or Dakhan, Pers. Dakan; the south-central plateau of India, bounded on the north by the Narbada river, on the west by the Sea of Oman, on the east by the Bay of Bengal, and on the south by the Tungabhadra river.


DECCAN (or Dakhan, Pers. Dakan < Sk. dakshiṇa, “right [hand],” i.e., south), the south-central plateau of India, bounded on the north by the Narbada river, on the west by the Sea of Oman, on the east by the Bay of Bengal, and on the south by the Tungabhadra river. The main plateau is divided into three regions: Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telang-Andhra.

i. Political and literary history.

ii. Architecture and art.


Outline of political history.

Although the Deccan was in commercial contact with Persia and Arabia from ancient times, it first became a part of the Islamic world in 695/1296, when the Delhi sultan ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Ḵaljī (695-715/1296-1316) invaded the Hindu kingdom of the Yadavas, with its capital at Deogiri (now Daulatabad), and made it a vassal state. The succeeding Ḵaljī and Tughluqid sultans undertook further expeditions against the Hindu kingdoms of the Hoysalas (at Dwarasamudra), the Kakatiyas (at Warangal), and the Pandyans (at Madura). Although at first these expeditions were essentially raids that left the Hindu dynasties intact, gradually a series of local revolts and reconquests from Delhi led to the incorporation of these realms into the empire.

Sultan Moḥammad b. Toḡloq (725-52/1325-51) made Deogiri the secondary capital of his realm in 728/1328, transferring most of the Muslim population of Delhi there the following year; he briefly controlled the entire Deccan, as well as the Tamil and Malabar country in the extreme south. In 736/1336 a former Hoysala officer who had served the Tughluqids rebelled and founded the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar in the far south.

Meanwhile the centurions (amīrān-e ṣada) in the Deccan also revolted against the Tughluqids in 746/1345, and in 748/1347 ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Ḥasan took the title bahmanšāh. The Bahmanid dynasty, recognized by the ʿAbbasid pretender in Cairo, ruled the Deccan (first from Golbarga, then from Bīdar) as an independent kingdom until the early 16th century, when increasingly restive governors effectively divided the realm into five minor kingdoms, ruled respectively by the Neẓāmšāhīs in Ahmadnagar, the ʿĀdelšāhīs in Bījāpūr, the ʿEmādšāhīs in Berar, the Barīdšāhīs in Bīdar, and the Qoṭbšāhīs in Golconda. To these may be added the minor state of Khandesh, with its capital at Borhānpūr in the northern Deccan, ruled by the Fārūqīs from the late 14th century. Struggles among these small Deccani sultanates led to the conquest of Vijayanagar by a confederation of the princes of Ahmadnagar, Bījāpūr, and Golconda in 973/1565; the absorption of Berar by Ahmadnagar in 982/1574; and the conquest of Bīdar by Bījāpūr in 1028/1619.

The Mughals represented a more serious threat, however. Akbar I (963-1014/1556-1605) enrolled the Fārūqīs as tributaries and after 999/1590 as military allies against Ahmadnagar. In their quest for allies the rulers of Ahmadnagar, Bījāpūr, and Golconda, who had adopted Twelver Shiʿism at various times, consistently cultivated relations with the Safavids of Persia, sometimes addressing them in the manner of vassals to an overlord (Islam, II, pp. 107-99). Akbar conquered Khandesh in 1009/1601, and Jahāngīr (1014-37/1605-27) took Ahmadnagar in 1043/1633. Awrangzēb (1068-1118/1658-1707) spent the last years of his reign campaigning against the two surviving sultanates, defeating Bījāpūr in 1097/1686 and Golconda the following year. The Mughals had already begun to lose their hold on the Deccan, however, owing to resistance from the Marathas, who had founded their own kingdom under Shivaji in 1085/1674. Although the Marathas founded an explicitly Hindu state and assumed rights of taxation, they acknowledged theoretical Mughal supremacy and, from their capital in the western hills, functioned as an efficient war machine throughout the Deccan and northern India until they came under British domination in the early 19th century. In 1137/1724 the Mughal viceroy in the Deccan, Neẓām-al-Molk ĀsÂaf-jāh, declared himself an independent ruler. The Āṣafjāhī dynasty of neẓāms (q.v.) ruled (at first from Awrangabad and then from Hyderabad) throughout the period of French and British imperialism up to 1948, when their domain was incorporated into the Indian Union. Presently the region is divided among the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.

Persian literature and culture in the Deccan.

With the transfer of the Muslim population to Deogiri in 729/1329 the Persian culture that flourished in the Delhi sultanate was transplanted to the Deccan. The leading court poet Amīr Najm-al-Dīn Ḥasan Dehlavī (655-737/1275-1336) was one of those forced to move (Ṣafā, Adabīyāt III, pp. 817-31). Tughluqid officials in Deogiri and elsewhere sponsored works in Persian on such subjects as lexicography and Islamic law, and at nearby Rawża (now Khuldabad) the Sufi circle around the Češtī Shaikh Borhān-al-Dīn Ḡarīb (d. 738/1337; see ČEŠTĪYA) produced an extensive mystical literature, including recorded oral teachings (malfūẓāt), hagiographies, and speculative treatises (Ernst, p. 116 and passim). Legends about Sufis in the Deccan before the Ḵaljī conquest are late hagiograph-ical inventions unsubstantiated by contemporary documents. After the brief period of Tughluqid rule the Deccan sultans contributed to a remarkable flourishing of Persian literature. Persian culture always existed in tension with local Indic cultural traditions, however, as it was totally dependent upon court patronage and elite Sufi circles. The different types of Persian literature produced in the Deccan may be categorized as follows.

