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Sutradhara’s tales: Islamic powers conquer Deccan, Sufism arrives in Pune

Propagation of the Sufi sect in Deccan was greatly supported by spread of political powers. It was around the same time, mysticism movement in Islam in the form of Sufism started growing and many Sufi saints travelled with their disciples for propagation of the sect

UPDATED ON APR 07, 2021 03:57 PM IST

The 13th century symbolises a vital change in the socio-political and cultural environment of Deccan, so much so that it was named as the Islamic or medieval period by colonial historians.

In 1296, Ala-ud-din Khalji of the Delhi Sultanate successfully raided Devagiri. Khalji restored it to Ramachandra in return of his promise of payment of a high ransom and an annual tribute. However, this was not paid and the Yadava kingdom’s arrears to Khalji kept mounting. In 1307, Khalji sent an army commanded by Malik Kafur, accompanied by Khwaja Haji, to Devagiri. Their huge army conquered the weakened and defeated forces of Devagiri almost without a battle. Khalji reinstated Ramachandra as governor in return for a promise to help him subdue the Hindu kingdoms in South India. Ramachandra’s successor Simhana III challenged the supremacy of Khalji, who sent Malik Kafur to recapture Devagiri in 1313.

Simhana III was killed in the ensuing battle and Khalji’s army occupied Devagiri. Thus, the mighty Yadava Empire was completely annexed by the Khalji sultanate in 1317.

Malik Kafur conquered most parts of Maharashtra, including Pune, thus bringing the significant Deccan territory under Islamic rule.

In the year 1320s, the Tughluq Dynasty occupied the Delhi throne and shortly after in 1327, Muhammad bin Tughluq’s shifted his capital from Delhi to Deogiri.

This period was the most productive period in the work and ideology of the early Sufi Shaikhs, who also became the guiding factor for later mystics and rulers.

Propagation of the Sufi sect in Deccan was greatly supported by spread of political powers. It was around the same time, mysticism movement in Islam in the form of Sufism started growing and many Sufi saints travelled with their disciples for propagation of the sect.

The devotional mysticism of the Bhakti movement in Deccan provided an ideological overlap with the Sufism, which led to syncretic practices accepted by Dakkhanis.

Deccan provinces provided fertile grounds for development of medicine, astrology and trade, some of the primary Sufi interests.

It was during this time, Shaikh Nizamuddin Avaliya with his 700 followers descended south to propagate the Sufi sect. One of his followers, Sheikh Sallauddin Gazi Chisti, alias Sheikh Salla (son of Sheikh Abdulla of Ghor), came down to Pune with his four followers from the Middle East and settled on the banks of the river Mutha near present day Shaniwar peth.

Pune Pet Kafiyat, a Maratha period manuscript discovered by Dr Uday Kulkarni documents a rather peculiar tale related to Shaikh Sallauddin. The saint Sallauddin was camping in the Masjid gardens (now absent) near Kumbhar Ves. The Saint performed the miracle of raising the dead bullocks belonging to the grief-stricken gardener of the temple named Divekar. The delighted gardener informed the keeper of the fort Kondhana (then Sinhagad), Annaji Shirke about the astonishing miracle and invited him to visit Shaikh Avaliya. Ailing son and limbless daughter of Annaji were healed completely by Shaikh Avaliya’s touch and recitation of verses. This incident helped build the trust of locals in the immigrant group of Sufis.

Shaikh Sallauddin’s death in the year 1358 was commemorated by his followers by forcibly converting the Yadav period Narayaneshwar temple into his memorial dargah.

This dargah lies to the left of Shaniwanwada, along the river Mutha, and is popularly known as Thorla (senior) Shaikh Salla Dargah.

When the temple of Narayaneshwar was demolished, the Vedic Brahmin priest of the temple Shyambhat Rajarshi (Kulkarnis of Pune) converted to the Islamic faith and became disciples of Shaikh Salla Avaliya. He requested his teacher to grant him religious rights as per Islam and Avaliya arranged for him to be appointed as Kazi of the town of Pune.

The Kazi of Pune and Pirjadye of the Shaikh Salla dargah are the successors of Shyam Bhat. Further, Shyam Bhat was conferred Inam of Mauje Erandwane and Mauje Kalas villages for the management of the Sheikh Salla Dargah.

The main tomb, which has a plain doorway, is approached by a flight of steps. The space inside is very uneven and is now a regular burial ground with numerous graves around the central tomb, which is a circular domed room. The ruins of the original Yadava period Narayaneshwar temple are still scattered about to the south-west of Sheikh Salla’s tomb. They consist chiefly of stone columns and lintels, some in their places and others strewn over the ground.

A few years later, Sayyad Hisamuddin Kattal Zanjani (a religious advocate belonging to the sect of Makhdum Mit Ashraf Samnani), came to Pune and settled on its banks near Kumbhar Ves.

Saint Hisamuddin died in 1390. Punyeshwar Temple on the banks of Mutha near Kumbharwada was brought down and converted into the memorial dargah of Shaikh Hisamuddin. This led the fleeing of priest of Punyeshwar with the Shiv-linga to the base of Purandar fort.

Behind the mosque, a flight of steps lead from Punyeshwar’s temple to the river bed. Pillars of this temple match the pillars of Kasba Ganpati temple. In the front courtyard to the left is a tiled building where a bier or tabut is kept and where congregations are held for prayer.

The domed structure on the tomb was added later. It is the second oldest dargah in Pune built after Thorla Shaikh Sallah Durgah.

The campus of Dhakta Shaikh Salla also houses the memorial of Mohiul–milaat the grandson of Aurangzeb Badshah, son of Kambaksh. Aurangzeb was in Pune in 1702 during his south Indian campaign. Aurangzeb had named the city of Pune as Muhiyabad, in his own name; Muhi-ud-Din or to commemorate his grandson, Muhi-us- Sunnat, according to some scholars.

Apart from the mosques’ religious significance, they have great historical and architectural importance and are a designated protected heritage site.

The socio-political changes of the 14th century begin a new chapter in Pune’s life and it let to restructuring of the settlement of Pune, politically, culturally and spatially…

Source: – https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/pune-news/sutradharas-tales-islamic-powers-conquer-deccan-sufism-arrives-in-pune-101617791245278.html

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