Murals of Bijapur – Splendours of Deccani Odyssey

Contemporary to Akbar, there lived a Sultan at Bijapur, in Deccan, who was a dreamer, with an almost maniacal sensitivity to art. He was Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the patron of the greatest artwork in Deccan. Just as Akbar transformed Mughal art, Ibrahim elevated Bijapur paintings to a level of dramatic power and technical sophistication that had no parallels in contemporary schools.

Ibrahim’s patronized miniatures are difficult to spot for a common traveller of art to Bijapur, but what amuse you is the traces of murals that adorn the interior walls of a few of Bijapur monuments. Even though mostly eroded, the remaining impressions still indulge their curious onlookers. 

IMG_0640_1

The carved mihrab in Jama Masjid is the first one to be noticed and also best preserved. It has retained traces of fantastic paintwork on crisply modelled gesso.

IMG_0360

IMG_0362

IMG_0364

IMG_0368

IMG_0373

IMG_0385

The spandrels above the arch are filled with leafy tendrils exploding into fanciful blue and purple flowers against a rich golden background. The other attractions are Trompe-l’œil (the French term for ‘deceive the eye’– an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions) depiction of books in low relief, painted in rich gold and brown to suggest embossed leather bindings. What further catches your eyes in the mihrab is the treatment of faceted part domes, where calligraphic alams, some on chains are surrounded by the elegant leafy tendrils. 

Also, Read Here:

BIJAPUR WATER HERITAGE – AN OASIS IN PARCHED DECCAN

IMG_0386

IMG_0391

IMG_0393

IMG_0402

IMG_0403

These magnificent compositions combine the formal character of Central Asian pictorial tradition and abundant naturalism of Deccani tradition. 

The other building that has preserved Adil Shahi wall murals at Bijapur is Ashar Mahal, the grand courtly structure of the 17th century.

Also, Read Here:

GOL GUMBAZ – THE TRIUMPH OF DECCANI ARCHITECTURE

IMG_0958

IMG_0959

IMG_0920

In one of the upper chambers, there are traces of murals depicting courtly women, now badly damaged and difficult to photograph because of strict restriction and lack of natural light. The chamber next to it, however, appears magical with the depiction of Persian mystical pottery drawn by Chinese or Middle Eastern artists. Harmoniously proportioned these vases are composed of arabesque patterns similar to the 15th century Timurid designs. 

Travel Tips:

Bijapur is a medium-sized city located in North Karnataka near Maharashtra border in the heart of Deccan. The city is well connected both by road and railway. However, the nearest airport is either in Pune or Hyderabad (both 8 hours away). Hubbali is yet another nearby airport which is well connected by both rail and road service. The city has plenty of stay options starting from budget to luxury. Famous for Medieval architecture, especially Indo-Islamic including the second-highest dome and a triumph of Deccani architecture, Bijapur is an art lover’s paradise. While at Bijapur also visit Kumtagi waterworks (25 km from the city). One should keep a minimum of three days for a true appreciation of Bijapur’s water heritage.

IMG_0931

IMG_0935

IMG_0944

IMG_0945

IMG_0946

IMG_0952

IMG_0954

Paintings are also seen in the walls and vaults of one of the pavilions at the pleasure resort in Kumtagi, 25 km away from Bijapur. Though badly damaged, the remaining traces show a depiction of courtly pastimes, such as Polo match complete with horses and players, wrestling, drinking and musical performance. One can also find Europeans appearing in formal dress.  

IMG_0631

IMG_0635

IMG_0637

IMG_0644_1

IMG_0646_1

IMG_0647_1

IMG_0648_1

IMG_0655_1

IMG_0662_1

The wall murals of Bijapur are hardly talked about and perhaps it is the only Internet source documenting these valuable artistic assets of South Asia of yore. 

The Adil Shahis were Shia Muslims having a strong bond with their roots in Persia. Yet they had also inherited the local tradition. These paintings reflect in a sense a true amalgamation of ideas, the spirit of the idea of India, an essential subject to ponder at this juncture of the disturbance being faced in the country.   

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com    

 

 

 

 

Bijapur Water Heritage – An Oasis in Parched Deccan

A little west of Navrashpur, the third city of Bijapur, now in ruins…I chanced upon a freshly painted mural, quite uncommon, depicting a Muslim King as a yogi meditating to invoke Goddess Ganga to descend down to his capital from the Himalayas to quench the thrust of million plus people in the mid 16th century.

IMG_0105

He is Ibrahim Adil Shah II, celebrated as the Akbar of Deccan for his religious tolerance and literary ingenuity.

When Ibrahim built Navrashpur as a city of par excellence for performances of dance and music, he needed water. The legend goes: ‘Goddess Ganga was pleased with his prayer and agreed to flow down to the heart of Bijapur but under one condition. Ibrahim would walk in the front and she would follow him behind. The condition was – he would never look back till he reaches Navrashpur. Ibrahim agreed to the condition and was in high spirit. He marched down to Bijapur from the Himalayas and a few kilometres before his destination, he stopped, as he could not hear the cascading sound of water anymore. He was puzzled and looked back. Now the water stopped flowing. Upon asking the reason, Ganga replied: ‘You did not follow my advice. Now it is you to channelize water from here’.

IMG_0129

IMG_0146

The Ruins of Navrashpur

This place was Torvi, a dry undulating place, but catchment for all the run-off water from the plateau.

IMG_0084

IMG_0101

Torvi – The Source of all Water for Bijapur

The water heritage of Bijapur, however, begins with Ibrahim’s predecessor Ali Adil Shah, who had pioneered establishing Bijapur as a commercial hub after the battle of Talikota that led to the fall of Vijayanagar Empire.

Ali Adil Shah, the visionary Sultan of Deccan, had initiated grand projects for his capital including the construction of Jami Masjid. He also had established a city called Shahpur for traders and merchants to the east of Bijapur Fort. For all these people and their domestic animals, it was essential to manage water with high sophistication as the region was a harsh semi-arid plateau.

Ramalinga Tank, an existing water facility from the time of Yadavas, was upgraded by constructing a long masonry bund to meet the water requirement of Shahpur. Ramalinga Tank received water from Torvi catchment and was meant for Sahahpur residents. Water was also supplied from here to the main city of Bijapur.

IMG_0294

IMG_0301

IMG_0304

IMG_0311

IMG_0321

IMG_0330

IMG_0604

IMG_0614

IMG_0616

IMG_0619IMG_0620

Ramalinga Tank – Now Under Intensive Agriculture

Initially, it was an earthen dam built by the Yadavas. The Adil Shahi engineers brought in a new technology of hydraulic engineering making it one of the most advanced dams in Medieval Deccan.

