Me too!

The sun had hidden behind the highrises for quite sometime now, and it was starting to get dark. The slum by the side of the polluted lake was getting ready for Diwali, in its own way.

“Kali, give Debu something to eat.”, said Kartik, Kali’s father. “He guided me home from the theka again today”, he said in a slurry voice, before falling on the ground, missing the soiled mattress by some distance. Kali was Kartik’s only child. Kartik, a widower, was a rickshaw puller in the city by the day and an alcoholic at sunset. After the days work, he would go to the theka on the periphery of their slum and spend almost all of his day’s earnings on country liqour. Kali had already seen more than her fair share of life, so her father’s alcoholism was something Kali was least concerned about.

Kali was married off at fourteen to Shambhu, a man twice her age. Shambhu was a migrant construction worker in the city. After the initial trauma of getting married at such a young age, her life was slowly turning for the better. She gave birth to Roshan, a son, when she was sixteen, a healthy child but for a medical condition which turned him blind at night. Two years back on the day of the Diwali, Kali was decorating their shanty with earthen diyas, when one of their neighbours came running and broke the news of Sambhu’s death in a road accident. Sambhu had gone to work on Diwali for the double bonus. Six months pregnant with her second child then, Kali was broken. She had no choice but to come and live with her father. Kartik was living alone after his wife had passed away, immediately after marrying Kali off. It was at her father’s place that Kali gave birth to her daughter, Chandini.

Kartik had taken to drinking after his wife died and was not in a position to take care of the recently widowed Kali and her children. So, Kali started working as a domestic help in nearby highrise,s to put food on her children’s plate and to give them an education.

Today was the day of Diwali, again. Debu, a middle-aged man, had started accompanying Kartik only about a month back. It was a bond of friendship made over alcohol, and would evaporate as does alcohol when left in open, or as it does in the hangover the next morning. When in his senses, Kartik wouldn’t strike a friendship with a man like Debu, a lecherous man. There were rumours about Debu having sexually assaulted many women. People said he wouldn’t even leave young girls alone. And Kali could sense that Debu had been eyeing her since the day he first accompanied Kartik.

Roshan was playing outside with other kids from the slum, he would return when the daylight is about to fade. Chandini was sleeping on the makeshift hammock made from one of Kali’s torn sarees, hanging from the celing. Kartik had passed out on the floor with an open mouth, after he returned that evening, his saliva starting to fall on the ground. Kartik won’t wake up before morning now. Debu, not as drunk as Kartik, sat there on the floor, staring at Kali’s back as she was getting him food. And Kali could feel Debu staring at her from behind.

As she put the plate down, Debu pushed the plate away and grabbed hold of Kali’s hand and pulled her towards him. Kali tried to resist but eventually fell on him. Before she could give out a cry for help, Debu was on top of her and had his left hand on her mouth, muffling whatever sound she could muster. With his right hand, Debu pulled Kali’s saree up until he bared her lower half. Kali was trying her best to push him away with both her hands, but Debu succeeded in forcing himself between her legs and started to unzip his pants. The stench was unbearable for Kali, the smell of country liqour mixed with that of Debu’s sweat, and the fact that he hadn’t taken bath probably in days, and his shirt hadn’t been washed in at least a month. Kali almost passed out.

Trying to get out of Debu’s evil clutch, Kali tried one last time and threw her arms up, trying to get hold of something with which she could hit him. Her hands moved frantically on the floor as Debu was unzipping his pants. Her right hand fell on a brick, which Roshan had brought from somewhere as he wanted her to make a doll’s house for him. While biting her teeth, with one swing of her right hand she picked up the brick and brought it on the back of Debu’s head with all the energy that was left. The motion of her right hand stopped with a muffled thud, and Debu’s grunts sounded more like a wounded swine, before his body turned cold and flaccid. A stream of thick warm blood from the back of Debu’s head started falling on Kali’s face. She wiped the blood with her left hand as her vision got blurry. Kali laid there for few minutes with Debu on top of her. All she could hear was bursting of crackers from outside. She couldn’t hear Debu’s breath even after trying to focus.

She pushed Debu’s body away and got up. She couldn’t see properly because of Debu’s blood in her eyes. All she could see were shapes and lights when they were bright enough. She stumbled her way out of the shanty to wash blood off her eyes. As soon as she stepped outside, she could hear Roshan. He was pointing at the bright fireworks on the other side of the lake.

