A Pilgrimage to the Sultan’s Grave. Negotiation and Transformation of Muslim and Vīraśaiva Shared Sacred Sites in Northern Karnataka

02.12.2022 15:15 - 16:45

Sara Mondini | Dipartimento di Studi sull'Asia e sull'Africa Mediterranea, Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia

The mausoleum of the Muslim ruler Aḥmad Shāh I Bahmanī (r. 1422-1436) in Ashtur (Karnataka), each year, on the occasion of the sovereign’s ʿurs, is the destination of a pilgrimage that involves Muslims and Vīraśaivas. This over 150 km long foot journey touches on a series of sites along an itinerary that twists and turns through the districts of Gulbarga and Bidar, and culminates in a five-day festival (jātrā) by the mausoleum itself. During the last decades the pilgrimage (yātrā) has gained popularity and is attracting a growing number of devotees. As the object of recent research, it is often presented as a moment of harmonious coexistence taking a stand against various kinds of extremism and interreligious violence.

A closer examination of the contemporary rituals and dynamics of frequentation of the site seems to reveal a slow transformation of the event, in the attempt to re-define or re-write its identity and character. If the chronicles in fact allow us to trace out its importance and the establishment of its rituals through the centuries, today modern political parties have elected the celebrations as an ideal scenario for their political propaganda.

The lecture, through the analysis of “visual texts” and rituals as “witnesses” and “products” of this religious complexity, aims to discuss the present competition and negotiations on the part of the various religious groups that today are transposed and inscribed on the cultural-historical landscape. This will contribute to conjectures about the modern attempt to rewrite the history of the mausoleum and of the further sites touched upon by the pilgrimage, and about their progressive re-definition based on local exigencies as well as the expectations and projections on the part of the involved communities.

Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde
Seminarraum 1 des Instituts für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde, Spitalgasse 2, Hof 2.7, 1090 Wien