Bijapur – The Monument Hub of Karnataka
Bijapur was definitely the part of the Karnataka trip, I was eagerly looking forward to. All thanks to three attractions – Bijapur Fort, Gol Gumbaz and Malik-i-Maidan cannon. I visited this city of monuments during my 10 day long trip to Karnataka in mid-December 2017:
Although the Bijapur fort played a major spoilsport, the other places compensated for that.
HOW I TRAVELLED TO BIJAPUR
I, along with my three friends arrived in Bijapur on 18th December 2017 late evening. We traveled by a KSRTC bus (ticket per person: Rs. 151), from Gulbarga. We were supposed to leave for Badami on 20th December by train at 5 pm. So we had almost two full days to explore Bijapur. Our stay was at Hotel Pearl, which is about 500 metres away from the Gol Gumbaz.
PLACES OF INTEREST IN BIJAPUR
- Bara Kaman
- Uppali Buruz / Haider Buruz
- Jod Gumbaz
- Taj Bawdi
- Ibrahim Rauza
- Afzal Khan’s 63 Wives Graveyard
- Sangeeth – Nari Mahal
- Barishpur – The Garden of Statues
- Jama Masjid
- Badi Kaman
- Mehtar / Mithari Mahal
- Asar Mahal
- Gagan Mahal
- Gol Gumbaz
- Afzal Khan’s Cenotaph
- Sath Manzil
- Jala Manzil
- Anand Mahal
- Bijapur Fort
After reading this list, you must have realised why I chose this title.
DAY 1 IN BIJAPUR
After having the breakfast at local Kamat Hotel (not the chain, but food was good), we began our day with Bara Kaman. A rickshaw driver agreed to drive four of us to Bara Kaman, Uppali Buruz, Malik-i-Maidan, Jod Gumbaz, Taj Bawdi and Ibrahim Rauza (in same sequence) for Rs. 450. Please note that all these places are close by and we covered them all in 4-5 hours.
Our first destination was Bara Kaman (Twelve Arches) which is hardly 2 kms away from Gol Gumbaz. It’s an unfinished mausoleum of Ali Adil Shah II. Built in 1672 AD by Ali Adil Shah II, the site is presently managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The security guards over there told us the history of the structure which is quite interesting. The twelve arches were supposed to be placed vertically as well as horizontally surrounding the tomb of Ali Adil Shah II. Once completed, the structure would have been bigger than Gol Gumbaz, the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur and father of Ali Adil Shah II. For the very same reason, Mohammed Adil Shah murdered Ali Adil Shah II and the construction of Bara Kaman remained incomplete. The mausoleum has the tombs of Ali Adil Shah II, his wife Chand Bibi and his daughters.
UPPALI BURUZ / HAIDER BURUZ
Our next destination was the Uppali Buruz also known as Haider Buruz. Built in 1584, this 80 feet tall watchtower has a spiral staircase to the top. The structure was built by Haider Khan, a commander-in-chief under Ibrahim Adil Shah II.
From the top, one can get a panoramic view of the Bijapur city, including Gol Gumbaz, Bara Kaman, Jamia Masjid, Jod Gumbaz. The Buruz must have been built to keep the invaders off the city. There are two big long cannons on top of the structure, probably 30 feet in length.
Probably the best surprise of the Bijapur trip. My excitement to see Malik-i-Maidan had receded when I saw its pictures online, before the start of the trip. But as they say – “you gotta see it to believe it”.
As a general perception, the longer the cannon, the more stronger and effective it seems. But in Malik-i-Maidan’s case, all you see in pictures is a small cannon and that too with a name which translates to “Master of the Battlefield”. You start wondering why such name and why even see it. But hold on…all your “whys” turn into “hows” the moment you see this giant in real.
The cannon is placed on a tower between two bastions and is visible within the citadel of Bijapur Fort. When I got the first sight of this gigantic gun, my first reaction was “Damn, its a monster”. And its muzzle proves it right. It is designed in the form of a lion head with carved jaws as if it is devouring an elephant depicted between the jaws.
After Malik-i-Maidan, we moved to Jod Gumbaz, the twin tombs dedicated to “Traitors”. Yes, you read it right. Completed in 1687 and located close to the Mecca Gate in Bijapur, the tombs were built in memory of Khan Muhammad and Abdul Razzaq Qadiri. This father-son duo had helped Aurangzeb defeat the young Sikandar Adil Shah.
Also called as Abdul Razzaq Dargah, the structure has two domes and beautifully carved chambers. Jod Gumbaz in located in a garden which has now become a picnic spot. People have made a mess of this beautiful structure by littering everywhere. Therefore, if you get a clean photograph of Jod Gumbaz, consider yourself lucky.
Taj Bawdi is a massive well, built by Ibrahim Adil Shah in memory of his wife, Taj Sultana. Constructed in 1620, it is a 223 sq ft and 52 ft deep well with arches and steps.