Court poetry and belles-lettres. The sultans of the Deccan were great patrons of Persian poetry, and some were known as poets themselves. Of the many poets who came from Persia and Central Asia to India seeking their fortunes (according to Golčīn-e Maʿānī, more than 700 in the Safavid period alone; I, pp. [5-18]), a large portion came to the Deccan courts (see Sherwani and Joshi, II, pp. 77-103). Moḥammad-Qāsem Ferešta (I, p. 302; tr. Briggs, II, pp. 215-16) reported that the Bahmanid Moḥammad Shah (780-99/1378-97) even tried unsuccessfully to lure Ḥāfeẓ from Shiraz, but the reliability of this story has been questioned (e.g., Ḡanī, p. 136 n. 1; cf. Ḥāfeẓ, comm., II, pp. 1193-95). His successor Aḥmad Shah Walī (825-39/1422-36) made Golbarga a center of Persian culture. After the establishment of the minor Deccan sultanates Moḥammadqolī Qoṭbšāh (d. 1020/1611) and his descendants eagerly welcomed talented Persian poets at Golconda. At Bījāpūr Ebrāhīm ʿĀdelšāh (d. 1035/1627) employed Ẓohūrī Toršīzī (d. 1026/1617; Ṣafā, Adabīyāt V, pp. 977-88, 1717-14), who wrote his Seh naṯr as an introduction in rhyming prose to his patron’s Dakhanī Urdu treatise on poetry and music, Ketāb-e nowras. Many critics regard Ẓohūrī as a chief exponent of the luxuriant “Indian style” (sabk-e hendī). Even the Mughal court poet Abu’l-Fayż Fayżī (Ṣafā, Adabīyāt V, pp. 838-57) was impressed with his “extremely flowery” style (Golčīn-e Maʿānī, II, p. 827).

Stylistically the Persian poetry produced in the Deccan did not differ notably from that produced in northern India or Persia; many poets circulated among all three areas. For example, Moḥammad Amīn (d. 1047/1637-38), who produced at Golconda an admired epic quintet (ḵamsa) in imitation of Neẓāmī’s works, went on to Bījāpūr and then back to Persia before finally obtaining a satisfactory position from the Mughals (Sherwani and Joshi, II, pp. 98-99). Borhānpūr also became an important center of literary patronage under the Mughal viceroy ʿAbd-al-Raḥīm Ḵān-e Ḵānān (d. 1036/1627), who surrounded himself with a large circle of Persian poets, mentioned in ʿAbd-al-Bāqī Nehāvandī’s Maʾāṯer-e raḥīmī (comp. 1025/1616), which is dedicated to him. They included Nawʿī Ḵabūšānī (d. 1019/1610), author of Sūz o godāz, a maṯnawī on the Indian theme of a widow (satī) who immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre (Ṣafā, Adabīyāt V, pp. 881-92). In the late 18th century, while Delhi court taste was turning toward Urdu poetry, Persian anthologies continued to appear in the Deccan; the prolific Ḡolām-ʿAlī Āzād Belgrāmī (d. 1200/1786) composed three (Yad-e bayżā, Sarv-e āzād, and Ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera), his Hindu student Lačmī Narāyan Šafīq (d. after 1214/1799) composed two (Gol-e raʿnā and Šām-e ḡārībān), and several other scholars compiled their own taḏkeras at Awrangabad (Naqawī, pp. 255, 275, 378, 383, 393, 415, 425, 445, 489). Although in the 19th century Persian literary activity waned in favor of Urdu, Hyderabad continued as a center for Persian studies, and the former court libraries there (the Āṣafīya, now the Andhra Pradesh Oriental Manuscript Research Library, and the Salar Jang) still have the finest Persian collections in the region.

Historical works. Historiography in the Deccan was modeled on the epics and chronicles of the Ghaznavids and Ghurids, which had formed the basis for the court culture of the Delhi sultanate. The first great historical work produced in the Deccan was ʿAbd-al-Malek ʿEṣāmī’s Fotūḥ al-salāṭīn (comp. 751/1351), which celebrated the triumph of the Bahmanids over the Tughluqids in epic maṯnawīs modeled on those of Ferdowsī’s Šāh-nāma. Āḏarī Ṭūsī (d. 866/1461-62) wrote Bahman-nāma (British Library, London, ms. no. Or. 2780/3; Bodleian Library, Oxford, ms. no. 2544/3) for Aḥmad I Walī (825-39/1422-36), modeling it on the prose history Toháfat al-salāṭīn by Mollā Dāwūd Bīdarī (d. 817/1414-15). In fact, the close literary relationship between Persia and the Deccan is particularly exemplified by Āḏarī’s career; he was initially a poet at the courts of the Timurid Šāhroḵ (807-50/1405-47) and Olōḡ Beg (850-53/1447-49), then a disciple of the Sufi Shah Neʿmat-Allāh Walī before going to India; after he completed his service with Aḥmad Shah Bahmanī he returned to Khorasan (Ṣafā, Adabīyāt IV, pp. 323-32). The Sufi shaikh ʿAyn-al-Dīn Bījāpūrī (d. 795/1393) wrote a continuation of the 13th-century chronicle Ṭabaqāt-e nāṣerī of Menhāj-e Serāj Jūzjānī. The latter and the Toḥfat al-salāṭīn of Bīdarī are lost, but they were used as sources by historians of the Bahmanid successor states, like Ferešta and Sayyed ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabā; some excerpts can also be found in the modern Urdu history of the Deccan by M. A. Molkapūrī, whose library of unique manuscripts of Bahmanid texts was unfortunately destroyed in the Hyderabad flood of 1908. Ṭabāṭabā’s Borhān-e maʾāṯer, written in 1004/1596 for Borhān Neẓāmšāh II, is a history of the Bahmanid and Neẓāmšāhī dynasties. The most famous Deccan history, however, is Ferešta’s Golšan-e ebrāhīmī, written for Ebrāhīm ʿĀdelšāh between 1015/1606-67 and 1033/1623-24; it is a general history of Indian dynasties focused on Bījāpūr, with an important appendix on Sufi shaikhs. The work attracted the attention of the British in the late 18th century, and most of it was translated into English. Important Bījāpūr chronicles include the Taḏkerat al-molūk of Rafīʿ-al-Dīn Ebrāhīm Šīrāzī (comp. 1020/1611-12) and the Tārīḵ-e ʿādelšāhī of Nūr-Allāh (b. Sayyed Moḥammad ʿAlī; d. 1077/1666-67). The transition from the Mughals to the Āṣafjāhī neẓāms in the Deccan can best be measured from the voluminous biographical dictionary Maʾāṯer al-omarāʾ, compiled by Ṣamṣām-al-Dawla Šahnavāz Khan (vizier to the first neẓām) and completed by Āzād Belgrāmī; almost every important political figure of the 17th and 18th centuries is included. Numerous other significant monographic histories in Persian, most unpublished, were devoted to the reigns of individual sultans of the different Deccan kingdoms (including the Marathas) down to the end of the 19th century (Sherwani and Joshi, II, pp. 102-07, 575-88; Storey, I, pp. 738-65, 1330-33). The able Bahmanid minister ʿEmād-al-Dīn Maḥmūd Gāvān (813-86/1411-81) wrote a memorable collection of state letters, Rīāż al-enšāʾ, which includes correspondence with eminent Sufis and authors like ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī, Ḵᵛāja Aḥrār, and Šaraf-al-Dīn Yazdī. The Persian Shiʿite scholar Shah Ṭāher (d. 956/1549), adviser to Borhān Neẓāmšāh of Ahmadnagar, also left a collection of official letters (Monšaʾāt-e Šāh Ṭāher) that is of some historical importance. In addition, a treatise on political theory, written in 984/1576 by ʿAbd-al-Laṭīf Monšī and entitled Nafāʾes al-kalām wa ʿarāʾes al-aqlām, was dedicated to Raja ʿAlī Khan Fārūqī (985-1005/1577-96), the last independent ruler of Khandesh; the unique manuscript is in the Khuda-Bakhsh collection in the Oriental Public Library at Patna (ms. no. 948, H.L. no 946).

