There is some connection between rains, ruins and me. I have always had rains for company whenever I have visited ruins. Be it Tintern or Hampi or Champaner. It is never a heavy downpour, mind you, but a gentle drizzle. So I was not really surprised when rain welcomed us on arrival at the Hyderabad airport last month. I was on a day trip to Hyderabad with Neena, a colleague, and we had arrived early in the city so that we could visit the Golkonda Fort, before getting down to business.
We got that first look of Golconda, rising tall and majestic in the distance from the car we were travelling in. With rain clouds in the distance, it made for an unforgettable picture. As we neared the Fort, we kept getting tantalising glimpses of the Fort, each one a little closer. By the time the car stopped at the entrance to the Golkonda Fort, we were raring to explore the Fort.
It was 9 in the morning, and with hardly any other visitors in sight and it appeared that we would have the Fort almost to ourselves. This also meant that we were swamped by a horde of guides before we even got to the ticketing office. Since we had decided not to hire a guide, we had to politely and firmly decline every offer of a guide service.
We hoped to get around the Fort with an information booklet on the Fort, which we were told was available here. To our surprise, the ticket clerk informed us that no such booklets were available for the Indian tourist, and the few copies he had were only meant for international tourists only! So we ended up walking through Golkonda Fort without a guide, without any information booklet and with only a few signposts and boards to help us find our way around. And of course, the rain !
The Golkonda Fort is a massive 3-tiered fort with 8 gateways and 4 drawbridges, surrounded by a moat. It would not be wrong to call it the Golkonda Fort Complex as it contains 4 distinct forts, granaries, armouries, mosques, royal apartments and halls, pools and gardens within, covering an area of 11 sq.km.
Golkonda derives its name from the Telugu word golla konda, which means shepherd’s hill. Legend has it that a young shepherd found an idol on the hill that the Fort is built on. Considering this to be a good omen, the Kakatiya king at that time built a mud fort in 1143. This was the humble beginning of the Golkonda Fort, which over the centuries was then ruled by Warangal Kings, the Bahmani Sultanate, the Qutub Shahi dynasty, and finally conquered by the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb in 1687.
It was during the Qutub Shahi reign that the mud fort of Golkonda was transformed into the formidable stone fort complex that we see today. It was a task that took 62 years. The main entrance, also known as the Balahissar Gate, is stunning example of Indo-Islamic design. There are peacocks and lions carved into the lintel above the gate, which is bordered by rows of delicate scroll work. The massive doors have metal spikes to deter elephants from breaking the gates.
The pathway leading to Balahissar Gate is twisted and narrow for a good reason—such a passage can slow down and confuse attacking elephants. Besides, it does not allow for leverage or transport of mechanical devices which could be used break the gates.
Neena and I had a great time wandering among the ruins, exploring paths and broken down arches and buildings, and poking into dark and mysterious corners. Some of the ruins were labelled, while the signboards in many others were faded or missing. We did not always know the significance of what we were seeing, and yet it was a visual treat all the way.
We spent about 2 hours at the Golkonda Fort complex happily taking in the sights and clicking away (I inaugurated my new camera here—Panasonic Lumix F100). There were times when I regretted not having hired a guide, but on the whole it was fine. But then Golkonda Fort was one of those places that one needs to see and get a feel of. I love ruins, though not just in the romantic sense of pathos, neglect and destruction; but of a world that once existed, thrived, and lived. And the grand ruins of Golkonda did not disappoint on those counts. 🙂
I also know that this was just my first visit to Golkonda. There are going to be others, and hopefully it will be when I can explore it in leisure, maybe with a guide or an information booklet, or both. And that day cannot come soon enough.
PS: I wouldn’t mind if it does not rain that day 😉