Friday, January 9, 2009


It was Christmas time, Viswa and I got some time off from work to make a small tour to some marvels of Indian History. Bijapur , 590 km from Bangalore was our destination and we left by a 7pm NWKRTC (Rajahamsa Executive) bus service. A 12 hour journey with a brief halt at a highway Dhaba for dinner took us to this sleepy city under a shroud of mist, nestled within thick fort walls that have stood the test of time, studded with many mosques and tombs that speak volumes of its history, only an iota of which we receive from our schoolbooks.

Founded by the Chalukyas of Kalyani in the 10th century, then known as Vijaypura (city of victory), Bijapur has cradled several dynasties over a long period. From the Bahmani Sultanate to Adil Shahis , from the Mughal ruler, Aurangazeb ; Nizam of Hyderabad, Marathas of Peshwa, Tipu Sultan to pre-independance British East India company, Bijapur has a long tale to tell. However, of all the dynasties, it is the Adil Shahi dynasty (1489-1686), the lineage comprising of Yusuf Adil Shah, Ismail Adil Shah, Ibrahim Adil Shah I , Ali Adil Shah I , Ibrahim Adil Shah II , Mohammad Adil Shah, Ali Adil Shah II and Sikandar Adil Shah that left an indelible mark on the city . Its rulers created some masterpieces of architecture which have Indian and foreign visitors flocking to them till this day.

We started the day with Ibrahim Rouza - the mausoleum and mosque built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II that lies in the western outskirts of the city. A beautiful monument, with green and well maintained lawns around it, an ornamental gateway with 4 minarets leads you to a mosque (right) and tomb (left) on a common plinth. The mausoleum has Quranic inscriptions on its windows and houses the graves of Ibrahim Adil Shah II and his family (comprising of his mother, wife , daughter and 2 sons).

From here, we proceeded to Malik-e-Maidan, one of the largest mediveal cannons weighing 55 tons, its mouth crafted like a lion devouring an elephant. This cannon stood on an elevated platform called Sherza Burj. Upli Burj, also known as Hyder Burj, a watchtower , is a stone's throw away from Malik e Maidan. Atop the Hyder Burj, one can get a bird's eye view of the city - the massive Gol Gumbaz tomb, Jod Gumbaz, Ibrahim Rauza, Bara Taang Masjid, it is just tombs around you in every direction.

We visited the Taj Bawadi , a tank built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II in fond memory of his wife, Taj Sultana. A big arch flanked by two octagonal towers welcomed us to the tank, its water put to use for washing/bathing by the localites and for maintaining lawns of nearby Gagan Mahal. Very close to Taj Bawadi is Jod Gumbaz , the twin tombs complex, currently a dargah. Barah Kamaan , the incomplete mausoleum of Ali Adil Shah II featured next in our list. Though incomplete, this monument has a unique element of elegance with majestic arches all over on a raised, square platform. We then visited Gagan Mahal, the royal palace built by Ali Adil Shah I.What remains of this today is a big hall, its facade marked by a magnificent central arch flanked by two small arches on either side.

After a short snack and some rest, we resumed sight seeing. We took a quick look at Asar Mahal (currently, a dargah) with a huge, square tank and some fortification in ruins nearby; Mehtar Mahal, the house of royal servants with a very ornamental gateway and highly bracketted and intricate balcony before we reached Jumma Masjid.
Jumma Masjid looked lovely with a big, onion dome and a huge central lawn in front of a big, prayer hall. The golden altar looked brillaint in the centre of the hall with quranic verses etched all over it. The floor of the prayer hall has stones laid by Aurangazeb, on a single tile per worshipper basis.

A round of snaps at Jumma Masjid and we were left with just one more place to see - the Gol Gumbaz , the jewel of Bijapur.The brown beauty, the world's second largest dome (next to St.Peters' at Rome) has a museum in front of it. We took a cursory glance at the artifacts in the museum and rushed to get a detailed view of the BIG dome with four, 7 - storeyed minarets rising tall from the corners of its square base, green lawns laid around in perfect contrast to its brown exterior. We could see people getting to the top of the tomb and felt elated. Most authorities do not permit visitors to the top of such monuments for fear of weak/falling masonary. But here, we had school children in abundance, college folk, middle aged and very old people, all waiting to climb to the top to reach the whispering gallery.

