Mahmud Gawan was a trader turned administrator who served the Bahmani Empire. The Bahmani empire (1347-1538) ruled the Deccan (central) area for almost two centuries. It reached the height of its glory during the tenure of Mahmud Gawan as the Prime minister.
An Iranian by birth, Mahmud Gawan was a trader by profession. The Bahmani emperor, Firuz Shah Bahmani (1397-1422), granted him the title of ‘Chief of the Merchants.’ On becoming the Prime Minister, Mahmud Gawan dominated the affairs of the state for almost 20 years. He extended the empire by raiding the neighboring Vijaynagara Empire, capturing the major ports in the east. The control of the ports led to further expansion of the Bahamani Empire’s overseas trade with the Central Asian countries. With the help of the rulers of Gujurat, Mahmud Gawan extended the Bahmani Empire towards the North.
Mahmud Gawan carried out many reforms in the Bahmani Empire. He divided the empire into eight provinces, each under a noble titled ‘tarfdar.’ Each noble received a fixed salary, for administration and the maintenance of the army in each province. A large part of land was set apart in each province for generating revenue for the head of the empire, the Sultan. Mahmud Gawan was also a great patron of arts. He built a magnificient college in Bidar, the capital of the empire. He invited many renowned scholars belonging to Iran and Iraq to teach at the college.
The internal conflict among the nobles cost Mahmud Gawan dearly. His opponents managed to turn the Sultan against him, who had Mahmud Gawan executed in 1482.