Aug 20, 2016

Saath Gumbaz, Gulbarga

During my first two visits to Gulbarga I'd skipped this particular spot because of time constraints.

January 30, 2016
Pushpa and I were travelling back to Hyderabad from a short vacation at Dharwad. Morning we visited Sharana Basaveshwara Gudi, Fort, Government Museum and then reached Saath Gumbaz ~ the seven domes. These tombs are on the eastern side of the fort, about 1.7 kms away.  The enclosure actually has seven structures of which 5 are tombs and two are mosques. The caretaker showed us the 5 tombs only. Of the five buildings two buildings have twin domes, so that's how we have seven domes.

The five tombs are named after five rulers of Bahamani dynasty-

  1. Mujahid Shah Bahmani (1375–1378 CE)
  2. Dawood Shah Bahmani (1378 CE)
  3. Ghiyath-ud-din Shah Bahmani (1397 CE)
  4. Shams-ud-din Shah Bahmani (1397 CE)
  5. Feroze Khan (1397–1422 CE)

We start The closest to the entrance is the tomb of Mujahid Shah. The exterior is pretty grim but once you step inside its different. Its dimensions are approximately 60' x 60' in plan and its overall height 80'. The dome's is approximately 50' in diameter.

Here's the description of this structure on the signage-
This tomb, at the western end of the complex, is that of the third Bahamani Sultan, Mujahid Shah (1375 - 13678 AD). It has sloping walls that are devoid of any decoration. The dome is flattish and the corners are adorned with fluted finials. There are three arched entrances on the east and south sides of the structure. The sacrophagal within are those of the king, his wife and his sister.

The interior is not as plain. The walls have niches and decorated with floral and geometrical motifs.

I'm guessing..in the beginning the interior would be all white.. like a white lace-work apparel.

Here's a snap-shot of the necropolis from Wikimapia. You can see 7 structures and 9 domes. Tombs are marked with numbers.

These two are the tombs of Giyasuddin Shah and Shamshuddin Shah. These two structures are almost same dimensions as of Mujahid Shah tomb.

As seen from the other side. There's a lonely unidentified shelterless sacrophagal..

This is the tomb of Dawood Shah, a twin dome structure measuring approximately 55' x 110' x 80'. The dome's diameter is approximately 40'. The interior is actually two domed chambers connected by a vestibule. I missed shooting the structure from the front :( also missed

The interior is similar to that of Mujahid Shah's tomb however all designs are unique. The exterior is square in plan but the interior is octagonal. The western chamber has a single sacrophagal.

The eatern chamber has 3 or 4  sacrophagal.

I know not the purpose of this design but its simply beautiful! I guess the design must have evolved from a pumpkin or musk melon.The two dark circles are lotus in full bloom.

Coming to the largest and most decorated structure of this necropolis - Tajuddin Feroze Shah's tomb. This structure is bigger measuring approximately 150' x 72' x 130'. Diameter of dome is approximately 68'. This building is similar to Dawood Shah's tomb i.e. two tombs merged into one unit. The interior is two domed chambers connected by a richly decorated vestibule.

Description of the tomb on the signage:
The tomb of Tajuddin Firuz is the largest and most elaborate of the complex. The façade is decorated with vertical and horizontal divisions., surrounded by arches. It has, like the tomb of Dawood Shah tomb, two domed chambers, with the domes rising nine meters above the trefoil parapet. The style was never to be repeated in Bahamani architecture but some of the lesser features show traits of a maturing Bahamani style. For example, the walls are no longer plain but contain geometric designs worked into masonry of the upper recesses as well as bands of plaster work and roundels with arabesque designs. Angled eaves are hung over the doorways and diagonal panels adorn the brackets, which are found in local temples as well, with half pyramidal vaults above them. The corner arches on the lower level have cusped profiles, while the arches, higher up have squinches and lower profiles. There was once painting on the inside of the domes, but only a few traces remain while more frequent traces of the ornate plaster work are visible. Firuz Shah was known as a tolerant king, famed for his encouragement of cultural confluence. Hence the mosque shows the introduction of non-Islamic motifs, many which appear first in temple architecture.

This building seems like a palace rather than a tomb.

The interior: lower half is square and the upper half is octagonal. Niches are decorated with rich designs. Architects have made enough provision for ample light and air flow.

Of the seven domes here, this is most beautiful. I wonder how lovely this would've been when it was new.

This is one of the niches, also richly decorated.

The niches at the lower level are unique.. the wavy pattern is seen only here, no where else have I seen this design. The corner niches are to prevent echoing.. I guess.

