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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The great fort lies at the heart of the city. The highway in from the town of Humnabad passes right by DSC03724the fort. It looks strong, though desolate. There is ample evidence of the fact that Gulbarga was born in strife and continued to endure strife. Originally built by one Raja Gulchand and later fortified by Allauddin Bahmani it has archways which serve as entrances. Though a protected monument, the fort looks chaotic and dilapidated but vast occupying an area of 74 acres and a circumference of 3 kilometers.

It consists of two levels of fortifications, the outer wall which is of a lesser height and a inner wall of considerable height. There is a 30 feet deep moat DSC03719between these two walls all around the fort. The fort carries tene (or Kanguras) at regular intervals and has 15 bastions and 26 guns. It is said that these bastions once had revolving cannons mounted on top. They are removed now and placed in museums. The principal gateways on the eastern and western sides consists of pointed, arched with openings flanked by bastions, approached by bridges across the moat. There is a continuous parapet of merlons, raised over the gateways, provided with narrow openings in them, through with muskets were fired.

DSC03727As I enter the fort through the entrance, all I see are ruins and a couple of intact buildings. I did not understand why this fort has been left like this without any maintenance. Most of the ruined structures are covered with plants and are very dangerous for the fear of snakes. There are some doorways which lead to the moat or to escape when in danger. The plunder of the Vijayanagar rulers is visible all around. The walls of the fort are broken in places but they still reflect the formidable statDSC03763ure of their past.

Here we need to talk about the cannons. Their view itself would create terror in the enemy’s heart. The most formidable of these ones which is on the top of a citadel called Bala Hisar situated right in the middle of the fort. The citadel is hewn out of black stone and has semi-circular turrets on the sides and corners. It is quite astonishing to imagine the cannon being rotate a cannon which could weigh more than 2 tons. There is another citadel which is again near to DSC03783the Bala Hisar which has 4 smaller cannons on it. It must have been a very important structure considering its construction. There are a fleet of steps on two sides but the main side is good looking. It has arched entrances, parts of which are broken after the plunder.There are various smaller enclosures on the sides as we climb to the top. These probably were used to store the ammunition. From the top, they could cover all the sides of the fort with the cannons.

DSC03795Apart from this, there are not much important structures inside the fort. Considering the fact that the Bahmani capital moved to Bidar after the initial years, this pitiable condition is quite understandable. Even the palace where the kings resided is nowhere to be seen. It must be part of the pile of rubble that is found all around inside. The most beautiful and important of all the monuments inside the fort is the Jama Masjid. We will talk about this in our next post.

Monday, November 14, 2011

DSC03677Haft Gumbaz, a group of seven tombs (also called Saat (Seven) Gumbaz, situated on the eastern end of the town and on the way to the Khaja Bande Nawaz Darga consists of the tombs of some of the rulers and military commanders of the Bahmani Kingdom (14th – 15th Century AD). There is a small gate through which one can enter the complex. Nice lawns have been setup inside which adds DSC03698to the serenity of the tombs. All of the tombs are barred from entrance. As I peeped through a couple of them, I did not notice any inner decorations but the outer structure of a couple are good. The plain ones of the early Tughlaq style constructions.

The complex extends from east to west. From the west, Mujahid Shah (third Sultan, 1375-78), and Daud Shah (fourth Sultan, 1378). To the northeast of these are the tombs of Ghiyath al Din Shah (sixth Sultan, 1397) and Shams al Din Shah (seventh Sultan, 1397). To the southeast of these is Firoz Shah (eighth Sultan, 1397-1422), and DSC03705to the south and northeast there are some anonymous tombs. Most of the tombs are very plain in architecture with a large dome and square constructions.

Some of the structures contain more than one tomb belonging to the wife or children of the Sultan. The tomb of Mujahid Shah is the best looking of the lot having curved designs all around it. It also has an upper level from inside which looks like aDSC03701 balcony. The entrance is intricately carved on plaster. An interesting aspect is the usage of granite in some parts of the construction which clearly look like Hindu style of art. We can infer that some of the monuments were either constructed on the same area as any Hindu structure or stones from any Hindu monument were used in this construction after desecration of the former.

