Saturday, 14 September 2019

Afzal Khan, Army Chief of Bijapur Sultanate who murdered his 63 wives !!

Afzal Khanen of Bijapur. .wikipedia.org/
If you take the history of any country there are more tragic and bizarre incidents than  joyous ones far beyond the ramparts and battlefields. Many of them lie hidden below the dead debris of time, but when some see the light, pain is writ largely on our face. Such narratives written in blood simply overwhelm us. 


Saat kabbar map of Bijapur
No doubt, a pale of gloom hangs over such weird events that throw light on the psychology of  men  responsible for them and how far they are driven by love, revenge, greed, etc depending on the problems being faced by them. In the past, India being a subcontinent run by various rulers of different faith, there is no dearth of such strange and unpalatable  incidents. Some  insane acts, did occur outside of India, like those of Sultan Ibrahim of the Ottoman Empire.  He did something unexpected; he drowned his entire harem  just because one of the women had an intimate   relationship with a eunuch. This tale came to light from an escaped  concubine in the harem. This clearly shows dominance of men over weaker gender

Have you ever heard of a brave Muslim army chief sending his 63 wives to the grave fearing his own death in the ensuing battle? Yes, such a tragic and outlandish event took place in the city of Bijapur,  now in Karnataka state centuries back. In this city, ''Saat Kabar'', an isolated (5 km from Bijapur) and eerie  place away from the city, silently witnessed 63 young  wives mercilessly murdered by  a possessive husband Afzal Khan, an army chief of ruler Adil Shahi II (1571- 12 September 1627), a Sunni Muslim who remained tolerant toward Hindus and also Christians)  This place has the graves of those women and the cold-blooded setting gives us an eerie feeling.
Ruler Ali Adil Shah II, appointed Afzal Khan as the general of Bijapur.wikipedia
 Bijapur, a heritage city once ruled by the dynasty of Adil Shah, has numerous monuments of historical importance, mosques, mahals, mausoleums, etc; one being Gol Gumbaz, perhaps the largest dome in the world with whispering chambers. The dynasty, no doubt,  left a rich tradition of cosmopolitan culture and artistic patronage  and the countless heritage structures that bear testimony to their legacy

It seems tourists coming to this city try to avoid the tombs of army chief's wives because of bloodletting and gory details of their tragic end. The tombs, far removed away from the urban area,  lie in the midst of under growth of creepers,wild bushes, plants, etc and appear sort of crumbled. Devoid of any path to the grave, the other side looks like mini forest - sheer wilderness. One gets the impression poisonous snakes, etc may be roosting there. People who have been to this place say that the auto drivers are reluctant to take the tourists to this area just because of unearthly silence.
saat kabar-tombs of women killed by Afzal Khan, Bijapur  tripadvisor.co.nz
Saat Kabar is a neglected place and is not a tourists' delightful destination, part of the reason is gruesome fate that fell upon  the young innocent women.
saat kabar-tombs of women killed by Afzal Khan.tripadvisor.co

To get to know the tragic story  we have to go  back to  the 17th Century, when Chatrapathi Shivaji, ruler and valiant Maratha warrior was at loggerheads with the Bijapur sultanate.  When Shivaji Maharaj waged a war against Adil Shah II, the responsibility fell on his army chief Afzal Khan (died 10 November 1659), an equally talented warrior to lead the army. His unique skills and commanding ability and war strategies led to his popularity and rose in the ranks of hierarchy.  Legend  has it that he was awarded a famous sword known as the ''Adili'', studded with diamonds. He had a popular elephant Howdah named Dhal-Gaj and  headed a personal force of 10,000 soldiers.

It was Afzal Khan's wont to consult the astrologers before war campaigns and this time astrologers told him that it was an unpropitious time and he might die in the ensuing battle. Upon this prediction, grief-stricken, he was  now more concerned about his 63 women in the harem than about his own fate. Being jealous and possessive, he decided to kill all his wives to avoid remarriage or ill treatment by the enemies. Invariably, the victorious Hindu rulers, as per Hindu Dharma, would treat the wives of enemies well and value their modesty.   It is mentioned that Afzl Khan's wives were taken to an isolated place where they were pushed into a an abandoned well.  The one who managed to escape, was recaptured and killed. All the women were interred in this burial ground before Afzal  went to war. The women in the harem met this tragic fate on account of army chief's  madness and obsession with them.
saat kabar-tombs of women killed by Afzal Khanm army chief, Bijapur hindu.co,
In an open space there lie numerous graves in rows mostly made of  black stone, Many of  these stones are broken, open to the skies.  Their death occurred before the battle and Afzal Khan wanted  his tomb built close to the graves here. But, as astrologer predicted, he was killed in the battle at a meeting with Shivaji by Shivaji's lieutenant Sambhaji Kavji, and his army was defeated in the Battle of Pratapgad.

The ambiance at
the Saat Kabar is not a desirable  one, quite eerie. In the ominous silence here, one could hear the whispering sound of last cries and waling of dying women in pain whose fate changed overnight by a mad man. Any visitor to this place will be in a hurry to leave this place and take refuge in a civilized world. 

Now a monument of national importance,  under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, it is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI); the upkeep of this place is very poor. Anti-social elements wonder around as one could see graffiti on the tomb stones. The government should put up  barricade around  this place, repair and restore it.  Former Karnataka Tourism Minister Roshan Baig says Bijapur's monuments will get due importance in a plan the Government is drawing up to promote tourism in the state. People keep their fingers crossed because they are yet to know  when the promise will become a reality. Now, a new ministry is in power and will they look into the aspiration  of the local people and make Bijapur a nice tourist destination?
https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/travel/The-last-cries/article12308499.ece
https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/offtrack/story/20010917-17th-century-general-of-the-shahi-dynasty-loved-his-wives-so-much-that-he-killed-them-774220-2001-09-17