Golkonda: Home of Diamonds

 You will have to visit the Golkonda fort, 10 kilometres west of Hyderabad city, to appreciate the majesty and grandeur of the 800-year-old ruins and the architectural glory of those structures, which have survived the ravage of time and rampage by Mughal vandals. One of the most magnificent fort complexes in the country, Golkonda, meaning shepherd hill, was built consecutively by three dynasties, the Kakatiyas, the Bahmanis and the Qutub Shahis, the major contribution coming from the latter. It betrays the confluence of Hindu and Muslim architectural perceptions of the times. It was the capital of the Bahmani kings first and the Qutub Shahis later for sometime, before they shifted the capital to what is now the old city of Hyderabad. The fort has now become a symbol of the composite cultural heritage of the 400-year-old city.


In the 16th century, Golconda was the capital and fortress city of the Qutb Shahi kingdom, near Hyderabad. The city was home to one of the most powerful Muslim sultanates in the region and was the center of a flourishing diamond trade. Golconda is located 11 km west of the city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh state, India

According to a legend, the fort derives its name from Golla Konda, which is a Telugu word for Shepherd's Hill. It is believed that a shepherd boy came across an idol on the hill. This led to the construction of a mud fort by the then Kakatiya dynasty ruler of the kingdom around the site.

The city and fortress are built on a granite hill that is 120 meters (400ft) high and is surrounded by massive crenelated ramparts. The beginnings of the fort date to the 1143, when the Hindu Kakatiya dynasty ruled the area. The Kakatiya dynasty were followed by the state of Warangal, which was later conquered by the Islamic Bahmani Sultanat. The fort became the capital of a major province in the Sultanate and after its collapse the capital of the Qutb Shahi kings. The fort finally fell into ruins after a siege and its fall to Mughal emperor Aurangazeb.

After the collapse of the Bahmani Sultanat, Golconda rose to prominence as the seat of the Qutb Shahi dynasty around 1507. Over a period of 62 years the mud fort was expanded by the first three Qutb Shahi kings into a massive fort of granite, extending around 5 km in circumference. It remained the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty until 1590 when the capital was shifted to Hyderabad. The Qutb Shahis expanded the fort, whose 10 km outer wall enclosed the city. The state became a focal point for Shia Islam in India, for instance in the seventeenth century Bahraini clerics, Sheikh Ja`far bin Kamal al-Din and Sheikh Salih Al-Karzakani both emigrated to Golconda[2].

The Qutb Shahi sultanate lasted until its conquest by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1687. The fortress held out against Aurangzeb for nine months, falling to the Mughals through treachery.

Kancharla Gopanna, popularly known as Bhaktha Ramadaasu, a devout Hindu who constructed Bhadrachalm temple without informing the sultan at that time [Tana Shah], was kept in a jail located inside the fort.

Laser Show at the
Golkonda Fort


Golconda was once renowned for the diamonds found on the southeast and cut in the city. India[1], at that time, had the only known diamond mines in the world.

The Mines of Golconda themselves yielded diamonds of trifling quantity. Europeans knew that diamonds were found only in these fabled mines. Golconda was, in fact, the market city of the diamond trade, and gems sold there came from a number of mines. The fortress city within the walls was famous for diamond trade.

Magnificent diamonds were taken from the mines in the region surrounding Golconda, including Darya-e Nur, meaning sea of light, at 185 carats, the largest and finest diamond of the crown jewels of Iran.

Its name has taken a generic meaning and has come to be associated with great wealth.

Many famed diamonds are believed to have been excavated in the mines of Golconda which include:

    * Darya-e Nur
    * Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond
    * The Koh-i-noor
    * The Hope Diamond
    * The Regent Diamond

By the 1880s, Golconda was being used generically by English speakers to refer to any particularly rich mine, and later to any source of great wealth.

During the Renaissance and the early modern eras, the name "Golconda" acquired a legendary aura and became synonymous for vast wealth. The mines brought riches to the ruling Qutb Shahis of Hyderabad State, who ruled after the independence from the Mughals in 1724, until 1948, when Hyderabad was annexed, to become an Indian state.