Even though this is a short post, I am ending it here as a logical conclusion. We will visit the Fort and its various aspects in the coming ones.

As we have seen, the formation of the Bahmani kingdom coincided with the formation of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire. It is probably soon after the establishment of this great Hindu kingdom that a geographicalBahmani line was drawn between the Deccan and the Carnatic. The former represented that portion of Central India which lies between the Godavari as the northern boundary and the Tungabhadra, and extended not before long from one coast to the other. The latter comprised of the rich valleys if the tributaries of the Penna river with their mountainous passes, and then extended to Kanchipuram, Arcot and subsequently Madhura.

Sultan Allauddin was not slow to take advantage of the disturbances in Delhi and he soon expanded his kingdom. He won over the Afghan, Moghul and Rajput chiefs who were stationed by the Emperor at Bidar and Kandahar (near Daulatabad). He died after 11 years, 2 months and 7 days after being the first Sultan of his dynasty and was succeeded by his son, Mohammed Shah in 1357 AD.

The town as we see today, is a mixture of Hindu and Muslim population and you will find the Deccani legacy or flavor all around. Most of the residents have been there since generations who were part of the citizens of the Bahmani kingdom. Gulbarga was known as “Kalburgi” in former days which means stony land. In the 6th century, the Rashtrakutas gained control of the area around the present town. Later Chalukyas, Yadavas of Devagiri (Daulatabad) and the Hoysalas ruled. The present Gulbarga and Raichur districts formed part of their dominions. After the advent of the MDSC03655ohammedan empire, all the traces of the Hindu rule vanished, save some temples and the fort of Basavakalyan constructed by the Chalukyas. Sadly, this erstwhile initial capital of the Bahmani Kingdom is ignored by travelers as well as tourism promoters who prefer to stick to the well-beaten track. Gulbarga is a city where one has to embark on a hunting quest for all the important mosques now lie abandoned and unprotected without even the local population being aware of their location or importance.

Even though BDSC03656idar was the first site I visited in my trip, I shall start with Gulbarga to stick to the chronological events in the Bahmani kingdom. I arrived in Gulbarga the night before my trip, so it was not tiring. My first destination was supposed to be the Government museum. Alas.. It was a Monday and was a weekly closing day. I had to be satisfied with capturing shots from outside the complex. The complex houses two domed structures which serve as the museum buildings. The maintenance of these are pathetic. You can find weeds cropping out from the top of the dome. However, the designs on the entrance are still intact and extremely beautiful.

I then visited the Darga of Khaja Bande Nawaz (Helper of the Needy), born as Syed Mohammad Gesu DSC03667Daraz in 1320 and died in 1422. It is one of the most famous places religious places where people from all walks of life irrespective of religion can visit and offer prayers which is a perfect example of religious harmony. This 14th century Sufi saint played an important role in preaching Islam in the Indian context. The annual urs (fair) was happening when I visited the place, but it is very crowded almost the entire year. Photography is prohibited inside the Dargah but you can take shots of the outside beauty.

The stDSC03671ructure has two minarets. Shops and stalls leading to it sell caps, flowers, bangles and what not. The entrance of the darga is decorated with silvery designs with verses from the Quran written. Talk to any of the caretakers and they offer you to tell you the story of Khaja Bande Nawaz and his generosity. There are other tombs inside which belong to the family of the Sufi Saint, including one of a woman who lost 21 children at various ages, all of whom are buried around her. TDSC03673he entire complex looks extremely beautiful and holy. The saint was a scholar of repute having studied Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and Urdu. In his lifespan of 101 years, he is said to have authored 105 books. The great library on the premises has around 15,000 books on various array of subjects.

