Golkonda: Home of Diamonds
You will have to visit the Golkonda fort, 10 kilometres west of Hyderabad city, to appreciate the majesty and grandeur of the 800-year-old ruins and the architectural glory of those structures, which have survived the ravage of time and rampage by Mughal vandals. One of the most magnificent fort complexes in the country, Golkonda, meaning shepherd hill, was built consecutively by three dynasties, the Kakatiyas, the Bahmanis and the Qutub Shahis, the major contribution coming from the latter. It betrays the confluence of Hindu and Muslim architectural perceptions of the times. It was the capital of the Bahmani kings first and the Qutub Shahis later for sometime, before they shifted the capital to what is now the old city of Hyderabad. The fort has now become a symbol of the composite cultural heritage of the 400-year-old city.
The fort area on the hill is fenced off by a series of high and broad granite walls built in concentric circles, their defences strengthened by several moats and drawbridges. Legend has it that Golkonda was the centre of a flourishing trade in diamonds and that the world-famous Kohinoor diamond came from this market. The rugged and time-ravaged ruins throw up fleeting evidence of a golden age with Golkonda as its essence. The Qutub Shahis expanded the modest structures built by the Kakatiyas in the thirteenth century into a fortress complex that occupied the entire area of the hill and overflowed into the terrain around it. Its outside wall, around ten miles in length, is designed as a first checkmate to any aggression. The width of the wall ranges from 17 to 34 feet broken by 87 semi-circular bastions, 50 to 60 feet high.
All the four impregnable walls of the fort have huge ornamental wooden doors, opening at the centre with iron spikes driven into them so that elephants of the enemy would baulk at battering them. It took the Qutub Shahis 62 years to build the great fort that was completed in 1525. The complex shows off the incredible engineering and architectural skills, which characterised the golden era of the Qutub Shahis. The acoustics of the fort, its ingenious water supply system based on indigenous genius and the air conditioning of the palaces are the stuff in which historians revel. The fort conceals in its bowels the triumph and tragedy of the Qutub Shahis to whose times the bulk of the fort complex belongs.
The Qutub Shahis ruled from 1512 to 1590 the area known to historians as the Deccan, with Golkonda as their capital, which they later shifted to Hyderabad. The fort is built on a 400-ft. high hill, its highest point occupied by a double-storeyed structure, originally called Tana Shahi ki Gaddi. It is now known as Bala Hisar, which is the inner area marked for palaces.
According to some historians, the Kakatiya kings, part of whose territory Golkonda was, built the nucleus of the complex. It was handed over to Muhammad Shah Bahmani of Gulbarga in 1363 by one of the Kakatiya kings. Some maintain that the fort is 2000 years old and that it is older than the fort at Warangal.
After the death of Muhammad Shah Bahmani, Sultan Quli, who was the subedar of Golkonda under him, declared himself independent, thus founding the Qutub Shahi dynasty in 1518. The Qutub Shahis who ruled Golkonda for 170 years from 1518 to 1687 added to the earlier structures of the Kakatiyas and Bahmanis. Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah found water scarcity in Golkonda an intractable problem and founded a new capital on the banks of the Musi, which is now the old city of Hyderabad. Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah, who preceded Muhammed, repaired and renovated the fort and built a small mosque midway on the steps leading to Bala Hisar.
Most impressive even in ruins, Golkonda houses a number of old buildings, mosques and palaces of historical interest. What once were well laid gardens today are barren and brown bushes. The structures or their vestiges we see today were mostly built in the time of Sultan and Ibrahim Qutub Shahs, the Safa Masjid, the Toli masjid and Kala Chabutara, for instance. It was during Ibrahim Shahs rule that diamond mines were discovered at Kollur on the Krishna River.
Three granite walls of megalithic construction encircle the fort, says Raza Alikhan, author of Hyderabad: 400 Years. Of the several bastions that break the monotony of the wall Petla Burz is the biggest. A Musa Khan, a general of Abdullah Qutub Shah, built the Musa Burz towards the south of the fort to protect the fort from the first Mughal invasion in 1656. At these two bastions are posted the Fateh Rahbar gun and the Azhdaha Paikar gun. On some of these bastions, one can see inscriptions in Telugu, manifesting the interest of the Shahs in local culture. Another bastion known as the Kaghazi burz was entirely made of paper and cloth and was designed to be a camouflage. The idea behind the dummy bastion, a small distance away beyond Musa burz, was to deceive the invaders into thinking that their guns had completely ruined it.
The tourist is bound to marvel at the military architecture and civil engineering works in the fort, which is in the shape of a rhombus surrounded by a glacis. The fort, really a complex of four forts, remained unscathed till a traitor opened the Fateh darwaza for Aurangzebs army to enter. This darwaza is 13 feet wide and 25 feet high and is one of the eight gateways, which are well known. Another important gateway is the Banjara darwaza.
Todays engineers cannot but wonder at the acoustics system of the fort. Even the rustle of leaves at the Fateh darwaza, which is at the lowest level of the fort area, can be heard clearly at the Bala Hisar pavilion on the top of the acropolis. What seems today fun for the tourists was in reality a strategic signalling system to alert the barracks about attempts to attack or sneak into the fort by hostile forces.
The water supply system is no less ingenious. Water was stored in huge cisterns at the foot of the hill and transported upwards through clay pipes to all quarters of the fort. Water was brought to the fort tanks from the Durg tank, which is about five kilometres from the fort. Remnants of the networked clay pipes (which carried water to the upper levels of the fort through the mechanism of a series of Persian wheels) can still be seen as a reminder of the hydrological engineering skills of the day. Water was thus pumped up to the fountains, the royal baths and kitchens in the fort.
At the top of the hill is the much talked about Bala Hisar baradari, a double-storeyed and twelve-arched structure, which is reached after a gasping ascent of 360 steps. This imposing pavilion, known as Tana Shah ki Gaddi originally, is more commonly known as Bala Hisar. Making use of the giant rocks on the hill slopes, one of the Qutub Shahi kings built a wall as a last line of defence, and almost 350 years later, this wall is still in tact. Bala Hisar also houses the temple of Madanna, a senior minister of Abul Hasan Tana Shah. You can also see the small prison where Tana Shah had jailed the great saint Bhadrachala Ramadas for appropriating state funds to build a temple for Rama.
On the terrace of Bala Hisar is a throne carved out of a huge boulder. This is the highest point of the acropolis. As you are about to enter Bala Hisar, two giant arches known as Habshi Kamans greet you. From Bala Hisar, you can see on two faraway hillocks the palaces of Taramati and Premamati, courtesans in the harems of Sultan Muhammed Qutub Shah and Sultan Abdullah. These hillocks are situated on the Osmansagar road.
The fort complex includes the tombs of the Quli Qutub Shahs amidst landscaped gardens, located one kilometre north of the outer wall of Golkonda. Prominent among the buildings outside the fort complex is the Toli masjid; a strikingly elegant structure with five arches heralding the entrance hall and three before you enter the inner hall of the masjid.
The Tourism department of Andhra Pradesh resurrects the history and romance of the kings, princes and queens of the bygone golden era twice a week through a spectacular son et lumiere show. The sounds and sights are recreated conjuring up and animating images of the glory of that period, the saga of Golkonda. The show is presented in both English, Telugu and Hindi. The fort juxtaposes a marvel of yester years with the modern artillery base of the Indian army nearby. Such of what has survived time and vandalism shows that the architecture of the darwazas, the mosques, and their minars matches other great architectural structures in the country.
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