Of monuments less known

Of monuments less known

Graves of Adil Shah II and family

A city that is teemed with historical and architectural splendours; a city of victory; a land of five rivers — that is Vijayapura or Bijapur for you. Any account of Vijayapura has to perforce begin with the Gol Gumbaz, built by Adilshahi ruler Mohammed Adil Shah, there are two other equally remarkable tomb structures, Ibrahim Rouza and Bara Kaman — built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II and Ali Adil Shah II, respectively — that merit our close attention. These monuments, used as location for popular Kannada movie songs, have interesting stories associated with them.  

Gol Gumbaz was planned by Mohammed Adil Shah as his final resting place soon after his ascent to throne in 1626 AD. He wanted a mausoleum for himself that equalled or surpassed the beauty of his father’s tomb. So over 30 years, labourers toiled to build this remarkable monument that has one of the largest domes in the world.

Aesthetic sensibilities

The designer, Yaqut of Dabul, used ingenious techniques to create a circular dome on a square structure. Imagine a cube with each side measuring 156 feet going up into eight intersecting arches and then ending in a semicircular dome which has a diameter of about 144 feet. The dome has acoustics so pure that a soft sound gets transmitted across the large distance and gets echoed. Gol Gumbaz, built in the Deccan Indo Islamic style has beautiful minarets on all four sides. These towers, seven stories in height are scaled through winding staircases and are again capped by domes. Each storey has seven windows. Built of basalt stone, this architectural marvel stands a testimony to Mohammed Adil Shah’s yearning for grandeur. Alas, Mohammed Adil Shah died before Gol Gumbaz could be completed and now lies buried there with his two wives, mistress, daughter and a grandson.

Ibrahim Rouza was built by Mohammed Adil Shah’s father Ibrahim Adil Shah II as the final resting place for his beloved wife Taj Sultana. He, a contemporary of Akbar, was a poet, musician and author of Kitab-e-Navras, a collection of poems written in Dakhani language. It is this artistic sensibility that imbues this lesser-known monument whose construction began perhaps in the last decades of the 16th century and was completed in 1627. Its Persian architect Malik Sandal is also buried in the same monument.

The complex consists of a square-shaped tomb and a mosque marked by beauty and graceful symmetry rather than grandeur. The two lie side by side separated by a large pond which now lies empty. Ornate ceilings, minarets with lotus shaped bases adorn both the tomb and the mosque. Arched entrances to the mosque, wooden windows and the cool stone floor in the tomb transport you to another era. In the basement of these two structures are the granaries and ammunition depot. A huge ornamental garden lies in the front. This monument is justifiably hailed as the Taj Mahal of South India. Buried in the tomb are Ibrahim Adil Shah II, his wife, mother and two sons.  

The magic of symmetry

Bara Kaman that was conceptualised by Ali Adil Shah II, son of Mohammed Adil Shah, stands as a tomb of unparalleled architectural wonder. This mausoleum is different from the earlier two in that it is built in Gothic style and is incomplete. Ali Adil Shah died in 1672 AD and thence work stopped. Malik Sandal is once again credited as the architect. One obviously wonders whether it can be the same architect who built Ibrahim Rouza nearly 45 years earlier from that time. The monument consisting of several arches both vertical and horizontal remind one of ancient Greek monuments. It is said that walls were first raised in concentric arches and subsequently the inner arches were toppled and only the outer arches left intact. Iron rings which are clearly visible were used to hold the stones together. The tombs of Ali Adil Shah, his wife and other family members rest now in the monument that was to be enclosed in twelve arches, both vertical and horizontal. Perhaps Bara Kaman is better off incomplete; the arches throw symmetric shadows and the regularly placed pillars with no walls offer an unobstructed view giving the structure a beauty of its own.

What stands out from these stories is that both Mohammed Adil Shah’s and Ali Adil Shah’s immortal legacies are their monuments which imply architectural competitiveness. Interestingly, the immortal legacy of Ibrahim Adil Shah II is being hailed as the greatest of his dynasty.