Saturday, December 31, 2011

We neeDSC03143d to travel outside the city of Bidar for about 2 miles to the village of Ashtur where the tombs of the later Bahmani Sultans are present. We need to pass through the Dulhan Darwaza outside the city. There are eight tombs of the kings of the Bahmani dynasty in this area, and their comparative dimensions and style of architecture demonstrate in the clearest manner the gradual deterioration of the political power of the dynasty.  There is a low wall surrounding the tombs to prevent encroachments from locals which is a good sign. There is a good motor-able road which is increasing tourism activity in this area. Keeping in line with the chronology, the earliest tomb is the one of Sultan Ahmed Shah Wali, who instated Bidar as the capital city. We will talk about each of them.

Ahmed Shah Wali Bahmani: Ahmed Shah Bahmani was a religiously inclined ruler, and accordingly fond DSC03149the company of saintly personages. He was devoted to Khwaja Bande Nawaz of Gulbarga and later to the order of Shah Nimat-Ullah of Kirman whom he invited the founder to Bidar. It is said, that this saint gave the title “Wali” to Ahmed Shah. The title Wali was used by order of the king in the religious address from the pulpit (khutba). According to his religious inclination, texts are engraved on the inner walls of his tomb. He also respected the doctrine of lingayats, a religious order of the Deccan. The devotion of the latter sect to Ahmed Shah continues to this day, and at the time of the Urs (annual celebrations of the death of a Muslim Saint) their chief priest DSC03147(Jangam) comes from Gulbarga to Bidar to perform ceremonies according to lingayat rituals.

The architecture of the tomb, as indicated by its external features, shows strength combined with majesty, although except for the stucco work done in the arches, there is no decoration on the walls of the building. The walls are most massively built, their thickness being 12 feet. The dome of the building is three-fourths of an orb in shape with an octagonal base at the roof level, measuring 214 feet in girth, each side of the octagon being 26 feet. At its springing point, it has a circumference of 196 feet and its height including its finial is 107 feet measured from ground level.

DSC03173The inner plan of the tomb comprises of a square hall 52 feet on each side. There is a lofty arch in the middle of each of the four sides of the hall. The plan, accounting to these features looks pleasing to the eye, but the architect has further ornamented it by building squinches at the four corners of the hall, thus the building becoming octagonal at the top of the squinches. Above this, the plan is further changed making it 24 sided owing to the design below the circular base of the dome. The interior, although dark is artistically relieved by splashes of the most brilliant color DSC03159combinations used to design the insides. For instance, in order to show with effect the brilliance of the gold creeper, a extremely dark background was used as you see in the above picture.. The practice of giving a while outline to the drawing which a view ofDSC03162 suggesting an idea of depth to the subject could have been inspired by the ones in Ajanta painted during the 5th and 6th Centuries. There are textual forms of sayings by famous saints inscribed on many tablets inside this tomb. There are some more inscriptions on the life and times of Ahmed Shah Wali. Another important feature of this painting is that one of them contains the name of the painter with a reference to his native place. The most elegant of all the paintings is the octagonal shapes of gold on the walls and inner side the dome.

The various features of this tomb, such as its vast dimensions, solid DSC03160architecture, choice color schemes, and subtle decorative patterns, show the lofty ideals of the builder on the one hand and his exquisite taste and religious spirit on the other. This last mentioned quality is amply demonstrated by the holy texts inscribed on the building, as also by the ritual which is still observed by the votaries of the tomb, who although professing different faiths and belonging to different nationalities, all join together in paying their homage to the memory of the saintly king.

We will talk about the other tombs of the vicinity in the next post.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Before you continue reading, read the previous post.

DSC03107The interior of has plain but lofty style of architecture appropriate to a place of worship. The hall is 49 feet in length and 24 feet in width. Corresponding to the mosque and adjoining the minaret, was the library, which has completely perished. But as architects of the East generally design the wings of the building in a uniform plan, it is not unlikely that the plan of the library is a replica of that of the mosque.

By entering the building through the opening where the main gateway once stood, and following the either of the two passages to the right and left of the porch, the inner court is reached, which measures 103 feet and has a dodecagonal cistern in the middle. It was a large one where its water was apparently supplied by a subterranean channel from the well in the forecourt of the building. The marginal slabs of this cistern are now missing, and its current depth is only 3 feet.