Sufi literature. Sufi literature was initiated under the Bahmanids, when the Češtī Sufis at Rawża, led by Borhān-al-Dīn Ḡarīb’s successor, Zayn-al-Dīn Šīrāzī (d. 771/1370), began to compile malfūẓāt (Ernst, pp. 80, 134-38, 321 n. 226). Zayn-al-Dīn had no successors in Rawża, but later Sufis of Borhānpūr, like Bahāʾ-al-Dīn Bājan (d. 912/1507), claimed to have inherited the authority of Borhān-al-Dīn. In the meantime leadership of the Češtīs passed to Moḥammad Ḥosaynī Gīsūderāz (d. 825/1422), who had left Delhi for Golbarga in 800/1398 and become attached to the Bahmanid court. A prolific author, he was a major force in transmitting the heritage of Persian Sufism in the Deccan. He wrote many mystical treatises in Persian, including Ḥaẓāʾer al-qods, Asmār al-asrār; commentaries on classical works on Islamic law, theology, and Sufism; letters; and poetry. His descendants also made literary contributions to Sufism (Siddiqi, pp. 199-206; Hussaini, passim). The writings by members of other Sufi orders (selsela) prominent in the early Bahmanid period, particularly the Jonaydīs, are now known only through later references (Siddiqi, pp. 95-107, 207-09). The Bahmanid rulers encouraged the immigration of Sufi masters from Persia and Iraq as part of a policy of favoring foreigners (āfāqī) over Indians. The Neʿmat-Allāhī order became established at Bīdar when its founder, Shah Neʿmat-Allāh Walī (731-834/1330-1431), sent one of his grandsons to act as a guide for the prince who later became Aḥmad II Bahmanī (839-62/1436-58); the order thrived in the Deccan until its leaders decided to return to Persia in the late 17th century. The Qāderī order arrived at Bīdar from Baghdad, also in the 15th century, and later spread to Bījāpūr and Golconda (Eaton, pp. 56-58; Siddiqi, pp. 69-95).

At Golconda the Qoṭbšāhīs, who continued to favor Shiʿism, concentrated their patronage on Dakhani Urdu and Telegu poetry in honor of the imams and on scholarship and poetry in Arabic. There is little evidence of Sufi activity at Ahmadnagar, and in Bījāpūr the ʿĀdelšāhīs seem not to have become patrons of Sufism until the late 16th century, when Sunni Islam replaced Shiʿism there under Ebrāhīm ʿĀdelšāh (Eaton, pp. 70-79). At that time many Češtī and Qāderī Sufis settled in the city, and the Šaṭṭārī order from northern India also established centers at Bījāpūr and Borhānpūr. An exceptionally strong literary tradition was initiated by Češtī authors like Šams-al-Dīn Mīranjī (d. 905/1499), Borhān-al-Dīn Jānam (d. after 1006/1597), and Amīn-al-Dīn ʿAlāʾ (d. 1086/1675), who wrote poetry in Dakhani Urdu addressed to a wide readership. Their Persian works (often translations or commentaries on the Dakhani texts), on the other hand, were aimed at a more specialized Sufi audience (Eaton, pp. 135-74, 243-81).

As the Mughals expanded into the Deccan, so did Sufi orders that were well established in their domain. Disciples of Aḥmad Serhendī (d. 1034/1624), leader of the Mojaddedī Naqšbandīs, settled in Borhānpūr, and separate Naqšbandī lineages were established at the convents (ḵānaqāhs) of Shah Mosāfer Ḡojdovānī at Awrangabad and Shah ʿEnāyat-Allāh (d. 1117/1705) at Balapur in Berar. The Šaṭṭārī master Moḥammad Ḡawṯ (d. 971/1563) had flourished under the Mughals, and his disciples from Gujarat developed a major center in Borhānpūr, a city to which many Sufis from Sind were also attracted. The successive leaders of this Šaṭṭārī lineage were Laškar Moḥammad ʿĀref (d. 993/1585), ʿĪsā Jond-Allāh (d. 1031/1622), and Borhān-al-Dīn Rāz-e Elāhī (d. 1083/1672); ʿĪsā in particular was a prolific writer on mystical topics (e.g., ʿAyn al-maʿānī) and a commentator on Islamic law and theology. Among other significant works produced by this school were Ebrāhīm Šaṭṭārī Jannatābādī’s Āʾīna-ye ḥaqāʾeqnomā, a commentary on Moḥammad-Šīrīn Māḡrebī’s Jām-e jahānnomā based on the metaphysics of Ebn al-ʿArabī. At the end of the Mughal period there was also a renaissance of the Češtī order in the Deccan under the leadership of Neẓām-al-Dīn Awrangābādī (d. 1142/1728), who followed the instructions of his teacher in Delhi, Shah Kalīm-Allāh Jahānābādī (d. 1142/1729). Neẓām-al-Dīn’s relationship with Neẓām-al-Molk Āṣaf-jāh was so close that the latter wrote a biography of him (Nizami, 1980-85, I, pp. 290 ff., V, pp. 81-181). A good survey of Sufism under the later neẓāms has yet to be written.

