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Golconda Fort

The historic fortress of Golconda is about 10 km west of Hyderabad. The old name of Golconda fort was “Mankal”. It was built on a hill which was once the territory of the Kakatiya kings of Warangal in 1143. During the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah Bahmani (1358-1375), Raja Krishna Dev of Warangal handed over the fort in 1363 to Muhammad Shah Bahmani of Gulbarga under a pact. Muhammad Shah named the fort Mohamadnagar. There were five subedars (Governors) of the Bahmani Kingdom with headquarters at Gulbarga and later at Bidar in 1518.

Golconda was ranked among the important forts of the Bahmani Kingdom. After the death of Sultan Muhammad Shah Bahmani and as a result of the instability of the kingdom these five subedars became independent one after another. Sultan Quli, who was the subedar of Golconda, proclaimed his independence and founded the Qutb Shahi dynasty in 1518 with Golconda as his capital. The Golconda fort is as old as the Warangal fort but some historians claim that it is about 2000 years old. Sultan Quli Qutb Shah replaced the old Hindu mudfort with a strong fortress of stone. The Qutb Shahis ruled Golconda for almost 170 years from 1518 to 1687 and various additions were made by the successors of Sultan Quli. The first three kings of the Qutb Shahi dynasty constructed the Golconda fort in a period of 62 years from 1518 to 1580. The walls and bastions were built of large blocks of masonry, some of them weighing several tons.

The gates were studded with iron spikes and various other devices which were intended to prevent elephants from charging at them. Since the time it was built, the city was repeatedly devastated by pestilence owing to the scanty supply of water. Therefore the bridge over the Musi, which was built by Ibrahim Qutb Shah in 1578, showed the way to the expansion of the congested capital eastward. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah laid the foundation of a new city on the southern bank of River Musi. Hence, the town fell into comparative insignificance after the foundation of Hyderabad. The Golconda kings spent millions of rupees upon the fort for the command of the Deccan. The walls were strengthened and canals were built adjacent to the walls. Within the walls of the fort, scattered in all directions, are a number of old buildings, mosques and places of historical and architectural interest.

Several well—laid gardens have turned into patches of jungle. Of all the mountain fortresses, Golconda is perhaps the most impressive fortress in ruins, in India. Sultan Quli improved and fortified the fort. He also added new structures like the Safa Masjid and the Daulat-Khane-e-Ali. The fourth king, Ibrahim Qutb Shah, also constructed many edifices within the fort during his long, peaceful reign. The historian, Ferishta, tells us how the fortifications around Golconda were rebuilt with stone and mortar and how the king established an alms house (Langar Khana) and constructed a black platform (Kala Chabutra) along with many tanks, mosques and colleges. The royal nobles built their palaces within the fort for security. In course of time Golconda became a picturesque city with big gardens, broad thoroughfares and shops. Ibrahim Qutb Shah’s reign witnessed the discovery of the fabulous, world-famous diamonds of Golconda at Kollur near Krishna river. The famous historian Ferishta observes that Golconda was an international market-place where merchants converged from Turkestan, Arabia and Persia.

Two of the world-renowned diamonds from here are the Koh-in oor and the so called Nizam’s Diamond. The Koh-i- floor is part of the English monarch’s Crown Jewels. It is said that this celebrated diamond was given by Golconda’s Prime Minister Mir Jumla to Aurangzeb after the latter’s successful siege of the fort. Layout of the Fort: The fort is on an isolated granite hill and rises in splendour about 400 feet above the surrounding plain. The contours of the fort blend well with those of the hill. Today, in the midst of the arid plain, the ruins have a desolate majesty. The fort’s shape is an irregular rhombus, surrounded by a glacis. The granite crenellated wall is over 7 km in circumference with a deep trench. The outermost segment is reached by the Fateh Darwaza (Gate of Victory). Roughly a thousand yards ahead is the Bala Hissar Gate built into the wall that circumspects the hill’s base and protects the citadel. Finally, half way up the hill one finds the third waU, a natural defence that was made continuous by building in between the huge rocks on the hill. Above this wall is the oldest section of the fort. Walls and Bastions: Three granite walls of megalithic construction encircle the fort. The outermost was extended to encompass a smaller fort on a hillock.

The second wall skirts the hill near its foot and the third, on the hill slope, links the huge boulders. The exterior wall’s thickness ranges from 17 to 34 feet and is broken by the 87 semi—circular bastions, 50 to 60 feet high, fashioned out of massive granite blocks. In the north-west corner lies Petla Burj, or the “big-bellied bastion” jutting out from an angle in the fortification and commanding long portions of the wall on both sides. The famous Fateh Rahbar gun is positioned on the Burj. Another along the north-east is called the “Nine-lobed Bastion” and has a corrugated face with nine lobes.

This design affords a great length of parapet for defence and greatly facilitates firing from all sides. There are two other famous bastions. The first is Musa Burj situated towards the south of the fort which was planned by Musa Khan who was Abdullah Qutb Shah’s general, and built by Dharmachar, the architect, to protect the fort against the first Mughal invasion in 1656. The Azhdaha Paikar gun is kept in this burj.

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