The historic Gol Gumbaz in Vijayapura, considered the ‘Taj of the south’, has suffered minor damage following heavy rains in the district in north Karnataka.
A small portion of the support bracket, also called the chajja or cornice, on the eastern side broke off from the structure last week. The bricks were shattered after falling from a height of around 90 feet. No one was injured as the area is out of bounds for the general public, and there was no one in the vicinity during the incident.
Gol Gumbaz is a monument from the Adil Shahi era, and was built around 1650. It is the resting place of King Adil Shah and his family members. It attracts tourists and archaeologists from around the world who come to see its grand dome, which was built without pillars.
Tourist guides fondly refer to it as Bol Gumbaz, due to its whispering gallery, in which the slightest sound travels across a large distance. It is believed to be an architectural marvel, unparalleled in the Deccan.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has taken note of the incident. “A detailed study is under way. A report will be sent to the head office,” said B. Pramod, Senior Conservation Assistant, in charge of maintenance of monuments in Vijayapura.
“We have conducted a spot inspection and a preliminary survey. A detailed survey will tell us the extent of actual damage and the repairs needed. Repairing ancient monuments is not like modern architecture. All restoration and conservation work needs to be done very slowly, using materials that were originally used. At the end of the monsoon, when humidity in the air is lesser, we will begin the repairs. That will strengthen the structure, apart from making it look like it was earlier,” he said.
He denied allegations that officers had been negligent about maintenance of monuments.
A.V. Badiger, Superintending Archaeologist of Dharwad circle, who is in charge of heritage structures across north Karnataka said, “Repairs would be taken up.”
The brackets are horizontal structures projecting out on all four sides of the main body of the 17th century tomb. The 11-and-a-half feet-long structures are made of brick and mortar, and have intricate carvings, like the other parts of the dome.
Vijayapura-based heritage enthusiast and conservation architect Ameen Hullur says, “ASI has not been as diligent as it should be. Gol Gumbaz is among the wonders of the world. It is not just an architectural marvel. It is a showpiece of of Deccan history and our cultural heritage. It is an open textbook for sound engineers, structural engineers and designers of all kinds. All of us must strive to preserve and conserve it. Repairs need to be taken up as soon as possible, and awareness should be created among the people about its uniqueness.”
He pointed out that Henry Cousens, the 19th century archaeologist who documented monuments of the Deccan, has described the chajja as a decorated grand cornice. In his seminal work ‘Bijapur and its Architectural Remains, with a Historical Outline of the Adil Shahi Dynasty’, he calls it ‘the most daring feat accomplished in the city’.
The cornice had suffered damage in the past too. “Cousens has recorded that the British government had restored a cornice in the front portion at great cost and with infinite labour around 1900,” he added.