Jagannath Series – Part I: Master of the Universe

There is hardly any lingusitic tribe in India, which relates to any particular God like Odias relate to Lord Jagannath. Being an Odia myself, I grew up in the midst of Jagannath culture. Most part of a religious Odia’s life (and majority of us are quite religious) revolves around Lord Jagannath, to the extent that the first invitation card of any auspicious occasion from an Odia household goes to Him. In even the smallest villages of Odisha, you will find a Jagannath temple, and all the rituals/festivals being observed as it happens in the Jagannath temple of Puri. Oh, and yes! For those of you unaware, it is said Odias observe thirteen festivals in a year i.e. in twelve months, and almost all of them are someway or the other related to Lord Jagannath.

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Image: Lord Jagannath on his chariot Nandighosh, on His way to His aunt’s place during Rathyatra. 

So, what is it with the Odias and this seemingly “physically incomplete” deity? Wait! Did I just call a God “physically incomplete”? Well, I am allowed to. Because, although his name translates to “Master of the Universe” and Kings sweep his chariot, Lord Jagannath is as much a friend to all Odias, as he is God. He inspires as a friend, philosopher and guide to every Odia in true sense, to the extent that He lives like a human, His wife fights with Him like any other man’s wife, and He also dies like a human to take birth again. And He is also known as “Patitpavan”, which translates to “He who lifts the downtrodden”.

Among all the things that Lord Jagannath is to Odias, most importantly He is the pride, He is The Odia identity. And He is the ultimate symbol of valiant resistance by this tribe against attacks and oppression by foreign invaders – from Turks to Afghans to Mughals. The Jagannath temple in Puri has been attacked twenty times, over the centuries. And the tremendous belief that Odias put on Him can not be described in simple words. Why not! I mean, no other God is accessible, like Lord Jagannath is.

When a King was marching on a mighty kingdom to the south, He answered the King’s prayers, came out and marched ahead of the King’s army, and fought on the King’s side. When a low caste devotee was not allowed inside the temple to offer his prayers, Lord Jagannath himself walked down from his temple to accept his devotee’s offering. When his favorite devotee was not allowed inside the temple because he was a Muslim, Lord Jagannath made sure that His chariot stops in front of His favorite devotee’s tomb every year during Rathyatra.

Today happens to be “Bahuda”, the day of homecoming from His annual outing to his Aunt’s place. Well, that is what Rathyatra is all about! Didn’t I tell you in the beginning that He is more human than any God can be? At the same time, Rathyatra is also about meeting all those who could not pay Him a visit at His abode. And it is said, if you see Lord Jagannath on his chariot only once, you are free from the cycle of life and death and will attain Moksh.

True Master of the Universe, don’t you think?

And what better day to start a series on Him and related tales, legends and history (which also includes that of Konark, by the way), than on the day of His homecoming. Get ready for the “Jagannath series”, all of you!

Jai Jagannath!

In frame: Lord Jagannath on His chariot Nandighosh, on the way to His aunt’s place during Rathyatra 2017. Rathyatra is also one of the largest congregation of humans in the world.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Dome Diaries – Epilogue

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

When I first thought of visiting Bijapur and started doing my “research”, I was fascinated to find out how the Adil Shahis of Bijapur stayed sovereign for the two centuries, during which a great churning of power was happening across our counry. It was the same two centuries when Vijayanagara to the south, the Marathas to the west and the Mughals to the north were vying for control of the same piece of land.

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Image: Epitaph of Mohammed Adil Shah, as seen from the balcony seven storeys high, inside the Gol Gumbaz

The things that the Adil Shahi dynasty got right, the things that they got wrong, some pure chance and some meticulous planning. Through this series, I have tried to cover everything that I thought mattered, as far as history of India is concerned. This visit opened up more questions than it actually answered, mostly pertaining to the Marathas. This will mean travelling to the Maratha land, which makes me excited. In due course, I will plan and visit, and whatever happens thereafter, rest assured you will read them here.

Also, customary vote-of-thanks time now! I stayed in “Maurya Adil Shahi” during my visit to Bijapur, a property owned and operated by Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC). This place had a cordial and helping staff, food was okayish. I was not in Bijapur for food, anyways. KSTDC gives guided tour of Bijapur, for a price. However, I chose to pick a guide on my own. And this is where comes Jehangir, my guide in Bijapur, a learned chap and a patient guide, who answered almost all my questions. And given his hold over Indian history, I had a good time discussing history with him. If you are planning a visit to Bijapur, and looking for a guide, do get in touch with me for his number.

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the series. And as I plan and cover more of this land, you will get to hear from me, ermmm.. read from me.. Whatever! You got what I wanted to say.

Ciao!

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame: Epitaph of Mohammed Adil Shah, as seen from the balcony seven storeys high, inside the Gol Gumbaz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

Dome Diaries – Part III: Two and a half tombs, and other things

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

Introduction:

With more than hundred domes of all sizes (the largest of them is 44 mts in diameter, you read that right!), Bijapur is called the “City of Domes”. Of all the structures, the most imposing, intriguing and fascinating are the mausoleums of Ibrahim Adil Shah II and Mohammed Adil Shah, namely Ibrahim Rouza and Gol Gumbaz, respectively. Looks like these Sultans who reigned over Bijapur during its most prosperous period had their mortal life sorted, so they focused more on making their permanent resting places (read tombs) worth staying for a really long long time.

