THIS SMALL provincial town 1 contains some of the earliest examples of Islamic architecture in Karnataka. These date to the 14th and 15th centuries, when Gulbarga flourished as the capital of the Bahmani sultans  the first of the great Muslim kingdoms to dominate the Deccan.

The Dargah of Gesu Daraz (d.1422), to the northeast of the present town, is one of South India’s holiest Muslim shrines. Khwaja Gesu Daraz, or Bande Nawaz as he was affectionately known, was a Sufi mystic from the Chishti sect. He fled from North India and sought refuge here at the court of Firuz Shah Bahmani, a pious and enlightened ruler. His simple tomb stands in the middle of a large, sprawling complex comprising a group of lesser tombs, mosques and madra-arts, and is a major pilgrimage centre. The Dargah of Shah Kamal Mujarrad, another saint who lived in Gulbarga, lies further south.

A complex of seven royal tombs, known as the Haft Gumbad, lies to the west of the dargah. Firuz Shah Bahmani, who also died in 1422, is buried here in the largest and most elaborate of all the mausoleum,. Immediately west of the city are the desolate ruins of the forbidding fort, almost circular and protected by a wide moat. Little of the royal centre remains intact today. Near the entrance gateway is the Bala Hisar, a solid keep dating from the 17th century, when the Adil Shahis  occupied the city. The most interesting structure, however, is the large Jami Mashed nearby. ‘ Built in 1367, to commemorate Gulbarga’s status as the capital, this is one of the earliest mosques in South India, and the only one without an open courtyard. To its rear is the 14th-century Bazaar Street, lined with small chambers now converted into dwellings. This leads to a series of gateways shielded by walls that protrude outwards from the fort walls.

To the west of the fort are the derelict tombs of the early Bahmani sultans. Another 14th-century monument is the Shah Bazaar Mosque, to the north of the fort. Its domed entrance chamber leads into a courtyard with a prayer hall beyond. A street from here proceeds westwards to an arcade portal flanked by lofty minarets. Behind this portal lies the Dargah of Sheikh Sirajuddin Junaydi, a simple tomb with arcaded recesses and a flattish dome.

ENVIRONS: The picturesque ruins of Firuzabad, the palace city founded in 1400 by Firuz . Shah Bahmani on the east bank of the Bhima river, are located 28 km (17 miles) south of Gulbarga. The massive stone walls with quadrangular bastions and arched gateways define an approximately square zone, almost 1,000 m (3,281 ft) wide. The best preserved structures are the Jami Masjid and a two-storeyed audience hall. Among the remains are the royal baths (hamams), with pyramidal vaults and fluted domes, said to be the oldest in the Deccan,

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