Throughout the history of India, there has been a continuous evolution and development of regionalism and regional states. In the development of regional states, from the seventh century onwards till the seventh and eighteen countries, agriculture and agricultural activities played a very important role.
It is an undeniable fact that a large number of regional states arose due to internal weaknesses of the Delhi Sultanate after thirteen century; similarly, there emerged some important state with the decline of Mughal Empire in the eighteenth century. However, all these regional states had regional history that pre-dated both the Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. For instance, Bengal was a significant regional kingdom in eighth and ninth centuries under Palas and subsequently in twelfth century under the Senas.
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A Few Case Studies regarding Regional States
Gujarat: Gujarat, a prosperous and fertile province, had flourishing seatports and was famous for its handicrafts. It was Alauddin Khalj who became the first Sultan to annex Gujarat to the Delhi Sultanate and since then it remained under the Turkish governors of the Sultanate.
One of the important rulers of Gujarat, Ahmad Shah, who ruled from 1411 till 1441, founded the city of Ahmadabad and made it his capital in 1413. He also built beautiful buildings like Jama Masjid and Teen Darwaza and beautified the city with gardens, palaces and bazaars. Although he was supposed to be an orthodox Muslim who imposed jaziya on Hindus and destroyed several temples, he appointed Hindus to important administrative positions. Ahmad Shah’s main enemy were the Muslim rulers of Malwa as is evident from the rivalry between Gujarat and Malwa that had become so bitter that it prevented both the regional States from focusing on larger political gains in north Indian politics.
It was Mahmud Begarha who was perhaps the most important ruler of Gujarat. He was known as Mahmud Begarha as he had captured two powerful garh (forts)- Girnar (Junagarh) in Saurashtra and the fort of Champangar from the Rajputs in South Gujarat.
According to another version, he was famous as Begarha as his moustaches resembled the horns of a cow (also called bagarha). According to a foreign traveler, Duarto Barbosa, Mahmud right from his childhood, was served some poison as his food which made him so poisonous that if a fly settled on his head, it would meet instant death. He was also a great patron of art and literature. During his reign, in his court many works were translated from Arabic to Persian. Udayaraja, a famous poet who composed poetry in Sanskrit, was a court poet of Begaraha’s court.
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In the eleventh century the rulers of Kashmir, the northern part of India, were followers of Saivism and Saivism became the central religion in Kashmir. The famous Arab traveler, Albureni, who visited India during this period has remarked in his work, Al-Hind, that no one, not even Hindus from the outside was allowed access to Kashmir. However, in 1339 Shamsuddin Shah deposed the Saiva ruler and became the ruler of Kashmir. From this period onwards, Islam influenced the Kashmiri Society. Rishis, a group of Sufi saints, propogated a religion that combined both features of both Hinduism and Islam. These Sufi saints and refugees migrated from Central Asia to Kashmir and further influenced the society and religion.
Zainul Abidin (1420-1470), one of the greatest rulers of Kashmir, was an enlightened ruler who called back those Hindus who had left the State due to the prosecution of Sikandar Shah. He not only abolished jaziya but also prohibited cow slaughter and gave important state posts to Hindus.
A large number of temples were repaired and scores of new ones were constructed during his reign. According to Abul Fazl, the court historian of the Mughal Empire Akbar, Kashmir had one hundred and fifty temples. Some scholars have compared him to Akbar by calling him the Akbar of Kashmir; he married the daughters of the Hindu raja of Jammu. He was also named the Bud Shah the great king Kashmir. Under him Kashmir became a prosperous State and registered its name along with those regional states who defied the power of the centre.
Sultan Zainul Abidin constructed dams and canals that contributed immensely to the development of agriculture. During his reign agricultural records were properly maintained and when State faced famine or other natural calamities, peasants were provided relief in terms of loans and grains and fodder.
With an aim to induct reforms in currency Sultan Zainul Abidin introduced market control and fixed prices of the commodities. Merchants and traders were directed to sell their commodities at fixed prices. Apart from importing salt from Ladakh to make up its shortage, he also subsitised the import of the commodities that were scarce; in this way he helped traders in every conceivable way and cemented Kashmir’s name in the group of powerful regional states.