As many important Persian Sufi writings from the Deccan remain in manuscript or have not survived, biographical works that include excerpts from them are extremely valuable. Among the most important is the pan-Indian hagiography Aḵbār al-aḵyār by ʿAbd-al-Ḥaqq Dehlavī. Also of great value for the Deccan is Moḥammad Ḡawṯī’s Golzār-e abrār (comp. 1022/1613), which is devoted especially to the saints of Gujarat and western India. Other significant Persian hagiographies for the Deccan are the anonymous Fatḥ al-awlīāʾ (1020/1610) on the saints of Rawża and Borhānpūr, composed for ʿAbd-al-Raḥīm Ḵān-e Ḵānān; Rawżat al-awlīāʾ (comp. 1161/1748) by Āzād Belgrāmī on the saints of Khuldabad and Awrangabad; Meškāt-e nobūwat (1220/1804-05) by ʿAlī Mūsawī on saints of the Deccan, including Hyderabad; and Rawżat al-awlīāʾ. Taḏkera-ye awlīāʾ-e Bījāpūr (comp. 1241/1825-26) by Moḥammad-Ebrāhīm Zobayrī (Storey, I, pp. 979, 984, 1024; Ernst, pp. 91-92, 209-12; Eaton, pp. 334-35). Most of these collections were either produced under royal patronage or include traditions of political origin, so that their accounts must often be measured against the traditions found in malfūẓāt texts and other Sufi writings. As use of the Persian language declined during the 19th century, the history of Sufism in Hyderabad and the rest of the Deccan must be supplemented with works written in Dakhani Urdu and other local languages for the benefit of devotees.

Other kinds of literature. Various minor Persian works were written on the subjects of music, Islamic law, astronomy, and the like, and some translations from Arabic (generally on religious topics) and Sanskrit (on veterinary science and music) were produced. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these works is the well-known Persian dictionary Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, composed by Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Borhān Tabrīzī for ʿAbd-Allāh Qoṭbšāh in 1062/1652. It was the target of caustic criticism by the 19th-century poet Mīrzā Asad-Allāh Ḡāleb in his Qāṭeʿ-e borhān.


T. N. Devare, A Short History of Persian Literature at the Bahmani, the Adilshahi, and the Qutbshahi Courts, Deccan, Poona, 1961.

R. M. Eaton, Sufis of Bijapur 1300-1700. Social Roles of Sufis in Medieval India, Princeton, N.J., 1978.

C. W. Ernst, Eternal Garden. Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center, Albany, N.Y., 1992.

ʿAbd-al-Malek ʿEṣāmī, Fotūḥ al-salāṭīn yā Šāh-nāma-ye Hend, ed. M. Ḥosayn, Agra, 1938; tr. M. Husain as Futūḥu’s Salāṭīn or Shah Nāma-i Hendof ʿIṣāmī, New York, 1977.

Q. Ḡanī, Baḥṯ dar āṯār o afkār o aḥwāl-e Ḥāfezá I, Tehran, n.d. A. Golčīn-e Maʿānī, Kārvān-e Hend, 2 vols., Mašhad, 1369 Š./1990.

Ḥāfeẓ, Dīvān-e Ḥāfeẓ, ed. P. Nātel Ḵānlarī, 2nd ed., 2 vols., Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.

M. Husain, Tughluq Dynasty, Calcutta, 1963.

K. Hussaini, Sayyid Muḥammad al-Ḥusaynī Gīsū Darāz. On Sufism, Delhi, 1985.

R. Islam, A Calendar of Documents on Indo-Persian Relations (1500-1750), 2 vols., Karachi, 1982.

O. Khalidi, Hyderabad State under the Nizams, 1724-1948, Wichita, Kans., 1985.

Idem, Dakan under the Sultans, 1296-1724, Wichita, Kans., 1987.

M. A. Molkapūrī, Maḥbūb al-waṭan. Taḏkera-ye salāṭīn-e Dakan I. Dar bayān-e salāṭīn-e Bahmanīya, Hyderabad, n.d. (in Urdu). ʿA. Naqawī, Taḏkera-nevīsī-e fārsī dar Hend o Pākestān, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.

ʿAbd-al-Bāqī Nehāvandī, Maʾāṯer-e raḥīmī, ed. S. Hidayat Husain, 4 vols., Calcutta, 1924.

K. A. Nizami (Neżāmī), “Gīsū Darāz,” in EI2 II, pp. 1114-16.

Idem, “Ṣūfī Movement in the Deccan,” in H. K. Sherwani and P. M. Joshi, History of Medieval Deccan (1295-1724) II, Hyderabad, 1973, pp. 173-99.

Idem, Tārīḵ-e mašāyeḵ-e Češt II, V, Delhi, 1980-85 (in Urdu).

Nūr-Allāh, Tārīḵ-e ʿādelšāhī, ed. A. M. Ḵāledī, Hyderabad, 1384/1964.

Rafīʿ-al-Dīn Ebrāhīm Šīrāzī, Taḏkerat al-molūk, ed. A. M. Ḵāledī, rev. C. W. Ernst, Costa Mesa, Calif., in press. P. S. M. Rao, Eighteenth Century Deccan, Bombay, 1963.

Ṣamṣām-al-Dawla Šahnavāz Khan and ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy, Maʾāṯer al-omarāʾ, tr. H. Beveridge, rev. B. Prashad, 2 vols., Calcutta, 1941-52; repr. Patna, 1979.

