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Remembering Bijapur – a garden of love for the Adil Shahis

By Shaista Anwar & Baishali Ghosh

Today’s popular Navalgund Jamkhana takes us down the memory lane of Shahpur, three kilometers from Bijapur, the heart of the Adil Shahi dynasty from the 15th to 17th century. Jamkhana is a colorful floor mats, woven with distinctive patterns. Pagaddi Atte (Shatranji), Bada phool jamkhana (Geometrical floral motif), Ek mor Jamkhane (mat with a vibrant peacock motif), Chaar mor jamkhana (mat with four peacocks), Jainamaz (praying rug) are various types of Jamkhana. Jamkhan Gali in the mid 16th century in Bijapur was the workshop of the Jamkhana artisans.

Like Jamkhana many more recognition and admiration go to Adil Shahis and Bijapur for their cultivated syncretistic aesthetic in art, architecture and literature. Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1627), the most remembered ruler, made Bijapur a cosmic center for exchanging knowledge and collection of music, calligraphy, painting and poetry. Among many intellectuals at his court are Khalilullah Butshikan and Farrukh Husayn. Khalilullah had traveled from Iran and Khurasan to Bijapur and earned the title padishah-i qalam (king of the pen). He was also the ambassador to the Safavid court in Iran and later moved back to the Safavid court by the order of Shah Abbas. Husayn migrated to Bijapur from the Mughal court and was a leading court portraitist from 1595 to1600. Later, he rejoined the Mughal court during the reign of Jahangir, where he came to be known as Farrukh Beg. Haidar Zehni, Malik Qummi and Zuhuri were leading literati in Ibrahim’s court. The notable historians in the court for tawarikh (history) were Muhammad Qasim Hindushah Astrabadi, also known as Farishta, and Rafi al-Din Shirazi.

Ibrahim Adil Shah II changed the name of one of the cities in his kingdom from Vijayapur (city of victory) to Vidyapur (city of knowledge). Nawraspur, another city that he established, was also a center for education. Ibrahim Adil Shah once said that the Turk and the Brahmin. They speak different languages. But they feel the same thing. Ibrahim Adil Shah was interested in setting up the cosmopolis parallel to Baghdad – a crossroads of many travelers and settlers, idegenous people and migrants, education and devotion, faith and festival; the cosmopolis, where artistic and intellectual exchange, expression and exploration entangled with nawras (Nine Emotions) of lives and love. His manuscripts such as Gulshan-e ‘Ishq, Kitab-i Nawras, Shahnama and Nimatnama demonstrate poetics of the lives that Adil Shah II perhaps visualised in his cosmopolis. Mohammad Nusrat Nusrati in his memorable poem Gulshan-e ‘Ishq in 1657 compared Adil Shah II with a gardener. He writes “My nature is that of a beloved garden, Whose fruits, produce, and flowers are excellent. You applied care with your own hand.” Thus collective care and creativity in writing, making and practicing in various platforms such painting, architecture, wrestling, astrology, music, poetry crafts and many more led Ibrahim Adil ShahII’s cosmopolis-Bijapur blossom like a garden.

Love was at the center in Adil Shah II court whether dealing with politics or poetry. Adil Shah II used to present precious items to the Mughals lovingly to keep them away from his paradise which was his Bijapur. In his daughter’s wedding with Akbar’s son Daniyal he gifted two thousand books from his library. In Nusrati’s Gulshan-e ‘Ishq the lovers Manohara and Madhumalati are set in the landscape that are seen in the miniature painting and music produced in his court. Gulshan-e ‘Ishq is an embodiment of the way the chest holds breath and the strings of the instruments hold the sound of raga.

Nusrati writes,
“My nature is that of beloved garden,
Whose fruits, produce, and flowers are excellent.
You applied care with your own hand,
So that under Your umbrella the world becomes completely prosperous.
As long as there is shade in the world, so long the name of your gardening will remain.”

Marriage not only happened in his family or in the poetry of his court, but also between architectural design, music, and devotion. Jami Masjid, Gol Gunbadh, Kali Mosque and Mihtar-i Mahal bear the testimonies. Ibrahim’s wife Taj Sultana’s involvement in the construction of Sultan’s Rawza marked an excellency.

Adil Shais’s love could not stop lust of other kings seizing his cities. He died depressed when his beloved city Nawraspur was burnt by Malik Amber. When the Mughal’s army seized the city, the Adli Shahi dynasty declined. The collected and connected artifacts and practices were dispersed, dislocated, looted and lost. For instance, Khalillullah, who was ambassador and a high-ranked calligrapher in Adil Shahi II court, returned to Iran upon the insistence of Shah Abbas. The Mughal army looted the manuscripts, painting albums, books and many more. The looted treasures such as manuscripts, painted albums mingled with the miniature painterly practices in the courts of Mughal and its alliances such as the courts in today’s Rajasthan and Himalaya region; and created many more illuminated manuscripts and albums where we see Adil Shahi style flowing and peeping from one leaf to another.

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