In search of “Nothingness”

Bira (pronounced as Bee-raw, meaning brave in Odia) was born into a Brahmin family, in a Brahman Sasan. In Odisha, a Brahman Sasan is a village where every family is Brahmin. He grew up witnessing the monster called Brahmin supremacy and the twisted, distorted Hindu Sanatan religion. Tired of it, he and few of his friends went to Joranda and embraced Mahima Dharma. That was seven decades ago.

The allegation that was levelled against Bira was that he had converted and was no more a Hindu, so he and his family need to pay a fine to continue to stay in the village, to which Bira sternly refused. As a result, his family was banished from their ancestral village. One of main reasons was, even after being a Brahmin himself, Bira had challenged their supremacy. All other families of the village were asked to not keep any kind transaction with his family.

In the meantime, a letter was written to the high seat of Hindus in Jagannath temple, in Puri, asking them to advise a future course of action in Bira’s case. To which, they replied that it was settled long back and Mahima Dharma was very much a part of the Sanatan Hindu fold. After the ban on Bira’s family was lifted, having his point proven he chose to stay back in his ancestral village fighting further religious atrocities and intolerance, till he left for a city close by for his children’s education few decades later.

Bira Panigrahy was my grandfather. Of the group of people who embraced Mahima Dharma on that day, more than seven decades ago, only my grandfather continued to be a follower till his death. Any history of my association with Mahima Dharma would be incomplete without mentioning the brave man who was much ahead of his time. As I sat down to write this post, devotional songs written by the blind poet Bhim Bhoi and sang by Mahima devotees rang in the background. The devotees, even though having full time professions, accompany the monks  wherever they go. They were at our home as we were conducting something known as a “Balyaleela”, a yagna of sorts. The occasion this time was my grandfather’s death anniversary.

As per the teachings of Mahima Swamy (as the Master of Mahima Dharma is called), a human doesn’t need any intermediaries to reach the Supreme. All humans are born equals despite caste, creed, color, race, gender and religion. That there is only one God, the Supreme, who is shapeless and colorless, the nothingness in other words. The Supreme resides in every living and non-living being and everything resides in the Supreme. Mahima Dharma is a form of Vishisht Advaita, where every living being is respected equally. Followers of Mahima Dharma worship the nature and the universe, the nothingness within and without, and pray for well being of every living being of the universe.

The Offering
A Mahima monk accepting a coconut being offered by a follower of Mahima Dharma at “Dhuni Mandir”, the temple of fire in Mahimagadi, at Joranda, Dhenkanal, Odisha. The offered coconut will be burned in the holy fire.

The monks of Mahima Dharma as directed by Mahima Swamy himself follow an extremely ascetic lifestyle. For example, when they visit the houses of devotees, they not allowed to stay for more than a night, and are not supposed to go inside the house. They eat under the open skies, and are not allowed to sleep on beds for the rest of their lives. Giving up basically everything that would even remotely qualify as modern comfort. They have only one task at hand, spread the message of the Master, and in the process move ahead in their spiritual journey.

When I was on a road trip with parents in Odisha few months back, something strange had happened. After having spent few minutes in the Indralath temple, in Ranipur-Jharial, we came out and were getting ready to get inside the car. A drunk shepherd approached my father from nowhere, and told him “A Mahima monk had come here many many years ago when I was a kid. And he hosted a “Balyaleela” (a ritual done on special occasions), and there were lakhs of people.” There were no identifications either on my father or on our car which suggested that any of us were a follower of Mahima Dharma. The followers of Mahima Dharma are a very very small fraction of the total population.

Before that, when I had gone to see Puri during Rathyatra last year, I received a call from an unknown number. On the other side was a Mahima monk who visits our family very often. “Have you become a Jagannath devotee?”, he asked me, when on being asked I told him that I was in Puri. Worshiping deities, shapes or  forms is forbidden in Mahima Dharma.That the monk had called me for the first time ever, when I had come to see Lord Jagannath had to mean something; also, what the drunk shepherd was mumbling in front of the Indralath temple.

The celestial message was clear to me. I had to go visit the Mahimagadi, the seat of Mahima Dharma at Joranda, in Dhenkanal, Odisha. And what better time than the annual Maghmela, on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Magh.