H. K. Sherwani and P. M. Joshi, History of Medieval Deccan (1295-1724), 2 vols., Hyderabad, 1973-74 (a valuable survey of political and cultural history).

M. S. Siddiqi, The Bahmani Ṣūfīs, Delhi, 1989.

Sayyed ʿAlī Ṭabāṭabā, Borhān-e maʾāṯer, Delhi, 1355/1936; partial tr. J. S. King as The History of the Bahmanī Dynasty, Founded on theBurhān-i Maʾāsir, London, 1900.

A. Wink, Land and Sovereignty in India. Agrarian Society and Politics under the Eighteenth-Century Maratha Svarājya, Cambridge, 1986.




The development of centers of Islamic culture and learning in the Deccan under the Bahmanid sultans (see BAHMANID DYNASTY) and their successors introduced new architectural forms and artistic traditions to the region. Deccani monuments generally reflect the taste current in such other Indian Islamic centers as Delhi ii., Mandu, Gujarat, and Multan, but certain buildings and manuscripts reveal direct connections with Persian artistic traditions. They were probably produced by, or even for, recent arrivals from Persia. Often the most strikingly Persian features are calligraphy and decoration, suggesting that several of the Persian émigrés were scribes also trained in the art of illumination. The architectural and artistic evidence suggests that both religious bonds and the long-standing commercial links between Persia and the Deccan provided important conduits for cultural traditions. Initially enthusiasm for Persian architecture, calligraphy, illumination, and painting was probably restricted to court circles in the Deccan, but eventually some imported features were fused with local traditions in a distinctive regional style.


The first Islamic monuments in the Deccan followed precedents set in Delhi. For example, the congregational mosque of Dawlatābād (718/1318 and later) was constructed with pillars gathered from Hindu monuments, and 14th-century Bahmanid tombs at Golbarga have the heavy sloping walls and low domes characteristic of Tughluqid mausolea (Davies, pp. 451-52, 471-72; Merklinger, 1981, pp. 11-16). During the 15th century, however, Deccani culture became more cosmopolitan, especially at the new capital, Bīdar, or Moḥammadābād, established by Aḥmad Shah Bahmanī (825-39/1422-36) in 827/1424. Bīdar remained the capital of both his descendants and their successors the Barīdšāhīs (897-1028/1491-1619).

Bahmanids. Persian connections are evident in both palatial architecture and mausolea at Bīdar. Aḥmad Shah was a member of the Sufi order of Shah Neʿmat-Allāh Walī Kērmānī (730-834/1329-1431), and this personal tie, cemented by marital alliances between the two families, led to the transfer of Persian artistic traditions to the new capital. That Aḥmad Shah sent lavish gifts to Kermān and financed construction of a mausoleum over Neʿmat-Allāh’s grave there may have encouraged Persian craftsmen to migrate to the Deccan (Golombek and Wilber, I, pp. 394-95, II, pls. 401-02; cf. Farzˊām; Bāstānī-Pārīzī, pp. 578-82). The cosmopolitan artistic climate of Bīdar is manifest in Aḥmad Shah’s own tomb. The manner in which its hemispherical dome rests on an octagonal drum has been compared to Timurid examples, but the basic type of square tomb was so widely diffused in the Indian subcontinent that any connection to Persia was probably indirect (Merklinger, 1981, pp. 10-16, 113-14). The proportions and such embellishment as wall niches and corner finials resemble those of earlier tombs in Multan, for example, that of Šams-al-Dīn Sabzavārī (729/1329 and later; Khan, pp. 204-14), and numerous 15th-century tombs in the Delhi region (Nath, pp. 76-83; Brown, pp. 27-28, 66). It is, rather, the polychrome interior wall paintings that demonstrate a direct religious and artistic connection with Persia. Numerous inscriptions are combined with ornamental medallions and interstitial designs of floral sprays. In the inscriptions prayers appropriate to a tomb are juxtaposed with texts more characteristic of a ḵānaqāh, or Sufi monastery, reflecting Aḥmad Shah’s ties to Shah Neʿmat-Allāh. Those just above the prayer niche (meḥrāb), giving Aḥmad Shah’s titles and death date, bear the signature of a certain Šokr-Allāh Qazvīnī Naqqāš, who may have been responsible for the interior decoration of the entire tomb (Yazdani, pp. 114-28); if so, he must have combined the skills of both calligrapher and decorator. Verses composed by Neʿmat-Allāh are inscribed above the entrances, and the text of one of his mystical treatises encircles the walls just above the dado. Concentric inscription bands in the dome include two versions of Neʿmat-Allāh’s spiritual lineage, one through the Qāderīya order and the other to Ḥasan Baṣrī. Above and below these texts are panels containing the dorūd, a benedictory prayer that concludes at the apex of the dome with blessings on the twelve Shiʿite imams (Yazdani, pp. 115-21, pls. LXXIII-LXXIV; Merklinger, 1981, p. 113 no. 40, fig. 8, plan 9; Sherwani, p. 131 illus. 10). The variously shaped medallions and floral sprays in Aḥmad Shah’s tomb are executed in black, white, gray, and gold against a deep-red ground, a color scheme that may reflect the range of pigments available in Bīdar (Yazdani, pls. LXXIII-LXXIV). On the other hand, the medallion shapes, the arabesque schemes framed by them, and the lush blossoms between them have numerous parallels in the decorative repertoire of the naqqāš, or “painter-decorator,” in 15th-century Persia (Lentz and Lowry, pp. 204-11; Grube, pp. 178-80, figs. 27-30). Disturbed conditions in Persia in the middle decades of the century seem to have encouraged skilled craftsmen to emigrate to both India and Turkey, so that particularly close parallels to the paintings in Aḥmad Shah’s tomb are found in illuminations, bookbindings, and preparatory sketches from the court of the Ottoman sultan Moḥammad II (855-86/1451-81; Necipoğlu, p. 138 fig. 1; Raby and Tanındı, pp. 53, 59-60, figs. 55-59).

