NEAR HYDERABAD: WILDLIFE, GREAT KAKATIYA TEMPLES AND MONUMENTS OF THE DECCAN SULTANATE

TELANGANA

Telangana is one of the youngest states of India. Formally recognized on June 2, 2014, it is known for its hospitality and multicultural and pluralistic society. Hyderabad, the capital city of this state is the fifth largest city in India and home to some of India's best educational institutions, public sector and defence companies and a thriving global services sector and film industry and known for its world famous dish Hyderabadi Biryani. State Tourism Website : telanganatourism.gov.in/

Telangana state covers 112,077 square kilometers (43,273 square miles), is home to about 36 million people and has a population density of 307 people per square kilometer. About 61 percent of the population live in urban areas. Hyderabad is the capital and largest city, with about 7 million people. Hindus make up 85 percent of the population; Muslims, 12.7 percent. The people of Telangana are called the Telegu. They speak Telugi, a Dravidian language related to Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam and with its own alphabet. The Hyderabad film industry is called Tollywood.

Constituting a major part of Deccan plateau, Telangana has a pleasing climate, with abundant natural and water resources. The state is the gateway to Krishna and Godavari Rivers in South India and is considered the seed capital of India and has one of the more prosperous economies of India. Telangana attractions include serene lakes, verdant forests, rocky regions, wildlife, elaborately carved temples, magnificent palaces and forts reflecting architectural blends of Hindu, Pathan and Persian styles. Telangana is famous world-wide for its amazing Bronze castings that require exquisite skills for creating incredible idols. Nirmal town is world-famous for its varied range of handicrafts made using best traditional techniques to create masterpieces. Other prominent art works of the state include Nizamabad panels, Nirmal painted furniture, Dokra castings, Silver Filigree, Cheriyal Scroll Paintings, Bidri craft, Pembarthi brassware etc.

Wildlife and Sights Near Hyderabad

Excursions from Hyderabad include Nagarjuna Sugar Dam, Nagarjuna Konda, with Buddha relics, Srisailam, one of the Jyotirlingas, Ethipothala waterfalls, and Srisailam wildlife reserve. The city of Hyderabad boasts many national parks like the KBR National Park, Mrugavani National Park, Mahavir Harina Vanasthali National Park etc. One can set on a wildlife adventure or a jungle safari and sight beautiful and majestic species of flora, fauna and birds. At the KBR National Park, sightings of rare species like monitor lizard, wild boars, jungle cats and a variety of snakes often occur. Besides this, the park is home to more than 600 species of flora and more than a hundred kinds of birds.While traversing through the Mrugavani Park, one can spot the elusive black-naped hare, Russell's viper, cheetal, Indian rat snake, civet and flower pecker. Mahavir Harina Vanasthali National Park lies about 15 kilometers from the city of Hyderabad and has a lot to its credit. Once a hunting ground of the Nizams, the park has much to offer to a wildlife enthusiast, seeing that it is the home of the endangered blackbuck.

Nagarjunasagar National Park (155 kilometers from Hyderabad. is India's largest tiger reserve. Covering 3,560 square kilometers, it gets its name from the reservoir which has been formed by the Krishna River. Dissected by deep winding gorges and high plateaus with two-billion-year-old rocks, the sanctuary is made up primarily of dry deciduous forest and brush. Among the animals seen here are tiger, leopard, jungle cat, striped hyena, sloth bear, palm civet, smooth Indian otter, nigali, chinarka, chausinga, sambar, chital, barking deer, wild boar, Indian pangolin, langur and bonnet macaque.

Ethipothala Waterfall (18 kilometers from Nagarjuna Sagar) is famous for its stunning natural beauty. The fall cascades from a height of 22 meters to join the Krishna river. The sound of gushing water echoes all around the landscape. Three streams merge to form this beautiful waterfall, namely, Nakka Vagu, Tummala Vagu and Chandravanka Vagu. A crocodile breeding center nearby makes for an interesting excursion. On can also visit two popular temples, Ranganatha and Dattatreya, at the site.The name 'Ethipothala' has been taken from the Sanskrit word 'Etitaposthal', which means a place for penance. It is believed to be the place where saints have performed rigorous penance. There are several caves in the vicinity that visitors would enjoy exploring.

Srisailam (228 kilometers from Amaravati and 217 kilometers from Hyderabad) is historical town is famous for its ancient temples and invites pilgrims from all corners of India. Set amidst lush green surroundings, Srisailam is counted as one of the 12 jyotirlingas and is also blessed to be a shaktipeeth (devotional shrine where the severed body parts of Goddess Sati fell), which make it a very popular spiritual spot. The Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple and the Bhramaramba Devi Temple are among the most famous temples in town and are visited by a large number of devotees.

