MAHMUD GAWAN, 1411-1481 A.D.

Imaduddin Mahmud Gawan ( mehmUd gavAn) (ಮೆಹ್ಮೂದ್ ಗವಾನ್) belongs to that rare breed of administrators who rendered great service to the community they live in with out wielding any royal power. His life is a saga dedicated to education, art and scholarship. He worked under three monarchs belonging to the Bahmani dynasty that ruled from Bidar. They were Allauddin Ahmed-2, Mubarak Humayun and Shamsuddin Muhammed Shah-3. He was the prime minister during the rule of the last two. His ancestors hailed from Iran and he arrived in India in 1453 A.D. at the age of 42. He was a trader and businessman by profession. Howewver he was well versed in many subjects such as Mathematics, Islamic lore and Persian language and literature. He represented a refined and cosmopolitan vision of the contemporary Persian culture He became the minister of Fairoze and exhibited his ability in more than one field. He raided the Vijayanagar Empire frequently. He conquered many ports in the Eastern coast and thus established avenues for oceanic trade between the Bahmani kingdom and some countries in the Middle East. He was instrumental in the defeats of the kings of Malva, Orissa and Khan Desh. He could bring in many administrative reforms. He divided the existing four parts of the kingdom to eight segments. The governors became directly accountable to the Sultan. Sultan obtained control over the taxes levied by these governors. Lands were properly measured and ownership documents were created. Educational and Judiciary reforms were also brought in.

However there was an undercurrent of hatred against him because he was treated as a foreigner by local Muslim communities and his rise to power was not tolerated. Some of the reforms brought in by him were detrimental to the interest of the Governors from Dakhan. Consequently a conspiracy was hatched against him. He was held responsible for a compromising letter with his forged signature and he was executed by the king Mehmud-3 in 1481, for alleged treason. The King realized his folly later and that of no consequence.

Gawan is well known for his contribution to education. He built a Madrassah (School / place of learning) in Bidar the capital city of the Bahmani kingdom in the year 1472 A.D. He was familiar with the renowned colleges at Samarkhand and Khorasan in Persia and his own college or Madrassah was modeled on the West Asian architecture.This institution, built to reaffirm Shiism as the state religion, is clearly modeled on contemporary central Asian buildings. Its principal east facade, now partly ruined, faces the city's main street leading to the citadel. An imposing minaret is in three stages separated by cantilevered balconies and surmounted by a dome.” The minaret and façade walls were once covered with blue and white tiles, with traces of yellow and green. This was a three storied building containing thirty six rooms meant for students. It contained six separate suites meant exclusively for the faculty members. The building had four minarets almost 100 feet tall in its corners. Blue -glazed tiles and Q'uranic verses were carved on the walls in flowing calligraphic style that have survived the ravages of time, point to the erstwhile splendor of this building.The architecture is essentially a combination of Islamic and native styles. Provisions were made for separate lecture halls and a prayer hall. The library had some 3000 books related to various disciplines. He had a personal library consisting of 1000 books.

In subsequent centuries, the madrasa suffered as Bidar witnessed a series of political struggles. In 1656, it was appropriated by Aurangzeb for use as a military barrack. Rooms near the southeast minaret were used for gun-powder storage. An explosion resulted in damage to one-fourth of the edifice of the tower and the entrance. Whatever remains now is not even a pale shadow of its former self.

Gawan is credited with two books namely ‘Riyaad al-Insha’ (Rauzat Ul Inshaa?) (A book on epistolology) and ‘Dewan E Ashar’. (?) A couple of long poems written by him in Persian have survived. He lead a simple life. He slept on a mattress and his food was cooked in earthen vessels. However his achievements are more meritorious than those of many a monarch.







Further Reading and Links:

1.      Image results for Mahmud Gawan (Some Images of the Madrassah)

2.      Mahmud Gawan, the Great Bahmani Wazir by Haroon Khan Sherwani, 1942, Allahabad .

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