Khuldabad and the Valley of Saints

Khuldabad is a small town near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The area is also known as the Valley of Saints, because of the significant number of onion-domed Sufi tombs dotting the landscape in and around the town. A dedicated tomb enthusiast could easily spend days here, visiting and exploring them all. I went primarily for one reason: to boost my Great Mughal tomb-spotting score up to the India-maximum of 4/6.

Here’s the scoresheet:

Aurangzeb‘s tomb is located inside the complex of the Sufi saint Zainuddin‘s. It’s free to go in to any of the tombs, but you’re expected to tip the Muslim priests and tomb attendants who guide you around and tell you about them. In Aurangzeb’s little enclosure, a blind priest gave me a short spiel, although it was nigh on incomprehensible, and what I did catch, was already written on the plaque opposite. I gave him 10 rupees, and I don’t know how he worked out how much it was, but he seemed unsatisfied and launched into a sob story about being blind and very poor, so I crept silently away (the barefoot thing coming in useful for once). He was still whining to himself as I left the enclosure.

I’ve got little sympathy. So you’re poor, are you? You want a tip? Here’s a tip. Do you know what the single most effect thing you can do to boost your society’s economy is? Emancipate your women. It’s a well known economic truth. Double your productivity, double your talent pool. Everyone benefits. But I doubt, as a Muslim priest, you’re doing much to effect that change.

As for the tomb, it’s interesting for being so humble: just a plain grave, topped with earth, in a small roofless marble enclosure. Aurangzeb was a devoutly religious ruler, and requested his resting place be plain, unornamented, and paid for solely out of the money he raised by knitting hats. Even the marble is a later addition, ordered by the British Viceroy Lord Curzon, in utter disregard to Aurangzeb’s wishes.

Despite political differences, I can’t help but love Curzon: for his audacity, for his arrogance, for the breathtaking extent to which he didn’t give a fuck. “Partition this province, flog that bunch of natives, oh, and redo Aurangzeb’s tomb in marble while you’re at it, I’m not having any of this pious anonymity shit.”

More ostentatious than intended, but still pretty humble compared to his fellow Mughals’: Aurangzeb’s tomb in Khuldabad, Maharashtra

Aurangzeb’s wife and son are buried in similarly austere, roofless tombs on the other side of the complex. Zainuddin’s tomb is a slightly grander affair, in an actual building, and with a string of ostrich eggs hanging over it, and a solid silver door that the priest was proud to show me. Another saint, Burhanuddin, is buried across the road. His tomb has gold and silver orbs in place of ostrich eggs on his dangly rope decoration. I wonder if either of these Sufi teachers ever mentioned anything about material wealth in their sermons.

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