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Essay On Gol Gumbaz

Shubhyatra >> Karnataka >> Gol Gumbaz


Location : In the Heart of Bijapur (Northen Part of Karnataka)
Famous For : Islamic Architecture and Adil Shah's Mausoleum
Distance : 530 kms from Bangalore, 205 kms from Belgaum
Best Time to Visit : October to March (During Winters) from Sunrise to Sunset

Signature of Bijapur - Gol Gumbaz

Gol Gumbaz – The Second Largest Dome in the World

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Gol Gumbaz is the most important monument in Bijapur. Meaning 'the circular dome' the second largest dome in the world, after the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, is 124 feet in diameter. This architectural dome houses the tomb of King Adil Shah and was built in 1656 AD. Legend has it that this monument was built by the orders of Adil Shah before his death. It was the desire of the ruler to build a mausoleum comparable to the Ibrahim Rauza, the tomb of his father, Ibrahim Adil Shah II. An equally distinguished tomb well composite and ornamented worth a visit. At a distance of 530 kms from Bangalore, this monumental heritage stands in the heart of the city.

The Magnanimous Structure – Attractions of the 'Whispering Dome'

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Gol Gumbaz, the major attraction of Bijapur in Karnataka stands on a floor area of 1700 sq mts with a height of 51 m and diameter of 37 m. the walls of the tomb are 3m thick. The most noted highlight of this monumental heritage is its acoustic feature wherein a sound echoes 11 times over and can be heard at a distance 37 km. The tomb is constructed on a plain square block with towers on each corner in dark gray basalt, decorated with plasterwork. Three blind arches are displayed on the exterior of the monument. The central arch on the other hand is wider than the others and is dressed with wooden panels with small rectangular entrance and three rows of arched windows punched through. One can enter the grandeur from the south door where a stone (Bijli pathar), that claims to guard the tomb from lighting) is suspended from the cornice. This cornice is a distinguished part of the tomb that rests on a highly carved stone.

The dome of the building is carved with elegant petals and the height is 27.4 mts. The corner towers do not harmonize with the dome as they look more like a Chinese pagoda rather than a minarets. They are divided in seven floors and is crowned with a hemispheric dome. The architecture of the monument is essentially Islamic and has all the trademarks of the traditional Islamic or Persian style of architecture The mausoleum is actually just a small part of the bigger complex that contains a mosque, a dharamshala (inn) and other buildings.

Srirangapatnum, Gol Gumbaz Mosque

Reaching the Monumental Heritage – Getting There to Bijapur

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This famous monument of Bijapur is located in the heart of the city. Bijapur is an important city in Karnataka and is well connected by the major parts of the state as well as the country. At a distance of 205 km is the nearest airport of Belgaum. One can get to Bijapur easily as the railway line connecting Solapur in Maharastra and Hubli passes through the center of the district, via India and Basavan Bagewadi. Bijapur is well connected to Bangalore, Mumbai (via Solapur), Hyderabad (via Solapur), Hospet (via Gadag), Vasco da Gama (via Hubli and Londa). Bijapur railwaystation comes under the administrative control of HUBLI division of South Central Railway (SCR).
Bijapur is connected by road to most places in south and west India. These are: Aihole (110 km), Badami (138 km), Pattadakal (148 km), Hampi (220 km), Belgaum (205 km), Bangalore (550 km), Bombay (486 km). The National highway 13 passes through the district in the eastern and central parts.
Once inside the town, tourists can avail taxis or autos. Another exhilarating option with be the horse carriage (Tingas).

Top 5 Reasons To Visit Gol Gumbaz

Gol Gumbaz is the most imposing structure in Bijapur and is the must visit attractions listed by the Karnataka tourism. The excellent architecture and the magnanimous size has earned Gol Gumbaz the title of being 'second largest dome in the world'.

Pay attention to its Islamic architecture, that also contains a mausoleum of the ruler King Adil Shah. This structure is also one of the biggest single chamber structures in the world.

Another must visit attraction is the Bijli Paththar (meteorite) suspended by a chain from the cornice. Its is said that this stone had fallen during the reign of Adil Shah and till today it guides the monument from lighting.

Climbing down the staircase below the entrance on the west of the monument, you can see the real grave of the king, his two wives, his mistress Rambha, his daughter and his grandson.