On 31 January, 2018, Joranda was a mission accomplished!


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.

64 Yoginis – And a message to my father

The 64 Yogini Temple:

Ranipur Jharial was the first stop on the recent road-trip I did with my parents in Odisha. We reached here after a gruelling 6 hours drive from my home town. The 64 Yogini temple of Ranipur Jharial in Bolangir district in Odisha, is one of the only 4 such temples dedicated to 64 Yoginis that exist in the whole country. Two of them are in Odisha – the other one in Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar.

The 64 Yogini temple is located atop small hill, which is a single rock spread over many acres. On that rock there are also many small temples dedicated mainly to Lord Shiva. What would catch your eye however is the peculiar structure of the 64 Yogini temple.

64 Yogini Temple
The 64 Yogini Temple under the sun on a cloudy day, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India.

It is a circular hypaethral temple. The deities of 64 Yoginis adorn the inner side of the circular temple. The centre of the temple is adorned by an image of three faced Lord Shiva, Adi Yogi himself, embracing his wife Goddess Parvati. This temple is believed to have been built by Somavamshi Keshari kings in 9th-10th century AD. All the deities are made of sandstone.

Lord Shiva
Three faced Lord Shiva at the center of 64 Yogini Temple, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India. I shot this frame using my 35mm Canon FTb QL manual film SLR on an Ilford HP5 Plus 400.

The temple is designed in such a way that energy from all the 64 Yoginis would stay within the circular wall of the temple, and the yogis and sadhaks who did their sadhana here would benefit immensely from the concentrated energy from all Yoginis. The 64 Yoginis also represent 64 types of Siddhis a human can achieve.

The Indralath Temple:

Indralath Temple
The elevation of Indralath Temple from up close, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India.

Another attraction in Ranipur Jharial is the 60ft tall Indralath temple, the oldest and tallest brick temple in Odisha. Also built during 9th/10th century AD by Somavamshi Keshari kings, it is believed that this temple was probably dedicated to Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. Interestingly however, the designs and statues on the outer wall of the temple suggest Buddhist influence on the architecture. The statues on the outer wall are made of clay and mud and are burnt to give them longevity, as it was done for the bricks.

The Experience:

Before I started the journey, I was told that it is not advisable and safe to go on top of the hill during the month of Ashadh, or the first month of monsoon, because of the numerous lightning strikes that have happened in the past. We were well past Ashadh, so that was a relief.

64 Yogini Temple
The 64 Yogini Temple, in Ranipur Jharial, Bolangir, Odisha, India. I shot this frame using my 35mm Canon FTb QL manual film SLR on an Ilford HP5 Plus 400.

When I went on top of the rock, near the temple, the first thing I noticed about the place was the calmness, even if it was windy. However, the calmness was only on the surface. The place was full of some mystic energy, as if all the yogis and sadhaks who did their sadhana here left their legacy behind for the later generations to experience. Although there were many things running through my mind, when I closed my eyes, it was as if I got teleported instantaneously into another realm. What happened with my father however, was interesting! And I was a witness.

My father, as were both my paternal grand parents, is a follower of Satya Mahima Dharma, and he has been practising meditation for many years now. One of the youngest sects of Hinduism, quite interestingly, this sect also had 64 Siddh Purush (64 men with Siddhis). Numbering just a tiny fraction of Odisha’s population the followers of this sect do not worship any deity. Very much a part of Hinduism, they believe that to reach the Supreme you do not need any mediums. One of my next projects is to highlight this sect to the mainstream, so look out for that.

Being himself, my father decided to check how it feels to sit in meditation near the 64 Yogini temple. So, he removed his shoes, sat on the platform and closed his eyes and went into a meditative state. And I got busy taking photos. Few minutes later, I got back to him, and by that time he was done. I asked him how was it, and he told me that he could feel some kind of energy. After that we decided to visit the nearby Indralath temple nearby, and it was all fine till then.