As the  northern and western wings of the buDSC03114ilding are in a better state of preservation than those of the other sides, it would be best to begin the description of the different apartments of the Madrasa from its northern wing. At the extreme eastern end of this wing, adjoining the mosque described above, is a square hall with a dome shaped ceiling which measures 27 feet on each side at the base, but its corners are slightly cut The walls are plan but there are series of receding arches combined with the elegant design in the northern projection of the hall, take away any monotony from the building. The hall was apparently meant for the residence of the principal teacher of the Madrasa who would have acted also as the Imam. Corresponding to this hall there was another in the southern wing of the building which has completely disappeared, but its plan has been determined by the excavations carried out the Archaeological Department.

DSC03099It is said that the southern wing got demolished by a lightning, however, the actual reason was different. After the capture of Bidar by Aurangzeb in the latter end of the 17th Century, these splendid range of buildings were used as a storage of powder magazine and barracks for a body of cavalry, when by accident the powder exploded destroying the greater part of the edifice causing dreadful havoc around. All we can see in this wing is a large gaping hole on one side the building with the arch and a pillar as silent witnesses of the destruction.

DSC03105Beyond the latter two halls, the plan on the northern and southern wings of the Madrasa is uniform, comprising a large hall in the middle with pairs of student rooms built on either side of it. These rooms rise to three storeys and there is a verandah in front of each with an arched opening towards the court. Each student accommodation consists of two rooms where the inside one was a sleeping quarter. The back roomDSC03100s of this apartments are fitted with windows opening on grounds surrounding the buildings. The windows were originally fitted with jalis. of elegant designs which were restored in recent times. The arrangement of the apartments shows that the architect has taken into consideration the comfort of the students in all seasons of India. There are thirty six suits of these rooms in all the three storeys of the building and according to the estimate, if we consider each suite to accommodate three students, the Madrasa was capable of accommodating 108. The halls in the middle were meant to be lecture halls where you can see calligraphic texts DSC03115here and there. At the north-west and south-west corners, the architect had planned rooms for professors, which are not only comfortable for living but also have pleasing designs.

The architect has planned a platform all round to make the structure more secure. The walls of the Madrasa measure exactly 242 feet from east to west and 220 feet from north to south. They are built of rough-tooled masonry, which has been covered with plaster and emblazoned with tiles.

The more we talk about this amazing construction, the less it is. I spent in the premises for more than half an hour and moved on to visit the Bahmani Tombs in Ashtur.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Proceeding a little further from the Chaubara,  a visitor will notice on the left side of the road a timeworn but magnificent structure. As i mentioned in the previous post, Mahmud Gawan was not only a great waDSC03129rrior but also a great administrator. His contribution to Deccan History was the great Madrasa he established in 1472 AD. It is not only the most imposing building of the Bahmani period, but in its plan and in the general style of its architecture, it is one of its kind in India. Mahmud Gawan, being from Persia and as he was continually was in correspondence with eminent personages of his home country, it is not unlikely that he bought engineers and craftsmen from that country to design this building. He, under the aegis of the Bahmani Kings, who were enthusiastic patrons of learning and literature, was thus able to have this DSC03098college at Bidar on the same magnificent lines as its prototypes in Khurassan and other Islamic countries, and he not only staffed it with eminent divines, philosophers and scientists, but also equipped it with a library of 3000 valuable manuscripts.

The first view of this unique monument is itself enough to understand the importance it had during that time. The ASI took over this monument in 1914 and has put in a great deal of effort in conserving it. Lets get inside the complex and talk about each part of it.

The bDSC03113uilding has a high basement, but to make the approach convenient, two terraces have been built in front it. The main entrance has vanished, but its floor has been exposed by excavations carried in recent times and the plan shows that the whole comprised of an outer arch 21 feet in span and an inner 10 feet in span. The height of the arch was around 45 feet from the floor level. Beyond the entrance was a portico, square at the base. The roof of the portico probably had a dome structure similar to those above the roofs of the semi octagonal projections that DSC03128you see one three sides. The other three projections rise to a height of 90 feet There were passages from the portico to the inner building, but today only the pavements and remains of walls are seen.