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Image: Ibrahim Rouza and the mosque in Bijapur, Karnataka, India under the pre-monsoon cotton candies, as seen from the entrance

Wait! That’s just two tombs. What is half a tomb? Read on, and you will find out.

TOMB I: Ibrahim Rouza

Ibrahim Rouza was originally commissioned by Ibrahim Adil Shah II as a mausoleum for his beloved queen consort, Taj Sultana, at least half a century before the “monument of love”. That’s right! The Sultan probably laid the foundation of the idea to dedicate grand mausoleums to consorts, which culminated in the grandest of them all, the Taj Mahal in Agra. Although he commissioned the mausoleum for his queen, it was Ibrahim Adil Shah II who died first, and was eventually buried there. Hence, it is named after him, Ibrahim Rouza. It is widely believed that Ibrahim Rouza was the inspiration behind Taj Mahal.

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Image: Ibrahim Rouza in Bijapur, Karnataka, India, as seen up close 

Designed by Persian architect Malik Sandal, this magnificently ornate structure is built of dark grey basalt till the base of the dome. The dome is made of brick and mortar. What makes Ibrahim Rouza stunning is not what is visible from far away, but what is visible from up close. Its walls are filled with fine calligraphy in Arabic, mainly religious. The top portions of the windows also have religious calligraphy in Arabic, but in the form of lattice work on stone. The workers who created these masterpieces would have to be expert craftsmen in lattice work, as well as well-versed with religious scriptures and Arabic.

TOMB II: Gol Gumbaz

Also designed as a mausoleum by Malik Sandal for Mohammed Adil Shah, son of Ibrahim Adil Shah II, at more than seven storeys high Gol Gambuz is the most iconic structure of Bijapur, and the second largest freestanding dome in the world, measuring 44 meters in diameter. The location was chosen for this grand structure because the builders could use a very large basalt as a foundation for this imposing structure. It is said that it took 20,000 men, 23 years to build Gol Gumbaz.

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Image: Gol Gumbaz, the most iconic structure in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

The technique they used here is interesting – perpendicularly overlapping squares as the base, intersecting arches using interlocking stones till the base of the dome, brick mortar on an wooden false structure for the dome, and the wooden structure was removed once the dome was complete. The thickness of the walls on the ground level is about 15 feets, at the base of the dome it is 10 feets, and the width of the dome itself is 9 feets.

HALF A TOMB: Barakamaan

Inspired by his grandfather and father’s mausoleums, Ali Adil Shah II went about starting the work on his mausoleum. Actually planned to be more than twelve storeys high (and hence the name Barakamaan – Bara means twelve and Kamaan means arch) when complete, this structure would have dwarfed the Gol Gumbaz, and could have claimed to be the largest freestanding dome in the world.

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Image: The arches of Barakamaan in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Constant power struggle with the Marathas and pressure from the Mughals meant Ali Adil Shah II could not make available all the resources that this mega structure would need to be completed. And as luck would have it, he would die with his mausoleum still unfinished and would be buried there. As he was the last Sultan of Bijapur to die independent, he would continue to lay under the open skies for eternity.

And other things..

Apart from the two and a half tombs, Bijapur also has two palaces – Gagan Mahal and Asar Mahal built by Ali Adil Shah I and Mohammed Adil Shah, respectively. Built in Persian style, these palaces are much less ornamental than the Adil Shahi mausoleums. Usually two stories high, the roofs were supported by wooden beams, made of teak wood. One such beam can be seen lying beside the Asar Mahal. It is said that the last Adil Shahi Sultan, Sikander Adil Shah surrendered in front of Aurangzeb in Gagan Mahal.

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Image: Asar Mahal in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

The initial Adil Shahi rulers mostly followed Shia Islam, until Ibrahim Adil Shah II converted to Sunni Islam in 1552. His father Ali Adil Shah I had built the Jama Masjid, the Mehraab of which was redecorated with gold paintings by his son Mohammed Adil Shah, and is still one of the most decorated Mehraabs in India. The mosque was built to be used for prayers on special occasions. Given that Adil Shah I was born a Sunni but converted to Shia during later years, the Jama mosque did not have an eastern gate, as is the Sunni practice. The eastern gate was a later addition.

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Image: A guide explains its history to visitors in front of the beautiful Mehraab of Jama Masjid in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Ali Adil Shah I is also credited with building the citadel and the fort, among other things, especially in the post Talikota period. It was during his reign, and reigns of his adopted son Ibrahim Adil Shah II and Mohammed Adil Shah, Bijapur got its iconic buildings. It was a period when Bijapur bloomed, before fading away in the pages of history.

END OF PART III

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame (in order of appearance): 1)  Ibrahim Rouza and the mosque in Bijapur, Karnataka, India under the pre-monsoon cotton candies, as seen from the entrance.

2) Ibrahim Rouza in Bijapur, Karnataka, India, as seen up close. It is also called the “Black Taj” or the “Taj of Deccan”.

3) Gol Gumbaz, the most iconic structure in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. It is the second largest freestanding dome in the world, measuring 44 meters at diameter.

4) The arches of Barakamaan in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. It was planned to be the much bigger than Gol Gumbaz, and could have claimed the distinction of being the largest freestanding dome in the world. But fate had other plans.

5) Asar Mahal in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Unlike their mausoleums, the Sultans’ palaces were very simple two storeyed structures.

6) A guide explains its history to visitors in front of the beautiful Mehraab of Jama Masjid in Bijapur, Karnataka, India, which was redecorated in its current golden paint on orders of Mohammed Adil Shah.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Dome Diaries – Part II: Adil Shahi and curse of the Maratha

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

Background:

The battle of Talikota in 1565 AD and the ensuing defeat of Vijayanagara empire ushered in a period of relative stability, which resulted in prosperity for all the Deccan sultanates. It was particularly so for the Adil Shahis of Bijapur as they shared the longest border with Vijayanagara. Post Talikota Adil Shahi diplomacy was a perfect balance between marriage alliances (with Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar and Qutb Shahis of Golconda) and military campaigns (against Barid Shahis of Bidar). The idea of peace is a relative term, and in medieval India it could be gauged by comparing the length of the reigns of different rulers. Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the sixth Sultan of Bijapur and later his son Mohammed Adil Shah reigned over Bijapur of eight decades. The Bijapur sultanate remained in existence for two centuries in total. Now, that’s peaceful!

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Image: A Canna Red King Humbert flower with Gagan Mahal in the background, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Absence of any threat from Vijayanagara and the diplomacy with other Deccan sultanates meant Bijapur could now exert its control over the majority of the newly conquered area, and most importantly over the very fertile Raichur doab. Steady revenue inflows from the Raichur doab and other conquered  dominions down south, and the immense wealth that was plundered after sacking of the capital of Vijayanagara, improved Bijapur’s finances by manifolds. This newfound abundance was used in uplifting the lifestyle of the subjects, creating architectural marvels, and patronizing art.

The Jagadguru Badshah:

After the demise of Ali Adil Shah I in 1579 AD, his adopted son Ibrahim Adil Shah II took over the reign as Sultan of Bijapur. The new Sultan was a class apart from his predecessors, and would stay so from his successors too. His reign would last for five decades, one fourths of Bijapur sultanate’s total existence. These five decades would unquestionably be the golden period of Bijapur sultanate. The sultanate would transform from religious tolerance as a state policy to religious inclusion, thanks to the Sultan’s efforts to bring cultural harmony between Shias and Sunnis, and Hindus and Muslims.

Ibrahim Adil Shah II would go on to become an acclaimed poet, in addition to being an able and just ruler. He is credited with composing Kitab-e-Navras, which is a collection of 59 poems and 17 couplets, dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganapati, his queen Chaand Sultana, and also his Tanpura “Moti Khan” and his elephant “Atis Khan”, among other things.

All of this earned him the title of “Jagadguru Badshah”. In addition, Ibrahim Adil Shah II gave Bijapur its most prized possession. No, it is not the Gol Gumbaz. He commissioned building of a very ornate mausoleum for his queen consort, Taj Sultana. And by doing so, in all probability he laid the foundation of the idea to dedicate grand mausoleums to consorts, which culminated in the grandest of them all, the Taj Mahal in Agra. Though the mausoleum he had commissioned was built for his queen consort, he was the one to die first and to be buried there. Hence, the mausoleum got its name, Ibrahim Rouza, also called the Black Taj, or the Taj of Deccan (contested, as Bibi ka Maqbara in Aurangabad is also known as the Taj of Deccan).

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Image: The corridor outside the catacomb of Ibrahim Rouza, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

With the demise of Ibrahim Adil Shah II in 1627 AD, Bijapur would near the end of its golden period.

Mohammaed Adil Shah and the curse of the Maratha:

Mohammed Adil Shah took over the throne of Bijapur after his father’s death in 1627 AD. He took over the reigns of Bijapur when the sultanate was at its zenith, and he tried his best to live up to his father’s reputation in his three decades of rule. His efforts were mainly focused on improving the socio-economic and educational standards of his subjects, and succeeded to a large extent.

However, his best known contributions to the history would be these two: 1) Gol Gumbaz, his mausoleum, which is the world’s second largest freestanding dome, and dominates the Bijapuri skyline to date; and 2) His dealing with the revolt of Shahji (Shivaji’s father) and later Shivaji, which turned the Marathas against Bijapur and shaped the present of India as we know today.

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Image: One of the canons outside the museum near Gol Gumbaz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

The Marathas had fought alongside the Deccan sultanates in the battle of Talikota against the Vijayanagara empire. However, events leading up to Bijapur’s alliance with the Mughals during Shah Jahan’s campaign against the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar saw Shahji’s Maratha forces fighting for the sovereignty of the Nizam Shahis. During this campaign Shahji is credited with the decimation of the combined Mughal and Adil Shahi forces manifolds larger than that of his Marathas. Unfavorable turn of events would see Shahji accepting Adil Shahi supremacy and being deputed to manage the jagir of Bangalore, further south.

Shahji would then send his son Shivaji and wife Jijabai to manage his jagirs in Pune. Driven by the vengeance to correct the injustice done to his father by the Adil Shahis, Shivaji would start taking over Bijapur territories, capturing his first fort at a tender age of fifteen. Shivaji’s “misadventures” would “compel” Mohammed Adil Shah to let lose his trusted general Afzal Khan, to teach Shivaji a lesson. This decision, as the Adil Shahis would realize later, would cost them dearly.

Afzal Khan was a big man driven by a strong desire to prove his worth. Notwithstanding Afzal Khan’s bravery on battlefields and physical built, he was of questionable repute and on many occasions had used deception to his advantage. Till this point in time, Marathas were unaffected by the ongoing rivalry between Shivaji and Adil Shahis.

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Image: A priest in Tulja Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, Maharashtra, India

On a relentless pursuit, Afzal Khan would then kill Shivaji’s elder brother Sambhaji using deception, after having asked him to come for negotiations. Sometime later, to provoke and drive out Shivaji, Afzal Khan would attack on the Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, and Vittala temple, in Pandharpur, desecrating the temples in the process. This was a stark departure from Adil Shahi state policy of religious tolerance and inclusion. These events would slowly turn the tides in favor of Shivaji, when other Maratha clans and sub-clans would rally behind him against the Bijapuri forces, grossly angered and humiliated by Afzal Khan’s actions.

Shivaji would kill Afzal Khan, when the latter would try to kill him using the same tactic he had used against Sambhaji, and in the ensuing battle of Pratapgadh, Bijapuri forces would be annihilated. Even after the defeat of Bijapuri forces in subsequent battles with the Marathas, Shah Jahan would still be respecting his treaty with Mohammed Adil Shah, and would allow the latter rule over a sovereign Bijapur. But this wouldn’t last long.

After Mohammed Adil Shah’s demise, his son Ali Adil Shah II would ascend the throne. Constant fighting with the Marathas had already weakened the Bijapur sultanate by then. And a few years later Shah Jahan would give in to the pressure from Aurangzeb and sanction a war against Bijapur to annex it into the Mughal empire. Ali Adil Shah II would die as the last independent Sultan of Bijapur, in 1672 AD. Mughal’s under Aurangzeb would finally annex Bijpaur in 1686 AD. This would give rise to the last of the three most bitterly fought rivalries of the Indian subcontinent of that millenium, that of Shivaji and Aurangzeb (the first being between Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammed of Ghor, and the second between Rana Pratap and Akbar).

Conclusion:

There, two centuries of Adil Shahi history of Bijapur in two parts of “Dome Diaries”. It is fascinating how a certain event leads to a chain of events that change the course of time. For example, had Mohammed Adil Shah tried to negotiate with Shivaji instead of using a military commander like Afzal Khan, India’s past and present would have been entirely different.

Unfortunately, we have not been fully appraised of the past that has shaped our present. I have been reading about history of ancient and medieval India for some time now. It fascinates how (un)related events of India of the past that shaped up the India of today, are (conveniently) ignored by our history books. Few weeks ago, I had written a small piece on drawing parallels during medieval India, and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

END OF PART II

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame (in order of appearance): 1) A Canna Red King Humbert flower with Gagan Mahal in the background, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Gagan Mahal is one of the many palaces in Bijapur.

2) The corridor outside the catacomb in Ibrahim Rouza, Bijapur, Karnataka, India.

3) One of the many canons outside the museum near Gol Gumbaz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. The inscriptions on the face are names of the twelve Imams of the Shia Muslims. This canon is believed to have adorned one of the many bastions on the fort wall, during the reign of Ali Adil Shah I.

4) A priest of Tulja Bhavani, inside the Tulja Bhavani temple, in Tuljapur, Maharashtra, India.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Dome Diaries – Part I: Rise of Adil Shahi, with envy from Delhi?

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

Background:

Black clouds gathered on India’s north western borders adjoining Afghanistan in the middle of 12th century AD. The defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of Muhammad of Ghor would create a vaccuum so powerful in the north, that it would suck hordes of invaders. These black clouds as if consolidated into a storm that would batter the Indian sub-continent for almost two centuries.

After having established foothold of Ghurid empire in India, Muhammad of Ghor would leave Delhi and India to his trusted slave and general – Qutbu l-Din Aibak, who would go on to establish the Delhi sultanate under the first dynasty, called the Mamluk or Slave dynasty. The Slave dynasty then would give way to the Khiljis, within a century of Prithviraj Chauhan’s death. The Khiljis would then give way to the Tughluqs in another thirty odd years. The Tughluqs would rule India for another century. Under Muhammad bin Tughluq (of Delhi to Daulatabad fame, also known as the “wise fool”), the Delhi sultanate would reach its maximum size, a size that could rival the Mauryan empire under Emperor Ashoka millenia earlier, or the Mughal empire under Aurangzeb centuries later.

One thing in common between the first three dynasties of Delhi sultanate was the fact that they ruled over this vast expanse of land not as their own, but as invaders. The mindset of invaders and plunderers coupled with insecurities of losing their reigns to their kin or the fear of an uprising by the masses, made most of the early Sultans of Delhi sultanate some of the cruelest rulers the world would ever see. These rulers were so cruel, that even a slightly lenient/tolerant ruler in their comparison will come across as a Messiah. Please refer to Ibn Batuta’s travelogues and other contemporary accounts for better understanding of their cruelty.

Having amassed an empire that could easily rival the largest empires of the world of that time, Muhammad bin Tughluq left it to his trusted generals and governors to take care of the different provinces of his sultanate, before retiring to Delhi. Foreseeing the fading influence of the Sultan, these generals started declaring independence one after the other. No, this wasn’t unusual! In fact, this was the standard practice of the time – Qutbu l-Din Aibak served Muhammad of Ghor, Firuz Khilji (founder of Khilji dynasty) served Qutbu l-Din Aibak’s Mamluk dynasty, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (founder of Tughlaq dynasty) served the Khiljis.

