Golconda Fort: Architectural and Acoustic wonder in Hyderabad

Submitted by Lisha on Sun, 12/12/2010 - 16:40

 

In the 16th century, Golkonda was the capital and fortress city of the QutbShahi kingdom, near Hyderabad. The city was home to one of the most powerful Muslim sultanates in the region and was the center of a flourishing diamond trade. According to a legend, the fort derives its name from GollaKonda, which is a Telugu word for Shepherd's Hill. It is believed that a shepherd boy came across an idol on the hill. This led to the construction of a mud fort by the then Kakatiya dynasty ruler of the kingdom around the site.

The city and fortress are built on a granite hill that is 120 meters (400 ft) high and is surrounded by massive crenelated ramparts. The beginnings of the fort date to 1143, when the Hindu Kakatiya dynasty ruled the area. The Kakatiya dynasty was followed by the state of Warangal, which was later conquered by the Islamic Bahmani Sultanat. The fort became the capital of a major province in the Sultanate and after its collapse it became the capital of the QutbShahi kings. The fort finally fell into ruins after a siege and its fall to Mughal emperor Aurangazeb.

After the collapse of the Bahmani Sultanat, Golkonda rose to prominence as the seat of the QutbShahi dynasty around 1507. Over a period of 62 years the mud fort was expanded by the first three QutbShahi kings into a massive fort of granite, extending around 5 km in circumference. It remained the capital of the QutbShahi dynasty until 1590 when the capital was shifted to Hyderabad. The QutbShahis expanded the fort, whose 7 km outer wall enclosed the city. The state became a focal point for Shia Islam in India, for instance in the 17th century Bahraini clerics, Sheikh Ja`far bin Kamal al-Din and Sheikh Salih Al-Karzakani both emigrated to Golkonda.

The QutbShahi sultanate lasted until its conquest by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1687. The fortress held out against Aurangzeb for nine months, falling to the Mughals through treachery. Kancharla Gopanna, popularly known as Bhaktha Ramadaasu, a devout Hindu who constructed Bhadrachalm temple without informing the sultan at that time Tana Shah, was kept in a jail located inside the fort.

The most important builder of Golkonda was Ibrahim QuliQutb Shah Wali, the fourth Qutb king. Ibrahim was following in the spirit of his ancestors, the QutubShahi kings, a great family of builders who had ruled the kingdom of Golkonda from 1512. Their first capital, the fortress citadel of Golkonda, was rebuilt for defense from invading Mughals from the north. Golkonda consists of four distinct forts with a 10 km long outer wall with 87 semicircular bastions (some still mounted with cannons), eight gateways, and four drawbridges, with a number of royal apartments & halls, temples, mosques, magazines, stables, etc. inside. The lowest of these is the outermost enclosure into which we enter by the "Fateh Darwaza" (Victory gate, so called after Aurangzeb’s triumphant army marched in through this gate) studded with giant iron spikes (to prevent elephants from battering them down) near the south-eastern corner. At Fateh Darwaza can be experienced a fantastic acoustic effect, characteristic of the engineering marvels at Golkonda. A hand clap at a certain point below the dome at the entrance reverberates and can be heard clearly at the 'Bala Hisar' pavilion, the highest point almost a kilometre away. This worked as a warning note to the royals in case of an attack.

The graceful gardens of the fort may have lost their fragrance, for which they were known 400 years ago, yet a walk in these former gardens should be in your schedule when exploring the past glories of Golconda Fort.

Bala Hissar Gate is the main entrance to the fort located on the eastern side. It has a pointed arch bordered by rows of scroll work. The spandrels have yalis and decorated roundels. The area above the door has peacocks with ornate tails flanking an ornamental arched niche. The granite block lintel below has sculpted yalis flanking a disc. The design of peacocks and lions is a blend of Hindu - Muslim architecture.

Toli Masjid, situated at Karwan, about 2 km from the Golkonda fort, was built in 1671 by Mir Musa Khan Mahaldar, royal architect of Abdullah Qutb Shah. The facade consists of five arches, each with lotus medallions in the spandrels. It is here that the saying “Walls have ears” can be seen. Any whispering in the chamber was easily carried to the chambers above which have now been ruined. The central arch is slightly wider and more ornate. The mosque inside is divided into two halls, a transverse outer hall and an inner hall entered through triple arches. At the end of the corridor there is the King’s Durbar where the King’s men and the Courtiers gathered to give judgement for the accused. The chamber acoustics is such that any noise from the movement of clothes to attack the King or people is echoed multiple times.

It is believed that there is a secret underground tunnel that leads from the "Durbar Hall" and ends in one of the palaces at the foot of the hill. The fort also contains the tombs of the QutubShahi kings. These tombs have Islamic architecture and are located about 1 km north of the outer wall of Golconda. They are encircled by beautiful gardens and numerous exquisitely carved stones. It is also believed that there was a secret tunnel to Charminar.

The two individual pavilions on the outer side of Golconda are also major attractions of the fort. It is built on a point which is quite rocky. The "Kala Mandir" is also located in the fort. It can be seen from the king's durbar (king's court) which was on top of the Golconda Fort.

This majestic structure has beautiful palaces and an ingenious water supply system. The Queens’ chambers had no mirrors or so but a water pit. It was believed that looking into the mirror repeatedly would increase dark spots on the skin of the Queens. Thus water pit was used to look at the images. Sadly, the unique architecture of the fort is now losing its charm. The ventilation of the fort is absolutely fabulous having exotic designs. They were so intricately designed that cool breeze could reach the interiors of the fort, providing a respite from the heat of summer.