Bidar Fort – The erstwhile capital of the Bahmani Kingdom

Bidar Fort is situated in Bidar city of the Indian state of Karnataka. Originally built in the 8th century, the old fort of Bidar was captured in 1321-22 AD by Prince Ulugh Khan of the Tughlaq dynasty, who later on became Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq of Delhi. With the establishment of the Bahmani Sultanate in 1347, Bidar was occupied by Sultan Alauddin Bahman Shah. During the rule of Ahmad Shah I (1422-1486), Bidar was made the capital of Bahmani Kingdom. He rebuilt the old fort and erected beautiful madrasas, mosques and palaces inside it. Long and winding fort walls were constructed out of stone and mortar by Persian and Turkish architects.

Bidar fort was captured by the independent Bijapur Sultanate in 1619-20 but fell to the Mughal viceroy Aurangzeb in 1657, and was formally absorned by the Mughal Empire in 1686. In 1724 Bidar became part of the Asaf Jahi Kingdom of the Nizams. Nawab Mir Said Muhammad Khan, also known as Salabath Jung, who was the third son of Asaf Jah I ruled from Bidar fort from 1751 to 1762, till his brother Mir Nizam Ali Khan also known as Asaf Jah II, imprisoned him and later killed him in the fort on 16th September 1763. The old name of Bidar “Mohammedabad” refers to the rule of Salabath Jung. In 1956 when the state of Hyderabad was partitioned, Bidar fort became part of the newly formed Mysore state, now Karnataka.

The Bidar fort was constructed on the edge of a plateau and has a haphazard rhombus-shaped layout. The present day fortress was rebuilt using red laterite stone around the old fort in 1428 by Ahmed Shah Bahman. The fort is 1.21 km long and 0.80 km in breadth. The fort walls measure 2.5 km on the outside and include within numerous buildings, arches, pavilions, mosques, gateways and gardens. To the north and east, steep cliffs provide natural protection to the moat and the glacis elsewhere, the walls are protected by a unique tripe channeled moat. There were seven gates to the Fort.

There are 37 bastions on the fort walls, with cannon made of bars of metal welded together and held together by metal hoops were mounted on the bastions. The fort has number of monuments within the fortress complex. Prominent among them are the Rangin Mahal, Takht Mahal, the Jami masjid and the Sola Khamba Masjid (Sixteen pillar mosque). Most of these structures are in ruins now.

The spiked doors of the Bidar fort
Another gate of the Bidar Fort
An arched door inside the fort
The triple moat of Bidar fort
Another arched gate inside the fort
Inside the fort – ruins
Inside the fort
One of the buildings inside the fort
More structures inside the fort
Fort interior
The dome of the Sola Khamba Masjid
Arched gateways inside the fort
More ruins inside the fort
The steep cliff at the north end
More structures inside the fort
One of the arched gateways inside the fort
One of the bastions and the moat below
Inside the fort

How to reach:
Bidar railway station is well connected with the rest of the country.

Bidar is well connected with the nearby cities by a network of buses by both Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and private buses. Hyderabad is 147 kms from Bidar.

Red-rumped Swallow

The Red-rumped Swallow (Ceropis daurica) is a small passerine bird in the swallow family. They are somewhat similar in habits and appearance to the other aerial insectivores, such as the related swallows and the unrelated swifts. They resemble Barn Swallows, but are darker below and have pale reddish rumps, face and neck collar. They lack breast band, but have black undertails. They are fast fliers and they swoop insects while airborne. They have broad but pointed wings.

Red-rumped Swallows build quarter-sphere nests with a tunnel entrance lined with mud collected in their beaks, and lay 3 to 6 eggs. It normally nests under cliff overhangs in its mountain homes, but will readily adapt to buildings such as mosques and bridges.

These swallows are usually found over grasslands where they hawk insects. They may sometimes take advantage of grass fires and grazing cattle to flush insects into the air.

Lothal – “the mound of the dead”.

Lothal is located in the Bhal region of the Indian state of Gujarat. It is six kilometres south-east of the Lothal-Bhurkhi railway station on the Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar railway line. The nearest city is Bagodara. Lothal was one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus valley civilization dating from 3700 BCE. Discovered in 1954, Lothal was excavated from February 1955 to May 1960 by the Archaeological Survey of India. It was vital and thriving trade centre in ancient time with its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reaching far corners of West Asia and Africa. The techniques and tools they pioneered for bead making and metallurgy have the test time for over 4000 years.

