Apr 1, 2017

Saat Qabr, Bijapur ~ साठ कब्र

December 2010
Saat Qabr is one of the less known historical spots of Bijapur from Adil Shahi's time. Even if some tourists know about it, most of them fail to locate the spot because its located on the city outskirts and even many local people are unaware of it. Also, a stream flowing close to the graveyard was an obstacle of sorts during rainy season.. local people would discourage anyone from venturing into the snake infested waters. During my visit of Dec-2010, Saat Kabr was well outside the city. We spent a good half an hour to find the spot from less than a kilometer of it. It was almost dusk when we reached it.

Saat Qabr means sitxy graves. Yes, we could count 63 graves arranged a 7 x 9 rectangular array on a black stone platform. On the western edge of the platform is a single structure, probably a mosque. We explored the surroundings as well and found a well behind the mosque. The well was a grand one; its inside was lined with dressed blocks. Also, a tower was built next to it which helped raise water from the well. My guess is- water from this well was used to irrigate crops on this land before 'Saat Kabr' came into being. There wasn't much water and the bottom was in view; probably about 20 feet deep. Deep enough to drown an adult human. With so much in our sights, to know what happened in the past, we'll have to use little imagination. So, lets go back three and half centuries to know how the history of this graveyard.

Saat Qabr is the graveyard of Afzal Khan's wives. He is said to be of Afghan descent, stood 7' tall and a powerful commander during the reign of Ali Adil Shah II. Personally he was well off and maintained a harem of 60+ wives. Nobles were expected to have many wives those days. Afzal Khan was said to have won many campaigns for the kingdom and the Sultan had great faith in this power. Afzal Khan though powerful, believed in astrology and consulted a Sufi Peer before commencing any campaign.

During that time Mughals and Marathas were harassing Adil Shahis. Afzal Khan volunteered to the task of defeating the Marathas. As usual, when he met the Sufi Peer, he was told that he would die in the battle. Being a noble, he was worried about his name after his death. His wives cannot go around marrying or living with someone else. So he decides to kill them before leaving Bijapur. Probably he thinks that drowning would be the best method. He might have asked the wives to jump into the well and give up their lives. May be some wives submitted while others tried to escape with their lives. Probably the land where the well was situated belonged to him - I'm guessing this based on the fact that Afzal Khan's mosque is about 1.2 kms north of Saat Qabr. So the wives were brought here on some pretext and the news broken. Some chose to jump voluntarily and those who tried escaping were pushed to their deaths. This is the story of this graveyard.

Here're two not so good videos shot in poor light with my Motorola. Phone cameras back then weren't so advanced.

During the medieval times, widows' lives was said to be difficult, especially for widows of royal families. They were forced to marry or live with the conqueror. This was one of the ways to spoil the losers' names. Surely Afzal Khan would've done the same and that was probably one the reasons for this large harem. And that was one of the reasons to kill his wives before he died? There are many stories about queens and women ending their lives on hearing news of their husband's martyrdom but this is a rare story where a warrior killing wives before his final battle. Not sure if you'll ever find another as this.

Having done the deed, he sets out to meet the Maratha leader Shivaji in the jungle near Pratapgad. It was a supposed to be a peaceful meeting between the two leaders with just two bodyguards on either sides but Afzal had something else in mind. Knowing, Afzal's cunning mind, Shivaji had prepared well, he had armed himself with tiger claws and a dagger. Shivaji had positioned several soldiers in the jungle to ambush Afzal's men. The leaders entered the meeting venue, a tent. During the customary embrace, Afzal the giant tried to crush Shivaji in his arms but unsuccessful becuse of Shivaji's body armor. In self defence Shivaji uses the tiger claws on Afzal's stomach tearing out his intestines. The bodyguards swing into action, Shivaji's side has the upper-hand and eventually behead Afzal Khan. The Sufi Peer's prediction did come true. Shivaji had Afzal Khan's mortal remains buried with military honors at the foot of Pratapgad fort.


TeamG square said...

Interesting story.

siddeshwar said...

Thanks TGS.
Bijapur's ruins have lot of interesting stories in them.