Try your vocal chords by a loud shout inside the monument to hear a echo that can be heard 11 times even at a distance of 37 km. It is this acoustic property that has earned it the name of 'whispering dome'.

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Gol Gumbaz

It was quite a sultry afternoon and I wiped my face for the hundredth time as I walked on the streets of Bijapur (The city has now been renamed as Vijapura), a small city which is situated about 530 Kilometers from Bangalore, the capital city of the Southern Indian state of Karnataka. Bijapur is famous for its beautiful monuments built in the Islamic architectural style during the reign of the Adil Shahi dynasty. Bijapur was also the home of Chand Bibi, the brave Muslim woman warrior who later moved to Ahmednagar and is famous for defending the city of Ahmednagar against the Mughal forces of Emperor Akbar in the sixteenth century.

I had just finished my lunch which consisted of some of the local specialties which included Jowar Roti, bread or pancakes made of White Millet, Enne-Gai, Eggplants stuffed with ground peanuts and spices including ginger, garlic, chilies, etc., The food had been a treat for the palate, though bordering on the outer limits of the “Spice-O-Meter”!

I should have taken an auto rickshaw (Tuk tuk), I thought, as I wiped the sweat from my brow, yet again. But I always like to walk around the new places that I visit, just to soak in the atmosphere of the place, but in this case, a heavy lunch followed by a walk in the sun was probably not one of my wisest decisions. I kept wondering where is Gol Gumbaz? I was in Bijapur to know more about Gol Gumbaz and gather information of Gol Gumbaz.

But as I turned the corner, the view of the magnificent Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur ensured that all the questions that were sprouting like weeds in my mind just melted away and were replaced by a simple sense of awe. I gazed and gazed at the imposing structure, my only reason for coming to Bijapur.

Gol Gumbaz Facts

Gol Gumbaz literally means ‘Circular Dome’. A look at the history of Gol Gumbaz reveals that it is the mausoleum of Sultan Mohammed Adil Shah who once ruled the city of Bijapur. The mausoleum was built in the year 1656 by an architect named Yaqut who ostensibly hailed from a place called Dabul, also known as Dabhol, a small seaport town in Ratnagiri District, Maharashtra, India.

The Gol Gumbaz architecture is unique. It stands majestically, as an ode to the symmetry and elegance of Islamic architecture, it bears the hallmark of the Islamic style of architecture in its overall structure, the dome, the minarets and semi-circular doorways, etc.. But what really makes this structure unique are:

  • The central dome of the Gol Gumbaz has a diameter of 44 meters, making it the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Another remarkable feature of the dome is that it stands proudly without the support of pillars!
  • The inside of the mausoleum has a chamber which has an area of 1,700 Sq./meters, making it one of the biggest single chamber spaces in the world
  • Inside the mausoleum is a circular gallery, right below the tomb, this is known as the whispering gallery, the unique structure is built in such a way that a small whisper gets amplified and is carried across a distance of more than 40 meters in the vast dome and can be heard clearly. Another remarkable feature is that any sound made inside is echoed back 7 to 10 times!

Watch this video to get a feel of how it looks from outside. Gol Gumbaz images come alive in this video. (Courtesy: geobeats)

Experiencing the Gol Gumbaz Whispering Gallery

After negotiating a steep staircase of a hundred odd steps, I stepped into the Whispering Gallery. By a stroke of luck or because of my Karma or just because of the sweltering heat, the gallery was virtually empty, barring a group of students which included a guitar toting young man with a rock star kind of hairdo.

I entered the whispering gallery which was in a semi darkness with beams of light periodically piercing the curtain of darkness. I stood and looked all around and was enveloped by an eerie feeling, as I stood alone inside the vast dome enveloped in semi-darkness. I looked across the other side of the gallery and saw the group of students sitting down on a ledge, at a distance of approximately 40 meters from where I stood. As I turned, I froze in my tracks as I heard a piercing, shrill laughter, besides me, I quickly turned and realized that there was no one near me, I looked across at the students as the devilish laughter continued echoing around the dome to finally die down as horrendously as it had begun. I could see the devilish grin on one of the girls in the group that sat 40 meters away as I realized that this had been my bizarre introduction to the Whispering gallery.

Experience the mystery of whispering gallery in this video. (Courtesy: Me…yeah ME!)

