Bara Kaman Amidst its ruins, LAKSHMI SHARATH tries to figure out why the mausoleum was never completed

On a dry dusty day, we were in Bijapur, taking in a bit of history. The sands of time may have weathered the town, but the Palmyra of the Deccan, as it was referred to in the medieval times, showed me flashes of its erstwhile glory as I walked around it. The nooks and corners of the town were filled with monuments, taking me on a trail of the Adil Shahi Dynasty.

Mosques, mahals and mausoleums filled the landscape, throwing shadows of the past. The trees would part ways to show us a peek at an ancient monument. Pigs followed us everywhere as we walked in and out of old serais and tanks.

Towers and cannons looked at us from every angle, and amidst the walls of the modern city stood the fort, crumbled yet stately. In the heart of the city, among a scattering of modern homes and hotels, was the monumental Gol Gumbaz, the symbol of Bijapur, a mausoleum of Mohammad Adil Shah completed in the 17th Century.

And yet, to me, the unfinished mausoleum of his son Ali Adil Shah II seemed to shadow the Gol Gumbaz. One never knows why this mausoleum was never completed, but a theory persists that the shadow of this structure would have fallen on the Gol Gumbaz had it been completed. It was probably what Ali Adil Shah II wanted to create — a monument dwarfing the other structures in the town.

In ruins

Standing at a dead end of a lane, located a few km from the present day Bijapur town, the Bara Kaman — as this mausoleum was called — stood in ruins. There were no domes or pillars; just towering stone walls that curved into arches, built to represent death and immortality, as they tried to reach out to each other. The guide told me that the original plan was to build an edifice of 12 arches arranged both horizontally and vertically around the tomb of the king and his queens. However, barely a couple of arches completed the picture, while the rest of them seemed to have been left undone.

The arches towered over us. It was rather late in the evening, and the sun’s rays filtered through them, radiating a glow. The cenotaph just stood there throwing no clues as to why it was incomplete. A theory said that the pride between the father and the son, as to whose mausoleum surpassed the other could have led to this. Perhaps the son was murdered, said the guide.

I was dwarfed as the magnificent edifice stood there as a symbol of pride, arrogance, death and life. .

Under the evening rays, the ruins stood out, hiding within it many a secret. At that moment I realised that the beauty of this structure lay in its unfulfilled desire.