Bijapur - Encyclopedia

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BIJAPUR, an ancient city and modern district of British India in the southern division of Bombay. It is a station on the Southern Mahratta railway, 60 m. S. of Sholapur. The ancient city was supplied with water by an elaborate underground system of reservoirs and aqueducts, which has been restored in part as a famine relief work. The population in 1901 was 23,811. The city used to be the extensive, splendid and opulent capital of an independent sovereignty of the same name, but now retains only the vestiges of its former grandeur. It is still, however, the most picturesque collection of ruins in India. The city of Bijapur owed its greatness to Yusuf Adil Shah, the founder of the independent state of Bijapur. It consists of three distinct portions - the citadel, the fort and the remains of the city. The citadel, built by Yusuf Adil Shah, a mile in circuit, is of great strength, well built of the most massive materials, and encompassed by a ditch loo yds. wide, formerly supplied with water, but now nearly filled up with rubbish, so that its original depth cannot be discovered. Within the citadel are the remains of Hindu temples, which prove that Bijapur was an important town in pre-Mahommedan times. The fort, which was completed by Ali Adil Shah in 1566, is surrounded by a wall 6 m. in circumference. This wall is from 30 to 50 ft. high, and is strengthened with ninety-six massive bastions of various designs. In addition there are ten others at the various gateways. The width is about 25 ft.; from bastion to bastion runs a battlemented curtained wall about 10 ft. high. The whole is surrounded by a deep moat 3 o to 40 ft. broad. Inside these walls the Bijapur kings bade defiance to all comers. Outside the walls are the remains of a vast city, now for the most part in ruins, but the innumerable tombs, mosques, caravanserais and other edifices, which have resisted the havoc of time, afford abundant evidence of the ancient splendour of the place. Among its many buildings three are specially worthy of mention. The Gol Gunbaz, or tomb of Sultan Mahommed Adil Shah, which was built 1626-1656, is one of the most interesting buildings in the world. It is a square building, 135 ft. each way, which is surmounted by a great circular dome 198 ft. high. The inside area (18,360 ft.) is greater than the Pantheon at Rome (15,833 sq. ft.). When first built the dome was covered by gold leaf, and the outer walls were adorned with stucco work picked out in gold and blue, but to-day there are very few traces of this ornamentation. Of late years this mosque has been thoroughly restored, and one portion is now used as a museum in which all objects of interest discovered in the surrounding country are exhibited. Next to this comes the Ibrahim Roza, or tomb and mosque of Ibrahim Adil Shah II., which was completed about 1620 and is supposed to be one of the most exquisite buildings in the world after the Taj at Agra. It is said to have cost £1,700,000 and to have occupied thirty-six years in its construction. The Gagan Mahal, or ancient audience hall, is now a mass of ruins, but when complete must have been a beautiful building. The archway remains. It is over 60 ft. span and about 90 ft. high. Through this arch Sikandar Adil Shah, the last king of Bijapur, was brought bound with silver chains, while on a raised platform sat Aurangzeb, the Mogul emperor, who had left Delhi three years previously to conquer the Deccan. This magnificent palace, where so many scenes historic in the Bijapur dynasty occurred, is now the abode of hundreds of pigeons. Their cooing is the only sound that breaks the silence of the old halls.


The founder of the Bijapur dynasty, Yusuf Adil Shah, is said by Ferishta to have been a son of the Ottoman sultan Murad II. When on his accession Mahommed II. gave orders for the strangling of all his brothers, Yusuf was saved by a stratagem of his mother. He went to India, where he took service under the Bahmani king of the Deccan, and ultimately became a person of great importance at the court of Mahmud II. In 1489 he took advantage of the break-up of the Bahmani power to establish himself as an independent sultan at Bijapur, his dominions including Goa on the west coast. He died in 1511 (Goa had been taken by the Portuguese a few months before), and was succeeded by his son Ismail, who reigned prosperously till 1534. The next king worth mentioning is Ali Adil Shah I., who reigned from 1557 to 1579 and, besides the fort, built the Jama Masjid or great mosque, the aqueducts and other notable works in the city. His son Ibrahim (d. 1626) maintained the prosperity of the state; but under his successor, Mahommed Adil Shah (d. 1656), the rise of the Mahratta power under Sivaji began to make inroads upon it, and it was exposed to the yet more formidable ambition of Shah Jahan. On the death of Mahommed the succession passed to Ali Adil Shah II., and on his death in 1672 to his infant son, Sikandar Adil Shah, the last of the race. The kingdom had been for some time rapidly falling to ruin, and in 1686 the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb, who as Shah Jahan's general had unsuccessfully besieged the city under Mahommed Adil Shah, took Bijapur and annexed the kingdom to the Delhi empire. Among the curiosities of the capital is the celebrated monster gun (Malik-i-Maidan), stated to be the largest piece of cast bronze ordnance in the world. It was captured from ths. king of Ahmednagar by the king of Bijapur about the middle of the 17th century. An inscription on the gun recording that fact was erased by Aurangzeb, who substituted the present inscription stating that he conquered Bijapur in 1686. The city and territory of Bijapur remained annexed to Delhi till 1724, when the nizam established his independence in the Deccan, and included Bijapur within his dominions. His sway over this portion of his acquisitions, however, was of brief duration; for, being defeated by the Peshwa in 1760, he was compelled to purchase peace by its cession to the Mahrattas. Upon the fall of the Peshwa in 1818 Bijapur passed into the hands of the British, and was by them included in the territory assigned to the raja of Satara. In 1848 the territory of Satara was escheated through the failure of heirs. The city was made the administrative headquarters of the district in 1885.

The district of Bijapur, formerly called Kaladgi, occupies a barren plain, sloping eastward from a string of feudatory Mahratta states to the nizam's dominions. It contains an area of 5669 sq. m., and its population in 1901 was 735,435, showing a decrease of 8% compared with an increase of 27% in the preceding decade, and a decrease of 21% in the period between 1872 and 1881. These changes in population reveal the effects of famine, which was very severely felt in 1876-1878 and again in 1899-1900. There is very little irrigation in the district.

The principal crops are millet, wheat, pulse, oil-seeds and cotton. There are considerable manufactures of cotton and silk goods and blankets, and several factories for ginning and pressing cotton. The East Deccan line of the Southern Mahratta railway traverses the district from north to south.

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