Friday, July 24, 2015

Hyderabad to Bidar: Picture perfect

Source: Livemint  :-

The Bidar fort in south India photographs beautifully, but the memories you make are better than any image

Sharza Gate, as seen from Rangeen Mahal. Photographs: Courtesy Lakshmi Prabhala
A stunning photograph of the majestic Bidar Fort surrounded by rain-washed green undergrowth has been pinned on top of my desk for years. It was gifted by a photographer friend who had captured the magnificence of its crumbling walls. The fort lies on the north-eastern tip of Karnataka, but its proximity to Hyderabad draws a fair number of visitors from the Telangana side of the border.
Those interested in the remarkable architecture or Bollywood trivia top this list: The 15th century fort was the backdrop for the song Ishq Sufiyana inThe Dirty Picture.
While the original fort is said to have been built by the Western Chalukyas during the 10th century, the fortress was rebuilt around the old fort in 1428 by Ahmed Shah Bahmani, when Bidar became the capital of the Bahmani sultanate.
With a friend in tow, I decided to take a long overdue trip to change the image in my head from a photograph to a personal experience.

We decided to drive so that we could visit scattered sights near Bidar. The first stop is not too far, on the outskirts of Zaheerabad, at Café Ethnic, where we had breakfast. An initiative of grass-roots organization Deccan Development Society, Café Ethnic aims to revive local food culture by promoting millets. The staple idli and dosa, made from millet variants, were delicious.
After heading out of Zaheerabad, we took a right turn on to state highway 14, which led us straight to Bidar.
Here, we first stopped at the monuments which fall within the walled Old City. We drove past the Choubara, a watchtower built in medieval times, to park beside the nearby Mahmud Gawan madrasa. A centre for advanced learning in the past, the madrasa was built in 1472 by Persian scholar Mahmud Gawan.
The watchtower and the adjoining wing of the school were damaged by lightning in the 17th century and then, later, during a gunpowder explosion. But the original splendour of the weathered monument still shines through.
It was time to see the fort.
Crossing the main entrance of the bastion, we took a path that meandered through the ornate Sharza Gate and formidable Gumbad Gate. In front of the latter, we saw the impression of a foot in stone (Panduranga Pada), decorated with flowers. Legend has it that Lord Panduranga (a manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu) himself came to bail out Damaji Pant, a saintly officer who worked for the Bahmani sultan Humayun Shah.
The main complex, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), includes a museum which houses a collection of pottery, sculptures and weapons found in the region like cannonballs, swords and iron shrapnel. There are four palaces within the fort, usually kept locked to keep out graffiti artists, vandals, birds and bats. A guided tour of the four palaces can be arranged on request at the ASI office for a group of 8-10; there is no fee.
The Rangeen Mahal, the palace of the queens, is the best preserved. There is colourful tile work on the outer walls, intricately crafted teak pillars in the verandah, mosaic and calligraphy on the arches, and mother-of-pearl inlay in the inner chambers.

From the fort, we drove down to our hotel, spending the afternoon at thebidri workshops in the old city. The bidri craft (silver inlay, in intricate floral and geometric designs, on casts made of zinc alloy) was introduced by skilled Persian craftsmen brought in by the Bahmani kings. Most of the bidriworkshops are located on Kusum Galli, Choubara Road. We bought souvenirs like earrings, boxes and vases, which ranged in price from Rs.100-1,000.
The next morning, we drove to the Jharani Narasimha Swami cave temple (open from dawn to dusk), around 1km east of Bidar. The temple is filled with waist-deep water and visitors have to wade through for about 100m to reach the sanctum sanctorum.
The Bahmani tombs in Ashtur village are just 6km ahead of the temple (again, open dawn to dusk; entry free). The tombs, including the grand mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Bahmani. This is the resting place of the sultans who ruled the region from 1422-1518. Before heading there, we halted at Choukhandi, the octagonal mausoleum of the Persian Sufi saint Syed Kirmani Baba.
There was yet another stop on our list—the gurudwara Nanak Jhira Sahib shrine. Locals believe that in 1512, Guru Nanak released Bidar from the grip of a terrible famine. When he moved a stone, they say, water sprang miraculously, and has been perennial. The shrine came up at this spot.
By now, I was yearning for another glimpse of the fort. We headed there, standing atop the north-west ramparts for one last sight of the panoramic view.
Every fortnight, Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.


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