Focussing on India's Deccan Plateau, this book explores how power and memory combined to produce the region's built landscape, as seen above all in its monumental architecture. During the turbulent sixteenth century, fortified frontier strongholds like Kalyana, Warangal, or Raichur were repeatedly contested by primary centres-namely, great capital cities such as Bijapur, Vijayanagara, or Golconda. Examining the political histories and material culture of both primary and secondary centres, the book investigates how and why the peoples of the Deccan, in their struggles for dominance over the secondary centres, promoted certain elements of their remembered past while forgetting others.
The book also rethinks the usefulness of Hindu-Muslim relations as the master key by which to interpret this period of South Asian history, and proposes instead a model informed by both Sanskrit and Persian literary traditions. Further, the authors systematically integrate the methodologies of history, art history, and archaeology in their attempt to reconstruct the past, as opposed to the standard practice of using one of these methodologies to the exclusion of the others. The book, thus, describes and explains interstate politics of the medieval Deccan at a more grassroots level than hitherto attempted.
Richard M. Eaton is professor of history at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA. His research focusses on the social and cultural history of late medieval and early modern India (AD 1000-1800), especially on the range of historical interactions between Iran and India, and on Islam in South Asia.
Phillip B. Wagoner is professor of art history at Wesleyan University, Middletown, USA. His area of research includes the cultural history of the Deccan region of southern India, Primarily in the Late medieval and early modern periods.
This book examines the histories of three highly contested cities of the Deccan Plateau-Kalyana, Raichur, and Warangal-during the period 1300 to 1600, with special emphasis on the tumultuous sixteenth century. While focussing on these three cities, which provide the book's primary database, we bring several broad aims to the study, each directed at a different level of historical enquiry.
First, we seek a better understanding of how regional politics operated at the ground level. Most previous research on the Deccan has focussed on primary urban centres, meaning the capitals of the various Deccan states, for example, Bidar, Vijayanagara, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, or Golconda. But this focus has meant ignoring the region's smaller but far more numerous secondary urban centres. The plateau is covered with such sites, many of which lie on the plains. Many more are perched on hill tops, ringed by formidable defensive outworks that take advantage of the plateau's distinctively rocky terrain (see Figure 7.22). Ranging from less than a kilometre to more than 5 kilometres in circumference.I the walls of these forts consist of stone masonry of different fabrics and sizes, betraying distinct building traditions and different phases of construction over the centuries. Most forts have several circuits of walls pierced by gateways with powerful bastions, crenellated parapets, guard houses, and inner courtyards. Gazing up at them from the plateau's floor, one marvels at the enormous investment of resources and the staggering number of manhours required to build these imposing structures.
Throughout the period 1300-1600 such fortified secondary centres provided the key economic, social, and political links between the agricultural villages constituting their respective hinterlands and the courtly elites in the capital cities to which they were subordinate. They also mediated the culture of metropolitan courts to that of the agrarian countryside, and vice versa. Their strategic importance derived mainly from their ability to control the agrarian resources of their immediate hinterlands, since troops garrisoned at such sites could enforce the collection of state-imposed (or self-imposed) revenues in the form of grain and other foodstuffs. Above all, secondary centres converted the productive surplus of the land into political and military power, both for the city's governor and for the crown. Hence they were invariably well fortified, for their capture meant control of the resources of their surrounding districts. This also explains their pivotal role in state-formation, a fact well understood by contemporaries. For example, in narrating how the founder of the Sultanate of Bijapur rose to power in the 1490s, the chronicler Muhammad Qasim Firishta (fl. 1609) recorded that Yusuf "Adil Khan had 'wrested many forts from the governors of [the Bahmani sultan] Mahmud Shah, and subdued all the country from the river Bhima to Bijapur, the inhabitants of which territory submitted to his authority' In a very real sense, the political history of the Deccan revolved around struggles by primary centres for control of secondary centres.
