A November 2005 trip
to Bijapur by michaelhudson
Quote: An ancient city in northern Karnataka, once the capital of a Muslim state
The city's two main attractions are the Golgumbaz and the Ibrahim Rouza. On the eastern edge of town, the Golgumbaz is a gigantic 17th century mausoleum with the second largest dome in the world after St Peter's in Rome. On the other side of the city, the Ibrahim Rouza is a more delicate construction, with slender minarets and a richly ornamented interior.
Near the Golgumbaz is the Jama Masjid Mosque, with another huge dome and space for over 2,000 worshippers inside. Between here and the bus station are several interesting ruins, like the imposing walls of the citadel and the Gagan Mahal, an old royal residency.
The most interesting section of the town walls are on MG Road, a few minutes before the Ibrahim Rouza. You'll find the Malik-e-Maidan here, a 55-tonne cannon captured during a pivotal battle against the Hindu Vijayanagar Empire. Nearby is the Upli Buruj, a 16th century watchtower with good views over the city.
There are no shops or restaurants in Bijapur aimed specifically at the city's few foreign visitors. You'll need to bring luxuries like toilet paper with you.
Try to get to the Golgumbaz as early as you can, as it's far busier than the Ibrahim Rouza and fills up with school children and daytrippers by late morning.
You can get online for 25 rupees an hour at Cyberworld, across the road from the Hotel Tourist.
All of Bijapur's auto-rickshaws are unmetred, so you'll have to negotiate fares before setting off. A journey from the bus station to the Golgumbaz should cost around 20 rupees. Between the bus and train stations will be no less than 30 rupees, and a ride between the city's two main attractions around 25 rupees. Drivers ask for between 200 and 250 rupees for half-day sightseeing tours.
You'll see tongas (horse drawn carriages) all around the city centre, especially along Station Road towards the Golgumbaz. Sightseeing tours of the town are cheaper than by auto-rickshaw, prices starting at around 100 rupees. From the bus station, regular services operate to Badami, Belgaum and Sholpaur. There are night buses to Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai, and 6am and 9.30pm departures for Aurangabad. Private buses leave from the road outside the main entrance and can be booked at agents opposite the station.The railway station is a kilometre east of the Golgumbaz. Trains leave for Sholapur at 5.30am, 11.15 and 5.30pm, from where there are more regular services to Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore. The track south is yet to be converted to broad gauge, so you'd need to change at Gadag for Hospet. There are five depatrtures a day for Gadag, the first at 4am, the last at 6.10pm. The journey takes around five hours, and all trains stop at Badami en route.
My non-AC standard double cost 450 rupees per night. The room was spotlessly clean, square shaped and brightly lit, with off-white walls, a marble floor and light wood fittings. It was furnished to two-star standard, with a large double bed in the centre of the room, a long dressing table topped by a fan shaped mirror, a fitted wardrobe and chest of drawers, portable cable TV, and a coffee table and two padded chairs in front of curtained glass doors that opened out onto a small balcony. The towels and bedding were clean, although the blanket provided was thin and itchy.
The bathroom was big, bare and functional, tiled walls and a slightly grubby floor around a Western toilet and a shower that had hot water between 6am and 1pm. Small complimentary bottles of liquid soap and shampoo stood on the sink.
The gym on the ground floor is open every day except Sunday from 6-9 in the morning and evening. The equipment was surprisingly new and I had the place completely to myself before 7am. The restaurant is also good, but I preferred the food across the road at the Madhuvan International.
Doubles at the Kanishka start at 450 rupees for a standard, rising to 550 for deluxe and 750 for AC. Check out is 24 hours. It’s the best mid-range option in town for price and facilities, and very conveniently located for the Golgumbaz.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 13, 2006
Hotel Kanishka International
Bijapur, Karnataka, India 586104
+91 (22) 24042211
The Hotel Tourist is a good place to stay if you're on a budget, not too far from the bus station and within walking distance of the Golgumbaz and Ibrahim Rouza. Rates start at just 150 rupees for standard doubles, though it's worth paying out the extra 100 for one of the recently decorated deluxe rooms.
The Tourist is located a few metres from the city's market on MG Road, a 20 rupee auto-rickshaw ride or a 10-minute walk north of the bus station. Reception and the hotel restaurant are both on the ground floor. The staff was reasonably friendly and the food in the restaurant was better than the atmosphere. The rooms are up a flight of stairs behind the reception desk. Check-out is 24 hours.
While the standard doubles I saw were gloomy, with stone floors and sunken beds, my room had a polished white tiled floor and brightly painted walls. The furniture was very basic, just a couple of plastic chairs, two narrow single beds, a couple of small tables, cable TV, and a washbasin and sink in the far corner. The mattress and bedding had obviously seen better days; the sheets had old stains and a musty smell.
The bathroom was clean but spartan, with a small window and a squat toilet that had to be flushed manually with a bucket. The shower sprayed thin jets of water out at most angles other than straight down and drizzled hot water between 6:30 and 9:30am.
The facilities may be basic, but if you want to save money, the Tourist will do for a couple of nights, which is all the time you'll need to see everything in Bijapur.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 13, 2006
Bijapur, Karnataka, India
The restaurant was almost empty when I entered just before lunchtime but full half an hour later, with a mixed clientele including middle aged men, young couples and a few familes with small children. The glossy vegetarian menu had a large number of naan and roti breads, Indian and Continental breakfasts, thalis, a few Chinese noodle and fried rice dishes, and Indian mains for around 30 rupees.
I ordered the mixed vegetable kadai with boiled rice and a tandoor roti, while my wife had just a plain lassi and a milk coffee. The service was reasonably prompt, the drinks arriving after five minutes and the food around ten minutes later. The Kadai was piping hot, with plenty of onions, green peppers and chopped tomatoes. The portion was a little small, however, and the sauce slightly overdone. The roti was crisp and fresh, but the lassi was mediocre with a thin consistency.
The service got a little too prompt after the meals were served. In a first even for India, the bill arrived before I'd finished my last spoonful of rice, after the waiter twice asked if I wanted tea or coffee while I was only halfway through the meal.
The New Empire isn't a restaurant I'd go out of my way to eat at, but it's a good place to drop by if you're feeling hungry after visiting the Golgumbaz.
Hotel New Empire
Bijapur, Karnataka, India
The single-chamber interior is completely empty except for a few information boards and black coffin shaped caskets on a raised platform in the centre. The walls are scuffed and unadorned, the floor made of rough slabs of stone, the interior of the dome is big and white. The shrieks, whistles and screams from above make a strange contrast to the austerity of the view.
The famous whispering gallery runs around the base of the dome, thirty metres above ground level. To get there you’ll have to brave the hundred plus steps that slowly spiral through the inside of one of the towers. It’s not an easy climb - the steps are high, narrow and crumbling in a few places - but there are plenty of opportunities to rest the aching soles of your feet on the way up and great views over the city once you reach the top. Standing on the stone walkway circling the outside of the dome, mosques and minarets rise above the flat roofed buildings of Bijapur’s compact centre; the noise from inside the dome seems to come from somewhere deep underwater.
The internal gallery is a surreal place. Sitting on one of the stone benches, I hold a conversation with a man almost forty metres away on the other side of the dome, his words reverberating off the wall behind as if he was whispering over my shoulder. Single hand claps march across the room; the security guard secures a moment’s silence and strikes a match with a sound like the snapping of a twig. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the acoustics when dozens of over excited schoolchildren are running around, so try to get here early if you can.
The Golgumbaz is open daily from 6am to 6pm. Entrance for foreigners is 100 rupees.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 16, 2006
Bijapur, Karnataka, India
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom