I had been on a whirlwind tour Bijapur in an auto rickshaw and everywhere I was greeted with mahals and mausoleums. While all of them were beautifully carved monuments, one of them was a bit of a “grave ” destination. And its isolated location matched a cold blooded tale as well. My last halt in Bijapur was Saat Kabar, a grave for sixty women.
I had heard of Saat Kabar only in books. I did not know if it actually existed. Even the auto driver who has been my guide for the day was not keen on taking me there. “ There is no one around and it is on a muddly lane. There is no road. You may have to go there walking on your own, ” he added, trying to dissaude me. But I have always been curious about dark, desolate places and stories that ring around them. So I persuaded him to take me there, even if it was rather isolated.
The roads took us well beyond the dusty town. There were a few villages strewn around where kids were playing but I could see vast empty tracts of land sprawled in front of us. And then the auto abruptly stopped. In front of me were just a few clump of bushes. There was no path. My auto driver warned me of snakes as we walked through the wilderness
It was late evening and twilight had already set in . It seemed even dark as we walked through the dense undergrowth. Suddenly, I saw the crumbled remains of an old tower shrouded by branches of a tree. It was brick red in colour and there was no path to get there. Towering in front of me, the the unkempt branches of the trees snaking towards it covered it.
The story of Saat Kabar or 60 graves refer to those of the murdered wives of Afzal Khan, the army chief of Adil Shahi 11. The silence was eerie. The graves told the gruesome story of how these women were killed by their own husband. The tale was set in the 17th century and we were taken to a battlefield, where a bitter war was fought between Chatrapathi Shivaji and Adil Shah 11 .
An astrologer apparently predicted that Afzal Khan would lose the battle and he would not survive the war.Angry, jealous and possessive, the commander decided that his wives would be killed by his own hand before he died so that they would not remarry. So he led these innocent women to the spot and pushed them into a well and killed them. According to the story, one of the wives tried to escape but she eventually met her fate as well. And these were the graves called Saat Kabar of these women.
We continued walking looking for these graves. All around me were just stunted bushes and thorny scrubs. It was virtually in the middle of nowhere with not a sould around. Suddenly I heard the call of my autodriver. We had walked into another vast open space but it was filled with several graves. made of black stone. There was no board but we knew we were at Saat Kabar. They were all maintained badly, some broken while others were open. Afzhal Khan wanted to be buried near his wives but he was killed right on the battlefield. We counted all sixty of them.
Saat Kabar or these graves were like a silent epitaph to these unfortunate. Darkness was slowly enveloping the landscape and the cold silence only added to the eerieness. One could almost imagine the screams of the women as they were pushed to their death. My auto driver insisted that we return and I slowly retraced my steps to the town, imagining what the last thoughts of these women were.