If you are visiting Hyderabad anytime soon, the Golconda Fort is one landmark you need to add to your itinerary. Golconda Fort is a vast fortified complex with an interesting history. This historical monument often gets overshadowed by the city’s more famous tourist attraction, Charminar. However, a trip here is surely worth your while.
A Brief History of Golconda Fort
Golconda Fort was built by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1512 and was also known as Muhammad Quli Shah’s Fort. The Fort served as a military outpost with a garrison of about 10,000 soldiers and was used primarily for keeping treasures and as a prison by later dynasties. It became a citadel with impregnable granite walls that could withstand any attack or siege imposed on it by its enemies. The fort is a massive structure of granite with three lines of fortification.
It is said that the diamond mines of Golconda yielded some of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the Kohinoor and Hope Diamond. We might no longer have these treasures, but we sure can look at where they came from!
The name Golconda is a derivation of Golla Konda, which is what the fort was first called. It translates to Shephard’s Hill. It was named this because a shepherd discovered an idol of a god buried on this rocky hill. The boy presented the idol to his king and the Kakatiya rulers constructed a mud fort around this holy spot. Over the next 200 years, Bahamani rulers took possession of the fort and it was in their reign that the place was renamed Golconda, which stems from kona meaning big in Telugu.
Visiting Golconda Fort
We entered through the decorative Fateh Darwaza or the Victory Gate. The ingenious placement of this gate ensured that there was not enough space for battering rams or elephants to break down the massive gates. The fort was conquered by Aurangazeb only after someone on the inside betrayed the fort and opened the gates.
The acoustics design is impressive. The clap from the gate that can be heard at the tower at the top and the corner walls that clearly relay the sounds to the other corner, are both marvels that can’t be replicated in this age. Our son enjoyed whispering secret messages into the walls.
The views of the sprawling city is breath-taking. Although, admittedly, the smog was a downer and limited our view. You can see the Durgum Cheruvu Lake from here, which was the main water source for the fort in its heyday.
Before you start the climb, you can also test your strength by trying to lift the 250kg metal block that guaranteed the lifter entry into the army ranks. I didn’t bother trying. My husband managed to drag it but not lift it.
The history and the stories that come with the guide are what makes the trip doubly interesting. Do hire a registered one at the entrance.
Things to keep in mind when visiting Golconda Fort
The layout at the entrance has changed a little since the last time we went here a handful of years ago. The ticket counter has moved inside to avoid overcrowding the busy streets.
The entry gates open from 9am and it is better to go early to avoid crowds that start building up post noon. There is a paid parking spot just ahead of the gates that also starts to fill up by then. The entry is nominal (around Rs30) and the charges for a certified guide is also listed on the board. There is a short trip that lasts for 45 minutes and covers only the route from the gate to the top King’s Court. The hour-long trip (or 90 minutes depending on your speed) includes the bedchambers with the ‘talking walls’.
Do keep in mind that the tour entails a climb, but you can rest in between. There is a small snack stall towards the top, but it’s better to carry your own water bottles and a light snack. It’s best to visit in the cooler months because there’s not much shade from the sun while climbing up.
There is a sound and light show in the late evening that gives you a brief history of the fort. If you’re here in the early evening (last entry is around 5pm) then go for it, otherwise it’s not as immersive as actually climbing it with a local guide.
Whether you visit Golconda Fort as part of a city tour or do it on your own, it’s impossible to leave without feeling like you have seen a glimpse of one of India’s most interesting periods.
Just 3 km away is the Taramati Baradari. It is dedicated to Abdullah Qutub Shah’s favourite courtesan and dancer. He was the 7th Sultan of Golconda, reigning in the nearby Golconda Fort in the 17th Century. Taramati’s voice as she sang and danced could be heard all the way to Golconda Fort because of the masterful acoustics of the Taramati Baradari.
Although the Baradari itself no longer hosts dance performances, there are two theatres here—the open-air amphitheatre and the indoor theatre that hosts many cultural shows. If you happen to be around to catch one of these shows, make sure to not miss it.
Entry to the complex is free. There’s a small park with a restaurant and a bar. It is also a hotel with some basic rooms for stay.
The whole place is lit up at night and the main baradari looks regal sitting atop a long stretch of stairs. Once you climb up to the top, you’ll be greeted with a gorgeous view of the city, and you can spot the Golconda Fort main hall atop the hill in front.
The baradari’s central dome’s acoustics are superb, and if you clap right under it you can hear the sounds reverberating all around.
When we first entered, the guard said we could only visit the actual monument with a Rs 8,000 ticket for photoshoots, which we found ridiculous. However, later on, we saw many people going up the stairs so we did too and no one stopped us. There was no one else to clarify this detail of whether the monument is free to visit or not.
Don’t forget to visit the nearby Qutb Shahi Tombs which is also linked to the fort’s history.