khan, and partly on account of a lack of co-ordination between the Mughal officers.
However this move of Akbar made it clear that he now considered the conquest of Deccan a practical proposition. But of course it is obvious that Akbar was not in a position to undertake another such invasion the next year as he was confronted with a delicate situation on his North West frontier – In 1584 Badakhshan had been annexed. Negotiations were going on through Hakim Hummam, and Akbar was trying to prevent Abdullah Khan Uzbek from over-running Khurasan. Akbar at this time was not sure whether he would be able to fight a long drawn war with Uzbeks.
Thus in spite of the humiliation of the absence of a success in 1586, Akbar did nothing. But it was clear that if circumstances were favourable, Akbar would not be averse to the use of force to pacify the Deccan.
This is also indicated by a letter that Akbar wrote to Abdullah Khan Uzbek, sent through Hakim Hummam. The content of this letter have been discussed earlier. He went out of his way to state that he was contemplating attack on the Deccan principalities and that he had direct access to coastal regions and expelled the Portuguese, but that he had postponed a full-fledged invasion of the Deccan due to present pre-occupations. What is clear from this letter is his intent and contemplation on attack of Deccan in 1586.
Question arises as to what could have been the basic consideration and aim of Akbar in demanding to annex parts of Deccan to his empire – particularly Berar and Ahmadnagar? In this connection, basing himself on Akbar’s statement made in the letter to Abdullah Khan Uzbek, Smith suggests that in addition to Akbar’s general expansionist policy, one consideration which prevailed with him was the presence of the Portuguese on the western coast of India. Perhaps he regarded this as a very great threat to his own position and was very interested in the elimination of the Portuguese pockets like Dieu, Daman, Chaul and Goa. The main evidence on which Smith assumes this aim of Akbar is the following para of Akbar’s letter to Abdullah Khan Uzbek:
I have kept before my mind the idea that when I should be entirely at liberty from these tasks (in N.W.), I should, under the guidance of God’s favour, undertake the destruction of the firangi kafirs who have come to the coastal regions (jazair-i daryai), and have lifted up the head of turbulence and stretched out the hand of oppression upon the pilgrims to the Holy Places….They (the Portuguese) have become a great nuisance and are stumbling blocks to the pilgrims and traders. We thought of going in person and cleansing that road of thorns and weeds, but as We heard that some of the officers of Persia had proved disloyal to the sovereign…I thought of going to help of the Persian…
It seems Akbar’s real grievance was that of the serious threat to the administration and Mughal authority in these regions. This is borne out by his moves from 1562 onwards. We know that in 1562 at a time when on the one hand, he was trying to give an impression to the Portuguese authorities in Goa that he was very friendly towards them through a special treatment extended to the Jesuit fathers – in fact trying to induce the Jesuits to assure their authorities that he was quite friendly towards Christians in general. He also gave the impression of getting converted. But in 1582, he was also planning an expedition against Dieu and Daman in the region of Gujarat. This attack when it came, was sought to be explained by Akbar before the Jesuit fathers as a local episode. He said that the commander of the Mughal forces in Gujarat, Qutbuddin Khan, had moved against Dieu in 1582 on his own without Akbar’s knowledge. The Jesuits then requested the emperor, in that case to direct him to withdraw and apologise. Akbar said how can I ask him to do that? However, the attempt was not successful.
The next year another attempt was made, this time on Daman. It is obvious that these attempts were a part of a policy to push out the Portuguese, but if the attempt failed, the prestige of Akbar might not be hurt. The sentiments expressed in Akbar’s letter to Abdullah Khan were thus for real and revealed an attempt of the Mughals to push back the Portuguese: whether for facilitating Hajj or to safeguard his empire.
The question is why Akbar should think that unless he himself is controlling the Deccan region, it was not possible to oust the Portuguese from the west coast?
This is partly borne out by the history of relations of the Deccani states with the authorities at Goa and Chaul. One part of Chaul was in the territory of Ahmadnagar; Goa was in the kingdom of Bijapur. And thus unless ousted from here, they could not be ousted from Daman and Dieu: naval enforcements from Chaul and Goa would frustrate any attempt on the other two.
Secondly, the history of Ahmadnagar’s relations with the Portuguese at Chaul and Bijapur’s relations with Goa indicated that the two on account of limited resources and continuing conflict within themselves were not in a position to make any headway against the Portuguese. For example, the case of Chaul: It was occupied in 1507 by the Portuguese but very soon they lost it to the joint armada of Indian and Mamluk forces. In the very next year, the Portuguese re-occupied Chaul and Ahmadnagar was not in a position to check their power. Then in c. 1569-70, Murtuza Nizamshah of Ahmadnagar made yet another attempt to occupy Chaul with the help of the Zamorin of Calicut. This attempt again proved to be a failure. In 1592, Burhan Nizamul Mulk made another attempt, but failed and Chaul continued to be controlled the Portuguese.
