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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bijapur Diaries | Gol Gumbaz



Very often when people visit Karnataka they often end up visiting the often repeated famous and exotic locations like Hampi, Badami, Pattadkal and Aihole to name the few.Let me tell you there is this small gem of a city lying in Karnataka often ignored by the tourist, which offers some fabulous architectural marvels and is a treasure house of historical monuments.


I am talking of Bijapur aka Vijayapur popularly known as Agra of South or also the queen of Deccan. Vijayapur literally means City of Victory.


Top of Gol Gumbaz


Now that it was decided that I shall be visiting this historical town, the next important part was booking of railway tickets.I think India must be the only country where everyone is on a travel plan all the time of the year, because whenever you try to book tickets most often they are not available especially on the weekends.

Travel Tip: Book your Railway tickets well in advance

I got a wait listed ticket which luckily got confirmed on the day of my travel. Earlier, inorder to reach Bijapur earlier one had to take two trains, if travelling from Mumbai. First Mumbai to Solapur and from there connecting train to Bijapur. Luckily for me this New train called Mumbai-Gadag Express got started so henceforth travelling to Bijapur shall be faster and easier.

Waiting for the train at Dadar station

It was 9.33 pm when Gadag express entered Dadar railway station.As it was a night journey so it didn't make any difference whether I got window seat or not ( actually I love to sit on a window seat and watch the stations go by or hear the hum of Chai... Chai call of the vendors) Ab kya kare sab ko kuch na kuch bimari hoti hai hume kuch is tarah ki hai 

It must be 5:30 am when I was jolted from my sleep by the commotions in the compartment I asked fellow passenger bhai konsa station aaya, He said Solapur. Hearing Solapur I for a moment felt like getting down and visit the Naldurg fort and Buikhot Fort , which I wanted to do. But then the reality sunk in because today I was not travelling alone I was travelling with my wife so naturally I am not expected to jump of the train at any station I wish to. Ab aisa hai na, ki jab akele hote hai , Hum wahi raha bana lete hai jaha cha hoti hai but today it was a different story and with heavy heart I saw Solapur station fade away in darkness. Nevertheless I was excited too because in few hours I shall be on my destination i.e. Bijapur.

Bijapur aka Vijayapura



Our Journey:

It was 7.30 when my train entered the Vijayapura Station. As soon as you come out of the station You see this Manmoth Structure of Gol Gumbaz from the station itself.However to reach its entrance you need to walk around 900 metres. My wife and myself we started to walk. As it was early morning so the climate was quite cool.We saw a  small tea stall at the turn we decided to have a cup of a tea and then start exploring. Actually more than the tea I like to have small talk with the locals because it helps me to visit the places more easily.



View of the Gol Gumbaz as soon as we came out of the station.






















In an introduction to “Architecture at Beejapoor” published in 1866, Philip Meadows Taylor, an Anglo-Indian with a voracious appetite for Indian culture wrote: “Palaces, arches, tombs, cisterns, gateways, and minarets ...all carved from the rich basalt rock of the locality, garlanded by creepers, broken and disjointed by peepul trees, each in its turn is a gem of art and the whole a treasury.”

This introduction by Philip M Taylor sums it all as to what lies awaiting at Bijapur for me.






Bijapur is a historic fort city. You will know this only once you visit this city. There is history lying in every nook and corner. Where ever you go within the city you find some mosque, some tomb. I was told that  when you stand atop the Gol Gumbaz you can see many domes spread across the city along with the city wall. I always feel that the best way to know the city is to First know about the history of the place. So let me quickly take you through a small history lesson about this place.

If you want to know the summarized History please click this link and read.





Coming back to our journey

We finished our tea and reached the entry gate of Gol Gumbaz.

We purchased the entry ticket at the gate of the Gol Gumbaz  for Rs 15. Being early in the morning there was not much of a crowd. As we entered the  complex, we saw well laid out garden on both the sides and a Museum building which is right in front of the Gol Gumbaz. 



Well  laid out garden and Gol Gumbaz behind the Museum



Museum in front of the Gol Gumbaz

There are canons kept outside this Museum. On closer look I found Persian Emblem on the canon along with something written on the cannon. The canons are quite big.



Persian emblem along with some text engraved

Huge Canons

Circumventing the Museum we entered the Gol GumBaz complex and were pleasantly surprised to see again beautiful garden and this Manmoth Gol Gumbaz ahead of us.



Mighty Gol Gumbaz

Gol Gumbaz  is the tomb of  Mohammed Adil Shah (1627 -56) , the seventh ruler of  Adil Shahi dynasty. Gol Gumbaz as the name suggest is round dome monument. I remember when I was in school we had these General Knowledge Test and we read about tallest tower, longest platform or largest dome, It was here when I first came across this name Gol Gumbaz. So naturally you can understand my excitement of reminiscing the past.  The Central dome of Gol Gumbaz is the largest in Asia and second largest in the world after the St Peters Basilica of Rome.

This gigantic mausoleum which took 20 years to complete was built at the orders of Adil Shah before his death , It has a floor area of 1700 sq.m., height of 51 m and diameter of 37 m. The walls are 3 m thick. The central dome stands unsupported by any pillars.