The minaret at the northern end of the façade and the wall adjoining it towards the south are comparatively the best preserved portions of the Madrasa, although their tile decorations have survived only in fragments. The minaret has an octagonal base, 67 feet from ground level and has three storeys where the first and second have balconies, which project from the main body of the tower, but has no brackets to support them. The absence of brackets signify a typical Persian construction. The lower part of the tower was decorated with tiles arranged in a chevron pattern, the colors being green, yellow and white. Owing to rain water, most of the tiles have fallen down but the remaining ones convey a clear idea of the decorative schema of the tower. For the purpose of variety, each storey at the neck point had calligraphic devices on mosaic tiles with white letters fixed over a deep blue background. The total height of the tower is 131 feet from ground level. The top of the tower looks somewhat dumpy and does not possess any grace.

DSC03093The wall adjoining the tower towards the South forms the façade of a mosque built in the north-eastern part of the building. This wall extends at present to a length of 59 feet and has an elevation of 65 feet from floor to the upper terrace. The architect in order to produce an effect of light and shade in the building has divided the façade into several compartments, two of which have deeply recessed arches with screens of trellis-work at their back. Details of DSC03096the façade include a band of tile-work containing a parapet design with white, yellow and blue tiles arranged in artistic manner. Below this band, comes another broader one containing an extract from the Quran. Below the calligraphic band, which is of a rather intricate pattern, there is another comprising little squares arranged in the form of stars. Below the three bands of tile-work, there is a broad compartment, containing five arches, the side walls of which are again decorated with beautiful tiles.

The second or middle compartment also contains arches which are also decorated with tiles. The third compartment, which adjoins the plinth of the building, comprises five rectangular panels where the middle one has a doorway and a window on top of it. The other panels also have windows with jalis of delicate patterns.

We will see more of this amazing monument in the coming post..

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Even after an year that I travelled to Bidar, I still wonder about one thing. How come a literal ruin is one of its most famous monuments. The answer lies in two aspects. If one is the personality of Mohammed Gawan, the other is the beauty and prominence of this Madrasa.

Today, the opinion on Madras has degraded because of some anti social elements. However, in olden days Madrasa was a temple of learning where a variety of subjects were taught. Many people do not know that our former President, Dr. Abdul Kalam is a product of a Madrasa.

Khaja Mohammed Gawan came under public eye when he was sent by Sultan Allauddin II to suppress a neighbor king. He later became prominent among the nobles and ultimately was chosen as the Chief Minister by Humayun, which is termed as the best thing that happened to the kingdom in his rule. He became the Principal Minister of State in 1462 and administration went smoothly after that. One of his most trusted followers was Yusuf Adil Khan, who later found the Adil Shahi Dynasty of Bijapur. Now lets talk about Khaja Gawan’s character.

Khaja Mohammed Gawan, was an excellent fighter as he was a learned person. He was sent to many battles which resulted in utmost victories to the Bahmani kingdom. There is an incident that is mentioned of life where after being honored by the Sultan, he went back to his house and decided to dispose all of his wealth and used all of his valuables to purchase books for his students. The reason he gave was he got a sudden pride in his victories which was not good for a humble person like him. From then on, he used to disguise himself and donate all his money to poor.

With his rising prominence, other nobles were jealous. They created a situation where the Sultan had to believe that Mohammed Gawan was helping the enemy to usurp the kingdom. The Sultan in a fit of rage and under the influence of alcohol, had Mohammed Gawan’s head cut off. His simple tomb lies at one end of Bidar, on which, inscribed are the words “The story of unjust execution” and “The guiltless Mahmud Gawan suffered execution”.

The Madrasa that we are going to talk in the next post is the most fruitful aspect of Mohammed Gawan’s dedication towards his country and people.


1. History of the Deccan by J.D.B. Gribble

2. Bidar - Its History and Monuments by Ghulam Yazdani

Saturday, December 17, 2011

DSC03084We have talked about the History of Bidar extensively. We shall start visiting the monuments now. The first monument that I visited inside the town is the Chaubara. This is right in the middle of a densely populated area and the traffic that flows somehow reduces a tourist’s interest towards it. However, it was one of the important monuments oDSC03088f the time.

