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‘Saat Qabar’, a graveyard of Afzal Khan’s wives in Bijapur, is a shambles.
‘Saat Qabar’, a graveyard of Afzal Khan’s wives in Bijapur, is a shambles.

Suresh Bhat

Afzal Khan built tombs for his 64 wives

Bijapur: The pages of history have enough stories that highlight the gallantry of Afzal Khan, the high-profile commander of the Adil Shahi army, who was ultimately killed by the Maratha King Shivaji at Pratapgarh in 1659. An unusual historical monument called “Saat Qabar” (sixty graves) located on the outskirts of the city, carries a legend about the famous general, referred to in the well-known book by the late-20th century archaeologist Henry Cousens entitled “Bijapur and its Architectural Remains”.

Ali Adil Shah II asked Afzal Khan to capture Shivaji who proves a constant military irritant to the kingdom.

As Afzal Khan makes preparations for a war, he is warned by astrologers who predict that he will not survive the war.

He, therefore, decides to do away with all his 64 wives, or so the legend goes, and starts building tombs for himself and his wives.

He kills them by drowning them in a nearby well that still exists.

One of them escaped only to be captured by his soldiers near Khatijapur, and she too was put to death. Although the truth of this legend has not been verified, the tombs do exist.

In all, there are 64 tombs, including an opened one, that have been erected on a wide masonry platform.

Though most of the graves are still intact, the rest have either crumbled or dug up by miscreants for possible hidden treasure.

An Archaeological Survey of India board near the monument states that it is a protected one.

However, according to Somla Naik, Senior Conservation Assistant, the monument is no longer a protected one. It was denotified from the protected monument list as early as 1961 and the signboard might have been left over there by oversight.

New housing colonies are coming up in the vicinity, and monument lovers fear that soon the graveyard might be encroached upon by land-sharks.

According to historian Krishna Kolhar Kulkarni, the State should take steps to protect it.

As an immediate step, the area could be fenced, and conservation could be taken up at a later stage, he said.

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