Srisailam is also known for the Akka Mahadevi Caves, the Kadali Vanam Caves, the Srisailam Dam and the Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary. While it requires one to take a boat ride on River Krishna to reach the amazing Akka Mahadevi Caves, reaching the Kadali Vanam Caves involves trekking for 12 kilometers. The Srisailam Dam is visited by nature lovers for its breathtaking beauty. The Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, is one of the largest tiger reserves in India and houses a wide variety of animals including blackbucks, sambars, panthers, spotted deer and sloth bears. Srisailam is located at a distance of

Warangal

Warangal (145 kilometers northeast of Hyderabad) was 12th-century capital of the Telugu Kingdom of the Kakatiyas. Today it is known for its carpets, silk, and textiles, and has a population of about 1 million people. Set amidst beautiful lakes and scenic countryside, Warangal is an important historic and cultural center. The Thousand Pillars Temple is devoted to the gods Shiva, Vishnu and Surya. Built in 1163, the triple shrine temples is noted for its rock cut elephants, Nandi bull statues and its richly carved pillars and screens. The original name of Warangal was Orugallu, which means one stone as it is believed that it was carved out of a single rock.

The Warangal area is home to grand forts, ancient and magnificent temples, and lush green sanctuaries teeming with wildlife, Warangal is a scenic getaway to spectacular examples of Kakatiya art and architecture. The city was the capital of the Kakatiya kingdom from the 12th to 14th centuries. While the Warangal Fort remains the centerpiece of the city with its amalgamation of beautiful arches and intricate geometrical detailing, there are many temples that are fine specimens of South Indian architecture. The picturesque city is also famed for hosting a nine-day-long annual floral festival called Bathukamma.

Getting There: By Air: Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, in Hyderabad, is the nearest airstrip, about 160 kilometers away. By Road: Warangal Railway Station is well-connected with most cities in India. By Train: Good roads connect Warangal with other towns and cities in India.

Sight Near Warangal include Ramappa Lake and Temple (45 miles), an artificial lake and 13th century temple with black basalt statues of gods and goddesses; Kolanupaka (43 miles), a 2,000-year-old Jain temples with a four-foot-high jade statue of Lord Mahavira; and Nagarjunakonda (90 miles), a reservoir that flooded an important archeological site with viharas, sacrificial altars and monasteries (important finds are found in the Nagarjunakonda museum. There a number of other lakes and resorts in the area. Waterfalls and the Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary, make it an ideal launchpad to explore nearby tourist destinations.

Kakatiya Temples

Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The fort of Warangal referred to as Orugallu, Orumgallu or Ekasilanagaram in the inscriptions and literature rose to prominence, when it was the capital of Kakatiya kingdom during the reign of Ganapati Deva Maharaja (1199-1261). The group of temples and temple complex related structures in Warangal of Kakatiyan empire, signify a distinct architectural pattern, style and technology of the period and representative of the distinct regional style, exhibiting local innovation in temple building tradition and establishment of a prominent temple of Ramappa during 1213 by General Recherla Rudra, during the period of the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva. The representative temples and temple complexes include Archaeological remains of Swayambhu temple and Keerthi Thoranas at Warangal fort, Rudreswara Temple, locally known as Veyi Sthambala Gudi (Thousand pillars temple) at Hanumakonda and Rudreswara (Ramappa) Temple, which is located about 65 kilometers from Warangal. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“Though most of the temples are characterized and evolved from later Chalukyan style of temple architecture and decoration, all the temples, and temple complexes of Kakatiyas have a distinct style, technology and decoration exhibiting the influence of Kakatiyan sculptor. Trikutaalyas and the sculptural art and decoration specific to the time and Kakatiyan Empire are the main justifying components for the Outstanding Universal Value. Keerthi Thoranas is another example of distinct style of Kakatiyas for the gateways to temple complexes, unique only to this region and testimony to highly evolved proportions of aesthetics in temple and town gateways in South India. The Thoranas demonstrate both a creative masterpiece, and a continuity and transformation through interchange of cultural values like that of Buddhist art traditions from 2nd Century B.C. to 11th Century. The initiative and a deviant path of experimentation of skill over dolerite by the Kakatiya sculptors continued to be used by subsequent Vijayanagara artists.

“The three proposed serial sites have a common linkage characteristic of Kakatiyan kingdom with Tank, Temple and Town as an example for Creative masterpieces, interchange of cultural values and unique testimony to Kakatiya Cultural Tradition. Though the three edifices may give isolated view of their role of the period, invariably the water tanks (water conservation structures) resulting in raise of Towns flourished with temples and knitted to each other. The cultural and administrative distinction of the Kakatiyas was greatly referred in contemporary literature like Kridabhiramamu and also later by the famous traveler Marco Polo. Prominent among the rulers are Ganapathi Deva, Prathapa Rudra, and Rani (queen) Rudrama Devi. After the defeat of Pratapa Rudra, the Musunuri Nayaks united seventy two Nayak chieftains and captured Warangal from Delhi sultanate and ruled for fifty years.”.

Warangal Fort

Warangal Fort (in southern Warangal, 12 kilometers from Hanumakonda) stands as a fine example of the grandeur of the architectural styles of southern India. With beautiful gateways, intricate geometrical detailing and stunning carvings, the fort Spread over a large area, is bordered by a 20-ft-high mud wall. It has four elegantly carved gateways, which are about 30 feet high. Built on the pattern of Sanchi sculptures, these gateways are known as Hamsa Torana. It is said these gateways led to a huge Shiva temple that once stood here.