IMG_0334

IMG_0336

In the film below, Dr Viswanath Siddhanti, a heritage activist from Bijapur explains the water heritage of Ramalinga which had a series of jack wells across the bund. The dam covered an area of 40 sq km supplying water to more than one million populations that thrived in Bijapur and its suburbs in the 16th century. At present, sadly, the tank is under intense cultivation by the locals.

The bund constitutes a series of jack wells which are intake structures for collecting water from the surface sources like rivers, lakes, and reservoirs and conveying it further to the water treatment plant. These structures are masonry or concrete structures and provide relatively clean water, free from pollution, sand and objectionable floating material.

Travel Tips:

Bijapur is a medium-sized city located in North Karnataka near Maharashtra border in the heart of Deccan. The city is well connected both by road and railway. However, the nearest airport is either in Pune or Hyderabad (both 8 hours away). Hubbali is yet another nearby airport which is well connected by both rail and road service. The city has plenty of stay options starting from budget to luxury. Famous for Medieval architecture, especially Indo-Islamic including the second highest dome and a triumph of Deccani architecture, Bijapur is an art lover’s paradise. While at Bijapur also visit Kumtagi waterworks (25 km from the city). One should keep a minimum of three days for a true appreciation of Bijapur’s water heritage.

The Ramalinga Tank, which formed the core of water management in Bijapur, did not survive for a long time. During the rule of Ibram Adil Shah II, it was breached by Ahmednagar Sultan. Ameenduin Hullur, the heritage activist of Bijapur explains the reason in the film below.

The next stage of development was at Torvi which is situated beyond Navrashpur in the west. It is also the catchment for all run-off water from the plateau. As mentioned earlier, during the rule of Ibrahim Adil Shah II, water was brought from here through earthen pipes till Surang Bavadi near the tombs of Afzal Khan’s wives and then through subterranean channels (qanat system) to Ibrahim Rouza enclosure through Moti Dargarh.

IMG-20171110-WA0022

Annicut and Terracotta Pipes Laid by Adil Shahi Engineers from Torvi Source, Photo Credit – Hamza Mehboob

Water Layout at Bijapur

Also, Read Here:

Karez System of Bidar – A Persian Oasis in Deccan

Burhanpur – A Medieval Water Oasis

During my travel to Bijapur, I was fortunate to be accompanied by Hamza Mehboob, a local heritage activist. We spotted a number of air-shafts, however, except few sadly, most of them are encroached upon.  They are placed at regular intervals along its course, but beyond Ibrahim Rouza it is lost.

IMG_0100

IMG_0109

IMG_0116

IMG_0117

IMG_0172

IMG_0189

IMG_0200

IMG_0206

IMG_0218

IMG_0220

IMG_0225

IMG_0227

IMG_0232

The Qanat System in Bijapur

Ameenudhin Hulur explains here about the qanat system in Bijapur.

At the time of Muhammad Adil Shah, the Ramalinga Talav and Torvi waterworks had lost their capacities as these had been destroyed by the Sultan of Ahmednagar during his raid of Bijapur. It was necessary to create a large water facility to meet the growing demand of the city.   In 1651 CE in memory of his wife Jehan Begum, Muhammad Adil Shah constructed Jehan Began Talav to the south of his capital. The talav today is popularly known as Begam Talav. It is located about 5 km to the south of Gol Gumbaz and covers an area of 234 acres. Even today this talav fed southern and eastern side of Bijapur.

IMG_0843

Begam Talav

To the right side of the tank is an underground room from where water was supplied to the city through terracotta pipes. The pipes were laid to the death of 15 to 20 feet and were joined and encased in masonry. Many water towers of height 25 to 40 feet called Gunj had been built to release the pressure of water and prevent pipes from bursting. These towers also allowed dirt in pipes to remain at the bottom and the water to flow.

IMG_0826

IMG_0419

Gunj or Water Towers

IMG_0986

IMG_0988

IMG_0989

Terracotta Pipes

Apart from Begam Talav, several other tanks were created in and around Bijapur to meet the water need of its population. Some of these are Rangrez Talav, Qasim Talav, Fatehpur Talav and Allahapur Talav. There were also a large number of bavadis or step wells constructed at different locations by both sultans and nobles for water management. Among these, the most significant is the Taj Bavadi.

Also, Read Here:

Travel Shot : Community Revival of Taj Baodi – A Success Story

Prior to Taj Bavadi, it was Chand Bavadi that had formed the most iconic among all water monuments of Bijapur. Chand Bavadi was built by Ali Adil Shah in memory of his queen Chand Bibi in 1549 CE. The square-shaped bavadi is located closed to Shahpur Gate.

IMG_1134

Chand Bavadi

Most of Bijapur’s tombs and mosques had also attached water structures which show the engineering achievement of Adil Shahis. These were actually the quarries used for building the structures and later converted into small bavadis. For example, the Gol Gumbaz the largest of all among Adil Shahi monuments had an excellent hydraulic arrangement as suggested by the presence of water tanks, fountains, tank cum lifts, tank cum distributor and wells. At present, there are 28 features within the complex. The main sources are Khandak on the west, Masa Bavadi on the north and Begam 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.

IMG_0060

IMG_0082

Water Works at Gol Gumbaz Complex

In Bijapur, water was managed not only for sustenance but also for the luxury of Adil Shahi sultans and nobles. You visit any palace or grand public buildings, there are traces of water fountains and Jacuzzi. Ameenudin explains in this film how water was integrated with luxury and amusement of Adil Shahi Sultans.

IMG_0415

IMG_0570

IMG_0959

IMG_0996

IMG_1029

IMG_1038

IMG_1051

IMG_1080

Today sadly, that entire water heritage for which Bijapur had achieved height benchmark is in shattered ruins. Lately, however, thanks to dedicated efforts of activists like Ameendhin and Dr Sidhanti there is hope for their partial revival for posterity.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

 

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.

IMG_9975

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.

IMG_9985

IMG_0012

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.

IMG_0006IMG_0001

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.

02

03

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.

IMG_0013

01

IMG_9993

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.

IMG_0038

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.

IMG_0069

Meteorite

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

IMG_9979IMG_0051

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

IMG_0073IMG_0074IMG_0060IMG_0080

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

Mandu’s Water Heritage – An Epicurean Delight

Between the years 1469 and 1500 CE, Mandu was being ruled by Ghiyat Shah aka Ghiyasuddin Shah, son of Mohmmed Khalji, the founder of Khalji dynasty at Malwa. Ghiyat had spent his early years in fighting battles to augment his father’s struggle against rulers of Delhi Sultanate and Rana Kumbha of Mewar.

