In the Land of Bahmanis
Bidar is quite a new name, a place that is not much heard in the wide tourist map of Karnataka. A search revealed that Bidar as an ancient city aging up to the history of Bahmani dynasty. The land is enriched with an ancient fortress and the remains of Mughal dynasty.
The pictures of Bidar shown by Google were tempting. As I reached the Yashwantpur train station, Bidar Express was ready for departure in the third platform for the night-long journey. While I was arranging my luggage beneath my seat, a three-member family -- grandparents along with their granddaughter --stepped in.
The girl along with her family had arrived in Bengaluru to attend entrance exam and they were on their return trip to Bidar. They hail from a remote village in Bidar.
“Why are you going to Bidar,” she asked.
“To see the fortress and tomb over there,” I replied her and surprise was writ large on her face.
“Nobody visits Bidar from far off places. Now, the climate is very fine and after March mercury will soar,” she added.
All retired to their berths after having dinner. When I woke up the next morning train was at Vikarabad station, which looked very much similar to our Shoranur Junction. Outside was the hustling of the masala tea vendors filling in chaat masala tea.
As the train whistle went off all the passengers who were on the platform rushed inside the train. The train started moving and visuals of red hills, mud-paved roads and lone patches of lush greenery started appearing on both sides as it headed to Bidar.
Being the last station, passengers were in no hurry to get down as train came to a halt in Bidar. Contrary to my expectations Bidar station turned out to be a pretty big station preserving its ancient look. I hadn't arranged any accommodation but had in hand addresses of two hotels.
Anticipating enough unoccupied rooms, I took an auto to the first hotel. However, it was fully occupied. I went to the second one and to my surprise the result was the same. I was under the impression that it wouldn't be difficult at all to find a room in a small town which was not at all busy. My trip to Bidar taught me a valuable lesson: be it a remote place or not; you should make arrangements for accommodation prior to visiting any place.
The receptionist of the second hotel told me about a new hotel half-kilometre away from the town. It was bit difficult to find it but there were few vacant rooms. The lean person at the reception showed me the rooms – they were very neat and affordable too. When I was filling my address he asked me in Malayalam whether I am from Calicut. All my tiredness due to wandering was melted off in that question.
His name was Ashok. Though he was speaking Malayalam fluently, he was not a Keralite. Ashok had learned Malayalam during his 7-year stint in a retail cloth store in S M Street, a hustling street in Calicut. It's been five years he left that job, still he is in love with S M Street. It's just the first week of the hotel and so guests were less. The hospitality shown by Ashok and other staff of the hotel was so heartening that I never felt like staying away from home.
Once you reach Bidar, the first thing in in to-do list is a visit to the fortress. The capital state of Bahmani dynasty was shifted to Bidar from Gulbarga also known as Kalaburagi in 1427 by Sultan Syed Al Hussaini and this fortress was built during his reign. The entry to the fort is free.
A group of students, accompanied by their teacher, went inside.
This fortress is completely built in Mughal style with Mahals, gardens, ponds and rest houses. Even cycles, took tools, motor bikes are entering with tourists.
Most of the parts of the fortress were vacant. Doves flew away through the windows when I passed by. Two kids passed the fortress door on a bicycle. The girl sitting on its carrier smiled at me. When I asked where her home was, she pointed to a side of the fortress. Question arose in my mind whether people are staying inside the fortress. She just smiled and left without saying anything more.
After sometime, few parda-clad women arrived for walk. They passed by chit chatting with others. Will they be the successors of Bahamani dynasty? I wonder.
Besides the fortress is a valley where corn, chilly and green leafy vegetables are grown. As I passed the field, I reached the girl on the bicycle. She along with her brother was standing in front of a house. She gave me a familiar smile. A security official who passed by us added that they were the successors of the soldiers of the Mughal sultanate.
A young man came along with cows. He told they were making a living by working in the garden and rearing the cows. He told me a few stories about the brave soldiers which he learned from his grandfather. That small girl waved to me with her innocent smile as I returned. They were very cordial in their behaviour.
There is a coffee shop inside the fortress. Its functioning in the free space within the fortress and also beneath the trees. I watched people passing through the streets as I sat in the coffee shop. I enjoyed a beautiful sunset too from the fortress. Paneer Pakora and coffee were simply yummy.
While going back to the hotel there were celebrations on the road. Bursting of crackers, youngsters dancing to drum beats, a marriage procession was with music and dance was on its way. People of Bidar celebrate two days of marriage with music and dance flowing through the streets.