A new phase in artistic links between Persia and the Deccan was apparent during the third quarter of the 15th century, when Persian features appeared in both funerary and palatial architecture. Examples include the tombs of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Aḥmad Shah II Bahmanī (d. 862/1458) and that of Neʿmat-Allāh’s son and successor, Ḵalīl-Allāh (d. 864/1460; Merklinger, 1981, p. 16 no. 52, figs. 9, 162, 175, pl. 10), as well as several sections of the Bīdar citadel. Persian features include the framing of arches with twisted-rope moldings and revetments in both mosaic faience and polychrome-painted tiles. The plan of Ḵalīl-Allāh’s tomb, with a two-story octagonal screen around an open center and vaulted recesses in each side wall, is based on the design of garden pavilions like the namakdān at the shrine of ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣārī near Herat. A carved stone inscription over the main doorway was signed by a certain Moḡīṯ Qārī Šīrāzī (Golombek, pp. 70-71, figs. 142-43; Yazdani, pp. 141-44; Merklinger, 1981, no. 55, pp. 16, 104, 114, fig. 13, pl. 11). Traces of ceramic tiles on the exterior resemble better-preserved revetments on the square domed tomb of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn, where a large inscription in white ṯolṯ (see CALLIGRAPHY) against a blue ground encircles the structure and panels of repeating floral ornament are arranged in vertical strips and horizontal panels (Yazdani, pp. 130-32, pls. LXXVI-LXXVII; Merk-linger, 1981, no. 52, pp. 5, 95, figs. 9, 175, plan 10; Crowe, 1986a, pp. 86, 91; idem, 1986b, p. 44, figs. 6, 9-10).

The citadel at Bīdar contains structures with tile decorations founded by various Bahmanid and Barīdšāhī rulers. Those tile decorations closest in style and technique to the revetments at ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn’s tomb are panels set into the walls of a columned audience hall and adjacent chambers, probably erected in the 1460s (Yazdani, pp. 62-65, pls. XXIII, XXVII-XXIX). Like the earlier paintings at Aḥmad Shah’s tomb these designs belong to a widely disseminated artistic vocabulary of Persian origin (Necipoğlu, pp. 137-38, figs. 1, 8; Raby and Tanındı, pp. 53-60, figs. 56, 62-63; Beattie, p. 23, fig. 67). Technical features of the Bīdar tiles suggest that they were produced from locally available materials by craftsman trained in Persia but assisted by local workers; unfortunately, perhaps because local materials were not suitable for glazing, many tiles have lost their glazing, so that the original designs are also largely lost (Crowe, 1986b, pp. 44-45).

The continued attraction of the Deccan for Persians was also demonstrated by the career of Maḥmūd Gāvān, a native of Gīlān, who came as a merchant to Dabol in 856/1453, entered the service of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dīn Aḥmad II, rose to become wakīl (chief minister) and malek-al-tojjār (chief of the merchants’ guild) under Homāyūn (862-65/1458-61), and continued to serve the Bahmanids until his death in 886/1481. During his years in India Maḥmūd maintained an active correspondence with leading figures of Timurid Persia. Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (Suppl.) is even said to have invited him to join his court (Sherwani, p. 229). The Russian merchant Athanasius Nikitin, who spent several months in Bīdar in about 876/1471, described Maḥmūd as “a Khorassanian boyar” and commented “Khorassanians rule the country and serve in war” (p. 14). It is thus appropriate that it was Maḥmūd who sponsored the most strikingly Timurid of all Bīdar buildings, a madrasa (religious school) completed in 877/1472. This structure, now partially destroyed, once had an entrance facade marked by a central vaulted portal, corner minarets, and a courtyard surrounded by three stories of chambers, with a central ayvān on each side. The height and pierced-stone window screens reflect local taste, but the basic plan and the scheme of the tile revetments have numerous close parallels in Timurid architecture (Yazdani, pp. 91-100, pls. L-LVI; Merklinger, 1976-77). The plan has particularly close analogies to that of the Timurid madrasa at Ḵargerd in Khorasan (846/1442; O’Kane, pp. 211-15 no. 22, figs. 22.1-2). The exterior tile revetments include a well-executed inscription signed by ʿAlī Ṣūfī. Details of the vaults, which include moqarnas (oversailing courses of niche sections set at angles to one another) in the transition zone, also suggest the presence of a Persian craftsman (Merklinger, 1981, no. 61, pp. 78, 102, 104-05, 115, figs. 129, 179, 182).

Successor dynasties. Only a few years after Maḥmūd Gāvān’s death the Bahmanid state dissolved into five smaller kingdoms, but some aspects of his cultural legacy continued. Later Deccani architecture includes no exact replicas of the plan of his madrasa, but simplified versions of the entrance facade did appear as a kind of grand portal. The most striking instances are at burial complexes, or dargāhs, near Golbarga, associated with important Sufis, in particular the Češtī saint Moḥammad Bandanavāz Gīsūderāz (d. 825/1422) and Serāj-al-Dīn Jonaydī (d. 781/1380), spiritual guide of the first Bahmanid rulers (Sherwani, pp. 33, 82; Merklinger, 1981, pp. 108, 110 no. 19, plan 13). The entrance to Jonaydī’s tomb, known as Šayḵ Rawża, is a two-story version of the facade at the Bīdar madrasa, complete with central ayvān and corner minarets; it stands like a stage set in front of a much smaller nine-domed building (Merklinger, 1981, plan 13, fig. 43). In the Gīsūderāz complex a three-story version of the madrasa facade was placed in front of an earlier, lower house (Merklinger, 1981, fig. 44 top). Both these facades were probably erected in the early 16th century under the patronage of another native of Persia, Yūsof ʿĀdelšāh, a close associate of Maḥmūd Gāvān and progenitor of the ʿĀdelšāhī dynasty (Merklinger, 1981, p. 41).

The main innovations in Deccani architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries were either permutations of local traditions or reflections of Mughal practice. Decorative or structural elements of Persian origin, which had first appeared in mid-15th-century Bahmanid monuments at Bīdar, were integrated into the vocabulary of local craftsmen and continued in sporadic use until the Mughal conquest. That portals derived from the facade of the Bīdar madrasa continued to be associated with Sufi dargāhs is evident from the 17th-century Rawża at Afżalpūr (Merklinger, 1981, p. 91, fig. 159). In the Bīdar citadel tile revetements appeared on the facades of a gateway known as the Šarza Darvāza, dated to 909/1503, and a pavilion in the Taḵt Maḥall, probably of similar date (Yazdani, pp. 32-34, 66-74, pls. XXXI-XXXVII).

