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῾Adil Shahi

The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

    ῾Adil Shahi

    Dynasty that ruled portions of southern India from 1489 to 1686.

    I. Introduction. II. Family members.

    I. Introduction

    The dynasty's founder, Yusuf ῾Adil Shah (r. 1489–1509), emigrated from Iran to India where he was appointed governor of Bijapur under the Bahmani rulers. When that dynasty declined, Yusuf declared his independence. He had a prolonged conflict with the Portuguese, who were able to secure Goa in 1510. The ῾Adil Shahis and their rival states in the Deccan formed a series of alliances and counter-alliances in the struggle for hegemony. In 1543, for example, a confederacy of Ahmadnagar, Golconda and Vijayanagara attacked the ῾Adil Shahi capital Bijapur, but Ibrahim ῾Adil Shah (r. 1534–57) maintained control. His successor ῾Ali ῾Adil Shah (r. 1557–79; see §II, A below) joined an alliance that destroyed Vijayanagara in 1565. ῾Ali ῾Adil Shah I was an enlightened prince who built a large number of public works, including the congregational mosque at Bijapur. The dynasty reached its zenith under Ibrahim ῾Adil Shah II (r. 1579–1627; see §II, B below), a great patron of the arts. While Ibrahim was able to avert confrontation with the Mughal rulers, who were slowly expanding into the Deccan, his successor Muhammad ῾Adil Shah (r. 1627–56; see §II, C below) was forced to agree to a “Deed of Submission” in 1636. In the reign of Sikandar ῾Adil Shah (r. 1672–86), Bijapur fell to the Mughal emperor Awrangzib.

    The ῾Adil Shahis shifted their religious allegiance from Sunni to Shi῾a Islam seven times over the 150 years of their rule, but these changes were not particularly visible in the arts, and the patronage of Sufis and their shrines remained important. The distinctive architecture of the ῾Adil Shahis has long been recognized, with bulbous domes emerging from lotus petal bases, slim decorative minarets, and intricately carved stone brackets. While the decorative arts of the period are not well known, manuscript paintings are done in a distinctive Bijapuri palette of thickly-applied orange, pink, dark greens, reddish brown, lapis blue, and gold. Men and women wear long billowing sashes and scarves, giving the images an evocative and somewhat mysterious quality (see fig.).

    II. Family members

    A. ῾Ali I. B. Ibrahim II. C. Muhammad.

    A. ῾Ali I

    (r. 1557–79). ῾Ali completed the rings of fortifications begun by his father Ibrahim around the central citadel at Bijapur along with a stone-and-timber audience hall, the Gagan Mahal. In the capital and elsewhere, he also ordered mosques erected, of which the most important was the congregational or Jami mosque at Bijapur (begun 1576). Corner buttresses indicate where minarets were supposed to be erected. The noble and simple interior has 36 bays roofed with shallow domes on pendentives, except for the nine central bays, which are covered by a single massive dome supported on eight intersecting arches.

    ῾Ali was also a patron of the arts of the book. According to his biographer, he had “great inclinations towards the study of books” and his “colored library became full.” Nearly 60 artisans, including calligraphers, gilders, binders, and illuminators are supposed to have worked there. Several manuscripts can be attributed to this period, including Nujūm al-῾Ulūm (“Stars of the Sciences”; Dublin, Chester Beatty Lib.) with 780 illustrations ranging from marginal decorations to full-page pictures. Dated 1570–71, the manuscript shows how Deccani painters were absorbing Mughal ideas. A manuscript of the Javāhir al-Mūsīqāt-i Muḥammadī (“Jewels of Muhammadan Music”; London, BL, Or. MS. 12857) has 48 paintings in a cruder style and spurious dedication to Muhammad ῾Adil Shah. A Marathi manuscript on music (Jaipur, City Pal. Mus.) has four illustrations in a distinctly folksy style.

    B. Ibrahim II

    (b. 1547; r. 1579–1627). ῾Ali's nephew Ibrahim acceded to the throne as 9-year-old boy, and several regents vied with the dowager for power. A great lover of music and culture, Ibrahim tried to establish cultural harmony between Sunnis and Shi῾a, Hindus and Muslims and was a devotee of the Sufi saint of Gulbarga. His long reign, the cultural and artistic peak of the kingdom, is marked by the evolution of a more elaborate architectural style, with an emphasis on exquisite carved detail. In 1599 Ibrahim began construction of Nauraspur, a new capital city four miles east of Bijapur. This “city of nauras,” a poetical term, was meant to embody the court culture of poetry, music, knowledge, and words. Some 20,000 workmen were said to have been put to the task of building its walls, palaces, shops, and road connecting it to the old city, but the project was never finished, and when the ruler of Ahmadnagar attacked the city in 1624, the unfinished walls offered no protection.

    The Ibrahim Rawza (1626–33) is the most splendid monument of his reign. Consisting of a mausoleum originally intended for Ibrahim's queen paired with a mosque, both elevated on a common plinth and set in large formal garden, it was later turned into a dynastic mausoleum. Although the pyramidal massing of the tomb with its bulbous dome surrounded by petals, pinnacles and turrets is notable, the exquisite ornament of geometric and calligraphic designs in shallow relief and piercing is the climax of a new decorative style.

    Surviving paintings from the reign of Ibrahim II tend to be single-page works rather than illustrated manuscripts, although the 34 illustrations to the Pem Nem (“Toils of Love”) romance (London, BL) are a notable exception. Under Ibrahim the local school of painting reached its maturity in brooding landscapes and idealized forms, using expressive line and color. The mystical temperament of the sultan, a contemporary of the Mughal emperor Akbar, may have encouraged Bijapuri painters to a level of expressive power and technical refinement that rivaled their Mughal and Safavid contemporaries, but with an added atmosphere of mystery. Unlike contemporary Mughal or Safavid painting the subject-matter is not narrative history or poetry and epic, but the depiction of pleasure and the art of living. Many portraits of Ibrahim (e.g. Bikaner, Palace col.; London, BM; Prague, Náprstek Mus.; St. Petersburg, Acad. Sci.) depict him at different stages of his life engaged in activities such as music or hunting. Certain elements, such individual figures and distant background vistas, were introduced by Dutch prints acquired from the Portuguese colony of Goa.

    C. Muhammad

    (r. 1627–56). Ibrahim's son Muhammad acceded upon the death of his father. In 1634 the armies of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan invaded the Deccan and laid waste to the country. Although Muhammad agreed to pay a considerable tribute to the Mughals, the treaty also brought security, allowing Muhammad to expand his kingdom southward into the fertile lands once belonging to Vijayanagara. Muhammad's tomb at Bijapur, the Gol Gumbaz (1656), is a gigantic domed structure 47.5 m on a side, sometimes known as Bijapur's “Taj Mahal.” An enormous cubic substructure with octagonal staged turrets at each corner supports an almost hemispheric dome springing from a line of lotus petals. The floor area exceeds that of the Pantheon in Rome.


    • W. Haig: “The Five Kingdoms of the Deccan, 1527–1599,” The Cambridge History of India, iii (Cambridge, 1928/R Delhi, 1965), pp. 433–66
    • H. K. Sherwani and P. M. Joshi, eds.: History of the Medieval Deccan (1295–1724), 2 vols. (Hyderabad, 1973)
    • D. C. Varma: History of Bijapur (New Delhi, 1974)
    • “Portret van Muhammad Adil Shah, koning van Bijapur,” Bull. Rijksmus., xliv/3 (1996), pp. 255–6
    • H. Siddiqui: “Some New Type Copper Coins of Adil Shahi Rulers,” Orient. Num. Stud., i (1996), pp. 139–48
    • G. Michell and M. Zebrowski: Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanate (Cambridge, 1999)
    • D. S. Hutton: Art of the Court of Bijapur (Bloomington, IN, 2006)
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