Yes, the whispering gallery, where even the faintest sound made can be heard 11 times and distinctly for about 9 times. We reached the top at 5.30pm and went inside the gallery to perform our experiments but were taken aback at the utter chaos that prevailed. There was so much noise inside that it was sheerly a nauseating experience. We came out of the gallery with the promise we will return early next morning.

We soaked up the sight of beautiful sunset around us, at a height where we felt closest to the blue covers of the sky with orange-red sun's streaks running all over it. A distance away, we saw a replica of the Gol Gumbaz. So prominently visible was its dome that a queer interest settled in and we asked the local guard, details of what we looked at. The distant replica known as the Mini Gumbaz, located at Aainapur (Mahal Taanda), a village about 6 km away served as a blueprint for the construction of Gol Gumbaz.

"Early bird catches the worm" and we were at Gol Gumbaz the next morning at 7am. Gol Gumbaz is open from 6 am to 6 pm and we were at the whispering gallery at 7.30am , just us and nobody else. A click of the fingers could be heard 6-7 times. Some loud claps from our hands could be heard 11 times, the 10th and 11th little muffled than the rest. Truly, a rewarding experience!! All alone, we interacted with the dome and gazed at its interior trying to comprehend how this phenomenon was possible, how and from where the sound travelled to constitute this litany.

From the top, we could see the Mini Gumbaz under a cover of flowing mist and the limits of the ancient city, reluctant to wake up to the sun's early rays. We walked around the Gol Gumbaz capturing its images from various angles. We sincerely advise one and all to make a visit to this monument as early as possible in the morning.

We took an auto to Aainapur to reach Mini Gumbaz. En route, we saw a tall statue of Lord Shiva and some incomplete structures which the localites explained was the original site where Gol Gumbaz construction began ,got suspended and then reinitiated in its current location in the city. The mini gumbaz, stood in front of us, totally deserted on an elevated platform, with few pigeons as its sole visitors, the villagers busily attending to their usual chores and some quarrying activity happening a distance away.

Our Bijapur tour was drawing to a close.We reached the bus stand, recollecting all that we had seen, packed with memories of a live museum, of an ancient city still brimming with life and history in every corner. We cached these memories in precious and beautiful pictures.
Quick Tips
How to reach Bijapur: NWKRTC bus service , Rajahamsa executive bus leaves at 7 pm and reaches next day morn at 6.30. Train route exists from Bangalore to Bijapur but is way too long.
Where to stay : Hotel Madhuvan International , Station road . Clean, budget hotel with vegetarian restaurant in the complex
Hotel Pearl and Hotel Kanishka International on Station Road also seemed promising.
Where to eat : Kamath Restaurant (Hotel Kanishka international complex), Hotel Madhuvan International garden restaurant. There are many restuarants on Station road, they are all good.
How to commute in the city : Most monuments are in the central part of the city close to
the bus stand, can hire a bicycle to see them all. If you stay on Station road, Gol Gumbaz is the closest, can walk down to Gol Gumbaz from most hotels on this road. Engage an auto to visit Ibrahim Rauza, Malik e Maidan, Upli Burj, Taj bawadi, Jod Gumbaz, Barah Kamaan, Gagan Mahal for Rs 200 (inclusive of waiting charges at the monuments)

Guide : They are very costly. Not required as all monuments have boards and placards with full details in front of them. It is pretty interesting to read boards, remember details from them and observe monuments carefully.
Must see : Gol Gumbaz (best time to visit - 6 am to 8 am) , Ibrahim Rauza, Malik e Maidan, Upli Burj, Barah Kamaan , Gagan Mahal, Mini gumbaz
How long to stay : Bijapur can be seen around in a day's time if one starts early. Just as one reaches Bijapur, say at 7am, one can get down at Gol Gumbaz, leave the luggage in the cloak room at the monument, peacefully take a look at the monument and perform experiments with echo at the whispering gallery. Gol Gumbaz just teems with people after 9 - 10 am.
One can then visit other places starting from Ibrahim Rauza (this is a very beautiful monument which most people coming to Bijapur miss out). Starting the day at 7am should provide enough time to wrap up the tour in a day's time.

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