Bidar: The City of Whispering Monuments
The fort, the cannons, palaces in ruins, the magnificent tombs and the massive monuments, all combined will make your visit to Bidar truly memorable. Bidar is part of Karnataka but feels very different to the rest of the state thanks to its unique history and architectural remnants! In fact, it's also one of the least visited places in Karnataka, but if you are someone who likes travelling to an untouristy place then this place is worth making a visit.
Although Bidar's origins can be traced back to the Rashtrakuta Empire (753-983), it become historically significant when Bahamani Sultan Ahmad Shah relocated the capital of his kingdom there in 1422 and used the prevailing Persian style to contract the palace and design the city urban morphology.
How To Reach Bidar From Mumbai?
Via Train: Bidar has only one direct train from Mumbai. So here is the detail about it.
Via Air: The closest airport is Hyderabad Airport, some 150 km from Bidar. From Hyderabad, it would take you around 4 hours to cover 150 km by road. KSRTC Bus connectivity between Hyderabad and Bidar is fairly decent.
For a budget traveller like me, the train is the best option and it makes sense to explore this place as a weekend trip from Mumbai.
Where to Stay?
Supriya International is located in the bye lane near to the bus station and right in the centre of the town. The rooms are good and reasonably well maintained and have essential amenities.
Day 1: Nostalgic throwback to the extravagant past
Karnataka is indeed a very beautiful part of India! It is very popular for its greenery and architecture from the yesteryears.
Breakfast @ Karantha Udupi Hotel
A quick bite place with a limited menu and located just beside the Bidar Bus Station. But super tasty menu vada, Shira, Masala Dosa and Tea. You would be disappointed if you expect the people to serve you here, this is a self-service hotel.
Stroll at Bidar Fort
Bidar Fort is a fort situated in the northern part of Bidar City. The credits for its construction goes to Sultan Allauddin Bahman of the Bahmanid Dynasty. This majestic fort is like a nostalgic throwback to the extravagant past of India. This fort is a reminder of the strong and mighty Southern Dynasty that used to rule over the land. Even though it is deserted now, it still is reminiscent of fortifications, colourful royal palaces, museums, bastions, etc.
I'm sure you've heard the song Ishq Sufiyana from the Bollywood movie Dirty Picture. The visuals from the songs are as good as the music of the song. The song was shot at this location
The Bidar Fort has hints of Islamic and Persian architecture in the nook and corner of the fort. When this fort was rebuilt by Ahmad Shah, he built an entire royal complex inside the 10 Kms perimeter of the walls which were triple-layered moat and the thick red laterite stone walls.
The structure of the entire Bidar Fort is a reminder of Indian history and the rich past of the country's monuments. It houses over thirty monuments inside it which makes it a must-visit for all history buffs out there, but notable are few.
There are three big arching gateways in the fort.
Sharza Darwaza - named after the lions carved into it, signifying the empire's strength
Gumbad Darwaza - the ethnic Persian architecture leading into the main complex.
One of the unique features of the Bidar Fort is the historic water supply called Karez - which is water harnessing technology that originated in Persia which can also be seen in forts and monuments at Gulbarga & Bijapur (Karnataka) and Mandu & Burhanur (Madhya Pradesh).
There are many beautiful monuments inside the Bidar Fort, but a must visit is the Rangeen Mahal literally means the "Coloured Palace". It is famous for its beautiful wood carving, fascinating glazed tile mosaic and decorations of mother of pearl which was apparently the design of a Persian architect. The mahal is a well preserved Fresco art, some of which is very similar to the monuments in Uzbekistan.
Note: Mostly this section is kept closed for the public, permission is required from the ASI office near the fort to visit Rangeen Mahal.
Next to Rangeen Mahal is a Hazar Kothri, it is a gated and walled area with a big central courtyard and rooms along its boundary. It also has secret underground rooms, but they are now closed for public
Solah Khamba Mosque & Tarkash Mahal
Solah Khamba Masjid literally means sixteen pillared mosque, a masterpiece built by Qubil Sultani in 1423 AD to 1424 AD with a central dome above long arches and sixteen pillars of its prayer chambers. It has been said that Aurangzeb used to pray here on his visits to the Deccan. This mosque was also called Zanana Masjid as it's located near the Zanana enclosure. Visitors aren't allowed inside the mosque. The building stands along with Lal Baug which is a spectacular sight to see. The sharp contrast between the sandstone coloured walls the lush green gardens and the vibrant blue skies will leave you awestruck!
Beside Solah Khamba Mosque is Tarkash Mahal built originally for the Turkish wife of Bahmani Sultan. In the middle, there is a hall with arched openings and was beautifully decorated with tiles and stucco work. The roof of the hall has fallen and originally there was another floor above it, it remains of which in the shape of two arches can still be there. Currently public and view the exterior of it from Solakambha Mosque.
Diwan-i-Am and Diwan-i-Khas
It is a common notion that these names are associated with the Mughal rulers. An elevated concrete platform border by crumbling walls on two sides point to the existence of the Diwan-i-Am or the Hall of Public Audience used as a public hearing court. It has intricate trellis work on it, giving it the name Jali Mahal.
This is the end of the fort area. There is a small road beside Diwan-i-Am that connects to nearby villages. The local villagers on motorbikes make a shortcut through the fort premises using this road.
Timing: 8:00 AM to 06:00 PM
Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Sahib
The gurudwara holds a very important place in Sikhism. It was built in 1948 and is dedicated to the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji was on his second missionary tour of South India when he reached Bidar. During his stay, Guru Nanak was moved by the condition of the people there as they were suffering from a shortage of water. He was greatly moved by this and while uttering sat Kartar, he moved a stone and surprisingly fountain of sweet, cool water gushed out of the hillside and that’s why the place came to be known as Nanak- Jhira (a stream of water).
The Gurudwara is built beside the place, where the stream of water flows. The water coming out from here is termed as Amrit in Sikhism. The water is collected in a pool in front of the gurudwara which is called Amrit Kund. Devotees take a dip inside the Amrit Kund.
It's a magnificent gurudwara and was left awestruck when I entered the campus. Even the main gate is huge and so beautifully built. Bidar is also the birthplace of one of the Panj Pyare (5 beloved ones of Guru Govind Singh).
Before leaving the premises do visit the free community kitchen (Guru Ka Langer) and enjoy some kada prasad (sweet). Incase you don't wish to have food here, there are a few Punjabi restaurants at the end of the road that leads to the main gate.
Barid Shahi Tombs
The Barid Shahi Tombs is among the must visit places in Bidar. The tombs of Ali Barid and his son Ibrahim Barid are located in this sprawling gardens spread across 55 acres. The main entrance has a gateway on the south, decorated with architectural motifs with star-shaped panels and beautiful patterns.
The tomb of Ali Barid Shah is one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture and beauty. The 70 feet high tomb has a big dome supported by four pillars. It has a grand pavilion based on a high platform built by green and laterite rock. It has rich floral designs carved on stone. It also has painted tiles inside the dome. The paintings have hand designs along with calligraphic patterns. The structure has the tombs of Ali Barid and his wives.
The tomb of Ibrahim Barid Shah is situated right in front of Ali Barid's tomb. This tomb is almost similar to the one of Ali Barid but smaller in size.
Timing: 10 AM to 8 PM (Closed on Monday)
The majestic Bidar Fort is a reminder of the glory days of the mighty Bahmani Sultanate. But, quite literally buried in the soil of the grand royal capital is the secret of the exquisite Bidriware inlay work that is appreciated across India and overseas.
This extremely delicate craft inlays silver, gold or copper on blackened metals, a polished look achieved is an artistic blend of Persian, Turkish and Islamic cultures mixed with local influences, which gives it its unique style. This art of engraving and inlaying is handed down by generations and is exclusive to Bidar.
Traditional Bidriware products include hookahs, Aftaba (floral) vases, Surahi (wine containers), Muqabas (container with dome-shaped lids), bedposts and Mir-E-Farsh (weights to hold down floor coverings). Modern products include key chains, office stationery, figurines, ashtrays, jewellery boxes and even USB drive cover.
Dinner @ Siddique Restaurant
Making way for a hearty meal is Siddique Restaurant in Bidar. This place is synonymous with delicious food and more than enough quantity that can satiate all food cravings. I recommend Chicken Special Dilkhush (5-6 people) and Tangdi Kabab with Rumali Roti
Day 2: The City of Whispering Monuments
From the Mauryas to the Nizams, various dynasties that ruled Bidar in different periods of time have contributed to the region’s growth by patronising art, architecture, literature and culture. As the city borders, Telangana and Maharashtra state, Kannada spoken here has an influence of Marathi, Hindi and Urdu languages.
Papnash Mahadev Temple & Lake
Papnash Temple is a Shiva temple and it is believed that the idol of the temple was installed by Lord Rama on his way back to Ayodhya. The original temple was lost and a new temple was built at the ruins of the ancient temple.
Close to the temple is Papnash Lake, one of the best locations in the town and an amazing place to do the photoshoot. The entire lake is surrounded by trees and greenery, giving it the appearance of a coastal region.
Tomb of Hazrat Khalil-Ullah (Chaukhandi)
Chaukhandi is a unique structure in Ashtur Village which is about 4 km from Bidar City. Chaukhandi is located in a hilly area known for its scenic beauty. Ahmed Shah II built the structure at the location where Sufi saint Kahlil-Ullah Kirmani (Spiritual Adviser of Sultan Ahmad Shah) was buried. The tomb is in the shape of a crown is well maintained and several people pay their tribute here daily.
