The historic town of Belgaum is home one of Karnataka’s oldest Dargahs. Located within the ancient fort of Belgaum, the dargah Hazrat Syedina Shaikh Badruddin Shah Arif Chishti is believed to be more than eight centuries of old.
Among the first sufi saints to settle in the region, Shaikh Badruddin travelled across south India spreading the message of peace and harmony. The historic tomb in Belgaum is still a great symbol of harmony in the city.
“Hazrat Syedina Shaikh Badruddin Shah Arif Chishti arrived in Deccan more than 800 years ago. He travelled extensively across southern India to spread the message of peace and love. He was among the first sufi saints to settle down in this region,” said Rafeeq Ahmed Ghawwas, caretaker of the Dargah in Belgaum.
Originally from Delhi, Shaikh Badruddin he was a disciple of Hazrat Shaikh Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, who was a 12th century saint and scholar based in Delhi. According to Ghawwas, Shaikh Badruddin migrated to the Deccan in Belgaum on the advice of his spiritual master. He was the one who introduced the Chishti order of the revered saint Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti in the south.
“Our ancestors were the disciples of Shaikh Badruddin and we have been in the service of this place since the earliest times. I took over as the caretaker of this dargah from my uncle Khattal Ahmed, who had taken over from my father Abdur Raheem Mujawar. Before him our grandfather Ebrahim Ahmed was the caretaker, who took over from his father Shaikh Jangu Mian,” said Ghawwas, who has been the caretaker of the dargah for more than 30 years.
Venerated by kings, ministers and commanders of all faiths, the dargah and the saints of this order have had close ties with several dynasties across its history of almost 800 years.
The Aurangzeb connection and the Quran
More interestingly, the dargah Hazrat Syedina Shaikh Badruddin Shah Arif Chishti is in possession of several archival records that reflect its rich and vibrant history. And among its biggest inheritances is a 16th century copy of the Holy Quran that was calligraphed and gifted by the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir.
“The emperor had actually gifted the copy to the dargah of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, but we are not sure how and when it reached into the possession of our ancestors. We feel fortunate to have this blessed copy and we are doing our best to preserve it for posterity,” added Ghawwas, who has preserved the copy with great care.
According to local history, after his travels across South India, Shaikh Badruddin arrived in Belgaum and settled within the premises of the then newly built fort. The fort was originally built in 1204 AD by Raja Jaya Raya of the Ratta Dynasty and Shaikh Badruddin lived here until his death in 1251 AD.
This mausoleum was built in the early 16th century by the Adil Shahi general and the then governor of Belgaum Asad Khan Lari. The structure has been preserved with some renovation and restoration. Recently, the interiors of the dargah went through a facelift with Iranian glasswork adorning the walls, the dome and the ceilings.
Throughout its long history in Belgaum, the has received patronage from the rulers irrespective of their faith. The caretaker is in possession of several firmans and sanads issued by the Maratha rulers who venerated Shaikh Badruddin and offered their patronage.
“This dargah has always been the abode of peace and harmony and we are continuing with our age-old motto of love for all,” added Ghawwas.