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Fortifications at Bidar date from the late 14th century when it became the capital of the later Bahmanis. Massive fort walls encompass the city as well as a citadel at the north. The citadel has spectacular gateways and ruins of palaces and mosques on a promontory that falls sharply to plains on the north and east. Recent excavations have shown that the palace area was in use from Chalukya times.

Sharza Gate
The south-east entrance to the fort has a sequence of three gates. The door with metal spikes on the left belongs to the first gate. The Sharza gate is next, so-called because of the sculpted basalt lions on the arched entrance. The parapet above this has a band of coloured tiles.

Sharza Gate
A small dome above the Sharza Gate entrance has slender minarets and the parapet is crenellated. Several sets of unaligned stairs lead to platforms, guard rooms and balconies at various levels. A window on the right has a triple arch with a carved stone screens.

Gumbad Gate
This innermost entrance gate has an imposing facade composed of a high, pointed arch. Above this is a crenellated parapet flanked by domed turrets. A large flattish dome rises behind this, an unusual feature for a fort entrance. The gravel path leading to it, flanked by battlements, traverses the inner moat.

Fort Walls
The south walls of the fort that flank the Gumbad gate form a second inner layer of fortification. They are shielded by a moat composed of three rock-cut trenches, said to have had crocodile infested waters.

Rangin Mahal
This palace, immediately within the Gumbad Gate is one of the best preserved. It dates mainly from the rule of Ali Barid Shah in the mid-16th century. A six-bay hall of carved wood columns forms a rectangular foyer. The columns have elaborate capitals and intricately carved brackets. Entrances to the inner rooms have a frame of multicoloured tilework with Koranic verses above the entrance arch. The inner chambers have more tilework and mother-of-pearl inlay work, mainly around the entrances, and on a panel along the base of the walls.

Tarkash Mahal
An open space just outside the Rangin Mahal has an arcade on one side. An entrance with triple arches, flanked by arched recesses, leads to a courtyard in the second, ruined palace, the Tarkash Mahal. The dome of the Gumbad gate can be seen on the left.

Solah Khamba
This mosque served as the principal place of worship within the fort. It was founded in the early 14th century during the Tughlak occupation of Bidar but was extended later. Its facade consists of a long row of arched openings above which the parapet of interlocking battlements is a Bahmani addition. Its flattish central dome is raised on a drum with with trefoil crenellations. The masjid stands in a separate walled garden, Lalbagh. Waterways in the garden led from the Tarkash Mahal at the south to a royal bath at the north.

Solah Khamba: Prayer Hall
This is one of the five bays into which the long prayer hall is divided. The outer square columns and inner circular columns have petalled elements at the top of the shafts. They carry flattish domes on faceted pendentives, forming an arcade of receding arches.

Diwan-i Am
This impressive palace, now ruined, is a short distance west of the Solah Khamba Masjid. It was the ceremonial focus of the Bahmani and Barid Shahi rulers. The large rectangular court seen here once had timber columns of which only the granite bases remain. Some of the chambers opening off the hall have remains of tilework and geometric floor-patterns. The east wall seen here has a high parapet of trefoil crenellations. Arched openings below the parapet have pierced stone screens, each of a different design.

Takht Mahal
This Throne Palace at the west end of the Fort is where the Bidar rulers held private audience. It has a columned hall facing north onto a rectangular court. Steps to the west of the courtyard lead to various rooms with complicated plans. Some have remains of granite columns.

Takht Mahal: Throne Room
This chamber is identified as the throne room. The circular stone steps on the right lead to a small entrance at the base of a high arched recess with a markedly pointed profile. It is flanked by double tiers of rectangular panels containing similar pointed arches. All the arches and panels are outlined by strips of basalt. Hexagonal panels in the spandrels of the main arch once depicted royal tiger and sun emblems.

Mahmud Gawan Madrasa
The builder of this grandiose madrasa was the prime-minister of the Bahmani empire in the late 15th century. He became powerful through military campaigns, administrative reform, and a policy of balancing rival factions in the Bahmani court. The madrasa however, built to reaffirm Shiism as the state religion, is clearly modeled on contemporary central Asian buildings. Its principal east facade, now partly ruined, faces the city's main street leading to the citadel. An imposing minaret is in three stages separated by cantilevered balconies and surmounted by a dome. The minaret and fašade walls were once covered with blue and white tiles, with traces of yellow and green.

Mahmud Gawan Madrasa: Central Courtyard
Arched portals on each side lead to this square, central courtyard with a small tank at the centre. Triple tiers of arched openings on either side of the portals lead to teaching chambers and the library. An octagonal tower at the centre of each wall marks an entrance. It is surmounted by a bulbous dome raised on an octagonal drum. Several desolate graves lie in the surrounding field.

Barid Shahi Tombs
Towards the beginning of the 15th century, a new line of rulers, the Baridis gained control of the territory around Bidar. Their tombs stand is a necropolis just west of the city walls. The tomb seen here on the right is of Khan Jahan, brother of Amir I, the second Baridi sultan. It stands on a high platform in the middle of the walled garden which has elaborate walkways and water channels. The tomb walls have two tiers of double arches decorated with incised plasterwork. The panel above central arch has three symmetrical diagonal squares. The flattish dome rises above a high parapet with corner finials. The simple structure on the left, called Barber's tomb has a dome raised on an unusually high, octagonal neck.

Ali Barid Shah
This ruler was an active patron of architecture. His tomb is considered the masterpiece of Barid Shahi architecture. It stands on a high platform accessed by stairs on all four sides. The tomb chamber has high, arched openings flanked by double tiers of arched recesses. Strips of grey-green basalt outline the arches, tassels, and wall edges. The south-west corner of the platform has several rows of graves. A Persian style char-bagh once surrounded the tomb of which only fragments of enclosure walls and entrance portals remain.

Ali Barid Shah
The five horizontal bands above the arched facades were intended for coloured tilework. The parapet and the base of the massive dome are elaborately treated with trefoil elements. The inside walls of the tomb have double tiers of arched recesses flanking each entrance. Here some tilework remains, adorning the arch tassels, apex, and the rows of horizontal bands above the arches. A continuous band at the top of the walls is also filled with tilework and calligraphy.

Ali Shah: Mosque
This mosque is in a separate compound to the south-west of Ali Shah's tomb. Its fašade has three cascading arches surrounded by intricate plasterwork. The pierced parapet has interlocking battlements. A building on the left has a similar but plain fašade. Narrow stairs on its sides lead to a terrace. The steps seen in the front belong to a water-tank.

Ali Shah: Gateway
This two-storeyed entrance gateway is to the south of Ali Shah's tomb. The gateway has double tiers of wide arches, three in each story. A row of diagonal squares runs just below the crenellated parapet. The arch above the entrance has an inset of a triple arched window, while flanking arches have a single window at the centre.

Qasim Barid II
This tomb built in the late 16th century reverts to the earlier scheme of double tiers of arched recesses flanking the central high arch. All arches have sharply defined flower motifs at the apex and roundels in the spandrel. Small arched recesses are also positioned along walls of entrance way. The parapet has trefoil crenellations while the dome is raised on a drum with a row of arched recesses.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha