The Golconda Fort – Hyderabad, India

An old, crowd-puller of a fort – and you’re welcome!

There are always the must-sees in every city. Hyderabad has its Golconda Fort – the ancient royal crowd-puller. It caught the fancy of the Qutubuddins of the yesteryears, then came Alexander the great, and now throngs of tourists visiting or residing in the city. Sometimes you wonder what is it that really drives people to ruins. A sense of curiosity, a peek into the past? A historian or geologist might be a rare specimen, but you’d mostly find curious tourists like you and me, climbing up the fort, clicking every corner, soaking in every view possible.

Touristy and avoidable weekend experience

I’m not a huge fan of crowds and I like having places to myself. Especially the impossible public ones, like restaurants and monuments. The fort, right at the outskirts of Hyderabad, is accessible in an easy drive of about thirty to forty five minutes. And unless you’re suffering from demophilia (a fondness for crowds), you’d rather enjoy the magnificence of such a place in more or less, your own company. Yet, since Golconda finds its way on every visitor’s Things-to-do-in-Hyderabad list, I’m just going to have to learn to share my space.

The entrée is similar to any other monument in India – long (but fast moving) queues, families in hordes excited about their outing irrespective of the place; also telling you that the big old Indian family is hale and hearty. Then of course we have the guides, desperate to be picked and last but not the least, the hawkers – selling you postcards even before you get in. Basically, the works.

Ramparts

Ramparts

The curious case of The Golconda Fort

As legend has it, the fort derives its name from Golla Konda, which is a Telugu word for Shepherd’s Hill. It’s when a shepherd boy stumbled upon (stumble.com’s inspired beginnings?) an idol on the hill, it led to the construction of a mud fort by the then Kakatiya dynasty ruler around the site. And voila – you have a Golconda!

Two must haves – Guide & Water

The weather’s usually hot. Begin your journey with a bottle of water which you will not find until a certain climb. I was reminded of my utter carelessness every few steps. And the next best thing would be to hire a guide, even though you might have done  your Wiki references. Stories are always better told in person. So, let’s pause and remember our grandmothers here.

Clap for an attack

As you enter the main gate, known as the Fateh Darwaza (Victory Gate), you will be amused by all the clapping and chaos under a dome. This is where a guide comes in ‘handy’ – a hand clap at a certain point below the dome at the entrance reverberates and can be heard clearly at the highest point – the ‘Bala Hisar’ pavilion, almost a kilometer away. This worked as a warning note to the royals in case of an attack.

The clap can be heard here

The clap can be heard here

The Kohinoor

My parched journey continues towards the erstwhile home of the Kohinoor that actually lies in The Tower of London now. It is also known as the Mountain of Light that passed from one conqueror to another over some 400 odd years. At one time, Golconda was known to be the only diamond mine in the world. So all you women, come and pay your respects!

As we move up, soaking in some luxurious views of the city, we come across the Ramdas jail and the Mahakaali temple, which surprisingly wasn’t destroyed in the multi-cultural takeovers. I have great admiration for this sense of respect for another’s culture and traditions. Unlike the Bush’s of the world, perhaps, war had its method to madness then.

Having reached the Bala Hisar pavilion – the highest point of the fort, our guide roughly started shooing away a bunch of mirth-making youngsters who were hindering his moment of the day. He demanded silence, and then, clapped. Amidst our bated breaths, we heard the faint sound of a clap all the way from below! This was truly a moment. Like fascinated children, we asked them to repeat it a few more times. Sheer genius and creativity for times that didn’t have Google Maps or Dolby surround sound!


The story-telling light show

We were to assemble ourselves in an open amphitheatre arrangement on our way down, when our guide insisted on us walking to a tomb and made two of us face the wall corners in opposite directions. Then he asked one of us to whisper – literally whisper. The other one on the opposite side could actually hear what was being said – which was something as inane and obvious as “Hey, can you hear me?!” This had to be one of the most exciting moments of my visit to the fort, where our decibels went lower but the sheer excitement, much higher.

As it turned dark, the storytelling session began as a recorded narrative, lighting up spots & avenues that came across as a part of the story. The first change that I recommend here would be finding your place in some corner of the amphitheatre or some rock seating for the show rather than a chair arrangement – it would go a long way to make the audience an integral part of the place and the story. And the second one would be editing the tale itself! It’s long enough to put you to sleep – especially after the mildly tiresome excursion.

What I quite like about this fort is that it’s really been large-hearted to have retained the sentiments of another’s era and culture. The Golconda is a unique example of Hindu-Muslim architectural planning and influences. It retained the Mahakaali temple, called its jail the Ramdas Jail and also played home to some of the most powerful Muslim sultanates in the region. This piece-de-magnificence is characteristic of the engineering marvel, architectural precision and spellbinding craftsmanship over the centuries, which is evident through its ventilation, acoustics, water systems, secret escapes and enchanting entrances & domes.

I must admit, delighted I was to have done the much heard of Golconda fort, in spite of the lurking crowds and the heat. History sure knows how to command attention anywhere in the world. It may just be another old crumbling fort, but it has its enchanting moments for you. Go ahead, cut your ticket for a Golconda experience.

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