This cylindrical tower is built where two principal thoroughfares of Bidar cross each other. One of them extends from the Fort to the Fateh Darwaza, and the other connects Mangalpet to the Shah Gunj Darwaza. The tower is reported to have built in the pre-Islamic period, but its style of architecture is Islamic, and it was probably constructed as an observation post simultaneously with the other fortifications of the town by Ahmed Shah Wali or his immediate successors. The tower rises 71 feet above ground level and from the top commands a view of the entire area and also the low lands stretching beyond in every direction. The prefix “Chau” in Hindi as well as Persian signifies the four directions, while “bara” in Persian means a fortified place where it means a house in Hindi. The entire structure is most massively built and its shape resembles that of the towers of some of the early mosques of Western Asiatic Countries, notably that of the great mosque at Samarra. The only difference is that the steps leading to the top of the Samarra tower are built along the outer surface of the structure, whereas its counterpart in Bidar has the steps built in its interior.

DSC03089The tower has a circular base, 180 feet in circumference and 16 feet 9 inches in height., with arched niches built along its lower parts. These may have been occupied by the guards who kept watch here, or resorted to  by pedestrians when taking short rests during journeys. The front of the base is disfigured by a police station for a short period, however it was taken down later exposing the full façade of the monument. Simultaneously with the building of the police station, a large clock was installed on the top of the tower. This clock, being somewhat incongruous was removed for some time but now it reappears. This is the plight of some of the monuments of India where either locals or the government departs do not strive to keep their sanctity.

DSC03090The steps which lead to the terrace of the basement start from a door which faces east. The girth of the tower at the terrace level is 114 feet and a space has been left all around it to enable visitors to walk around on foot. However, today the entry to the top is barred to everyone. At this level, there is a winding staircase comprising 80 steps which leads to the top of the tower. The summit is 53 feet above the basement. The entire tower is built of black trap masonry laid in lime and strengthened by circular bands at two places in its height. The dimensions of the tower are no doubt colossal, but pillars of this shape are frequently to be noticed in Islamic buildings of the 14th and 15th centuries in India. We can find pillars like these in the Feroz Shah Kotla Mosque in Delhi, Mubarak Khalji’s mosque in Daulatabad and the Bahmani Idgah in Bidar. The staircase of the tower has an arch shaped vaulted ceiling which is not to be found in pre-Islamic constructions. The tower has four rectangular openings pierced in its walls to let in light and air.

A remarkable monument of this kind is commonly found in most of the cities where there was a Mohammedan rule. I then moved on to one of the most famous monuments of Bidar, the Madrasa of Mohammed Gawan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Before proceeding further, we will understand how was the city of Bidar during the Bahmani rule.

The citDSC03138y of Bidar, during its initial days must have been of vast extent. A modern writer referring to the rapidity of its erection says “Soon, as if by magic, rose, some miles to the north of Gulbarga, one of the most splendid cities of India or of the world. The great mosque of Ahmedabad Bidar was for centuries unequalled for its simple grandeur and solemnity, and the most delicate beauties of the Ivory mosque, inlaid with gems and mother-o-pearl, was long of the favorite themes with which travelers delighted to illustrate tDSC03141he wealth and prodigality of the realms of the Far East.

Athanasius Nitikin, a Russian Armenian, who visited Bidar in 1470 AD gives a descriptive account. There were villages in short distances and the land was well tilled. The roads were well guarded and travelling secure. The King, with an army of 3,00,000 is well equipped. Artillery is not mentioned but there were many elephants, to the trunks of which scythes were attached in action, and they were clad in bright steel armor. When ADSC03135urangazeb invested the city in 1656, the city was described as 4500 yards in circumference, having three deep ditches 25 yards wide and 15 yards deep, cut in the stone.

Monsieur Thevenot, who visited Bidar in 1667 mentions brick walls with battlements and at certain distances, towers on which long cannons are mounted whose mouth is 3 foot wide. He met the then Governor and mentions that “he was carried, and before him marched several men on foot, carrying blew banners with flames of Gold and after them came seven elephants. The Governor’s palanquin was followed with several others full of women.”DSC03536 The walls and defenses were actually constructed during the time of Ali Barid in the years 1555-1558 and later extended and strengthened by a Bijapur Governor Sidi Marjan.

