Mahmud Ghawan, of Persians birth, came to India at the age of 43 and by sheer dint of merit rose to the highest office in the state in the reign of Muhammad Shah III (1463-1482). The King conferred on him the exalted title of malik-ul-tajjar. He enjoyed a unique postion at the court and was given precedence over Hasan Nizam-ul-Mulk, the leader of the Deccanis.
His intense loyalty to the Sultan and to his country of adoption prompted him to follow a policy of compromise and he befriended his Deccani foes in the larger interest of the State. He kept a balance between the Deccanis and the pardesis in recruitment to his posts as well as bodyguards of the Kind.
He was equally generous to the rebels whether Muslim or Hindu and advised the Sultan to forgive them. His policy was successful as is evident from the support the infant ruler and the Queen Mukhduma-i-jahan received from their rival Mallu Khan when they had to leave the capital, Firuzabad after their defeat at the hands of the ruler of Malwa.
It was mainly due to his efforts that the state continued to exist even when a minor king Nizam-ud-din Ahmad III was on the throne. Even in face of danger to his person due to the machinations of his enemies at the court, he refused to leave the Bahmani state and seek refuge with Gujarati King Sultan Mahmud Begada.
Ghawan made revolutionary changes in the system of military administration. His aim was to strengthen the authority of the Sultan and to curb the centrifugal tendencies of the provincial governors or tarafdars.
The Bahmani state had vastly increased due to the recent conquests and therefore he divided it into eight provinces instead of the existing four. Some of the tracts in each of the provincial areas were taken away and placed directly under the control of the Sultan.
The tarafdars had enjoyed unlimited powers in earlier times and appointed commanders of the garrisons in various forts in the provinces themselves.
Ghawan now issued orders that governor was entitled to keep only one fortress in the provinces under his direct control while all other forts were to be under the authority of the Sultan who would appoint the commanders and remove them at his will. He also made it obligatory on each mansabdar to keep the number of soldiers as required under the rules. The defaulters were to be severely punished.
He made a thorough survey and measurement of the land and classified it according to its fertility. The revenue was accordingly fixed.
In diplomacy and strategy, the Khwaja had few equals. In spite of lack of men and equipment, he was successful in the Konkan campaign and later on captured the rich fort of Goa after besieging it by sea and land.
He was a patron of learning and himself wrote beautiful prose and poetry. His letters in the famous work Riyaz-ul-lnsha bear testimony to it. He also wrote a book entitled ‘Manazir-ul-Insha’ on art of diction.
He made grants to scholars and invited them to visit the Bahmani dominions. The great poet Naziri was appointed poet-laureate at the Bahmani court on his recommendation. Jami, the great Persian poet, Lavished praises on Ghawan whom ‘he acknowledged as the learned of his epoch’
In the words of his biographer, H.K. Sherwani, the Khwaja “excelled as a diplomat, as a soldier, as an administrator and as a man of letters-in all the walks of life in only one of which it is generally the fortune of any man to enter and perhaps to excel.”