While the term ‘Make it large’ may have been coined recently… one visit to Bijapur in Karnataka will have anyone wonder whether its 11th century marvels was the inspiration behind the phrase!! Home to one of the largest domes in the world…one of the largest mosques within the area…the largest medieval cannon in the world…and many more amazing monuments. Need we say more as to why it’s marked as one of the favorites on Karnataka’s tourist map?
A historical city with a rich past, its history dates back to the 11th century and the Chalukya dynasty when it was formerly known as Vijayapura. It was in the latter half of the 13th century when the city came under the Bahmani Sultans, that its name was changed to Bijapur.
In 1518, when the Bahmani Sultans fell apart, and came to be known as the Deccan sultanates, Bijapur came under the rule of Yusuf Adil Shah. It was under the Adil Shah Kings that this city flourished.
Rich in Indo-Islamic architecture, some of the monuments here worth visiting include the Bijapur Fort, the citadel and many other structures that date back to the Chalukya dynasty in the 10th -11th century. The Adi Shah rulers too greatly contributed to the beauty of the place and with many wonders such as the Gol Gumbar,Ibrahim Rauza, Malik-e-Maidan, it’s no wonder that Bijapur has been called the ‘Agra of South India’.
The Gol Gumbar an architectural splendor here is the second largest dome in the world built during the reign of Mohammed Adil Shah, and second in size only to St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Constructed without the support of any pillars, apart from the mammoth dome, the four minarets provide an excellent view of the city and the Whispering Gallery where even the faintest of whispers can be heard clearly 37 meters away are its main attractions! A mosque and a hall for the trumpeteers (Naqqar Khana) are also a part of this marvel. An archeological museum houses several paintings, sculptures, weapons, manuscripts, etc. on the well manicured lawns of the Gol Gumbaz.
At 4 m long, 1.5 m in diameter and weight of 55 tons the Malik-e-Maidan (The Monarch of the Plains) is credited to being the largest medieval cannon in the world! It’s said it was a trophy of war brought back from Ahmadnagar, the effort of around 400 oxen, 10 elephants and thousands of men! Not just known for its size, but design too, the cannon’s nozzle is shaped like a lion’s head with open jaws and what appears to be an elephant trampled to death with its carved fangs can be seen here. Another amazing fact about the mammoth cannon is that even under the harshest sunlight it remains cool and it jingles like a bell when one taps it!
Though it cannot be compared to the Malik-e-Maidan, no mention of weapons in Bijapur would be complete without a mention of the 46.5 ton Landa Kasab Gun, another unique attraction that has till date not shown any signs of ruin though out in the open without any protection from rain or shine.
Another massive structure here is the Chand Bawdi, named after Ali Adil Shahs wife, a tank built in 1557 to provide drinking water to the town’s people with a storage capacity of 20 million litres of water.
The Jami Masjid here has the distinction of being one of the oldest and largest mosques in the country constructed by Ali Adil Shah, after his glorious victory over Vijayapura. Covering an area of 10,810 sq m it rises up to 120 m high. A structure unlike any other in Bijapur it is well known for its massive domes, intricate arches, decorative motifs, minarets, and massive hall. Apart from the stunning structure of the mosque being an attraction, other attractions here include a copy of the holy Koran inscribed in gold.
Of the many Palaces here, some of the most prominent ones include the Asar Mahal built by Mohammed Adil Shah, which dates back to 1646. Used as the Hall of Justice, it is famous for housing the hair from the Prophet’s beard and for its festival held here every year. Gagan Mahal or Sky Palace is another place of historical significance, as it was here that Sikandar Adil Shah surrendered to Aurangzeb in 1681. To the west of Gagan Mahal is Anand Mahal, constructed by Ibrahim Adil Shah II in 1589. It was used for entertainment purposes such as music and dance, while the Aras Mahal here was the joy resort of Ali II.
Other prominent mahals here include the Chota Asar, a small wonder yet rich in the work done, Chini Mahal or Faroukh Mahal, and a mammoth Durbar hall – one of the largest halls in Bijapur.
While the Jami Masjid is one of the largest mosques in the area, other mosques that are of importance here include the Andu Masjid constructed in 1608. As it lacks a podium, it is believed to have been used for prayer by the ladies here.
Close to the Chini Mahal, the Malik-Karim-ud-dins Mosque is home to a temple with inscriptions found on it that date back to 1320 AD. While some believe it was previously a temple others say it was a Hindu college that was converted into a mosque.
While the Mehatar Mahal is not a palace but a gateway, it is one of the prominent attractions here for its intricate carvings and flat stone roof, an engineering marvel.
Other mosques here of importance known for their stunning arches and work include the Malika Jahan Begam’s Mosque built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II after his wife Mallika Jahan Begam, the Malik Sandals Mosque famous for its Hindu-Muslim architecture and the Mecca Mosque .
Besides the mosques, Bijapur is also home to many temples, one of the most revered temples here being the Narasimha temple where Dattareya is worshipped in the form of a black stone. The temple also houses a pair of sandals believed to be of Saint Narasimha Saraswathi. Bijapur is also home to an 85 foot statue of Lord Shiva; at 1500 tonnes it is said to be the second largest Shiva statue in India.
Situated on the outskirts of the city, Ibrahim Rauza houses the tombs of the great ruler Ibrahim Adil Shah II and his wife. One of the most beautiful structures here it has often been referred to as the ‘Taj Mahal of the Deccan’ and comprises of a mosque and four minarets.
Other historical attractions at Bijapur include the Aurangzeb Idgah, Bara Kaman, Jod Gumbaz, Sat Manzil, Elavia House (Nauzer Elavia), Bukhati Masjid,Shanmukhasvami Matha, and last but not the least Parshwanath Basadi.
A city known for its bygone glorious days, while there’s ample to provide its tourists, what makes this place a wonderful holiday option are the many attractions around like Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal, etc.
If its all about making it large this holiday, then Bijapur makes a perfect getaway…a place where you doesn’t even have to be an art lover to be mesmerized by its beauty!