Gol Gumbaz - Karnataka's Monument Magnifique !!!

25th Dec 2021
Photo of Gol Gumbaz - Karnataka's Monument Magnifique !!! 1/4 by Akil Narayana

Now I'd only ever heard of Gol Gumbaz in my history books during my primary school days. Yes it was a famous monument, yes it was huge in size, yes it was somewhere in North Karnataka. But it was not until I entered the monument premises, that I felt whatever I read about and knew about it in school was nothing compared to what it is in reality. A monument of this stature definitely deserves a lot more attention and publicity than it currently gets. I've seen the "Incredible India" (by Indian Ministry of Tourism) campaigns in different parts of the world and nowhere have I seen them feature Gol Gumbaz. It's such a shame that only a handful of places in India gets all the exposure while places/monuments like these just lose out.

Anyway coming to Gol Gumbaz ! Oh my lord, what an incredible feat of ancient engineering this monument is. It's unbelievable to see fathom the amount of manpower, logistics and planning required to build something of this grandeur.

At the time of its completion the dome of Gol Gumbaz was the largest in Asia and second largest in the world, at a diameter of nearly 45 meters. This Asian record was held for nearly 350yrs until a monument in Russia took over in late 1960s. Click HERE for the list of world's largest domes.

Gol Gumbaz is the tomb of Mohammed Adil Shah, the 7th ruler of Adil Shahi Dynasty who ruled that geography for 30yrs. The simple yet charming design of Gol Gumbaz is an example of architectural excellence of Bijapur. Apparently, Shah ordered to build this tomb before his death. To think of having a monument like this dedicated to one person, with such engineering is just mindblowing. Wonder how one can envisage what sort of 'tomb' they want after their death eh !

Firstly as you walk inside the monument complex premises you are greeted by the very beautiful, Naqqar Khana, a grand looking structure in itself. According to historians, this building was constructed to offer a grand royal reception to the king's visitors by beating drums, which was part of custom for receiving royal guests. This structure is now used as a museum, after the British converted it into one, in order house all the rare objects they found during shifting their headquarters to Bijapur.

I didn't go inside this building, as I'm not much of a museum person but those who did go mentioned that there were rare objects that included stone inscriptions of Arabic, Persian, Kannada and Sanskrit languages in different scripts written in beautiful calligraphy. It also houses Brahmanical and Jain sculptures, hero stones, numerous manuscripts, coins, carpets, maps, miniature paintings, Bidiri ware and other house hold articles, datable from the 6th to the 18th century.

After you go past the Naqqar Khana, you reach the entrance of Gol Gumbaz via the arched pathway and straight away it makes your jaws drop. I arrived at this place just around sunrise, and there were probably only 4 other people at the time. The morning sun on the monument, the empty premises, the green lawn around it and the yellowish orange façade with the blue sky for background, makes it a photographer's delight.

Photo of Gol Gumbaz - Karnataka's Monument Magnifique !!! 2/4 by Akil Narayana

As soon as you enter the Gol Gumbaz, you see a polygonal podium connected with steps on both sides. In the heart of this podium is the cenotaph of Mohammed Adil Shah. When you walk into the door of the monument, honestly it just feels like a big empty hall but it's not until you tilt your head 90 degrees upwards and look at the structure above you, that makes you go wow ! A huge 45 meter semi-circular stone structure that has no pillars and no support. You just start to wonder how it's built. It's hard to even think of constructing something like this in the present age, without the use of any heavy machinery, technology, computerised calculations.

And then before you can get mesmerised, you find a stair case that takes you 6 storeys to the top. A good 5-10 min climb within the narrow staircase with steep steps takes you to the roof of the monument and you get to view the dome's architectural brilliance from the outside. Initially at the end of the staircase it feels like an open terrace but then you find a narrow pathway to enter the 'dome' and that's when words like magnificent, breathtaking, phenomenal, prodigious etc takes over your mind. As you step in, you feel like a tiny being in comparison to that dome. Almost like how you'd feel if you cover an ant with a small soup bowl from the top.

Within the dome is a good walking area almost 25-30ft in width that goes across the circumference of the dome. And from the top the view of the center of the dome is even more amazing. By the way, if you think all this makes you go awe in disbelief you've got to wait to hear the echoes !! Any word uttered or any sound made echos 7 times and with amazing clarity. The echoes are so clear that you can actually count the number of times it repeats what you say.

The acoustical technology and the mathematical calculations, whatever was used in the construction is just amazing to say the least. I was walking inside the dome with my nephews and we could hear people outside the dome talking and saying words with such precision, that it felt like they were right next to you. Something what you'd hear in in a Dolby stereo theatre when watching a thriller or a horror movie. A clap somewhere outside feels like a slap on your ear. I can go on & on writing about this experience. But no amount of words can give you the feel of what you experience in person. Eventually after spending a good amount of time checking out almost every nook and cranny of the monument, it was time to head back.

I had left Milo in the car for nearly 2 hrs while I went away to check out the monument. So had to kind of rush back to check on him and make sure he was ok. It was the first time he was left alone in a car and boy ! he managed quite well. The windows and the sunroof were left open so he doesn't suffocate. But as soon as I made it back to the car, the amount of complaining he did was very so understandable. Took him out for almost an hour long stroll waiting for my brother & family to come back from Gol Gumbaz, so he could feel all the love again. We also bumped into another traveller with his pet Beagle with whom Milo ended up having a good time together. And with the beauty of Gol Gumbaz still sinking in, so did I.

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Photo of Gol Gumbaz - Karnataka's Monument Magnifique !!! 3/4 by Akil Narayana
Photo of Gol Gumbaz - Karnataka's Monument Magnifique !!! 4/4 by Akil Narayana