Baba Budangiri

Sri Guru Datha Threya Baba Budangiri Dargah is said to be the oldest Sufi shrine in Chikmagaluru District, Karnataka. The available history says that one Dada Hayath, his real name being ‘Hazrat Shah Jamer Allah Mazarabi’, considered to be a direct disciple of the Prophet, was sent to India in 11th century from Saudi Arabia to spread the message of Islam and peace in a true tradition of Sufism. The historical records tell us that the shrine of Baba Budhan was patronised by both Hindu as well as Muslim kings, both of whom endowed it with large land grants. In edicts issued by the Hindu rulers of Mysore the shrine was referred as the Sri Dattatreya Swami Baba Budhan Peetha (‘The Monastery of the Revered Lord Dattatreya Baba Budhan’), while the Muslim custodians of the shrine were granted the honorific title of ‘jagat guru’ or ‘Teacher of the World’.  They were, in addition to, the only Muslim religious heads to be exempted from personal appearance in the civil courts of the state.

Lately, this shrine has been a source of controversies regarding it being a “Hindu temple” or “Muslim dargah”. Before 1975, there are no records of any sort of controversy. It is only after 1975 when the controversy aroused regarding the administration of the shrine. Thereafter, the Karnataka Government handed over the administration of the shrine to the Waqf board. This gave rise to series of litigation challenging the order of the government. Court ordered a status quo on the issue, as both the Muslims and the Hindu equally revered the shrine.

From 1984, the Sangh Parivar started the “Brahminisation” of the shrine. The whole issue reached it’s flash point in 1998, when the Sangh Parivar’s aggressive politics of confrontation started, wherein rathayatras were organised to rouse communal passions. The Sangh Parivar succeeded in making it an all-Karnataka controversial issue and a flash point of communal confrontation. The silence of the Government of Karnataka added advantage to the Sangh Parivar forces. Ignoring the Court’s order in 1999, the controversy reached its peak, when the Sangh Parivar, took an aggressive posture and organised jeep yatras towards the shrine, thus creating a sense of insecurity and tension among the Muslim community. Moreover, according to Alternate Law Forum’s report, the local administration was hand in glove with the activities of the Sangh Parivar, by providing all facilities and support.

Surprisingly, during my interaction with the devotees present in the dargah it was found that after the controversy, the number of Hindu devotees visiting the dargah has gone down. According to the Muzzavar of the shrine, every year twice RSS/VHP organizes ‘puja’ in dargah by installing idols, celebrating ‘Datha Jyanti’ and ‘Datha Mala’.

According to Nayaz after the controversy, Muslim devotees would mostly come here to worship and the Hindus would come here merely for site seeing. Nayaz and Rizvan are the shopkeepers by profession with their shop near the dargah. However, they live in a nearby village called Antigundi. On being asked about the communal situation in nearby areas, they said that in their village they never had any problem in the past. Even after the Baba Budangiri controversy cropped up, the relationship between communities in their villages is same. They further added that during Datha Jyanthi and Datha Mala festivals there is enough security present, so, there is no violence of any sort. Rizvan added that, “If there is one Hindu devotee then there are two police men who are present in the dargah, during festivals”.

Syed Makhtiyar Ahmed, who is Muzzavar of the dargah, on being asked about his views on the whole controversy, says that it really doesn’t matter to him that twice in a year Hindu devotees come to dargah and worship. For him there is only one God and it is the man who divided himself in religion. About Baba Budangiri controversy, he agreed that after the controversy, normal number of devotees, especially Hindus, have gone down but it has not strained relationship or fuelled any sort of anger in normal day-to-day life of people. For him politics on dargah started when litigation arose between Hindu and Muslim trustees on the management of the dargah. It was this litigation which RSS/VHP took advantage of and gave it a controversy in the name of religion. I asked him how he sees the future of the dargah, he replied that he is not concerned with the political drama happening in the name of dargah. He said, “If they (RSS/VHP) come to worship here, they are most welcome, and in Islam even if your enemy comes to your door is a guest. By worshipping God here, they are doing the same thing in different ways. God has only made man and woman; it is man who made these caste, class, and religion.”

After Baba Budangiri controversy, socio-political situation in Chikmagalur district has changed a lot. Chikmagalur once considered as Congress stronghold is now BJP’s constituency from past two years. From past two elections BJP candidate CT Ravi is the MLA from Chikmagalur. According to the account given by local residents, CT Ravi and another BJP candidate Sunil Kumar were the people who spearheaded the controversy over Baba Budangiri dargah. According to a shopkeeper owner in Chikmagalur, the whole area of 2000 acres in Baba Budangiri is a mining area. The whole contrversy happened due to the same reason but later government declared that the area is not apt for mining activities for next 100 years, and thereafter, these communal organisations started losing their interest.

According to the locals, for the first time, when RSS/VHP people conducted puja, around 1500 people were came to the Shrine; next time number went up to 20,000. Last year only 700 people participated in the puja. According to the locals, every year when these devotees come to Chikmagalur, they pass city filled in vehicles shouting abuses to Muslims. According to one of the person, now the relationship between Hindus and Muslims has changed a lot. He told me, “Chikmagalur never saw this communal divide and people here are very innocent and so there has been no riot situation. However, now in a day-to-day life people have started feeling that communal divide in themselves which was not present earlier.”, but still according to him, irrespective of political situation, more or less  relationship is amicable.

Once talking to a group of 3 men, I asked them their names, in return they asked me, “Are you a Politician?”; astonished with this question, I re-introduced myself. They replied and said, “It is the name of a person which creates so much of a problem. Asking name of a person is the job of politicians, and if you are not a politician then my name is the least important question in your research.” Startled with the answer, I didn’t enquire any thing further. Perhaps, they were scared of telling me their names because there is so much of fear infused in people that they don’t want to get into any trouble of any sort.

I asked the same person, whether he wants to change the BJP government with a more “secular” party? He answered in negative and said in reply that when BJP is in power there is peace here because there is no one to ignite communal tension in society.


1. Alternate Law Forum report on Baba Budangiri. Available at Alternate Law Forum website.


1 Comment

  1. The tragedy that is politics in India!! 😦

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