Friday, 15 June 2018

Grave of Mastani in Pabal

Located around 60 km from Pune, Mastani's 275-year-old tomb is housed in the middle of a courtyard, surrounded by a boundary wall and three doors. One end of the courtyard has an elevated platform, which was used for namaz. One of the walls has Mastani's painting, too. According to local villagers, Muslims call the place 'Mastani chi Masjid' and Hindus 'Mastani's Samadhi'.Mohammad Inamdar's family has been looking after the tomb for generations. They are said to have  accompanied Mastani to Deccan from Bundelkhand .In the middle of the courtyard is a stone tomb, where Mastani was buried over two centuries ago. Next to the tomb stands a diya kund (lamp), which Inamdar lights every day.Though initially she stayed at Mastani Mahal in Shaniwarwada, owing to the rift  in the family, Bajirao shifted her to a palace in Kothrud. Later, when conflicts failed to end, he shifted her to a palace specially made for her in Pabal. Today, there’s no sign of the said palace in the village. The money collected as tax from three villages – Pabal, Tendur and Loni – was used by Bajirao for maintenance of Mastani .

 Shamsher Ali Bahadur , son of  Bajirao I and Mastani moved to Banda and his descendants became the Nawabs of Banda , but lost their estate  when Nawab Ali Bahadur II, a descendent of Shamser, responded to a rakhi sent by Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi and fought against the British alongside her in 1858. Ali Bahadur II  was exiled to Indore after 1858. His grandson Nawab Saif Ali Bahadur had three wives and 13 sons and seven daughters . In 1947, Saif moved his large family to Sehore for financial prudence. The family home there is called Nawab Banda compound. Afaque Ali Bahadur is the eleventh son of  Saif Ali Bahadur .Afaque Ali Bahadur’s son, Umar Ali Bahadur, a 29-year-old sales professional in Bhopal, studied Sanskrit in school and can rattle off mantras with perfection.  As a devotional exercise as a child, he once filled up a book with repetitions of the Gayatri mantra in writing. He is the most enthusiastic of the young brigade about preserving family history.


While the grave was in complete ruins, the state archaeology department started restoration work after miscreants dug it up in 2009. Locals said the tomb was dug up when people tried to find a diamond that Mastani swallowed to commit suicide. Umar studied in Pune and spearheaded the restoration of  Mastani’s grave at Pabal. “When I was going to study in Pune University,” says Umar, “my uncle Jamshed told me to pay respects at our ancestor’s grave. I found that it had been vandalized.”  After completing his post-graduate diploma in marketing management, he joined a private company in Pune to pursue the restoration and beautification work of the grave. With the help of history researcher Pandurang Balkavde and office bearers of Srimant Bajirao Mastani Sanskrutik Pratishthan (SBMSP), a trust founded by villagers of the district in memory of Bajirao and Mastani, Umar carried out this project.He  along with an SBMSP delegation had presented a memorandum in this regard to district collector Vikas Desmukh and also had met Baramati MP Supriya Sule. On 18th  August 2016 , Umar Ali Bahadur with his younger brother  on birth anniversary celebration of Peshwa Bajirao I  inaugurated the grave and Bajirao Road in Pabal .“The day when the grave was restored, while the rituals were performed as per the Muslim tradition, the Hindus too joined in with garlands to place it on the grave,” says Baba Inamdar, nephew of the caretaker, who is also the vice-president of All India Muslim and OBC Organisation.

Irrespective of their beliefs, people from both the community visit Mastani’s grave with equal devotion. “Because Mastani was Maharaja Chhatrasal’s daughter, the Hindus of Pabal consider her as a Hindu. The Muslims think she was a Muslim as her mother, Ruhaani Bai, was a Persian-Muslim. Despite their respective faiths, there’s never been a dispute in the village on this matter,” says Sanjay Ghodekar, the principal of a Padmani Jain Mahavidyalaya in Pabal, who has done M.Phil on Mastani as a subject in 1997 based on his six-year long extensive research.

A few decades ago, a sword was found in the village. Assuming that it may have once belonged to Mastani’s security guards, it was kept safely in the office of gram panchayat .The village remembers the beautiful queen in many other ways. Padmani Jain Mahavidyalaya takes out an annual magazine as a tribute to Mastani. Besides, the college also organises a state-level debate completion named Bajirao Mastani Debate Competition which sees participation of students from across the state.

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