Remains of the Bahamas dynasty are seen throughout Bidar. The tombs of the Bahamas sultans are located in Asthur, a village 4 km away from Bidar. Huge Tombstones are built in Mughal style in both sides of the lawn. There is a walking path in the middle and the place was literally deserted. Parrots and doves flew away from the domes. Suddenly emerged Mr Khalid Shah Bahama, who claimed to be a successor of Bahmani dynasty.
He has kept a file of the reports which appeared in the newspapers about himself. I just went through the reports. It was about Bahmani dynasty, their coins, and about Khalid the successor who has with him the reports on the history. He even opened the door of certain tombs and told about the sultans who were buried within. He said he is going to astonish me.
He said he would pour water in the hole. Further, when he makes a peculiar type of sound, he said flocks of birds would land there to drink water. Though he made the noise, no birds arrive. He said he would be back with another pot of water. Three kids who came by told it was Khalids antics to get money. They made fun of Khalid who was back with a lot full of water. Khalid scolded them and stopped calling for the birds and went on explaining the history of Bahmani Sultans.
The manuscript of history and preservation of the tombs is his responsibility, Khalid told. Later on he handed over a printed script asking to help Khalid who is the protector of the tombs. He thanked for giving him the money and left with the pot and the letter. I was astounded on the mere thought of having such a successor to the mighty Bahmani dynasty who had reigned this land for long.
After the demise of Mahamood Shah, the sultan of the Bahmani dynasty, it was his Minister Aamir Barid who took over the kingdom. After his son Ali Barid became the sultan and thus Barid Shahi dynasty came to existence. Behind the Bidar bus stand is a garden. Following the garden is the tomb of Ali Shahi sultans. There is a mosque carrying the name of Ali Barid Shahi. The tombs of Barid and his son are preserved in this mosque. Aircrafts were flying over the tomb while I was resting beneath the trees. Bidar Air Force station is located behind these Tombstones.
Barid Shahi garden is opposite to these Tombstones. It's the only place where entry is restricted with tickets. Tomb of the Barid Shahis can be seen from here as well. Mahmoud Gavan was a Persian Pandit and business meanwhile came to Bidar in 1453. He was elected as the Prime Minister due to his intelligence and dedication during the reign of Gavan Bahmani sultans. He built a madrassa in 1472. It was built by Persian architects with his own money says history. It was functioning as a residential university back then. Classrooms and accommodation facility for faculty as well as students were provided.
The madrassa was visited by philosophers and intellectuals from far of lands. The school which witnessed the golden age of Bidar is now vacant. Huge minars shone in sunlight. Persian tiles in blue, green and golden shades adorned the walls. The arches of the house located behind the madrassa were of light green colour and it reminded me of the history of Bidar.
Children were playing cricket in the stadium left side of the school. The ball came flying and hit one of the windows of the school and the kids started cheering. The cheering up of these kids are making the school alive now.
There is a Chaubara to the middle of the street a walking distance from the school. During the Sultanate of Bahmani was built an intersection of the major Streets called Chaubara is now a clock tower. Clock is just fixed but it doesn't harm the beauty of the clock tower. I was just wandering through the streets of Bidar and found a shop who were renting drums which is an essential part of Bidar weddings. I found Street food and ordered for 2 masala dosas for which the shopkeeper said it was upma dosa.
He spreads upma over the dosas which is in paste form. Also a mixture of potatoes and onions. He is cutting the paper roast into two and placing in a lunchbox. My breakfast was steamy upma dosa, chilli chutney and masala tea which was way better than any other food I had from Bidar.
Narasimha cave temple and gurudvara are the two other attractions of Bidar other than the history of the place. To reach the idol one has to go through the tunnel where there is always water. I was quite turned off as the temple premises were so unkept. Also there was no entry as renovation work was going on said the security official. He took us inside saying he will show us the water-filled tunnel. It turned out to be a mud water tunnel.
The tunnel was narrowing as moving inside. I was forced to ask whether the devotee's pass through this tunnel to see the idol. He said there used to be a queue till the entrance
A day before my return journey, I again visited the fortress. It was as silent as a picture seen in a story. No buzzing sound of aeroplanes, hovering of doves, only the star-studded sky. I just covered few pages in the history of Bidar in the four days. Fortress and the aeroplanes flying over, the Bahmani Sultans resting in huge tombs, old streets, Bidri sculptures came floating to my memory. A cold air left the trees swaying.
I was freely exploring Bidar like a breeze. Nobody stopped from entering the fortress or tomb. Nobody stopped me asking for passes; no whistles were blown. Yes, the doors of Bidar are open. It doesn't disappoint tourists who wish to take a walk through the history.
(Translated by Priyanka Pradeep)