Social and political affiliation in the Deccan depends on peoples’ connections to places, which are often rooted in the historical past and have important implications for the present and the future.
This piece is part of TNM’s Deccan series presented in collaboration with the Khidki Collective, a collection of eight essays that will examine what it means to belong to the Deccan, which does not exist as a state or administrative entity, but still defines the people and communities, how they live, what is their policy.
On September 17, 1948, more than a year after India gained independence, the state of Hyderabad-Deccan was incorporated into the new Indian nation-state ruled from Delhi. This event, celebrated by some as a âliberationâ, set in motion decisive integration processes, changing the lives of many. This has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the global Deccani diaspora, which now stretches from Karachi to Chicago, Sydney to Singapore, and London to Dubai and Doha. Essays that have appeared in this space in recent weeks examine the Hyderabad Deccan, comprising Telangana, eastern Maharashtra or Marathwada, and Kalyana-Karnataka (formerly known as Hyderabad-Karnataka).
For the other regions of peninsular India – the rest of Maharashtra and Karnataka, the interior of Tamil Nadu – the Deccan is above all a geographical marker. For the regions these essays describe, however, the Deccan is also a cultural marker signifying both the mixing and coexistence of various local and foreign communities dating back to medieval times. The essays help us understand how people and communities belonged to Deccan and alert us to threats to this sense of belonging. The authors show us the continuity and power of distinctive modes of belonging and how these forms of belonging can be at risk. Many authors wonder about the meaning and importance of the territory as a place as the basis of belonging.
Nonetheless, they all reveal how closely belonging to the Deccani is tied to place, with the Deccan of Hyderabad – often the city of Hyderabad itself – being its main source and meeting place. At this point, it is worth considering who actually owns this place called the Deccan and how this is relevant to the past, present, and future of Deccan membership.
The seven essays in the series examine the solidarities in the Hyderabad Deccan defined in terms of political, linguistic, religious, artistic, literary, gender, and diasporic affiliation. Swathi Shivanand examines how the mobile populations of the Deccan imagine themselves to belong in terms of desha, place of origin, and not in terms of rigid national or provincial citizenship. It also follows how developments over the decades since 1948 have sought to impose singular forms of belonging, whether to the Indian state or to the linguistic province, on ideas of belonging which “challenge the territory”. C Yamini Krishna considers the life of the archival documents which have the power to establish who owns the lands of the Deccan. The archiving of these documents reveals the dizzyingly complex stories of state power and internal administrative divisions. Even when the documents are separated from the territories they describe, Krishna shows, they offer ways to carve out a membership in the Deccan.
Santhosh Sakhinala explores how an arts and crafts school in the city of Hyderabad became a key center for Deccani’s aesthetic and artistic pedagogy. The work from the school consciously invoked political figures and artistic styles of the past, drawing on connections to the place to define Deccani art and culture for the future. Mohammed Ayub Khan reflects on the expansive ideas of belonging expressed by poets and orators Deccani on the occasion of Rabindranath Tagore’s visit to Hyderabad. These stories show how the pluralist Urdu literary culture of the 1930s in Hyderabad created a mode of belonging that dissolved the linguistic, regional and religious community divisions that began to dominate the subcontinent during the interwar period.
Amy Phua shows how the use of the Dakhani (or Urdu Dakhani) language represents a form of belonging that channels centuries of regional cultural history and connects to networks of Sufi piety. Anchored in the city of Hyderabad and linked to the early modern sultanates of peninsular India, Dakhani is spoken prominently in much of the central and eastern Deccan, and has new life as a language of a new genre. of digital cinema enjoyed around the world. Sarah Waheed considers a distinctive figure of Deccani, the first modern queen Chand Bibi, showing how accounts of her personality and ruler reveal changing values ââover time. A descendant of both Marathi Brahmins and Iranian migrants, Chand Bibi herself remains elusive. Early images feature her as a warrior queen with a bold public figure and military acumen, while accounts from the colonial era ignore her mixed ancestors and portray her in domestic rather than public places.