The defenses comprise a glacis, a moat and a scarp. The battlements are loopholed for the use of muskets and guns which can be fired at various angles depending on the approach of the enemy. The total number of bastions is thirty seven anDSC03538d in addition, there are eight batteries on which are placed smaller pieces of artillery. The town can be entered by six gateways, the Shah Gunj Darwaza, The Fateh Darwaza, The Mangalpet Darwaza, The Dulhan Darwaza, The Talghat Darwaza and the Sharzah Darwaza. . The Fateh Gate bears a Persian inscription to the effect that it was constructed by the Subedar of Bidar in 1671 AD. The gate was named so by Aurangazeb when his army marched through it triumphantly in 1656 AD and it was previously called the Nauras Darwaza by Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur. The Shah Gunj gate was constructed in the year previous and it was earlier called the Mecca Darwaza as it faces Mecca. The Talghat gate was constructed in the same year as Fateh. The Sharzah or Lion gate, which is decorated with effigies of Lions cut in the stone DSC03009buttresses of the gateway was erected in 1682 AD. The Dulhan Darwaza appears to have been rebuilt in recent times, but its wooden door is still missing, and there are, besides, no battlements on the roof of the gateway.

Today Bidar is a busy city all through. However, the best part is it has not lost the royal flavor. The Bidri Ware is still being practiced where there is no other art equal in the world.


1. History of the Decca by J.D.B. Gribble

2. Bidar – Its History and Monuments by Ghulan Yazdani

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Here we will take a quick detour from the Bahmani world to a very spiritual place which, I can say is kind of an out of place shrine. I say this as Bidar is mostly inhabited by Muslims with very few from other religions. However, this area in the town is full of Sikhs considering the fact that the one we will be visiting is one of the most holiest places for the Sikh community in India after Amritsar (in Punjab) and Nanded (in Maharashtra).

Sikhs bDSC03073elieve Shri Guru Nanak to be an incarnation of God and has come to earth to wash of the evils in the society by way of this preaching. He was born on 15th April 1469 in a respectable family to Mata Triptaji and Mehta Kalyan Das Bedi near Lahore, Pakistan. He is said to have voiced interest in divine subjects at a tender age of five. In 1499 at the age of 30, he is said to have had a vision after which, preached people of religious harmony asked them to follow the path of God. Shri Guru Nanak later travelled extensively across India in its length and breath and also travelled to Mecca, Medina and the Arabian Peninsula. He merged with God on 22nd September 1539 at Kartarpur in Pakistan at the age of 69. DepictinDSC03080g religious harmony, a Samadhi (Hindu Tradition) and a Grave (Islamic Tradition) are found in the place.

Now coming to Nanak Jhira. The legend goes like this. It was in the year 1512 AD. When Shri Guru Nanak was touring South India, he visited Bidar. The area was stuck with severe famine and there was no adequate drinking water. Hearing the plight of the people, Shri Guru Nanak touched a rock with his wooden sandal and removed a stone. Pure water started flowing through the gap and has been flowing ever since.

DSC03074The area is very neatly maintained and is a pleasant experience. As in any other Gurudwara, there will be a small stream of water in front of the entrance. The devotees need to step inside the water, clean their feet and enter inside. As always, there is the Guru Granth Sahib placed on an elevated and Gurbani (chanting of holy hymns) happens all day here. Kripan and daggers are placed on the platform and worshipped here.

DSC03075This visit to a Gurudwara was a long standing wish of mine. I had been to places of worship of all religions, but a Gurudwara. My wish had come true visiting such a holy place. I sat here peacefully for some time, asked people of the legend associated and also had some water which had been flowing since 500 years. The water was indeed very sweet. We now move on back to the Bahmani kingdom, visiting the Chaubara.

As we have seen in one of the previous posts, Mohammed Shah became the ruler after Hassan Gangu Bahmani. His entire tenure was spent in waging wars and expanding his country, especially with the Vijayanagara rulers who at that time were in mode of expansion. At one time, he repented all his bloodshed and vowed to have peace in his kingdom and made a treaty with the opposition. He also took an oath of not to put to death a single enemy after victory and he would make sure that his successors bound to this principle. From then on, says Ferishta, it has been the general custom in the Deccan to spare the lives of prisoners of war and not to shed bloodshed of enemy’s unarmed subjects.

