Bidar – The Graveyard of The Bahmani Sultanate

Bidar – the least urbanised city in Karnataka has always boasted of some magnificent architectural ruins and monuments. Although the city is the best example of Islamic architecture, it attracts a very few visitors. This actually is a good news if you are a Photography enthusiast. Bidar was a part of my 10 day trip to Karnataka in mid December 2017:

Bidar – Gulbarga – Bijapur – Badami – Pattadakal – Aihole – Hampi – Anegundi

WHERE IS BIDAR?

Located in the north-eastern part of Karnataka, Bidar city is the headquarters of Bidar district which borders with Maharashtra and Telangana. Bidar was the capital of Bahmani kingdom(1425 – 1487) and later of Barid Shahi dynasty (1492 – 1619). The city has a prominent place on the Archaeological Map of India, having many sites of architectural, historical and religious importance. Out of the 61 monuments listed by the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage in Bidar, about 30 are tombs scattered in and around the city.

REACHING BIDAR

I was accompanied by three of my friends who had to bear with me and cover all the cities mentioned above in 10 days (15th – 25th December 2017). Please note that we commuted to all places every time by a single rickshaw for all four of us. Therefore, all rickshaw expenses are for four people.

We boarded the 22143 Mumbai CSMT – Bidar SF Express at Dadar at 9:15 pm and experienced one of the worst train journeys in life. We travelled in an Sleeper coach and it was a big mistake. Simply book in AC compartment if you do not wish to face nuisance from those who don’t have reservation.

  • Bidar - Places of interest
    Bidar - Places of interest

After 12 hours of annoying journey, we reached Bidar at 9:30 am next day. I had made the booking at Hotel Shiva International near Bidar bus stand, which is 2.5 kms away from railway station. A rickshaw driver accommodated four of us in his rickshaw and charged us Rs. 50 for dropping us at hotel. It was lunchtime by the time we all freshened up and therefore decided to have lunch at the nearby Vaishnavi Restaurant.

PLACES OF INTEREST IN BIDAR

DAY 1 IN BIDAR

SHRI JHARNI NARASIMHA CAVE TEMPLE

After lunch, we headed for Shri Jharni Narasimha Cave Temple (6 kms away from bus stand) in a rickshaw for Rs. 80. It is a cave temple associated with Lord Narasimha, an incarnation (avatar) of Hindu god Vishnu. The ancient temple is excavated in a 300 metre tunnel under the Manichoola hill range. The temple was flocked by devotees and we decided not to enter the temple as there was a long queue.

  • Shri Jharni Narasimha Cave Temple
    Shri Jharni Narasimha Cave Temple, Bidar

The temple premises has a large hot water spring/ pool for devotees to bathe in. From there, a rickshaw driver agreed to drive us to Bahmani Tombs (5 kms away from Narasimha Temple), then to Chaukhandi of Hazrat Khalil Ullah (1 km from Bahmani Tombs) and then back to our hotel (8 kms) all for Rs. 300 (seems expensive but the guy was going to be with us till evening so that was okay).

BAHMANI TOMBS

Situated in the Ashtur village, the place is literally a complex of huge tombs. Out of the 13 tombs, 9 belong to the Bahmani Sultans and other 4 belong to their wives. It is located some 9 kms away from the city centre.

For Bahmani Tombs, you drive along the Mangalpet Road from Narasimha Temple and then take a detour to drive along the Ring Road. After another detour along the Ring Road towards Ashtur, you get to see Chaukhandi; another kilometer ahead of that and you get to see huge domes which are the Bahmani Tombs. It took us 15-20 minutes to reach there from the temple.

The earliest and grandest among them is the Tomb of Ahmad Shah-al-Wali, the ninth king of Bahmani dynasty. Built in 1436 AD, it honours the Sultan who shifted the Bahmani capital from Gulbarga to Bidar. The tomb displays continuing Persian influences of the time, as well as a synthesis between Indic and Islamic cultures. The monument is unique as it is the only tomb at the site under veneration.

  • Ahmad Shah-al-Wali's tomb, Bidar
    Ahmad Shah-al-Wali's tomb, Bidar

The tomb is a square, domed structure with three tiers of arched recesses. There are four recesses, each on the bottom and middle floors, and seven on the highest of the three floors. The tomb is decorated with calligraphic bands and inscriptions. Foliate and arabesque designs are painted on the interior of the tombs and have retained their original color. While the most recurring color schemes include vermilion, turquoise and gold, there are also instances of cobalt, gray terra-verde and buff.

Near the tomb of Ahmad Shah, is that of his wife which essentially has the same layout, on a much smaller scale. However, it is placed on a four feet platform and rises about 29 feet above the Sultan’s own tomb.

A guide named Sultan Khaleel Shah Bahmani claimed to be the descendent of Bahmani dynasty. He showed us couple of coins from the Bahmani era. You may contact Sultan on 09739486771, to guide you about the place and its history. You may also check his credentials on Youtube here.

