AFTER THE FALL of the Bahmanis the Ail Shahi sultans emerged as the principal rulers of the Deccan in the 16th and 17th centuries. Their capital, the fortified city of Bijapur, was protected by ramparts with prominent bastions; many of the original cannons are still in place. The Malik-i-Maidan (“Lord of the Plain”), reputedly the largest cannon of the period in India, still guards the western entrance. Within the fort’s walls are splendid mosques, palaces and tombs built by a succession of enlightened rulers.
The Citadel, in the heart of the city, is defined by its own fortified walls and sur rounded by a wide moat. The south gate, the only one surviving, leads into what was once the palace complex. This ceremonial centre of Bijapur, surrounded by arcades, is known as the Quadrangle, and is today occupied by municipal offices. To its northwest stands the Sat Manzil, the seven-storeyed pleasure palace from the top of which the whole city could once be seen. Of this, only five storeys now remain. It overlooks an exquisitely ornamented miniature pavilion called the Jai Mandir. A short distance to the north are the Gagan Mahal, the audience hall of Ali Adll Shah I, with an arched façade facing an open space, and the Anand Mahal, or the “Palace of Joy”, where the ladies of the seraglio lived. other fine structures include the Mecca Mashed, a charming little mosque to the east of the Citadel, and Karlmuddin’s Mosque near the south gate, built with temple materials pillaged in 1310 by • Alauddin Khilji.
OUTSIDE THE CITADEL
The walled city, outside the Citadel, is scattered with monuments built by the Adil Shahi sultans. To the east of the Citadel is the double-storeyed Mar Mahal, built in 1646 as the hall of justice, and later converted into a sacred reliquary to house two hairs of the Prophet. Chambers on the upper level are decorated with murals depicting floral themes and courtly scenes with European-style figures. A short distance away is the elegant Milatar Mahal, belonging to the period of Ibrahim III (1580- 1626) and entered through a triplestoreyed gateway. Balconies projecting over the street are supported on angled struts carved as if they were made of wood. The gateway leads to a small mosque.
The grandly conceived Jami Mashed , to the southeast, was begun by All Mil . Shah I in 1576, but never finished. The marble floor of the capacious prayer hall has I been divided into some 2,250 rectangular bays to resemble I prayer mats. Even today, the j mosque attracts more than 2,000 worshippers during Friday prayers. To the north and west are more tombs and mosques, including the Taj Baoli, a large square tank surrounded by steps.
This exquisite mausoleum, often described as the finest Islamic building in the Deccan, was built by Ibrahim II for his wife. In fact, he predeceased her and is buried here too. The funerary com plex consists of a tomb and a mosque, raised on a plinth in the middle of a formal garden A huge tank nearby is named after his wife, Taj Sultana. The walls of the tomb, as seen within an arcaded Veran dab, are embellished with superb calligraphic and geometric designs. The tomb chamber is roofed by a flat vault with curving sides.