Also a keen observer of the development of handcrafts the Sultan introduced carpet and shawl making which make Kashmir famous till day. Founder of the towns of Zaingir, Zainket and Zainpur, Sultan also built islands on the Dal Laka that can be seen even today. The chief engineering achievement during the reign of Sultan Zainual Abidin was the Zaina Lanka, an artificial island in the Woolur Lake on which his palace and mosques were built.
That Sultan Zainul Abidin was a man of letters is evident from the fact that he was well versed in Persian, Sanskrit, Tibetan and Arab Languages and used to patronize Sanskrit and Persian scholars. It was during his reign and under his patronage the Mahabharata and Kalhan’s Rajatarangani were translated into Persian and many works of Arabic literature were translated into Hindi. He used to write poetry, too, under the pen name ‘Qutb’. After his death Kashmir Gradually became weak, and was no longer the part of strong regional states, due to the paucity of able kings and was finally conquered by Akbar in 1586 and became a part of the Mughal Empire.
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In the eighth century under the Palas and in the twelfth century under the Senas Bengal, was a significant regional kingdom among the powerful regional states. Geographically, it was the easternmost province of the Delhi Sultanate so it was difficult for the Delhi Sultanate to have a proper control over this province because of its long distance from the central power, uncomfortable climate and poor communications. All these factors made it easy for Bengal to assert its independence.
Haji Ilyas Khan, one of the nobles of Bengal, in 1342 united Bengal and became its ruler and acquired the title of Shams-ud-din Ilyas Shah and founded the Ilyas Shah dynasty. Ghiyasuddin Azam, one of the important rulers of Bengal, was a learned man and was known for his execution of free and fair justice to people.
During his reign the port of Chittagaon was an important Centre for exchange of goods. Its evident from the records that the trade relationship between Bengal and China was prosperous; it is said that on demand from the king of China, Azam also sent Buddhist monks from Bengal. The capitals of Bengal were Pandua and Gaur.
Bengal was conquered by Akbar in 1586 and was made a suba. Although Bengali continued to develop as a regional language, Persian was the language of administration. With the setting up of Mughal control rose the agrarian settlements in the forested and marshy areas of south-eastern Bengal. The Mughals set-up their capital in centre of the eastern delta at Dhaka.
Another important ruler of Bengal was Alauddin Hussain Shah who was a very efficient ruler; he appointed Hindus on high administrative posts and paid respect to Chaitanya to Vaisnava sect. He had to make peace with Sikandar Lodi with whom he got into a conflict.
At present in the Varanasi division in eastern Uttar Pradesh falls Jaunpur on the banks of river Gomati. It was a prosperous province in the eastern part of the Delhi Sultanate. During the reign of Forez Shah Tughlaq, Malik Sarwar, a prominent noble, was the governor of Jaunpur. Taking advantage of a weak political situation, created by the Tmur’s invasion and the weakening of Delhi Sultanate, declared himself independent, showing the traits of powerful regional states.
He was succeeded by his son Mubarak Shah Sharqi who stuck coins in his name. The Shariqi Sultans tried several times to capture Delhi but they could never be successful. Ibrahim Shah Sharqi, brother of Mubarak Shah, became the Sultan in 1402 and ruled Jaunpur for almost thirty tour years.
Ibrahim, well versed with Islamic theology and law, music and fine arts, was a scholar and a great patron of architecture also. A distinct style of architecture, during his reign, evolved that was called the Sharqi style that reflected some Hindu influence. At its pinnacle, the Sariqi Sultanate stretched from Aligarh in western Uttar Pradesh to Darbhanga in north Bihar in the east and from Nepal in the north to Bundelkhand in the south.
A prolonged war initiated between Bahlol Lodi and Hussain Shah Sharqi, and after the attack of Bahlol Lodi he had to flee. Finally it took Sikandar Lodi, the successor of Bahlol Lodi, to capture Jaunpur and with the death of Hussain Shah the Sharqi dynasty became a part of history.
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