Tuesday 14 May 2013

When Rayaru blessed an African

Who has not heard of the story of  Nawab Siddi Masud Khan and Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru of Mantralaya.
Siddi Masud Khan (1662-1687) was the Governor of Adoni (Adwani), now in Andhra Pradesh, and he held the province as part of the Adil Shahi dominion.
It was at Adoni itself that Siddi Masud Khan first met Raghavendra Swamy and tried to test him by offering him meat on a plate covered with a clothe. Siddi Masud realized the greatness of Raghavendra Swamy when the meat turned into fruits and flowers.
Siddi Masud later gifted Raghavendra Swamy the land at Manchale, which is now better known as Mantralaya. All these facts are more or less well-known as is the fact that Venkanna Pant, a devotee of  Rayaru, was the Dewan of Adoni.
Venkanna had been appointed to the post by Siddi Masud Khan and he continued in the same position even when the Khan went to Bijapur to discharge his duties.
However, not much is known about Siddi Masud Khan or his rule over Adoni. Records available at Bijapur, the Adil Shah chronicles and even Maratha texts when pieced together give a fascinating account of  Siddi Masud Khan, his life and times.
Siddi Masud Khan was not an Indian. He was an African and he belonged to the Siddi tribe.
He was of African descent, a Habshi. He was the son-in-law of Siddi Jahaur, a front-ranking general and commander of the Adil Shahis.  Siddi Jahaur was also the governor of Kurnool, now in Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly, both Siddi Jahaur and Siddi Masud fought Chatrapathi Shivaji as did other Adil Shahi Generals, Afzal Khan and Ranadulla Khan.
Siddi Jahaur was one of the few Bijapur Generals to treat Shivaji with respect. Siddi Masud too was friendly with Shivaji and thanked him when he came to his aid when the Mughals invaded Bijapur.
There is a painting in England of Siddi Masud Khan which is part of the Golconda series of portraits of eminent men.
Masud Khan remained in power until 1683 and he was also the Regent of  the King, Sikander Adil Shah. However, he was disgusted with the internal politics in Bijapur and he returned to Adoni where he soon asserted his independence.
At Adoni, he built a mosque and also a well. Both these structures exists even today. This is the Shahi Jamia Masjid and its architects were Iranian engineers headed by Mallik Sandal. The area of this masjid is as same as of Holy Kabba in Mecca.
The well is called Kamam Bhavi and it was also used for irrigation purposes.
A little known fact about Siddi Masud Khan is that Bijapur would have fallen to the Marathas under Shivaji much before Aurangzeb could conquer the Adil Shahi Kingdom.
It was December 23, 1677 and the Regent of Bijapur, Bahlol Khan, died. His slave and close confidant, Jamshed Khan, seized the reigns of power in Bijapur.
Sikander Adil Shah was then barely nine years of age and he was a mere puppet in the hands of his powerful nobles. Jamshed entered into a secret pact with Shivaji. He agreed to hand over Bijapur to Shivaji and also deliver the boy King to the Chatrapathi for six lakh pagodas.
News of this plot leaked to Siddi Masud Khan and he immediately made plans to safeguard the Bijapur Kingdom. He himself spread a rumour of his death and directed four thousand of his elite troops to go over to Jamshed and seek employment.
Jamshed was only too happy to oblige. Jamshed was a weak and timid person and the arrival of battle-hardened troops were a God send. He recruited all of them. The troops cleverly trapped Jamshed and killed him and Siddi Masud Khan entered Bijapur triumphantly.
Siddi Masud Khan then took over as the Regent of Bijapur and strengthened its defences. Meanwhile, the Mughals under Diler Khan invaded Bijapur and laid a siege of the city. Masud appealed to Shivaji for help, saying that he and Shivaji both had eaten the salt of Adil Shah and that they should form a common front against the Mughals.
The valiant Shivaji agreed at once and he arrived at the gates of Bijapur and began harassing the troops of  Mughals, who subsequently withdrew. A grateful Masud Khan thanked Shivaji for his gesture. Masud Khan, however, withdrew to Adoni and left Bijapur to its fate when he realised that he was no longer welcome in Kingdom. He retired to Adoni on November 21, 1683 on the pretext of visiting his jagir. He left Bijapur, never to come back. He then sent in his resignation to Sikander Adil Shah who then appointed Agha Khusro as the Wazir. However, the Mughals were already knocking on the doors of Bijapur and on September 13, 1686, Sikander Adil Shah walked out of the fort and handed over the keys of Bijapur and the royal insignia to Aurangzeb.
Sikander Adil Shah became a Mughal prisoner and died in captivity in Daulatabad in 1700.
Coming back to Siddi Masud, the Mughal General Firuz Jang on January 25, 1688 attacked Adoni with a head of 25,000 cavalry. On August 6, 1688, Siddi Masud surrendered to the Mughals and he was enrolled as a high ranking commander along with his sons. 
Siddi Masud had thus a meteoric rise and Venkanna attributed it to the blessings of Rayaru.    

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