After relaxing there for about half an hour, I move on to the historical monuments, the first of which is the Haft Gumbaz or the Saat Gumbaz as it is called today.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Deccan, as we call today is a corrupt version of “Dakkin”, the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word Dakshin. This area was primarily occupied and ruled by many ancient Hindu kingdoms, the history and origins of which are lost. The two northernmost of these kingdoms had their capitals in Devagiri (modern Daulatabad) in Maharashtra and Warangal in Telinga (modern Andhra Pradesh). The Bahmani kingdom formed under very interesting circumstances, which all started with Allauddin Khilji marching towards the South to plunder the wealth of these mighty kingdoms. Unfortunately, religion became an excuse. Daulatabad was the first place to be hit and the king paid huge ransom to avoid a war and this became a practice to further invasions and invaders.

With the huge booty, Allauddin Khilji also played treachery and killed the Sultan of Delhi (his uncle) in 1296AD and became the ruler himself. Soon two successive wars were waged on Devagiri in 1308 and Warangal in 1309. Pratapa Rudradeva was the king of Warangal at that time and the Mohammedan Army was led by the famous Malik Naib Kafur. He plundered the unfortunate Kakatiya Kingdom and historians like Amir Khusru greatly described the uncalled destruction and the plight of people. This was only the first of the attacks on Warangal and there were more due to which, 13 years later, the dynasty was eliminated. In 1312, Malik Kafur invaded down South and he was obstructed by Ballal Deo of Dharwar Samoonder (the Hoysala King Veera Ballala II of Dwarasamudra, now called Halebidu), who also was not spared. Malik Kafur marched further south and Madhurai was plundered with the help of an illegitimate son of a Pandya King, and step-brother of the famous Veera Pandya Katta Bommana.

Malik Kafur, after going back to Delhi killed Allauddin Khilji himself and captured the throne. It was not long when he was killed by Allauddin Khilji’s nobles and Mubarak Khan was placed on the throne. Allauddin Khilji’s dynasty did not rule Delhi after that for long and a warlord Ghazi Malik came to power and assumed the title of Ghiyasuddin Tughlak. He sent his son Ulugh Khan to capture Warangal, which was executed right on and the kingdom was renamed Sultanpur in 1323. Ulugh Khan later conspired against his own father, killed him and usurped the throne under the title of Mohammed Tughlak Shah.

This was the time when Deccan started coming under the rule of Mohammedans as the two mighty kingdoms, Devagiri and Warangal were demolished. It was an absolute necessity that an other kingdom was found which carried the Hindu bastion and this was laid by two generals from Warangal, Harihara and Bukka which we all know as the Vijayanagara Kingdom of Hampi, Karnataka .

Talking about Mohhammed Tughlak Shah, i am sure many of us have heard of this madman. He orders all the inhabitants of a city, which for 180 years, has been the capital of the Mohammedan empire in India to leave to another place which is hundreds of kilometres away, and that too at a moment’s notice. The historian Barni thus describes the effect of this tyrannical order: “The city with its suburbs and villages spread over 10 kos (about 10 miles) were destroyed. So complete was the ruin, that not a cat or dog was left behind. Troops of the natives, with their dependents were forced to remove. Many from the toils of the long journey, perished on the road, and those who arrived at Deogiri could not endure the pain of exile. All around the area, sprang up graveyards of Mohammedans”

Who would know that this mad incident would be the foundation of a great Kingdom? One of the emigrants to Deogiri was a man named Hassan. Born in 1290 AD, he spent his first 30 years as a field labourer. He was employed by a Brahmin named Gangu, who gifted some land and oxen for Hassan to till. While tilling, Hassan found an earthen vessel full of antique gold coins. Instead of using them himself, he takes them to Gangu as the land was gifted. Gangu immediately informs Sultan Ghiasuddin about the discovery and Hassan would be taken to the Sultan’s army for his honesty. Gangu, who is also an astrologer predicts that Hassan would one day be a ruler and asked Hassan to take him as his finance minister once becoming a King.

