A strong hold on the past
The North Karnataka region was ruled by the Chalukyas, Yadavas, Cholas, Bahmani Sultans, Adil Shahis and Nizams at various points in time. This rich heritage is reflected in the forts and monuments that dot districts like Yadgir and Bidar.
After the fall of the Badami Chalukyas, the Kalyana Chalukyas, known as their descendants, ruled the region. Tailapa II defeated the Rashtrakutas in 973 AD and established his kingdom at Melakheda (Sedam taluk).
Apart Melakheda, Yadgiri, Kolleepakka and Pottalagere regions were all capitals during the reign of Chalukya ruler Jayasimha II and Someshwara I. During the reign of Someshwara I, the capital was shifted to Kalyana in Bidar. The Chalukyas who were under siege from the Chola king of Tanjavur is likely to have shifted to Kalyana from Melakheda.
Though Vikramaditya the sixth, the most well-known among the Kalyana Chalukya rulers, had his capital at Kalyana, it is said that he carried out the administration of the region from places such as Banavasi, Balligavi, Vijayapuri and Yetagiri (Yadgiri).
Vikramaditya the sixth was not only a brave king, but also a great patron of the arts. He offered patronage to reputed scholars such as Kashmir’s poet Bilhana and Vijnaneshwara of Maratur near Kalburgi (now known as Gulbarga)who composed the work Mitakshara.
Five edicts have been found at the fort that still stands tall at Yadgir. The inscription located on the fort’s entrance says the fort was built by Sagar’s Jagannath. Two other inscriptions found on the left of the Teerthankara cave relate to the basadi. It is said that these inscriptions belong to the 10th-11th centuries.The edict inside the fort, found on the walls of the Moti talab is said to belong to Ibrahim Adil Shah I of 1546 AD. The edict on the entrance of the Athar Masjid dating back to 1573 is said to belong to the reign of Ibrahim Ali Adil Shah I. The edict says this mosque was built during the time of Khwaja Kirmani, the son of Mirza Ali. The fort was built by the Kalyana Chalukyas. Later, it was strengthened by the Yadava rulers. The fort was further expanded during the time of the Bahmani, Adil Shahis and Nizams. It is said that historian Gulam Yazdani had undertaken a survey of the fort in 1929-30.
The Yadgir fort has a mix of influences, when it comes to architectural styles. There are Jain, Islamic and Shaivite touches in the fort.
The place of worship which has the deity of Kooshmandini is now the Bhuvaneshwari Devi temple.
There is a Shiva temple called the Ramalingeshwara temple, apart from the mosque, the Akka-Tangi well, ramparts and moats, all set amidst a green landscape.
Magnificent Bidar fort
Talking of forts in the North Karnataka region, one cannot miss the magnificent Bidar fort. Bidar and Yadgir districts flank the district of Gulbarga.
The construction of Bidar fort is credited to Sultan Ahmed Wali of the Bahmani kingdom between 1428 and 1432 AD. It is believed that engineers and architects from various countries were involved in designing and building this massive fort that has a 5.5-km defence line with 37 huge polygonal bastions. A part of the fort is carved out from bedrock. The fort is unique in having a triple moat defence, inspired by Turkish design.
This fort became a model for other forts such as Bijapur and Golkonda. It also has massive magazine storerooms and underground escape routes in case the fort had to be abandoned.
The fort has interesting structures such as Takht Mahal, Tarkash Mahal, Rangeen Mahal, Gagan Mahal, Shahi Matbakh, Diwan-I-Am, Solah Khamb Mosque, and Naubat Khana, which served various needs.
After the collapse of the Bahmani kingdom, Bidar came under the control of independent sultanate of Barid Shahi dynasty in 1538 AD. However, during 1619 AD. Bidar came under the control of Bijapur sultanate. It was Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb who invaded south India to capture Bidar during 1686 AD. Successive dynasties added their own structures or modified some of these during the course of their regime.
Solah Khamb mosque is so named because of its sixteen (solah) pillars, which are massive. The founder of the mosque was Qubil Sultani in 1423-24 AD.
It has a large dome adorning the structure. This mosque was once the main prayer hall of Bidar. Aurangazeb is believed to have offered prayers in the mosque while he was on his visit to the Deccan region. Visitors have no access to the interior as it is locked. Tarkash Mahal was built for the Turkish wife of a Bahmani sultan of 14-15 century AD. It has an upper storey that is reached by a flight of steps.
From the top of the roof, one can approach the Solah Khamb mosque. The structure has undergone several renovations and is noted for its stucco work. The entrance to the building is closed to protect the interior.
Gagan Mahal was built by the Bahmani sultans during the 14-15 century AD. The Baridi Shahi rulers made some changes to embellish the structure, which is noted for its strength as well as its beauty. It has two courts, the inner one used by the royalty and the outer one by the staff and the palace guards. The nearby compact Archaeological Museum is worth a visit.
Takht Mahal was commissioned by Ahmad Shah during 1422-146 AD, which was used as the ‘throne room’. Coronation of several Bahmani and Barid sultans took place in this room. It has royal pavilions with lofty arches as well as coloured tiles and rich decorations.
The central courtyard where the visitor could walk has a beautifully maintained garden, with floodlighting at night.
Denied access to the interesting structures, the visitor has to feel satisfied by looking at these magnificent structures from outside. There is hardly any signboard near any of the monuments, which makes it difficult for visitors to appreciate these ancient structures. The compact museum has artefacts found during excavations, the entry to which is free.
A little distance away is the old fort that has ruins of Diwan-I-Am and Diwan-I-Khaas.
Diwan-I-Am was also known as Jali Mahal due to its rich trelliswork commissioned by the Bahmani sultans during the 14-15 century AD. The main hall was used for public audience.
Down below, in the valley, is the Bomma Gondeshwara Tank. The outer fort walls extend for miles and a few ruins can be seen. Being at a higher level, a panoramic view of the surroundings can be viewed from the fort.