The Qutb Shahi dynasty held sway over the Andhra country for about two hundred years from the early part of the 16th century to the end of the 17th century. Sultan Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of the dynasty, served the Bahmanis faithfully and was appointed governor of Telangana in A.D.1496. He declared independence after the death of his patron king, Mahmud Shah, in A.D.1518. During his 50-year rule, Sultan Quli extended his kingdom upto Machilipatnam. He was murdered by his third son, Jamsheed, who succeeded Sultan Quli. Jamsheed reigned for seven years till A.D.1550 but remained maligned by all for his patricidal crime. His youngest brother, Ibrahim, who was hardly thirteen at the time of his father’s assassination, fled to Vijayanagar and took refuge there. It afforded him a training ground and he learned the art of administration.
After Jamsheed’s death in A.D.1550, Ibrahim returned to Golconda and ascended the throne. Ibrahim Qutb Shah, who was known as Malkibharam in the Andhra country, was the real architect of the Golconda kingdom. He ruled the kingdom for 30 years from A.D.1550 to A.D.1580. He organised the central and provincial governments and brought them into close contact. He also introduced an efficient intelligence service which kept him informed on all affairs. The kingdom was made safe for travel and trade. Ibrahim had also many works of public utility to his credit. He dug lakes and tanks and laid out towns and gardens. He also encouraged local language Telugu and patronised Telugu scholars and poets like, Telaganarya and Gangadhara who dedicated their works to him.
Ibrahim took an active part in the battle of Rakkasi Tangadi in A.D.1565. It immensely benefited him in cash and territories, and the kingdom was extended to the south as far as Madras and Gandikota.
The next period of forty years led by Ibrahim’s son and grandson was an era of peace and prosperity. Muhammad Quli, son of Ibrahim, was a great writer and a builder. The city of Hyderabad was laid in A.D.1591 with magnificent buildings, straight roads and other civic amenities. For this purpose, he invited many Persians to settle down in Hyderabad and Machilipatnam. He was a scholar and a poet, composed a large number of poems in the Deccani language. Muhammad Quli was succeeded by his nephew and son-in-law Sultan Muhammad in A.D.1612. He was highly religious and a model of virtue and piety. He followed his uncle in promoting learning and architecture. The great mosque known as Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad was designed and its foundation laid by him, though the main structure of the Mosque was completed during the next four generations.
Sultan Muhammad’s premature death in A.D.1626 was a sad prelude to the decline and fall of Golconda. He was succeeded by his minor son, Abdullah Qutb Shah, who was indolent. The fall of Ahmadnagar in A.D.1633 to the Mughals exposed Golconda. Abdullah Qutb Shah acknowledged the suzerainty of the Mughals and concluded a treaty in A.D.1636. He was reduced to vassalage and the Mughal Hajib, a resident officer of the Mughals imposed on him, interfered in day-to-day administration and encouraged fissiparous tendencies. The traitors of Golconda found their strength in the Mughals who did not hesitate to invade Golconda.
Abdullah Qutb Shah died in A.D.1672 and was succeeded by his third son-in-law, Abul Hassan Qutb Shah, popularly known as Tana Shah. He had a steady mind, broader vision and administrative experience of a high order. He handled the domestic and foreign affairs deftly and put forth all his efforts against the Mughal tide.
Abul Hassan and his kingdom were misrepresented by false propaganda to justify the interference of the Mughal emperor who contemplated to liquidate the Deccan Sultanates and incorporate it in the Mughal empire. The emperor came to the Deccan in A.D.1682 and launched his campaign against both the Marathas and the Deccan Sultanates. His original plan was to put down the Maratha power, but later on, he suspended the plan and directed his forces against Bijapur and Golconda in A.D.1685. Bijapur fell in after two months’ siege. But Golconda held out for a long time. It came to an abrupt end owing to the treachery of an Afghan general, Abdullah Khan, who opened the gate in the dead of night and facilitated the capture of the fort. The equanimity with which Abul Hassan Tana Shah had faced the Mughal captors and the unequalled loyalty of Abdul Razak Lari, who remained faithful to his king, Tana Shah, are of special significance.
The fall of Golconda in A.D.1687 had far reaching consequences. It halted the face of cultural progress for years and relaxed the administrative grip on the English Company at Machilipatnam and Madras. So long as the kingdom was powerful in the south, the king Abul Hassan and his Minister, Madanna, kept their constant vigil on the English merchants.
Qutb Shahi rulers adopted religious tolerance. They treated Hindus equal with Muslims as well and maintained cordial relations between the two throughout. They encouraged the local language Telugu besides the Deccani Urdu. They patronised scholars and awarded them titles and Jagirs. The builder of Hyderabad, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah was an eminent poet in Persian and was an author of several Persian works. The fourth king, Ibrahim was a great patron of Telugu. His court was crowded with Telugu poets besides many others. The rulers adopted the local customs to a great extent. This tolerance and patronage of the kings were followed by the nobles as well. Ramadas (Goppanna), a great devotee of Sri Rama who lived in the period of Abul Hassan, wrote a number of poetical works and songs in praise of his deity.
The Deccani architecture, is a combination of Persian, Hindu and Pathan styles. They mostly borrowed heavily from Hindu style of architecture. The Bala Hissar gate of the Golconda fort is remarkable for the figures and emblems of Hindu mythology.
The citadel of Hyderabad, the Charminar is the most remarkable of all the Qutb Shahi monuments. It is one of the magnificent structures in India.
The socio-cultural life of the people during the rule of the Qutb Shahis was marked by a spirit of broad-mindedness and catholicity based on sharing and adopting of mutual traditions and customs.