Mohammed Shah spent his last years touring his country and died peacefully in the year 1374 after a glorious reign of 17 years. The subsequent period was all chaos. During the 24 years that followed Mohammed Shah’s regime, there were five Sultans who reigned in Gulbarga and four of them we assassinated, the aggregate duration of each regime was only four and a half years.

The first of them was Mujahid Shah. He chose to dishonor the earlier treaties and waged a war against the Vijayanagar Empire, which already enormously grew till the whole South India. There is an interesting story here. Outside the city of Vijayanagar, was a sacred Hanuman temple. The Sultan fired by either religious zest or by plunder destroyed the temple. Not only all the pilgrims were put to death, but also the Sultan used a battle axe and mutilated the idol inside. One of the Brahmins, in his dying words cursed the Sultan that he would never see his kingdom and would never return to his capital city alive. It so happened that Mujahid Shah had to put and end to the battle and return. He had to oppress other revolts within his kingdom later. Ultimately, one of his generals killed him and became the ruler. The Brahmin’s curse came true indeed.

After the Hassan Gangu Bahmani and Mohammed Shah, the only other notable rulers of the kingdom were Sultan Feroz Shah and Ahmed Shah. Feroz Shah’s 25 year rule bought the development of Gulbarga to its pinnacle and art and trade flourished all across. His brother Ahmed Shah followed his footsteps and continued on the legacy. Not only did they concentrate on trade, but also on expansion of the kingdom. There were frequent wars with the Rajas of Vijayanagar and Telinga (Warangal) and as we have talked earlier, it was during Ahmed Shah’s rule that Bidar was made the capital of the kingdom. There were other rulers like Allauddin-II and Humayun who ruled the kingdom, however, their entire tenure was full of wars and treachery. The only good thing that Humayun did was to appoint Khaja Mohammed Gawan as his Prime Minister, whom we will talk about in the further posts.

The year 1482 was the beginning of the end of the Bahmani dynasty with the death of Sultan Muhammed Shah-II. It is true that his son, who was eight years of age was placed on the throne and ruled for thirty eight years and succeeded by three other Sultans, but these princes were nothing more than puppets and their dominion was confined to the capital city of Bidar and its vicinity. Taking advantage of the young son Muhammed Shah-II, the powerful nobles of different provinces asserted their independence. Yusuf Adil Khan was the first to take advantage of this and founded the Adil Shahi dynasty with Bijapur as its capital. Malik Ahmed soon followed suit and came to be the founder of the Nizam Shahi dynasty with Ahmednagar as his capital. In Berar, Imad-Ul-Mulk proclaimed his independence by having the Khutba (prayer) read on his name in his capital Burhanpur. And finally, Kutub-Ul-Mulk, the governor of Golkonda who was already practically independent founded the Kutub Shahi dynasty and became the Sultan of the Telinga region. Even in Bidar, the young Sultan was taken over by Kasim Barid whom we talked about in the previous post.

As we see, such was the end of the great Dynasty which made way to five others.


References: History of the Deccan by J.D.B. Gribble

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It is said that people not only should remember you when lived, but also after death. The Tomb of Ali DSC03031Barid Shah is a fitting example for this statement. Which looks like a simple monument from outside turns out to be one of the most finest examples of Islamic architecture and beauty. As I mentioned in the previous post, there is a two storied gateway which leads to this tomb. There should have been some kind of a pathway, but none exists today and you can only see bushes towards it.

Before we start talking further, we need to know a little about the Barid Shahi dynasty. It was founded by Kasim Barid, who migrated to India during the regime of one of the last Bahmani Kings, Mohammed Shah and later was made as the Prime Minister of the Bahmani Kingdom by Shihamuddin Mohammed in 1492 AD. His son, Amir Barid declared himself the king of Bidar after the fall of the Bahmani Kingdom. However, the for of Bidar was conquered by Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur and Amir Barid was taken as a prisoner. He was later released and made a DSC03071feudatory king of the Adil Shahi dynasty.

