The reddish-brown haze kicked up from the lateritic soil hung over a dry tree. The swirling breeze made it drift helping it to meet the warm southern winds that swooped low across the bastions of the sprawling Bidar fort. The fast-spreading air mix created a golden brown dusty glow through which we saw one of the seven entrances as our Wagon R rolled on a hump and rumbled over the rough terrain.
We had entered the five hundred plus years old fort complex. What I saw through the windshield stood years at the same spot as it did now.
The mortar and stone fort under the blue sky looked blackened and battered by nature. These silent ruins had seen horses and warriors as they were seeing our car and us. I stood nowhere in terms of experience and age beside these ancient structures. It had seen the rise and fall of dynasties, it had seen love and happiness among the prince and princesses.
It had witnessed the innocent and childish calls of children playing with their peers and parents and it had also seen how the swords met and helped the human vociferous greed to annex power.
From the history itself, it was evident that we were driving over some of the bloodiest battlefields which were ruled by supremacy over the ages. The very thought made my ears warm with nervous elation.
We cleared the gate next to a series of buildings with arched entrances that belonged to a stony building known as the Tarkash Mahal.
The structures in front were huge. They were made of large bricks made of stones. Now broken and derelict, these edifices held years back, the laughter and smiles of men, and women who belonged to the Bahamani dynasty. We planned to visit a couple of monuments that were confined within the fort.
Most of them were in fragments and lay in ruins littered all around. Based on the account from our guide, Jamail, the fort of Bidar had its foundation under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Bahman, sometime in the year 1429 AD. The fort changed hands several times from the Bahamanis to Mughals and finally now rests with the Archaeological Survey of India in the northeastern spec of the state of Karnataka, India. The road through which we drove was one of a kind, combination of sand and rock debris making a hissing sound as the car tires pushed through them.
Surprisingly smooth at places and flanked by open spaces riddled with the red laterite soil. The broken pieces of the tall rooms and parapets could be seen. Tarkash was built as the living quarters for the Turkish wives of the sultans or kings of Bahamani.
We walked into them but was inaccessible due to its ruined state. Traces of stucco work and tiles were barely visible.
The fort is not very tall but had a flat wide base spreading across an expansive area. Broken stone and rock faces adorned the fort walls. The ramparts were quite broad and Bidar fort has three morts all around or adjoining channels that remained filled with water in its hey days and acted as the first line of defense against the intruders.
The Gagan Mahal lay what looked like on the western phase of the ground. Historical account claims that this was erected by the Bahamani kings, however; the Baridi Shahi rulers are known to have changed the configuration of the building at least what Jamail told us.
The entire building that stretched several meters exuded a strong foundation laced with grace. Two courts existed with the outer court were perhaps controlled by the palace sentinels.
The court which existed inside the palace belonged to the women of the royal dynasty.
We came out from the Gagan Mahal and walked back to our parked car. An old well stood beside a very strongly built stone structure. It was flat and I have tried to zoom in to capture the stone bricks that were used. I am quite certain that an earthquake of an eight plus magnitude hammering for ten minutes may possibly dislodge a brick from it.
I touched the robustness and a shiver ran through my spine.
We learned that these were used to keep long-distance horses. The well was built and perhaps fed with ground water using the Persian technology known as the “Karez“ system of the bygone era.
We walked towards the central section of the fort, climbed the steps, followed our guide and came across series of rooms with a courtyard in front. The sheer beauty of the place decidedly took our breath away. The extraordinary ornate work that embellished the walls and the ceiling were brilliant.
We were looking at the exceptional beauty of the Rangeen Mahal.
According to Jamail, the palace what we saw was constructed by Mahmud Shah Bahamani. Ali Barid Shah, much later applied craftsmanship of extreme proportions. Ornamented walls and wood carvings were nothing less than a feast for the eyes. I kept on looking at them and thought about the creativity that enshrouded every molecule of this fort.
The slanted roof was supported by wooden pillars and the wooden engravings were at their best. Shall we take a short preview of the gallant work through the eye of the lens?
Even the wooden pillars had intricately curved engraved brackets. I wondered the superb skills of the masons and artists of that era. No computers, no modern tools existed yet the consistent and proportionate sections of wood, tiles, and stone emanated both extreme engineering and splendor. How on earth they were able to achieve such fine artwork.
Coloured tiles glinted as the sun rays painted them with yellow light. The beauty was in abundance from every corner.
A couple of decorated fountains lay in the courtyard. The ladies of the royalty with the help of their maids may have spent hours bathing and applying face paints to look their best when the kings and sultans approached these quarters after a battle to soothe their ruffled and flying tempers.
Our faces took on a melancholy filled demeanor as we slowly left the Rangeen Mahal and made our way towards the car to explore the western and southwestern portions of the fort.
Serrated and uneven walls bordered the fort perimeter. The way the broken pieces rested on the ground, it was quite evident that these were blown away by cannon fire. The pieces lay dismembered over a large area as if they were blasted out. The rocky bed had taken on a mantle of low grass that formed a velvet cover over the coarse rock.
Red, traces of yellow, white and brown contrasted well under the azure sky above speckled with fluffy white clouds. It had a phenomenal impact. At times, when we sniffed the air, there was a note of earthy smell mixed with that unmistakable whiff of gunpowder.
Perhaps our imaginations ran wild; however, the environment in which we were present had all the recipe of a fort under seize.
I managed to walk or rather climbed on to the parapets and somehow supporting myself, looked at the setting below. A globular structure made of red bricks with a flat top and serrated sections juxtaposed with another end of the fort. The openings faced the road beyond.
It was this place where the canons were kept at an angle, ready to be loaded for unleashing firepower at the enemy. A narrow road within the fort ran skirting the inner walls and turned away to its left and disappeared under a heap of rocky buildings.
Vegetation and tree cover were rampant. They had grown at will after the maintenance born out of harsh discipline had ceased after the demise of the fort rulers.
We came down and entered the southern section. We had a glimpse of the old armory that fed the multitude of cannons that sprouted through the openings within the walls. None of them could be seen but the elevated squares built of hard rock told the story where the gunpowder and the metals clashed.
We had reached the southern frontier of the Bidar fort. All that was present were buildings, perhaps living quarters or storage of some sort. Broken and disheveled beyond recognition. Unfortunately, there was no mention of these by way of metal placards as we had seen in few other vantage points. Our guide eventually told us that these were living quarters for the kings during the summer months. The southerly winds wafted through the tall arched openings.
The high roof standing close to thirty or forty feet made the inner chambers cooler than the rocky ground in which they existed. This was Deccan we were trudging. Summers are furnaces.
We had reached the farthest point of the Bidar fort. The rocks, the stones, the fallen bricks, the beautiful inlay work, and engravings touched our heart and soul. We looked at the enormity of the creative talent and boldness of conquest that these great dynasties displayed.
It fascinated us beyond words. If the situation permits, I will again visit this fort and make an attempt to feel those personalities who walked, and lived, the song of ancient life.
As we turned to leave the fort grounds, I had a last look at the vastness of the shadowy structures. It was then, our guide showed a circular plate, all black that looked like gun metal with white inlay work. He asked us to follow him and quipped, “Hey senor, won’t you see the famous Bidri craftsmanship ?”
The watch told us that we had another two hours after which the sun will fade over the western horizon.
The vibrant land did not let go of us. The Wagon R fired up and we took to the town streets to touch the glory of yet another facet of Bidar, the Bidriware.
Interested ? I am sure you are…