On the long taxi ride from the airport to our hotel in Marmaris, Turkey, it was easy to make friends with the cabbie when we declared our common Muslim faith. The young father of 2 started to tell us the brief history of the Osmanli pashas — hate to refer to them as “Ottoman”. NayeemS and I proceeded to tell him that back in our old country, i.e., Hyderabad, we were referred to by the majority population as Turks or “Turkollu”.

“How in the world . . . ?”
Well, that’s history for you. We gave him a gist of this narrative: About 800 years ago, some central Asian Turkic tribes found a very hospitable land in India as they escaped the depredations of the Changez Khan hordes. The Timurian marauding tribes added to their numbers. Thus, the Delhi-based “Slave dynasty” took hold in the mid-13th century. After the death of a powerful king from among them, Mohammed Tughlaq, rebel generals in the South established their own successor states collectively known as the Bahmani empire. In Golconda, the much fabled land of diamonds in European imagination, those Turkic folks mingled with the local populations, gave rise to an early form of Urdu language, and even wrote poetry in Telugu, the region’s language. The Charminar monument in Hyderabad stands today as a symbol of their times.

Usama Khalidi

We all know how widespread theTurkic genes are in all those historical Bahmani states: Golconda, Bijapur, Bidar, Ahmednagar and Gulberga. It’s quite unremarkable in these places to see blue and green eyes, red hair, light and pale complexions, flat faces and doe-y eyes (aahu chashm!) today. Of course, other racial features are quite evident, including those of the Africans who may have come as slaves, but some ended up as powerful rulers. For example, Malik Kafur, who was the Delhi Sultan Allauddin Khilji’s general who led the first invasion of the Southern kingdoms of Kakatiyas and Hoysalas. Historians have written about the looted treasures brought back to Delhi, carried by hundreds of camels and elephants, along with captured slaves. They also alleged that Khilji and Kafur were sodomites.

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