“Maa, see fireworks! But I can’t see any colors.”, he said.

“Me too, beta!”, Kali replied, as she walked towards the bucket of water kept outside their shanty.

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This short story is my attempt to give voice to #metoo stories, incidents of sexual harassment from that section of the society which does not have a respectable living condition, let alone an internet connection.

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: Fireworks on the bank of Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad, Telangana, 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.

As per the King’s order

“You are hereby commissioned, by the King’s order, to build the largest monolithic statue of our Lord, Shri Ganapati, from the large boulder that is marked by the royal flag, on top of the Hemakunta hill. On completion of this order, which can not exceed three years, you will receive a grant of five villages and the adjoining fertile land from the royal court.”, read the King’s messenger from the order signed by the King himself, as the master sculptor Narasimhulu listened in disbelief.

The messenger went on, “You can employ your own artisans for this order, and all such artisans will be on the payrolls of the royal court. Should you fail to execute this order, this same order will be passed on to your elder son, and you will be convicted of disobeying the King’s order and will be tried of high treason.” That was almost 3 years back, and he had gladly accepted the offer, not that he had too many choices at that time. In all these days, the statue of Lord Ganapati was only half done. With the King’s deadline expiring only a fortnight later, there was no way the order could be executed now. The King had already gotten a temple built around the half-finished statue. And Narasimhulu could not afford even a minute mistake, by increasing the pace of the work.

Knowing he could never complete the order in time, Narasimhulu asked all the artisans to leave. He locked himself inside the temple with the half finsihed statue and decided to starve himself to death.

He prayed to Lord Ganapati, asked for His forgiveness as he was leaving the statue unfinished. In a day or two he fell down in the corner, weakened by lack of food. He thought his end was near and he was hallucinating, as he saw a figure, much bigger than a normal human being, working on the unfinished statue with a chisel and a hammer. Other than his size, all Narasimhulu could notice was his larger than usual ears. He couldn’t see the face of the unknown sculptor, as he had his back to Narasimhulu at all times, and he was himself very weak to walk up and find out.

Meanwhile, in the outer world it was the day when the King’s deadline ended. The King came with all his courtesans and the royal family and found the temple doors locked from inside. He ordered the doors to be broken.

Narasimhulu, very weak from starvation for days, could faintly hear the sounds of heavy objects hitting the temple door from outside. When he heard the door open, he gathered all his energy and opened hi eyes. As light entered the temple, he could see the faces of the statue of Lord Ganapati.

Narasimhulu could see that the statue was complete, as per the King’s order.

Ganesha
Kadalekalu Ganesha, in Hampi, Karnataka, India.

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: Kadalekalu Ganesha, a 4.5 meters tall monolithic statue, located in a temple on the Hemakunta hill, in Hampi, 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.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

 

Love story 1 – Act I: Of bad tea, and good coffee!

He made his cup of morning tea, and sat down to work on his blog. “I make awesome tea”, he thought after taking the first sip, taking pride in his tea making capabilities. He wasn’t yet done basking in his pride, he heard her voice, like every time.

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And like every time, this time too her voice said, “You make horrible tea!” Lest she knew, that whenever she was around, all his attention was focused on her, and not on the tea, that he was making. And he would eventually end up spoiling the tea, every single time.

But, he had his moment of glory. It was a long two months wait for him, since she had changed her job and moved cities. When she was with him, she was a part of everything he did, every plan he made, knowingly or unknowingly. Though he had been preparing for her move, it was still painful. And after two months, he paid her a visit.

“You make good coffee!”, she said as she sipped from her cup. “Why the tea you made was atrocious every single time, when I came down to your place”. He had taken special care not to screw up the coffee this time. Giving it all the attention, even her share of his attention. And received an appreciation for it, from her, one person he valued the most. They just sat there, sipping coffee, the coffee he made. He was going back, with promises of returning soon.

That was a year back! One long year. It is strange how things normalise or seem so, over one year. Memories are in black and white they say. The only colour he could remember was that of the stain of her red lipstick on the cup.

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And, only if he had known that he was seeing her for the last time, he would have screwed up the coffee too.

**END OF PART I**


Wondering what happened to her? All in good time, my friends! You got to wait for the next part, right?

Let’s call it “A tough call!”…..

/Disclaimer: A work of fiction. Any resemblance to any character living or dead is purely “coincidental”./

In frame: Moonmoon Sharma, a good friend and a talented model.

