January 6, 2017

Bijapur- Sprinkled with Monuments

Traverse the roads of Bijapur and it takes you on a journey through its history, structures and monuments from the medieval period when the city was at its prime during the rule of Adil Shahi dynasty. Ruled by the Yadavas in the 12th and 13th century, it was taken over by the Adil Shahis in the 14th century turning Vijayapura to Bijapur and converting it into a lovely cosmopolitan city with huge multi- cultural influences. It attracted many artists, poets and scholars from far away lands over the years. By late 17th century Mughals under the rule of Aurangazeb took over the city with constant intrusions from Marathas. After the British established their stronghold over Bijapur, it slowly faded away as most of its monuments lay neglected and in tatters. Even today, the city doesn't seem impressive apart from Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rauza. However, for the discerning traveller, Bijapur is soaked in monumental history, if you have the patience and eye for it.

The crumbling fort wall, citadel, mosques, mausoleums and numerous other structures seem like they have forgotten to move beyond the 18th century. These black stone structures against the red soil further fuels it and gives the city a stillness, a stark contrast to to what it was a few centuries ago. Bijapur more or less seems like a city lost in time lapse.

Gol Gumbaz has always been a popular monument, thanks to our history books in schools. However, it can be quite beguiling at the first glimpse. The structure you see first is the museum and not Gol Gumbaz. Both Gumbaz and museum are so well super imposed that the dome sits perfectly over the roof of the library when seen from the entrance gate. But, as you walk closer, both structures reveal themselves. The archaeological museum has an extensive display of paintings, metal works, bidriware, armours, deccani carpets, stone inscriptions, sculptures and much more.

Just behind the library the impressive Gol Gumbaz stands intimidating with its sheer magnitude. Built in early 17th century, Gol Gumbaz is the largest unsupported dome in India and also the fourth largest in the world. The dome has a diameter of 124 feet and the whole structure stands 198 feet tall. The square base structure is made of granite and has engravings on its outside near its massive front door. The dome has motifs at its base and is made of brick. The well spread out interiors has plain walls and houses the tombs of Mohammed Adil Shah and his family on a raised platform. The four octagonal minarets have numerous arched windows and exquisite architecture on its top. The towers also have narrow spiraling stairs that lead up to the whispering gallery which runs around the dome. It is said that a sound or a clap here reverberates. However, I found it to be eerie with the crowd howling from all corners. The pathway outside the dome offers nice views of the surrounding garden and the expansive Bijapur city.

A short distance away is the huge Jamia masjid, the largest mosque in Bijapur which was built by Ali Adil Shah I to commemorate the victory over Vijayanagara empire. The mosque is known for its gorgeous symmetrical arches and intricate designs which is a testimony to Adil Shahi architecture. It also has an impressive external architecture, a beautiful internal courtyard and a huge dome. The prayer hall has impressive engravings and paintings on display. 

Near Jamia Masjid lies Mehtar mahal, which could be easily missed out. This tall architectural structure has lovely works all over and was a gateway to a mosque. This ornamental structure is nicely tucked away amidst modern staructures and is a fine example of how one can easily miss out on such wonderful monuments when in a hurry.

Opposite Mehtar mahal, the road leads to Asar mahal, built in mid 17th century by Mohammad Adil Shah. Also referred to as Adalat mahal, it earlier served as the royal hall of justice. It also enshrined a sacred hair from the Prophet's beard. 

Bijapur has two forts, inner fort which houses Gagan mahal, Anand mahal etc and the outer fort which goes around the city. The inner fort lies in the centre of the city and its walls can be seen from Asar mahal. Gagan mahal also known as Sky palace has huge arches and is a lone standing structure amidst a garden. It was once an audience hall built in mid 16th century by Ali Adil Shah I and has been witness to many events.

Bara Kamman is an uncompleted wonder which stands tall amidst all the chaos of the city. It was envisioned to be a huge thirteen floor structure, larger than Gol Gumbaz. The expansive arches definitely gives a glimpse of what it was meant to be. However, the death of Ali Adil Shah II brought the construction to a halt. It presently houses his tomb.

When the outer fort was built in mid 16th century, it was strengthened with moats and more than ninety bastions all around, some of which still has been intact with cannons atop. Malik-e-maidan cannon is probably the most popular amongst them. This fifty five tonne cannon made of bell metal is considered to be the largest medieval cannon in the world. The lovely engravings in Arabic and Persian makes it a unique one.

A short walk away lies Upari burj, another tall bastion where a flight of steps lead to its top which houses two cannons. The tower also offers nice views of the city.

Bijapur during its hey days was known for its numerous tanks and fountains . The city still houses many water tanks such as Taj Bawadi, Chand Bawadi, both known for its impressive arches and towers. The water however is quite dirty and the tanks remain neglected.

Jod Gumbaz, a pair of domes were not built by the Adil Shahis. Instead, they were built as a tribute to traitors who helped Aurangazeb defeat the last Adil Shahi ruler. One of the domes is a dargah and there are a few tombs within the complex.

Ibrahim Rouza lying outside the fort walls is definitely the most beautiful frame in Bijapur and the second most popular place of interest after Gol Gumbaz. Set amidst a beautiful garden, this twin domed monument is believed to have inspired the Taj Mahal. Built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the structure on the left is a mausoleum and the other is a mosque, both separated by a water tank. The mausoleum houses the tombs of Ibrahim Adil Shah, his wife, mother, daughter and two sons. This is quite an impressive structure with its magnificent carvings on doors, windows, ceilings, pillars and corridors. The marvelous Persian and Arabic writing along with extensive engravings makes this mausoleum an absolute mesmerizer. The mosque too is a graceful creation with beautiful arches, engravings and stone works on the exterior.

Saat manzil, Jal manzil with lovely architecture, Kareem ud-din mosque which looks similar to a temple and Pasari Kaman with its nice arches are some of the other prominent structures in Bijapur.

Beyond the Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rouza, Bijapur might not evoke enthusiasm for the run of the mill visitor. However, if you are a history and architecture lover, every nook and corner of Bijapur reeks of it.

Travel Tips:

  • Explore the city early in the morning when it is less crowded, especially Gol Gumbaz.
  • Avoid the summers, as the weather can be quite harsh.
  • Bijapur is for the discerning traveller who appreciates even the smallest of carvings or architecture. 


Bijapur lies 525 Kms north of Bengaluru. It is well connected by trains and buses to all major cities in Karnataka. The closest airport is at Hubli (201 Kms).

Food and Accommodation:

Though Bijapur isn't known for any particular cuisine, North Karnataka dishes are easily available at most hotels in the city. There are many budget and mid range stay options within the centre of the city. I stayed at Kanishka International, near Gol Gumbaz which is a mid range hotel.


  1. Lovely description... Your photography is improving Niranjan...

  2. We cherished perusing this excellent piece loaded with intriguing truths, and the photos was quite recently amazing!!..

  3. The monument looks well preserved and of course it looks splendid through your lens!

  4. Very detailed post.i had breezed into Bijapur enroute to Badami, clearly it was not enough. The bara kaman reminded so much of Saat kaman, such similar architecture. This post was great information to be updated.

  5. Wonderfully documented article on Bijapur.


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