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Saved: November 30th 2009
A journey of 1001 nights in India, on a Persian carpet
Inspired by Arabic music and encouraged by an Iranian friend,
Deeply interested in Islamic art and architecture,
Staying and studying in Pune, India,
I started exploring each and every atom of Indo-Islamic monuments.
In summer 2008, my friends and I made a two day trip in Aurangabad, which can be easily accessed from Pune. On the second day, even though we went together, no one was interested to visit Bibi Ka Maqbara, the tomb of Aurangzeb’s wife. Without hesitation, I went inside alone, the rest were waiting outside. I forced a local man who didn’t know even how to hold a camera to take a photo of me. I was impressed by a beautiful tank full of lotus and a water way that was totally dry under Indian cruel sun. Since I couldn’t make them wait for a long time, I just took a glance to the whole building and I didn’t enter the interior of the tomb.
Some miles away from the city is situated a ruined fort of Daulatabad, the
city of fortune. I was immensely amazed by a high reddish brown minaret of Iranian style. Within the limitation of time, we left the place for the more famous Ajanta and Ellora.
Despite only a glimpse, this trip was a good commencement of my exploration in other sultanates of Deccan Plateau lately.
I had planned so far to start exploring sultanates or Muslim cities in Deccan Plateau, including Ahemdnagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda.
Since I am staying in Pune, it is more convenient to travel in this region than in the north.
Bijapur: 40 domes and 1001 minarets
For the first time, traveling alone by train out of Maharashtra, I was considerably nervous. As my seat was not confirmed, I had to sleep locked with labour companions. The dirty train stank. A wonderful journey started when the train ran swiftly in the early morning. God’s natural fresh air blew away all pollution and dirt created by human.
I was astonished by nice scenery of sugar cane plantation. The greenery of plants was
strikingly contrasted with yellow dry land back grounded by low hills, giving a very impressive view.
Reaching Bijapur in the scorching afternoon, I could see Gol Gumbaz from the train station. I took a rickshaw directly to Megharaj Hotel; the room is quite good and cheap. After having a fast lunch, I started walking to Citadel firstly, as a guide book says Gol Gumbaz is better to visit in the early morning. I saw a ruin of Asar Mahal from a street,. It is not a striking building, but you can breath the air of old world charm. What my friends told about Bijapur was totally different from the real Bijapur. People here are very friendly. Indeed Muslim people are the majority here, but we also can find Hindu and Jain temples and even churches. I love such a secular city. Nobody was here to take a photo pf me, so I did it myself. I couldn't rely on someone who might run away with my camera. Did I worry too much?I felt like I was in a typical and authentic Muslim city when I reached the Citadel which is surrounded by a moat. I think Muslim people know
well how to manage water. Without following a map, I could see Barakaman from far away, as it is quite huge and tall. I couldn't get inside Gagan Mahal because the timing is between 6am to 9pm. The garden is very well-maintained. Everywhere is green in Bijapur, especially the street to Gagan Mahal, Sat Manzil and all. Beside Gagan Mahal, there is a mosque-like church which gave a true sense of Arabesque. It is inscribed with Arabic calligraphy also. Before visiting Barakaman, I saw a government building which is architecturally mixed between Indo-Islamic and British style, now is a famine relief office. At Barakaman, i asked a Hindu guy to accompany me for some snaps. We communicated in little Hindi and little English. I asked him to take me to Upli Burj. It was really hot and I felt so tired. I ate so much water melon to reduce the thirst. I couldn't continue walking, so I had to take a rickshaw back to the hotel.
