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City of tombs and domes

SANDHYA RAO AND N. SHIVA KUMAR

Besides the massive fort, it has the grand Jama Masjid, dargahs and tombs to hold a visitor's interest, write Sandhya Rao and N. Shiva Kumar



PLACE WITH A HISTORY One of the massive tombs with a large dome

In Persian language ‘Gul' means flower and ‘burg' means leaf thus making Gulbarga once a land of lavish living. Driving into the town we reached our accommodation located close to the massive Gulbarga fort and gazed at the 14 {+t} {+h} Century fort which remained almost unscathed for over many decades. It is all set to regain its lost glory as the Archaeological Survey of India and the State Government are working for its renovation and restoration.

Gulbarga fort was just round the corner, so we were symbolically walking the lanes of history to explore the city of tombs and domes. The story of Gulbarga goes back to 13 {+t} {+h} and 14t {+h} Century and the Bahamani Sultans were the first Muslim rulers to dominate the Deccan region although it was earlier under Hindu Kings. Bahamani's decked this arid place with beautiful palaces, fortifications and stately structures. Today Gulbarga is left with its old forts, mosques, horse stables, dilapidated tombs, large courtyards and ancient temples.

Sprawling over an area of 75 acres the fortification has 15 tall watch towers with 26 massive metallic cannon guns strategically mounted. We managed to see only three majestic cannons located atop the three storied structure called ‘Ranamandal' in middle of the fort. A 40-feet moat in a rundown condition separates the double boundary wall of the fort, which was once filled with water to the brim having man-eating crocodiles to keep enemies at bay.

The compact Jama Masjid inside the fort wall is a unique mosque with a huge dome and smaller ones as embellishments. It was built in 1367 by an architect from Spain with arched doorways on the same lines as that of the Great Mosque of Cardova in Spain. The serenity and solitude when we visited was overpowering.

Haft Gumbaz

In the morning we started the search for more monuments of Gulbarga with our first stop at a quaint complex housing seven royal tombs popularly known as Haft Gumbaz. It is interesting to wander in the spacious interiors with latticed windows, cusped arches and ornamental remnants. The seven tombs are of admired rulers and the most elaborate one being that of Feroz Shah Bahamani's. It was conspicuously cool inside the tombs while it was scorching outside.

Our next stop was Khwaja Banda Nawaz Dargah, the tomb of the Sufi Syed Mohammed Gesu Daraz, standing in a large complex comprising lesser tombs and mosques. The interiors are richly decorated with frescos on glazed tiles with blue green geometric designs, free flowing tendrils and flowers portraying the influence of Indo-Islamic art. The mirror work set inside the dome of this dargah makes it a spiritual tour de force of the Islamic world and is surely a delicacy to the eyes.

No women please

Unfortunately women are not allowed inside the shrine where this exquisite mirror work is inlaid. They can only have a glimpse through a small window from the outer wall. Hundreds of devotees, both Muslims and Hindus, pay homage to the Sufi on the occasion of the annual Urs. After a random view of the tombs and domes we ventured to the wish-fulfilling chamber where we dropped few coins, for the lady luck to smile upon us.

Later we set out 22 kms south of Gulbarga in search of the lost ruins of Firozabad, a city founded by Firoz Shah Bahamani. On reaching a tiny hamlet we took the trail that runs along the village fields next to the fort. Huge arches, crumbling palaces, once stately and strong but now in a dilapidated condition were the only remains of Firozabad. We climbed over the dainty unused steps and walked the alleyway atop one such fortress to enjoy the rustic surroundings. These forlorn ruins, overgrown with weeds and reeds, urgently need restoration and conservation by the authorities.

Close to the town, located on a lonely hillock is the Chor Gumbaz. A huge hemispherical dome, akin to the famous Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, it has multiple arches on each side.

It also has decorative domes on all four corners. Watching the sunset with its slanting rays spread on this tomb was a sheer delight. On the way back to our hotel we passed by Aiwan-e-Shahi, the rest house of Nizam built in two shades of stone. Also we espied a large lake next to the 19th Century Basaveshwara temple now undergoing repair work.

We travelled from Hyderabad by a car on a comfortable road covering 220 kms. Gulbarga has its own railhead and many trains to Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi pass through. But be warned as accommodation in Gulbarga does not have any luxury hotels but the ones available are good enough for a comfortable stay.

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