I smiled to myself and said, “Hello”, softly, “Hello”, “Hello”, “Hello”,”Hello”, “Hello”,”Hello”…….., the words echoed throughout the dome as they emerged from my mouth and flew across the huge gallery, finally passing me to slowly die down. As I prepared to let forth another volley of syllables with childish glee, the strains of a guitar assailed my ears. I saw the young man with the rock star hairdo, strumming his guitar and singing in a rich baritone. He sang reasonably well and his guitar too made fairly good music. But the acoustics of the Mausoleum elevated him to the stature of a real rock star. The music seemed to transcend all limits of space and time as it echoed through the dome, creating a kaleidoscopic effect, which literally mesmerized me. No sound technology or Sound engineer would probably be able to duplicate the kind of sound effect that emanated from the semi-darkness of the whispering gallery inside the Gol Gumbaz, that day. The music went on and on and time seemed to have stood still as I immersed myself completely into this wonderful and uplifting experience. The loud ticking of a watch brought me back from my reverie and I realized that the music had stopped, I looked at my wrist, and realized that I was not wearing a watch! The ‘tick’, tick’, ‘tick’, was coming from a watch that someone was wearing in the group of students who stood at the other side of the dome, at a distance of 40 meters!

In a daze, I walked out of the Whispering Gallery, stopping at the doorway, to have one last glance at this amazing and mysterious place. The place was now totally empty as the group of students had left a few minutes back. The emptiness of the vast space added to its aura of eeriness, and as I turned away, I thought or imagined a soft whisper, building inside the dome, “Come back”, “Come back”, “Come back”, “Come back”, “Come back”, “Come back”, “Come back”,………….

How to get to Bijapur

  • You can travel by road or rail from Bangalore to Bijapur. It is at a distance of about 530 Kilometers
  • You can also reach Bijapur from Mumbai by covering a distance of about 497 Kilometers by road or rail
  • Belgaum at a distance of about 214 Kilometers, is the nearest airport and is covered by a limited number of domestic flights

Vijayapura, Karnataka 586101

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Where to Stay in Bijapur

Where to Eat in Bijapur

  • For food too, you will not have too many options. But I recommend you go for the local food as described in the earlier part of this post, you can eat either in Madhuvan International, which is a favorite amongst locals or settle for the more well-known brand, Kamath Restaurant

Tips for a great experience in Gol Gumbaz

  • The monument is open from 10 AM to 5 PM on all days except Fridays, make sure to go there early and preferably on weekdays to avoid crowds and really enjoy your whispering gallery experience
  • The best season to visit is winter as it can get pretty hot from March to June. Nothing like it if you can get there between September to February

Other Attractions in Bijapur

Ibrahim Rauza

This is another piece of poetry in stone that you will love in Bijapur. It consists of a mosque and tomb, built in the finest of Islamic architectural styles and flanked by green, lush gardens. The symmetrical perfection of the structures, that were built in the 15th century is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal, that was built later in the 17th century.

Mehtar Mahal

This is a beautiful gateway which leads to an exquisite mosque and garden. It was built in 1620 AD and is also known as the ‘Sweepers Palace’. The gate blends elements of the Hindu and Islamic architectural styles.

Jumma Masjid

This is a mosque again standing as an outstanding example of Islamic architecture. The mosque is quite huge and grandiose. The arches are symmetrically built in a linear form and each dome has a different design on the inside.


This was supposed to be the Mausoleum for Ali Adil Shah and his wives, he wanted it to be an architectural wonder, par excellence. The plan was to build a structure with twelve arches on the vertical plane and twelve arches on the horizontal plane which would surround the tomb. Sadly the structure never saw the light of day and only two vertical arches stand as silent testimony to the royal intrigues of the Adil Shahi dynasty. It is believed that once completed the Bara Kaman would have cast its shadow on the Gol Gumbaz at a distance of 4 Kilometers and hence the structure never took shape. Some accounts also suggest that Ali Adil Shah was murdered by his own father Mohammed Adil Shah to ensure that the Bara Kaman would not rise from the ground to surpass the glory of his very own Gol Gumbaz.

It was indeed a unique experience for me in Bijapur to know more about Gol Gumbaz story. If you too have been to similar places and had similar experiences, do whisper back to me through our comments section. For more Gol Gumbaz information, click here.

Thanks for visiting our site Voyager – www.imvoyager.com and taking the time to read our post!

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