The tomb is known for its beautiful architecture, which features calligraphy and stonework above the arched doorways with carved granite pillars and adorned walls of the structure. It is a two-storied octagon with a freestanding square domed tomb chamber within, entered through a large gateway with pointed arches. The outer octagonal curtain wall has arched recesses flanked by panels with diagonal squares; all outlined in black carved stone bands and covered in coloured tile work. The walls are decorated with stucco work both inside and outside. The calligraphy on the basalt lintel on the entrance is of exceptional quality.
Bahmani Tombs, Ashtur
Bahmani Tombs is an important historical Indo-Saracenic monument in Bidar, after the Fort. Like the Egyptian pharaohs, the Bahamani Sultan were fond of building magnificent tombs to house themselves after death. Twelve imposing mausoleums are located at Ashtur. Of these, the tombs of Ahmad Shah and Alauddin Shah II stand out due to their grandeur.
Major tombs in Ashtur
Tomb of Ahmad Shah Al Wali Bahamani: Ahmad Shah Al Wali Bahamani’s tomb is built in a square layout in a vast lofty building with thick walls.
Tomb of Ahmad Shah’s Queen: Has floral designs, religious texts and ceilings decorated with paintings.
Tomb of Sultan Allauddin Shah II: Has lots of tile work as well as blue, green and yellow paintwork. Three tall entrance arches and a square hall are key features of this tomb.
Tomb of Sultan Humayun: Built with black trap masonry, Humayun’s tomb is super thick but split open due to a lightning strike.
Tomb of Malika-i-Jahan: Mallika was the wife of Sultan Humayun Shah. Her tomb has entrance arches elegantly decorated with stucco work
Other tombs: Tombs of Sultan Nizam Shah, Sultan Muhammad Shah III, Muhammad Shah Bahamani, Sultan Wali-Ullah and Sultan Kalim Ullah.
Narasimha Jharna Temple
Narasimha Jhira is a wonderful cave temple situated on the outskirt of Bidar. The Narasimha Jhira Cave Temple is dedicated to the lion god Narasimha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is also known as Narasimha Zarna Cave temple or Jharani Narasimha Temple. People throng to this temple because it is believed that the idol at the Narasimha Jhira Cave temple is self-manifested and is very powerful.
The Temple is known for its natural beauty and is considered to be very sacred. This ancient temple is excavated in a 300 m tunnel under the Manichoola hill range. Within the cave, a stream of water is said to be flowing continuously since the foundation of the temple. Devotees have to walk waist deep in the water for 300 m for the darshan of Lord Narasimha.
Madrasa of Mahmud Gawan
Madrasa of Mahmud Gawan is located down the street from the Bidar Fort and also nearby Budar Clock Tower. Madrasa of Mahmud Gawan is not only the most striking building of the Bahmani period, but in its plan and in the general style of its architecture, it is one of its kind in India. Madrasa is an Arabic word that means a school/institution for Islamic studies. This place is also known as Mahmud Gawan Arabic University. The madrasa used to be a major learning centre.
The Madarsa had an imposing three-story building with 100 feet tall minarets in four corners. Only the northern end minaret is survived today which shows traces of blue glazed tile work with calligraphy in Thuluth script containing religious texts. The first and second floors have balconies that project from the main structure in a curvilinear form without any bracket support. The lower part of the tower was decorated with tiles arranged in a chevron pattern, the colours being green, yellow and white.
This three-storied building was once surmounted with domes. The walls of the structure are adorned with colourful tile work and are inscribed with verses from the holy Quran. Earlier, this college housed a library, mosque, laboratory, and lecture halls. There were thirty-six rooms for students and six suites for the teaching staff. It housed a library where 3000 Persian books had been kept. The ASI took over this monument and has put in a great deal of effort in conserving it.
Bidar offers a lot to the wanderer. You can explore to your heart’s content and come back home with memories to last a lifetime.
Good To Know FAQ's
Q. Best Time To Visit Bidar?
A. Winter months are the best time to visit Bidar. You can also visit during monsoons when the abundance of greenery would be blissful.
Q. What To Pack?
A. I know all those excitingly beautiful places excite you. But, before you pack your bags for your journey to Bidar, here are a few tips to make this trip to Bidar a memorable one. Packs some cool clothes to click some amazing and Bollywood style photo in the fort.
During summer, pack cool cotton clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and carry a hat or headscarf (afternoons tend to be extremely hot). In the winter, pack a jacket and carry a moisturiser to prevent chapped skin.
Q. How to commute/travel within Bidar city?
A. All the major tourist places in the city have rickshaw /tuk-tuk stand, but there are few places that we have covered on day two that are out of city limits so I recommend hiring a rickshaw for a full day incase you are travelling with your group. Negotiate for a full day with a drop at the railway station which will cost you between ₹ 1000 to ₹ 1200 depending on the seasons. Alternatively, you can also opt for public transport. You might face frequency issues at some locations.
Q. Which are the popular places to visit near Bidar?
A. The most popular place to visit near Bidar is Hyderabad. It's four hours drive from Bidar. KSRTC Bus connectivity between Hyderabad and Bidar is fairly decent.