Bijapur – The City and the Ark Qila

My trip to Bijapur would not have been such fun and enlightening without one man, Mr. Rajsekhar Kalyanmath. He has a masters degree in history, however due to his financial status he was bound to be a security guard (he could not bribe for getting a license) at one of the monuments. He recently was given a license to be a government approved tour guide after a wait of 15 years. His knowledge of the place and the monuments is commendable and is a must look for.

I had reached Bijapur in the afternoon, reaching by train. As soon as I checked in to my hotel, got fresh and started off. Before we start with the tour, it is important to know the history of the Adil Shahi kingdom and its rulers , which I had already posted here. The city of Bijapur is situated at an elevation of 2000 feet above sea level. It was an important stronghold of the Khaljis and Tughluqs until 1347 when it became the seat of the local governor under the Bahmanis. It was gifted to Mahmud Gawan, the eminent scholar of Bidar. He was succeeded by Yusuf Adil Khan , his adopted son. He declared his independence in 1490 from the Bahmani Sultans.

Why such an exposed and elevated view for a city was selected, that had to defend itself against many enemies, it is difficult to conceive. There is nothing in the natural features of the ground to give it any claim to preference as a suitable site. it was probably of gradual growth, and Yusuf Adil Khan found it already an important military station when he was sent there as its governor. It was indeed intended to move the seat of government to Nauraspur, several kilometers away from Bijapur, and Ibrahim II began to build palaces and fortifications with that object.

For over 150 years, Bijapur flourished as the capital of the Adil Shahi line of rulers presiding over a wealthy and influential kingdom. Perhaps more than any other Deccani rulers of the era, the Sultans and Queens of Bijapur sponsored a magnificent, highly individual style of architecture that is reflected in their religious and courtly buildings. This rivaled in splendor that of the contemporary Mughal capitals of Northern India. The city retains its original Adil Shahi layout and monuments. The fortification and moats though incompletely preserved, define an irregular oval shaped plan. Within the ramparts stand a large number of religious, courtly and ceremonial structures, together with baolis or wells and other hydraulic features that supplied water to the city during the 16th and 17th centuries.

In recent years, the Bijapurs historical buildings have become increasingly obscured by modern dwellings and almost nothing now remains of the luxurious gardens with which the city was once endowed. Situated centrally within the city walls is a circular zone with its own independent ring of walls and moat. This is the citadel or the Ark Qila (Probably Arku`llah or Ark Allah, the Castle of Allah), the center of the kingdom and its capital, where the Adil Shahi rulers and their court resided. Here can be seen numerous audience halls, residential palaces and pleasure pavilions. Other royal monuments are located outside the city walls, in the suburbs and resorts that were founded during the 16th and 17th centuries. Meadows Taylor, when he visited the place describes the scene of desolation asmournful. He also describes the interior of the citadel as almost indescribable, being nearly covered with masses of enormous ruins, then almost shapeless, interspersed with buildings still perfect.

The stone revetments were added to the earlier earthen walls by Yusuf Adil Khan in the early 16th century. The augmentation by his successors have been recorded in the inscriptions on the blocks embedded in the citadel walls. The city walls are surrounded by a deep moat of forty to fifty feet broad. They are massive and strong, and strengthened with ninety-six bastions. The walls have an average thickness of twenty feet which in places they greatly exceed. The construction of the walls was undertaken by Ali Adil Shah I, after the decisive victory of Talikota, in 1565 A.D. Along the top of this is a broad platform, running from bastion to bastion and over the gates; and this is protected by a high battlemented wall, which rises from the top of the curtain wall.

There are five principal gates to the City, Makka Gate on the West, Shahpur Gate on the North-West, Bahmani Gate on the North, Allahpur Gate on the East, and the Fateh Gate on the South-East. They are well protected by flanking bastions, double gates and covered approaches. The Fateh gate, is continued being remodeled, at least until the Mughal invasion. It was earlier known as the Mangoli Gate, called after the town of that name, twelve miles distant, to which the road through is led. But when Aurangzeb entered the city in triumph by it, it was renamed as the Fateh Darwaza or the Gate or Victory. The gate is protected by an angled entryway , which crosses a barbican followed by the outer walls.

The Makka gate has, subsequently to its erection, been further strengthened and fortified and has been converted into a small stronghold. The British, on taking over Bijapur also located their government offices in this place, and it continues to be the same even today. Outside it is somewhat like the others, the walls ending in two round towers with a gateway in between. Inside the construction is peculiar. The whole plan is more that of a strong fort than a gateway, and greatpains seem to have been taken to make it impregnable not only to enemies but also for treachery within.

In later years another western entrance was made, the wall being knocked and a bridge thrown across the moat. This gate, which is known as the Futka or Broken gate is now the chief western entrance to the city. The gates themselves, some of which remain, are of thick wooden beams about six inches square fastened together with iron clamps, strengthened with with massive bars, and bristling with 12 inch iron spikes. Even Aurangzeb did not enter the city till it surrendered, and made no attempt to gain the gateways.

Now that we have seen details of the Citadel, we will proceed inside to know specific details of the monuments.

References:

1. Bijapur, The Capital of The Adil Shahi Kings by Henry Cousens

2. The Architecture of Bijapur by S.S. Reuben

3. Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency Vol 23 by James Campbell

4. Gulbarga, Bidar and Bijapur by Helen Philon

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