The meaning of Lothal (a combination of Loth and thal) in Gujarati to be “the mound of the dead” is not unusual as the name of the city of Mohenjo-daro in Sindhi means the same.

Archaeologists have unearthed trenches sunk on the northern, eastern and western flanks of the mound, bringing to light the inlet channels and nullah connecting the dock with the river. The findings consist of a mound a township, a marketplace and the dock.

The town was divided into blocks of 1 to 2 meter high platforms of sun dried bricks each serving 20-30 houses of thick mud and brick walls. The city was divided into a citadel or acropolis and a lower town. The rulers of the town lived in the acropolis which featured paved baths underground and surface drains and potable water well. The lower town was subdivided into two sectors. The residential area was located to either side of the marketplace.

Remains of canal opening built with burnt bricks
The remains of the dock wall at Lothal
Can you imagine these bricks were made in 2300 BC?
The main well in Lothal
Remains of washroom drainage system at Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
More remains from the excavation site of Lothal
The remains of the ancient drainage system of Lothal
The remains of bathroom-toilet structure at Lothal
The remains of the burial place
The remains of the lower town

The archaeological museum which stands next to the excavated area is holding some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India.

The archeological museum next to the excavation site

How to reach Lothal:
There are frequent buses from Ahmedabad to Saurashtra. Catch one of these buses and get down at Bagodara. There are rickshaws available from there to Lothal.

Mirjan Fort – An architectural wonder in laterite stone

The Mirjan Fort is located on the west coast of the Indian state of Karnataka. The fort was built in the 16th century by Queen Chennabhairadevi of Gersoppa. She ruled for 54 years and also lived in the fort. During her reign the port at Mirjan was used for shipping pepper, saltpetre (Potassium nitrate) and betel nut to Surat. The fort known for its architectural elegance, was the location for several battles in the past.

In 1757 the Marathas had seized the Mirjan Fort. The event that led to the capture of the fort was due to the death of Basappa Naik, the last ruler of Bednur, in 1755. His wife has taken control, representing her 17 year old adopted son, Chanbasaviah. Since her adopted son opposed her taking a “paramour”, she got him murdered. This had resulted in a revolt by the agitated local people, and taking advantage of the situation the Marathas had captured the fort.

You can see both Portuguese and Islamic influences in the fort’s construction. The fort’s round bastions, for example, are typical of Indian forts built by Islamic rulers. The single tall square lookout tower along the southern wall is characteristic of Portuguese military architecture of 1500s.

The fort is located on the bank of the Aganashini River. The mouth of the river is 12 km from the Mirjan village. The fort was built over an area of 10 acres with laterite stone. It has high walls and bastions. The fort has four entrances (one main and three subsidiary entrances) and many wells, which are interlinked and with access channels leading to the circular moat (used as defense measure to protect the fort) that once fully surrounded the fort, and leading to the canal works outside the fort’s limits. At each entrance, there are wide steps to enter the fort. The fort which was mostly in ruins was recently restored by the Archaeological department.

One of the bastions of the fort
The laterite built high walls and the bastions
Some of the excavated items scattered around this tree inside the fort
Inside the fort – gracing cattle
The wonderful view around the fort
The wonderful view around the fort
This part of the fort are still in ruins
One of the many wells inside the fort
Steps towards the well
The view of Aganashini River from the fort
Interior view of the fort
The prayer hall inside the fort
The watch tower and the flag hoisting tower inside the fort
Fort interior view
The round bastion and walls
The walls made in laterite stone
Fort interior view
One of the entrances
A secret path inside the fort
More views
More views

During the year 2000-01, ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) carried out excavations in the precincts of the fort. Antiquarian findings also included a gold coin minted in 1652 with inscriptions that attribute it to the Portuguese Viceroy Conde De Sarzedas during the reign of Joao IV, cannon balls, Chinese porcelain, clay tablets with Islamic inscriptions. Seven dumb-bells, 50 iron bullets, coins and designed earth pots belonging to Sarpmallika dynasty were also found during the excavations at the fort.

How to Reach:
It is about half a km from the National Highway 17 and 11 km from Gokarna, the Hindu pilgrimage center on the west coast of India.