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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The People of India - The Bhali Sultans

The People of India series was researched and written by School Without Walls student, Cal Berer.   Cal was an intern at the Freer|Sackler Archives from January 2011-June 20011 where he was then sponsored by the State Department to learn Hindi while spending the summer in India.

Bhali Sultans

Earlier I discussed the fall of the Bhurs, the tribe which, until the early 14th century, dominated Oude.  The Bhali Sultans were instrumental in their defeat.  The tribe’s history is a blend of fact and folklore, but the story has it that “several centuries” before the British arrived in India, a prominent Rajpoot by the name of Rae Buriar arrived in Oude, and married two women.  Their union produced an impressive offspring, so numerous that within several generations they were able to represent a meaningful opposition to the Bhur landowners who controlled their villages.  It was around this time that Allahudin Ghazi, the Sultan of Delhi, arrived to annex Oude, and expel the Bhurs.  He summoned the Bhali tribe leaders, and the first to approach him thrust his spear into the ground before the Sultan.  Ghazi was so impressed by this display that he is reported to have exclaimed “What king of the spear is this?”  Thus the tribe received their name, bhali meaning spear, and sultan king.  Their assistance in the war was crucial, and in honor of the sultan’s blessing they always carried spears into battle.  The tribe remained Hindu until the 17th century, when the majority of them converted to Islam. 

To see all text and images of the Bhali Sultans as they are represented in the People of India, go to our catalog in the Collections Search Center

The People of India series will be published once a month highlighting the various tribes as they're covered in the People of India. 

Cal Berer, Intern

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