Aug 11, 2012

Bidar Fort (Jan 2011)

Bidar is the northern most city of Karnataka. It was the capital of Bahamani empire. The Bahamanis came to power in 1347 and ruled till 1527. In the XV century Bahamani capital was moved from Gulburga to Bidar because of its strategic location and better climatic conditions. Bidar fort built on the edge of a plateau is one of the most formidable forts of Karnataka. High and thick walls run along the fort's 5.5 kilometer perimeter. The southern walls facing the plains are protected by a deep moat. Those entering the fort have to pass through several complex gateways manned by massive doors. Inside the fort is a large mosque and several palaces. The fort also houses barracks for soldiers, dungeons for prisoners and underground escape routes. Inside the fort are to small villages, a lake and agricultural fields. ...the fort speaks for itself.
Even after 3 visits- 1996, 2003 and 2011 -I've seen just a part of the fort. And yes, I've seen the changes in the city and the fort itself :(
Jan 28, 2011
Bidar fort's main entrance. Two pairs of doors with spikes protected this gateway.
As you enter the outer gateway is the second gateway barely 60 feet away. The inner gateway sits on the outer side of the moat. A bridge flanked by thick walls connects to another gateway on the inner edge of the moat.

The moat: 135 feet wide, 30 to 40 feet deep. Bidar fort is built on a massive rock bed. Note the two walls running parallel in the moat- the purpose of these could be to maintain higher water level during dry seasons.

Normally bastions are circular in plan. Rounded walls are less prone to battering rams. Corners in walls are weak points. An octagonal bastion can be seen here. Engineers were not careless about defense. Battering rams cannot be used here because of the moat. This site offered great advantage in terms of resources- on site source for stone and the end result of quarrying left a nice moat!

The bridge across the moat. Beyond the wall on the left is a deep trench which is a part of the moat. The wall is higher than the one on the right to block attacks from outside. Across the wall on the right is the moat.

That gateway is actually the main entrance of Bidar fort. Note the layers of rock under the rampart walls. Engineers did not have much trouble quarrying stones or having them dressed to required sizes. I just wish I could see the construction activities.

Perhaps rarely fed crocodiles infested the waters in these trenches.

This trench is more than 150 meters long. Part of the Rangeen Mahal is seen here.

Two pairs of massive spiked doors man the gateway. The gateway is a complex system of walls, chambers, passages and stairways. During my first visit (1996) Gulli and I could explore almost every part of this 3 floor high structure.
It was my suggestion to begin the tour with the cannon on the north-eastern side. To reach this turret we had to pass through a small village. With the presence of lot of cattle I assumed selling dairy products is a source of income for this village.

The cannon is positioned on a large turret. I had estimated the weight of this cannon to be 33 tonnes. Locking platform behind the cannon prevented the it from being turned towards the inside of the fort. A similar system can be seen at Bijapur's Malik-e-Maidan.

 I do not remember seeing any water-pit for the cannon operator to submerge while the cannon fires. Submerging in water protected the operator from the devastating effect of noise and heat from the cannon. Perhaps a portable system like a large tub or a barrel filled with water was used instead of a pit.

This should give an idea of the cannon's hugeness. Left to right: Mohan mama, a local boy, Suresh mama and Praveen. I can't recall the boys name :( We asked him to show us his fort, he joined us reluctantly.

A while later, he was enthusiastic. He took me to another bastion to show this much smaller cannon. Locking system is seen here too.

The village temple, can't recall what deity. The temple has a collection of four small guns and a pair of cannon balls. Perhaps these stone balls weighing approximately 135kg were meant for the 33T cannon.

Army barracks and dungeons. During the 1996 trip, Gulli and I spent an hour exploring these structures. Some are really scary, inside they are almost 20 feet below the ground level. Most had just one small entrance at ground level and a 6' diameter hole on the terrace. Very close to this structure is an entrance to an underground shelter. It was blocked with thorny bushes and dim inside. We gave up, disappointed at being helpless.

At the palace-mosque complex entrance ASI has fixed several boards with historical information of Bidar fort and its palaces.

Bidar Fort: This fort was built by the Bahamani Sultan Ahmad Shah in 1426-32 AD. With a 5.5km long immensely thick wall and several unusual defence features, it is considered one of the most formidable forts in the country.