Every gateway is made of four pillars, which are carved out of a single rock. The beautiful carvings on them are quite enchanting and depict Lord Vishnu being carried by his divine mount Garuda. In fact, this ornamentation is now the state emblem of Telangana. The Warangal Fort was built in the 12th century during the reign of the Kakatiya dynasty, that ruled from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The construction of the fort began under the rule of king Ganapatideva, who shifted his capital to Warangal from Hanamkonda. The fort is an important landmark of Warangal and is visited by thousands of tourists every year. Since it was invaded several times, parts of it are in ruins but still echo with tales of bravery and valour.

Warangal Fort is part of the Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways that was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Warangal fort built by King Ganapathi in 13th century and completed by his daughter Rudrama Devi, in 1261 A.D., The fort has two walls, with the traces of the third. The fort has 45 towers and pillars spread over a radius of 19 kilometers, and a temple of Mother Earth called ‘Swayambhudevi Alayam’ in the middle.

“The Warangal Fort was a huge construction with three distinct circular strongholds surrounded by a moat. Four paths with decorative and lofty gateways known as Keerthi Thorana or Hamsa Thorana, set according to the cardinal points, lead to the center where a huge Shiva Temple (Swayambhu Gudi) once existed. The archaeological remains through the explored ground plan of the Swayambhu temple suggests the huge dimensions of the temple, as corroborated by the contemporary work of Kridabhiramamu .The gateway is obvious but much of the temple is in archaeologically significant for its clear visibility of the total temple complex along with gateways. The archaeological remains of Swayambhu temple complex and Keerthi Thoranas demonstrate both a creative masterpiece, and a continuity and transformation through interchange of cultural values for many years of Indian and Asian art history.”

Thousand Pillars Temple (Rudreswara Temple)

Thousand Pillars Temple (Rudreswara Temple) is among the oldest temples of South India. It has been beautifully and elaborately built with 1,000 intricately carved pillars that are so close-knit that they almost look like a wall around the temple. It is said that it took nearly 72 years to build this architectural marvel. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Surya and Lord Vishnu, this temple is one of the best examples of Kakatiya art and architecture. Its structure resembles the shape of a star and houses three major shrines, known as Trikutalayam. There are many sculptures within the premises that depict scenes from ancient epics. At the entrance of the shrine of Lord Shiva, is a huge carving of Nandi, the divine bull mount of Lord Shiva, made of black basalt rock. The temple was built in 1163 by Kakatiya king Rudra Dev.

Thousand Pillar Temple is part of the Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways that was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Rudreswara Temple locally known as Veyisthambala Gudi (Thousand pillars temple) is one of the fine and earliest available examples of of Kakatiya art, architecture and sculpture. It was built by Rudra Deva, and named after him as ‘Sri Rudreswara swamy temple with the presiding deity as Rudreswara, in 1163 in the style of later Chalukyan and early Kakatiyan Architecture, star shaped and triple shrined (Trikutalaya).

“The temple is a fine specimen of architecture and sculpture with One thousand pillars implying that the temple has many pillars. There are richly carved pillars, perforated screens, exquisite icons; rock cut elephants and the monolithic dolerite Nandi as components of the temple. Strengthening of foundations like sand box technique, the skill of Kakatiya sculptors is manifest in adroit craftsmanship and flawless ivory carving technique in their art. The ingenuity of Kakatiya sculptors is visible in likes of lathe turned, and shiny polish in dolerite and granite stone sculpture and craft work of Nava rangamandapa.”

Ramalingeshwara Temple

Ramalingeshwara Temple (67 kilometers from Warangal in Palampet) is an architectural wonder and one of South India's best medieval temples. Set amidst picturesque natural beauty, the temple boasts well-chiselled walls and ceilings, perfectly carved pillars and beautiful sculptures. It is popularly known as Ramappa Temple after its sculptor, Ramappa, who built the temple during the rule of Kakatiya king, Ganpati Deva, around the 13th century. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and a Nandi (bull god) statue stands facing the main shrine. It is said that this magnificent temple was took 40 yeas to build.

“Lying at a distance of village, the temple is reminiscent of the glorious past of the region. Tourists can relax at lakeside cottages, which have been built by the tourism department. A restaurant run by the department is also present near the temple making it the perfect place for tourists to unwind.

Ramalingeshwara Temple is part of the Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways that was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Rudreswara (Ramappa) temple is “probably is the only temple in India known by the name of the sculptor who built it. The head sculptor was Ramappa, after whom the temple is known today, rather than after the presiding deity, Ramalingeswara, as is the general norm. The temple of Ramappa was built on behalf of the king, Kakati Ganapathi Deva by his chief commander Rudra Samani at a place called Ranakude in Atukuru province.

