Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The first look of the fort itself created a lot of curiosity to explore. As I walked through the gateways, I imagined soldiers guarding the gateways and on watch above and on the sides.. As I mentioned in the previous post, there were cannons on each of the 37 bastions ready to fire at any angle. Some of the bastions are most massively built, and they are generally round of octagonal in shape. The parapets are honeycoDSC03477mbed with enclosures providing facilities for firing muskets as well as cannon, both at short and long range.

The walls near the main entrance appear to have been breached and rebuilt. The old portions consist of large blocks of stone laid in lime, but the joints are so fine that lime is not visible. The stone is believed to have been bought from the quarries in the Gulbarga district. In front of the first gate of the main approach there was originally a draw bridge over the moat, but the moat was later filled up for the construction of the road.DSC03484

The first gateway, called the Mandu Darwaza is somewhat weak in its appearance. It has an inscription carved on a metal tablet that it is built in 1683 by the Mughal Commandant, Mukhtar Khan Al-Hussaini. The height of this door up to the top of the parapet is 36 feet while the entrance arch is 19 feet high. The two small turrets in front of the parapet are later additions The door is fitted with spikes to secure against elephant attacks As you can see in this picture, the passage through the doorway is vaulted and is divided into two compartments by an arch built in the middle of the passage. Beyond the first Mandu Darwaza, there is a courtroom and an other gatewaDSC03481y. The Mandu Darwaza thus serves the purpose of a barbican for the second. The court has rooms for guards on either side.

The second gateway is called the Sharza Darwaza, on account of the effigies of two tigers carved on its façade. Such effigies are often found in the forts of the Deccan and their presence apparently signifies the belief that the representations in this form make the building safe from the attacks of the enemy. The Sharza Darwaza is of larger dimensions than the first gateway, the height of the entrance arch being DSC0348222 feet. The top of the gateway was originally decorated with a beautiful parapet of trefoil design, the face of which is adorned with encaustic tiles of blue and green patterns tastefully relieved with yellow and white bands. The tile work has decayed considerably, but wherever its intact the colors are extremely fresh and charming.

Below this parapet is a long panel of black stone covering the entire forehead of the gateway and containing an inscription which records the building of the gateway. in 1503 AD. during the reign of DSC03483Mahmud Shah Bahmani, by Saif Khan Kotwalbek. The style of writing is Thulth, but the letters have been so intertwined that the whole looks like a lace design. There were other inscriptions on the side bastions but most of them perished as they were inscribed on tiles. A few pieces which are intact show that they were in white with deep blue background.

The Sharza Darwaza has a naqar khana (music gallery) in its upper parts, of which the entrance room is rectangular in plan from which the main apartments of the music gallery can be reached. These are three in number and the side apartments have semi octagonal projections which are pierced by tiny windows and thick iron doors. To keep up the old military traditions of the fort, till 1920 music was still played from this gallery four times a day at the beginning of each watch. I crossed this gateway and moved further.

What is saw next is unforgettable… 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The DSC03331Bidar Fort is considered as one of the most formidable forts of India. It was distinctly planned and built on the brink of the Deccan plateau by Sultan Ahmed Shah Wali between 1426 and 1432 AD. Engineers and Architects of various countries were employed on its design and construction.

When Prince Ulugh Khan (Mohammed Bin Tughlaq) conquered Bidar for the first time, there was a fort with double lines of defenses. What the form or extent of this was, is difficult to determine as of now. Tradition however says, that it occupied the western area of the present fort. The tradition DSC03491is further confirmed by the words of Firishtah that Ahmed Shah Wali built the Government House (Dar-ul-Imara) at a site where the old fort of Bidar once stood. The initial fortifications that were built in 1426 were destroyed as a result of the invasion of Sultan Mohammed Khalji during the reign of Sultan Nizam Shah in 1461. However, later during the regime of Muhammad Shah Bahmani, gun powder was used for blowing up the walls by laying DSC03321mines beneath them.

Improvements to the fort at a larger scale have been made during the reign of Ali Barid Shah, who mounted guns at various vulnerable points and afterwards, Mukhtar Khan Al-Hussaini, the Mughal commandant re-erected and plated and bossed in iron almost all the gates of Bidar which bear his inscription to this day. There have been no major changes since 1656 when Aurangzeb as the governor of Deccan, annexed Bidar. DSC03396

The fort is an irregular rhomboid in shape with steep sides towards the north and east. On the sides where the ground was lower, a triple channel moat was excavated with partitions hewn out of rock. The moat and the glacis encircle the fort on all sides which sum up to 5.5 kilometers  of defense walls. The external defense has 37 massive polygonal bastions and 7 strong irregular rhombic shaped gates.

We will walk through the gates in the next post.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chaukandi is a compound Hindi word, meaning a four storeyed building. Although the building itself is double DSC03217storeyed, the term has been applied as it is situated at a high ground and reached by a flight of steps. Hadrat Khalil-Ullah was the son of Shah Nimat Ullah Kirmani, and as mentioned in of the posts, the former came over from his native place to Bidar in 1431 AD during the reign of Allauddin Shah Wali Bahmani and his sons were married to the royal princesses.

The Chaukhandi has three graves in the main vault and several others in the corridor. The tomb is approached from the road which goes from the Dulhan Darwaza to the Bahmani DSC03220tombs. To approach the outer gateway of the tomb, the visitor has to ascend a flight of steps and walk across a long pavement which has intermediate steps. There is a pleasing façade at the end of the pavement, comprising of an arch in the middle and a parapet of trefoil pattern at the top of the wall. The arch has a stilt at the top showing Persian influence. There is a panel with medallions of stucco work and contains the names of Allah, Mohammed and Ali written in the Kufic script but arranged in the Tughra style.

DSC03219Just outside the gateway, there is a hall to the left which is barred for entrance. It has three arches and its ceiling is divided into three compartments built across its width, each compartment containing a vault. The upper hall of this building was originally used by musicians, who played on trumpets and drums at the four watches to maintain the ceremonial dignity of the shrine. Passing through the gateway, the visitor has to ascend some steps to reach the passage. On either side of the passage at this stage are a large DSC03222number of graves belonging to Shah Khalil-Ullah and his successors. From here, there are again a fleet of stairs after which we reach the building.

The Chaukandi appears to have been designed by the same architect who planned the tomb of Sultan Allauddin, for there is much in common in the decorative schemes between the two. However, their ground plans are different as the Chaukandi is octagonal unlike the other which is square. DSC03226The walls of the Chaukandi were originally decorated with encaustic tiles, the trace of which are found only in a few places. Black stone borders have been done for the this tomb as well as we had seen on the tomb of Sultan Allauddin. There are arches on two levels which is again a similarity of DSC03229the two buildings. The walls are built of black trap masonry laid in lime and they are very massive in construction.

The interior of the tomb is approached by a covered passage from the arch facing South. The tomb of the saint, which is built in the middle of the interior of the Chaukandi, as a square plan externally and an octagonal plan internally. The walls are decorated with stucco work both inside and outside. In later times, separate vaults have been built for the graves of the descendants of Shah Khalil-Ullah, one of which is attached to the Chaukandi itself and and may be noticed in the form of a projection to the east of the passage. Over the doorway of this vault the date of 1675 AD. is carved which show that it was built after the conquest of Bidar by Aurangzeb in 1658. Inside the vault, there are 9 graves. The beautiful inscription in the Thulth style if writing which beings from the main doorway of the Chaukandi is continued till the inner corridors. It was designed by a calligraphist of Shiraz named Mughith.

DSC03230To the east of the Chaukandi, until some 70 years ago, stood a tomb which has since perished completely, but photographs of its exterior and interior were fortunately taken by the Archaeological Department in 1917. It was not of large dimensions but had distinctive decorative features which made the building picturesque.

The Chaukandi, apart from its lofty position, which has made it a prominent feature in the panorama of Bidar, possesses certain architectural merits placing the monument among the best constructions of the Bahmani period. It is now denuded of much of its splendor, but its stately arches, neat carving, and magnificent calligraphy and artwork show the highest quality of Bahmani architecture, which probably reached during the reign of Sultan Allauddun, whose own tomb as similar decorative features as the Chaukandi.