India // Karnataka //

The Golgumbaz

The vast Golgumbaz mausoleum, Bijapur’s most famous building, soars above the town’s east walls, visible for miles in every direction. Built towards the end of the Adil Shahis’ reign, the building is a fitting monument to a dynasty on its last legs – pompous, decadent and ill-proportioned, but conceived on an irresistibly awesome scale.

The cubic tomb, enclosing a 170-square-metre hall, is crowned with a single hemispherical dome, the largest in the world after St Peter’s in Rome (which is only 5m wider). Spiral staircases wind up the four seven-storey octagonal towers that buttress the building to the famous Whispering Gallery, a 3m-wide passage encircling the interior base of the dome from where, looking carefully down, you can get a real feel of the sheer size of the building. Arrive here just after opening time to avoid the bus tours and experiment with the extraordinary acoustics. The view from the mausoleum’s ramparts, which overlook the town and its monuments to the dark-soiled Deccan countryside beyond, is superb.

Set on a plinth in the centre of the hall below are the gravestones of the ruler who built the Golgumbaz, Mohammed Adil Shah, along with those of his wife, daughter, grandson and favourite courtesan, Rambha. At one corner of the grounds stands the simple gleaming white shrine to a Sufi saint of the Adil Shahi period, Hashim Pir which, around February, attracts qawwals (singers of devotional qawwali music) to the annual urs, which lasts for three days.