“This temple has been rightfully described as the “brightest star in the galaxy of medieval temples of the Deccan” a repository of Kakatiyan creative genius, with intricate carvings adorning the walls, pillars and ceilings of this marvellous edifice. The temple is a Shivalaya and stands majestically on a 6 feet high star shaped platform. The hall in front of the sanctum has numerous carved pillars that have been positioned to create an effect that combines light and space wonderfully and the exquisitely chiselled walls and ceiling are unique to the time of Kakatiyan sculptors and empire.

“The sculptural work of dance postures in the temple appears like frozen record of dances of the region in stone and was of great inspiration for the famous work ‘Nritya Ratnavali’, by Jayapa Senani. The postures pertaining to Bharata Natya, Shrunga, Bharunga, Rathi, Perini Nritya etc., are engraved on the pillars and top-beams of ‘Mukha Mandapam’, The mythological episodes such as ‘Gopika Vastrapaharanam, Tripura samharm, Daksha Samharam, Ksheera Sagara Madhanam, Girija Kalyanam etc., stand for the highest standards of Kakatiya Sculpture. The ‘Nagini’ and other eleven devanarthakis are arranged as supporting beams on both sides of each entrance. The aesthetic sense which scaled innumerable heights in Kakatiya sculpture is clearly evident in these twelve postures of devanarthakis. The desi (local) varieties of dances such as Perini, Prenkana, Sudda Nartana, Dandarasak, Sivapriya, Chindu and Kolata are some dance forms in the sculptural art of the temple. The famous treatise of dance ‘Nritya Ratnavali’ of Kakatiya period is said to have been inspired by the construction and art work on Ramappa temple.

“The Ramappa temple is a best example of the love for art, music and dance as patronized by Kakatiyas. The temple is situated in a valley and is built with bricks so light that they can float on water, established after scientific research conducted indicating the creative master pieces of the time. The temple withstood many wars, invasions and natural calamities.”///

Deccan Sultanate Forts and Monuments

Monuments and Forts of the Deccan Sultanate was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014 According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The ‘Monuments of the Deccan Sultanate’ is a serial property comprising of four component constitute the most representative, most authentic and best conserved examples of Deccani Sultanate monuments in India. The series demonstrates the exemplary convergence of national and international styles of Islamic architecture and their intersections with the prevalent Hindu architecture of the period southern India.” The properties are: 1) Bahmani Monuments at Gulbarga, Karnataka (17°20’26”N, 76°49’53”E) 2) Bahmani and Barid Shahi Monuments at Bidar, Karnataka )17°55’26” N, 77°31’38”E); 3) Adil Shashi Monuments at Bijapur, Karnataka (16° 49’45”N, 75°44’10”E) and 4) Qutb Shahi Monuments at Hyderabad (17° 23’ 00” E, 78° 24’ 04”E) [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The contributions of Deccan Sultanate to the arts and architecture of India is impressive with iconic Indo Islamic monuments constructed in Gulbarga, Bidar, Bijapur and Hyderabad. These sites emerged as important medieval fortifications and walled cities of the Deccan Sultanates with a vigorous new architectural style of the sultanate that emerged from encounters with the Deccan Hindu heartland of the period. Individually, each of the components of Deccan Sultanate cover important aspects of Sultanate history with Gulbarga evolving as the first capital of Bahmani Kingdoms in mid 14th Century including its impressive fortifications, Jami Masjid and royal tombs; Bidar as the next Bahmani capital in mid 15th Century CE; further evolution of the Deccani Sultanate style by Adil Shahi dynasty in the monuments at Bijapur such as the Gol Gumbaj that stands as the 2nd largest dome in world history; and the final diversification and manifestation of the style in the Qutub Shahi monuments of Golconda fort, tombs and the Charminar at Hyderabad.

The ‘Monuments of the Deccan Sultanate’ constitute the representative examples of Deccan Sultanate monuments in India. The series demonstrates the exemplary convergence of national and international styles of Islamic architecture and their intersections with the prevalent Hindu architecture of the period southern Indian in present day Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

History and Culture of the Deccan Sultanate

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Between the 14th and the 17th century, the Deccan plateau of south-central India was home to a series of important and highly cultured Muslim courts. Subtly blending influences from Iran, West Asia, southern India, and sometimes Europe, as well as southern and northern India, the arts produced under these Deccan sultanates are markedly different from those of the rest of India and especially from those created under the Mughal patronage. Following the conquest of the powerful Vijaynagara empire in 1565 these Sultanate kingdoms emerged as the new force. They developed a unique mélange of Sultanate architectural idioms as a result of their cultural exchange. There was considerable movement of craftsmen and artists between the Muslim and Hindu domains, that contributed to shared cultural and architectural traditions. Such interaction embraced the borrowing of building techniques, architectural forms, and decorations that contributed to the development of a unique Deccani Architectural style. Further influences from Islamic traditions of Western and Central Asia as well as East Africa. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The association of monumental, tripartite palaces structures with water, first seen in Bidar and then imitated in later capitals, is evidence of the influence of local traditions. By moving his capital to Bidar, Ahmad Shah tried to distance his rule from different Muslim factions that seem to have prevailed in Gulbarga. This distance from the past, and his intention to create a new identity from his kingdom, was further expressed in his choice of new architectural power-symbols, reflecting the political pragmatism the Deccani sultans, being as they were a Muslim elite ruling a Hindu majority.

