Bijapur Part 1 - The Tale of Three Tombs

Bijapur is an archaeologically important destination located in the heart of the Deccan Plateau, Karnataka. It was the capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty during 14-17th century AD. Bijapur, however has a long history of different dynasties ruling it. It was with the Buddhist-Hindu rulers in in the first few centuries of Common Era. They include the Maurya, Kadamba and Chalukya empires. Around 11th-12th centuries CE, dynasties like Hoysalas, Kaktiyas and Yadavas were in charge of the Deccan regions.
Ibrahim Rauza - Tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah - Bijapur
Ibrahim Rauza - Tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah




A major milestone in the history of Bijapur is the invasion of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq to the Deccan region in 1327 CE. He conquered the major areas of Deccan but left the newly conquered areas to a set of governors and returned to Delhi in 1334. Many ambitious governors declared freedom from Delhi to make their own kingdoms. Two prominent dynasties emerged out of them. They were the Bahnami and Vijayanagara kings. Bahnami kingdom was established in 1345 and had three successive capitals - Daulatabad, Bidar and Gulbarga.  In their Kingdom included Bijapur. Vijayanagara dynasty was established in 1336 with their capital as Hampi. The Vijayanagara and Bahnami rulers were in constant fight with each other for the command of the fertile lands of the region, especially the Raichur doab.

Towards the end of the 15th century, there was an internal conflict between two Muslim groups in the Bahnami Kingdom - the Habshis and Afaqis. This lead to the weakening of the Bahnami Kingdom and many governors declared independence. Out of them one was the Adil Shahis of Bijapur. Yusuf Adhil Khan- who was the in charge of Bijapur declared freedom in 1490 thus founding the Adil Shahi dynasty. Adil Shahi kings were highly educated, well versed with Persian and Urdu. They were chivalrous and religiously tolerant. As a result of this art and architecture flourished under the 150 years of Adil Shahi rule.  Remnants of which is still exist in the city of Bijapur. Adil Shahi rulers succumbed to Mughal dynasty in 1686.

It was on a cloudy morning of July that I stepped foot in Bijapur. My main inspiration for this journey was Gol Gumbaz - the colossal burial tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah. However, Bijapur revealed to me much more than I expected. I went to Bijapur to see one tomb and I came back with the tale of three tombs. They are Ibrahim Rauza, Gol Gumbaz and Bara Kaman - the tombs of grandfather, father and son respectively.

The son's tomb - Gol Gumbaz - Tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah (Ruled 1627–1657)

Gol Gumbaz - Tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah - Bijapur, Karnataka
Gol Gumbaz - Tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah

Gol Gumbaz is situated quite close to the railway station. The autos in railway station tend to charge more and doesn't succumb to haggling. I took an auto to my Hotel - Mayura Adil Shahi. After depositing my bags and went to see Gol Gumbaz. This time the hotel manager helped me get an auto and this auto charged lesser than half I paid to the first auto! My first experience at Bijapur started at a bitter note! It was already noon and there was quite a huge crowd near the ticket counter. You are not allowed to take backpack inside, which you need to deposit at the clock room near the ticket counter. Believe me, the clock room is not so secure . So make sure that you don't deposit any valuables in those lockers. Women are allowed to carry vanity bags.
Gol Gumbaz - Tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah - Bijapur, Karnataka
Dome of Gol Gumbaz - Bijapur

Another tip while visiting Gol Gumbaz is to visit as early as possible. As the day progresses, the crowd increases and masses of enthusiastic tourists trying to experiment the acoustic effect of the  dome can spoil the mood of this beautiful place. Precisely for this reason I had to visit  Gol Gumbaz the next day morning because I did not want to miss out that mystic feeling while seated in the pavilion under that majestic dome. It was worth a second visit!
Bijapur archaeology museum - Near Gol Gumbaz  - Bijapur, Karnataka
Naqqar Khana- The old drum house converted into Bijapur Museum

From the front gate as you walk towards Gol Gumbaz, only the dome is visible. Gol Gumbaz is situated behind the huge "Naqqar Khana(The drum house)". It was in this building the drummers and musicians used to sit olden days when there is any rituals going on in Gol Gumbaz.   Naqqar Khana is now converted into a nice government museum. Museum is definitely worth a visit, but only after visiting Gol Gumbaz itself.