Persian craftsmen seem also to have been employed by the most powerful Barīdšāhī ruler, ʿAlī (949-87/1542-80). His tomb, completed in 984/1576, is notable for its garden setting; the inscriptions, executed in ceramic tile, were signed by Ḵᵛājagī Šīrvānī and ʿAbd-al-Fattāḥ. ʿAlī’s name is also linked with the Rangīn Maḥall, an apartment in the Bīdar citadel faced with ceramic-tile revetments in a Persian style (Yazdani, pp. 44-49, 151-59, pls. VIII-XIV, XCV).

Tombs built by the Qoṭbšāhī rulers at Golconda also retain traces of ceramic-tile revetments, but it is the royal ʿĀšūr-ḵāna at Hyderabad, used both for Moḥarram ceremonies and for storing such ritual paraphernalia as the standards (ʿalams; see ʿALAM VA ʿALĀMAT) carried in processions, that provides the clearest evidence of an artistic link with Persia. Three walls of this structure are faced with mosaic faience, with floral decoration in a Safavid style. Other features of the tiles show accommodation to local traditions, however, notably renditions of ritual ʿalams bearing religious texts and embellished with finials. There are also calligraphic cartouches in the “ṭoḡrā style” containing prayers and the names and titles of two Qoṭbšāhī rulers, Moḥammadqolī (988-1021/1580-1612) and ʿAbd-Allāh (1035-83/1626-72). Dates on the tiles range from 1001/1593 to 1005/1596, though there were probably subsequent additions (Bilgrami, pp. 21-25; Safrani; Crowe, 1986a, p. 31, fig. 6). Although these tiles contain no calligrapher’s signature, an inscription dated 1007/1597 in the Hyderabad congregational mosque is signed by Ḥosayn b. Moḥammad Faḵḵār Šīrāzī, who may have been both a potter and a calligrapher (James, 1987, pp. 345-46).

Illustrated and illuminated manuscripts.

In India the production of books was closely associated with the spread of Islam, and, according to the sources, there were substantial libraries in the Deccan during the 15th and 16th centuries, probably containing both imported and locally produced volumes (Sherwani, pp. 203-04; Skelton, pp. 98-99; Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 61, 68). Recently two illustrated manuscripts have been attributed to Bahmanid Bīdar, a copy of Ferdowsī’s Šāh-nāma dated 841/1438 (British Library, London, ms. no. Or. 1403; Rieu, Persian Manuscripts II, pp. 534-35) and a two-volume anthology of the Ḵamsas of Neẓāmī and Amīr Ḵosrow Dehlavī dated 840/1436, now in The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (Persian ms. no. 124; Wilkinson, I, pp. 45-53). The Šāh-nāma, which once belonged to Charles Mohl and was used in his edition of the text, has been linked to India through unusual features of both text and illustrations; it may have been produced for a member of the Češtīya order, though no specific connection with Bīdar has been established. A note in the anthology documents its purchase by ʿĀdelšāh in 920/1514; the ascription to Bahmanid patronage rests on similarities between its paintings and tile decoration at Bīdar (Brend).

After the fall of the Bahmanids the Nēẓāmšāhīs of Ahmadnagar, the ʿĀdelšāhīs of Bījāpūr, and the Qoṭbšāhīs of Golconda sponsored the production of paintings and illuminated manuscripts. Their patronage was sporadic, however, and appears to have reflected the divergent interests of individual rulers. Most Deccani paintings of the period show a mixture of Persian and Indian features, but there is considerable variation among them. Artistic activity in these media reached its highest level during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, shortly before these states were absorbed into the Mughal empire.

Neẓāmšāhīs.At Ahmadnagar, which fell to the Mughal army in 1008/1600, the best-documented illustrated manuscript is a copy of Āftābī’s Taʿrīf-e ḥosaynšāhī, composed and illustrated at the court of Ḥosayn Neẓāmšāh I (961-73/1553-65), now in the Bhrata Iltihasa Samshodaka Mandala, Poona. Both the Persian text and the illustrations commemorate the splendors of Ḥosayn’s court and his role in the victory of the Deccani Muslim rulers over the Hindu ruler of Vijayanagra in 973/1565. In the twelve illustrations landscape and architectural settings of Persian derivation are combined with a figure style borrowed from earlier Sultanate painting, like that produced at Mandu in Malwa ( (Losty, pp. 53-54; Barrett, 1958, pp. 8-9, pl. 12; Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 17-19).

ʿĀdelšāhīs. A different blend of Persian and Indian elements appears in the compendium Nojūm al-ʿolūm, an anonymous text on cosmology, astronomy, astrology, and animal lore dated to 978/1570-71 and said to have belonged to the library of Ebrāhīm ʿĀdelšāh II (988-1037/1580-1627) in Bījāpūr; most of it is now in The Chester Beatty Library (Indian ms. no. 2; Arnold, pp. 2-4; Binney, no. 117, pp. 141-47). Some compositions exhibit Persian conventions in both setting and figure style, while others contain figures clearly Indian in dress and posture. There are also depictions of local royal customs. In one scene a figure in Persian dress is carried on a litter by both Muslim and Hindu attendants, a form of royal travel described in detail by Nikitin (pp. 9, 12, 14; Losty, no. 50, pp. 53, 71-72). In another painting a ruler of Vijayanagra is enthroned on a multileveled structure known as the “throne of prosperity” (Barrett and Gray, pp. 117, 120-21). The specific mixture of Hindu and Muslim customs depicted in this text suggests that it too commemorates the victory of 973/1565.