“The Qutb Shahi monuments provide a unique testimony to the vibrant cosmopolitanism that characterized the medieval period in India and in the Deccan region in particular. Given that the founder of the dynasty and key nobles were immigrants from Iran, their integration with the Deccani Muslims, and the local Telugu-speaking Hindu elite was reflected in the innovative and inspired blending of Persianate and Indic cultures that flowed from the successful integration of this multi-ethnic society.” [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

Deccan Sultanate Architecture

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Monuments of the Deccan Sultanante are outstanding examples of military architecture, with an impregnable defense mechanism, unique water supply and distribution system, as well as unique sewage disposal mechanisms and extraordinary acoustical system unparalleled in the architectural history of the Deccan and the military architecture of South Asia. The fortifications of the Bahmanis and their successors can be classified according to their location into frontier, territorial and metropolitan forts. Forts were more or less permanent military camps, while walled cities were intended for the protection and prestige. Thus, they came to erect impressive stone forts and palaces and to promote ceremonials that could project them as agents of divine power in the imagination of their subjects. Five types of courtly structures are recorded at these localities, suggesting a conscious gradation of importance in early Bahmani ceremonial practices. Private complexes of the ruler and his representatives are marked with edifices distinguished by tripartite plans and facades. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The monuments and citadels provide a unique testimony to the social, economic, cultural, political and technological landscape of the period as well as unique expressions of the religious and artistic flowering of the Islamic Sultanate in Southern India. The monuments were also accompanied by the development syncretic forms of art, architecture, language, literature, music, cuisine and costume reflected subtly but perceptibly in the miniature paintings architecture and the Shi'a culture of the period.

“The close associations of Bahmani hammams with the rectangular, transverse-arched halls that have already been noted indicate that these bath houses may have had more formal functions. Later in Bidar and Bijapur, another device, generally termed the “Persian wheel”, was introduced and applied at some water bodies. A third device was also invented during the 17th century at Bijapur. This device was invented to bring water under high pressure to fountains. During the second half of the 16th century another innovation was introduced in the Deccan to supply water to a palace or city over long distances.

“The construction material used for all monuments is primarily stone and lime with stucco and retained with minimal intervention for restoration in matching materials. Original paintings are intact. Apart from a number of minor structural repairs and regular maintenance that has been documented since the early nineteenth century, the buildings still exhibit their original structural fabric and design. In terms of their physical structure, the buildings utilize the traditional materials of mortared stone and carved stucco.”

Bidar

Bidar (150 kilometers northwest of Hyderabad) is a deceptively humble hilltop city, nestled in the northernmost part of Karnataka. Historically, it has been at the center of a number of important dynasties in the region, including the Deccan Sultanante, and is home to amazing monuments and ruins, with unique designs and decorative patterns of various dynasties and rulers, who ruled the region at one time. You can easily spot interesting amalgamations of Hindu, Turkish and Persian artisanship.

Most of the prominent historical monuments in the region belong to the pre-Kakatiya, Tughluq, Bahamani, Barid Shahi, Adil Shahi, Mughal and Nizam eras. Bidar is renowned for its exquisite Bidriware, which is a must-buy during your visit here.The current district of Bidar includes the first capital of the Rashtrakuta empire along with Basavakalyan, formerly known as Kalyani, which was the capital of Western Chalukyas and the Kalachuris. Both Bidar and Kalyani, as important and politically powerful cities, attracted many scholars as well as artisans from across the globe.

According to some accounts, Bidar featured as an important city even in the Spaniard empire in the region during the Middle Ages.I n medieval India, Bidar was a force to reckon with as the capital city of the great Bahmani and the Barid Shahi dynasties. This meant that the city was at the heart of many political intrigues as well. The versatile architecture of the region is testament to all these different dynasties and cultures in their different times, leaving their marks on the city. This also explains why there are so many historical forts, palaces as well as tombs in the region. Bidar Fort is an impressive example of the region’s architecture. Despite being more than 500 years old, it still stands strong. No wonder then that the city has been known as the city of whispering monuments, where each wall tells a tale!Another important historical event that has influenced the heritage and architecture of the region is the movement fostered by the Lingayat reformist Basavanna, who was the founder of the Shaivite sect of Virashaivas.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is at Hyderabad which is connected with all major cities. By Road: Bidar is connected by good roads to all places in South India. By Train: Bidar is connected by rail with all the major cities in India.

Bahmani and Barid Shahi Monuments at Bidar

The Bahmani and Barid Shahi monuments are part of the Monuments and Forts of the Deccan Sultanate nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to the report submitted to UNESCO: These “monuments at Bidar dating from late 15th to the early 16thcenturies, comprise of the Bidar Fort, the Madrasa Mahmud Gawan, the Bahamani tombs at Ashtur and the Barid Shahi tombs. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The irregular, circular fort of Bidar, within which the royal palaces are located, is attached on its southern side to the quadrangular city. The six-mile long fort wall, built with huge stone blocks of reddish laterite stone is strengthened with 37 bastions, and has several gates with barbicans. Within the fort, two large mosques, the Jami Masjid and the Solha Khumba Masjid with sixteen pillars support a lofty dome, are also attributed to him. The significant achievement in Bidar is the sophisticated system of gates and sluices that could be used when required to flood segments of the moat and thus preserve water.