The fort has a unique triple moat, believed to have been built by Turkish mercenaries. Other defensive elemants include its seven well protected gateways. The palace complex is accessed through two main gates on the southeastern side - the Sharza Darwaza and the Gumbad Darwaza, both massive structures, beautifully decorated, with huge domes, arches and paintings. In the zigzag passage between these gateways, three thousand men could take up position for defending the fort. Another gate, the ingenously designed Mandu Darwaza, has its entrance through a well-defended underground tunnel.

The fort abounds in tunnels and underground chambers that allowed quick escapes in emergencies. It was also protected by 37 bastions, several enormous cannons stationed on towers around the fort, and large magazines for arms storage.

The fort has ample provisions for water, with several wells and pipelines in its distribution network.

Bidar's military architecture has strongly influenced the planning and design of several other medieval cities like Golconda, Bijapur, Hyderabd and Bangalore.

Several monuments within the fort, such as the Takht Mahal, Tarkash Mahal, Rangeen Mahal, Gagan Mahal, Shahi Matbakh (royal kitchen), Diwan-i-Am (public audience hall), Solah Khamb mosque and the Naubat Khana, are noteworthy for their diverse architectural styles.

Gagan Mahal: The Gagan Mahal (heavenly palace) was built by Bahamani kings (14-15th century AD), but later the Baridi Shah rulers made certain alterations and additions in the plan of the building mainly in the northern wing of the palace and the apartments on the upper storey of the southern block. The rooms belonging to the ground floor of the latter block are however of the Bahamani period. Architecturally, the structure is a combination of strength and beauty. The palace has two courts, the outer one apparently used by the staff and the guards of the palace and the inner one for the royal ladies. The main building of the palace lies to the south of the inner court and was used by the Sultan.

Tarkash Mahal: Tarkash Mahal was perhaps so called on account of its having built for a Turkish wife of the Sultan. It may have been originally built by the Bahamani kings (14-15th century AD) but the remains of the decorative work found in the ornamentation of the walls suggest that the upper parts of the Mahal was built or extended by the Bidari Shahi Sultans. The building has undergone so many alterations in the course of time and nothing can be said of its original plan. The uppermost apartment of the building is approached by a flight of steps which are built at the western end of the Sola Khambha mosque. Stucco work in the building is noteworthy.

Sola Khambha Mosque: Originally it was the principal mosque, Masjid-i-Jami of Bidar. In AD 1655 when Aurangzeb as Viceroy of the Deccan from the Imperial court at Delhi conquered Bidar, he hastened to the name of his father Shah Jahan, as proclamation of his sovereignity in the newly acquired territory. In the inscription, dated AD 1423-24, it is mentioned that the founder of the mosque was Qubli Sultani. the mosque is called so as it has 16 pillars in the front. It is of vast dimensions and one of the largest mosques in India and is remarkable for its architectural style. It consists of a large prayer hall divided into lare number of aisles by massive circular columns, the central one towards the western end being more spacious. The roof is crowned by a majestic dome of fine shape, raised on a high clerestory with windows of perforated screen-work in different geometrical patterns. A parapet of pleasing designs above the imposing arcade adds to its beauty. this impressive structure provided an excellent example of the second phase of Deccani style.

Gulli and I were lucky, we had a chance to walk between the columns inside the mosque.

According to a source on the internet these ruins are known as Diwane-Khas ~ Queen's residence. We had explored these ruins thoroughly and it did look like a palace. We saw four column bases with alignment marks on their tops. We felt the palace construction was abandoned before completion.

In the low ground next to Diwane-Khas is a small village and its horticultural plots. The village has couple of small temples and wells.

We move on towards this massive turret next to the southern wall.

This cannon is longer than the one on the north-eastern turret. The bore diameter seems to be the same- 1.5 feet. The outer surfaces of both cannons are different. While this one has a matte finish the other one has a glossy finish. I wish to see this cannon fired once.

I decided to end the tour here because we were hungry and I did not want to tire my elderly company. I must come back to Bidar fort one more time and walk along the entire perimeter of the fort. Beside the fort I want to spend time at the Gurudwara, Khwaja Mahmud Gawan Madrasa and Bareed Shahi tomb.

Bidar fort coordinates: 17°55'28"N   77°31'36"E


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