A beautiful combination Forts, temples and tombs are all a part of the town of Bidar. B V Prakash is charmed by all the history and enigma that surrounds this place.
Adjoining the states of Maharashtra and the newly-born Telangana, is the tiny district of Bidar, at the northern periphery of Karnataka. Though the northern belt of the Deccan plateau is known to be an arid zone, the surroundings of Bidar seem to be an exception.
Situated at an altitude of about 2000 m, and fed by the Karanja river, the gentle, undulating terrain of the district experiences a salubrious climate. It is this salubrious atmosphere that has attracted kings, saints and commoners alike, resulting in a heterogenous mix of forts,tombs and temples.
My recent visit here, though not the first, was primarily to visit the heritage structures and imbibe a little of the local history. Along with Hussain, my guide cum driver, I set about zealously.
The biggest attraction of Bidar, Hussain said, was the fort itself, with many interesting sights as he narrated a bit of its history.
Attracted by the cool environs of the place and the strategic location amidst gentle hillocks, it was Ahmad Shah Wali Bahman of Bahamani dynasty who moved the capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1424 AD and built upon the remnants of a fort that existed from earlier dynasties.
Over three years, numerous structures, including attractive entrances, solid bastions, mahals and mosques were added. A massive structure
The Fort had been built with a long peripheral wall running to about 5 km with seven entrances. The unique feature of the Fort being the triple moat that made any intruder’s entry a Herculean task. The Gumbad Darwaza, where we arrived, is quite imposing, with a dome on top and flanked by bastions.
The red stone edifice contrasting with the blue sky makes for a picturesque sight. Immediately after the entrance, the Rangeen Mahal to the left draws your attention. With attractive arches decorated with Arabesque calligraphy and intricate designs of woodwork inlaid with mother of pearl, the Rangeen Mahal is indeed colourful, true to its name.
As we moved further, a few more structures came into view. The simple building on the right was a royal bath in those times, which has now metamorphosed into a museum with a collection of stone images, guns, cannons and coins. On the left is the neatly tended Lal Bagh, with rows of flowering plants.
Running along the garden is the Solah Khambh Masjid, named after the sixteen massive pillars that support it. Gagan Mahal, Tarkash Mahal and the Diwan-e-Aam, the public audience hall, all bear the stamp of a typical Persian style.
The tall bastion with a cannon, a ruined mahal with an escape route below, as well as the Queen’s bath complete the citadel complex. Being at a high point, a lovely view of the city can be enjoyed from here.
We headed to Ashtoor next, 4 km east, to see the series of tombs erected in memory of the Bahamani rulers. There are 12 mausoleums in a line ascribed to different sultans. While one of them has been broken by lightning, the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Wali has attractive paintings and scriptures. The octagonal tomb of Khalil-ul-Shah is captivating.
Driving back to the city centre, we paused to take a look at Mahmud Gawan university, a three-storeyed edifice with a tall minaret, before heading to the famed Nanak Jhira Sahib Gurudwara. Legend has it that Sri Guru Nanak, the Sikh saint lived here for a while.
Touches your soul
To mitigate the acute shortage of drinking water, he moved a stone with his toe and a spring was born. Ever since, for over 500 years now, water has been flowing uninhibitedly.
Called Amrith Kund, water from here is sprinkled on the head of devotees before they enter the Gurudwara. The water has been channelled into a lovely green pond for the devotees to bathe.
The Jharani Narasimha Temple is an exciting destination where one has to wade through a 90 m tunnel filled with waist-high water to see the idol. The Papa Nashini Temple set in scenic surroundings is another shrine that is worth visiting.
On the western outskirts, is a fine garden with a few simple tombs dedicated to the Barid Shahi rulers. The images in the park depicting rustic life are truly life-like. At the end of the day we had indeed gained an insight into the various monuments and shrines that Bidar is studded with.
Bidar is about 690 km from Bangalore. It is well connected by buses and trains.