06

According to Adil Shahi historian Ferishta, shortly after his accession, Ghiyat ‘gave a grand party, on which occasion, addressing his officers, he stated that he had during the last thirty-four years been employed constantly in the field, fighting under the banner of his illustrious father, he now has yielded the sword to his son, in order that he might himself enjoy easing the rest of his days.’ He accordingly established within his seraglio all the separate offices of a court and had at one time fifteen thousand women within his palace.’

These included teachers, musicians, dancers, embroiderers, women to read prayers, and persons of all professions and trade. 500 females Turks, dressed in men’s attire stood guard on his right, armed with bows and arrows, and on his left, similarly, 500 Abyssinian women, also in uniform, stood guard armed with firearms. The book of pleasures, Nimat Nama, is attributed to Ghiyat and the recipes are still used as a standard for making samosas. The illustrated manuscript is a wonderful specimen of Pre-Mughal miniature paintings in the country.

Jahaz Mahal, where Ghiyat indulged himself in hedonistic pleasures, is an icon of Mandu today. An elongated building measuring 110 m in length and 15 m in breadth, Jahaz Mahal is located in the royal enclosure on a narrow stretch of land between two water bodies, the Kapur Talav and Munj Talav. Appearing like a floating ship or a love boat, with pavilions on the top and three projecting balconies over the talav, Jahaz Mahal is a double storied structure rising to a height of 9.7 m. The Munj Talav, believed to have been built by Raja Munj of Parmar Dynasty is on the west and the Kapur Talav is on the east.

02

03

img_6347

img_6351

img_6353

img_6361

img_6364

img_6365

img_6417

img_6419

The interior of Jahaz Mahal can be approached through a recessed arched marble gateway at the middle of the eastern wall. Inside the building, there are three large halls connected by corridors. At the northern end of the ground floor, a couple of steps descend to a large tortoise-shaped swimming pool. The pool is surrounded by a colonnade on three sides, leaving the eastern side open. The total capacity of this pool is approximately 30,000 litres of water.

Travel Tips: 

Mandu is located in Dhar District at a distance of 100 km from Indore, the nearest metropolitan city and the airport. Best time to visit Mandu is however monsoon, when the hills of the Malwa Plateau turn green and its water bodies are full.  A true lover of heritage can spend 2/3 days and explore its water heritage at one’s own pace. Mandu being a popular tourist place there are plenty of stay and food options developed by MP Tourism. From Mandu tourists can also visit Maheswar on Narmada and Dhar, the district headquarter, 30 km away. At your leisure also visit the tribal villages around Mandu to explore their life. 

Also, Read Here: 

Dhar – History in Layers

img_6440

img_6438

img_6385

img_6387

A flight of steps lead to the upper level from here leading to a lotus shaped water pool. On the southeast corner of the 7 feet deep pool is a spiral aqueduct, which controlled the flow of water while supplying to the pool. This ensured luxurious bathing for the sultan and his harem women similar to a modern Jacuzzi.

img_6436

img_6434

img_6435

img_6399

img_6400

img_6401

The water was collected from a baoli on the southern end of Jahaz Mahal, called Suraj Talav using the traditional water lifting system. Water was first lifted to terrace of Jahaz Mahal and then supplied through a series of aqueducts to the various pleasure pools.

Also, Read Here:

Burhanpur – A Medieval Water Oasis

img_6416

According to a report published in Down to Earth magazine, the Munj and Kapur Talavs were once interconnected through an arched underground channel that exists even today. As the rainfall was not equally distributed and the terrain was undulating, the water level in the two tanks was not always equal despite the underground balancing system. So a causeway was laid down between the tanks at the water level ensuring equal distribution of water between the two talavs.

img_6486

Jahaz Mahal incorporates today’s concept of passive solar architecture (designing a building in conjunction with the earth processes around it so that heating and cooling occur naturally), besides the use of rain water harvesting and filtration system.  The complex, in fact was a big spa as it had all elements of luxurious water architecture – fountains, cisterns, baths, hammam, aqueducts, water channels and baolis.

Among the baolis, Champa Baoli draws immediate attention. It had been built as a pleasure pool for the women of zenana by Ghiyath’s architects. Located at the northeastern end of Munj Talav, as a part of a chain of subterranean aquifers, it was also used to supply water within the royal buildings, mainly to the hammam. It owes its name to the sweet water which smells like the fragrant champa flower. There are inner compartments in the lower storey of the well. A subterranean path goes down the well and connects itself with a labyrinth of vaulted rooms, known as Takhana, which are almost level with the water of Munj Talav. Even at the height of summer, the rooms of Takhana were cool and comfortable with gentle breeze flowing from the pavilion.

img_6465

img_6470

Beside the Champa Baoli is a large royal hammam built in line with the Turkish baths. There are two separate water channels, one for hot and the other for cold water, which merge into one after some distance and flow into the bath. Today, pair of halls with vaulted ceilings is all that remains of the hammam. Its main facade was built of marble and adorned with panels and medallions of blue and yellow tiles, some of which bear inscriptions in Kufic script. The most impressive feature of this bath is its starry ceiling in which beautiful star like shapes are hewned for light to pass through. The star shaped light would fall on the waters making the hammam look dreamy.

Also, Read Here:

Travel Shot : Community Revival of Taj Baodi – A Success Story

the-jal-mahal-vaulted-ceilings-meant-for-ventilation-and-light_18950407446_o

Source: India Water Portal

Hammam,_Mandu_01

Source: Wikipedia

To the north of Munj Talav and at the furthest end of the royal enclave is the Jal Mahal. Though most of tourists skip this, it is no doubt one of the most impressive parts of the royal complex where the sultan and his women celebrated the monsoon rains. A narrow passage connects the royal palace to the Jal Mahal. When the monsoons are copious, the Munj Talav is brimming with water presenting a wondrous sight. There is a large water tank in the middle of the courtyard, in which steps are provided to descend to the water level. Jal Mahal was a big favorite of Emperor Jehangir. Tuzuk I Jahangiri mentions: “I know of no other place that is as pleasant in climate and with such attractive scenery as Mandu in the rainy season”. Legends say that both Nur Jahan and Roopmati stayed here.