Hassan, under the Sultan becomes a army general and thus migrates to Devagiri. We also know that Mohammed Tughlak starts disliking the new capital after some time and orders the inhabitants to move back to Delhi. Hassan, who has already become an important person in the Sultan’s rule would be instated as the Sultan’s representative at Devagiri. Soon Mohammed Tughlak, will all his mistakes committed, loses credibility and all his dynasty would be exterminated in the bloodshed that followed. Hassan with the support of the chieftains,  assumes the title Sultan Allauddin Hassan Gangu Bahmani and faithful to his former promise, offers Gangu the post of the finance minister.

It is said that Gangu was the first Brahmin who ever took service under a Mohammedan ruler and certainly, not the last. We know that for the next 200 years it became a universal custom for any Mohammedan King in Deccan to have Brahmins in high posts of authority.

Such was the commencement of the dynasty of the Bahmani Sultans of Gulbarga. I will need to give a brief picture of a typical Mohammedan rule, especially of the Bahmani rulers, which i will be doing in the further posts. This is the first time i explored a Deccani Kingdom. The perspective was totally new. Also it was a welcome break after my previous visits to temples in the Hassan District of Karnataka. I thought it would be better to give a good historical insight as this is a momentous event of Mohammedans ruling Deccan for the first time.


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

2. The Bahmanis of the Deccan by Haroon Khan Sherwani

3. Bahman Shah - The Founder of Bahmani Kingdom by Dr. S.A.Q.Hussaini

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This trip to the district of Hassan, Karnataka is the most satisfying trip of mine and i have enjoyed writing about it as much as i did when visiting. Even though Hampi Trip will be my best ever (i understood the greatness of Indian Temple Architecture for the first time), the trip to the Hoysala world will always be memorable.

DSC01029When i started planning, i never thought of most of the places i visited. Only just before the start of my first day, i browsed a little and got the names. I wanted to explore something different and away from normal tourist location. Going to places where few people visit and writing about them is the most satisfying experience and i feel i did enough justice to them. Here i should thank my cab driver who patiently bore my whims and fancies and took me where ever i asked for. He came inside and visited most of the temples with me as he was also seeing them for the first time. It is never surprising that people tend to ignore or forget their own place.

Transport: My first advise to tourists is to take an own/hired vehicle always instead of using public transport. Most of the places are remote and it is not a good ideal to depend on them. Of course, this is applicable only if you want to visit all the places i mentioned. However, good public transport is available for the main attractions Belur, Halebidu and Sravanabelagola. And i hope to have given sufficient information to locate the  place.

Stay: Always stay in Hassan town if you are planning to have more than a day and travel to other places. There are accommodations in Belur and Halebidu as well but they are an option if DSC00897more than a day is planned for any of these places. For a normal tourist, a day is sufficient for both of them. We can even complete all the three mentioned spots in a day if we take our own vehicle.

Study and Research: I feel this is important before see these temples. At least, if one has knowledge of Hindu iconography, can enjoy the sculptures. I say this as most of the sculptures are event and story based. The way the sculptures are designed exemplify the story itself.

Other places: I could not visit some of the places because of time. There are wonderful temples in places like Javagallu, Hosaholalu, Nuggehalli among others.

Don’t Do: Avoid visiting the small fortified palace that i mentioned. It is a complete waste of time. I travelled almost 100 additional kilometres just for this which could have been used for covering other places. Even though i am happy that i could see some explored area, this can be skipped. From Manjarabad Fort, come back to Hassan and the Iswara Temple in Arsikere can be reached from here.

Food: Food in Hassan is good with a mixture of South and North Indian flavour. There are good quality restaurDSC01403ants near the bus station.

The events under which i had this trip are also funny. As i mentioned in my first post, there was a government backed strike during the time and i had a real hard time travelling from Hassan to Sravanabelagola. My cab driver woke up at 5 AM waiting to get my call, if he had to take me to my destination. Luckily, i managed to get a fully crowded government bus. Even during the return journey, i had to wait for hours to get a bus to Bangalore. This strike was a welcome break to the Government Employees with all their chatting sitting leisurely.

As i plan my next series of posts, i am very happy that i had provided good information on the Hassan District, which i feel has not been documented well.