Passing the Naqqar Khana I walked towards the entrance gate of Gol Gumbaz. Muhammad Adil Shah passed away in 1656, but the construction of Gol Gumbaz had started many years earlier under the order of the Sultan himself. It is note that the keenness with which the Muslim rulers in India built their own tombs is similar to that of Egyptian Pharaohs in building the great pyramids.
The Majestic view of Gol Gumbaz - Bijapur


The first sight of Gol Gumbaz, I was awed with it's sheer size. Height of Gol Gumbaz is 51 meters(168 ft.). The dome is one of the largest unsupported domes in the ancient world, measuring a total diameter of 44 meter. The base of the dome is covered with lotus petal shaped stucco work. It also has four beautiful minarets. The huge arched doorways leading to the interiors of the Gumbaz is covered with carvings and metal work.

Tomb of Muhammad Adil Shah - view from the top of Gol Gumbaz

In the center of the spacious interior, under the majestic dome lies the cenotaphs of Muhammad Adil Shah and that of his wife and mother. The current cenotaph is just a model, the actual burial place lies much below this in a crypt, which is not accessible now. It is surprising that authorities allow visitors to climb till the pavilion just below the dome.

The Minarets of Gol Gumbaz - Bijapur 

The stairs pass through the minarets of Gol Gumbaz and they are quite narrow. It is better to climb at a slow pace, especially there are huge crowds. It is a great experience to be on top of Gol Gumbaz, right under that majestic dome. The only problem I faced was the noise pollution as I mentioned earlier.
View of the mosque from the Gol Gumbaz - Bijapur 


The space under the dome of Gol Gumbaz is a whispering gallery. When someone whispers at one side of this nearly elliptical wall, it can be heard clearly at the other end, which is located 20-30 meters away. The echo effects inside the dome is also very profound, creating up to 8 echos. When there are large crowds, it is so chaotic as everyone tries to experiment this effects. Sadly with so much sound, no one is able to experience the effect. I decided to visit Gol Gumbaz the next morning again to get the real feel of this effect. Next day early morning, there were only couple of more visitors and I could clearly experience the wondrous whispering gallery also the place also felt quite serene at that time.
Minarets of Gol Gumbaz - Bijapur

One can also walk in the balcony outside the dome to get an aerial view of entire Bijapur. It presents great opportunities for photographers as well. There is also another building at the backside of Gol Gumbaz which was originally a mosque but not in function now. The museum inside the Naqqar Khana presents artifacts from the early Chalukyan rulers of this region in 5th century AD, like the inscribed pillar from Mahakuta. A great variety of Adil Shahi artifacts like the maps, coins, carpets, ceramic vessels, portraits are preserved in this museum. The museum caretakers are very strict, so try to avoid touching anything at all!

Tomb of the Father - Ibrahim Rauza - Tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah ( Ruled 1580–1627)

Ibrahim Rauza - to the left is the tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah

If Muhammad Adil Shah's Gol Gumbaz awes us with its sheer size, the his father's tomb does so with its aesthetic beauty. This black color basalt rock monument is the tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah II also nicknamed as Black Taj Mahal by the media and visitors.  Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur was an  eminent  Adil Shahi ruler.

The mosque accompanying Ibrahim Rauza

 Apart from being an artist and poet himself, he was also a generous patron of art and a skillful administrator. The artistic beauty of his tomb - Ibrahim Rauza - and the adjoining mosque are the best evidence for this. It was Taj Sultana, his principle queen who constructed this mausoleum in 1633 in memory of her husband who passed away in 1626.

The dome of Ibrahim Rauza

Ibrahim Rauza lies outside the walled city of Bijapur. I took an auto from Gol Gumbaz to Ibrahim Rauza. It is by far the most elegant and beautifully proportioned Islamic edifice that I have ever seen. From outside, Ibrahim Rauza looks a little Austere; may be due to the black basalt rock construction. The accompanying mosque adds to the symmetry of the entire complex.
The colonnaded verandah of Ibrahim Rauza


As one enters into the beautifully landscaped gardens and walk into the colonnaded outside verandah of the tomb, delicacy of design becomes more visible. The interior walls of this verandah are adorned with fine stucco work of intricate foliate designs and Arabic/Persian calligraphy.
The calligraphy on the walls of Ibrahim Rauza


 There is not an inch in the wall that is left plain. The stout teak doors that admits the visitors into the tomb are also adorned with iron ornaments. An air of luxury hangs around this place.
The teak door with Iron ornaments and calligraphy 


If you are a mathematician, you are going to love Ibrahim Rauza. Not only because of the accurate proportions but also for the numerous geometric patterns on the walls; especially those around the teak doors. Even the ceiling of the colonnaded verandah is adorned with complex yet delicate works.
The dome of the Mosque 

Visitors can pass into the inner  chamber through the teak doors where the tombs of Ibrahim II Adil Shahi and his relatives is located.