img_6419

img_6489

img_6491

img_6495

img_6498

img_6500

img_6501

img_6505

img_6506

img_6507

img_6508

img_6511

Ujala Baoli, located on the main road to the northeast of Jahaz Mahal, is one of the finest baolis of the country. It is an open well and therefore called Ujala Baoli. It is a magnificent 3 tired structure, 265 feet deep and surrounded by arched niches. Inside the baoli, are a number of arcades and landing for the convenience of water carriers. At the northern tip is a water lift and opposite it on southern tip is a pavilion for royal guards to keep watch on the water.

img_6179

img_6180

img_6174

img_6185

img_6170

Andheri Baoli is a closed well and just a few feet away from Ujala Baoli. It is surrounded by a corridor with a dome in the center of its roof, just above the well. The dome has an aperture at its apex to admit light and air inside. Below, the corridors along the edge of the well is a fine arched gallery approached by a stepped passage from above, which further goes down up to the water level.

img_6213

img_6217

img_6211

img_6216

The water heritage of Mandu is significant and beyond Ghiyath’s idea of fun and frolic. Mandu is perched upon a rocky spur of the Vindhyan range at an altitude of 634 m. It is separated from the main Malwa Plateau by a deep ravine KakraKoh, which runs on the eastern, northern and southern sides of the Mandu hills. The southern slope of Mandu has a 305 m incline and it merges into the Nimar Plain drained by the Narmada River.

01

img_6536

img_6138

img_6135

In spite of its picturesque setting that drew medieval powers to establish their capitals, the plateau often faced water crisis. Monsoon was the only source of water in Mandu and it was necessary to store the rain water for the rest of the year. According to a report published by India water portal, Mandu has 120 baolis and 18 lakes but only a few are functional.

While driving from Dhar to Mandu, I came across a small tank/baoli near a ravine. Rectangular in shape with stone alignments, it is one of the many such structures lying decadent on this vast stretch.

img_6123

img_6126

Another water harvesting structure is at the Malcolm Kothi near Nalcha Village, an architectural delight that stands in the middle of a rich black soil field overlooking the Satpura Hills. Named after a British agent of Malwa who lived here in the 19th century, Malcolm Kothi,  was built much earlier in the 16th century by the Malwa Sultan, Nadirshah Khalji, outside the bustle of his capital Mandu as a pleasure retreat. It was later used as a rest house by Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jahangir during their Malwa campaigns.

img_6032

img_6041

Built in east-west direction, the building is a fine example of Malwa architecture, a fusion of Rajput and Afghan styles. It has an attached tank and a baoli. The outer domes were once lavishly decorated with Persian blue tiles, of which only patches remain.

Most of the Mandu’s monuments are built alongside kunds (ponds), some bearing Hindu names. For example, Somvati Kund located within Darya Khan’s Tomb Complex on the main road to Rani Roopmati Palace. The tank is of rectangular shape with steps closely resembling a Hindu temple tank. Darya Khan was a minister in the court of Mahmud Khalji II.

img_6628

img_6623

img_6626

Near the Sagar Talav, the largest water body in Mandu, lies the massive domed structure of Adhar. It too faces a water body.

While walking from the Hoshang Shah Tomb to Jahaz Mahal, there is another baoli on the road side. It seems to be part of the Jama Masjid – Hoshang Shah Tomb Complex.

The last but not the least is the Rewa Kund at the southern end of Mandu plateau. The lake, which forms the main supply of water for Mandu revolves around the timeless romance between Rani Roopmati and Baz Bhadur. The Narmada flows in the valley below at a distance of 40 km. However, it is believed that the lake is connected to the river. The lake was built before the Sultanate rule and bears a Hindu name. Pilgrims on the Narmada Parikrama make a detour to this historic water body of Mandu.

rewa-kund_18971488032_o

Source: India Water Portal

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Badshahi Ashurkhana – A Qutb Shahi Salute to Imam Hussain

The Persian Blue has held me in fascination from long. There is no single reason I can attribute to it yet the genesis of this interest goes back to the mid- 1990s when I was a PhD student working on a medieval port site on Odisha coast. In a trial pit we had unearthed a Persian turquoise glazed pottery piece, the first of its kind found on Odisha coast revealing an evidence of contact with the Persian Gulf. My interest grew towards understanding India’s global connection throughout her history. In this process, I discovered the palette of magnificent glazed ceramics that adorned a number of monuments across India – from Agra to Bidar and from Gwalior to Hyderabad.

02 (5)

Magnificent Persian Tile Work in South Asia

One such monument is the Badshahi Ashurkhana that I came across while leafing through the book ‘Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates’ by George Michell and Mark Zebrowsky.

IMG_5421 copy

In 2015, I landed in Hyderabad and visiting the Ashurkhana was on the top of my list of things-to-do. Though at that time my purpose was to appreciate its Persian inlaid tile work but later what moved me was its deep spiritual connection with a branch of Islam that played a considerable role in shaping the history of Medieval India.

IMG_5410

Badshahi Asurkhana in Hyderabad

Badshahi Ashurkhana is a Shia shrine commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husain at Karbala in Iraq. The shrine was erected in 1593-96 CE with tiles added in 1611 CE.

Built under the patronage of Quli Qutb Shah, the building is famous for its large fine cut tile mosaic decoration particularly the tear shaped medallions in a distinct Deccani palette covering its outer walls.

IMG_4617

Tomb of Quli Qutb Shah near Golkonda Fort

Ashura is the 10th day of the first month of Islamic calendar, Muharram. On that day, Imam Hussain and his 72 followers including his sons, brothers, cousins and companions were cruelly put to death. After being surrounded for ten days by enemy forces and cut off from food and water supply, they died fighting on the sands of the scorched plain of Karbala.

In 632 CE, Prophet Muhammad’s last year of life ended in crisis. None his sons had survived to adulthood. So a broad consensus of those present at Medina nominated his uncle Abu Bakr as his successor. But a number of others felt that the selection of the first caliph was inappropriate. For them Ali ibn Talib, who was both the Prophet’s first cousin as well as son-in-law was the natural choice. In 656 CE, Ali was raised to the position of caliph.

However, this decision was not well-received by all Muslims. Ali’s main opponent was the Muslim Governor of Syria, and a member of the Umayyad clan (founder of Umayyad dynasty), Muawiya. Ali was murdered by one of his supporters, a Kharijites in 661 CE because of his mutual agreement with Mu’awiya for attribution.

