Marco Polo said these about the riches of Golconda when he visited Queen Rudrama Devi of Warangal in 1292 AD “the flower of the diamonds and other large gems, as well as the largest pearls, are all carried to the great Kaan and other kings and princes of those regions. In truth they possess all the treasures of the world.”*
I have travelled to Hyderabad quite a few times but have never managed to visit any of its landmark. This all changed in 2013 when I had a real wonderful likeminded colleague travel with me to Hyderabad. It was an official trip scheduled for three days but a chance of luck made us finish the necessary meeting within a two days and we had a full day free for us with our flight back to Kolkata late evening.
Nothing was planned beforehand so everything had to be decided spontaneously and together with a common acquaintance Narasimha who happened to be a localite we decided to go to Golconda Fort. I never like to travel in a four wheeler as I do not get to feel the city and was lucky enough that Narasimha managed to get a motorbike from his friend and along with his own motorbike we set off to Golconda Fort.
Hyderabad traffic can be nightmare sometimes but since I am well used to riding bike in a city like Kolkata could easily manage to navigate. Journey did not go smoothly as planned, Narasimha’s bike ran out of petrol so we had to stop midway and help him push along to the nearest petrol station. These are all a part and parcel of the fun which I really seem to enjoy whenever I am travelling and I do not feel them as a show stopper.
Finally we reached Golconda Fort and parked our motorbikes outside in a well designated parking lot. Golconda Fort is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) thus its very well maintained when compared to other heritage structures. At the very entrance you can see a layout map with well-marked sections of the fort. This is quite helpful if you do not wish to take the service of a guide then you can roam around freely at your leisurely pace.
Golconda was once the capital of Qutb Sahi Dynasty and once known to be the fort where nearly seven famous diamonds were stored in its vaults. These include Koh-i-Noor, Hope Diamond, Daria-i-Noor, Noor-ul-Ain, Princie Diamond, Regent Diamond & Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond.
Originally built by the Kakatiya dynasty from 945-70 the fort transfer hand to the Bahmani Sultanate in 1364 and later to the Qutb Sahi Dynasty in 1507. In 1687 Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb lay siege to the fort and drove the last nail to its coffin. Golconda formed a part of the Hyderabad State which was under Nizam of Hyderabad from 1724 – 1948.
Spread across eleven kilometres Golconda is actually a series of four forts whish are placed around a small hillock. Some of it is in ruins but some portions are quite remarkably well maintained. Various structures can be easily spotted which include Mosques, Temples, Archway, Halls, Rooms of different size etc.
Bala Hissar Gate welcome you to the fort with its beautiful intricate designs and peacock motifs. Located on the eastern side of the fort this arched gate truly depicts the perfect fusion of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles.
Fateh Darwaza is the most famous of the well preserved structure, this is basically a huge gigantic gate with iron spikes to prevent Elephants ramming into them. It was named Fateh Darwaza after the victory by Aurangzeb’s army who happened to march through this gate. You will surely find guides clapping their hands to demonstrate acoustic warning system which worked like a warning signal to a distance of nearly a kilometre.
From the entrance you can clearly see the Taramati Mosque which literarily stands out in front of the stoned fort ruins. Its yellowish textured walls glows with the stone background.
You will definitely see the lush green grass and the gardens across the whole fort which gives you an idea of the grandeur which once it was. You will feel walking alongside the garden where once prince and princesses roamed around feeling the aromatic air of the garden flowers.
With stone arches all around you will definitely marvel the architecture styles, some of them still exists in somewhat good condition to get an overall feel. Some of the rooms have domes which have white plaster over them and the rays of the sun paints a beautiful hues of yellow and green on them.
Surprisingly there is also a Baobab Tree inside the extended portion of the “Naya Quila” of Golconda Fort, I have recently written a blog about Baobab Tree which is present in plenty in Western Africa but very few are here in the Indian mainland and this is one of the few. Locally it’s known as “The Elephant Tree” or “Hatiyan ka Jhad”, this may be due to its appearance which closely resembles an elephant trunk according to me.
