A three-day literary festival, aimed at understanding the history of Bahmani and Rashtrakuta rulers of the erstwhile Deccan state, will kick off on 4 March.

Bengaluru: After Tipu Jayanti, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka has now decided to celebrate what it calls the “contributions” of the Bahmani Muslims to the state’s art and culture, a move that has sparked a controversy in the poll-bound state.

A three-day literary festival, aimed at understanding the history of Bahmani and Rashtrakuta rulers of the erstwhile Deccan state, will kick off in Kalaburagi district on 4 March.

“This was the demand of the people of the area. They want to know more about the contribution of these rulers to the art, architecture and culture of our state,” Sharan Prakash Patil, the minister in-charge of Kalaburagi district, told ThePrint.

“As part of the three-day festival, we will be celebrating Rashtrakuta Utsav one day and Bahmani Utsav on another day. These will be purely academic sessions,” Patil added.

The three-day event will focus on history, culture and cuisine of the Bahmanis and Rashtrakutas and how they enriched the culture in the Deccan province.

“These two great kingdoms were born in this land — Gulbarga. The capital of the Rashtrakuta dynasty falls in my constituency (Sedam),” Patil said.

The government has allocated Rs 10 crore for the event.

In the eye of the storm

The state government’s decision has sparked a controversy with the opposition BJP and pro-Kannada organisations saying they would oppose this move tooth and nail.

BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje questioned the rationale behind the proposed event.

“Muslim rulers in the past have tortured and killed our people. The Congress has made it a point to celebrate Muslim rulers only for votes,” she said.

“Is Karnataka part of a democracy or a sultanate,” Karandlaje asked.

However, Patil strongly defended the government’s move, claiming BJP leaders like Karandlaje know nothing about Rashtrakutas or the Bahmanis.

“Please go and ask Yeddyurappa and Shobha if they know anything about their history? They did not fight against any Hindu ruler. Rather they fought against Muhammad bin Tughlaq,” he said.

“Do they know anything about this? Why do they want to politicise everything,” Patil asked.

The BJP argues that the Congress government’s action will hurt the sentiments of the majority class.

“Celebrating a ruler such as Tipu Sultan was hurtful enough. And now with this, Congress has shown that it can go to any extent for vote bank politics,” said a senior BJP leader.

Massive protests broke out in Karnataka and three people lost their lives in communal clashes during Tipu Jayanti celebrations in November last year.

Going back to history

The Bahmani sultanate is said to be the first independent Muslim kingdom in south India. The Bahmanis were Turkish rulers who as part of their expansion plans, decided to attack the prosperous Vijayanagara empire, ruled by King Krishnadevaraya, around 1500.

Though initially Bahmanis were defeated, they conquered the land after the after the death of Krishnadevaraya.

Criticising the Congress government’s move, historian Chidanand Murthy said that it’s a foolish idea. “The Bahmani kingdom had done severe damage to this region. Our culture, heritage suffered under their rule,” he said.

Minister Patil, however, said it is purely an exercise to understand the past.

“People want to know the history of these rulers and their kingdoms. It is purely an academic exercise,” he added.

Mahipal Reddi, one of the local coordinators for the event, said that those who are opposing the decision have a communal mindset.

“The biggest contribution of the Bahmanis to the region was in field of architecture. Gol Gumbaz, the Gulbaraga Fort, Jamia Masjid or Saat Gumbaz — all of them are iconic structures,” he said.

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