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 – 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.

 

Arsalan’s last prayer

The instructions were very specific. The client wanted the knife to be extra sharp, and dipped in deadly poison. Just to be doubly sure. So that, even if the knife didn’t kill him, the poison definitely would. And it had to be on a Friday, a day Arsalan devoted completely to his God, a day he didn’t touch his weapon and wore no armor.

Arsalan, a warrior of Persian decent and a Muslim, was a general in the Vijayanagara army, Vijayanagara’s chief military strategist and commander of its famed artillery and cavalry units. A middle-aged battle hardened man, he had won many battles for Vijayanagara, with his unquestionable loyalty to the King, his valor and strategies.

He was born in Persia to an unmarried woman and was left to his own fate after his mother died. While fending for himself in the streets of Isfahan, he had heard tales of a place called Hindustan. After having saved enough, he traveled to Hindustan at the age of thirteen, and was hired by a Turkish noble as a help. Few months later, his master had taken him in a hunting expedition. This is when a Lion sneaked in to the camp on one night. He killed the lion with nothing but a knife, and he was just fourteen. This is from where he got his name – Arsalan, Turkish for lion. And he never looked back from that day on.

A man without any family, Arsalan used to be a hired hand till few years back, a commander of a group of merceneries with their loyalty only to the highest bidder. He fought many battles on the side of the highest bidder, saw many atrocities being committed in the name of religion, and God.

During his last assignment as a hired hand, he was to join the forces of the Sultan of Berar, who was mounting an expedition on an empire of infidels to the south, the Vijayanagara empire. It was on a Friday that the battle was fought. Arsalan, had never in his entire life seen such brave soldiers, the soldiers of Vijayanagara. Arsalan killed hundreds of them and they still kept coming. At the end, the army of the Sultan of Berar was defeated, and every single one of Arsalan’s merceneries were killed and he himself was grieviously wounded. Left for being dead, he was rescued by the soldiers of Vijayanagara and was taken to the capital Hampi for better treatment of his wounds. He was impressed by the fact that the Vijayanagara had citizens from all faiths, including Muslims – and was not an empire of infidels, as was being portrayed.

When he recovered, grew stronger and was ready to leave, the King requested his presence in the court. The King, who himself was impressed by Arsalan’s military tactics earlier, asked him to join the Vijayanagara army as a general, and promised him religious freedom, among other things. Arsalan couldn’t deny the offer being made by his savior. Arsalan also took a vow that he will not pick up his weapon on Fridays, as a mark of respect to the brave soldiers of Vijayanagara he had slayed on the same day, in the earlier battle.

His presence in Vijayanagara army meant that Sultan of Berar couldn’t win even an inch of land to the south. So, the Sultan had hired an assassin to get rid of him.

On that fateful Friday, while coming back from the mosque, the assassin in the guise of his bodyguard, stabbed him in the neck. Even before he could know what had happened, Arsalan was on the ground. He could see the mosque at a distance, the mosque which his infidel King had ordered to be built for him.

Slowly, the voices around him faded and he slipped into darkness…

That was the last prayer Arsalan ever offered!

4. The last prayer of Arsalan Pathan 17 Mar Final

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: A low angle of the mosque inside the palace complex, in Hampi, 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.

© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.

The Ascend

The wheels of the royal ceremonial gold chariot screeched to a halt on the gravel road behind the Mahanavami Dibba. A well-built dark skinned man, in his mid-twenties, climbed down from the chariot.

A masculine face with neatly trimmed moustache, but the cut on his left cheek which ran almost the full length from just below the eye, looked fresh – a parting gift from a beloved enemy, perhaps. Laden in gold jewellery that were studded with precious stones of all sizes and colors, he wore a bright pink angavastram made of silk and a white silk dhoti. He wore a turban made of yellow silk, and attached to it was the royal pin, which had the largest diamond of all. In his right hand he was holding a precious stone studded gold scabbard, and inside was the sword that whole of the subcontinent bowed down to – the Sword of Vijayanagara.

Standing below the flight of stairs inside the royal entrance at the back of the Dibba, the new King looked up to the portion of the blue sky that was visible. The royal trumpeters on top of the Dibba blew the trumpets, announcing the arrival of the new King of Vijayanagara. The chatter among the crowd stopped. Then the drummers started beating the big drums across the palace complex, in a rhythm. And the crowd started cheering – “Long live the King! Long live the King….”

“Doesn’t anyone remember what happened in last one month leading up to today?”, the new King asked himself.

The new King was the eldest son and heir apparent to the throne of Vijayanagara, and was the most capable. He had been groomed to be the King, right from the day he started walking. He was trained to be the best in sword fight, archery and hand to hand combats in the whole of Vijayanagara empire. And he was well conversant in the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita and Chanakya’s Arthashastra. For the last two years, he had been fighting the Moslems in the north, and had subjugated two Bahmani Sultanates. It was in last one month that everything changed, for better or for worse. The old King took ill suddenly, and was killed in his sleep by one of his younger sons, the new King’s half-brother.

This is when the new King had to ride back to the capital city of Hampi, to confront his half-brother, and to claim the throne that was rightfully his. The situation had changed completely while he was away. Most of the old royal staff had been replaced with loyalists of his half-brother. He knew that his half-brother wouldn’t dare to touch him in broad day light. He confronted him in the palace courtyard, with a handful of his father’s loyalists.

This is when the confrontation turned physical. His half-brother took out a dagger and took a wild swing. He leaned back, but couldn’t move completely away from the dagger’s path, and it sliced him on the left cheek and the wound ran almost the full length from just below the eye. In one continous motion, he took his dagger out, pushed it deep in to his half-brother’s throat, killing him instantly.

Then began the clean-up act. For next two weeks, all the loyalists of his half-brother were either killed or jailed, eliminated systematically. He didn’t stop until everyone of them who had helped his half-brother had been punished. That was the last one month.

As the new King stood below the flight of stairs pondering, the Rajguru touched his shoulder and signalled politely that he should ascend and show himself to the world, to show the world that everything was in control. The King nodded his head and agreement and thought, “Doesn’t anyone really remember?”

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: The sky from below the flight of stairs, inside the back entrance of Mahanavami Dibba, inside the palace complex in Hampi, Karnataka, India. Mahanavami Dibba was used as a platform by the royals of Vijayanagara to watch the Dussehra celebrations, as well as on special royal ceremonies.

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.

FRIGHT

“It is not advisable to stay here after dark. Please wrap up fast.” The guide said in the courtyard of the old palace as he collected his fees, and started walking towards the gate.

Being a photographer, she did not have any business staying there after dark. Photography is a tale by light, after all. But this time, it was different. This one was her first major complete wedding shoot, and the couple she was shooting could help her get more clients. She had just this one day for the pre-wedding, before the bride and groom got busy with the rituals from their respective sides. Without enough resources to hire a help at such a nascent stage of her career, she was doing everything on her own. And whatever help she had in the form of the guide, she didn’t have anymore, as the guide’s shift had ended.

As the sun reached for the horizon, she got some amazing frames of the couple during the golden hour. Within no time, the sun had set and the light was fading fast. Happy with the results, she called it a day and asked the would-be husband and wife to wait in the car outside, while she packed all the equipment and props. She thought the couple would enjoy some quiet time together, which was very hard to find just before the marriage. And meanwhile, she could put her thoughts together on how she would cover the wedding, while packing up in silence.

The conversation between the couple gradually turned into a murmur and then into a whisper, as they walked out of the gate in the front. That’s when the eerie silence of the old palace started to grow on her. The silence was intermittently being broken by the flutter of the pigeons’ wings as they settled for the night, and also by the shrill sound of the bats as they prepared for the night’s feast ahead.

She was almost done packing as she had her back to the closed door on the other side of the courtyard. Suddenly, she heard running footsteps from behind the door and the pigeons and the bats fell silent. And it turned so quiet that she could hear her blood rush through her veins. Unable to understand what was happening, she quickly packed rest of her stuff and was getting up when she heard heavy footsteps approaching her from the door behind, the same door she saw was closed few moments ago. She froze, stood there and the footsteps got heavier with each step, as they approached her from the back.

She had almost all her blood drained out, when the would-be groom walked in to the courtyard from the gate in front of her. Apparently, she had forgotten to give the couple the car keys!

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

In frame: A door on the left side of the open space behind Bibi ka Maqbara, in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. Bibi ka Maqbara is the mausoleum of Dilras Banu Begum, first wife of Aurangzeb. She was buried under the posthumous title of Rabia-ud-Daurani”. A low angle, the monsoon clouds and the fading light all added to the drama of this frame.

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.