Mu’awiya became the next caliph in Islam, but his leadership was not accepted by all Muslims, especially in Iraq who hoped for return of Ali’s lineage. In 680 CE, Imam Hussain, Prophet’s grandson was made the third caliph by the Shiites of Iraq. At the same time Yazid I had succeeded his father Muawiya as the caliph among Sunnis.  Yazid having learnt of the rebellious attitude of Shiites sent his army to restore order.

Imam Hussain had set out from Mecca with 72 members of his family and followers for Kufa, a city in Iraq with an expectation to be received by the citizens of the city. However, on his arrival at Karbala, west of the Euphrates River, he was confronted by a large army. Imam Hussain and his people fought bravely but were defeated. They were all killed hungry and thirsty on the 10th day of Muharram.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Battle_of_Karbala_-_Abbas_Al-Musavi_-_overall (1)

Battle of Karbala (Source – Wiki)

Shiites observe this day as Ashura, a day of public mourning.

Shia Islam and India:

India’s Shia population is second to only Iran in the entire world. According to Al-Shaykh-Al-Mutid, the Shia theologian of 10th-11th century CE, before the battle of Karbala, Imam Hussain and Umar ibn Saad, the commander of the enemy force had discussed in length about the former’s willingness to go to one of the border outposts of the rapidly expanding Muslim empire. Some historians believe that the border outpost was Al Hind or India. According to some Shia historians, Imam Hussain’s wife Shehr E Banu was a relative of Hindu king, Chandragupta. They further claim that a band of Indian soldiers known as ‘Mohyal Brahmins’ had gone to Iraq to help Imam Hussain at Karbala but reached late. They still fough with Yazid’s army and exacted revenge of Imam Hussain’s defeat. The Mohyal Brahmins mourn Imam Hussain’s martyrdom till today and thus are known as Hussaini Brahmins.

Even though Imam Hussain did not reach India, some of the Shias did migrate fleeing from Umayyad or Abbasid persecution. These refugees brought with them rituals which kept alive the memory and narrative of Karbala.

Interestingly, the martyrdom of Imam Hussain became an integral part of Indian belief. For centuries, the neighbouring Hindu communities have repetitively been drawn to the ceremony in honour of the beheading of Imam Hussain, venerating him as if he were an Indian ‘god’.

Muharram Procession in Hyderabad (Images 2, 3 and 4 – Source: Flickr – Rajesh Pamnani 2012)

In Hyderabad, where sizeable populations of Shias live, Muharram employs rituals and iconography reflecting Indic influence.

Qutub Shahis were the founding dynasty of Hyderabad in the 16th century. They were staunch Shia Muslims. During their rule, the Qutub Shahis sponsored public Muharram processions and built a number of Ashurkhanas wherein people gathered to mourn Karbala. The Shia Safavid government of Iran cultivated good relations with the Qutub Shahis. As a result there was cross-cultural flow of ideas strengthening the Deccani culture and civilization.

During the rule of the Qutub Shahis, Hyderabad had a number of splendid Ashurkhanas, replete with high exterior walls, spacious courtyards, carpets, tile work, chandeliers, and glass lamps. Inside each Ashurkhana are placed sacred objects that represent the battle standards used by Imam Hussain and his companions. However, in spite of its rich enamel tile decoration and strong historical connection, the best preserved Badshahi Asurkhana, is hardly visited by tourists.

The Badshahi Ashurkhana stands on the High Court Road of the old city of Hyderabad.

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Travel Shot – Benazir Palace

Bhopal, the burgeoning cosmopolitan capital city of Madhya Pradesh is also referred to as the City of Nawabs. Among her erstwhile rulers was Shahjehan Begum, a prolific builder who is credited with the construction of the imposing Taj – Ul – Masjid, the largest mosque in India.

01

She named her capital, Shahjehanabad which was counted one amongst the most beautiful and well planned cities of the 19th century. Some of the other structures built by her are Ali Manzil, Benazir Palace and the Taj Mahal Palace.

Her daughter Sultanjehan Begum writes: ‘Her Highness’s love for erecting large buildings and palaces was in no way less than that her great namesake, the Emperor Shahjehan of Delhi. She had three palaces constructed in the Mughal style for her personal use’.

Among these buildings, Benazir Palace built in 1875 was a pleasure garden and a palace to accommodate state dignitaries.  Lord and Lady Minto stayed here in 1909 during their visit to India. The palace was built around three waterbodies and overlooks one, the Motia Talab. The other two water bodies are the Noor Mahal Talab and the Munshi Hussain Talab.

IMG_4386IMG_4432

Benazir Palace is built in H shape encloses stepped terraces and water fountains. A series of steps and plinths descend down to Motia Talab. The building is a perfect blend of Mughal, Rajput and European architecture. Steel columns, carved wooden partition, stain glass windows, extensive carvings on walls and in the royal hamam are some of the attractions of this palace.

02

The grounds attached to the palace were used for ceremonial processions, parades and were also used as congregation grounds by the subjects. Steps on both the sides of the ground create an arena like setting that can be used by people for sitting during sports. Mahatma Gandhi addressed a rally here in 1929.

03

palace

Today, the Benazir Palace is crumbling and has been encroached upon by locals. The neglected palace stands as a testimony to the dying heritage of the city of Nawabs.

IMG_4486

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

 

Tarakasi Art – On The Brink of Survival

If Bhubaneswar is known as the City of Temples then its twin Cuttack, renowned for its varied cultural practices, historical aspects and craftsmanship is celebrated as the Silver City. Cuttack is the anglicized form of Katak that translates to ‘Fort’ which here is the Barabati Fort, the erstwhile capital of Odisha.

Cuttack city which is located on a spit of land between the Kathajodi and the Mahanadi Rivers was established as a military cantonment by King NrupaKeshari in 989 CE. During the Ganga Period (13th century CE), it became the capital city and continued to be so till India’s independence. After the death of Raja Mukund Dev, the last Hindu king of Odisha, Cuttack was brought under the Muslim rule in the 16th Century CE and later under the Mughals, Cuttack flourished as the seat of Odisha Subah. In 1750 CE, Cuttack came under the Maratha rule and grew as a vibrant business centre on the east coast of India. Its prosperity continued during the colonial era and Cuttack emerged as both a culturally and an economically prolific city.

Filigree or Tarakasi is Cuttack’s USP and this art was introduced to the city some 500 years ago. According to Wikipedia, filigree is a delicate kind of jewellery metal work of usually gold and silver made with tiny beads or twist thread or both in combination, soldered together on the surface of an object of the same metal and arranged in artistic motifs.