Our first aim, then, is to examine such struggles, especially those over centres that were located on the frontiers between states and were, as a result, frequently contested. From the scores of such centres that could have been chosen for the purpose of this study, we focus on three, each of which straddled a contested frontier of a specific sort. Kalyana was located on a frontier between three rival sultanates; moreover, as the one-time capital of the prestigious Chalukya empire, it was a much sought-after prize. Raichur was perennially contested between Vijayanagara and the Bahmani Sultanate (and later, its "Adil Shahi successor) on account of its rich agricultural hinterland. And Warangal lay on an ecological frontier that separated the eastern edge of the Deccan's dry, inland plateau from the wetter and more fertile coastal plain.
Second, a study of struggles over secondary centres illuminates the interrelations between this book's three principal themes-power, memory, and architecture. In tracking the projection of political power across the plateau, we of course follow military affairs, which are extensively covered in contemporary chronicles. But we also consider the kinds of power that can institutionalize or erase collective memory. We are especially interested in how power and memory combined to produce the Deccan's built landscape, as seen above all in monumental architecture. In recent years, scholars have sought to understand the relations between identity, memory, and landscape not just for peoples living in the present, but for those living in the past itself. Introducing a collection of archaeological and art historical essays tellingly entitled Negotiating the Past in the Past, Norman Yoffee notes that built landscapes can form the material of 'memory communities', and that people make choices about which part of their remembered past to accommodate and which to reject." For us, then, the pertinent question is: in their struggles for control of secondary centres, how and why did peoples of the Deccan's past promote certain elements of their remembered past, while forgetting others? Inasmuch as artefacts have lives of their own after their creation, especially as sites of memory." how can the study of the material evidence of the past, notably monumental architecture, shed light on this question?
Third, this book aims to rethink one of the basic categories by which South Asian history is conventionally studied, namely, the so-called Hindu-Muslim encounter. Since the Deccan was conquered by Muslims from north India in the period of our study, this book offers a case study of a part of the world often seen in terms of a binary, religiously defined 'clash of civilizations'. Rather than viewing the Deccan's history in such narrowly religious terms, we ask whether it might more properly be framed in broadly literary-cultural terms. Specifically, we analyse this history in terms of an encounter between civilizations defined by Sanskrit or Persian literary traditions. Whereas north India from the eleventh century was the earliest arena of such an encounter, by the early fourteenth century the frontier of that arena had shifted south to the Deccan, following the conquest of the plateau by armies of the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526).9 Our study therefore seeks to understand how an initially military encounter was transformed over the course of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, ultimately resolving in the mutual interpenetration of two civilizational traditions. We believe this to be a more nuanced, and more accurate, approach to India's pre-modern history than the conventional framework of an enduring and generally hostile confrontation between two allegedly homogeneous and unchanging religious communities. In this sense, the book is a case study of frontier dynamics at a macro-level, comparable in some respects with the Arab-Latinate encounter in the Mediterranean theatre between the seventh and fourteenth centuries.
Finally, at the level of methodology, the study seeks to bridge a wide chasm that, reinforced by decades of disciplinary apartheid, has long divided history from art history and archaeology. On most university campuses, practitioners of these disciplines are nested in different departments- often, different colleges-thereby inhibiting regular scholarly contact between them. In an attempt to overcome this divide, the authors of the present study-one trained in history, the other in art history and archaeology-not only combed through contemporary chronicles and literary, epigraphic, and numismatic evidence, but also spent two field seasons (in 2005 and 2006) in the Deccan directly examining material evidence. to The latter included, in particular, the rich architectural record found in some thirty-one secondary centres, most of them remote hill forts, scattered across the plateau. In addition to the types of structures that architectural historians traditionally study, for example, mosques, temples, tombs, and palaces, we also scrutinized less- studied features such as moats, fortifications, armouries, city gates, tanks, stepwells, roads, and granaries. And, while investigating such features from the standpoint of architectural history, that is, determining an object's patrons and builders, its intended use, the influences on its design and style, the conditions of its production, and so on, we also studied them from the standpoint of the discipline of buildings archaeology. That is, we wanted to learn what had happened to any given object after the moment of its initial creation, that is, how its fabric had changed over time, the different ways its purpose was re-conceived, changes in the different communities that used it, and so on. In short, being interested in how the Deccan's society and politics evolved and changed between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, we approached monuments and other material evidence as dynamic texts that could, after their creation, tell their own stories about how they related to different communities over time.
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