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Published: March 14th 2005
Bijapur Gol Gumbaz
Is this not a wonderful place to rest in peace?
We were heading north but did not want to go via Goa and Mumbai (former Bombay), so we had to find our way inland. A direct bus to Bijapur
would have left one hour later, so we decide to go there by changing bus. The first part was perfectly ok, a local bus as usual, but in the meantime we had got used to this means of transport. Then we made the mistake (afterwards you always know better) to take an express bus. It looked good to us, with far more comfortable seats and more leg freedom. We took seats in one of the front rows, but were immediately ushered to the back because the other seats were reserved. We thought this a sham because this had never happened to us so far, until we found out that we were on a long-haul bus to Mumbai. In the end, we were on an expensive bus on very bad roads, we were just as shaken as in a local bus and not even faster!
Alas we arrived in Bijapur in the dark, which we had managed to avoid so far. Our hotel was not very far from the train station, next
Peaceful mosque with its onion-shaped dome and white arcades
morning we headed there to book our next overnight train. On the way there, we stumbles over (not literally, ouch) one of Bijapur’s impressive Muslim sights, the Jama Masjid
, a mosque from the 16th century. We were the only visitors apart from two very obnoxious boys we tried hard to ignore. Still it was a haven of peace, with its large onion-shaped dome and arcaded court. It displayed beautiful classical restraint, apart from the colourful mihrab
. This mosque is still in use, when we were there, two groups of men had gathered for teaching purposes, and the hours of prayer were hung on a pillar. Despite the naughty boys and a guard constantly asking for donations, there reigned a special, detached atmosphere that we were glad to discover.
The next item on our list was the Gol Gumbaz
, a vast whitewashed tomb dating from 1656. When you enter the dome, under which the tombs are situated, you feel very small. This is no wonder, considering the dome’s diameter of almost 38m! Still, Gol Gumbaz’s most striking feature can be reached by narrow winding staircases in one of the corner towers. These lead up to a 3m wide gallery, which
The only interiour decoration at Jama Masjid
is 33m from the ground, the Whispering Gallery, which is said to carry a message across 38m and duplicate it 11 times. When we were there, several Indian tourists also were on the grounds. No question of whispering because they try to achieve the stunning effect by loudly as possible. It could be felt anyway because we were almost deafened by the noise they made.
In Bijapur we saw another impressive Muslim tomb, the Ibrahim Rauza
, a beautiful building with nice proportions that looked more like a palace. There we were almost on our own and could prowl as much and as long as we wanted. We quite enjoyed Bijapur’s Muslim flair, but did not regret leaving the very dusty place too much.
On March 16th we were on the road again, taking a bus to Gulbarga
. We chose this stop because we try to limit our bus-rides to four hours, which can already be a hassle oh these buses on those roads. The city was ideally situated for our itinerary, but is not overly interesting for tourists, that’s why we could not find much information in our guidebook, not even a city map. We also arrived quite
Ibrahim Rauza overview
Another grand mausoleum in Bijapur
late, so we chose a hotel next to the Central Bus Stand, not a bad choice after all. There was an old fort to be seen and a mosque, but we had no clue how far it was, so we gave our fate into the hands of a rickshaw driver. He immediately realised that we were ignorant westerners (an impression we normally try hard to avoid) and tried his luck on us. He drove on and on, picking up one friend after the other, who accompanied us for a while. Quite soon we were aware of what was going on and decided not to get cheated in such a cheap way. When we arrived at the fort, the driver wanted Rupees 300, a sum which we had formerly paid for half a day. Of course, Stephan refused to pay, and we were lucky that another rickshaw driver arrived. We asked the driver for the price, which he marked with Rupees 25! That’s what we paid in the end, the money certainly did not even suffice for the petrol consumed. The fort was huge, much larger than we know them from Europe. We imagined that a whole small city would find
Ibrahim Rauza detail
You will certainly understand that we loved the place
space inside its boundaries, actually several private houses were built on the grounds. We had to climb up quite high, not very much of the walls remains, only the entrance gate and several impressive platforms with a canon on it. Two of the gates have already been restored, but the site s so off the beaten tracks, that few tourists leave their money there. You do not even have to pay an entrance fee for this wonderful place! The mosque was actually inside the fort, equipped with one large dome above the mihrab
, four corner domes and 75 smaller domes. The inside part had just been renovated, which left us all covered with yellowish dust. As you ca imagine, the hall was huge, filled with pillars, actually without any decoration.
Next day, another bus took us to Bidar
, a city with a well preserved fort and an impressive city wall. Bidar fascinated us from the moment we arrived. With its lively atmosphere, narrow streets, shops of all kinds, friendly and curious people and plenty of goats, we felt quite at ease. Time for an observation: in all the weeks we have spent in India s far, we have never
Hello, may I show you around?
felt uncomfortable or insecure. Maybe we are just lucky, but we believe that people here are well meaning as long as they are not overly provoked and one sticks to basic rules of security.
The first day, we only immerged into the town and walked up to the fort, but it was already closed and the entrance was also quite far from where we were. So we walked slowly back to the hotel in whose surroundings we had seen some internet cafes. Unfortunately, no broad band internet was available, only one normal telephone line shared by 6 to 8 computers, so it was impossible to upload any pictures and go on with our travel blog. But we used the internet to proceed with our planning concerning our travel to Rajasthan. We also met Mallikarjun, a very nice guy who ran one of the places. Later on we went to the hotel restaurant, which turned out to be a bar, where eating was possible. We climbed down the stairs into a dimly lit hall with several separated boxes on the sides. But everybody was friendly and the waiter did not frown when we ordered our favourite drink, lime soda. Actually,
I am very proud of this marvellous place...
the food was very good, what we had not expected in that place.
Next day we had plenty of time to explore the fort
, a really impressive construction, not only due to its big size. Large parts of its strong exterior walls are still intact, but few of the undoubtedly numerous buildings remain. We had a very pleasant walk, climbed up and down through partly ruined palaces and discovered that one meadow seemed to be a perfect cricket ground. In the end, a guard showed us around in the so-called Coloured Palace. It bore its name rightly, with painted walls and ceilings as well as doorframes incrusted in mother-of-pearl and delicate woodcarvings. The fort was defended by a solid triple moat and certain parts were again filled with water, making the complex seem very real.
From Bidar we took another night train, thus doing we left the state of Karnataka
. Against all expectations we saw astonishing Hindu temples from different centuries right from the very beginning and varied Muslim architecture. We were in small dusty villages and a very modern city, had the best and the worst infrastructure, from the roads to the internet connections. Travelling was sometimes
Gulbarga Fort entrance
Picturesque scene at the fort's entrance gate
tedious, but always worth the effort.
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