Amir Barid was succeeded by his son, Ali Barid Shah in 1542 AD and the latter had a prolonged stint as the ruler till 1580 AD. Ali Barid’s rule was marked with wars including the famous Talikota war which saw the end of the Vijayanagar Empire. The dynasty came to an end in the year 1619 AD with Ibrahim Adil Shah-II of Bijapur taking over the area. Even though there was not much done during the reign of the Baridi dynasty, it is to be noted that these kings have contributed to architecture and sculpture in the period that succeeded the Bahmani dynasty.

DSC03029Baridshahi structures in Bidar are small but very decorative. Colored tablets, wood carvings and pearl shell work are the hall marks of this style. Scholars have found some kind of a synthesis between the Islamic architectural style and those practiced by the Hindu builders/masons in the Baridshahi architecture. This situation is particularly evident in Rangin Mahal and the the tomb built for himself by Ali Barid Shah. Yazdani explores this issue further, in the context of the tomb built for himself by Ali Barid Shah and Kali Masjid also built during the DSC03028Baridshahi days. Ghulam Yazdani, chief archaeologist of the last Hyderabad Nizam, took a personal interest in preserving the structures and reviving the garden. Yazdani feels that the architecture became more and more decorative/ornamental because of the preferences of the Hindu architects and sculptors. However, he appreciates the attempts at fusion and openness for mutual influences. He contends that the chief characteristics of the architecture of this period are the outcome of the Hindu methods of building and their ideas of decoration. This is a brief account of a minor dynasty which was not politically powerful but had a few kings who were artistically inclined.

The toDSC03034mbs of Ali Barid and Khasim Barid are built in the middle of a 30-acre plot Deccan garden. We will first start with the one of Ali Barid.

A monument of striking beauty, and an ever inspiring work place for students of fine arts, is the tomb of Sultan Ali Barid Shah. The structure is nearly 70 feet high. It has a big dome supported by four pillars. It has a grand pavilion based on a high platform built by green granite and laterite rock.

The inside and ouDSC03037tside walls of the tomb have been embossed with inscribed tiles. Verses from the Quran are written in Persian script all over the building. Weather changes have peeled off some of the tiles. It has a Shikhara made of an alloy of gold. There are some interesting facts about the tomb. Ali Barid, who ruled between 1542 and 1580, had a keen interest in architecture. He built his own tomb, three years before his death. He reserved spaces for his wives inside the DSC03049tomb’s main pavilion. He also built some empty tombs for members of his harem outside the pavilion which is in the south-west corner of the platform having several rows of graves. A Persian style char-bagh once surrounded the tomb of which only fragments of enclosure walls and entrance portals remain.

We can understand the beauty of this construction only when we walk inside. Inside of the dome is laid with colored tiles with verses of Quran written in Persian. Each corner of the DSC03055dome is carved with exquisite carvings on plaster and is a delight to watch. The inner walls are also fitted with colored tiles It is quite extraordinary that this inner beauty has withstood hundreds of years of weather considering the fact that it is open on all sides. Both sides of the entrances are designed with flower panels. We can have a great view of the surroundings from this pavilion, especially the Mosque which we had seen in the earlier post DSC03050and the tomb of Kasim BaDSC03061rid. The latter is separated by a small doorway which is right in front of Ali Barid’s tomb.

The tomb of Kasim Barid is almost similar to the one of Ali Barid. However, we do not find any colors inside the tomb. Kasim Barid, being an earlier ruler probably did not concentrate much on design. The inner design of the dome is exactly like the former but completely plan. Some of the flower designs are very intact and beautiful. There are some other tombs in this complex, which are unnamed and completely ignored. The structure complex needs maintenance as some of its walls are collapsing. Some people have tried to encroach upon the land around the tomb.

This is just the beginning of an artistic journey across Bidar. A little more need to be understood on the later rulers of the Bahmani dynasty before moving further, which we will do in the next post.


Reference: Bidar – Its History and Monuments by Ghulam Yazdani.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bidar became the capital of the Bahmani Kingdom under the rule of Sultan Ahmed Shah in the year 1431, and it was renamed Ahmedabad Bidar . Till then it was a feudatory of the King of Delhi and was part of many wars till the accession by the Bahmani rulers. Once the place was taken over by Bahmanis, they turneDSC03022d this small province to a massive fortified structure. I can surely say that the Fort in Bidar is one of the greatest ever constructed in India. Having seen the pinnacle of the glory and then the downfall of the empire, this town plays a very important part in the Deccani history and politics.