Please note that the entry to Taj Bawdi is restricted. Our driver told us that since people started dumping garbage in the well, the authorities had to close entry to this marvellous structure.
I was totally unaware of what Ibrahim Rauza was all about. I was under impression that it would also be a just another tomb. But it actually turned out to be one of the best monuments I saw during our entire trip.
Ibrahim Rauza was built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II as a future mausoleum for his wife Taj Sultana. But ironically, he was the first one to be buried there as he died before Taj Sultana.
The structure consists of a tomb and a mosque facing each other within a square complex. The tomb and mosque are constructed on a common raised terrace with a large tank and fountain between them.
The mosque has a rectangular prayer hall with a facade of five arches. The tomb has some of the most elegant carvings on the walls and ceilings. On the interior, each wall has three arches, all embellished with floral and arabesque traceries. The tomb houses the graves of Ibrahim Adil Shah II, his wife, mother and children.
The monument is well maintained by ASI and the entry fee is Rs. 20 per person. Apart from this fee, you have to pay Rs. 10 per person at the shoe counter. We covered all these places by 3 pm and had our lunch at a nearby restaurant.
AFZAL KHAN’S 63 WIVES GRAVEYARD
Our final destination for the day was Afzal Khan’s 63 Wives graveyard which is 4 kms away from Ibrahim Rauza towards Miraj. A rickshaw driver agreed to drive us to the graveyard, Barishpur and back to our hotel for Rs. 150. The locals call this graveyard “Saath Kabar” (sixty graves). We were following the location on Google Maps only but made a mistake by listening to this driver and went ahead along the Miraj-Bijapur Road.
Though we didn’t get to visit this place, I will mention the history associated with it in brief. Afzal Khan, a renowned army chief of Ali Adil Shah II, had vowed to defeat and kill Chhatrapati Shivaji, the first king of Maratha Empire. Before setting out for the battle in 1659, his astrologers had predicted that he would die in this war. Therefore out of jealousy that his wives would remarry after his death, he killed his 63 wives and buried them at this place.
SANGEETH – NARI MAHAL
Missing out on the Saath Kabar actually brought us to a place which we had never ever read or heard about. There are two isolated palaces located along the Miraj-Bijapur Road called “Sangeeth-Nari Mahal”. It is mentioned over Internet that Sangeeth Mahal is also called as Nari Mahal. We somehow felt that the palace located outside the boundary wall could be the Nari Mahal. The gates of Nari Mahal were closed. Sangeeth Mahal is much bigger than Nari Mahal.
Also known as “Navraspur” locally, the Sangeeth Mahal was built by Adil Shah II, to bring cultural harmony between Hindu and Muslims through music. The palace is surrounded by an octagonal high wall and has a massive tank in front of it.
To keep the tradition of this king alive, district administration used to organise “Navraspur Utsav”, a musical concert on the premises of this monument. It was last organized sometime in 2015 post which this place got totally neglected by the administration. See how amazing this palace looked during the event in 2015.
BARISHPUR – THE GARDEN OF STATUES
Barishpur is about 5 kms away from Sangeeth Mahal and 7 kms away from main city. It was supposed to be a project on awareness about water conservation. There are statues placed depicting the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to saving water.
However, it seemed that the administration has not been able to attract tourists and local population to this place yet. When we reached there, it was all empty. After Barishpur, we did have enough time to look out for the exact location of the Saath Kabar and Afzal Khan’s Cenotaph (which is close to Barishpur), but we somehow decided to call it a day.
DAY 2 IN BIJAPUR
Our first destination on second day was Jama Masjid located about a kilometre away from our hotel. Also known as Jamia Masjid, Jumma Masjid and Jami Masjid, it was built by Ali Adil Shah I, to commemorate Adil Shahi’s victory over Vijayanagara empire.
The mosque is in the shape of letter “L” wherein a long passage is connected to the main prayer hall. The structure of the Masjid is somewhat similar to other old mosques with Indo-Islamic style carvings on walls and strong pillars. It was considered to be the biggest mosque during the Adil Shahi kingdom.
MEHTAR / MITHARI MAHAL
After visiting Jama Masjid, we moved to Mehtar Mahal which is along the same road. While on the way to Mehtar Mahal, we came across Badi Kaman, which is an old and “not that big” arch.
We started our day on foot only and reached Mehtar Mahal in 10 minutes after leaving Jama Masjid. Mehtar Mahal is a three storeyed beautiful building with three arches. The doorway leads to the Mehtar mosque.
There are steps to go up to the terrace. The upper floors have small rooms with ceilings and walls intricately carved. The structure has a flat roof and a door on first storey to an open passage.
Built in 1646 by Mohammed Adil Shah, Asar Mahal is a 10 minutes walk from Mehtar Mahal. It is a well maintained palace which was used as a Hall of Justice. There is a large artificial lake/ tank in front of the palace.