WP_20170804_12_32_03_Pro

WP_20170804_12_40_46_Pro

WP_20170804_12_31_50_Pro

Archaeological evidences suggest that filigree was incorporated into jewellery as early as 3500 BCE in Mesopotamia where it is practiced even today as Telkari work.   According to historians, there is every possibility that the tarakasi work reached Cuttack from Persia through Indonesia some 500 years ago by sea trade. The argument is based on similar workmanship seen in both Cuttack and Indonesia. It was during the Mughal Era, that the craft received royal patronage and today, Cuttack Tarakasi is world renowned for its delicate artistry and excellent craftsmanship.

The main attraction of Cuttack Tarakasi is its fine spider web work. Rose flower is one of the main elements in its repertoire of design motifs. One rose takes about 3 to four hours to make. Beside jewellery, works of creative art portraying iconic monuments of Odisha, replica of Lord Jagannath, other Hindu gods and goddesses, flora and fauna and in recent years a number of contemporary themes, such as currency notes, chariots, rickshaws, bicycles, and so on are also seen in the market.

WP_20170804_12_39_51_Pro

WP_20170804_12_46_12_Pro

WP_20170804_12_41_44_Pro

Rikshaw

Man Pulling Rikshaw

WP_20170804_12_32_38_Pro

IMG_7903

WP_20170804_12_46_21_Pro

Tarakasi involves a number of steps. Artisans who are mostly goldsmiths work with 90% silver alloy. A lump of silver is placed on a small clay pot over a bucket full of charcoal. A hand operated bellow is used to regulate the temperature. It takes about 10 mins to melt the silver lump. The molten silver is then poured into a rod shaped mould which is further put in water for cooling. A machine is used to create thin silver wires from the rod. Wires are then carved into a number of intricate designs, which are first drawn on paper. On the other hand, thick silver wires are used as frames into which thin wires are embedded through the process of soldering.  There are about 90 types of wire designs of spirals and curls, creepers and jaalis, which the artisans use to create the outline.

IMG_7915

IMG_7936

IMG_7932

IMG_7935

IMG_7938 copy

IMG_7940

In the early 20th century, due to the lack of patronage, tarakasi work of Cuttack had almost vanished. Thanks to Madhusudan Das, the architect of modern Odisha and a resident of the city, a craft workshop named Utkal Arts Work Factory was set up to revive the centuries old craft. In 1962, former Chief Minister Biju Patnaik established the Kalinga Filigree Cooperative Society to help local tarakasi artisans.

IMG_7924

Today there are about 400 artisans in Cuttack working but the craft is in danger due to a number of factors, such as competition from Kolkata, which produces coarse but affordable silver filigree items, lack of interest among the new generation because of its labour intensive and time consuming nature, increase in the cost of raw material, poor returns to the artisans and absence of a strong community based leadership.

The situation looks bleak but there is hope. As I talked to Mr. Ashok Vora, a leading merchant of Cuttack dealing with tarakasi craft, I discovered that there is a revival of interest among art connoisseurs and general public alike owing to its exquisite and intricate filigree work. Only time will tell whether the art survives or not though I remain hopeful.

 

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

Travel Shot : Dargah E Hakimi

“Bharde jholi meri Ya Mohammad, laut kar main na jaunga khaali”

Who can forget the hesitant Bajrangi Bhaijaan going to a dargah as a last resort with a lament that is voiced soulfully by Adnan Sami in the form of the above qawwali. His request is heeded and things fall into place. This is the stirring power that faith has and faith, as I have known and believe, does not see religion.

IMG_7250

It is faith, that brings people in hordes to Dargah E Hakimi in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh. Faith in the powers of the 17th-century Bohra saint Syedi Abdul Qader Hakimuddin who was known for his piety, humility and scholarship. A sanskrit scholar and a Hafiz-e-Koran (he could recite the entire Koran from memory), his recitation of the Koran could mesmerise any living being. It is faith, that a tiger on hearing the saint reciting the Koran obediently sits down in front of him and later walks away silently.

When Syedi Hakimudin died in 1730 CE, his detractors exhumed his body after 22 days and found a fresh and fragrant body much to their utter disbelief. Over the years, people’s faith in Syedi Hakimuddin’s miraculous powers have grown manifold. The word Hakim denotes a healer and thousands of Bohras flock to his shrine, taking a mannat (vow) for shifa (cure) from disease and seeking restoration of the health of both the body and the soul only to return back again and again.

IMG_7251

The Dargah that looks more like a resort than a mausoleum has lush environs with water fountains, well laid gardens and lawns along with living facilities that can be compared to a starred hotel and for those who cannot be accommodated in the rooms there is a dormitory too replete with all the facilities. All of this at a pittance for the maximum you pay for a room is Rs. 1000/- only ! Food is not charged and the first thing you hear as soon as you enter the Dargah is “jamvanu nu izzan che” (you are invited for food).

IMG_7258

Hosting an average of upto 1000 pilgrims everyday, this Dargah is impeccably clean and very well managed. The food is always there despite the fact that there is no prior registration and people just walk in at any time. None of the staff is trained in hospitality or management but the systematic way in which this huge property spread over 125 acres runs reminds you that here, faith is at work. If one day someone sponsors the dessert, than another day a group pays for the entire feast, someone takes care of the appetizer than another day someone sponsors the piping hot tea and breakfast. The grains that reach the Dargah (125 kgs of rice, 80 kgs of flour and pulses daily) are many a times sent by ‘Hakimuddin’, anonymous donors who give in the name of the saint.

Last year approximately 121,356 people came seeking the serenity that this dargah offers making the Madhya Pradesh government honour it with the ‘Most Tourist Friendly Pilgrimage Centre’ award. The accolades and initiatives don’t stop there, the Dargah has now taken up organic farming producing wheat on the surplus land. It is utilized by the kitchen of the Dargah. All the bio waste is collected and composted that enriches the soil making it a green haven. Bee keeping is also practiced and the honey is given to the pilgrims during breakfast. Plans are afoot to expand these initiatives further.

IMG_7260 Astounded, puzzled or just in awe ? At Dargah E Hakimi, the standard answer to every puzzled question is a smile and a finger that points towards the dome of the tomb of Syedi Hakimuddin.

IMG_7261

It befits our brethren, may Allah give them strength, to not despise any field of knowledge, or shun a particular book, or bear prejudice towards a certain faith. Indeed our philosophy and our faith encompass all faiths and all knowledge.