It got weird when after having spent few minutes in the Indralath temple, we came out and were getting ready to get inside the car. A drunk shepherd approached my father from nowhere, and said “A Mahima sadhu (a preacher of the sect of which my father is a follower) had come here many many years ago when I was a kid. And he hosted a Balyaleela (a ritual done only special occasions), and there were lakhs of people.”

There were no identifications either on my father or on our car which suggested that any of us were a follower of that particular sect. The practitioners of this sect are very very small fraction of  the total population. To give you all an idea, there are only 2/3 families of this sect in my hometown which a population of at least one lakh. Too much of a coincidence, right?

The only thing that could possibly explain this incident was probably the fact that there are strong energies still existent in the 64 Yogini temple and nearby, and after father meditated there, he “was sent a message” that the path he had chosen for himself (that of Satya Mahima Dharma) is right for him, and he does not need to divert now. We reached at this conclusion after discussing on this incident for some time.

And then we decided to move ahead with our journey, a 2,000km road-trip across Odisha, which turned out to be quite eventful in its own right. More on that later!

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.

 

 

Caro(m)kshetra

Caro(m)kshetra
The Striker and the pieces on a carom board

They are family, kin and friends, how could one kill,
Void they would leave behind, who would be able to fill.

The ones that he grew up playing with, and the ones who taught,
Unable to take on them, was there a way the battle won’t be fought.

The battlefield lay in front of him, and the warriors gave battle cries,
He was unable to pick up his weapon, even after a million tries.

He was given a code to live by, and million reasons to kill,
Told they were his enemies, whose void he need not fill.

He was shaken violently, when he hesitated and refused to fight,
To see things clearly, like he would in the morning after a dark night.

He was chosen for this task because he was mighty and just,
Unlike mightier warriors filled with jealousy and blood-lust.

The ones in front of him were dead the day they joined the wrong,
With justice and morality on his side, he felt ever so strong.

Understanding his duty and worth, he started killing with rage,
Without seeing who was in front of him, or what was their age.

He killed for many days, and many of his beloved ones were taken away,
Rule of justice finally established when he stopped, and was there to stay.


This poem and the accompanying photograph are my attempt to draw an analogy between the Kurukshetra war and our day to day life, even something as uneventful as playing carom.

I try to portray one of the most important teachings of Bhagvad Gita, that attachments make us lose sense of right and wrong, just and injustice, moral and immorality. To uphold and do what is right, one must rise above every form of attachment, and look at things objectively. And when the time comes to do one’s duty, it has to be done no matter what.

In frame: The striker and the pieces on a carom board, clicked on manual mode using my Oneplus 3 phone during the carom tournament at office. This photo was edited using Google Snapseed.

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.

Buddha, who?

He is Avalokiteshwara also known as Padmapani. He is a Bodhisattva, who embodies compassion of all the Buddhas. Avalokiteshwara literally translates into “Lord who contemplates”, and Padmapani is someone who has a lotus in his hand (Padma – lotus, Pani – hand).

Per early Buddhism, Bodhisattva is Gautama Buddha in his previous lives, and forms the very foundation of Jataka tales. According to later Buddhism, Bodhisattva is someone who has a wish and mind compassionate enough to attain Buddhahood.

Who is a Buddha?

Wait! What do I mean by “a” Buddha? Were there more than one Buddhas?

By Buddha, we generally mean Gautama Buddha. And He was just one of them, but unquestionably the most popular one. Actually, Buddha is someone who has attained enlightenment and has fully comprehended the four noble truths of – pain, origin of pain, cessation of pain, and the path that will lead to the cessation of pain.

According to contemporary Tibetan Buddhism, Avalokiteshwara is someone who looks after all beings with compassion, and usually emanates as Dalai Lama. He is also known as Shadakshari, the “Lord of six syllables”.

What six syllables?

If you have seen those colourful Tibetan prayer flags, have you ever wondered what is written on them? This is what you will find written on them – “Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum”. That’s six syllables. Each of these six syllables are believed to purify the following things in humans, respectively – Pride or Ego, Jealousy or Lust, Passion or Desire, Ignorance or Prejudice, Greed or Possessiveness, Aggression or Hatred. That is precisely all of humanity’s problems in six syllables.

Padmapani
Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India.

Why Buddha?

