Travel anywhere in Bijapur and you will find mausoleums staring at you from every corner. Besides the famous Gol Gumbaz, there is the incomplete Bara Kaman as well. But several monuments are in various stages of ruin. According to my auto driver who is also my guide, there are several mosques lost in the streets. I also noticed that almost all the palaces have become government offices and were badly maintained. Meanwhile the reservoirs which were once frequented by the queens as their private bathing ghats are now haunted by buffaloes. I am however looking for a monument which is neither a palace nor a tomb and my auto driver takes me to see the “monarch of the plains” in Bijapur.
Bijapur was once referred to as the Palmyra of the Deccan, where poets and artists lived. And the Sultans of the Adil Shahi Dynasty left behind souvenirs of their reign in the form of monuments, which are crumbling today. But the monarch of the plains in Bijapur stands out from the clutter and it is not a monument.
I am inside the Bijapur fort and the walls run like a motif though the town circling it. it was built by Yusuf Adil Shah, the founder of the Adil Shah Dynasty in the 15th century. The citadel or the Arakella along with the Faroukh Mahal was also built by him, who was believed to have been a prince of Turkish origin. Almost every monument, be it a mahal or a mosue was built around the fortress. The fort is built in five concentric circles with five gates. And I am now looking for the monarch of the plains nestled inside it.
Carvings of lions stare at me as I climb a flight of steps and sitting in the open is the Burj E Sherz, the Monarch of the Plains is one of the largest canons from the medieval era. It is 15 feet long with a diameter of about 5 feet and it weighs about 55 tonnes.
Apparently it was a war trophy erected by Ibrahim Rauza after the Vijaynagar Empire was defeated in the Battle of Talikota in the 16th century. The muzzle is shaped like a lion’s head, crushing an elephant to death in its jaws .Cast in Ahmednagar , inscriptions say that it was apparently dragged here by oxen and elephants. In fact it was apparently its weight that deterred the British from carrying it to away to their country as a colonial souvenir.
The canon lies there like a powerful weapon, reminding you of war and death. But for the warlords and sultans, it was a war trophy, a symbol of valour and victory – which is probably why it earned its sobriquet, The Monarch of the Plains or The Master of the Battlefield or Malik i Maidaan.
Suddenly there is silence everywhere. It is almost evening and I am a bit tired travelling all around Bijapur in the heat. Looking out from the forts , I see just a handful of people around. I sit down for a while and wonder how Bijapur would have been centuries ago as a war zone.