Rasaa’il Ikhwan al-Safaa

Author – Zehra Chhapiwala

She can be contacted at zchhapiwala@gmail.com

All the pictures used in the post are courtesy Jitu Mishra

Travel Shot : Mandu – On A Road Less Traveled

Once upon a time there was a king named Baz Bahadur. He was the last independent Sultan of Malwa.  During one of his hunting trips, Baz Bahadur chanced upon Roopmati, a divinely beautiful shepherdess, frolicking and singing with her friends. Being a great lover of music, he was bowled by Roopmati’s melodious voice. It was love at first sight and Baz Bahadur asked for Roopmati’s hand in marriage to which she agreed on the condition that she would live in a palace from where her Maa Narmada, which flows beneath the Malwa spurs in Nimad Plain, a few kilometers away, was visible.

Isn’t this how fairy tales begin? And it was a fairy tale romance where Baz Bahadur went all out to please his lady love and built the Rewa Kund where the waters of Narmada turned into a placid lake by a palace. But destiny had a different plan. Mughal Emperor Akbar on hearing of Baz Bahadur’s immersive marital life decided to capture Malwa and sent Adam Khan to invade Malwa. Baz Bahadur met the mighty Mughal army with his small force and was defeated. He escaped leaving behind his kingdom and Roopmati to fend for themselves. Sensing her fate at the hands of Adam Khan, Roopmati killed herself, thus ending the fairytale romance that still attracts thousands of tourists to Mandu every year.

But there is more to Mandu than this epic romance and its vestiges found in spectacular palaces, pavilions and lakes. Mandu’s landscape is dotted with hundreds of monuments against the picturesque spur of Malwa plateau, the most talked about being the Jahaz Mahal, Jama Masjid, Roopmatis’ pavilion, Hindola Mahal, Baz Bahadur’s Palace and Hoshang Shah’s Tomb.

On a recent drive through Mandu’s historic terrain, I came across three spectacular monuments that are yet to figure on the itineraries of the tourists. They are located close to each other, off the road that leads to Roopmati’s Pavilion on the eastern bank of the sprawling Sagar Talav. 

The first one of the series is Malik Mughith’s Mosque. Built in 1452 CE by Malik Mughith, father of Mahmud Khilji, the third Sultan of Malwa, is one of the earliest Islamic monuments to be built in Malwa. One of the key attractions of the mosque is its projecting porch which can be reached by ascending a flight of steps. The entrance porch consists of beautiful arched doors and windows, once profusely covered with floral decorations and blue tiles, traces of which can still be seen.

Mandu1

Malik Mughith’s Mosque

The second in the series is Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal. This is the tomb of a woman, called Malik Magi. The tomb is octagonal in shape and crowned by a beautiful dome, once covered profusely with blue tiles. The tomb has four arched openings in four cardinal directions and stands on a raised plinth. The other attraction of the monument is its attached Char Bagh garden built over the slope.

2

Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal

A few meters away is Dai Ka Mahal, a tomb complex standing on a plinth with arched openings, a domed roof and traces of pavilion topped towers at corners. It is the tomb of a wet nurse having rooms with arched openings. The mosque, situated within the tomb complex, is adorned with brackets and jharokas showing distinct Hindu architectural influence. Mandu was a prominent seat of the Parmar dynasty till the end of 10th century CE. So the Hindu influence found here can be traced to the architectural legacy of the Parmars in Malwa.

3

Dai Ka Mahal

Both the above monuments (Dai Ki Chhoti Behan Ka Mahal and Dai Ka Mahal) were probably used as residence quarters of Sultan’s favourite wet nurses or mid-wives. When they died their mahals were converted into tombs. These buildings together with other splendid structures of Mandu give an important insight into the provincial style of Indo-Islamic architecture. Marked by elegance and simplicity, this style, later influenced the more majestic Mughal style of architecture as seen in Agra and Delhi. 

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com

 

 

Burhanpur – A Medieval Water Oasis

How did India manage its water resources in the medieval times is a question that has haunted me for quite some time now.  The quest to answer this question began a couple of years ago when I went to Bidar, the Bahamani capital in northeast Karnataka where thanks to Mr. Valliyil Govindakutty, an expert on medieval water management, I got a chance to explore the Karez system, a subterranean water channel that works using the gravitational force. Karez system was first introduced to Bidar from Iran but was mastered in Burhanpur during the Mughal Era. So, obviously the next destination in my quest was Burhanpur.

Burhanpur, located in the heart of India in Madhya Pradesh was widely known as the cultural capital of the Mughals. Established by the Farouqis in 1388 CE, the city reached its zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries CE. Burhanpur’s strategic location in the pass of Satpura Hills and on the bank of Tapi River established it as the ‘Gateway to Deccan’ or ‘Baab E Dakkhan’ in the Mughal Era. The city was named by Malik Nasir Khan of Farouqi Dynasty as Burhanpur after the Sufi Saint Burhan – Ud – Din Gharib (a disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia).

Also, Read Here:

Karez System of Bidar – A Persian Oasis in Deccan

Burhanpur

Burhanpur City in-between Satpura Mountains and Tapi River

IMG_7067

Ghats at The River Tapi built by Ahaliya Bai Holkar

IMG_7079

River Tapi flowing beside the Burhanpur Fort

In 1601 CE, Akbar conquered Khandesh and made Burhanpur the capital of Khandesh Suba. After capturing Asirgarh Fort, the key to Burhanpur, he appointed his son Daniyal as the Governor of Khandesh. Later, during the time of Jahangir, Prince Khurram (known as Shah Jahan) took the charge of Burhanpur in 1617 CE. A stone inscription at the summit of Asirgarh Fort records the revolt of Khurram against his father Jahangir in 1622 CE. After a tough fight against the Mughal army, Shah Jahan had to surrender and sign a peace treaty with his father. After the death of Jahangir in 1627 CE, the political condition became favourable for Shah Jahan and he was crowned the next Mughal Emperor. But trouble was brewing in Deccan so Shah Jahan made Burhanpur his base for two years (1630 – 1632 CE), conducting operations against Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golkonda.

With the conquest of Burhanpur, the Baab – E – Dakkhan became an established garrison town with an approximate population of around 200,000 army personnel and 50,000 civilians. Though Burhanpur was situated on the banks of River Tapi and Utavali, there was a constant fear of poisoning by enemy forces. The constant supply of safe drinking water became a matter of serious concern for Abdul Rahim Khana – E – Khanan, the governor of Burhanpur. Add to this, Burhanpur is situated in a geological fault zone (Bajada Fault), parallel to River Tapi and adjoining the valley of Satpura Hills.