The electricity failed in the following morning. This is the government policy to reduce electricity expense during summer. I woke up in quite early morning for Gol Gumbaz. My world! It is majestically
huge and impressively beautiful. Despite Islamic art, it has a strong influential blend of south Indian architecture as well. The air was pleasantly cold and I could breath the freshness of old days. I got inside Gol Gumbaz with extreme excitement. It was a big hall inside. I walked quietly, thinking how can I capture a photo of the entire hall. I got an idea! I put the camera on my carry on bag which could give a slight slope. Bravo! I got nice photos. The interior of Gol Gumbaz conjured up monuments in Esfahan; Bijapur is truly " small Persia of India", I think. People made noise, laughing, shouting, singing, clapping from the dome which is called ' Whispering Gallery. I started climbing storey by storey, until the last floor. Wow, I could see the whole city. The view is different from what i saw on Upli Burj, which gave a wretched scenery of ' backward modernity'. Like in a fairly tale, there were some parrots perching on minarets. It was again my truly ideal Persian palace and garden. The story of 1001 Nights comes into existence; it is not only a literature, but it does exist. I entered
the Whispering Gallery. I was all alone there; I felt like Gol Gumbaz belonged to me, even for a few minutes. I sang a song and recorded it. It does remind me of the marvelous experience in the hall. The sound was eching many times. I didn't want to leave Gol Gumbaz but " and miles to go before I sleep". At 10am, a museum in front of Gol Gumbaz opens. There are Arabic and Persian calligraphy inscribed on stones, Persian manuscripts, beautiful paintings, etc. I loved Persian carpets the most. I continued to Jama Masjid, sitting on a horse cart. It is far better than waliking because the sunlight is scorching. The exterior of the mosque is truly the so-called Indo-Islamic art. Inside, I was amazed by delicate ceiling; it is symmetrical and looks so wonderful. I don't know how to explain. The highlight of the mosque is a golen mihrab. Mihtar Mahal is only additional, not so recommended. Taj Baori used to be good in the old days; today it is full of garbages.What a pity! Reaching Ibrahim Raoza, I found a typical Persian garden which is known as charbagh along the way leading to the tombs. Breathtakingly,
I was fascinated by the beauty of Islamic architecture. In India, Islamic art travelled so far from its original land, there fore mixed with local architectural style. As compare to Gol Gumbaz, it lost much of originality of Islamic architecture. in the evening, I walked to Mustafa Khan's mosque. Wherever I saw a dome, I approached that place and I found that all the mosques are the same, except Jama masjid for its mihrab.I went again to Jama Masjid. There are two gates to enter. People take water from a reservoir in front of the mosque. Jama Masjid Road is very bad; you can find garbages and dirty pigs all along the road which is very dusty and crowded, I tried to walk until a gate named Allahpur which is totally in a severe condition and I didn't recommend to visit at all. Crazily, I walked along the railway until a ruined fort nearby Gol Gunbaz, after 6pm, Gagan mahal opens. People were sitting for recreation in a large garden. A road to Gagan Mahal is sandwiched with a long line of trees, Only specialty of Gagan Mahal is its huge wide arch.
with enthusiastic excitement, I woke up
in the early morning, got dressed so fast and walked to Asar Mahal. This was my second time, but why am I too much excited? I just got information from a guide book an officer at Gol Gumbaz gave me. It says that there is a hall inside full of Persian style wall paintingf and display of Persian carpets. At first, the hall was locked and an old man who looked after Asar Mahal led me there. Mashallah! It was breathtakingly and heartbreakingly beautiful. Flowers in jars and creeping plants were painted on the wall, golden, red, green with blue background. Besides, a window is decorated with colorful stain glasses. Sunlight on water surface in front of Asar Mahal reflected to the hall through the stain glass window. Oh my world! It looked so formidable. I couldn't help thinking of Persia and Isfahan. Carpets are totally decayed. I continued to Citadel. I saw Sat Manzil from far away as it is strikingly tall. I entered a government office attached to it. A woman guided me to its entrance. It looked so simple from outside, when I got inside, then only I appreciated its interior beauty. The ceiling is formed in
Arabesque style. It is aesthetically charming and truly Islamic. You can see a small water pool which might serve as recreation in summer. The last floor gave a nice view of the entire city. The place is not well-maintained at all; you can see bird dung and seeds on the floor. The three monuments where you can appreciate the panoramic view of the city are Gol Gumbaz, Upli Burj and Sat Manzil. After visiting all the key monuments, I was in search of some typical Bijapur souvenirs, but couldn't get anything. Not like in Bidar, a city nearby, where you can find Bidri ware, a typical metal work of Bidar.
Ahmednagar: the city of eight paradises (Hasht Behisht)
Twenty days after the trip in Bijapur, My friend and I went to Ahmednagar which is one of the five Deccan Sultantes. We caught a bus at Shivaji bus stand. The weather was very pleasant in the morning. The road quality was improper. In India, facilities are not quite good to go from city to city. A train is better way, but sometimes not convenient.
