(This article was published in national daily/South Indian daily-Deccan Chronicle)
Nestled in the heart of the Deccan Plateau, Bidar, a place rich with history, stands as a gem of Karnataka’s rich cultural heritage. Once the majestic capital of the Bahmani Sultanate, Bidar now embraces its past with open arms while merging it with the contemporary world. As one traverses through the lanes, adorned with the delicate lacework of history, Bidar’s allure becomes evident, casting a spell on travellers, leaving them enthralled by its enchanting charm. Athanius Niktin, a Russian traveller who visited the Deccan in the 15th century praised Bidar as the chief town of Mohammedan Hindustan.
The name of Bidar appears to be derived from ‘bidiru’ which means bamboo. The place seems to have been known for bamboo clusters in the past and also came to be known as “Bidarooru” according to some historical sources .It was also referred to as Bedaddakota. Traditional tales refer to this place as Viduranagara of Mahabharata, the place where the prime minister of Hastinapur –Vidura- lived.
Bidar was known to have been inhabited since pre historic times and has witnessed the rule of various dynasties and empires. Bidar and its surrounding region came under the influence of various ancient empires, such as the Mauryas, Satavahanas, Vakatakas and Kadambas. The Rashtrakutas, a prominent dynasty of the Deccan, ruled over Bidar from the 8th to 10th centuries. Moharkandi, the initial capital of the Rastrakutas is an hour long drive from the historic Bidar city and is located in the Bidar district. In the 10th century, Chalukyas of Kalyani, ruled over the region and Bidar served as an important political and cultural centre during their reign. Subsequently, it was under the Yadavas of Devagiri (present-day Daulatabad in Maharashtra) and then with the Kakatiyas of Warangal, before the Tughlaqs of Delhi eventually captured it.
Interesting turn of events took place in the 14th century that would affect the politics of Bidar for a long time. A rebellion broke out in the Deccan against the Tuglaqs and a certain ambitious rebel Zafar Khan defeated the royalists, gathered support and declared his territory independent. He took the name Allaudin Bahman Shah and thus started a new Sultanate of the Bahmanis (named after the Iranian semi- mythological figure Bahman).The Bahmanis initially had their capital at Gulbarga and later moved it to Bidar in 15th century. The Sultanate rapidly expanded their control over the Deccan, turning itself into a formidable power and often went to war with the Rayas of Vijayanagara, the Sultans of Malwa and even had military engagements with the rulers from the east, such as the powerful and illustrious Suryavamsa Gajapati kings of Odisha. The Bahamani Sultanate would disintegrate in the late 15th century and Bidar remained under the Barid Shahis and the Adil Shahis of Bijapur for some time. Upon the conquest of the Deccan by Aurangzeb in the mid-17th century, Bidar became part of the Mughal empire. After the death of Aurangzeb, it came under the Nizams of Hyderabad and finally merged with India in 1948, under the state of Karnataka (earlier Mysore).
The Bidar fort stands tall among the other historical sites located here. The fort – possibly built over the ruins of an earlier fort – was constructed in the 15th century, when the Bahmanis shifted their capital to Bidar. The main citadel complex housed the royal palaces, mahals and mosques. The Sharza Darwaza and the Gumbaz Darwaza act as the gates to the palace. Within these two gates, an army of around 3,000 men could man the defences of the fort. The Takht mahal is a residence which contains the Sultan’s room. The Tarkash Mahal is said to have been built for a Turkish wife of the Sultan. There are still a few long range guns on the bastions of the fort. The fort maintained its water supply through the underground kanez system. The 16-pillared Sola khambh mosque was built in the 15th century near the Zanana enclosure, and is counted as one of the largest mosques in India. As far as the architecture is concerned, the monuments have a intermixture of Hindu, Turkish and Persian artisanship.
Tombs of Bahmani Sultans are located at Ashtur, which is 1 mile from the Bidar town, and those of Barid Shahis are located to the east of the town. The Madrasa of the famous Bahmani minister Mahmud Gawan is another attractive monument, where tourists can find remains of blue tiles. Jharani Narasimha cave temple and Nanak Jhira Sahib are two well-known religious sites in Bidar
The Bidri ware forms an integral part of Bidar’s heritage. It is believed that the famous Bidri metal work originated during the Bahmani period and is said to have been brought here by an Iranian. This craftwork has received GI tag and one can visit Bidri colony in Bidar to see the men at work.
Bidar stands as a glorious witness to the enduring spirit of Indian history and culture. Its past, adorned with architectural wonders and stories of dynastic grandeur, continues to resonate through the corridors of time. As visitors traverse the ancient streets and explore the captivating monuments, they are transported to a realm where history dances hand-in-hand with the present, leaving a lasting impression of Bidar’s timeless allure. This beautiful historical city should definitely be on one’s travel list, as it waits to spellbound visitors with its array of antique stories. The city is well connected from major cities like Bangalore (700kms by road) and Hyderabad (150kms by road).