This fort couldn’t have received a better name. ‘Chitradurga’ means ‘scenic fort’ and its location justifies that. Spread across several hills and strewn with boulders, Chitradurga is one of the most impressive forts in Karnataka. Protected by the walls of granite blocks, Chitradurga overlooks the town of the same name. It encloses several temples and shrines along with the remains of residences, granaries, and tanks. The ramparts were bolstered with bastions of different shapes and sizes. Today there are three defensive gates to be crossed to enter the citadel.
It is said that the history of this fort dates back to 3rd century BC. But it was during the period of Vijaynagaras that the fort became well-known. They had taken it from Hoysalas in the 16th century. Nayakas, the administrative officers of Vijaynagaras, became independent around 1565 and claimed Chitradurga. Hyder Ali of Mysore took it over in 1779 and 20 years later it was usurped by the British.
The fortified town of Srirangapatna has a significant place in the history of India. This was the last bastion that stood against the supremacy of the British. Under the command of Tipu Sultan, Srirangaptna fought till the end to preserve its individuality. After several unsuccessful attempts, British troops stormed the fort in 1799 and killed Tipu Sultan. They also demolished the palace and various military structures.
It was Timmana Nayak who established Srirangapatna in 1454. Thereafter Wodeyars captured it and then their military general Hyder Ali took charge. Hyder Ali was father of Tipu Sultan. The fort has a strategic location as it is protected from two sides by the waters of Kaveri River. The important monuments within the fort are Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Jami Masjid (mosque), and Daria Daulat Bagh (Tipu’s Summer Palace). Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is huge and has been extensively renovated in the 19th century. Daria Daulat Bagh is surrounded by a pillared verandah. The walls of this verandah are adorned with beautiful murals.
Generally forts situated in the flat areas don’t exude might. But Bijapur is different. Adil Shahi kings knew that it would be hard to defend a fort in the plains. So, they built the ramparts high and reinforced them with 120 bastions, each with a mounted cannon. Some of the cannons are still standing on the towers. The fortification enclosed the entire town which served as their capital. Within the town they built a citadel for themselves.
The most striking monument in the town is the ‘Golgumbaz’, which is a huge mausoleum. This structure is known for its domed top; it is the largest dome in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome. Other mouments in the town are Mithari Mahal, Astar Mahal, and Jama Masjid. Within the citadel there are remains of palaces, pavilions, and mosques. Many structures have vanished but the remaining few are capable of giving a hint of the past. The multistoreyed palace called ‘Sat Manzil’ overlooks a pavilion called ‘Jal Mandir’. Gagan Mahal was the audience hall, and Anand Mahal was the residence of the ladies.
The fortress of Bidar is impressive for its art and architecture. It sprawls on the highest part of a plateau. The double fortifications of Bidar were bolstered with triple moat. Within the precincts are the remains of palaces, halls, pavilions, and a mosque. Rangin Mahal is a magnificent and well-preserved palace. The main hall of this palace has intricately carved wooden columns, brackets, and beams. And the lower parts of the walls are studded with mosaic tiles of blue, turquoise, and yellow colours. This hall opens to a set of vaulted chambers.
Another beautiful monument in the fort is ‘Solah Khamba Mosque’ meaning sixteen-pillared mosque. In front of the mosque is a rectangular garden known as Lal Bagh. Walking southwards from here, you can reach Diwan-i-am (the public audience hall), and the Takht Mahal (the private audience hall).
Bidar has witnessed the rule of several dynasties. But it gained strategic importance during the rule of Bahmanis. But most of the buildings they constructed were remodelled by Barid rulers who succeeded them. So, the art and design of the structures within the fort can be attributed to Barid kings.
Gulbarga Fort, now in ruins, came to existence in the 16th century. Several dynasties ruled here before it was taken over by Muhammad bin Tughlaq of Delhi Sultanate. Al-ud-din Hasan Bahmani, an officer of Tughlaq, became independent in 1347 and took control of Gulbarga. Thus started the well-known Bahmani Dynasty. For a phase in history Bahmani Sultans held their sway over the Deccan. They are the ones who induced Persian influence in the architecture. Bahmanis were the occupants till 1424 after which they shifted to Bidar. Then came Adil Shahis, Mughals, and Asaf Jahis.
The battlemented ramparts of the fort are surrounded by a moat. These walls are studded with bastions, some of which still have huge cannons over them. Jama Masjid of Gulbarga is amongst the finest mosques of South India. It is believed to be modelled by a Moorish Architect who drew inspiration from Spanish mosque of Cordoba. A short distance from the mosque is a tomb of Hazrat Gesu Daraz. Dedicated to a Sufi Saint, Khwaja Gesu Daraz, this tomb is a holy shrine.