Gol Gumbaz : The Acoustical Wonder of the World
Vijayapura, as Bijapur is called now, is located about 530 kms from Bengaluru, in the North Karnataka region. We undertook the road journey by a Sleeper Bus, that takes just 9 hours compared to 15 hours journey by Express train from Bengaluru. My friend from UAE, who was visiting his hometown – Bijapur, made entire arrangement including stay and sight seeing.
On Day 1, he planned to show us all the important sites at Bijapur and on Day 2, he planned a trip to Almatti, Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami, all by a private Taxi.
After breakfast, we left for Gol Gumbaz, located about 4 kms from the Hotel. Being a small town, it takes hardly few minutes to commute from one end of the city to another. The weather was cloudy and hence the temperature was reasonably lower than average. I was told that Bijapur is normally warm all round the year except for few months during winter. The cool breeze indeed helped us, as we had to climb 7 storeys to reach the top gallery at Gol Gumbaz. We hired a Guide, who promised to show us some magic with sound and acoustics. Little did I know that the monument, famous for it’s Whispering Gallery, has absolutely no parallels in this World, with respect to acoustics.
Gol Gumbaz, the most famous monument in Bijapur, is a very imposing structure and a perfect confluence of Indo-Islamic and Dravidian architecture styles. Built in the 17th century by Mohammed Adil Shah, Gol Gumbaz (meaning circular dome) has the second largest dome in the World after St.Peter’s Basilica with width measuring 205 feet including the towers. The extreme height to the apex of the dome is 198 feet. The great hall which is topped by the dome, covers an area of about 18,000 square feet, the largest space covered by a dome in the world. The main attraction in this monument is the central chamber, where every sound is echoed seven times. Inside the mausoleum hall, is a square podium with steps on each side. In the middle of the podium, is the tomb of Mohammed Adil Shah, who wanted it to be housed in a monument, that is grander in scale compared to his father’s. The tombs of his wives and daughters are also found here.Staircases in the walls of the main building lead to the seven-story octagonal tower at each of the four corners. Each story has seven arched windows and all are capped by smaller domes. The seven floors of the towers are demarcated by a projecting cornice and a row of arched openings marking each level. A broad eighth story gallery, accessible by winding staircases in the four towers, circles the dome and hangs out at around 3.3 m.
At the height of 108 feet there is a Whispering Gallery, the acoustical qualities of which are amazing. Here even the faintest tick of a watch can be heard clearly 37 metres away. There are seats diagonally opposite to each other along the walls of the dome. The sound is so minute, that if you drop any object at one end of the diameter, the person on the other end can actually figure out the object. To try it out, the Guide went and stood in the opposite corner of the gallery and facing the wall he whispered something. We could clearly hear his voice as if he was standing right next to us. He also sang couple of vintage Bollywood songs to demonstrate the acoustical features of the Whispering Gallery of Gol Gumbaz
The monument is covered on all sides by lush green lawns and the complex includes a Mosque, Naqqar Khana (hall for trumpeters now converted to a Museum) and ruins of guest houses. Just outside the Museum are placed 2 huge canons, one of which is called “Mendha Tope” which means “head of a ram”.
After spending considerable amount of time at Gol Gumbaz, we visited other attractions of Bijapur in sequence. We could cover rest of the attractions in about 2 hours, which was almost the same time we spent at Gol Gumbaz.
Lord Shiva Statue at Shivagiri
The 85 feet tall Lord Shiva statue was installed by a local Charitable Trust, which is slowly becoming a pilgrimage location. The statue made of cement and steel weighs about 1,500 tonnes and is considered to be the 2nd largest statue of Lord Shiva in India after Murudeshwara in Coastal Karnataka. It was unveiled on 26 February 2006 on the auspicious day of Shivaratri. Beneath the statue, is a small Shiva Linga.
The beautiful Ibrahim Rouza is among the most elegant and finely proportioned Islamic monuments in India. Its 24 metre high minarets are said to have inspired those of the Taj Mahal and its tale is similarly poignant: built by emperor Ibrahim Adil Shah II in early 17th Century as a future mausoleum for his queen, Taj Sultana. Ironically, he died before her, and was thus the first person to be rested there. Also buried here with Ibrahim Adil Shah are his queen, children and mother.
Also known as both Jamiya Masjid and Jumma Masjid, this mosque is one of the largest mosques in South India, built by Ali Adil Shah I in the year 1578 after the victory over the King of Vijaya Nagara. Set in a perfect square of 1,16,300 sft., upto 2,500 people can offer “namaz” or prayers at a given time. The Central Mihrab on the western wall is inscribed with lines from the Koran. This inscription was completed in 1676 by Malik Yakut, under the orders from Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah.
This is an unfinished mausoleum of Ali Adil Shah II, who wanted to build a mausoleum of unmatched architectural quality. It was planned that 12 arches would be placed vertically as well as horizontally surrounding the tomb. However, for unknown reasons the work on the structure was left incomplete: only two arches were raised vertically. Rumour has it that the construction of the mausoleum was stopped because once completed its shadow would touch the Gol Gombaz. It is also believed that before the Bara Kaman could be completed in 1672, Ali Adil Shah II was murdered by his own father Muhammad Adil Shah, who did not want the Bara Kaman to lessen the glory of the Gol Gumbaz. Bara Kaman has the tombs of Ali Adil Shah II, his wife Chand Bibi and his daughters.
Gagan Mahal, built by Ali Adil Shah I in 1561, forms a part of the famous Citadel. It was used as a palace, royal residence and darbar hall. The central arch of Gagan Mahal is the tallest and widest among all the arches found in Bijapur. Mostly in ruins, the structure is now part of a beautiful park.
The palace is situated on the top floor, while the Durbar Hall is located on the ground floor. This hall resembles an opera stage set. It is completely open on one side so that the audience can avail an unobstructed view of the proceedings from outside the hall.
Uppali Buruj situated in the north of Dakhani Idgah in Bijapur, was built by Hyder Khan around 1584. This 80 ft high spherical structure tower has stone steps encircling from the outside. This place contains old war materials such as guns and water cisterns. The top of the Uppali Burj, also denoted as Hyder Burj, gives a revealing view of the city. This tower has a parapet, used for keeping an eye on the intruders, which has been fenced now. To reach the top of the tower, travellers will have to climb the circular stairs.
One of the great water tanks dedicated to the wife of Ibrahim II, Taj Sultana is the Taj Bawadi, which is now a beautiful monument of Bijapur. There are rest houses in the east and west of the tower. The depth of the well is more than a 100 ft and it is said that a stone thrown from one end would never find its way to the other. Taj Bawadi was the main source of water during the reign of the Shahi rule. The Taj Bawadi is wonderfully built and the design elements on the well attracts a lot of visitors. There are many more Bawadis in Bijapur and Taj Bawadi is the prominent one. The water in the well currently is not maintained and lacks cleanliness.
Muluk Maidan Tof
Mulukmaidan Tof is nothing but the machine gun that seemed to be used in the warfare of Talikote against the Vijayanagar kings in the year 1549. It is one of the largest artillery of the world that have been used, which weighs about 55 tons used in the decisive battle against Vijayanagar empire that spilt the end of the great dynasty. The design of the artillery is exquisitely stylised with a lion holding an elephant and with a goat caught in its mouth. It is made up of the mixture or alloy of five metals. Another important aspect is that it was cast in Ahmednagar with Arabic and Persian inscriptions.
To view the snaps click on >> https://photos.app.goo.gl/eFr7Cjr449UG27UG6
Acknowledgements: I take the opportunity to thank Dr Raghavendra and his family from U.A.E., who met us during our last travel to Egypt in Dec 2017, for making excellent arrangement throughout our stay at Bijapur.
In the below Video, watch the acoustic effects at the Whispering Gallery of Gol Gumbaz