The Career(s) and Memory of Neknam Khan in Seventeenth-Century Deccan

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:50 AM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Subah Dayal, University of California, Los Angeles
The decline of the Deccan sultanates is usually located in the context of Mughal expansion in the south from the beginning of the seventeenth century. This period however also saw the territorial expansion of these regional polities and a flourishing of literary circles under individual personalities at these courts. This paper looks at the multiple careers of Neknam Khan, an Iranian migrant who served in both Mughal and Deccani courts. Also known as Riza Quli Beg, he migrated to India from Safavid Iran some years after the execution of his father by Shah Abbas I in 1595. He eventually rose to become commander-in-chief of the Qutb Shahi army and expanded the sultanate in the Hyderabad-Karnatik, most notably establishing Neknamabad or Cuddapah in 1645. This presentation considers a range of Persian and Dakhni sources in which Neknam Khan appears as a diplomat, military leader, merchant and literary patron. The location of Neknam Khan's tomb and inscription, the only non-royal buried inside the Qutb Shahi necropolis, clearly suggests his prominence at the court. Lastly, this paper considers a legend about Neknam Khan in an unpublished account of Golconda dating from the early eighteenth century.   It suggests that individual courtiers and their networks of patronage produced a contingent relationship between the Mughal Empire and the Deccan sultanates rather than an absolute one of expansion versus decline.