When Muhammad Bin Tughluq was the Sultan, the region south of the Vindhyas was divided thus:
- Dekkan with its capital at Devagiri, which had declared independence about four years prior to Tughluq’s death. This was roughly what’s known as the Maratha country.
- Telingana with its capital at Warangal, which was still a tributary of the Sultanate. This was known as the Andhra country.
- Hoysala country with its capital at Dwarasamudra, which was nominally a tributary of the Delhi Sultanate. It was still ruled by an aged Vira Ballala III.
- Ma’bar with its capital at Madura. This was the sole Muslim state carved out by the Sultanate and was administered by a governor reporting directly to Delhi.
This Madura governor, Jalal-ud-din Ahsan Shah (or Jalal-ud-din Hasan Shah alias Sayyid Hasan Shah) led the second round of rebellion in the Ma’bar country against Muhammad Bin Tughluq and won it conclusively. However, Muhammad Bin Tughluq had a revenge of sorts on Ahsan Shah. Ahsan Shah’s son Ibrahim (a close friend of the Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta), who was Tughluq’s purse-bearer was sawed into two for the crime committed by his father.
The Muslim state carved out in Madura as part of the Delhi Sultanate was now an independent Sultanate. To mark his success, the new Sultan Jalal-ud-din Ahsan Shah, minted gold and silver coins in his own name. [SOUTH INDIA & HER MUHAMMADAN INVADERS, PG 164-65, S. KRISHNASWAMY AIYANGAR] With his Sultanhood safe from further ingresses from Delhi, he declared that all territory encompassed by the Coromandel Coast belonged to him—the entire region that encompasses Madurai all the way up to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.
However, in 1340, Jalal-u-din Ahsan Shah was murdered by a noble named Alau-d-din Udauji. A year in power, he “set out to conquer the infidels; he took a considerable amount of riches and ample spoils from them, and returned to his own state. The following year, he led a second expedition against the idolaters, routed them and massacred a large number.” [SOUTH INDIA & HER MUHAMMADAN INVADERS, PG 235, S. KRISHNASWAMY AIYANGAR] At the end of the battle he removed his helmet to drink water, and an arrow from an unknown source killed him on the spot.
Udauji was succeeded by his son-in-law, whose original name isn’t known. However, upon ascension, he styled himself Qutub-ud-din Firoz. His rule lasted exactly 40 days: he was murdered by Ghiyathu-d-din Dhamaghani, a former trooper of Muhammad Bin Tughluq.
Ghiyathu-d-din Dhamaghani’s short-lived reign has the distinction of being the most savage period of the Madurai Sultanate. His boundless malice for “infidels” and “idolaters” motivated him to seek out even harmless civilian Hindus so he take special delight in devising innovative tortures before killing them.
Dhamagani had married one of the daughters of Ahsan Shah. He was thus the brother-in-law of the Moroccan traveller, Ibn Batuta.
In 1342, Muhammad Bin Tughluq dispatched Ibn Batuta on a mission to China while his own empire was imploding around him—another illustrative testimony to Tughluq’s lunacy. Ibn Batuta met with an accident on the seas somewhere in the waters of South India. He was brought ashore at Ma’bar country and told the locals who he was. He was then nursed at the orders of Dhamaghani who was at the time fighting the “infidels” at Harekatu (today’s Arcot). After a two-day travel, Ibn Batuta reached Arcot where he was hospitably received. At Arcot, Dhamaghani asked Batuta to accompany him to Madurai.
I shall let Ibn Batuta, the eyewitness to Dhamaghani’s incredible savagery, tell the tale of a part of the Madurai-bound journey. The following passages are taken verbatim from S. Krishnaswamy Aiyangar’s SOUTH INDIA & HER MUHAMMADAN INVADERS, Pg 236—237.
THE MARCH OF THE SULTAN, AND HIS SHAMEFUL CONDUCT IN KILLING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
The country we had to traverse was a wood…so overgrown, that nobody could penetrate it…When the camp had been arranged, [Dhamaghani] set out on horseback to the forest, accompanied by soldiers…Every infidel found in the forest was taken prisoner. They sharpened stakes at both ends and made their captives carry them on their shoulders. Each was accompanied by his wife and children and they were thus led to the camp. It is the custom of these people to surround their camp with a palisade having four gates. They call it catcar round the habitation of the king.
The next morning, the Hindu prisoners were divided into four sections and taken to each of the four gates of the great catcar. There, on the stakes they had carried, the prisoners were impaled. Afterwards, their wives were killed and tied by their hair to these pales. Little children were massacred on the bosoms of their mothers and their corpses left there. Then, the camp was raised…In the same manner did they treat their later Hindu prisoners. This is shameful conduct such as I have not known any other sovereign guilty of. It is for this that God hastened the death of Ghiyath-eddin [Ghiyath-ud-din].
One day whilst the Kadhi (Kazi) and I were having our food with [Ghiyath-ud-din], the Kazi to his right and I to his left, an infidel was brought before him accompanied by his wife and son aged seven years. The Sultan made a sign with his hand to the executioners to cut off the head of this man; then he said to them in Arabic: ‘and the son and the wife.’ They cut off their heads and I turned my eyes away. When I looked again, I saw their heads lying on the ground.
I was another time with the Sultan Ghiyath-eddin when a Hindu was brought into his presence. He uttered words I did not understand, and immediately several of his followers drew their daggers. I rose hurriedly, and he said to me: ‘Where are you going?” I replied: ‘I am going to say my afternoon (4 o’clock) prayers.’ He understood my reason, smiled, and ordered the hands and feet of the idolater to be cut off. On my return I found the unfortunate swimming in his blood.
The reason for mentioning Ibn Batuta’s account at some length is to provide a sample of the mayhem the episodic Madurai Sultanate wrought upon large parts of the Pandya country—Dhamagani was by no means the last but was certainly the cruellest of them all.
He wasn’t an overtly ambitious conqueror but he ceaselessly indulged in petty warfare by provoking the frontiers of his neighbouring Hindu kings. One of these was Vira Ballala III, now aged 80 and thoroughly fed up with this pestilent Sultan, and determined once for all to secure his borders.
To be continued…