There’s a tomb which is partially collapsed but gives a wonderful view of the interiors of the dome. It belongs to Humayun Shah, son of Sultan Allauddin Shah. The structure seems like a cross-section cut model of a tomb. Sultan told us that the two walls and most of the dome collapsed due to lightning. The tomb of Malika-i-Jahan, wife of Humayun Shah is diagonally opposite to Humayun Shah’s tomb.

CHAUKHANDI OF HAZRAT KHALIL ULLAH

After spending more than an hour at Bahmani Tombs, we moved to the Chaukhandi which is a tomb of Hazrat Khalil Ullah. He was a spiritual advisor of Sultan Ahmad Shah. The structure showcases stucco work on walls, intricately carved pillars and beautiful arched doorways. The tomb is a two story octagon with a freestanding square domed tomb chamber within. The doorway walls are adorned with beautiful calligraphy depicting Quranic verses.

  • Chaukhandi of Hazrat Khalil Ullah
    Chaukhandi of Hazrat Khalil Ullah, Bidar

There are 3 graves in the main vault and several others in the premises. The outer walls of the octagonal structure are designed as panels outlined by a black carved stone. There’s also a big step well within the premises.

PAPNASH MAHADEV TEMPLE

Having left from our rooms at 6 pm, we reached Papnash Mahadev Temple (2 kms away) by rickshaw (Rs. 100 including journey back to Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Sahib). The temple is located in a beautiful valley and has a natural spring pond, called as “Papnash”. It is believed that Lord Ram while returning from Lanka installed a Shivalingam in this temple.

  • Papnash Mahadev Temple
    Papnash Mahadev Temple, Bidar

The old temple was lost and at the ruins of that, a new one was built later. Though the place is very popular and is flocked by the devotees round the year, we saw very few people and thus got to experience the serenity of the place. There’s also a food court in the premises near the Papnash lake.

GURUDWARA SRI NANAK JHIRA SAHIB

We reached the Gurudwara post 7 pm which proved to be the best time to visit as it was less crowded. The gurudwara is about 2 kms away from the main road/ bus stand. The Gurudwara consists of:

  • Darbar Sahib
  • Diwan Hall
  • Langar Hall
  • Sukhaasan Room (Rest room for Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
  • Likhari Room
  • Gurudwara Sri Nanak Jhira Sahib
    Entrance of Gurudwara Sri Nanak Jhira Sahib, Bidar

A beautiful sarovar (sacred pool) is built in front of the Gurudwara stairs. The water from Sri Nanak Jhira (natural spring) is directed to this pool for pilgrims to take holy dip.

BRIEF HISTORY OF SRI GURUDWARA NANAK JHIRA SAHIB

During his second tour to Deccan from Sultanpur (Punjab), Sri Guru Nanak Devji reached Bidar via Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The people of Bidar requested him to bless them with sweet water as the water in Bidar was salty. Sri Guru Nanak Devji remembered God and touched the hillock with his right foot and a spring of sweet water started flowing from this place and since April 1512, it is flowing continuously till date.

After visiting the Gurudwara, we had our dinner at Rohit Restaurant which is on the way to main road from Gurudwara.


DAY 2 IN BIDAR

BIDAR FORT

The present-day Bidar fort was rebuilt using red laterite stone around the old fort in 1428 by Ahmed Shah Bahmani. Constructed on the edge of the plateau, Bidar fort has a haphazard rhombus-shaped layout. There are over 30 monuments inside the fort.

The major attractions inside the fort are:

  • Bidar Fort Museum
  • Rangin Mahal
  • Solah Khamba Mosque
  • Tarkash Mahal
  • Gagan Mahal
  • Diwan-i-Aam
  • Diwan-i-Khas/ Takht Mahal
  • Gunpowder Room
  • Shahi Matbakh
  • Naubat Khana
  • Bomma Gondeshwara Tank

With a 55 km long thick wall, the fort has a unique triple moat with depth of 30 feet. There are 37 bastions on the fort wall with The Munda Burj being the most prominent one. The fort has seven gates:

  • Gate 1: The Mandu Darwaza, the main gate
  • Gate 2: The Kalmadgi Darwaza,
  • Gate 5 – The Delhi Darwaza,
  • Gate 6 – The Kalyani Darwaza,
  • Gate 7 – The Carnatic Darwaza,
  • Gates 3 and 4 are without a name.

The ingeniously designed Mandu Darwaza has its entrance through a well defended underground tunnel.

  • Bidar Fort
    Bidar Fort

The Bidar fort museum has an excellent collection of cannons, iron balls, muzzle loaded guns (muskets), padlocks and keys, Chinese porcelain, swords, daggers, spearheads, artifacts from Chalukyan, Rashtrakuta and Saatvahana eras, arms and armory, stone age axes from Maski (a Saatvahana pottery form), etc.