As we visit the town of Bidar, we will keep the chronology aside and visit the tomb of Ali Barid Shah and the monuments nearby. On the outskirts of Bidar is a fortified complex and some monuments. The wall is beautifully decorated even from outside. Unfortunately, most of the external wDSC03024alls have collapsed. There are small holes in the wall which evidently points to watch holes where guns can be fired from. We need to enter the complex through an arched gateway. There are many monuments inside, in which we will visit the most important. As seen in the picture, there are watch towers at each corner of this complex. There is a doorway which paves way to the inner complex with a path that directly leads to the tomb of Ali Barid Shah, however today, its locked and the external walls are anywDSC03026ay broken. This whole area must have been a very important place, considering the fact that there is the Ali Barid Shah’s tomb and also some very beautiful buildings are present. One more beautiful monument here is a rectangular building which probably should have been a rest place associated with a mosque. It has five arches and an upper level to which one can reach from inside apparently. Parts of this building are broken as seen in this picture. Also, the arches are blocked with steel bars prohibiting entrance. Now we come to one of the most beautiful monuments in this are, the mosque. DSC03027

Even though this is a smaller construction, we have a glimpse of the beauty of Islamic architecture. Some parts of the upper level has collapsed but overall, the structure is intact and has sustained over the years. The mosque has three arches and the frontal portion is exquisitely carved with flower type decorations on its lintel. One can enjoy their beauty even if looked from a distance as you see in this picture. ArchaeoloDSC03043gical evidence shows that this mosque was constructed before the tomb, so we can assume that this was a very important monument at that time. If you see the arches, they are not totally plain. There are four layers of brick that is cut to form the arch. We can imagine the difficulty in developing this artistic monument. There are various other smaller monuments in this same complex.

We shall talk about other aspects of this complex and the Ali Barid tomb in the next post.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DSC03775The Jumma Masjid, also known as the Great Mosque was built and completed in the year 1367 by Rafi, an architect hailing from Iran. It was commissioned by Sultan Mohammed Shah, son of Sultan Allauddin Hassan Gangu Bahmani. Mr. Fergusson mentions in the book “Eastern Architecture Page 544” that it has a length of 216 feet and a width of 176 feet and can accommodDSC03778ate around 5000 worshippers at once. It covers an overall area of 38,016 square feet.

The main entrance is high and gives a splendid display and is inspired from the mosque in Turkey. The mosque has neither a courtyard nor a hauz which are found in traditional mosques. The entire structure is suppDSC03744orted on 140 square pillars. Inside, it has 250 arches and five large domes of which, the central dome is 80 feet in diameter and its interior surface is decorated with flowers and creepers. There is an interesting piece of art in the central dome. Here you can find the symbol for “Om” and the word “Allah” (written in Urdu) embedded in a single piece of carving. Light DSC03746and space merge with the arches to produce sublime serenity. It also has 63 smaller domes.

The mosque is a mixture of Persian and Indo-Islamic architecture. It is said that the internal features resemble the great mosque in CorDSC03748dova, Spain and Turkish mosques contemporary to Byzantine. My research shows that this has features of the mosques in Turkey, Medina, Spain and Palestine.

The succession of arches in the wide hallways, when viewed from any angle, blend such that arches within arches are always revealed. Light and fresh air stream in from the clerestory and open aisles, making artificial lighting and fans redundant. The pillared hall is completely domed over unlike other mosques in India. Inside, all is quiet. The arch DSC03765design has been taken from the mosque in Medina. When viewed from between the pillars, the symmetric design is visible which is the most unique aspect of this mosque. One more unique feature of this mosque is the series of domes on the top. This is visible if seen from either of the citadels that we have seen earlier.

A signatory custom in the rule of Mohammed Shah was the sounding of the Nobut, or band of the Watch five times in a day at the same time of the prayers, which is said to have adopted by none of the other Mohammedan princes of the Deccan except the King of Golconda.

As I come to the end of my tour of the city which has seen the rise of a glorious kingdom which later paved way for 5 more mighty kingdoms, I feel nostalgic and sad on the condition in which the ruins lie today. We will continue our tour of the Bahmani Kingdom visiting its capital in the later stages, Bidar.