'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Impressions - Bijapur

Bijapur is largely monochrome - the black earth of the surrounding flat plains, the black basalt medieval walls which still enclose most of the town, the grey to black (and occasional white-wash) of the stone-built Adil Shahi monuments and palaces which lie jumbled up among the bleached white of the modern concrete boxes, the white heat of the midday sky, the grey dust in the air, the grey mud pathways strewn with stones which pass for roads, the filthy black of the pigs which throng the gallis (hey, my guide book says this is a "conservative Muslim town" and how come there are so many of these 'impure' beasts?) ...

There are a few daubs of green - the well maintained lawns around the Ibrahim Rauza (the elegant tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah), a much larger expanse of grass and trees around the hulking bulk of the Gol Gumbaz, some more vegetation in the central citadel, which also contains ruins of the Gagan Mahal, Saat Manzil etc.. And of course, one sees flocks of bright green parakeets flitting among the domes and niches of all those buildings.

There is also some strikingly brilliant golden calligraphy and designs on the west-facing 'Mihrab' of the Jama Masjid; the still-shining bronze of the awkwardly proportioned cannon 'Malik-e-Maidan' which squats atop the western walls; a saffron flag that flutters above the western gate of the fortifications and a 'balancing' green flag above the southern gate; the cheap glitter of the equestrian statues of Shivaji and Basaveshwara in two of the major road junctions,....

There is much that is remarkable about the place. There is no river, major or otherwise, or lake in the area (I am told even some of the less plebian of dwellings in the town get tap water once a week), no natural fortifications; still people took the trouble to set up this town long ago and unlike say, Fatehpur Sikri, it was never abandoned. The Adil Shahi sultans built not only the massive fortifications but also elaborate waterworks and (allegedly) a network of underground secret passages which interconnect practically every major site within the city - our tourist guide at Ibrahim Rauza tells us "When the British went to examine these complicated pathways, they did not know it is a labyrinth, so they lost their way in those tunnels and starved to death. Later, people walled them up so nobody really knows where the paths are; but they are there!"

The sheer size and structural features of the Gol Gumbaz (eight interlocking arches balance the entire load of the massive dome) pale before its marvellous acoustics. We could carry on a normal conversation sitting 100 feet apart at diametrically opposite points of its 'whispering gallery'. A clap of the hands is echoed at least seven times there, clear and discrete. At Ibrahim Rauza there is another acoustic feat. The word 'Allah' uttered near the western end of the interior of the adjoining mosque can be clearly heard within the Rauza building itself (across a distance of over a hundred feet). Our guide says "Building to building *contraction* happens and the sound reaches inside the Rauza". After 'Allah', he says 'Om' and it too carries all the way - "you know, Adil Shahis were very secular; no Hindu-Muslim distinctions; Ibrahim used to do Puja to Ganapati and Saraswati. Just like 'Allah', he used to respect 'Om'"

Similar sentiments are echoed by the guide at Gol Gumbaz. He is a tall and thin bloke of about 40: "Adil Shahis were very enlightened. One of the Sultans' Guru was one Rukmangad Pandit. Hindus were equally treated. No discrimination. There was brotherhood." At the end of his description he asks me what I do. On hearing the word 'software' he says, wistfully. "What to do sir! I paid one chap fifteen thousand bucks and did a certificate in 'hardware'. I had great difficulty in understanding the books but worked very hard; but now it seems 'software' is better for a job and I feel lost. These are hard times. But what to do, I come here every morning and do some exercise on the lawns and share some information with interested tourists like you!"


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