“The Madrasa of Mahmud Gawana occupies a rectangular structure covering 68 by 60 meters and encloses a central quadrangle. The main entrance, which is no longer extant, was to the east and led to the quadrangle with a dodecagonal cistern at its middle. The 12 tombs of Bahmani rulers in Ashtur were erected from 1436 to 1535. The tomb of Ahmad Shah I has a dome is most impressive rising over 30m high. The interior of the square tombs have beautifully colored and gilded paintings on the ceilings. Ali Barid's tomb has a 25m high dome and stands in the middle of a symmetrical four square garden.”

Sights in Bidar

Bahmani Tombs At Ashtur (in Ashtur, on the outskirts of Bidar) are the impressive burial places of 12 Bahmani rulers, the sovereigns of the region. Built between 1436 to 1535, they are a fine example of the architecture of that time. Perhaps the most impressive of these is the tomb of Ahmad Shah I (1422-1436), which is more than 30 meters high. Its interiors have been painted in stunning colors and intricate designs. Other tombs are also striking and many of them have gilded paintings on the ceilings. One also finds Quran verses inscribed in gold color decorating the walls. Tourists can also look out for the arches, niches and lofty domes. One can even spot the Swastika symbol, associated with Hinduism in one of the mausoleums. Another notable tomb is that of Ali Barid that has a 25-meter-high dome and stands in the middle of a symmetrical four square garden. The tomb of Sultan Allauddin-Shah II is decorated with tile panels and arches with margins adorned with carvings. Connoisseurs of medieval art will find the well-preserved Islamic paintings of high interest. The typical configuration of the tombs is that the inner walls are adorned with paintings while the outer walls are covered in beautiful tile work.

Mahmud Gawan Madrasa is a Muslim school that operated for two centuries after being built in 1472. It included 36 rooms for the students, a large and impressive library, a renowned madrasa, a laboratory, and boarding facilities for both students as well as teachers. Apart from the madrasa, the building was also famous because of the artwork and its architectural beauty. Verses from the Quran are also part of the inscription. The front gate is covered in exquisite tile-work. In its hay day, the institution attracted tens of thousands of scholars as well as students from across the Islamic world. Architecturally, this madrasa is similar to another important landmark, the madrasa at Fez. The structure has been declared as one of importance and is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It was built by Mahmud Gawah or Gawan, a merchant who came to the Bahmani Sultanate. Some say he was in exile from Persia while others say he came to trade. Because if his humble nature and intellectual superiority, he was eventually made the Prime Minister of the kingdom. He managed to garner the respect not just of the rulers but also of the general populace. At the height of its glory, the structure consisted of four minarets, of which one remains standing today.

Rangeen Mahal is a unique amalgamation of Hindu and Islamic art and architectural techniques. The spectacular structure was built in the 16th century. Its walls are adorned with colored tiles and beautiful stucco art. One of the most attractive features of the palace is a rectangular six-bay hall with carved wooden columns, decorated with elaborate capitals as well as carved brackets. Similarly, the wooden frames that lead to the inner chambers are also ornamented with beautiful tile-work. The entrance doorway is inscribed with verses from the Quran. Suitably titled rangeen or colorful, this modest-sized palace is among the many well-kept secrets of Bidar. It is the best preserved structure within the precincts of the Bidar fort complex. There are also several examples of unique wood and stone carvings, which are superb examples of the regions characteristic aesthetic. The piece de resistance, however, are the designs made on several walls that include the finest quality of mother-of-pearl inlaid in brilliant black stone. One can easily reach Rangeen Mahal from the splendid Gumbaz Darwaza.

Solah Khamba Masjid (Sixteen-Pillared Mosque) is one of the largest mosques in the country and the oldest surviving building in Bidar. Built in 1423-24 by Qubil Sultani, during the viceroyalty of Prince Muhammad, this mosque boasts massive columns, domes and arches. The architecture allows for plenty of fresh air and light. The landscape is open and spacious to accommodate the swarming numbers, who would come here during Friday prayers and important religious state functions. This mosque is also called Zanana Masjid as it is located near the Zanana enclosure. Other attractions nearby include the Gagan Mahal, Diwan-e-Aam, Takhat Mahal, Royal pavilion, Hazar kothari and Naubat khana. Jama Masjid and Kali Masjid are two other monuments nearby that should not be missed.