Khana – E – Khanan decided that developing the qanat system (a labyrinth of underground water tunnels) was the best solution to the problem he faced. For this, he invited Tubkutul Arj, a Persian geologist in 1615 CE. Arj tapped water flowing in streams from Satpura Hills to Tapi, through a network of 103 circular inter-connected wells, known as bhandaras with an underground brick and stone tunnel that was 3.9 kms long. He galvanized the unique geological opportunity presented by the fault that sloped towards east to River Tapi and developed the Qanat System.

Khuni Bhandara3

Khuni Bhandara1

Khuni Bhandara

IMG_7215

IMG_7216

IMG_7219

IMG_7222

IMG_7223

IMG_7225

IMG_7226

IMG_7233

IMG_7234

IMG_7235

IMG_7236

IMG_7237

IMG_7243

Thanks to the permission given by Mr Dipak Singh, Burhanpur District Collector with the coordination of Mr Malviya, my guide and local expert, I could get down the 25 m deep tunnel and walked inside for almost 50 m. The tunnel is however closed for tourists otherwise. Walking inside the Kundi Bhandara, or Khooni Bhandara (named so because of the reddish water) was a dream come true for me. The water was clean and cool. Its PH value is 7.2, much higher than that of water purified using modern technology. The walls had bricks, covered with calcium deposits.

Also, Read Here:

Bijapur Water Heritage – An Oasis in Parched Deccan

Kundi Bhandara works on the law of gravitational force. At the source, the water is at 30 m deep which gradually heightens to 2 m in the last bhandara. This means the water flows upwards following the laws of gravitation. The diameter of the kundis varies between 0.75 m to 1.75 m.

Kundi Bhandara is just one part of a broader network of water management, others being the Sook Bhandara, Trikuti Bhandara, Mool Bhandara, and Chinaharana Bhandara. The water channelized through these networks of bhandaras is collected in sump wells, known as Karanj. From Karanj, the water was distributed through earthen pipes to sarais, hamams, gardens, mosques and residential areas of the city.

Travel Tips:

Burhanpur is a medium-sized city located in Khandesh Region of Madhya Pradesh, close to Maharashtra border. The city is surrounded by Tapi River and its fertile valleys, besides the hills of Satpura Range. The city and its surroundings have been under human occupations from the time Prehistory.  However, it was during Rashrakutas (8th-10th centuries CE), Burhanpur became an established centre of trade and commerce. In 1388 CE, Malik Nasir Khan, the Faruqi Sultan of Khandesh, established it as his capital and renamed it after a well-known medieval Sufi saint, Burhan-ud-Din. In 1601 CE, Akbar annexed the Khandesh sultanate and Burhanpur became the capital of Khandesh subah of Mughal Empire.  While at Burhanpur, also visit Asirgarh Fort. This fort during its prime time was difficult to win because of being built at a great height, with strong outer walls which are still standing intact.

Burhanpur is well connected by road and rail services with all major cities of India. The nearest airport is Devi Ahayala Holkar International Airport at Indore, 3 hours drive. 

Jahangir Hamam, a public bath system located in the heart of the walled city of Burhanpur, built during the time of Jahangir received water from Kundi Bhandara. The hamam has three rooms and an octagonal platform in the center of the biggest room.  Special provision in the form of open roof tops was made for ventilation and light.

IMG_6946

IMG_6940

IMG_6941

IMG_6928

IMG_6927

IMG_6926

On the other side of Tapi lies Zainabad, the pleasure retreat of the Mughals. It is believed that the Farouqis first settled at Zainabad as remains of some of the earliest mosques testify. However, its affair with the Mughals began with Akbar’s son Daniyal who was the Subedar of the new province. Daniyal loved going for hunts often. He built the Ahukhana or deer park at Zainabad, where besides him Noor Jahan and other Mughal royalty practised their hunting skills. A palace was constructed here during the time of Jahangir, which is said to have been designed by Noor Jahan’s brother.

Also, Read Here:

Mandu’s Water Heritage – An Epicurean Delight

Ahukhana1

Ahukhana2 copy

Mumtaz, Shah Jahan’s beloved wife was so fascinated with this palace that she transformed it from hunting ground to a rose garden. Its design had no parallel in Central India and had the distinction of being the second most beautiful garden in the country after the Nishat Garden in Kashmir.

IMG_7178

IMG_7207

IMG_7206

IMG_7197

IMG_7196

IMG_7188

IMG_7187

IMG_7183

IMG_7199

IMG_7205

The water fountains and channels at Ahukhana were fed by the water received from the dam near the Gul Ara Mahal, another pleasure palace built by Shah Jahan on river Utavali. Gul Ara Mahal is deeply linked with the love story of Shah Jahan and Gul Ara. Gul was an extremely talented and divinely beautiful singer – danseuse. During his youth, Prince Khurram visited Burhanpur often with his father Jahangir. On one such trip, while on a leisurely long walk, he was drawn to a melodious voice. He spotted a young woman singing and dancing by the river Utavali.  It was love at first sight and both of them romanced on the banks of Utavali. Shah Jahan built a dam and two identical mahals opposite each other across the dam and named it Gul Aara Mahal in her honour.

IMG_7169

IMG_7164

IMG_7141

IMG_7142

IMG_7165

IMG_7154IMG_7161

The rooftop presents a panoramic view of the waterworks and the charming countryside around. Though now in ruins, one can imagine Shah Jahan and Gul Ara gazing at the waterfall and losing themselves in its melody. The untimely death of Gul Ara marked the ending of their love story. But the palace and the rhythmic sound of water still echo tales of their romance. The palace is about 21 km from Burhanpur.

Today, the Kundi Bhandara has been partly restored by the Burhanpur Municipal Corporation and the district administration  to supply clean and adequate drinking water to the city throughout the year. It has been made possible due to the vision of Mr. Praveen Garg, the former district collector of Khandwa District (Burhanpur was part of Khandwa District at that time) in early 2000. Today the medieval water wonder of Burhanpur quench thirst of nearly 50,000 people (one fourth of Burhanpur’s population).

IMG_7212

IMG_7213

 

However, it is a pity that the once opulent and richly decorated water pavilion at Ahukhana and Gul Ara Mahal are now sad crumbling ruins. These structures are in a state of utter neglect. But there is hope as I discovered during my hour long discussion with Mr. Hoshang Havaldar, an hotelier and local convener of INTACH, who is very keen and optimistic about the revival of Burhanpur’s water heritage. We, at Virasat E Hind Foundation, are eager to see it happening. Till then fingers crossed.

 

 

Author – Jitu Mishra

He can be contacted at jitumisra@gmail.com