Gujarat (Part 2)

This was a fertile and prosperous province. It had flourishing seaports and was famous for its handicrafts. Alauddin Khalji was the first Sultan to annex it to Delhi Sultanate and since then it remained under the Turkish governors of the Sultanate.

After Timur’s invasion, in 1407, Zafar Khan who was then the governor became the independent ruler and after sometime assumed the title of Muzaffar Shah. Zafar Khan’s father was a Rajput who had given his sister in marriage to Feroz Shah Tughlaq.

Ahmad Shah (1411-1441), was one of the important rulers of Gujarat. He founded the city of Ahmadabad and made it his capital in 1413. He built beautiful buildings, like Jama Masjid and Teen Darwaza and beautified the city with gardens, palaces and bazaars.

Ahmad Shah was influenced by the Jaina architectural traditions of Gujarat. He was an efficient administrator and consolidated the regional state of Gujarat. He subdued the Rajput states, Jhalawar, Bundi and Durgapur. He was supposed to be an orthodox Muslim who imposed jaziya on the Hindus and destroyed several temples. However, the picture was complex. At the same time, he appointed Hindus to important administrative positions.

Ahmad Shah fought equally fiercely against the Hindu as well as the Muslim rulers. His main enemy were the Muslim rulers of Malwa. The rivalry between Gujarat and Malwa was bitter and prevented both the regional states from concentrating on larger political gains in north Indian politics. He was famous for imparting justice. He publicly executed his son-in-law who had murdered an innocent. The author of Mirat-i-Ahmadi has rightly said that the impact of this justice lasted till his reign.

Perhaps the most important ruler of Gujarat was Mahmud Begarha. He was called Mahmud Begarha as he had captured two powerful forts or garh, Girnar (Junagarh) in Saurashtra and the fort of Champaner from the Rajputs in south Gujarat. Both these forts were of strategic importance. The fort of Girnar was in the prosperous Saurahstra region and also provided a base for operations against Sindh.

The Sultan founded a new town called Mustafabad at the foot of the hill. This town with many beautiful monuments became the second capital of Gujarat. Similarly, the fort of Champaner was crucial to control Malwa and Khandesh. Mahmud constructed a new town called Muhammadabad near Champaner.

According to another version, he was called Begarha as his moustaches resembled the horns of a cow (begarha). Mahmud is supposed to have had a flowing beard which reached up to his waist. His moustache was supposed to be so long that he tied it over his head. According to a foreign traveller, Duarto Barbosa, right from his childhood, Mahmud was given some poison as his food which made him so poisonous that if a fly settled on his head, it would meet instant death.

Mahmud was also famous for huge appetite. It is said that for breakfast he ate a cup of honey, a cup of butter and one hundred to hundred and fifty banananas. In total, he consumed ten to fifteen kilos of food everyday. Mahmud Begarha ruled for 52 years. He was also a great patron of art and literature. Many works were translated from Arabic to Persian in his court. His court poet was Udayaraja, who composed poetry in Sanskrit.

In 1507, Mahmud led an expedition against the Portuguese who had settled on the western coast and monopolised the trade there, causing immense harm to the Muslim traders. To break the Portuguese trade monopoly he sought the help of the Sultan of Turkey but could not get much headway and finally had to give the Portuguese a site for a factory in Diu. He died in 1511. During the rule of his successors Akbar conquered and annexed Gujarat in 1572 AD.