Bijapur – The Unsung Glory Of Karnataka

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Bijapur, also known as Vijayapura, is often overlooked by travellers visiting Karnataka since the focus is on bigger cities like Bengaluru. But the truth is that you will be missing out on a lot if you do not visit this historic city, an important town since it was the capital for the Adil Shahi rulers.

Bijapur’s Ibrahim Rouza makes a splendid silhouette against the evening sky

Bijapur’s Ibrahim Rouza makes a splendid silhouette against the evening sky

Located about 530km north of Bengaluru, it is home to fascinating structures that stand testament to its glorious, interesting past. This is why Bijapur often features on the bucket list of architecture and history lovers. However, this fascinating, ancient city offers a little something for every visitor. Here are some interesting facts about Bijapur that give the city its intriguing quality.

#1 Bijapur – Legendary Timeline In History

A painting depicting Bijapur’s Sultan Ali Adil Shah II

A painting depicting Bijapur’s Sultan Ali Adil Shah II

Established between the 10th and 11th centuries by the Kalyani Chalukyas, Bijapur underwent a several changes under many different dynasties. When the Bahmani Sultanate broke into splinter states in 1518, Bijapur came to the Adil Shahi Dynasty, under whom the city expanded and flourished. Interestingly, the Adil Shahi kings employed Indian craftsmen to work on the monuments, which was a deviation from the practice of Muslim rulers employing Persian architects and workers.

Their rule came to an end in 1686 when the city was conquered by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. In 1724, the Nizam of Hyderabad annexed the Deccan region, including Bijapur, and ruled here until the Marathas took over in 1760. In 1818, the British grabbed Bijapur after it won the Third Anglo-Maratha War, assigning the city to Satara, a princely Maratha state. Finally, the city was included in the state of Karnataka in 1956.

#2 The Make Of The City – Bijapur, Karnataka

The Asar Mahal, behind which the remains of the citadel are still visible

The Asar Mahal, behind which the remains of the citadel are still visible

Another interesting fact about Bijapur is its layout. Unlike many other Indian cities, the Adil Shahi rulers divided Bijapur into three separate parts – the fort, the citadel, and the city. While the citadel was surrounded by a 100-yard ditch, the fort itself was a magnificent structure with various gateways, 96 huge bastions, and a 15-metre-high wall designed to keep enemies at bay. The city lay outside the massive walls, where most of the mosques, tombs, and other historic monuments were built. Although much of it is in ruins today, there are still places where visitors can experience the grandeur once Bijapur boasted of.

#3 Bijapur’s Fascinating Attractions

Its rich past and continued importance over different dynasties and periods has left Bijapur with many places of historic and architectural interest. While it may not be possible to cover everything in one visit, here are some iconic sites you should not miss.

The Gol Gumbaz, a Bijapur landmark and a top tourist draw

The Gol Gumbaz, a Bijapur landmark and a top tourist draw

Gol Gumbaz: The world’s second-largest tomb, the Gol Gumbaz was constructed in the 17th century. This monument, made of dark grey basalt in the Deccan Indo-Islamic architectural style, is the tomb of Mohammed Adil Shah. The Whispering Gallery here is an acoustic wonder, which echoes even the faintest sound to about 37 metres.

Jumma Masjid: Among the first ones in India, the marvellous Jumma Masjid mosque is known for its highly proportionate dome. At 1,16,300 sq ft, this is also among the largest mosques in the Deccan region.

Malik-e-Maidan: Housed within Bijapur Fort, this place is home to one of the biggest medieval cannons worldwide. The 55-ton weapon would turn 180º back in the day and it took 100 men, 10 elephants and 400 oxen to set it in place.

Mehtar Mahal: It may just be an ornamental gateway to a mosque, but Mehtar Mahal is a stunning sight in itself. It features the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and a flat stone roof, with delicately carved stone brackets that have puzzled engineers for years.

#4 The Birthplace Of Lingayatism

Nandi (the bull) and the Shiva Linga, symbols associated with Lord Shiva

Nandi (the bull) and the Shiva Linga, symbols associated with Lord Shiva

Apart from its rich Islamic heritage, Bijapur is also known for being the birthplace of Karnataka’s Lingayatism. A majority of the city’s population, called Lingayats, follow the Shaivite faith and the community constitutes about 25% of the state’s total population. Like Hindus, the Lingayats do not believe in karma, reincarnation, caste system, and the worship of multiple deities. Instead, they worship the Hindu God Shiva as a universal God and wear the “Linga” (Shiva’s phallic symbol) around their neck.

#5 The Kannada Kokila – Amirbai Karnataki

Amirbai Karnataki’s singing found fans across the nation

Amirbai Karnataki’s singing found fans across the nation

Bijapur also has a rich cultural history; the Adil Shahi rulers were patrons of good music and theatre. One famous name associated with the city is that of Amirbai Karnataki, a talented pioneer of playback singing and acting at a time when it was not commonplace for women to make a name in such fields. Born into a middle-class family in Bijapur, Amirbai Karnataki was famous before India’s independence, and even Mahatma Gandhi was counted among her fans. Today, there is a movie theatre called ‘Amir Talkies’ in Bijapur that still operates to honour her work.

Come, uncover all this and more such interesting facts about Bijapur with the Deccan Odyssey.

Published on: Jun 16, 2017

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