Similarly in the case of Goa, after its occupation in 1510, Adil Shahi dynasty did succeed for a brief period, but were ultimately ousted out by the Portuguese. From 1511 onwards Goa remained in Portuguese hands and became the headquarters of the Portuguese Empire in the East. In 1548, the Bijapuris made a serious attempt to regain Goa, but the net result of this attempt was that they lost two more strongholds in the vicinity of Goa to the Portuguese – Salsette and Bardez.
So history indicated that the Deccani states had failed to arrest the growth of th Portuguse and Akbar surmised that the entire Deccan had to be captured in order to oust the Portuguese. But Akbar knew that he could not push out the Portuguese from Gujarat – but this was again partly due to the Portuguese presence in Chaul and Goa.
In 1589 Murtuza Nizamshah died – he had become insane but had enjoyed great prestige – and as soon as this news reached Akbar, he recalled Burhan from Kabul region and sent him to Malwa so that he try to march to Ahmadnagar and establish himself there with the help of Mughal forces and Raja Ali Khan.
When Burhan reached Khandesh, he proved clever: the joint forces of Mughal officers and Khandesh were prepared to march with him to Berar, but Burhan told them that if he marched with the Mughal forces, it would lead to some kind of local resistance which would make his task difficult. So Khan-i Khanan and the others who were there were asked not to accompany him. Only 1000 horsemen and 300 banduqchis (the Gujarati and Berari deserters in the Mughal territory) entered with him into Berar. With the help of the local mobilization of the Gujarati officers he advanced to Ahmadnagar which was being controlled by Kamal Khan, a Nizamshahi noble. Kamal Khan had established Murtuza’s son Ismail as ruler.in the ensuing battle Burhanul Mulk emerged victorious. But this development did not prove to be much helpful to the Mughals: Akbar had anticipated that this would bring Ahmadnagar under his control without having formally annexing the territory. However, once Burhanul Mulk established himself, he made it clear to all that he was not going to compromise the sovereignty of Nizamshahi dynasty in any manner. So Akbar was back to the same position.
The Persian histories fail us to provide a proper understanding of what happened in these late years: Nizamuddin Ahmad closes his account in 1593, Badauni in August 1595 and Abul Fazl is very sketchy for the last few years befor closing in 1602 when he was murdered.
However, what appears is that in 1595 Burhanul Mulk died and was succeeded by his son Ibrahim, who in 1595 itself was defeated by the army of Bijapur.
In the meanwhile, it appears that in 1593 Akbar had ordered Abdur Rahim Khan-i Khanan and the subadar of Gujarat, Prince Murad, to launch an attack against the Deccanis. Thus Ahmadnagar was invested and the Mughals had to face Chand Bibi, the sister of late Burhanul Mulk and the widowed queen of Bijapur. She forced the Mughals to agree on terms deemed ‘unworthy’ by Abul Fazl. Under this treaty signed in early 1596, a minor, Bahadur, the grandson of Burhan was to be recognized as the king of Ahmadnagar, and, apart from some valuables, Berar was to be ceded. Thus for the time being Ahmadnagar was saved.
However in 1597 the respite gained by Ahmadnagar by Chand Bibi gave way when her authority was overthrown. In a battle fought at Supa, Khan-i Khanan emerged victorious. It was a small victory for the Mughals with heavy losses. Raja Ali Khan who had fought along the imperial forces was also killed. Murad and Khanan were recalled and Mirza Shahrukh of Badakhshan was appointed as the new commander.
In 1598 came the news of Abdullah Khan Uzbek’s death. Now Akbar was free not only to leave North West but also to lead a campaign in the Deccan. Thus in July 1599, Akbar decided to proceed himself. In May Murad also died. In the mid-1599 Akbar occupied Burhanpur and Daniyal along with Khan-i Khanan were sent to conquer Ahmadnagar. The town was stormed in 1600. Chand Bib was either murdered or consumed poison and the king of Ahmadnagar sent to prison in Gwalior.
The Imperial armies then marched to Asirgarh against Raja Ali Khan’s successor and forced its surrender. Operations there were conducted by Shaikh Farid Bukhari and Abul Fazl. According to Jesuit accounts, i.e., Du Jarric, the surrender was more a result of bribe rather than Mughal arms. In August 1600, Ahmadnagar was taken. In August Salim’s rebellion occurred, forcing Akbar to free himself from the Deccan affairs.
The newly acquired territories were organized as three subas, i.e., Ahmadnagar, Berar and Khandesh. And all the three along with Malwa and Gujarat were placed under Prince Daniyal, the viceroy of the Deccan.
• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi