After a gap of a decade, I was heading back to Kalaburgi. It is always an adventure to head to Northern Karnataka, especially if, you like to travel by public transport. The long and winding North Eastern Karnataka Transport (NEKRTC) bus ride is a great way to get a glimpse of the culture and life of the people in this region.
However, this time round, I had a specific purpose — I recently came across a water colour sketch by the celebrated colonial artist, Colin Mackenzie. It was Titled ‘Mausoleum and College of Sirajuddin near Gulbarga, March 1797’. In his sketch, the Dargah was a magnificent two-storeyed edifice, flanked by two tall minarets. This art work intrigued me enough to embark on this journey.
Gulbarga (now Kalaburgi ) was the capital city of the Bahmani kingdom from 1350 AD until 1432 AD when Ahmed Shah Bahmani moved the capital city to Bidar. The Bahmani rulers are known to have patronised many Sufi figures during their rule and Sheikh Sirajuddin Junaidi was one of the earliest Sufi figures in the Bahmani kingdom. He was said to be the spiritual advisor to the king until his death in 1380. The monument depicted in the art work was his Dargah.
The bus finally dawdled into Kalaburagi Bus station around noon. After a refreshing cuppa, I hopped onto a friend’s motorcycle in the hope of finding this grand 14th Century monument. Kalaburagi, is nothing like the grand capital city it once was. The grand ancient monuments are grappling with the uninteresting modern buildings for the visitor’s attention. There is a clear division — old and new city. While the old city plays host to the magnificent medieval era monuments amidst narrow roads, the new is all about malls, shopping complexes, housing layouts and newly laid wide roads.
Surprisingly, my friend, a resident of Kalaburagi, hadn’t heard of the Dargah. So werefer to a guide book, which tells us that the Sheikh Junaidi’s Dargah is to the west of the fort, hence, we decide to first go to the fort and then orient ourselves.
We finally sight the tall minarets and soak in the sight for few minutes. Although the monument looked exactly the same as in the sketch of Mackenzie, the surroundings were a far cry from his representation. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) signage confirmed that this indeed was the Dargah of Hazrat Sheikh Sirajuddin Junaidi. The imposing arched double-storeyed symmetrical gateway of the Dargah is framed by minarets with cylindrical shafts and balconies. The intended symmetry is distorted by the inefficient conservation work; the bottom storey is painted pale white and plastered while the top storey is untouched. According to our guide book, this gateway was built by the Adil Shahi rulers in the 17th Century – about 350 years ago. As is the norm with several ASI monuments, gateway has been fenced all around and an ugly cast iron gate prevents us from entering the place. So we take the narrow path on the side to get in to the Dargah
There are hawkers selling incense, flowers, sweets. The tomb of Sheikh Junaidi is recently painted in white and green on the inside and the ceiling has been completely transformed with gaudy glass decorations. The original walls and ceilings must have had inscriptions from the Koran painted in natural dyes. Now, there is no sign of the original paint, but foliate designs and stucco inscriptions.
In a quest to find an original 1380 Persian inscription, I asked an elderly gentlemen sitting close by. He points out the Persian inscription, now framed and hung on the wall; this inscription declares the tomb as the mausoleum of the saint and dates back to 1380 AD. Later, we also learnt that the locals now know the Dargah as Sheikh Roza. After a satisfying, but tiring day of exploration, we head home for a good meal and a siesta.