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The Deccan: Gulbarga and Bidar
|by Ashish Nangia|
From a Beggar to a Prince
The Bahmani dynasty’s first citadel, before the capital was shifted to Gulbarga, was at Daulatabad. Here the most prominent feature is the extraordinarily imposing outer walls, in four concentric rings, similar in design and style to the Château Gaillard in France.
Religion and DeathThe Bahmani sultans’ Shiite tendencies are clearly reflected in their mosques. These delineate also their Persian origin. For example, the earliest mosque founded in Gulbarga, the Shah Bazaar, is one of the first in India to reflect the Timurid tendency of the multi-bay prayer hall, like at Isfahan in modern Iran. Its most refined expression is then found in the Jami Masjid of Gulbarga.
On a rectangular base, this mosque has arcades two bays deep and a triple-aisled prayer hall which runs around three sides of the building. The space of the central court itself is covered over with smaller domes, with arches springing from imposts spanning the area of the court. These arches contrast with the trefoil arches of the mihrab and the squinches – these again being traces of Seljuk work at the Isfahan Jami Masjid. This Gulbarga variant of arches with imposts, though not universally emulated, was to prove very popular with the Adil Shahis of Bijapur who subjugated Gulbarga late in the 15th century.
The tombs of the first Bahmani rulers at Gulbarga are fairly simple structures of plastered stone and rubble work.
The tomb of Firoz Shah (not to be confused with the same name of the Tughlaq dynasty at Delhi – see associated article) was enlarged to two large bays to also accommodate members of the royal family.
A simple structure, it is marked by the trellis work in its windows, the kalash at the corners marking an increasing awareness of the local craftsman and his repertory, and the low-slung domes which cap the roof.
This tendency to fusion with native crafts and motifs reappears very distinctly in the Langar-ki-masjid at Gulbarga, where the outer arches are supported on serpentine columns, and the increasing profusion of decoration is marked.
However, apart from its wealth of tombs, mosques and citadels, the Bahmani dynasty can also lay claim to another masterpiece – the madrassa of Mahmud Gawan, the Persian minister of Muhammed Shah Bahmani III (1463-1482).
The most striking feature of this structure is its three stories of cells, a most unusual happening in a madrassa. The elevated domes marking the entrances and the imposing minarets combine to make this a high point of the influence of Persian Islamic art and architecture in India.
Despite its monumentality and originality, however, the type represented by this Iranian import did not subsequently find favor in India.
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11/17/2014 06:09 AM