Narshimha Jhira Water Cave Temple is also known as Narasimha Zarna cave temple and Jharani Narasimha temple. It is located within a cave with water running up to 30 meters. There is no other way of reaching the deity, except by wading through knee-deep water. The cave is located in the Manichoola Hill range and the temple is open to the public from eight in the morning. Some devotees even believe in purification before seeing the lord so they take a quick bath in the fountain located outside the cave temple. Also, be ready for the innumerable bats hanging from the roof. According to the local mythology, Lord Narasimha first killed Hiranyakashyapu and then killed the demon Jalasura, who was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. After his death, he turned into water and began flowing by the feet of his slayer. It is said that as he still flows at the feet of the lord, devotees have to wade through this water to get a darshana (view) of the deity.

Gulbarga

Gulbarga, (620 kilometers from Bengaluru and 220 kilometers from Hyderabad) is a small city now known as Kalaburagi with monuments from the the medieval Bahamani kingdom (1347-1526). With the grand Gulbarga Fort at its heart, the city boasts the oldest mosque in Karnataka, Jumma Masjid, which sits within the fort. It is said that Gulbarga draws its name from Persian words 'gul', which means flower and 'berg' which means leaf.

In the early 14th century, Gulbarga became a part of the Delhi Sultanate and was taken over by Mohammed bin Tughlaq. until his death, Gulbarga remained with the Delhi Sultanate and then was taken over by the Bahamani kingdom. In its heydays, the city served as the capital of the Bahamani rulers between 1347 and 1428. In the 17th century, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb annexed and inducted it into the Mughal empire, from where it went into the hands of the rulers of Hyderabad in the 18th century.

Gulbarga hosts the annual Urs Festival at the tomb of Khwaja Bande Nawaz to commemorate the revered Sufi saint's death anniversary. Around 40 kilometers from the city lie Jain temples on the banks of River Bhima in Jevargi, while the Jaladurga Falls on River Krishna is situated around 120 kilometers away.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airstrip is Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, at Hyderabad, about 202 kilometers, from Gulbarga. By Road: Located in Gulbarga district, the railway junction at Gulbarga, is well-connected. By Train: The city is well-connected with good roads in the state.

Bahmani Monuments at Gulbarga

Bahmani Monuments at Gulbarga are part of the Monuments and Forts of the Deccan Sultanate nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO:The 14th century Bahmani monuments at Gulbarga in Karnataka State primarily comprise of the Gulbarga Fort and Great Mosque in the Fort and the Haft Gumbad complex with seven tombs protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

Gulbarga was the first capital of the Bahmani dynasty to have a fort. “On the northwestern side of the city’s elliptical fort is the oldest township wherein is located the Shah Bazaar Mosque, which served as the Jami Mosque of Gulbarga. The tombs, darghas, and associated water bodies served as conceptual “protective” concentric circles around the fort, enclosing both parts of the city. Constructed on the remains of a Warangal fort built by Raja Gulchand, it was a nara durg with no natural defenses, dependent on the might of its men. Completely overhauled and reconstructed later by Alauddin Bahmani, it is an engineering feat of its time, with a 50 foot-thick double wall, the inner one higher than the outer. It displays an almost impregnable defense system with a 90 foot-wide moat with drawbridges completely surrounding its three miles of fortifications. Fifteen towers and 26 canons ensured it was one of the mightiest of all forts. The colossal western entrance has four gates and four courtyards, each one so fortified that it would be impossible to pass through any unscathed. It is an excellent example of military architecture. Inside are remains of large buildings, temples, and several beautiful courtyards. The large and foreboding Bala Hissar was used as the royal residence and certainly as a last refuge.

“Other Monuments in Gulbarga include, the Jami Masjid mosque and the Haft Gumbaz tomb complex. The Jami Masjid built in 1367 is awe-inspiring as it covers 38,000 square feet, and is a unique congregational courtyard for the region as it is covered. The Haft Gumbaz tombs include that of Mujahid Shah, Daud Shah, Ghiyath al-Din Shah and Shams al-Din Shah of the Bahmani dynasty.”

Vijapura-Bijapur

Vijapura (150 kilometers west-southwest of Gulbarga) is the modern name for medieval Bijapur. Home to several mosques, palaces, forts and mausoleums, was an important site for the Deccan Sultanate. The surreal Ibrahim Rauza is a mausoleum that has been inspired by the Taj Mahal. It is said that it would have been at par with the Taj if it had been constructed in marble. Another historical wonder is the Gol Gumbaz, which is said to be the second-largest dome in the world.

Vijayapura is scattered with many such architectural marvels, thanks to its legacy as the capital of Adil Shahi kings from 1489 to 1686. Vijayapura is also a center of worship for Shaivism and the must-attend Lingayat Siddeshwara Festival is a glorious affair that runs for eight days. The city is also the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pattadakal.

Getting There: By Air: Belgaum, 205 kilometers away, is the nearest airport from where tourists can hire a cab. By Road: Good roads connect the town to other cities in the district. By Train: The nearest railhead is at Vijayapura, around 2 kilometers away.