The Bahmani Sultanate and emergence of Adil Shahi:

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Image: Bijapuri skyline from top of the Gol Gumbuz, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

As per the norm prevalent at that time, appeared in the scene Ala-ud-Din Hasan Bahman Shah, also known as Hasan Gangu. Bahman Shah was the then governor of Deccan under Muhammad bin Tughluq, and declared independence to establish the Bahmani sultanate, with its capital at Gulbarga (now Kalaburgi) and later moved to Bidar, in Karnataka. Per some historians, Bahman is actually derived from the word Brahmin (the Hindu caste), questionably either because of Bahman Shah’s Brahmin ancestry, or the caste of his earlier master Gangadhar Shastri Wabale (from whom he also got his other name, Hasan Gangu).

Bahman Shah could not have chosen a worse time to lay the foundation of his Bahmani sultanate, as only a decade earlier, further south in the peninsular India had emerged another power – the Vijayanagara empire. For the major part of its existence, the Bahmani sultanate would find itself engaged in mutliple battles with Vijayanagara empire contesting for power and control over land, especially the Raichur doab, before being weakened and disintegrating into five sultanates of Deccan, together called as Deccan sultanates – The sultanates of Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar, Imad Shahi of Berar, Barid Shahi of Bidar, Qutb Shahi of Golconda and Adil Shahi of Bijapur.

Yusuf Adil Shah, founder of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur served the Bahmani sultanate before declaring independence. For the next five decades, the five Deccan sultanates would be played against each other by Vijayanagara empire’s diplomacy, before coming together in a confederacy in the battle of Talikota in 1565 AD and defeating Vijayanagara. Vijayanagara empire would not recover from this defeat, paving way for consolidation of power in southern India. Hence, the battle of Talikota is seen as a pivotal point in history of India and southern India in particular. The confederacy of the Deccan sultanates was the brain child of Ali Adil Shah I, the fifth Sultan of Bijapur.

Off the topic, but worth mentioning here that the battle of Talikota also saw the Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar pressing Malik-e-Maidan, the largest canon of its time into service.

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Image: Malik-e-Maidan the second largest medieval canon in India, which now adorns a bastion on the western wall of the fort, in Bijapur, Karnataka, India

Consolidation:

After having tackled the dangers to the south, the Adil Shahis under Ali Adil Shah I and later Sultans, focused on consolidating their power, through a clever combination of marriage alliances (with Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar and Qutb Shahis of Golconda) and military campaigns (against Barid Shahis of Bidar).

The plundered wealth from Vijayanagara gave the Adil Shahis the much needed capital infusion at the end of a very tumultuous period. The wealth was used to launch numerous ambitious projects under succeeding Sultans. The absence of any real threat for the next eight decades meant that the Adil Shahis focused more on culture, and art and creation of architectural marvels.

While the Adil Shahis were busy consolidating their powers to the south of Vindhyas, the Mughal empire under Akbar was making steady progress into peninsular India, having subdued Malwa and Khandesh in the process. Here, again a precious piece of history is lost as a footnote in the history books, because some historian mistook Akbar and Delhi for India.

I have been reading about history of ancient and medieval India for some time now. It fascinates how (un)related events of India of the past that shaped up the India of today, are (conveniently) ignored by our history books. Few weeks ago, I had written a small piece on drawing parallels during medieval India, and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

END OF PART I

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame (in order of appearance): 1) Cotton candies and Bijapuri skyline, from top of Gol Gombuz, Bijapur, Karnataka. Gol Gombuz is the second largest freestanding dome in the world. The outer as well as inner side of the dome is accessible through staircases inside the minars on all four sides of the structure.

2) Malik-e-Maidan, the second largest medieval canon in Indian subcontinent. Made of five metals, this canon weighs 55 tonnes and had a range of 3-5 kilometers. Noticed closely, you can notice the legs of a horse (signifying the canon’s range), an elephant body (signifying the canon’s weight), inside a lion’s mouth (signifying the canon’s roar when fired). Originally cast by the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar in 1549 AD, the Malik-e-Maidan now adorns a bastion on the western wall of the Bijapur fort.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

 

Dome Diaries – Prologue

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

There, a brief but bright lightning far away and on my right side. One more, this time slightly closer and in the front. And as I press the accelerator, dry leaves fly on to my path and get illuminated in front of the headlamps. The winds are picking up and I can feel the crosswinds on my steering wheel. Most probably an end of summer thunderstorm. It has been dark for some time now and this stretch of road is narrow, as it passes through a reserve forest. Bad time and place to get caught in rains!

And my desk phone rang. It was the client. Damn! I was day-dreaming, again, lost in my thoughts as I stared at my desktop monitor. As if I had been teleported to one of the scenes from my recent solo road-trip.

A scene which looked like this!

Screen FB

This happens every time I come back from a trip. As if my heart stays outside the city limits, and refuses to come back in with me. And then, it keeps calling me to get out on my next trip!

This one was a long weekend road-trip. Long weekends are meant for travel, because I have recently realized that sleeping is too lazy. I realize things late, like thirty-odd-years late. Anyways, I thought of taking Pearl (that’s what I call my Scorpio; and yes, it is perfectly normal behavior!) out to stretch her legs a bit. And when you take a Scorpio out to stretch its legs, the most important thing it needs is leg room. My Pearl is no different! I decided 400kms one side was just enough leg room Pearl would need for stretching. So, Bijapur it was!

For starters, Bijapur (presently known as Vijayapura, in Karnataka, India) was the erstwhile capital of the Adil Shahis, one of the five Sultanates that the Bahamani kingdom broke into. It will not be an exaggeration if I call Bijapur as the “City of Domes”, because of the hundred odd small and big domes that dot the city’s skyline.