Khatija Khader views the Deccan from the perspective of the Chaush, an Arabic-speaking community based in Hyderabad with close ties to kinship networks in Yemen and other coastal regions of Arabia, East Africa and South Asia. South East. Sometimes treated as foreigners or non-nationals because of their mobility and Muslim status, the now precarious position of the Chaush in India stems from the worsening tensions between territorial and cultural affiliation at a time of majority nationalism. These powerful stories show us some key ways of being and belonging to Hyderabad Deccan, and highlight how the historical pasts of communities, people and states are linked to a sense of belonging.
Read more stories in TNM’s Deccan series
Each of these recognitions of historical ties, often accompanied by formal control, over Deccan lands provides a material basis for a different form of belonging. In the Deccan, as everywhere, control of place – the ability to assert or recognize rights over land – is part of state power. Empires rose and fell, but the land systems left in their wake remained potential sources for the Deccani people to claim that a piece of the region was theirs.
The political regimes of yesterday and today are trying to extinguish or recalibrate the old forms of belonging. However, claiming ties and rights to land are ways of anchoring old ways of belonging. Regional history shows how attachments to place and the forms of belonging they generate can survive political transitions. The events of 1948 were not the first time that the lands of the Hyderabad Deccan were transformed into provinces of empires in the north. Parts of the region had, often for short periods, been integrated into large pre-modern empires from Mauryas and Guptas to Khaljis and Tughlaqs, and then into the Mughal state.
At that time, you could say that the Hyderabad Deccan “belonged” to the northern imperial states. For much of the historical past, however, the region was in the possession of Deccani rulers. Some were tiny political entities – warlords or self-governing land estates, or Adivasi kingdoms in wooded and hilly areas – but others were vast. The medieval Vijayanagara and Bahmani empires expanded from the centers of what is now Karnataka to include large swathes of the Deccan. The Sultanate of Qutb Shahi, founder of the city of Hyderabad, controlled much of the Deccan for over 150 years. The Asaf Jahi dynasty, initially a Mughal successor state, was recognized as an independent princely state by the British Raj and flourished until September 1948 when it was conquered by the army of a newly decolonized India.
Many of these states have emphasized connections to previous Deccani powers and community histories to assert their claims. Vijayanagara drew heavily on the model of the medieval Kakatiyas, and the Qutb Shahs and other Deccan sultans recognized and encouraged local warlords and Brahmins to secure and expand their domains. Many of these legacies came together under the Asaf Jahis. During more than two centuries of rule, the state of Hyderabad recognized the land concessions of previous states and bestowed land holdings on a variety of groups for state service or social programs.
Parts of the Hyderabad Deccan during this period were owned by Telugu and Arab military servants, Brahmin guardians of temples and mathas, Adivasis in the northern highlands, urban or agrarian Dalit communities, nobles and elites of the state whose antecedents had a status dating from the service of the Mughal state or maratha. or sooner. The Asaf Jahis also celebrated the achievements of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain artisans in promoting and preserving rock carvings and paintings in the western regions of their empire. These foundations – dating from the Asaf Jahi era and before – provide resources for communities, some increasingly under pressure, to legally, symbolically and publicly claim that the Deccan is theirs.
Eric L. Beverley is a South Asian history and town planning scholar who teaches at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The Khidki Collective is a group of academics committed to reimagining and constructing perspectives on regional identities in order to question the narratives established around history, nationality and belonging. The regions existed even before the birth of India and continue to exist. By not adapting perfectly to dominant notions such as Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan, regions expand our imaginations. The collective takes its name from Khidki – window, the medieval name for the city of Aurangabad, as well as the name of a famous octagonal mosque in Delhi built by an administrator who identified himself as a Telangani. The collective is anchored at the Hyderabad Urban Lab.