Golconda Fort and the Story of Bhakta Ramadas and Tana Shah
Every time I climb the stairs of the Golconda fort I discover something new, or spend the time to understand and photograph something in more detail.
I hope you have read my post about Kali Temple in Golconda Fort, right next to the Royal Palace, if not please do read before moving further.
So this last trip we spent some time in the prison room of Bhakta Ramdas, his name means a devotee of Lord Rama though his original name was Gopanna.
The story of the prison is a combination of mythology and folklore, one of those things about which we say “It happens only in India”. Though there are many versions of the story here is the one that is most commonly told by the tourist guides of Golconda fort.
So this gentleman Ramadas originally called Gopanna was the Tax Collector for the Abul Hasan the last King of Qutub Shahi dynasty. Now let us delve a bit into the legends and folklores around the King and his Tax Collector Shree Gopanna.
Mr. Gopanna beside a tax collector was also a devotee of lord Ram, so one day he was on a field trip to his jurisdiction and was informed that God came in dreams of a local woman and told her that Gopanna will make a temple of Lord Ram.
Now Mr. Gopanna was a true devotee of Lord Ram and decided to make a grand temple of Lord Ram in the area what is now known as Bhadrachalam.
There was only one challenge the Tax collectors in those days were supposed, to be honest, people with very less salary. Remember these were 1650 types, and our Telugu Biddas were yet to conquer the IT industry in US and ERP, SAP etc. were not even conceived, so there was no online real-time accounts reconciliation process.
But he got an idea and built the temple from the State Funds, thinking that his boss the mighty ruler of the kingdom of Golconda will never find out. Or maybe he thought even if the king finds out the lord will bail him out, and boy did the lord bail him out?
Patience dear reader is a virtue that is not common in today’s instant noodle cum messaging world. Whatever happened to the art of listening to a story. Remember the good old days when you will sit in the lap of your Grandpa and listen to the same story every day till you fell asleep ? No ? Well you don’t know what you missed. I suggest when you become a grandpa / granny don’t deprive your grand kids of the joy. They will remember you fondly one day.
Anyways one is not sure how the King came to know about the embezzlement, whether somebody ratted on Gopanna or he smelled something fishy, or he had a really good audit team (not like the PWC guys that audited Satyam Computers) he was furious on finding about the loss to the treasury and duly imprisoned Gopanna in a dungeon.
Now this is the dungeon or prison that I was interested in this particular visit to the Golconda fort. Bhakta Ramadas spent about 12 years in the jail praying to his lord to bail him out. And now the legend gets interesting and the story gets an interesting twist. One day the King came to the prison which was within the fort and told Ramdas aka Gopanna that his debts to the treasury are paid in full and he is a free man. Apparently, two boys came and gave the money to the Emperor; their story was that villagers collected money to pay the debt so that Bhakt Ramdass can walk free.
But per Ramadas the two boys were Lord Ram and his younger brother Lakshman who came to pay his debt.
After this the story gets a little less mythological and a bit more Ekta Kapoorish. The Emperor on knowing that the boys were Lord Ram and Lakshman fell to the feet of Ramdass, saying something like “Oh you are great, Lord Ram came to pay your debt”, but Ramadas in true Ekta Kapoor serial style reciprocated the Charan Sparsh (touching feet in English and Pairee Paina jee in Hindi TV serials ) and fell to the feet of the King Abul Hasan Qutub Shah, saying “But sir you are Greater Great as Lord came in person to you and you have seen Lord Rama himself so you are greater than me” A very apt example of “Boss is always right”, from the historical times, which is very well adapted in modern corporate employees.
So anyways long story short, ( knowing very well that art of listening to a story is dead 🙁 ) the boys who paid the debt of Ramadas were not found again, and the Ram temple of Bhadrachalam still stands and attracts lakhs of devotees every year.
It is also believed that Abul Hasan Qutub Shah a Muslim Shia king started the tradition of donations of Clothes and pearls on Ramnavmi ( Birthday of Lord Rama ) So my friends this is the legend of Bhakta Ramdas and Abul Hasan Qutub Shah the last King of Golconda, who was ousted by the Aurangzeb’s Generals and forced to hand over all the diamonds and gold etc and live in exile in Daulatabad in modern-day Maharashtra. He was buried in a simple grave there and hence is the only ruler of Qutub Shahi dynasty who is not buried in the Qutub Shahi tombs. The Golconda Fort was heavily damaged during the seizing by Aurangzeb, and it seems finally it is getting repaired after all these years.
BTW Abul Hasan was also called Tana Shah a nickname given to him by his teacher, a Sufi saint called Hazrat Syed Shah Raziuddin. Hazrat Shah Raju Qattal was eighth in the lineage of the Sufi saint Hazrat Syedna Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gesu daraz of Gulbarga. Abul Hassan had a good voice and sang well. He also had a certain innocence about him. Shah Raju, therefore, gave him the nickname of `Tana Shah’ which means a child saint. He was also known as Tani Shah (benevolent ruler).
But today his name is synonym with a tyrant and in any movie on trade union etc. in India, you can see crowds screaming “Tana Shahi Nahin Chalegee” / “ताना शाही नहीं चलेगी नहीं चलेगी” meaning you cannot rule like a Tana Shah. Most people in Hyderabad believe that this image makeover was a part of maligning propaganda by PR team of Aurangzeb to make Abul Hasan look bad and make his rule more acceptable to people.
Now if you are wondering about these stone carvings in the prison, then I am told that Bhakta Ramadas during his prison time made them with his own hands (I am assuming the guide deliberately did not mention Chisel and hammer). The vermillion that you see in my opinion is the handiwork of the current security guards to collect the coins offered by visitors.
So now you agree with me that Golconda fort is a unique fort? From here generations of Muslim rulers dominated the Deccan, with a Maha Kali Mandir right next to their palace and the last king is believed to have met Lord Rama in person.
As they say, it happens only in India.
Check this post for knowing about places to visit in and around Hyderabad
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