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Bijapur : Legend of a lost legacy

By Anees Maniyar

The old man, had his eyes wet when he took me into a vast graveyard, replete with burials of his ancestors, in the suburbs of Bijapur at a place called Fatehpur. A distinct smell of cocktail of perfumes consumed my mind, as we strolled amidst the graves of varying dimensions. A few of them were whitewashed and smeared with scents, and there were flowers petals scattered all over. Some had wreaths and garlands, as though those were the graves of elites, or the men and women of distinction. On the contrary, some did not even bear a tombstone. I tiptoe, not to walk over, and offend the sanctity of the person buried in. He took me to the farthest corner, where lie a grave of a Sufi Hazrat Peer Meethe, perched under the dense foliage of an age old Neem tree. Donned in a golden velvety cloth, this tomb stands out in all other tombs in the graveyard. He offered a garland of roses and lit the incense sticks next to the shrine.

Na gore Sikandar, na hai qabre Dara

Mite Namiyon ke nishaan kaise kaise

The old man, is among those people of the city, who still bask in the glory of 16th century Adil Shahi sultanate. He takes pride in delineating the heroic tales of Sultans of Bijapur. His eyes dulled with age, still portray the images of the past, that he still relishes. He owned a magnificent haveli in the heart of the city and a private mosque.

The Sultanate has left behind such a vast legacy of Mosques, Caravanserais, Palaces, water reservoirs, lakes and wells, and many such structures that filled the ambience of the city with grandeur and royal magnificence. Over the time, it all appears to be a painting drawn on a canvas, which has turned drab and lifeless. The prestigious heritage seemed to give up its courage against the demon of real estate, trying to cause a havoc and effacing its presence faster than one could imagine about.

In the heart of the city, I was wandering with heritage enthusiasts, in a structure called Adaalat Mahal, I took them on a tour in different quarters inside the palace. I showed them the royal court, where the king convened councils, King’s private quarter and also place where nobles lived, and a distict quarter where Sacred hair of Prophet (pbuh) are preserved till date. It was embarrassing to spot a couple in their teen age in one of the darker closets. As they were taken by surprise, and looked clearly annoyed by our sudden intrusion in their solemn word of frenzy; the boy said to the girl ‘what use is of these ruins to us, if people start visiting them more often’. Certainly, hundreds of such places have become trysts for paramours, and havens for drunkards and card players. There are many such ancient structures within the city, where herds of swine, packs of stray dog and mice reside inside the palaces, where once lived the kings and men of nobility. They have become the dump-yard for the household waste and if people visit there, that’s solely for emptying their bowels in the morning.

When people are called into account for their misdeeds, they clearly point their fingers towards City Municipal Corporation for not providing dump bins at appropriate places and for their poor waste disposal management.  There is a class of residents of the city who dwell in slums, and on lands that are legally not theirs, by means of encroachment. Their small quarters, roofed with tin sheets cannot possibly accommodate a toilet, so they are forced to defecate in an open and marooned places like age old structure, where people hardly visit. There is also a powerful political lobby, that doesn’t want to isolate them, for the precious vote bank.

People’s representatives have an onus to relocate the slum dwellers and the masses that live on encroached lands to a safer and better place, by building the houses for them with better facilities. This way the area around the historical places can be evacuated to give a cleaner look for the development of tourism. Moreover, the city itself can be developed in lines with Bagalkot, where Nav Nagar is established leaving aside the old city. The ghosts of real estate can successfully be warded off, far from the main city, where there will be no perils waiting for the Historical Monuments and sites. The DC office, DCs residence, Dhobi Mahal, Farrakh Mahal and such Monuments occupied by the government should be vacated, restored and handed over to Department of Tourism.

Tourism, which has a robust potential untapped can be encashed for the common good of the Bijapurians and for the people like my old friend, there is no solace in the two worlds, until the lost glamour is redeemed.

Zameen`e chaman gul khilati hai kya kya

Badalta hai Rang asmaan kaise kaise

The author is a heritage activist.

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