The grand Bakrid procession

It is difficult to imagine that Bidar, which today is in an impoverished condition, witnessed grand processions on Id-ul-Azha or Bakrid as it is popularly known, during the medieval times of the Bahmani Sultans who ruled the region.

Russian horse dealer Athanasius Nikitich Nikitin was the first ever Russian to record his travels in India. He was awed by the huge armies, vast power and lavish wealth of the Sultan of Bidar (Muhammad Shah Bahmani II) and his commanders. He travelled just prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498 AD.

Nikitin has provided one of the finest descriptions of how Id-ul-Azha (or Bakrid) was celebrated in Bidar with all the pomp, splendour and a grand procession. On Id-ul-Azha, the Sultan went out in a procession and with him were twenty high viziers (chief or prime ministers), three hundred elephants, clad in Damask steel armour, carrying citadels equally fitted in steel, and each holding six warriors with guns and long muskets.

The big elephants were mounted by twelve men. Each animal had two large flags and a heavy sword, weighing a Kantar (a unit of weight used in Mediterranean countries, equivalent to 100 pounds or 45 kilogrammes), attached to its tusks, and large iron weights hanging from the trunk.

A man in full armour sat between the ears, holding in his hand a large iron hook with which he guided the animal. Besides this there were seen in the train of Sultan about a thousand ordinary horses in gold trappings, one hundred camels with torch bearers, three hundred trumpeters, three hundred dancers and three hundred slaves.

The Sultan, riding on a golden saddle, wore a habit embroidered with sapphires and on his pointed head dress a large diamond; he also carried a suit of gold armour inlaid with sapphires and three swords mounted in gold.

A great many attendants followed on foot; also a mighty elephant, decked with silk and holding in his mouth a large iron chain. It was his business to clear the way of people and horses, in order than none should come too near the Sultan. The brother of the Sultan rode on a golden bed (palanquin), the canopy of which was covered with velvet and ornamented with precious stones. It was carried by twenty men.

The Sultan himself sat on a golden bed (palanquin), with a silken canopy to it and a golden top, drawn by four horses in gilt harness. Around him were crowds of people, and before him many singers and dancers, and all of them armed with bare swords or sabres, shields, spears, lances, or large straight bows; and riders and horses were in full armour.

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