Tag Archives: Forts

Bidar : a journey in time

           Bidar,  a region in Deccan, India, the old Viduranagara of Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. In ancient times it was under the Mauryan rule in 3rd century B.C; Bidar saw many rulers after that; the Satavahanas, Chalukyas of Kalyani, Rashtrakutas, Kalachuris, rulers from Devagiri and the Kakatiyas of Warangal. The Sultanate rulers controlled the region of the Deccan and Bidar came under the same when Ulugh Khan (who later became Mohammad bin-Tughlaq) annexed many parts of the Deccan. He might have built a small but strong fort in 1322. Around the mid 14th century, the Sultanate rulers’ Deccan chiefs rebelled and new rulers; the Bahamanis took over the region.

Bahmani Sultanate

     Bidar is majorly associated with the Bahmanis and the Baridis. They ruled from Bidar at different points of time. The Bahmani dynasty was established in 1347. Its first Sultan had made Gulbarga his capital. Later during the rule of Ahmad Shah, Bidar became the capital. The old fort got a total makeover and palaces, mosques, gardens and a great madrasa was built. The madrasa was established by Mahmud Gawan, prime minister in 1466;  an important figure in Bidar’s history. The Bahmani kingdom disintegrated into 5 kingdoms and the Barid Shahi was one of them. The Barid Shahis ruled the region upto 1619 when the Bijapur Sultans captured Bidar. In 1656 Aurangzeb took it from the Adil Shahis of Bijapur; thus it came under the Mughals. In 1724 it became part of the Asaf Jahi kingdom of the Nizam. The Indian Union was formed after independence from  British rule and now it is in Karnataka state of India.

  A journey through Bidar is a walk through history, a rediscovering of the times when the fort might have buzzed with activity. When the Sultans ruled Bidar, of the times when cannons were used, poetry in Persian was written, few sultans being poets themselves. The Fort with the Tarkash Mahal, the Takht Mahal, the Rangeen Mahal and Mahmud Gawan’s madrasa. Remains are still there. Of enchanting blue-green mosaic tile work, of inscriptions and mother-of-pearl inlays. The beautiful architecture with arches, the gardens, the calligraphy, the stucco, the arabesque designs and the Barid Shahi necropolis with tombs. The rulers supported and encouraged the craft of Bidri; silver, bronze or gold work on a metal alloy of zinc, lead and copper. The scholars at the Sultan Ali Barid Shah’s courts brought the 12th century Persian mystic-poet Fariduddin’s (Attar) work to Bidar.

’All things are but masks at God’s beck and call,

They are symbols that instruct us that God is all’’


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    The monuments at Bidar have been standing as a testament to the times of the Sultans reflecting opulence in architecture and design. The Bidar Fort on the edge of the plateau shows Persian influence  which has seven gates ( in addition to the main gate) and 37 bastions. The Mandu darwaza, Kalmadgi darwaza, Delhi darwaza, Kayani darwaza, Carnatic darwaza; two gates have no names. The bastions are massive round, ocatgonal or square in shape. The fort complex had many palaces and the mosque. On the southern side the city was built for the general public.

Sultan Ali Barid Shah I

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Entrance gate, Bidar Fort.

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Bastion, Bidar Fort complex, Bidar.  

    On entering the fort complex there are lawn-gardens and cisterns; the Lal Bagh has an ornate cistern with a fountain.

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Cistern with fountain, Bidar Fort complex, Bidar.

   The city of Bidar has a unique water supply system called karez or qanat. A water harnessing technique orginally from Persian and brought to the Decccan by the Bahmani Sultans. It consists of network of undeground canals with vertical shafts at different points.  It taps into the ground water and transports through the canals ending in a pool for public access and the garrison which had been inside the fort. The system has 21 vertical shafts and extends to 2 kilometres. The fort has a triple moat.

Gagan Mahal : Originally built by the Bahmani kings and additions made by the Barid Shahi Sultans, it has two courts used by guards. The main building was used by the Sultan and his harem.


Gagan Mahal, Bidar Fort.

Solah Khamba Masjid :  a mosque with sixteen pillars or solah sutoon ki masjid was built under Sultan Ahmad Shah ali Bahmani’s son Prince Muhammad’s viceregal period. Also called zenana masjid having columns, arches and domes. Adjoining the Lal Bagh the building has a long front of 310 feet from the north to the south. The dome above a central hall, has windows of ornate jaali work around.

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Solah Khamba Masjid, Bidar Fort.

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Bidar Fort view.

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Ornate stucco, Bidar Fort.

Rangeen Mahal : meaning coloured palace; it has coloured tile work and wood carvings. Also mother-of-pearl inlay on black stone. There is also ornate stucco and stone carvings.The access to the palace is by a flight of steps and after passing through few rooms the palace interior can be reached.

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Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Calligraphy as fresco work, Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Mother-of-pearl inlay work, Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Ceiling design, Rangeen Mahal, Bidar Fort.

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Stucco work, Bidar Fort.

Tarkash Mahal : …….this palace was built for the Turkish queen of the Sultan, originally begun being built by the Bahmani kings, the upper parts are of the Baridi period, built by the Barid Shahis who had large harems.

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Tarkash Mahal , Bidar Fort.

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Arched niches, Bidar Fort.

Takht Mahal :  This was the Royal Throne palace built by Ahmad Shah Bhamani where the Sultan resided and coronations took place. It has coloured tiles ans tone carvings. There are two royal pavillions and a large hall behind which was the Sultan’s chamber. This building was previously called Dar-ul-Imara or Government House.

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Takht Mahal,  Bidar Fort.

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Diwani-i-aam or audience hall, Bidar Fort.

  Mahmud Gawan Madrasa:  Built by the vazir or prime minister  Mahmud Gawan in late 15th century. He had set up a University, a centre of learningt with alibrary of 3000 manuscripts.The architecture is very similar to the Madarasa of Khardgird near Masshed, Iran.

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Mahmud Gawan Madrasa, Bidar.


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Tomb of Sultan Ali Barid, Bidar.


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Calligraphy in Tomb of Ali Barid Shah, Bidar.

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Tomb of Khan Jahan, brother of Amir I, second Barid Shahi Sultan, Barid Shahi Garden, Bidar.

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Tomb of Sultan Qasim Barid, Bidar.

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Bahmani tombs at Ashtur, Bidar.

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Tomb of Sultan Ahmad Shah Wali Bahmani, Bidar.

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Chaukhandi, tomb of Hazrat Khalil-Ullah, Bidar.

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Tombs at sunset, Bidar.

        Bidar is home to many more monuments; the chaubara, a tall cylindrical tower of 71 feet, used as a watch tower, a winding staircase leading to the top from where the plateau can be seen. Also the Diwan-i-aam, the tomb of Sultan Humayun, the Kali Masjid, the tombs of Hazrat Abu-’l-Faid, Hazrat Makhdoom Qadiri,Hazrat Sayyid-us-Sadat, the Takht-i-Kirmani, the Dulhan Darwaza, the Talghat Darwaza, mosques adjoining few monuments, the Farh Bagh and the Habshi Kot.


References :

  1. Bidar : its history and its monuments/Yazdani, Ghulam, London: Oxford University Press, 1947.
  2. Wikipedia.org
  3. https://blogvirasatehind.com/2016/09/30/tile-work-at-bidar-a-touch-of-persia/
  4. Images from Wiki commons



Posted by :

Soma Ghosh


Symbol of the trinity : panel in Gwalior fort

            Art is an expression of the human spirit and depicts both sensory and abstract feelings. Art and religion are frequently inter-woven by time, experience and content. Religion finds artistic expression in sculpture,painting and architecture. in India, religion underlies many aspects of human life. Religious worship is an activity to appease powers beyond human control. It is a surrender to existence and a contemplation of the divine, from which arises peace and trust.

    Indian art borrows heavily from religion and through visual form many aspects of the Indian deities like Shiva, Vishnu,Brahma,Buddha, Mahavira have been depicted. Art in India exists from prehistoric times to the present day. It can be found manifest on temples, stupas, chaityas, viharas,sculpture,metal icons, paintings,terracottas,wall paintings,pottery,textiles and jewellery.

     Representation of deities in art is done in interesting ways. symbols and their language has been used for decoration but can also depict the divine. Symbols are used to represent nature, deities and to communicate ideas. Symbols can be used to convey abstractness and myths.

     An excellent symbolic representation can be seen in the famous fort of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. The fort at Gwalior has a long history. It stands at 300 feet above the plain lands on Gopachal Hill; it is believed to have been King Suraj Sen of the Kacchhappa dynasty who was cured of leprosy by being directed to a pond by Sage Gwalip after whom the town is named. The King enlarged the water body for common benefit. Gwalior fort is a solid structure, massive, spectacular and very impressive. The fort consists of Badal Mahal, Jehangir Mahal, many gates,water sources including Surajkund, Jauhar taal, Mansarovar,Rani Taal, and Cheri taal. A gurudwara has also been built where the 6th  Sikh guru Hargovind used to meditate.


Pic : Soma Ghosh

       Man Mandir is however the most awesome  in the entire fort of Gwalior. Emperor Babur visited this palace in 1528. The entrance to the palace is Hathi por, made of four pillars supporting a dome. Two towers flank the entrance mounted by domes. The Man Mandir is the palace of the king which also housed the attendants.

The Maharaja of Gwalior entering his palace,1887.

By Edwin Lord Weeks – http://hoocher.com/Edwin_Lord_Weeks/Edwin_Lord_Weeks.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18647256

        Inside the palace are courtyards in square shape. To the west of the first is a dance and music hall. On the east is a living room which opens to the inner courtyard. This is large and to its east  and west are the rooms for royalty. From the courtyards staircases go downwards to lower rooms. This palace has beautiful pillars,screen work, ornate ceilings, inlay work,coloured tiles and brackets. The pillars in the first courtyard are placed in four tiers divided into four segments from base to the abacus. The inner courtyard is the larger one and two panels of false screen work exist on the northern and southern side. The false screenwork/panel  in the shape of a chakra is very symbolic and representative from a Hindu point of view of the cosmos. These panels on either sides of the pillars are very interesting and the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is represented here.

     At the centre of the chakra is a lotus which is a symbol of the Brahma, the creator. The lotus also suggests expansion of the soul,rooted in infinite reality and represents concept of primordial birth from the cosmic waters of creation. As per Hindu philosophy the universe or cosmos is always in flux, constantly changing. it is created, maintained and destroyed and created again. The chakra motif which is used can also be understood to refer to the cycles of time.IMG_20151206_155520

Pic : Soma Ghosh

       Vishnu who is also called Padmanabha is believed to rest on the eternal ocean and out of his navel comes out Lord Brahma who takes up creation. It is said that Shiva takes up the duty of destruction at the end of eras or epochs. in this panel Vishnu is seen as a symbol resembling the Srivatsa present in concentric circles in spaces between the lattice surrounding the lotus. Srivatsa is a symbol on the chest of the Vishnu believed to have been created by the blow of Shiva’s trident (trishul) or by the wet hand of sage Bharadwaja. This symbol has been seen in caves, cave inscriptions, stupas,terracottas, seals, pottery and coins. Srivatsa is thus an auspicious mark which also occurs on the chest of Jain Tirthankaras. It has been used as a decorative element from Sunga period.

          In this panel the trident is represented in four concentric circles in triangular shapes to represent Shiva.They are found in circles after the Srivatsa shapes as ejecting triangles. This design with cosmic annotations thus captures the paradigm of the universe. Cosmic reality thus portrayed in Hinduism with the Trimurti principle gets depicted and by looking and meditating on this, one can sense a oneness with self and creation!


  • Gwalior Fort : art, culture and history, Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty, 1984,New Delhi: Arnold Heinemann.
  • History of the fortress of Gwalior,Srimant Balwantrao  Scindia,1891, Byculla: Education Society Press.
  • The dance of Shiva, Ananda Coomaraswamy, 1924 New York: Sunwise Torn-Inc.


Posted by :

Soma Ghosh




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