Sunday, February 24, 2013

Golconda Fort - Glorious Reminder of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty



From central Hyderabad, there’s a day out that should be part of any visitor’s itinerary. Its 11 kilometers away and a 25-minute ride heading west of the city. If there was a single place to visit in Hyderabad, it would be Golconda Fort. Though a ruined city these days, Golconda, which literally means “Shepherd’s Hill”, was the capital of an ancient city (1518 to 1687), which once produced some of the country’s finest gems.

Built by Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah Wali, the 4th king of the Quli Qutb dynasty, a royal family of builders, the fortress rose from a 400-foot granite hill that was designed to withstand and hold back the Mughal invaders from the north. A distinct characteristic of its construction is its acoustic system, i.e. a hand clap from the grand portico (the main gate) is readily transmitted and heard at the top of the hill. 


Durbar Hall at the summit of the hill of Golconda Fort

I booked a taxi ride from the Tourism Center, a must-visit if you want hassle-free tours. The 2-to-3 hour return tour from the city would cost 450 rupees (this includes the driver waiting outside), but you could share the ride with other tourists.

I decided to share. After all, meeting other travelers (not my strongest point) would be interesting. A delightful elderly Indian couple came not long after. We were told that the trip covers a 20 kilometer distance (literature tells me it’s just 11 kilometers), and that the driver would wait outside while we checked out the massive fort.


With an amiable company joining me, I took the front seat beside the driver and listened to the couple’s banter. The gentleman was a retired lawyer who worked with his wife at a branch of the Central Bank in Mumbai. I intently listened to their stories about earlier visits to Arizona (I think) and Greece.

Upon reaching the fort, I realized that the place wasn't designed for elderly patrons. After all, they couldn't - and should not - install escalators on the hill, and it’s an arduous trek to the top if you were in a hurry. The gentleman said he’d rather wait at the ground level, contented to have reached the fortress. The lady felt she had to climb up some distance. Now mind you, there are 380 uneven stone-steps to hurdle (some steeper than others).  I felt it rude to whisk off my way so I patiently waited for the lady. I was of course delighted with the company and was in no hurry. She would wave me away, but I’d just walk slowly, subtly glancing behind me. I was just a few steps ahead just to see she was alright. 


Palace ruins and courtyard

The view of the sprawling expanse of Hyderabad is soon unraveled as you get near the peak – and it’s a delightful landscape of greeneries interspersed with white structures. 

We know what mountaineers say about reaching the top, right? Well, I was wearing a wide grin already, feeling smug for having gone there. And I wasn't even at the peak yet. At some point, the lady felt she’s had enough; that it was time to head back down. She told me I should continue further; and that she’d meet me later. She was breathless, her blue dress billowing in the wind. I smiled and nodded... and went my way.


There were empty caverns, a prison, the Ibrahim and the Taramati Mosques, granaries, reservoirs, armories, a citadel called Baradari, an audience hall, and several other unlabeled structures. The place itself is massive: consider 8 gates (with names like Fateh, Bahmani, Mecca, Naya Qula, etc.), 87 bastions each one mounted with cannons, and three layers of fortification walls which were equipped with spikes to guard against elephant attacks. I did wonder about the height of these spikes. Were there elephants the size of these walls? Kinda like Jurassic-era mammoth creatures? Talk about leaving no stones unturned against invasion. There were also rumors that underground tunnels had been diligently constructed, linking the fort to the city of Hyderabad some 11 kilometers away just in case a siege occured and the royals had to resort to an escape route.

ACCIDENTAL CELEBRITY

I reunited with my co-travelers later. We both decided not to wait for the lights-and-sound show that was due to start at sundown. It was too long a wait for me, and I was glad they felt the same. Before saying our goodbyes, the adorable couple bashfully asked for a photo with me, and of course it was my pleasure. Before I realized what was happening, several other Indians (the visitors I saw were mostly locals) came out from the crowd and decided to join the photo session. I wasn't acquainted with any of them, but they amusingly took turns having their photos taken with me – and I felt like some Hollywood royalty. I am still baffled as to why, to be honest. If I were Caucasian, there would probably be novelty in it, but not when I am Asian like them. 

Why the inexplicable whim to get their photos with me? Maybe it’s because there’s not a lot of foreign visitor? Maybe I looked like a circus sideshow? Or a movie star from some slasher flick? Who knew? It was discombobulating, but it was nevertheless fun being a celebrity for ten minutes or so.

I couldn't really complain. Far from the comfort of my home, I could only be grateful for their hospitality and kindness.

This is the Eye in the Sky!





Courtyard





Ruins of the barracks area.

View of the courtyard from the barracks.

Courtyard

Hurdling flights of stairs from the Balahisar Darwaza

The magnificent view of the city from the ascending trail.

The city of Hyderabad down below



Notice the two Qutb Shahi Tombs 1 kilometer north from the fort. The tombs are surrounded by gardens, and are open to public. 

Colored relief seen at Ramda's Jail


The Ibrahim Mosque has two halls: a transverse outer hall and an inner hall. 

Qutub Shahi Mosque was built by Sultan Ibrahim Qutb Shah who ruled for 30 years (1550 to 1580).




Colorful - Sri Jagadamba Mahakali Temple and a rock.

Phallic rock outcropping beside the Sri Jagadamba Mahakali Temple

Baradari or Citadel (above and below) - This was a two-story building with an open terrace at the top where the sultan would enjoy the view of the countryside. There was an audience hall as well. Nearby was the mouth leading to an alleged underground tunnel to the Goshamahal at a distance of 8 kilometers used by the Qutb Shahi Kings in case of danger or emergency. So far, this secret passage has never been found. 

Citadel

Citadel

The adorable Indian couple I shared my taxi with.

Site map of the massive fortress found at the entrance .

More photos from Golconda http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2013/02/more-images-from-hyderabads-golconda.html

Charminar -

2 comments:

Mom with a Dot said...

This is one of my 'All Time favorite' spot! Glad you enjoyed it :) Superb pics as always!

eye in the sky said...

@ Mom with a Dot:

And it is my favorite place in Hyderabad. :)