We look so small under this Gumbaz

I was mesmerized by the hugeness of the place. we look so small standing in front of the monument.

Next to the GolGumbaz there is a mosque . The entry to which was closed when we visited.

We now  moved on to enter the Gol Gumbaz but before entering the Gol Gumbaz one has to remove shoes and go inside.There was a person just oustside the gate with whom you can deposit your shoes and bags before entering the GolGumbaz. Upon entering the Gol Gumbaz we saw a huge platform on which laid the tombs of  the Sultan Mohamed Adil Shah, his two wives, his mistress Ramba, his daughter and grandson. 

Tombs of Adil Shahi and his Family

 When I was talking to the guide in the Gol Gumbaz, I came to know an interesting thing, Actually everywhere on the web I had read that Ramba was the mistress of the Sultan however the guide at the museum begged to differ, He said Ramba was never a mistress of Adil Shahi. She was a  dancer who had come along with her son from Ceylon ( Sri Lanka of today) to perform on the occasion of completion of Gol Gumbaz however she fell in love with the sultan and even professed her love and it was her wish that she be buried along with the king here.Next day she jumped from the top of the Gumbaz and died, consequent to which the sultan fulfilling her wish buried her here. Later when her son died he too was buried. This history is so easy to twist God knows what is true or false.But then Hum ko kya .... Hume to kahani suna acha lagta hai...after all we are also a storyteller.


Platform or stage behind the tombs

Just behind the tombs One can see platform which I assumed may be used for performance. I was also told that there is basement below this Gol Gumbaz which is closed. One more interesting thing was the air been realised from the floor through the grilled duct.

Air Ducts on the floors

If you stand below the Dome you will only be in awe of the architectural marvel because you will notice that there are no pillars supporting the done. This huge dome cap appears to have been placed on the criss-crossing arches running from one end to another. "Seeing is believing" I dont know how many times I may repeat this in Bijapur. 

The web of arches holding the dome

We now proceeded to climb the Minars which stands on the four corners of the Gol Gumbaz. We were told its a seven storied climb and each floor have a balcony where one catch their breath.Hence we started to climb this spiraling stairs.Standing in one of this balcony one can see the huge bracketed cornice below the parapet, are important feature of this monument.

ornate brackets

 Huffing and  panting we reached the top, but once reaching the top you will forget all the efforts you took climb the stairs because the city below looks awesome. You can see many domes scattered all over the city. One can also see the citadel boundary wall.

Lording our Bijapur city from Gol Gumbaz Top


Citadel Boundary wall can be seen from Gol Gumbaz Top

For a second I was transported into the past. I imagined myself to be the sultan and lording over the city.
Sochne me tax thoda na lagta hai. Free me Sultan hone ka ahsas le liya.


Ek din ka Sultan 😀

Other than the city one gets good top view of the museum building and the whole complex. We clicked few pictures and then entered the dome top.


View of the front side from Gol Gumbaz Top

 Last but not the least it was time to visit the famous "Whispering gallery", Time to witness one of the most fabulous experience of our lives. Whispering gallery was something out of the world experience for us where I was told that the tick of a watch or the rustle of paper can be heard across a distance of 37 m in the Whispering Gallery. The acoustical phenomenon of this dome is such that a sound is echoed eleven times over. You won't believe this, when I narrate to you my experience of Whispering gallery, it so happened when my wife standing at the other end of the dome ( distance must be around 138 feet) She could actually hear what I whispered. I was shell shocked when she replied back. I have never seen such thing in my life.

Travel tip: Try to reach early in the morning to experience this whispering wonder because once the people start flowing in you will only be getting frustrated and irritated by the sound of whistles, claps and shouts.

By the time we finished with our exploration of Gol GumBaz It was already 10:30 am, which meant that we took almost 2 and a half hour for seeing this monument.

Top Balcony or roof of Gol Gumbaz

Trivia 

Incidentally Gol Gumbaz((1627) and the Taj Mahal (1632) began construction during the same period by two different sultans governing independent swathes of land. Taj being in the north and the Gol Gumbaz in southern India both the tombs separated by 1500 km, obviously were not aware of each other.
Gol Gumbaz took 29 years to complete, the Taj Mahal took 22 years to finish,Gol Gumbaz  is almost double the size of Taj. Yet where more than  I pondered whether Taj Mahal has a feminine fetish, while the Gol Gumbaz is geometrically masculine. At any given time more than 7 to 8 million tourists visit the Taj Mahal in a year, whereas the population of Agra is around 1,5 million. Comparatively very few tourists visit Gol Gumbaz just because it is not on the regular tourist trail and also not adequately publicised and promoted by the local Tourism people.

We moved out from the Gol Gumbaz complex but not before visiting the Museum which was not open when we had come in the morning, The Museum itself is a treasure house having a collection of Chinese porcelain, parchments, paintings, armoury, miniatures, stone sculptures and old Bijapur carpets etc.

The museum is open on all days from 10 am to 5 pm, except Fridays. Entrance is free.



Museum done and dusted by me and my wife

I was very thrilled by whatever I saw till now. We were now all the more eager to see what the city of Bijapur holds for us. Stay tuned for the next part of the blog to learn more about lives of sultans.

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