This is the vestibule's crest. Simply lovely!

The other dome; plain in design but richly painted. The leaf like figure resembles the spade of playing cards. I loved the shades of colors forming the concentric circles. What an imagination and qudos to the artists who translated the imagination to a painted dome.

A closer look at the special niches.

Little little details cover every bit here.

These seven tombs are grim / plain from outside but are graceful structures. Their interiors have been created by lot of skilled hands with lot of patience. Good I made time to check out these tombs.

When in Gulbarge, do make time for this spot. Also close by is the government museum. ASI has taken over two tombs and used them to store and exhibit artefacts of various kinds from different periods of time. But there are few things which are of special interest.. objects used by the legendary Meadows Taylor. Artefacts such as his chair, palanquin, dressing table, study table and many more wooden furniture. Sadly the objects were covered in layers of dust and in careless state. I wish they keep them covered during off hours. Sad part is the museum staff does not allow photography :( I wonder what their secrecy is about.

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Aug 13, 2016

Ruins of Darbar hall and Treasury at Chitradurga fort

Chitra Durga the power centre of Palegars is one of the toughest forts of Karnataka. Built over a group of rocky hills, the fort has used natural rock formations to a create formidable defence lines.

March 16, 2014
These ruins of a stone-mud walled structures is said to be the administrative centre of  Chitradurga fort during the rule of Palegars. Within the admin centre were Darbar Hall and Treasury / Mint.

These mud walls have been standing for almost more or less 500 years. Integrated into these walls are wooden columns which probably held wooden beams of the building's roof. Even the wood of those times has preserved itself well.

A signage about these ruins has some interesting information.
Building with earth
This building uses one of the most popular construction materials - mud.
Mud is popular because its is easy to work with, cheap and easily available. And most important, buildings made of it are strong and stay cool during summers. Many houses in this region are still built of mud, using age-old techniques.
Preparing mud for construction is making dough for rotis - take soil, add water and knead it by stamping on it. You can add broken pottery (like in walls here), straw or even jaggery to reduce shrinkage and increase strength. When mud is of right consistency, place it directly on the wall base in layers, like here. Or, shape into bricks, dry and then use to build walls.
The mint's walls were made by throwing mud between two planks and compacting it. When the layer hardened, the boards were moved along ans the process repeated. 
Mud's biggest enemy: water
The building - once a mint - still stands because it was built to resist water damage. Because the base is most vulnerable to splashing water, these walls have stone plinths. Plastered water channels safely carry rain water from roof to the ground without splashing. The roof probably had large overhangs to prevent splashing. And you can still see traces of the lime plaster further protected the walls from water.

A close look at one of the walls.. stone base supports the upper portion. Going by the construction process, we can see this wall has 5 layers here. Remnants of lime plaster can be seen to the right of this picture.


Mud wall building and making pottery are closely related. The dirt used in this wall has been carefully selected.. probably from a lake bed. The mud is dried thoroughly, then powdered and sieved to obtain a consistent powder. Then its mixed with water and mixed properly until the entire mass is uniformly consistent.  This process is labour intensive, every stage is closely supervised for quality and also security to prevent sabotage.

When the mud dries up, it becomes very hard, as hard as stone. It is said that even a crowbar cannot do much damage to these walls. There are examples of forts which have outer walls made of mud as seen here.. Gurmitkal and Chandriki forts are two good examples. Then there's Laxmeshwar fort.. the walls are 6 to 8 feet thick and upto 30' high.. however not much remains of it now. Anvatti fort is one more of the verge of disappearing. I guess once upon a time Karnataka had thousands of mud forts.

Coming back to the Chitradurga's administration building, we are looking at this little granite structure with sloped roof. Well, it s not a temple. The floor within holds a chamber with a 1.5' square mouth. Locals say this pit was the treasury which held currency of gold and silver.

The structure is about 12' x 12' x 14'. Around the base is row of dressed blocks embedded in the ground.. this could be the part of the foundation around the structure to strengthen the ground. The slope roof and the plinth helps rain water to flow away. Basically the structure is designed to be water-proof.

Here's the mouth of the pit right in the center of the floor. The pit is lined with dressed granite slabs and packed with mortar.. even the wettest of rainy season would keep this pit dry.

Obviously this building would be guarded by dozen or two heavily armed soldiers. No unauthorised person would be allowed to approach it.

Chitradurga was under siege for almost two years. Madakari Nayaka lost the fort to Hyder Ali and then Tipu Sultan. After the fall of Tipu, it would have gone into the hands of British who called it Chittaldroog. British officers, for some reason pronounced Durga as Droog :)
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