Three of the ʿĀdelšāhī rulers at Bījāpūr are remembered for their interest in both painting and Persian culture. Esmāʿīl (916-41/1510-34) was himself a skilled painter, musician, and poet. His enthusiasm for Persian culture and language was combined with a disdain for local customs and Dakhani Urdu. His relations with the Safavid ruler Shah Esmāʿīl I (907-30/1501-24) were particularly cordial, and his courtiers even adopted the Safavid tāj (turban). Esmāʿīl’s preference for both Shiʿism and Persian culture was emulated by his grandson ʿAlī I (965-88/1558-80), who is said to have had an extensive library, as well as a workshop of nearly sixty people producing books (Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 60-61). The cumulative effects of this patronage of manuscripts are also evident in the reign of ʿAlī’s successor, Ebrāhīm II, who in 1009/1601 was obliged to send to the Mughal emperor Akbar (963-1014/1556-1605) a gift of 2,000 books from the royal collection, many of which were illustrated (Zebrowski, 1983, p. 67-68).

Ebrāhīm, the most celebrated Deccani patron of the arts, is said to have been himself a painter and skilled calligrapher, who appreciated the work of artists of various origins. One painter, Farroḵ Ḥosayn, is listed among his intimates (Zebrowski, 1981, pp. 171-73, 179; idem, 1983, pp. 68-70). Ebrāhīm is also said to have given refuge to the Dutch painter Cornelius Heda, who was shipwrecked in India on his way to the court of Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629) at Isfahan (Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 95-96). The paintings that have been securely linked with Ebrāhīm ʿĀdelšāh are idealized single-page portraits of him now scattered among various public and private collections; they show him in opulent court dress silhouetted against a lush landscape, riding an elephant, or playing music, themes consonant with the tone of his own musical treatise, Ketāb-e nowras (Skelton; Knižkova; Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 69-76). The style of these paintings is an amalgam of Persian, Indian, and European features. The fundamental scheme, with faces shown in three-quarter view and landscapes with high horizons, is Persian, but in the volumetric treatment of human figures the soft, rounded contours used in portraits from Ahmadnagar were combined with a precision of shading derived from European art. Vibrant colors and a sense of rhythm add to the sensuous effect (Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 76-103). Under Ebrāhīm’s successors portraits were affected by the more austere canon in vogue at the Mughal court (Zebrowski, 1981, pp. 174-82; idem, 1983, pp. 139-52).

Qoṭbšāhīs. Although the most accomplished Deccani paintings were produced at the ʿĀdelšāhī court in Bījāpūr, it was the Qoṭbšāhīs of Golconda and Hyderabad who manifested the greatest enthusiasm for Persian calligraphy, illumination, and painting. Their dedicatory inscriptions or seals are found on manuscripts that would otherwise have been assumed to be of Persian provenience. Several can be linked with Ebrāhīm Qoṭbšāh (957-88/1550-80) or his successor Moḥammadqolī Qoṭbšāh. One Shirazī scribe and illuminator, ʿAbd-al-Qāder Ḥosaynī, evidently emigrated to Golconda, where he copied and illuminated several manuscripts of the Koran for the Qoṭbšāhīs. The earliest, which bears a waqf (endowment) dedication of 970/1562-63 in the name of Ebrāhīm, is now in the library of Āstān-e Qods-e Rażawī, Mašhad. All these manuscripts contain illuminations in the gold-and-blue style typical of 16th-century Shiraz, but the inclusion of unusual colors and the use of an Indian system of verse counts reveal their Deccani origin (James, 1992, pp. 196-98 no. 47; Sotheby’s, pp. 20-24 lot 17). Another scribe, Bābā Mīrak Herātī, copied Esmāʿīl b. Ḥosayn Jorjānī’s Ḏaḵīra-ye ḵᵛārazmšāhī at Golconda in 980/1572; this manuscript, now in The Chester Beatty Library (uncatalogued Indian ms. no. 30), contains illuminations in a purely Persian style (Losty, p. 70 no. 47; Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 156-57, fig. 120).

Even more striking is the Safavid style of illumination and illustration in the Urdu and Persian Kollīyat of Moḥammadqolī Qoṭbšāh, now in the Salar Jang Museum, Hyderabad. The illuminations resemble those of the Ḏaḵīra of 980/1572, and the paintings appear to be the work of two different Persian painters, one of whom included figures wearing turbans in the Safavid style. Again details of execution like the color scheme and the use of marbled paper affirm the Deccani origin of the paintings (Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 158-69, figs. 121-22; idem, 1986, figs. 13 and facing p. 1). The scribe of the Hyderabad Kollīyat, Zayn-al-Dīn ʿAlī Šīrāzī, also prepared other manuscripts for Moḥam-madqolī, including an album now in The Chester Beatty Library (Persian ms. no. 225; Wilkinson, III, p. 5, pl. 6; James, 1987), in which examples of calligraphy and painting from Persia are combined with those produced in the Deccan; the calligraphy includes pieces signed by Moḥammad-Reżā and Moḥammad Šīrāzī and cut-paper work by Morād Ḏu’l-Qadr.

During the reign of ʿAbd-Allāh Qoṭbšāh a new, hybrid style of painting, in which Indian and Persian elements were mingled, was developed. The ruler and his court are depicted in several paintings, five inserted in an earlier Persian copy of the Dīvān of Ḥāfeẓ (ms. no. 1974.6-17[1-5], formerly part of Add. 16762), and another single-page painting, all now in the British Museum, London. In the Ḥāfeẓ paintings courtiers rendered in the Persian fashion are juxtaposed with servants and entertainers in a style reminiscent of earlier Sultanate painting (Barrett, 1960; Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 178-80). In the single sheet (no. 1937.4-1001) the ruler and his officials are portrayed in the profile view characteristic of Mughal portraits, whereas attendants or servants are depicted in three-quarter view, a combination that demonstrates the growing importance of Mughal contacts and the waning prestige of the Safavid style; these trends were intensified in subsequent reigns (Zebrowski, 1983, pp. 178-88).



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Idem, “Painting,” in G. Michell, ed., Islamic Heritage of the Deccan, Bombay, 1986, pp. 92-109.

(Carl W. Ernst, Priscilla P. Soucek)

Originally Published: December 15, 1994

Last Updated: November 18, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 2, pp. 181-189