We’ve done the Hyderabad to Mumbai circuit by road a few times, and every time we crossed the turn sign for Bidar, we told ourselves we should go there once. After putting it off for so many years, we finally decided to make a day of it.
We didn’t want to pile too many things on our plate as we wanted to return home before sunset, so we kept our sights on just the top three things to see in Bidar.
Our main attraction was the Bidar Fort and the Baradari tombs. There are some 30 tombs in and around Bidar, which is why it is also called the City of Whispering Monuments. The city is home to the country’s second-largest Indian Air Force training centre. It is also known for its Bidri handicraft products and is considered one of the holiest places for Sikh pilgrimage. So much to see…so little time!
Our first stop was the fort that opens at 9 and, to our surprise, was empty save for the security and cleaning staff. There’s no entry fee or any guides for hire.
The fort complex is enormous. Built on a plateau, you can see at a glance how long it spans and the ruins of the boundary walls much further away. A unique 3-layer moat surrounds the citadel. Pathways to and from the local villages weave through the fort’s buildings, so it’s common to see vehicular movement inside.
The fort was built in the 15th century by the Bahamani rulers and houses royal palaces, a throne room, and mosques. The vast grounds are surprisingly clean and well maintained. We were the only tourists there so early in the day and had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately, almost all the structures inside are cordoned off and locked behind grilled gates.
We went on a Sunday when the offices are closed, but some guards said on any other day, one of the officials could’ve opened up some parts of the palace buildings, while others said it had been entirely closed for repairs.
A small museum with a collection of armour and sculptures excavated from the locality was open. There were some others on display outside as well, many of Hindu gods and goddesses from ancient temples that were found in the area.
Some of the outer walls had the original mosaic tiles that gleamed in the sun. Within the fort complex, there are monuments and structures from the Bahamian era such as the Gagan Mahal, Rangeen Mahal, Tarkash Mahal, Jami Masjid, and the Solah Khamba Masjid.
The many large entryways are impressive. We entered from the Gumbad Darwaza. If you stand right under the central dome and speak, you can feel the vibrations of your voice within you. It’s an incredible experience.
Rangeen Mahal is located just next to it. If we could’ve gone inside, we would’ve seen the colourful tilework that still adorns this palace. The lawns around the Tarkash Mahal a little ahead are well kept (and also cordoned off). Adjacent to it is the Solah Khamba Mosque which derives its name from the 16 pillars lined in the front of the structure. It is sealed behind mesh wire, but you can peek in and see the stark pillars inside that give an aura of serenity. This mosque is one of the largest in India.
It is a beautiful complex and could be made much better with a little more care and upkeep of the interiors. It was disappointing not to see all the place has to offer. Hopefully, the authorities take note as it has the potential to be a big tourist pull which will also help develop the surrounding areas while preserving such critical historic structures.
Mahmud Gawan Madrasa
The madrasa (religious seminary) was built by the prime minister of the Bahmani Empire, Mahmud Gawan, in the late 15th century. Even after centuries worth of wear and tear and a lightning strike, it still looks stunning. The 100 feet high tower seen from the road still has remnants of mosaic tiles from ages ago. A broad frieze along the top of the front wall has been inscribed with phrases from the Holy Q’uran. It would have looked stunning in its heyday!
There’s no parking spot here, and you need to find what you can on the roadside. There are no entry tickets or guides, but they’ll give you a little insight into the place if you ask the security guards. There are so many goats roaming here and so few people that it could be mistaken for an abandoned ruin.
Bareed Shahi Tombs
The Bareed Shahi Park has four tombs and an attached playground on the well-kept lawns. A few families were picnicking and lazing in the sun. The tombs look imposing and similar to the Qutb Shahi Tombs in Hyderabad. The breeze was still cool in January despite the afternoon sun, so we spent some time relaxing here, trying to spot parrots amongst the countless pigeons.
The park does have an entry fee of Rs10 and is closed on Mondays.
Gurdwara Nanak Jhira Sahib
The Gurudwara was built in 1948 and is dedicated to Guru Nanak. Bidar is the home town of Bhai Sahib Singh, one of the first members of the Khalsa. The temple complex in gleaming white marble exudes a sense of calmness with the tunes of kirtan resonating everywhere. The main temple complex is beautifully constructed, with white marble gleaming in the sun. The interiors are also adorned with inlaid marble pillars and gilded ceilings that are beautiful to behold. The nearby spring supplies the water to the kund, where devotees can take a dip.
We had a modest lunch at the community kitchen (langar) and, of course, the delicious khada prasad before we headed back home.
- Men and women should have their heads covered at all times
- Wear modest clothes (no shorts or sleeveless clothes)
- Remove all footwear before entering the main hall
- Men and women sit separately in the hall
- Do not point your feet towards the Guru Granth Sahib
How to reach
Bidar is just 150km from Hyderabad city on the Hyderabad-Bombay highway NH65. Take the Outer Ring Road from Hyderabad to join NH65. The road conditions are decent enough, except for a small patch as you enter Karnataka. We stay closer to the ORR in Hyderabad, so it took us just under 2 hours to reach Bidar. Leaving early morning helps to beat the traffic as well.
Do stop at the Narinja Dam to take in the view of the beautiful blue and green waters.
Where to eat
Many eateries were offering the standard idli and dosa fare on the highway. We had packed a box of sandwiches for breakfast, but we did stop for tea.
We had lunch at the gurudwara’s community kitchen, which was quite wholesome, but fussy eaters might opt for the restaurants outside the temple complex that offer excellent parathas.
There’s a food court on the highway on the way back, but we just stopped for some coffee. Don’t forget to buy some guavas from the street vendors. They’re delicious.
We couldn’t find any store selling Bidri work even though the craft has originated here. I guess that’s because there are not a lot of tourists coming through the town. We weren’t looking to buy any product, so we didn’t go looking for a workshop, although we did see a beautiful large installation at a junction.