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The spectacular hill fort at Golconda belonged to the Kakatiyas of Warangal till the 14th century after which it passed to the Bahmanis of Gulbarga. However it rose to prominence only from the 15th century when it became the dynastic capital of the Qutb Shahis, who strongly fortified the citadel and added the religious and military structures seen today. The eastern provinces of the Deccan were ruled from here for almost 200 years. Golconda reached the height of its power in the mid-16th century under Ibrahim Qutb Shah who was also the first great patron of the arts. The greatest achievements in art and architecture however, were during the reign of his successor Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah.

Bala Hissar Gate
This is the main entrance to the fort on the east. It has a pointed arch bordered by rows of scrollwork. The spandrels have yalis and decorated roundels. The space above the door has peacocks with ornate tails flanking an ornamental arched niche. The granite block lintel below has sculpted yalis flanking a disc.

Taramati Masjid
This mosque, just outside the palace area, was used by Qutb Shahi rulers and their nobles. Its facade has three arches, the central arch is higher and slightly projected. Qibla niches in the west wall are surrounded by rows of small arches. Directly below the entrance arches is a basement platform consisting of a series of arched cells.

Fort: East Wall
This section of the fort's boundary wall has an ornate parapet consisting of arches with perforated screens and trefoil crenellations.

Ibrahim's Masjid
This mosque, just below the summit of the fort, has a plain triple-arched facade, leading to vaulted bays. Its parapet has trefoil crenellations followed by a band of rosettes and a row of rectangular screens. This pattern wraps around the slender corner minarets. Just below the dome of the minarets is a circular storey composed of a row of arched cells surmounted by a band of rosettes and trefoil crenellations.

Nagina Bagh
These formal gardens once had Persian-style axial waterways. The complex of vaulted chambers seen behind contains barracks, stores, and other military structures.

Royal Tombs
The tombs of the Qutb Shahis are laid out in a magnificent garden necropolis outside Golconda. This first mausoleum belonging to Sultan Quli is a modest structure with three recessed arches on each side and a hemispherical dome. Like most tombs in the complex, the external finish is in plaster rather than carved stone. However exceptional basalt sculpture and calligraphy is to be found in the mihrabs of mosques, in the mortuary and in cenotaphs inside the tombs. Placed on the wide platform of Sultan Quli's tomb, these polished black cenotaphs are to the relatives of the sultan.

Jamshid Quli
This is the only octagonal, two-storeyed tomb at Golconda. Compared to the tomb of his predecessor, Jamshid's tomb represents an unexpectedly high level of architectural achievement. Each face of the upper storey has arched recesses framing smaller arched openings. The octagonal balustrade, supported by lotus brackets, has a double-band of rosettes. A similarly ornate parapet has domed finals at its eight corners. A line of rosettes also decorate petals at the base of the slightly bulbous dome. The tomb of Subhan Quli, seen on the right, has a rare fluted dome.

Ibrahim Qutb Shah
The double tiers of arched recesses on this tomb is similar to early Bahmani examples at Gulbarga. The trefoil parapet has small domed finials. On the western edge of the tomb platform is a chhatri covering a cenotaph. Its parapet also has trefoil crenellations and corner finials.

Mirza Muhammad
Remains of tilework and stone outlines can be seen around the arches on the upper tier of Ibrahim's tomb. The smaller tomb on the left belongs to Ibrahim's son Mirza Muhammad. Its parapet contains decorated trefoil crenellations and rectangular tile-panels above arched recesses on each facade.

Ibrahim: Tilework
Following their Turkman ancestors the Qutb Shahis were avid patrons of the craft of tilework. Their tombs were once probably covered with multicoloured tilework. Only traces remain of the blue and white tiles that once covered Ibrahim's tomb.

Muhammad Quli
The accession of this sultan represents a more ambitious phase in architecture and sculpture as represented in his tomb. The elaborate upper wall of this tomb has a projecting cornice containing a central band of cut-out rosettes flanked by simple floral bands. Above this is a high parapet with a row of arched recesses topped by a band of rosettes and trefoil crenellations.

Muhammad Quli: Corner Minarets
The corner buttresses and finials of this tomb are extravagantly decorated. The bands of rosettes wrap around the octagonal stone buttresses. The slender minarets above this have geometric designs on their polygonal shafts. In the middle of each side of the tomb is a portico with slender stone columns and brackets.

Abdullah Qutb Shah
This mausoleum, just outside the necropolis, is the last royal tomb to be built in the grand pyramidal style seen first in the tomb of Muhammad Qutb Shah. Raised on a wide platform, the central cenotaph chamber is surrounded by a spacious arcaded gallery with seven openings on each side. This arcade has a battlemented parapet with complex corner finials. The upper storey has five arched recesses on each side with elaborate plaster decoration and multicoloured tilework in the spandrels. The high parapet of this storey has rectangular screens, trefoil crenellations, and corner and intermediate finials. The dome, now almost spherical, has a double layer of petals at the base.

Abandoned Mosque
One of several ruined and abandoned mosques on the rocky field to the north of the complex. This mosque is a simple example of the Qutb Shahi style with three arched entrances and high corner finials connected by a parapet screen.

Toli Masjid
This ornate mosque, situated in the suburb of Karvan about 2 km from the Golconda fort, was built in 1671 by Mir Musa Khan Mahaldar, royal architect of Abdullah Qutb Shah. The facade has five arches, each with lotus medallions in the spandrels. The central arch is slightly wider and more ornate. The interior of the mosque is divided into two halls, a transverse outer hall and an inner hall entered through triple arches.

Toli Masjid: Minarets
The upper half of this mosque is the most ornate of the period. The parapet is composed of a series of arched jali screens, each of a different pattern. Above this runs a row of crenellations punctuated by six finials. The elaborately decorated minarets have three receding tiers of octagonal galleries, the central one raised on a series of deeply recessed, carved mouldings and petals. The minaret shaft is covered with curvilinear patterns. The composition is surmounted by a near-spherical dome and a brass finial.

Patancheru Tombs
This is the mausoleum of Amin Khan, a late 16th-century feudatory of the Qutb Shahis, who ruled in the Patancheru area, about 20 km from Golconda. The massive, though neglected, tomb built in the Qutb Shahi idiom is raised on a spacious square platform. Its onion-shaped dome is raised on a high cylindrical drum, crowned by a row of fully-modeled petals. A smaller more derelict tomb stands nearby.

Patancheru: Wall decoration
Each wall has three arches marked by exuberant foliage decoration at the apex and the lotus medallions in the spandrels. This decoration is most well preserved in the central arch of the south wall where a stone inscription records details of Amin Khan's rule. Above the walls is a parapet of trefoil battlements, punctuated by finials whose shafts are covered with miniature arches.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha