1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Deccan

DECCAN (Sans. Dakshina, “the South”), a name applied, according to Hindu geographers, to the whole of the territories in India situated to the south of the river Nerbudda. In its more modern acceptation, however, it is sometimes understood as comprising only the country lying between that river and the Kistna, the latter having for a long period formed the southern boundary of the Mahommedan empire of Delhi. Assigning it the more extended of these limits, it comprehends the whole of the Indian peninsula, and in this view the mountainous system, consisting of the Eastern and Western Ghats, constitutes the most striking feature of the Deccan. These two mountain ranges unite at their northern extremities with the Vindhya chain of mountains, and thus is formed a vast triangle supporting at a considerable elevation the expanse of table-land which stretches from Cape Comorin to the valley of the Nerbudda. The surface of this table-land slopes from west to east, as indicated by the direction of the drainage of the country,—the great rivers, the Cauvery, Godavari, Kistna and Pennar, though deriving their sources from the base of the Western Ghats, all finding their way into the Bay of Bengal through fissures in the Eastern Ghats.

History.—The detailed and authentic history of the Deccan only begins with the 13th century A.D. Of the early history the main facts established are the Aryan invasion (c. 700 B.C.), the growth of the Maurya empire (250 B.C.) and the invasion (A.D. 100) of the Scythic tribes known as the Sakas, Pahlavas and Yavanas, which led to the establishment of the power of the Kshaharata satraps in western India. In addition to this, modern study of monuments and inscriptions has recovered the names, and to a certain extent the records, of a succession of dynasties ruling in the Deccan; of these the most conspicuous are the Cholas, the Andhras or Satavahanas, the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas and the Yadavas of Devagiri (Deogiri). (See India: History; Bombay Presidency: History; Inscriptions: Indian.) In 1294 Ala-ud-Din Khilji, emperor of Delhi, invaded the Deccan, stormed Devagiri, and reduced the Yadava rajas of Maharashtra to the position of tributary princes (see Daulatabad), then proceeding southward overran Telingana and Carnata (1294–1300). With this event the continuous history of the Deccan begins. In 1307, owing to non-payment of tribute, a fresh series of Mussulman incursions began, under Malik Kafur, issuing in the final ruin of the Yadava power; and in 1338 the reduction of the Deccan was completed by Mahommed ben Tughlak. The imperial sway was, however, of brief duration. Telingana and Carnata speedily reverted to their former masters; and this defection on the part of the Hindu states was followed by a general revolt of the Mussulman governors, resulting in the establishment in 1347 of the independent Mahommedan dynasty of Bahmani, and the consequent withdrawal of the power of Delhi from the territory south of the Nerbudda. In the struggles which ensued, the Hindu kingdom of Telingana fell bit by bit to the Bahmani dynasty, who advanced their frontier to Golconda in 1373, to Warangal in 1421, and to the Bay of Bengal in 1472. On the dissolution of the Bahmani empire (1482), its dominions were distributed into the five Mahommedan states of Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Bidar and Berar. To the south of these the great Hindu state of Carnata or Vijayanagar still survived; but this, too, was destroyed, at the battle of Talikota (1565), by a league of the Mahommedan powers. These latter in their turn soon disappeared. Berar had already been annexed by Ahmednagar in 1572, and Bidar was absorbed by Bijapur in 1609. The victories of the Delhi emperors, Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, crushed the rest. Ahmednagar was incorporated in the Mogul empire in 1598, Bijapur in 1686, and Golconda in 1688. The rule of the Delhi emperors in the Deccan did not, however, long survive. In 1706 the Mahrattas acquired the right of levying tribute in southern India, and their principal chief, the Peshwa of Poona, became a practically independent sovereign. A few years later the emperor’s viceroy in Ahmednagar, the nizam-al-mulk, threw off his allegiance and established the seat of an independent government at Hyderabad (1724). The remainder of the imperial possessions in the peninsula were held by chieftains acknowledging the supremacy of one or other of these two potentates. In the sequel, Mysore became the prize of the Mahommedan usurper Hyder Ali. During the contests for power which ensued about the middle of the 18th century between the native chiefs, the French and the English took opposite sides. After a brief course of triumph, the interests of France declined, and a new empire in India was established by the British. Mysore formed one of their earliest conquests in the Deccan. Tanjore and the Carnatic were shortly after annexed to their dominions. In 1818 the forfeited possessions of the Peshwa added to their extent; and these acquisitions, with others which have more recently fallen to the paramount power by cession, conquest or failure of heirs, form a continuous territory stretching from the Nerbudda to Cape Comorin. Its length is upwards of 1000 m., and its extreme breadth exceeds 800. This vast tract comprehends the chief provinces now distributed between the presidencies of Madras and Bombay, together with the native states of Hyderabad and Mysore, and those of Kolhapur, Sawantwari, Travancore, Cochin and the petty possessions of France and Portugal.

See J. D. B. Gribble, History of the Deccan (1896); Prof. Bhandarkar, “Early History of the Dekkan” (Bombay Gazetteer); Vincent A. Smith, Early History of India (2nd ed., Oxford, 1908), chap. xv. “The Kingdoms of the Deccan.”