Tombs of Ibrahim II Adil Shah and relatives

The mosque that stands opposite to the tomb also preserves the architectural harmony its design. A dome - smaller than that of Ibrahim Rauza- rise above the mosque from among lotus leaf designs. The tomb is constructed completely of Basalt rock where as the mosque is a combination of Bsalat rock and plaster work.

As I walked out of Ibrahim Rauza,  I couldn't help but compare the two beautiful tombs that I just saw - Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rauza. It seemed to me that while the father(Ibrahim II Adil Shah) preferred aesthetic beauty, the son(Muhammad Adil Shah) went for the magnificence of sheer size.

Taj Baoli

My next destination was Taj Baoli. It is an ancient water reservoir that is located at quite a short distance from the Ibrahim Rauza. In 14th - 17th century, Bijapur was famous for it's water reservoirs and advanced systems of water storage and distribution. The reservoirs were elegantly designed and functioned also as a place where public met and travelers rested. Taj  Baoli was constructed in 17th century by celebrated Persian architect Malik Sandal under the order of Ibrahim II Adil Shah. It was dedicated to the principal wife of Sultan named Taj Sultana. She was also the mother of the heir apparent Muhammad Adil Shah.

I walked through the dusty roads of Bijapur and as I went deeper into the gallies, I was not quite sure where I was going. There was no sign of the celebrated Baoli. Finally, I found it in one corner of the city. An enormous archway leads into the Baoli. The ancient monument is in a state of complete ruin. The plaster work is in a state of ruin and the water is dirty as the locals use it as a dump yard. Apartments for the travelers are located around the Baoli which is also in a state of ruin. It is a pain to see such ancient monuments are left to die which was once a prestigious undertaking. In its heydays, Taj Baoli stood in a prominent location as a main promenade passed right next to it at the west side and the royal deer park was located on the south. One can only imagine that past glory.

Tomb of the Grandson - Bara Kaman - Unfinished tomb of Ali II Adil Shah(Ruled 1657–1672)

Bara Kaman - The unfinished tomb of Ali II Adil SHah 

The day was coming to a close. The sun was about to set. I took an auto back to the city, to my last stop for the day. It was the unfinished mausoleum of Ali II Adil Shah. It is popularly known as Bara Kaman due to the presence of prominent arches in its construction. The construction of this tomb started in 1656, soon after the accession of Ali II Adil Shah to power. It would come as shock to know that Sultan Ali II was just 18 years when he ascended to the throne. Thinking about ones tomb and in turn death at quite a tender age is quite disturbing. However as I mentioned earlier - building a befitting tomb was of utmost importance to the Muslim rulers.
The symmetry of Bara Kaman 


 Ali II Adil Shah was determined to build a glorious testing place that would out shine the tombs of his father and grandfather. However his wish did not fulfill as his reign was constantly threatened by the invading armies of Aurangazeb, the crown prince of Mughal dynasty. Even though Ali II Adil shah fought valiantly, he couldn't keep together his empire. The Mughal empire was constantly conspiring with the nobles in the Adil Shahi court creating civil unrest. Ali II Adil Shah died at a tender age of 33, leaving the throne to his 4 year old son Sikander Adil Shah. Practically the Adil Shahi dynasty came to an end with Ali II. He was buried in his unfinished tomb ; under the colossal basalt arches.
Tomb of Ali II Adil Shah


As I walked into the Tomb, I was wondering - If finished, this could have been the most innovative and magnificent monument of not only of Bijapur, but of the entire Deccan. In my humble opinion, it would have even out shined Gol Gumbaz. This tomb doesn't attract as many visitors as the Gol Gumbaz or Ibrahim Rauza does.  Hence, one can spend a peaceful evening at this place as I did. I sat thinking about the grandfather, father and son trio of Adil Shahi dynasty, whose determination to make better tomb than that of the former rendered some of the most beautiful Islamic constructions of Deccan. I also thought about the philosophy that they believed in. They knew very well that the life on earth is so short and it is to the eternal happiness that one really needs to look forward to.
Bara Kaman

0 comments: