Before being morphed into another bustling mofussil town, Gulbarga was one of the capitals of the Bahmani empire and a prominent centre during the 14th and 15th centuries. Post the Bahmani empire, when the Mughals took over in the 17th century, Gulbarga fell into oblivion and today it remains mostly ignored under the shades of the more popular Bijapur and Bidar. Now rechristened as Kalaburagi, Gulbarga is known for its forts and many Islamic structures spread across the city, most of which are in ruins.
Gulbarga was a short pit stop during my ride from Bijapur to Bidar. Riding through the bustling town, I went past the well kept public garden and the huge Appanna lake to Gulbarga fort. One of the major tourist attractions here, the fort was first built by Warangal king and later fortified during the Bahmani rule. The low rise outer fort walls weren't very impressive but the nicely maintained green space and the tall citadel inside definitely were. The citadel referred to as Balahisar is a huge solid structure in black stone and has numerous chambers. Steps lead to its top which has a huge canon which is more than 25 feet long. The fort is also lined with more canons and 15 bastions apart from a 30 feet deep moat which now is primarily used by cowherds to wash their cattle. Balahisar offers views of the spread out fort which also houses Jamia Masjid, Shah Bazaar mosque, a dargah and a temple. Jamia masjid with its elegant arches and domes is a beautiful structure and one of the earliest mosques in the country built in the 14th century.
I did spot Chor Gumbad from a distance as I rode towards it. Ruined, abandoned and neglected, Chor Gumbad stands lonely amidst wide barren lands. It was built in the 15th century for Hazrat Khwaja Bande Nawaz, but the sufi saint never used it and remained abandoned from then on. It was occupied by robbers later (hence the name Chor Gumbad). With nice Islamic architecture, the structure is one of the prominent ones in Gulbarga, however graffiti by the locals have taken the sheen off it.
Hazrat Khwaja Bande Nawaz Gaisu, the 14th century Sufi saint and scholar who was instrumental in spreading sufism across the deccan rests here. This dargah is quite a well known one with people from all faiths visiting here especially during the annual festival of Urs. Khwaja Bande Nawaz dargah is probably the most popular place to visit in Gulbarga. People at the stalls selling colourful flowers and bangles called out as I nonchalantly walked past them to the dargah. The place was fairly crowded with pilgrims and a couple of travellers. The dargah houses tombs of the sufi saint and his family members. The tomb looks splendid with its rich colours, thin cover of gold and flower petals. Built in Indo- Saracenic architecture with influences from Bahmani and Turkish styles, the dargah has beautiful arches and domes in green and white. Tying threads and praying their heart out, visitors were everywhere in the huge surrounding courtyard. Only men are allowed inside the inner sanctum which houses the tomb of the saint. The dargah also claims to have a huge library with more than 10,000 books on various subjects.
Gulbarga might not be that exuberant attraction on your travel map, but definitely has many heritage sites to satiate the history and heritage buff in you. Clubbing it with Bidar and Bijapur would be an ideal way to explore this jewel of the deccan.
Gulbarga is well connected to all parts of the country via buses and trains. The closest airport is at Hyderabad (212 Kms)
Bijapur- 166 Kms
Bidar- 131 Kms
Accommodation and Food:
Gulbarga is fairly a big town and has many budget and mid range accommodation options. Labaik restaurant outside Khwaja Bande Nawaz dargah offers delicious biriyanis. There are various other restaurants outside the dargah and in the town too.