Buḍḍu Saheb Climbs a Hill

Janab Muhammad Buḍan Khān was the inspector of Urdu schools. He would come to inspect the Anglo-Hindustani school in our town[1] once or twice a year.

Muslims citizens were a sizable minority[2] in our town, so they had a separate school. In that school, there were two Hindu teachers who taught Kannada. The strength of the school was about a hundred. The headmaster of the school was a person by name Janab Mustafā. He was known for his scholarship in Urdu, Arabic, and Persian.

Mustafā saheb was a good man. He was gentle and courteous. He had a friendly nature.  Teachers of all the schools in the town respected him and trusted him.

Now, let us call the inspector ‘Buḍḍu Saheb.’ That was the name given to him by the students.

When Buḍḍu Saheb first visited Mulbagal, he paid a visit to the dargah[3]. ‘Dargah’ refers to a shrine or a tomb built over the grave of a respected Muslim saint. It is a sacred spot and a pilgrimage centre.

The dargah in Mulbagal is a famous one. Every eight or ten years, a jātrā (village fair) took place there. It was called urus[4]. Devotees from villages surrounding Mulbagal and also from Penukonda, Chittoor, Punganur[5] region, and other places would come in groups to attend the urus. As per the custom, a chosen, consecrated fakir would sit at a designated spot in the dargah and give darśana to the public. A set of peacock feathers would be kept next to him – for him to bless the people. In the front, ālamaḍḍi incense sticks and other fragrant substances would be placed. A few of them used to also have a caged bird.

Apparently, there are four sects among fakirs. In rotation, these four sects got to organize the urus. It is said that my great-uncle knew the details about this rotary system. He apparently had documents and records pertaining to that. And so, people related to the dargah would frequent my great-uncle. The designated fakir—for period of eight or ten days—sat in a decorated maṇṭapa and on the last day there would be a procession across the town. A pandal would be raised by spreading a large tent-cloth held by four poles. Under the pandal, there would be a decorated saddled horse, surrounded by people. The festive music, burning torches – this would attract people. A bag of sandalwood powder would be kept on the back of the horse. Sandalwood powder along with a little rose water and attar would be distributed to the homes of prominent people.

This was my childhood experience.  

Hyder Vali

Buḍḍu Saheb was a true devotee. He had deep belief in the tenets of his religion and in its scriptures. When he visited the dargah, an elderly man, while explaining the history of the dargah, informed that the tomb was of a great ascetic by name Hyder Vali, who performed penance in a cave atop the hill and bathed in a pond there. This story kindled Buḍḍu Saheb’s curiosity. He expressed his keen desire – to Mustafā Saheb and the other school teachers – to visit the cave on the hilltop and also see the pond there.

The teachers exchanged glances, whispered among themselves, and finally made an appeal to him – “Alright, we will arrange for it. If we are give four to five days’ time, all the arrangements will be made.”

Buḍḍu Saheb then said, “Fine. There’s no rush. I will visit again during October or November this year. Let us climb then.”

Now, we must pay attention to Buḍḍu Saheb’s physique.

Bulky Body   

Buḍḍu Saheb was around forty-five years old at that time. He was blackish brown in complexion. A tall man. The middle portion of his body had a great deal of accumulated far. He had a loud voice. A heavy-set body frame. And so, the teachers were concerned about taking such a person atop a hill.

The month of November arrived. Buḍḍu Saheb landed up in town. The teachers told him, “All the arrangements are done. The best time to climb the hill is Saturday, before the break of dawn.”

Buḍḍu Saheb said, “Alright, I’ll be ready.”

The following were the arrangements made by the teachers: Four huge climbing ropes. One hundred packets with chunks of [unrefined] sugar, raisins, and dates. Around 150–200 boys. There were boys from all religions. There were brāhmaṇas too. A day before that Saturday, the teachers instructed all the students thus – “There will be no school on Saturday. However, everyone should assemble near the Gopālakṛṣṇasvāmī Temple at the foot of the hill, before the crack of dawn, by five in the morning. From there, you will all coming with us to climb the hill. All of you must follow what we say. You should pull or push as we instruct or stop when asked to do so. We will be back by around ten or eleven in the forenoon. Ask the people from your homes to bring lunch by then. We will all have lunch together in the grove nearby and then disperse.”

Ascending the Hill

As instructed, the students had assembled and were excited. All the teachers had arrived there with enthusiasm. The Inspector saheb also arrived. Everyone shouted out the prayer, “Allāh ho akbar,” and started climbing the hill. Meanwhile, four or five teachers came forward and tightly tied a rope to Buḍḍu Saheb’s waist. To that central rope, sturdy ropes were tied in each direction, with one in front and one at the back on the left side and similarly two on the right side. Thus the ropes were attached and the students held them as if ready to pull a teru[6]. A few of the older students were asked to stand behind Buḍḍu Saheb’s back and firmly hold the ropes by giving it a slight press. Two to three teachers, standing in the front on both sides, pulled the rope slowly and lightly. Then Buḍḍu Saheb would take a measured step forward. Thus, step by step, the climbing of the hill continued. Pulling from the front and support from the back gave him the strength and balance. After ten to twenty such steps, Buḍḍu Saheb would get tired. He indicated it through hand gestures. Teachers would then shout, “Allāh ho akbar,” and everyone stopped to get their breaths back. This was also the time for the sugar candies, raisins, and dates. The packets were distributed among students.

It was around half past nine by the time everyone reached the summit. There was a break for rest. Buḍḍu Saheb then saw everything he intended to see and expressed his happiness. And then began the descent. However, the pull was now from behind and there was no pushing from the back. Buḍḍu Saheb was not supposed to stumble while descending. Hence his speed and pressure had to be controlled and withheld from behind. There was also no need to stop at frequent intervals, except in three or four places. It was around noon by the time everyone reached the foot of the hill. Because it was winter, none of them were too exhausted.

The next day was a Sunday. That afternoon, the students and teachers assembled at the Anglo-Hindustani School building. The Inspector Saheb too arrived there.[7] He thanked everyone and said, “May God bless you all!” and distributed sugar pieces to everyone. (That was mogadum sugar of Mulbagal. It was from the shop of Kāśṭhi Madār Saheb).

Such were my childhood days.

This is the English translation of the seventeenth essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 8) – Sankeerna Smruthisamputa. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.

 
Footnotes

[1] The author is referring to his birthplace, Mulbagal (in Kolar district). He spent his childhood there before shifting to Bangalore in 1905–6.

[2] The original has ‘ನಮ್ಮ ಊರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಮುಸಲ್ಮಾನ್ ಪ್ರಜೆ ವಿಶೇಷವಾಗಿದ್ದದ್ದರಿಂದ...’

[3] The dargah of Baba Hyder Vali, a Sufi saint.

[4] Urus is a death anniversary of a Sufi saint, usually held at a dargah.

[5] Penukonda, Chittoor, and Punganur are in Andhra Pradesh. Mulbagal lies in the eastern end of Karnataka, which shares a border with Andhra Pradesh.

[6] Refers to the traditional ‘car’ or ‘chariot’ that is associated with a temple and is taken in a procession around the city on certain festive days.

[7] The original has the word ‘ಸವಾರಿ,’ which could mean either that he came riding a horse or that he came with his retinue of people.

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Jayasimha is a journalist based in Bengaluru. Previously he was a 'Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament' (LAMP) Fellow at PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi. His interests include literature, philosophy, history, politics, and polity.

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