Fusion of architectural grandeur

Fusion of architectural grandeur

Bidar became a fulcrum point to many kingdoms like Kalyani Chalukyas, Yadavas of Devagiri, Kakatiyas of Warangal and later, the Bahmani sultans and Barid Shahis. After the death of Firuz Shah, his brother, Ahmad Shah, transferred the capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1422 where he ruled until 1436. Later in the mid-sixteenth century, Amir Ali Barid, ruler of Barid Shahis, ruled Bidar. 

Bidar became home to several historical temples and domed monuments. The difference between Bahmani and Barid Shahi monuments can be identified with their area and height. Bahmanis built monuments having a huge layout with great elevation and wide domes, whereas the Barid’s building plans were miniature structures, yet tall buildings and domes.

Shooting location

Bidar Fort is said to be one of the well-maintained forts in Karnataka. Due to its architectural exuberance, several Kannada and Hindi movies have been shot here. History enthusiasts as well as tourists who visit Golkonda Fort invariably visit Bidar Fort and the Rangeen Mahal within its premises. I entered the fort premises through the main gate and after walking some distance, I entered one of the grand and unique two-floor royal palace, which is divided into three parts and had been given different names as Rangeen Mahal, Tarkash Mahal and Gagan Mahal. It is attached with a beautiful Solah Khamba Masjid through thick walls.

The palace houses many rooms and halls and one might get lost while exploring them. As an artist, I stepped back to look into the outstanding intellect applied on the interior calligraphy, floral patterns, geometrical designs and detailed wooden carvings that really provide a glimpse of the workmanship of the bygone era.   

While my friend was busy shooting photos, I visited every corner of the palace that was adorned with unique intricate designs using different types of materials. Though the palace is not so tall, it remains cool inside due to its systematically planned ventilators of small windows and arches. A fountain located at the entrance also brings fresh air throughout the day.

According to Mahomed Kasim Ferishta, a Persian engineer invited architects of different countries to design and construct the palace, which is unique, in the style of Deccan courts. This palace is not open to the public due to the expensive material used in the Rangeen Mahal. The entry into the palace is reserved for scholars and history enthusiasts who arrive with research or study purpose, with prior permission.

The palace was originally built by the Bahmani kings and later it was renovated and enlarged by Ali Barid. He was a great patron of poetry, art and architecture. He built his own tomb three years before his death, as inscriptions on the tomb reveal.

Rangeen Mahal is elegantly decorated with mosaic, delicate wood carvings and use of the mother-of-pearl work on the arch with calligraphy of the Persian scripture. Though the architecture is influenced by the Persian style, it has a touch of the Indian court. It has a royal bath, audience hall, and kitchen. In front of this palace is a beautiful garden with a fountain and waterways, which stand as testimony to the royal life lived by kings.

Mosaic work is created with beautiful motifs and patterns, with materials of colourful stones, tile pieces and stucco paste on the flat wall surface. It has blue tiles on the walls and wooden carvings and stucco art inside the Mahal. Maybe, they would have planned for a permanent solution not to paint the wall time and again and used waterproof materials like tiles and colourful stones on walls and ceiling. Each corner has black stone engraving in Indo-Persian style.

Freehand, geometrical and flower plant drawings are seen here. This type of art is majorly found in Byzantine and Syrian architecture. Wood is used on the ceiling as well as on the pillars of the palace. Wooden carving designs reflect the temple architecture of the 11th and 12th centuries of Hyderabad-Karnataka region, writes Yazdani G, in his book titled Bidar: Its history and monuments.

Gagan Mahal on the ground floor was built in the Bahmani style and was later modified by the Barid Shahis. It has a series of rooms and halls built in rows. Images of birds can rarely be seen in high reliefs, which are neatly decorated with stucco work on the exterior.

The local touch

The Tarkash Mahal is also decorated with stucco work with floral designs. The terrace of this mahal has a beautiful fountain to which water is supplied from a tank near the northern end of the building. However, Gagan Mahal and Tarkash Mahal have simple but strong walls. This could be one of the reasons why Barid Shahis altered the palace by keeping its original base.

From the 14th century until the 19th century, we see that the Indo-Islamic art has occupied a dominance in North Karnataka’s Islamic monuments. This is because the kings encouraged local artisans to showcase their talents in the structures. This is evident in Rangeen Mahal, which was typically beautified using the techniques and styles rooted in temple architecture and Persian art. This is one of the reasons North Karnataka is popularly recognised as the treasure trove of Indo-
Islamic art and architecture globally.

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