Sublime and spiritual

Floral designs inside Hazrat Badruddin Arif’s dargah in Belagavi

Belagavi, the city of mouth-watering kunda and the majestic Suvarna Soudha, was once in the dominion of Adilshahi rulers. They were not only cosmopolitan but also encouraged people in the fields of fine arts and literature. Deccani, Kannada and Marathi languages flourished in that period. The welfare measures introduced in the kingdom had endeared them to their subjects. History records that many Sufi saints migrated to Bijapur, now Vijayapura, from North India and foreign countries, during the period.

After the death of Yousuf Adil Shah, his minor son Ismail Adil Shah ascended the throne. Kamal Khan, a minister was appointed as the regent. He revolted against Ismail Adil Shah and his mother Punji Khatun. Khusrau Turk, a loyal Adilshahi commander, suppressed the insurgency and killed Kamal Khan.

In appreciation of his service, the mother and the son honoured him with the title of Asad Khan (Asad means lion in Arabic). He was a daring commander who had won several wars for the Adilshahi dynasty. Since he had come from Lar, a heritage city in southern Iran, he was popularly known as Asad Khan Lari. He was granted the jagir of Belagavi and was appointed as its governor.

Asad Khan Lari started taking interest in spirituality. He considered Sufi saint Hazrat Badruddin Arif as his spiritual mentor. Asad Khan built a beautiful structure over the Sufi saint’s grave situated within the fort complex. Its interiors have exquisite, colourful glasswork representing the best of Iranian and Turkish art in Karnataka. The ceiling of the dome that appears to be diamond-studded, shining walls, dazzling floral designs in the mehrab (niches), and sacred Arabic inscriptions make the structure pleasing to the eyes. Another attraction here is also one of the best specimens of Mughal art: a laminated copy of Quran, beautifully calligraphed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Every page of the book has a different border and flowery design. Devotees, irrespective of caste and creed, visit the dargah.

Another monument, built in 1519 by Asad Khan Lari, is Safa Masjid. The beautiful mosque has two tall minarets and Persian inscriptions on its pillars. Since the mosque is situated in the protected area of the fort, it is open only during Ramzan and Bakrid.

Sayyed Sajid, a social activist and devotee of Sufis, took me to Mandoli, a village located 6 km away from Belagavi, where Asad Khan Lari meditated under a huge tree. The villagers venerate the place and call it a dargah. I was told that he breathed his last under the same tree.

Later, his body was shifted to the mausoleum, which he had built for himself in the cantonment area of Belagavi. Though the shrine looks simple, the interiors are intricate. It has colourful glasswork and sacred inscriptions on the ceiling and walls.

Asad Khan’s selfless service and devotion to God made people revere him as a Sufi saint. People call him Hazrat Asad Khan Lari. His death anniversary, called Sandal, is held according to the Mohammedan calendar, on the 13th day of Ramzan every year. The Sandal procession, before coming to the dargah, visits the tomb of Hazrat Badruddin Arif, his spiritual guide, and the grave of his teacher Hazrat Hasan Bukhari.

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Sublime and spiritual

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