Bijapur or Vijayapur was the town of the victorious of the Kalyani Chalukyas. There were the Hindu kings who ruled for nearly 700 years from the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Yadavas until 1300AD. The next 4 centuries were all about the Khiljis, Bahamanis, Adil Shahi’s and the Mughals until it fell into the hands of the Marathas. After a brief tussle with the Marathas, the British took over Bijapur and finally it became a part of Karnataka in independent India. Most of the monuments here are built during the Adil Shahi period.
On a Solo trip to Bijapur for sightseeing, I arrived from Bangalore by Gol Gumbaaz Express after a 15 hour journey. On a warm January morning, it was pretty pleasant and I set out for sightseeing after freshening up in the retiring room. It is an upcoming city leaving a lot of room for infrastructural development. The walls of this once upon a time fortified city have given way to roads and the gates exist in some places only. Nearly all the monuments are mausoleums which left me wondering if the kings spent all their time in planning wars and their own mausoleums when did they actually rule the kingdom :).
10am to 12pm – Gol Gumbaaz;
Entrance Fee 5/- ; Closes at 5pm; Museum Ticket – Rs 5/-
As soon as you walk out of the station, the towering Gol Gumbaaz stares down at you. This is the monument that defines Bijapur on all tourism maps. It is a mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, his wives and daughters. The entrance is about 500 metres left from the station. Gol Gumbaaz is located within a green cover of a large garden and tall trees. Buy a ticket from the counter and leave your bag (not valuables) in the adjoining cloak room all for Rs 10/-. As you walk in through the gates you realize that what was perceived as Gol Gumbaaz is actually 2 buildings. In the front in a squarish building “Naqquarkhana” or the hall of the trumpeteers which is now converted into an ASI museum (closed on Fridays) having artefacts through different centuries including Chinese Porcelain. Walk ahead from the left and after crossing a green lawn, you will reach the entrance of Gol Gumbaaz.
I am glad we had to leave our shoes outside which keeps the place really clean- else with scores of school children trooping in and out everyday it will be an uphill task to maintain the monument. The huge dome, with lotus petals around has 7 storey octagonal towers on all 4 sides. This was designed by Yaqut of Dabul and completed in 1656. The king had commissioned the construction of the tomb as soon as he ascended the throne. While this is a structural geometric marvel of the Deccan architecture, it does not have much of ornamental decorations on its walls. The construction of the dome would have been a daunting task to get the measurement right. It is a result of 8 intersecting arches with interlocking pendentives that holds the dome on the square structure. I stood awestruck by the engineering marvel in front of me, at 144 ft diameter the dome is second to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
As soon as you enter Gol Gumbaaz, the huge hall is actually the mausoleum of Mohammad Adil Shah and his family. The graves are located below which can be seen through the metal grills placed on the floor and an ornamental one is placed on a raised platform with wooden canopy for cover. With light streaming in from all sides, through the net covered windows there is something tranquil about it which is pierced by the amplified sounds from the whispering gallery above. Take the stairway up – which is actually passing through one of the towers until you reach the top. The stairs are quite narrow and steep so you can catch your breath at every floor looking out of the windows of the tower.
Walk around the dome on the top for Bijapur City views and if you are lucky you will run into hordes of red beaked parrots prancing from pillar to pillar. Step inside into the whispering gallery and it will take some time to figure out the deafening sound with school children running amok and screaming at the top of their voice.Place your ears against the wall and the sound of the watch gets amplified 10 times. This will be hard to test unless you can be there by 6am in the morning. Well, the spirit of the whispering gallery is lost since most people are shouting or hooting. I am sure Mohammad Adil Shah never imagined that one day he will have to turn in his grave with all the loud whispers in his solitude on the other side. There is a non functional mosque within the same compound and the ruins of rest houses which now serves as a canteen and toilets.
12.15 pm – 1.00 pm – Ibrahim Rouza
Stepping on to the pathway towards Ibrahim Rouza it was not hard to believe why it is often referred to have inspired the design of Taj Mahal. Built in 1626, It is the tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah II and a mosque both of which are located on the same platform facing each other separated by a fountain that no longer exists. The sheer play of light and wind, the green lawns, the Persian inscriptions on the walls, the symmetry of the tombs and the beauty of the tomb delicately enhanced by the lotus petals and the four minarets will force you to spend more time here than you actually anticipated. I smiled to myself watching children monkeying around, a harassed school master trying to keep his flock together, a middle aged couple catch up on family issues and giggling young girls swooning over a silver screen hero.
1pm – 2 pm – Malik e Maidan, Upli Burj, Bara Kamaan, Jama Masjid, Jod Gumbad
Upli Burj is a 80 feet tower which was built in 1584. There are 70 steps to reach the top of the tower to get a great view of Bijapur. Since I had already had my fill of views from Gol Gumbaaz, I gave the climbing a miss.
While the name says Malik-i-Maidan (Master of the Battlefield), all you see is a large cannon which is 14.6 ft long and 4.9 ft wide weighing 55 tonnes. Apparently it was cast from bell metal by a Turkish Bell Smith and erected by Ibrahim Adil Shah II. The 700 mm bore has a lion head shaped muzzle and some inscriptions on it about its origin and other historical events.
Bara Kamaan is the incomplete hall of 7 arches where Ali Roza II, his wife and 11 other ladies from his zenana have been laid to rest. I loved the view of the clear blue sky through the arches as I walked from corner to corner.
Jama Masjid was built by Ali Adil Shah I after his triumph over Vijaynagar. I cannot forgive him for destroying India’s jewels in Hampi. My tonga driver insisted that this is the largest mosque in India which I find hard to believe. The ones is Mandu, Ahmedabad and Delhi are far more appealing. The gold plated Mehraab is the only thing that stands out and hope they had done a better job with that coat of white wash of the interiors.
Jod Gumbaaz is a set of tombs that have now been converted into a dargah. It is located within a not so well maintained compound. Since women are not allowed, I knelt down in one, accepted the spoonful of water and tried to peep inside which looked pretty peaceful. There are different stories doing the rounds; one which says that it is the mausoleum of the father son duo traitors who aided Aurangzeb to capture the Sultan. Why would you worship traitors in a dargah unless he turned a saint out of repentance. I did not find answers to my query. The other story says that it is dedicated to Afzal Khan who never returned after his meeting with Shivaji.
2pm – 2.45pm – Lunch
There are quite a few decent places near the bus stand – Bara Kamaan or near Gol Gumbaaz. I settled down for my plate of mutton biryani and falood in Qaswa Hills which is a part of Pearl Hotel in Bijapur. The food was good, the Biryani , by far the best of what I have had in the recent past in Bangalore.
2.45pm – 4.00 pm – Shivgiri.
I stretched my trip since I was taking the 5pm train to Badami. If you are taking a bus then you can easily skip this bit and head out to Badami. About 2kms away from the station a huge Shiva Statue is installed in the middle of a large field. It is a family picnic spot with some joy rides and food stalls as well.
I had hired a Tonga for the day so paid Rs 700 else you can do good for Rs 300-400 for a half day trip or just hop in and hop out of shared autos and get done in Rs 100/- per head. There are several other monuments too but most of them are not worth a visit since they are not well maintained. If you are carrying luggage, just leave them in the Cloak Room in Gol Gumbaaz or in the station all for Rs 10/-. If possible avoid visiting on Fridays since the museum is closed and you will need to work your trip around the prayer times in the mosques.