I have been reading about history of ancient and medieval India for some time now. It fascinates how (un)related events of India of the past that shaped up the India of today, are (conveniently) ignored by our history books. Few weeks ago, I had written a small piece on drawing parallels during medieval India, and called it “Drawing Parallels”. You can read it here.

The reason I chose Bijapur was because of the role it played in our history that shaped our present. After all, Adil Shahis of Bijapur stayed sovereign for two centuries. The same two centuries when Vijayanagara to the south, the Marathas to the west and the Mughals to the north were vying for control of the same piece of land.

Join me in a series of posts titled “Dome Diaries”, in the coming days. I will try to comprehend the later Adil Shahis of Bijapur, and their fascination for grand mausoleums, architectural marvels that are Gol Gombuz and Ibrahim Rouza, discover their religious inclinations (Adil Shahi rulers came from both sides of the Muslim community – the Shias and the Sunnis), and if possible, also their diplomacy and military might.

Dome Diaries Navigator – Prologue  ||  Part I  ||  Part II  ||  Part III  ||  Epilogue

In frame: A narrow stretch of empty road lit by my car’s headlamps and shot on mobile (No! I was not using the mobile while driving). This stretch of road was between Kalaburgi (Gulbarga as it is presently known), Karnataka and Hyderabad, Telengana, in India.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Drawing Parallels

I tend to start reading about people, places or things as soon as I develop a small interest in them, and then the interest tends to grow on me. It is as if I feel hungry, until a point where I realise that I have devoured every piece of information, or trivia that existed on the said topic – Bhimbetka was earlier this week (you can read here), and Amrapali the week before (you can read here).

However, the case of Hampi is completely different. I was on my second visit to Hampi within a year. And I did not understand the pull that Hampi exerted on me. Hampi was the capital of the mighty Vijayanagara empire. Having read megabytes about Hampi, to the point of obsession, the said pull never subsided. And no, it has got nothing to do with the other side of Hampi. And yes, recently, I cracked the curious case of the pull, the constant tugging that Hampi exerts on my mind, which I promise to reveal later in this post.

Ah, history books!

As a general practice, when reading about kingdoms, I tend to check what was happening in the Indian sub-continent, if not around the world, during the same time, hoping to chance upon a significant event, that might have mysteriously failed to appear in our history chapters. The more I read, the more I realise that we contemporary Indians have been made an ignorant lot. We, when focusing on any event in history, tend to ignore the events of a parallel time line, however significant those are. So do our history text books, conveniently.

The beginning of 16th century was a time of tremendous churning in North India. The Lodi Sultanate of Delhi was routed by a mere 12,000 strong Mughal army of Babur in 1526 AD, and Babur laid foundation of the Mughal empire in India, by defeating Rana Sanga of Mewar.

We all have read in our history books about Sultanates of Delhi and how Mughal empire was established, correct? What we haven’t read in our history books is this!

While Babur was ravaging North India, the lands to the south of Narmada were relatively peaceful. One man had subjugated the Sultans of Deccan, the Portugese on the west coast, the Reddys of Kondavidu, the Velamas of Bhuvanagiri and even the Gajapatis of Kalinga to the east. Though questionable, it is believed that Babur did not dare cross Narmada, fearing that one man and close to a million strong army the man commanded. May be, Babur preferred a buffer of sovereign states between his realm, and that of the man who could have easily become his nemesis. Krishnadevaraya was his name, most prominent Emperor of Vijayanagara, and the third one from Tuluva dynasty. He reigned for 20 years (1509-1529 AD), which is considered as the golden period of Vijayanagara, as well as southern India.

At a time when religious persecutions were common place elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent, mainly in the north, Krishnadevaraya ensured equal rights for every subject of his empire irrespective of the religion they practised. For a sovereign to prosper, its borders must be secured. He achieved this through his unmatched military acumen and diplomacy. He implemented many reforms that economically benefited all his subjects.

That’s not all! He was an accomplished poet, well versed in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Sanskrit. Art flourished in his reign, examples of which exist even today, either in the form of poetry composed by Krishnadevaraya himself or one of the many prominent poets who graced his court (Tenali Rama being most prominent of them), or in the form of exquisite sculptures that grace the temple ruins across Hampi. Vijayanagara emerged as the centre of intellect during Krishnadevaraya’s rule.

Vijayanagara empire ceased to exist after the battle of Talikota, in 1565 AD, when combined forces of Deccan Sultans defeated its army. The victorious armies plundered and pillaged Hampi for six long months.

There! A significant chunk of our own legacy that most of us are not aware of. I never read about the glorious Vijayanagara empire in my history books. And I bet, neither did most of you!

Finally, the promise kept!

Didn’t I promise in the beginning, to reveal the curious case of the pull, the constant tugging that Hampi exerts on my mind? Here it is!

Krishnadevaraya was the third from the Tuluva dynasty which ruled Vijayanagara empire from 1491 AD till its end. I recently discovered that rulers of Tuluva dynasty, were ancestors of the people that we know today as Tulus, primarily from the Udupi-Mangalore-Kasargod region of the Konkan coast. And my mother is a Tulu, that too from the warrior clan!

The pull or the constant tugging I was experiencing, was in fact of the people from the land of my mother!

In frame: A tourist exploring the ruins, in one of the many ancient gates of Vijaya Vittala temple, Hampi, Karnataka.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

Anatomy of a photographer’s mind

“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” – Elliott Erwitt.