Adil Shahi Monuments at Bijapur

Adil Shahi Monuments at Bijapur are part of the Monuments and Forts of the Deccan Sultanate nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Adil Shahi monuments at Bijapur date from late 15th to the late 17th centuries. These are an ensemble of 80 small and big monuments including the fortifications, gates, water systems and tanks, several mosques and tombs and palatial structures. Bijapur lies within two concentric circles of fortifications. The outer city walls, extending more than six miles with extensive moats reinforced with 100 bastions it was built to accommodate heavy artillery. Its entrance gateways are accessed over heavily arched bridges, of which only two survive. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

The most remarkable monuments within the fort include: the Gol Gumbaz and other structures within its protected area, Ibrahim Rouza, Jehan Begum Tomb, Ainapur, Ain-ul-Mulk’s tomb, Ali II Rouza (Bara Kaman), Chand Bavdi, Gagan Mahal, Sangeeth & Nari Mahals, Navraspur, Jami Mosque, Asar Mahal, Ali 1 Rouza, Dakhani Idgah, Hyder Burz, Water Towers, Karimuddin’s Mosque, Mecca Masjid, Ramalinga Tank, Gummata Bavdi, Well at Ibrahimpur, Mahal in Field. The Jami Masjid is one of the finest mosques in India. Its courtyard measures to an enormous 9,000 square feet, later extended to 11,000 square feet and designed to accommodate 5,000 people. Without doubt, the Gol Gumbad is the second largest dome in the world and the tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah. Its square base supports a dome some 150 feet high with a diameter of more than 100 feet covering a great hall of immense proportions. Many of the monuments and palace buildings have intricate murals and ornamentation.

Bijapur and their palaces or gardens were partly provided with water from reservoirs or springs located some kilometers away. Until the 15th century water bodies were set within architectural frames made of dressed stone. Water specialists coming from Iran and other regions introduced novel techniques with an almost scientific approach to geological and physical realities. These specialists already had experience in obtaining more water from renewable sources. The use of lime mortar allowed them to build waterproof dams and to transport water over long distances.

Sights in Vijapura-Bijapur

Gol Gumbaz is India’s largest and, by some reckonings, the world's second largest dome. Unsupported by any pillars, this mausoleum of Muhammed Adil Shah was constructed in 1656 by architect Yaqut of Dabul. A work of architectural genius, it still dominates the city as it has done for four hundred years and it can be seen from far away. It attracts thousands of tourists every year and has seven-storeyed octagonal spires with heavy bracketed cornice right below the parapet. The structure is an acoustic wonder as the whispering gallery can echo the faintest of whispers for a total of 11 times. The dome finds it name from 'Gom Gummata', derived from 'Gol Gombadh', which means circular dome. It reflects the Deccan style of architecture. The tomb is a giant cube that is topped with a hemispherical dome. Each storey of the structure has seven arched windows that are crowned by smaller domes. Surrounded by beautiful lush green gardens, the monument is not only Vijayapura's most important tourist spot but also invites visitors from all corners of the world.

Ibrahim Rauza is believed to have been inspired by the Taj Mahal. It houses the tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah II and his wife, Taj Sultana. The word 'rauza' means tomb. It took around 47 years to complete the monument that comprises the tomb at the eastern end and a mosque at the western end. These two beautiful buildings stand on a podium and have a fountain and an imposing tank between them. A lush green garden surrounds the buildings and adds to their overall charm. The architecture of these buildings is inspired from Turkish and Persian designs. It is said that the monument would have been at par with the Taj Mahal of Agra had it been built in white marble.

Malik-I-Maidan by some reckoning is considered as the world's biggest cannon. Perched atop Sherza Burj, the cannon was set up by Ibrahim Adil Shah II during the 16th century after the Adil Shahis defeated the Vijayanagara empire to win the battle of Talikota in 1565. Having an astonishing diameter of 1.5 meters and weighing around 55 tonne, the cannon is the largest medieval weapon in the world. Its nozzle is designed in the shape of a lion with open jaws. Made from bell metal by Muhammed Bin Hussain Rumi, the cannon measuring 4.2 meters (14 feet) long, sounds like a bell when it is tapped. It also has an inscription made by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who is said to have captured it in 1686. Malik-I-Maidan means “Ruler of the Plain.” It is one of the most visited tourist spots in Vijayapur.

Jamkhandi (50 kilometers southwest Vijaypura) is a town known for the Patwardhan Palace built by the rulers of the Patwardhan dynasty, which ruled the territory for decades on behalf of the Marathas. Another highlight of the town is the Melgiri Kemplingeshwara Temple perched on a hilltop where visitors come to witness amazing views of sunrises and sunsets. Jamkhandi region is also blessed with seven lakes, which served as the major source of water for the people of the city for many centuries. Jamkhandi is also known for hosting an annual cattle fair in the month of March. Jamkhandi is a place of immense mythological importance and draws visitors with its royal palace and ancient temples. The town, once the capital of the former Maratha principality of Patwardhans, gets its name from the ancient Chalukyan temple dedicated to Jambukeswara. According to legend, it was here that the bird Jatayu had intimated Lord Rama about Goddess Sita's abduction by demon Ravana. Another According to legend Maharshi Jamadagni, Renuka Devi's husband had stayed and meditated in the caves of Jamakhandi.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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