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India: Karnataka: Bijapur, Coorg, Hampi, Kudalasangama, Mysore, Nagarhole with Irpu Falls
Bijapur, India: Sound engineering
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Only when I visited Gol Gumaz at Bijapur did I realize that the Taj Mahal indeed has competition. In Gol Gumaz I could see engineering marvel… in its architecture, acoustics, climate control systems and disaster management. Visit to Gol Gumaz is a treat to civil engineering students and to ordinary camera happy tourists like me.
Bijapur is in the State of Karnataka bordering the State of Maharashtra. 100 kms from Solapur (in Maharashtra and will soon have commercial flights), Bijapur is a comfortable 2 hour drive from Solapur. And just so you know, Solapur is very well connected by road and railway from throughout India. Pune and Mumbai are about 250 kms and 410 kms away.
I strongly suggest reaching Gol Gumaz as early as possible in the morning. It opens at 6 am and closes at 5:45 pm everyday of the year. By being an early bird you will avoid crowds and school children who love to scream at top of their voices to hear the echoes. Make it a point to hire a good guide to show you around. My guide, Ramesh Chavan, was sheer genius and full of energy. Apart from showing us the finer nuances of Gol Gumaz, he took us around the city of Bijapur (also known as the city of domes - it has 1325 domes each embedded with a story of their own.)
I was equally intrigued by Ibrahim Rouza. Carvings in hard stone was sheer magic. I wonder what equipment was available 400 years ago to create such master pieces? Ibrahim Rouza is a fine combination of Indian, Persian and Gothic architecture. It's said that Ibrahim Rouza was an inspiration to architects to build the Taj Mahal at Agra, the Amer Fort & Jantar Mantar at Jaipur and Victoria Terminus (now Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus) at Mumbai.
At Ibrahim Rouza, I was witness to probably the world's first wireless communication system. My guide spoke to us from a building that was 650 feet away. He scratched his business card and we could hear it in surround sound! Too good to be true.
Enter Jammia Masjid. I was told it's the largest in India. Jammia Masjid has a roof that can shelter over 2000 devotees. And each one of them gets an uninterrupted view of the podium and get to hear the sermon without modern day speakers! The arches are fine example of Persian art and you can read verses from the Holy Quran etched in gold.
On our way to the Mulak Maidan Tof, we made halts at Jod Gumat. Good to see the tombs of two saints - Muslim and Hindu, in buildings next to each other. When you offer prayers to any one of the tombs, the other gets due respect too. The ceilings of the tombs are beautifully decorated in coloured glass.
The Mulak Maidan Tof (cannon) is the worlds largest single cast cannon. It weighs 55 tons and has the capacity to raze down an entire town, hence the name. The cannon is 14'4" in length and has a diameter of 4'11". At the cannon site I was witness to a very unique SMS system. Precisely at a marked place one could clap. The sound reached the edge of the fort, about a km. away warning the guards on duty. The torch bearers used this method before igniting the cannon. After doing so, they would jump in a well full of water to avoid the sound of the blast… which had the capacity to deafen those nearby. Vibrations in water signaled the torch bearers that the blast is over and it was safe to come above.
On our way back (I made Solapur my base), we visited a site of the 52nd Kwaja (muslim priest of the highest rank). Just outside the Durgah (mosque) premises we were witness to a very unique happening… echo on flat land. For echoes to happen there has to be an obstruction. It can be a mountain, a wall, a cliff, anything that can bounce back sound. But here there was none. Yet, the echo was loud and clear. Sound engineers are yet to reveal the mystery.
It was now 6 pm. 12 hours since we left Solapur. Time to go back with memories that would be hard to fade.
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