Other important landmark inside the fort are Rani Mahal, Ambar Khana, Ibrahim Mosque etc. You can also find old canons of different sizes around the fort, this gives you an overall view of the defence that was present within the fort.
One needs to climb a few stairs and you will reach the top of the fort which houses the Baradari. From here you would get a 360 degree view Hyderabad city (outskirts). You can also find many devotees visiting the Jagadamba Mahakali Temple, nestled between boulders this temple is as unique as its surroundings.
Many portions of the fort can also be seen in need of some urgent repair. While some walls have collapsed and some portions which can be made out to be different sections of the fort are inaccessible. Considering the age of the fort this is natural as years of exposure to weather has loosened the rock foundation.
Looking at all these now I realise why Marco Polo an Italian Merchant said what he said after visiting India. This place in its original getup would have truly looked marvellous. Along with the wealth that this region generated from the Diamond Mines I am sure the fort would have stood out. In its heydays the word Golconda got associated with wealth and fortune. Even till date most of the famous diamonds are originally from this region.
The following is and extract from The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo, translated by Henry Yule.
It is in this kingdom that diamonds are got; and I will tell you how. There are certain lofty mountains in those parts; and when the winter rains fall, which are very heavy, the waters come roaring down the mountains in great torrents. When the rains are over, and the waters from the mountains have ceased to flow, they search the beds of the torrents and find plenty of diamonds. In summer also there are plenty to be found in the mountains, but the heat of the sun is so great that it is scarcely possible to go thither, nor is there then a drop of water to be found. Moreover in those mountains great serpents are rife to a marvellous degree, besides other vermin, and this owing to the great heat. The serpents are also the most venomous in existence, insomuch that any one going to that region runs fearful peril; for many have been destroyed by these evil reptiles.
Now among these mountains there are certain great and deep valleys, to the bottom of which there is no access. Wherefore the men who go in search of the diamonds take with them pieces of flesh, as lean as they can get, and these they cast into the bottom of a valley. Now there are numbers of white eagles that haunt those mountains and feed upon the serpents. When the eagles see the meat thrown down they pounce upon it and carry it up to some rocky hill-top where they begin to rend it. But there are men on the watch, and as soon as they see that the eagles have settled they raise a loud shouting to drive them away. And when the eagles are thus frightened away the men recover the pieces of meat, and find them full of diamonds which have stuck to the meat down in the bottom. For the abundance of diamonds down there in the depths of the valleys is astonishing, but nobody can get down; and if one could, it would be only to be incontinently devoured by the serpents which are so rife there.
There is also another way of getting the diamonds. The people go to the nests of those white eagles, of which there are many, and in their droppings they find plenty of diamonds which the birds have swallowed in devouring the meat that was cast into the valleys. And, when the eagles themselves are taken, diamonds are found in their stomachs.
So now I have told you three different ways in which these stones are found. No other country but this kingdom of Mutfili produces them, but there they are found both abundantly and of large size. Those that are brought to our part of the world are only the refuse, as it were, of the finer and larger stones. For the flower of the diamonds and other large gems, as well as the largest pearls, are all carried to the Great Kaan and other Kings and Princes of those regions; in truth they possess all the great treasures of the world.
By now we were tired and hungry thus decided to move ahead to our next destination the famous Char Minar. Before that we of course stopped for some sumptuous Hyderabadi Biriyani and Shahi Tukda.
All this blogging and photographs of food is making me hungry now, need to refuel myself. Till then keep visiting my blog and wait for my next adventure.
p.s. We were caught by the Hyderabad Traffic Police for riding a motorbike without a valid Pollution Certificate. Had to pay fine else they were about to confiscate my driving licence. So please drive safe and follow the traffic rules including carrying necessary valid documents.
* Marco Polo Quote Reference – A Guide to Golconda Fort and Tombs by Sha Rocco
Header Image Background – Tombs and Fort, Golconda, a drawing by Philip Meadows Taylor, c.1830* (British Library)