Unfortunately, The Rangin Mahal and Gagan Mahal were closed for repair work. Rangin Mahal is situated near Gumbad Darwaja and we were told that it is unique due to its decoration with coloured tiles and other art work.

Solah Khambah Mosque derives its name from the 16 pillars erected in the middle portion of the prayer hall. Built by Qubil Sultani, the mosque is also called Zanana Masjid and is one of India’s largest mosques. The mosque’s large prayer hall is divided into aisles by massive circular columns. The tops of these pillars have simple foliar decorations. The roof is crowned by a majestic dome raised on a high clerestory with windows of perforated screens in different geometric patterns. In 1656, when Aurangzeb conquered Bidar, it was in this mosque that he had the khutba (prayers) recited in his father’s name to proclaim his sovereignty over the newly acquired territory.

  • Way to the old Bidar fort
    Way to the old Bidar fort

Next to Solah Khambah Mosque is Tarkash Mahal, which possibly got named for having built for a Turkish wife of the king. The ground floor has a series of rooms with vaulted roofs built in four rows, one behind the other. On the first storey is a principal apartment consisting of a hall divided into eight bays by the insertion of massive arches. Beyond this hall, towards the north are two more halls. Beyond the halls is an open space. The uppermost storey consists of a hall in the centre and small rooms on either side. The walls in many of these rooms are beautifully decorated with coloured tiles and stucco work.

The Takht Mahal or Throne Palace is located in the Old fort area. Built by Ahmad Shah Wali, it is one of the grandest buildings in the fort. It is noted for its stately dimensions, its fountains, and its exquisite surface decorations with coloured tiles and stoned carvings. The Takht Mahal reflects the strong Persian influence on Bidar’s architecture. It has on its two sides royal pavilions with lofty arches and a spacious hall, at the back of which was the Sultan’s room. The coronations of several Bahmani and Barid Shahi Sultans were held here.

If you intend to explore the entire fort, make sure you start the day as early as possible to avoid the crowd and spare minimum 3 hours for the exploration. The fort is open from 9 am to 5 pm.

MADRASA OF KHWAJA MAHMUD GAWAN

After exploring the Bidar Fort, we moved to Madrasa of Khwaja Mahmud Gawan, a distinguished example of Bahmani architecture (Persian style). It was built in 1472 by Mahmud Gawan, the Bahmani dynasty’s celebrated Persian origin Prime Minister, who served Muhammad Shah III from 1458 to 1481. It functioned like a residential university and was maintained on the lines of the Madrasa of Khurasan.

  • Madrasa of Khwaja Mahmud Gawan
    Madrasa of Khwaja Mahmud Gawan, Bidar

This three storeyed building houses mosques, library with 3,000 books, lecture halls, professors’ quarters and students’ cubicles. The minaret was lavishly decorated with Persian style green, blue and white glazed tiles set in zigzag patterns and calligraphic text.

This madrasa was once a major centre for learning with accommodation for about 1,000 students many of whom came from abroad to study Theology, Philosophy, Astronomy, Mathematics, Arabic and Persian. In 1696, when the Mughal army under Aurangzeb occupied the madrasa, an accidental explosion of gunpowder severely damaged the building. (Read more)

BARID SHAHI PARK

After having our lunch at Royal Anmol Restaurant, we went to the Barid Shahi Park (Rs. 50 by rickshaw), which is a complex of tombs of Barid Shahi clan. The entry fee of Rs. 5 is applicable. The 55 acre garden houses many graves belonging to the royal line of Ali Barid Shah. The most notable among them belong to Ali Barid, Qasim Barid, Ibrahim Barid Shah and Chaand Sultana.

  • Barid Shahi Park, Bidar
    Barid Shahi Park, Bidar

We had to skip Chowbara (a large clock tower situated near Mahmud Gawan Madrasa) and 108 feet statue of Basaveshwara as we had to board a KSRTC bus for Gulbarga.

Best time to visit Bidar

July to September (monsoon) is the most visited period. However, November to January is the best time to visit.

How to reach Bidar

Air: Nearest airport is Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad (140 kms)

Train: Bidar has a local railway station which has good connectivity with important railway stations like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nanded, etc.

Road: State highway, SH4 passes through Bidar, making it easily accessible from different parts of Karnataka by road. Apart from KSRTC buses, private bus operators like VRL Travels, SRS Travels, Pooja Travels, etc also provide bus services to nearby cities.

Accommodation in Bidar

Restaurants in Bidar

Things to remember

  • If you are not a religious person, you may skip the Narasimha Temple and go directly to Bahmani Tombs. Remember that you will have to wait in the long queue and wade through chest deep water to reach the main temple.
  • Do not forget to see the Ahmad Shah-al-Wali tomb from inside.
  • You may have your dinner at the Langar of Gurudwara as well.
  • Start your visit for Bidar fort early. Exploring the fort will consume a lot of your time and there are many things to see inside the fort.

Here’s a video I have made on the historical city of Bidar:

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Till then…Happy Travelizing!!!