Reaching there, we had a
small breakfast. We asked people about how to get to some important places but the result was unexpected; they didn't know much or even no ideas at all. A rickshaw is the most recommended. I realized that monuments in Ahmednagar are dispersed and scattered; they are not in a good system like in Bijapur where all the places can be conveniently linked to one another. Then we took a rickshaw which doesn't have a meter to Ahmednagar fort as we thought there would be somebody who knew well the city. I was a little disappointed to see the fort; nothing interesting. We left it so early and took a rickshaw to the foot of Shah Dongar Hill where the tomb of Salabat Khan is situated. After drinking sugar cane juice for which Ahmednagar is famous, we started trekking to the top of the hill. Since we took a shortcut, the way was so rocky and rough. The most striking feature of the tomb is its octagonal structure. The place is well-maintained and quite clean. It is popular spot for couples or lovers. The view from the tomb is quite good as it is at the peak of the city. It
would be so wonderful in monsoon. The arch and arabesque work of the ceiling of the tomb are so simple. We walked down to the foot of the hill and took a hitch-hiking. Finally we got a bus back to the city. We took a rickshaw to a museum. But unfortunately, it was a tank museum and I was not interested at all. We left it behind and approached Farah Bagh Palace. I was not enchanted by the exterior but the true beauty of the interior. The arabesque was extremely formidable. I like the idea of constructing baths as a part of the building. The structure of the palace is incomparable. It is of Hasht Behisht plan. I love the work of light and shadow displaying in the palace, done by the sun of the evening. From the palace, we could see Salabat Khan's tomb. The lake around the palace was totally dry. The place was visited by drug-addited boys. We walked back along a long street to the main road; there we met a generous local man who kindly took us by his motorcycle to a historical museum. I was excited and took a fast glance of the whole
museum which was about to close. The good part of it was Persian painting, calligraphy inscribed on a stone, etc. I bought a book on Ahmednagar from the museum. We lost the chance to visit Damri Masjid because it was too late. After all, we caught a bus back to Pune.
Ahmednagar & Bijapur: the discovery jigsaw of Taj Mahal
I do agree that Humayun’s tomb served as the main source of inspiration for Taj Mahal. But the façade of Taj Mahal looks nearly identical to Farah Bagh Palace in Ahmednagar which was built according to the concept of Hasht behisht like Taj Mahal. And Humayun’s tomb does not have high minarets like Ibrahim Rauza in Bijapur.
Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631. During 1631-1632, Shah Jahan marched to the Deccan (including Ahmednagar and Bijapur). In 1632, he returned to Delhi. Taj Mahal was begun in 1632 and completed in 1653.
Farah Bagh Palace was built in 1583 and Ibrahim Rauza was built in 1626. Both the monuments of Deccan sultanate might inspire the design of Taj Mahal.
Bidar: the city of
Reaching Hyderabad around 6 am, I enjoyed the pleasant weather of monsoon morning. I appreciated the view of Husein Sagar at the last train station of Hyderabad. After getting off the train, I was accompanied by a local guy to Imliban bus stand. High minarets are very prevalent in Hyderabad.
I took a bus from Imlibun to Bidar. I was guided to get off there as Bidar was not the destination of the bus. Reaching there,I took a rickshaw to Hotel Kailash. The room was not so different from the hotel where I stayed in Bijapur.
With great enthusiasm, I rushed to Bidar fort after a fast lunch near the hotel. I was enchanted by the welcome of Gumbaz Darwaza. With the help of a tripod, I could take many snaps without irritation. I felt very insatiable for the entire fort. If I had more time, I would absolutely taste every drop of its beauty. I walked down to the biggest monument in Bidar i.e. Tarkash Mahal with a 16 pillared mosque on the right side. I was amazed by the large garden accompanied with the magnificent cistern in the center, the
excellent water way and especially the interior of the mosque which remended me the Jama Masjid in Bijapur. Inside the mosque, one can see numerous pillars decorated with ‘cement curtains’. I really love the carved arched screens which conjured up harem window that allow only sunshine to enter. Besides, the niche is really formidable. It is very high and slender The very pitiful part of the fort is that one can enter only some monuments while the rest were mostly locked. Opposite to Tarkash Mahal, is situated a museum displaying Arabic and Persian inscription, some pictures of monuments of Bidar as well as Gulbarga. What I like best in the museum was the ruin of mosaic tiles. It gave the true sense of arabesque. I bought a good booklet on Bidar that is very rare from the museum. Walking towards another part of the fort beyond Tarkash Mahal, one can enjoy the scenery of z valley and plantations. I just imagined what would be if the tiles on the monuments were not destroyed. It must feel like in Isfahan.
Getting out from the fort, I walked towards the Madrasa of Mahmud Gawan. The most significant part is the façade
on which ruined colourful mosaic tiles still remain the charm. I was offered by a local guy for snaps.
I hired a rickshaw driver to take me to Ashtur where numerous tombs of Bahmani kings are situated. It is quite far from the city. Indeed the tombs are very simple and the same in style. In Ashtur, green parrots perching on the domes of the tombs tremendously evoked the reminiscence of Bijapur.
The last place of all is a tomb situated on the way to Ashtur. The structure resembles Farah Bagh Palace in Ahmednagar and it looks like Buland Darwaza in Fatehper Sikri. I ignored the grand tomb but was interested in the ornamentation of another tomb nearby. I was attreated to flora on stone. The rickshaw driver took me back to the hotel. In front of it, I enjoyed Patis with egg inside for the first time. After boosting some energy, I walked straight from the hotel to a bidriware shop situated opposite to a green domed mosque. My interest in the bidirware came to a hault when I realized that the price is very high.
Golconda: the sultanate
of grand tombs and harems and hammams.
Back to Hyderbad, I took a rickshaw to a very crowded area named Mozamjahi Market, which is not so far from the old city area centered by Charminar. I found Hyderabad very hot, messy and chaotic. I had to understand that hotels are more expensive than in Bujapur and Bidar. I came to know after I had checked in the hotel, that another hotel was far cheaper. What a pity!!
After refreshing with a shower, I took a rickshaw passing a very long distance to Gutub Shahi tombs. The city is really crowded, hot, dusty and messy. It dramatically changed when I arrived at the tombs. The atmosphere was very calm and peaceful. The first tomb amazed me considerably since it is much bigger than I had expected. Actually there are so many tombs altogether. All have the same style and structure. It is really the town of tombs and tombs. I was excited by water ways and fountains. It is also a lover spot where couples enjoy their romance in the peace. There is a deep pond which might serve as a recreational bath. I
entered a museum with curiosity. Photography was allowed. Pictures of each king were displayed inside. Beside the museum, one can see a mortuary hammam. Having read a stone board telling about the hammam, I was excited and rushed inside. It was simple but really interesting. Beside the bath, there is a big fountain. As compare to the tombs in Ashtur, these ones are superb. I observed many muslim couples coming here and enjoying their quality time. Roaming around the tombs, I could see Golconda Fort from far away.
I took another rickshaw to the fort. Getting inside, I was tired by the scene of the grand empire, imagining how I could see each and everything. The sunshine of the late afternoon was not proper for photography, yet I was curious to explore. I walked upwards to the top in search of Islamic architecture. The best part is down low. I saw an oriental empire from the bird eye view and climbed again. I went straight to a large courtyard surrounded by Persian ruined monuments. I didn’t like the fort much since The charm of Islamic architecture is very vague. The light and sound show was good but I was
not much interested.
In conclusion, the tombs are magnificent in Hyderabad while Bidar has great one palaces.
Hyderabad: the city of Minarets
Unexpectedly, it rained torrentially in the morning. The plan to visit Charminar with the sunrise was badly disturbed. However, I enjoyed sleeping instead. The city was flooded with dirty water. I checked at the exact time. Then I rook a rickshaw straight to Charminar. The area was extremely crowded. I didn’t think about climbing up to the upper floor of Charminar because I had to pay an exploiting entry fee. Therefore, I intended to take a photo of Charminar from Mecca Masjid. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to enter with my bag due to the security restriction. I was extremely disappointed and depressed. Without despair, I entered a hospital nearby. From there, I could get a fantastic point of view towards Charminar. Finally, I decided to enter Charminar. Coming to know that I could leave the bag there, I was so delighted. I enjoyed the stucco decoration on Charminar. After sometime, I got inside Mecca Masjid. It was full of pigeons. The structure was quite
simple. The specialty is just the size.
After coming back from the High Court and Osmania Hospital, I took a rest beneath Char minar. I felt the peace among a crowd and chaos.
The Jama Masjid next to Charminar is also architecturally beautiful. It reminded me the Solakhamba mosque in Bidar.
Thus ended the journey of Deccan Sultanates.
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