One of the caretakers told us that the place is sacred as it is said to hold two hairs from Prophet Mohammed’s beard. The structure showcases significant use of wood in its architecture.
The entry to the upper floor of the palace is closed. Also, women are restricted from entering this place.
We walked our way to Gagan Mahal or literally a Heavenly Palace. Built by Ali Adil Shah, the palace has three arches with the middle one being the widest.
The ground floor must have been used as the Darbar Hall whereas the first floor was used as a private residence of the royal family. Gagan Mahal is very much similar to Sangeeth Nari Mahal.
Our final destination in Bijapur was the enormous Gol Gumbaz. Built in 1656, it is a mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur. The construction of this structure began in 1626 and was completed in 1656 by the architect Yakut of Dabul. We reached the place from Gagan Mahal in a rickshaw (Rs. 40). The entry fee for Gol Gumbaz is:
- Entry Fee: Rs. 15
- Camera/ Videography Charges: Rs. 25
- Shoe Counter: Rs. 5
- Museum Entry Fee: Rs. 5
For Foreign Nationals:
- Entry Fee: Rs. 200
I don’t remember the other charges for Foreign nationals.
When you enter the Gol Gumbaz premises, you get a feeling that it is a single structure. But the front part which is visible is actually the Archaeological Museum. Initially a part of the Gol Gumbaz building, this structure called Naqqar Khana was later converted into a museum.
Naqqar Khana means House of Drums. It was a custom to welcome the King’s guest by beating the drums then. The museum has some of the best and rare artifacts from the history. It includes stone inscriptions of Arabic, Persian, Kannada and Sanskrit languages in different scripts written in beautiful calligraphy.
It also houses plain manuscripts, coins, China wares, wooden carving, carpets, maps, sanads and firmans, miniature paintings from 6th to 18th century. There are six galleries – three on ground floor and the rest on upper storey.
Right behind the museum is the World’s second largest dome after the Pantheon (Italy). Gol Gumbaz is actually a cube, capped by a dome. Once you enter through the door, you get to see the mausoleum in the centre on a raised platform.
We were aware that we had visited Gol Gumbaz at the worst possible time. We went in the afternoon only to realise that we had more than 500 school kids for company. The ASI official told us that the best time to visit Gol Gumbaz is when it opens for visitors – 6 am in the morning. Around that time, you would find only those who want to experience what the “Whispering Gallery” is.
A vast circular passage called “Whispering Gallery” inside the dome is very popular among tourists. As the name suggests, even the softest sound can be heard on the other side of this gallery due to the acoustics of the space. There are steps that lead to the Whispering Gallery but for that one has to climb seven storeys.
You must have noticed that I haven’t written anything about Bijapur Fort, Sath Manzil, Jala Manzil and Anand Mahal. That’s because we actually couldn’t find these places. And even the locals were unaware of them. We found Bijapur Fort totally in shambles. We could see only the fort boundary wall and nothing inside. There was an administrative office in place of Anand Mahal.
After finally completing our Bijapur itinerary, we headed to our next destination – Badami.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BIJAPUR
October to February
HOW TO REACH BIJAPUR
Air: Nearest airports are Hubli and Belgaum (both about 200 kms away)
Rail: Bijapur railway station is well connected to cities like Mumbai (via Solapur), Hospet, Hyderabad, Bangalore, etc.
Road: Bijapur is well connected to most of the major cities in the country. KSRTC and Private buses ply regularly between Bijapur and nearby cities.
ACCOMMODATION IN BIJAPUR
- Hotel Pearl
- Hotel Meghraj
- Shubhashree Comfort
- iRooms Hotel Ashoka
- KSTDC Hotel Mayura Adil Shahi
RESTAURANTS IN BIJAPUR
- Qaswa Hills Restaurant
- Hanafi Restaurant
- Madhuvan International Restaurant
- The Sigdi
- Kamat Hotel
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Please visit Gol Gumbaz as early as possible to avoid crowd. For the coin experiment in Whispering Gallery, make sure the other person stands in front of you on the other part of the gallery.
- Better follow Google Maps for Saath Kabar and Afzal Khan’s cenotaph.
- You can save on time by skipping Barishpur since there isn’t much to see there.
- The stepway inside Mehtar Mahal is narrow and at one point there’s a dead end and you can’t turn around. Better not to carry a backpack or you might end up being stuck.
- Women are not allowed to enter Asar Mahal.
- Exploring Gol Gumbaz would take minimum three hours – about an hour for museum and couple of hours for main building.
- Museum opens at 9 am. So one may visit Gol Gumbaz at 6 am for sunrise and an empty whispering gallery and spend time till 9 am to visit museum.
- Guides from ASI are available at Gol Gumbaz for charges of around Rs. 250-300.
Here’s a video I have made on the historical city of Bijapur:
Drop your queries and suggestions in the comments section below and I would be more than happy to address them.
Till then…Happy Travelizing!!!