Bijapur, the famous capital of the medieval Adil Shah dynasty (1489 to 1686), is a small city in the South Indian state of Karnataka, whose charm lies largely in the remarkable architectural legacy of those days. Amongst its numerous architectural monuments of the Islamic past is Saat Kabar (Sixty Graves) that bears the memory of a very tragic incident in the history of muslim women.
Afzal Khan was the most powerful general in the court of the Bijapur Sultanate. He was responsible for many victories for the Adil Shah Dynasty. In 1658, Sultan Ali Adil Shah II of Bijapur was preparing to launch a military campaign against Shivaji, the Maratha ruler. Being constantly under pressure from Auranzeb on one side and Shivaji from the other, Adil Shah depended on his generals to stall the enemies, and counted on Khan as his most trusted and formidable of warriors.
Though Khan was a brave man, he had but one weakness: auguries and omens. Prior to the campaign, Khan contacted astrologers who predicted doom—his death at the hands of Maratha soldiers. At that time, Khan had 63 wives in his harem. Fearing that his wives would remarry after his death, the anxious general chose to kill all of them.
He led them all to a lonely place on the outskirts of the city and pushed them into a well, one after the other.
The two wives who tried to escape were killed by his soldiers, sources say.
While some say that all the 63 unfortunate wives were slain by him. The astrologers were proved correct, as Khan indeed died at the hands of Shivaji at Pratapgarh.
The wives lie buried just 5 km from Bijapur at a place which now bears titular testimony to the uxoricide: Saat Kabar.
He built the graves with black stone. In the first row, there are 11 graves, followed by 5 in the second, and 11 each in last four rows. At a distance of 1 km from these graves, Khan had ordered for the construction of a cenotaph for him. He wanted to be close to his wives in life and in death. But he never returned from the Pratapgarh battle, where his body was eventually buried.
The Saat Kabar site has now been declared to be of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, and is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Today, the tombstones are scarred by graffiti, people often come to the shady spot for rest.
“People need to hear the heart rendering stories that cry out from these graves”, says the 65 year-old man who lives in a nearby house.
Source Credits: Islam Watch, The Hindu, Lakshmi Sharath