In ancient India, when the vedic culture turned from being highly scientific into merely ritualistic, the caste system became very rigid. And a vacuum was created which demanded the presence of a spiritual leader who could make humans see the things the way the were, and hence emergence of Gautama Buddha. And He became popular for taking a scientific approach towards attaining Nirvana. His teachings were very simple and spread like wildfire, sweeping settlement after settlement, and laid foundation of early Buddhism.

In frame: Padmapani, the most famous painting in Ajanta caves, Maharashtra, India. You can find this painting on the left side of the sanctum in cave no.: 1 of Ajanta. Because of extremely low light, photographing paintings inside the Ajanta caves can be challenging and can put your technical skills to test, especially if you are clicking in manual mode.

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.

Jagannath Series – Part II: The Krishna Connection

Today is Niladri Bije, the last day of the Rathjatra festival when the three siblings – Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra enter the temple after coming back from their annual outing to their aunt’s place. No one stops the other two siblings from entering the temple, but when Lord Jagannath approaches the temple gates, his wife Devi Lakshmi closes the gates and does not allow him to enter. She is angry with Him, as He didn’t take Her along when He went out nine days earlier. Like any other husband, Lord Jagannath has to pacify Her with gifts. And He gifts her Kheermohan, a sweet made of chhena, that somewhat looks like His eyes. The modern name of Kheermohan is Rasagola (or like Bengalis would prefer calling it, Rosogulla). Now, that I have put down facts which prove that Rasagola is infact an Odia delicacy, let us move to a rather more serious topic, that of Lord Jagannath’s origins.

“Niladri” means blue mountain in Sanskrit, and “Bije” means climbing. It is believed that the original Jagannath temple was built on a blue mountain. The current Jagannath temple was built on the same site as the original one.

After the Mahabharata, the Yadavs went extinct after killing each other in a fratricidal war. Lord Krishna had one last “leela” to take care of, before the end of the Avatar. The last “leela” had one more character – Jara, reincarnation of Angad, son of Bali from Ramayan, and a tribal hunter in his current life. Angad was given a boon in the previous life by Lord Ram, who had killed his father Bali, that he would get his chance to avenge his father’s death.

One hot afternoon, Lord Krishna was resting under the shade of a tree. Jara, who was out hunting, from behind the bushes mistook Lord Krishna’s toe for the ear of a deer, and shot an arrow. The arrow proved fatal for Lord Krishna, and the Avatar came to an end. Thus, Jara avenged his father’s death.

Krishna Connection

Image: Remains of a statue of Lord Krishna in a dilapidated building near the Ananta Padmanabha Sway temple, in Ananthagiri, Telangana, India. 

Lord Krishna’s dear friend Arjun was called for His cremation. At the end of it, everything else except Lord Krishna’s heart had turned into ash. Arjun then picked up his dear friend’s heart, put it inside a neem log with Shankh (conch), Chakra (disk), Gada (mace) and Padma (lotus) symbols on it (the four symbols of Lord Vishnu, of whom boh Sri Ram and Sri Krishna were avatars), and floated it in the sea.

That piece of log with Sri Krishan’s heart in it voyaged through the sea, from Dwarka on the west coast to Puri on the east, and eventually took the form of the first Lord Jagannath. How it took the form of Lord Jagannath is a tale for another time. Wait! Did I say “first” Lord Jagannath? Does it mean that there were many Lord Jagannaths? Much to your astonishment, the answer is yes!

Every twelve to nineteen years Lord Jagannath reincarnates into a new body, in an event called Nabakalebara. During Nabakalebara, the “brahma” or the “tattva”, the life of Lord Jagannath, which is said to be the heart of Lord Krishna, is placed in a new body, and the old body is cremated. Him going through the cycles of life and death highlights the fact that everything that is here on Martyalok (as Earth is also called in Sanskrit, where death is inevitable) has to function by the rule of the land. More on Nabakalebara is also a tale for another time.

/Disclaimer: Based on legends, folklores and part fiction/

In frame: Remains of a statue of Lord Krishna in a dilapidated building near the Ananta Padmanabha Swamy temple, in Ananthagiri, Telengana, 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.

 

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.