11 km away from Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh is located one of the most impressive fortress complexes in India. The name Golconda comes from two words – ‘golla’ and ‘konda’, literally meaning the ‘mud fort’. The fort is a combination of the legacy left by both the Kakatiya and Qutub Shahi dynasties of Andhra Pradesh. It is said that a little shepherd boy chanced upon an idol of Goddess Kali atop the hill where the fort now sits. This led to the construction of the Mahakali Mandir and subsequently the mud fort. It was built as early as the 12th century by the Kakatiya rulers of Warangal. The original mud fort was built atop a 400 feet high hill and later reconstructed in stone by the rulers of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. The Qutb Shahi rulers strengthened the defence of the fort to stem the threat of Mughal invasions from the North.
There also exists the proverbial network of secret tunnels that the residents used in case of enemy invasion to escape. Apparently the secret tunnels were long enough to lead to the monumental Charminar (Four Minarets) at the other end of the Old City of Hyderabad.
Today, the imposing fort is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site can be reached quite easily from the main city of Hyderabad. Buses and autos ply on the road. A light and Sound Show in the evening (narrated by the legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan) is an added attraction of the fort (the show is available in three different languages- English, Hindi and Telugu). To complete one complete trip atop the hill and back, average time taken is about three hours. Hence it is advisable to avoid the sun of mid afternoon. Winter is the best time to visit. An Indian national needs to pay a nominal entry fee of 10 INR while a for a foreign national the fees go up to 100 INR.
The fort consists of a 10 km long outer perimeter wall with 87 semi circular bastons. There are four distinct forts inside the walls and a trip around the place makes history come alive. One can see the soldiers’ quarters, the slave quarters, the ‘jenana’ mahal (inner sanctum for women), the royal quarters and the Mahakali mandir and a mosque at the peak of the hill. The ammunition used by the Kakatiya and Qutub Shahi soldiers can be seen in the Salarjung Museum in the same city. Golconda has always been famous for its diamond mining and cutting expertise. Inside the fortress complex one can see the famous market place where the diamond merchants of Golconda used to sell their wares. The famous Hope Diamond and the Kohinoor were mined in the Golconda diamond mines, for instance.
Another astounding piece of engineering to marvel at is the network of clay pipes that was used to supply fresh water to the residents of the fort. The network comprised of precisely constructed clay pipes and Persian wheels. The fort premises are also used by film crews every now and then (by the Telugu, Tamil and even Hindi film industries) and you might catch a colorful milieu of people dancing to exotic beats on one of your trips to the place.
The fortress complex is a brilliant example of communal coexistence. Multiple mosques and temples coexist inside the fort in grandeur keeping the flag of unity in diversity flying high.
The Astounding Acoustics
The acoustic design of the Golconda Fort is unbelievably brilliant. There exists a spot right at the entrance of the ‘Fateh Darwaza’ (or ‘Victory Gate’ which serves as the main entrance to the fort and is well equipped with defence features that include iron plates to decelerate enemy cavalry) from where the sound of a clap is audible at the ‘Bala Hissar’ terminal situated one km away at the top of the hill. The residents had devised their own telegraphic language to relay warning signals to and fro in case of enemy invasions or other emergency situations. You can ask your guide to point out the exact spot.
The entire fort is adorned with such acoustic marvels. The guest room for foreign diplomats were so designed that any secret meeting could be overheard by the king, making the hatching of conspiracies a difficult task (the past’s version of bugging an enemy room) . Echoes could be heard from unsuspected places. Undoubtedly the old saying ‘ even walls have ears’ (“deewaron ke bhi kaan hote hain”) rings very true in the Golconda Fort.
Legend has it that Ramdas, a royal employee had been imprisoned in isolation for nearly a decade in a dark cell for false charges of laundering funds. In course of his imprisonment he carved images of his Lord in the walls of the dark cell and today devotees flock to the temple of ‘Bhakt Ramdas’ to pay their homage to the deity and the steadfast devotee.
Undoubtedly, the Golconda Fort is one of the most imposing forts in India steeped in history and rich legacy. A trip to this overwhelming place will leave you with memories that last a lifetime. The panoramic view of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad that can be seen from the top of the Golconda Fort is also overwhelming.