Darya-e Noor Diamond

Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond
  The Fort

Golconda consists of four distinct forts with a 10 km long outer wall with 87 semi circular bastions; some still mounted with cannons, eight gateways, four drawbridges and number of royal apartments & halls, temples, mosques, magazines, stables etc, inside. The lowest of these is the outermost enclosure into which we enter by the "Fateh Darwaza" (Victory gate, so called after Aurangzeb’s triumphant army marched in through this gate) studded with giant iron spikes (to prevent elephants from battering them down) near the south-eastern corner. At Fateh Darwaza can be experienced the fantastic acoustic effects, characteristic of the engineering marvels at Golconda. A hand clap at a certain point below the dome at the entrance reverberates and can be heard clearly at the 'Bala Hisar' pavilion, the highest point almost a kilometre away, this worked as a warning note to the royals in case of an attack.

Bala Hissar Gate is the main entrance to the fort located on the eastern side. It has a pointed arch bordered by rows of scroll work. The spandrels have yalis and decorated roundels. The area above the door has peacocks with ornate tails flanking an ornamental arched niche. The granite block lintel below has sculpted yalis flanking a disc. The design of peacocks and lions is a blend of Hindu - Muslim architecture.

Toli Masjid, situated at Karvan, about 2 km from the Golconda fort, was built in 1671 by Mir Musa Khan Mahaldar, royal architect of Abdullah Qutb Shah. The facade consists of five arches, each with lotus medallions in the spandrels. The central arch is slightly wider and more ornate. The mosque inside is divided into two halls, a transverse outer hall and an inner hall entered through triple arches.

The tourist is bound to marvel at the military architecture and civil engineering works in the fort, which is in the shape of a rhombus surrounded by a glacis. The fort, really a complex of four forts, remained unscathed till a traitor opened the Fateh darwaza for Aurangzeb’s army to enter. This darwaza is 13 feet wide and 25 feet high and is one of the eight gateways, which are well known. Another important gateway is the Banjara darwaza.

Temple in the Golconda FortToday’s engineers cannot but wonder at the acoustics system of the fort. Even the rustle of leaves at the Fateh darwaza, which is at the lowest level of the fort area, can be heard clearly at the Bala Hisar pavilion on the top of the acropolis. What seems today fun for the tourists was in reality a strategic signalling system to alert the barracks about attempts to attack or sneak into the fort by hostile forces.

The water supply system is no less ingenious. Water was stored in huge cisterns at the foot of the hill and transported upwards through clay pipes to all quarters of the fort. Water was brought to the fort tanks from the Durg tank, which is about five kilometres from the fort. Remnants of the networked clay pipes (which carried water to the upper levels of the fort through the mechanism of a series of Persian wheels) can still be seen as a reminder of the hydrological engineering skills of the day. Water was thus pumped up to the fountains, the royal baths and kitchens in the fort.

Koh-i-noor Diamond

Hope Diamond

Regent Diamond
At the top of the hill is the much talked about Bala Hisar baradari, a double-storeyed and twelve-arched structure, which is reached after a gasping ascent of 360 steps. This imposing pavilion, known as Tana Shah ki Gaddi originally, is more commonly known as Bala Hisar. Making use of the giant rocks on the hill slopes, one of the Qutub Shahi kings built a wall as a last line of defence, and almost 350 years later, this wall is still in tact. Bala Hisar also houses the temple of Madanna, a senior minister of Abul Hasan Tana Shah. You can also see the small prison where Tana Shah had jailed the great saint Bhadrachala Ramadas for appropriating state funds to build a temple for Rama.

On the terrace of Bala Hisar is a throne carved out of a huge boulder. This is the highest point of the acropolis. As you are about to enter Bala Hisar, two giant arches known as Habshi Kamans greet you. From Bala Hisar, you can see on two faraway hillocks the palaces of Taramati and Premamati, courtesans in the harems of Sultan Muhammed Qutub Shah and Sultan Abdullah. These hillocks are situated on the Osmansagar road.

Nagina baghThe fort complex includes the tombs of the Quli Qutub Shahs amidst landscaped gardens, located one kilometre north of the outer wall of Golkonda. Prominent among the buildings outside the fort complex is the Toli masjid; a strikingly elegant structure with five arches heralding the entrance hall and three before you enter the inner hall of the masjid. 

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