Why do we take photographs? To document? To record? To cherish a memory, or as a key to the past… time travel, you see? And in worst case as evidence or proof. Right? For those of us who have difficulty with words (and even for those who have a way with words), it is easier and far less cumbersome to explain events through photographs. Ever heard of Instagram?

What would have we done if we had lived in an era where there was no Instagram or even cameras? Answer would be painting, yes? In most cases, we wouldn’t have painted those ourselves. Rather, we would have hired a painter. If we take out the elements of imagination and creativity, the primitive instinct which drives this behaviour is our propensity to record the events around us.

That, my friend, is the primary motive behind visual art! That’s where it all started.

Wait! How old is visual art?

Hold your breath!

The oldest existing painting is at least 40,800 years old (El Castillo, northern Spain). The oldest surviving examples of paintings in the Indian sub-continent are at least 30,000 years old, in the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Vindhya range in Madhya Pradesh, India. These rock shelters are believed to have been continuously inhabited right up to the medieval period. And the same primitive instinct which I mentioned earlier, was the driving force behind the paintings of Bhimbetka, for close to 30 millennia.

The procession (see photo) was one such event of ancient India, which the dwellers of Bhimbetka recorded. The painting is that of a royal procession, with possibly a very important figure seated on the decorated horse at the front. Some say, it is the royal procession of Emperor Ashoka, himself. Even I believe so, for three reasons. First, for the dwellers of Bhimbetka to depict something, it had to be an extremely important event. Second, Ashoka was the governor of Vidisha during the reign of his father, Bindusara, Emperor of Magadh. Vidisha lies about 90 kms north of Bhimbetka. And third, this painting dates back to the classical period which starts sometime around 3rd century BC, about the same time as Ashoka.

Now, go back up and the read the quote by Elliott Erwitt, while looking at the painting in the photo. Do you understand why we take photographs?

I got to confess, if not a photographer and a storyteller, I would love to be a historian. But wait, in a way aren’t historians storytellers too?

In frame: The Royal Procession, Rock shelter no. 8, Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh, India

You can read more about Elliott Erwitt here.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

वैशाली की आम्रपाली

/*

/
मैं एक साधारण सी कन्या, एक सामान्य सा जीवन चाहती थी,
परंतु वैशालीनरेश मनुदेव के वासना की वेदी पर मेरे प्रेम की बली चढ़ाई गई।
मनुदेव की वासना पूरी करती, मैं बनी नगरवधु,
नगरवधु समझते हैं? वैशाली के प्रत्येक पुरुष की वधु।
कारण? वैशाली गणतंत्र था – जो वैशालीनरेश की, वह वैशाली की, एवं प्रत्येक वैशालीवासी की।
मैं आम्रपाली, साधारण सी कन्या, वैशाली की आम्रपाली बन गयी…
/
यहाँ के पुरुष जाति में मुझे पाने की एक भयानक सी विक्षिप्तता थी,
पौरुष का उन्माद कुछ ऐसा था, की ना पुरुष बचते, ना वैशाली।
मेरे वैशाली की अखंडता को सुरक्षित रखने के लिए मैं जनपद कल्याणी बनायी गयी,
काम वही था, बस एक सान्त्वना थी की मैं अपना साथी खुद चुनती।
/
आए मगधनरेश बिम्बिसार, एक संगीतकार के भेष में,
मैं उनके प्रेम की वश में आई ही थी कि मुझे उनका असल स्वरुप ज्ञात हुआ।
वे मुझे बनाना चाहते थे मगध की महारानी…
विडम्बना यह थी कि वैशाली एवं मगध के युद्ध में कोई ना बचता, यदि वैशाली की आम्रपाली मान जाती,
वैशाली को सुरक्षित रखने के लिए, आम्रपाली को अपने प्रेम की बली चढ़ानी पड़ी।
/
फिर आए अजातशत्रु, बिम्बिसार के पुत्र एवं उनके पश्चात मगधनरेश,
मेरे सौन्दर्य की आसक्ति उन्हें वैशाली की ओर खींच लाई,
वैशाली ने अपने आम्रपाली को बाँटने से मना कर दिया,
एवं अजातशत्रु की कामाग्नि में जल कर राख हो गया।
जिस वैशाली के लिए मैंने अपने शरीर को तपा दिया था,
वह वैशाली ना रहा… आम्रपाली का वैशाली ना रहा…
/
दुखी और असहाय मैं, लगा मुझे कहीं से एक सहारा मिल गया,
जब मैंने एक बौद्ध भिक्षु से प्रेम का निवेदन किया।
जिस आम्रपाली का सौन्दर्य किसी भी पुरुष को मोहित कर देता,
वह सौन्दर्य एक भिक्षु के आगे हार गया…
मैं वैशाली की आम्रपाली उस भिक्षु के पीछे चली व चलती गई,
उस भिक्षु को मैं अपने प्रेम में बाँध ना पाई,
मैं वैशाली की आम्रपाली स्वयं भिक्षुणी बन गई।
/
मैं वैशाली की आम्रपाली…
/
*/
/

Well, this is the story of Amrapali! An infant Amrapali was found under a mango tree and hence the name (Amra in Sanskrit means mango). Thanks to the twists and turns of fate, Amrapali, a simple girl, was made the “Nagarvadhu” (bride of the whole city) of Vaishali, and then went on to become the “Janapada Kalyani” (most talented woman of the realm), and at the end became a nun and one of the most prominent women disciples of Buddha himself. While she lived in opulence, she became sick and tired of being pursued for her enchanting beauty, and realised that worldly desires bring only sorrow. She renounced all desires at the end.

I had heard of Amrapali, but it was only after seeing her figurine on the eastern gate of Sanchi (see photo), that I began my research on her. This figurine of Amrapali challenges our current social beliefs, and appears to be nude. Not so soon! If you notice closely, she is shown wearing a body hugging garment made of satin. Even I didn’t believe it, till my guide took me to the back side of the figurine and pointed out the folds in the garment, which were more prominent at the back. Such were the master sculptors. No wonder, Sanchi proudly bears the tag of a “World Heritage Site” for its exquisitely carved gates on all four sides.

Wait! How am I convinced that she is Amrapali, apart from my guide telling me so? Internet tells us that she is Shalabhanjika, a Yakshi. But no! If she was indeed Shalabhanjika, as the name suggests she would be seen with a shal tree and not with a mango tree, as is in this case. Mango means Amra, and hence Amrapali. Simple!

Coming back to the story of Amrapali before she became a nun, as it turns out, Bimbisara, the then Emperor of Magadh (present day Bihar) and later his son Ajaatshatru (who went on to arrest his father and capture the throne of Magadh for himself), were among many suitors of Amrapali. Both Bimbisara and Ajaatshatru were unquestionably amongst the most powerful men of India of that time. Not undermining the trauma she must have gone through earlier as the bride of Vaishali, in due course Amrapali had garnered enough audacity, power and voice to say no to even Emperors. Talk of women empowerment!

In course of my research, I found out that the timeline was 6th-5th century BC. I learned, as hard as it is to believe, Vajji Mahajanapada, of which Vaishali was the capital, was a democratic republic of sorts. That was more than 2,500 years ago. Point to be noted here is, Alexander the Great and other Greeks would arrive in India only two centuries later. So, a democratic republic of sorts not only existed, but also flourished in India, even before the Greeks arrived. However, Greece is considered as the origin of democracy. Interesting, isn’t it?

Will you agree, it is enough of history lessons for one post? I bet you will! And I promise to cover Sanchi in detail, in one of my later posts.

Until then!

Credits: Hindi “Bonds”, who also happen to be my good friends, helped me in proof reading the Hindi poem “Vaishali ki Amrapali”. Not formally trained in Hindi, I had committed many mistakes in the first draft and they helped me fix them – Tulika Poddar, Sonam Chamaria, Aradhana Singh and Pallavi Jain.

In frame: Eastern gate, Stupa no. 1, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India

Note: Please get in touch if you have difficulty in reading Hindi, and would prefer an English translation of the poem instead.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

जौहर

/*
नज़दीक आती हुई क़दमों की आवाज़, ये आधम खान के सिपाही हैं,
लगता है उसने मेरी पेशगी का हुक्म दिया है।
लेकिन उसको क्या पता, की आपकी रूपमती..
आपकी रूपमती किसी गैर मर्द की ना हो पाएगी।

सुलतान, मेरी एक आखरी ख़्वाहिश थी आपको देखने की… अगर आप होते..
लेकिन, सारंगपुर की जंग में आप शायद शहीद हो गए।
और मुझे यकीन है…
मुझे यकीन है, मेरे साथ ये ना होता, अगर आप होते…

फिर भी कहीं एक छोटी सी उम्मीद थी..
उम्मीद थी की मालवा के सुलतान अपने रूपमती को बचाने आएंगे…

अब नहीं, और नहीं..
रूपमती अपने प्यार को…

थोड़ा सा दर्द, और थोड़ा सिसकना..
फिर आँखोँ के सामने धीरे धीरे गिरता हुआ अँधेरे का पर्दा…
अब ज्यादा देर नहीं है… मैं क़यामत तक अपने सुलतान की।

मैं रूपमती, और ये मेरा जौहर…..
*/

Mandu, or Mandav was capital of erstwhile kingdom of Malwa. Mandu is dotted with love tales of Sultan Baz Bahadur of Malwa, and his queen consort Roopmati.

Kingdom of Malwa used to be a vassal of the Mughals, and had declared indepedence taking advantage of the instability that ensued just after Akbar had taken control.

Akbar then sent his foster brother Adham Khan and a large contingent of the Mughal army to subdue Malwa. Adham Khan, who had by then heard of Roopmati’s enchanting beauty, had resolved to defeat Malwa and take her as a prized possession of his harem.

Baz Bahadur faced Adham Khan and the Mughals in Sarangpur with a small contingent. Baz Bahadur’s contingent was no match for the mighty Mughals and he escaped after being defeated.

Adham Khan then marched on to Mandav. Thinking that Baz Bahadur was slained in the battle, Roopmati poisoned herself, as she could not have seen another man in her life. Such was her love.

In due time, Adham Khan was executed by Akbar. Baz Bahadur surrendered to Akbar and was in return made the mansabdar of Malwa.

And for Roopmati, her love and loyalty for Baz Bahadur still fascinates imagination of the new generation of tourists to Mandu.

Credits:
The short piece in Hindi at the top is an original by yours truly. Take it as an ode to Roopmati’s love and loyalty.

Technical help in proof-reading the Hindi poem and text – Sonam Chamaria

In frame – Hindola Mahal in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, India

Note: Please get in touch for the English translation of the poem, if you have difficulty reading Hindi.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.