Gol Gumbaz – The Triumph of Deccani Architecture

If Taj Mahal is India’s most admired artistic tomb, then the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur that houses the grave of Muhammad Adil Shah is technologically the most advanced tomb of Medieval India. I have been to Gol Gumbaz twice before and each time there was something to be surprised about.


The View of Gol Gumbaz in the Early Morning

Gol Gumbaz, often considered as the triumph of Deccani architecture is actually an unfinished monument. I was told about this fact by Mr. Klaus Rotzer, an expert on Bijapur heritage during my recent visit. Designed by architect Yaqut of Dabul, Gol Gumbaz is a massive cube and its dome (44 m in diameter) is the second largest in the world. However, its plain surface was supposed to have been covered with a range of Persian tiles.



An Unfinished Graffiti

Muhammad Adil Shah started building his tomb immediately after his ascent to throne in 1626 CE. His intention was to build the grandest tomb in India. The construction of the tomb began and ended with his regime in 1656 CE. At Gol Gumbaz, beside the Sultan are buried two of his wives Taj Jahan Begum and Aroos Bibi, his mistress Rambha, his daughter and his grandson.


The tomb is one of the largest single structures in the world. At each of the four corners of the cube is a dome shaped octagonal tower seven stories high with a staircase inside. The top floor of each tower opens into a round gallery which surrounds the dome.



The dome’s exterior walls display examples of fine Adil Shahi stucco work ranging from simple geometric patterns to lotus medallions, branches of trees, leafs, crown of wing, chained motifs, petalled fringes, scroll work and creeper motifs.




Details of Plaster Work

The gallery on the 8th floor is an acoustic marvel. Also known as the whispering gallery, it is the highest achievement of medieval sound engineering wherein an echo reflects for seven times.


Another highlight of this monument is a meteorite that hangs over the main entrance. The meteorite had hit the monument while it was under construction. There is a beautiful story behind it, which is explained by Mr. Ameenuddin Hullur in the video attached here. It is believed to protect the structure from lightning.



A Nakkar Khana (also unfinished) lies to the south of Gol Gumbaz, which now houses a museum of ASI.


The Gol Gumbaz had an excellent water supply system as suggested by the presence of a number of water tanks, fountains, lifts and wells. There are 20 features documented by the ASI related to water supply system at Gol Gumbaz. The main sources are Khandak on the west, Masa Baodi on the north and Jahan Begum Talav on the south. One of the major water structures is Khandak, a small reservoir along with two tanks on the eastern and western rim. It is actually the quarry used for building the Gol Gumbaz that was eventually converted to a water structure. The two tanks lifted the water from Khandak and supplied to an array of fountains in the complex.

Bijapur- old sketch - Sultan Mahomed Shah's Tomb [colour]

A 19th Century Lithograph by Montgomery


My recent trip to Bijapur was hosted by my dear friend Ameenuddin Hullur, a local heritage enthusiast working on the revival of water structures and Hamza Mehmood, another local heritage enthusiast. I was accompanied by Hullur at Gol Gumbaz and as a humble gesture he narrated two interesting stories on Gol Gumbaz. Here is the narration.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

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