Bidar Fort and Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib

Way to the Bidar Fort

Before going to the Black Buck Resort, we visited the Fort in Bidar. The Entrance was free and open for all. Even vehicles could be seen entering the place without a fuss. No one seemed to be looking after the more than 30 monuments within the Fort.

The Entrance

As we walked inside, a man claiming to be a guide, asked us whether he could show us around for Rs. 500. We thought it was too much and said so. Actually he didn’t look qualified enough to be a Guide. He began bargaining with us, coming down to about 300 bucks. We ignored him and walked on.

The entrance was huge with heavy, aesthetically-pleasing doors (with a few sections broken). There were mostly-destroyed, partly-worn-out monuments and relics all around us. We couldn’t make out what was what. There were no maps or markers around the complex to help us. And there was no authority we could inquire. As if he knew we would reach this helpless state and seek him out, the guy calling himself a “guide”, was just hanging around nearby. And this time, he agreed to a fee of Rs. 200. Some information (not credible though it might be)  was better than no information at all, I thought.

Within the Fort

It was hard to follow him as he spoke too fast, but he told us what certain buildings were used for- Stables for Horse, Prison Cells, Court, Guest Rooms etc.. And a bit about the Architecture and the History of the place. Probably built by the Chalukyas in the year 977 AD, the present-day Fortress was rebuilt by Ahmed Shah of the Bahamani Dynasty using red laterite stone (in abundance in the area) in the year 1428 AD. The Architecture is mostly Persian-style. (Source : Wikipedia and our “guide”).

Takht Mahal, maybe?

Bidar Fort apparently has a number of monuments within the fortress complex. Prominent among them are the Rangin Mahal (“Painted Palace”), so called because of its elaborate decoration with coloured tiles; the Takht Mahal, or throne room; the Jami Masjid (“Great Mosque”) and the Sola Khamba Masjid (“Sixteen-Pillar” mosque), according to Wikipedia, but sadly, we didn’t enter any of those.

Rangin Mahal?

I wish I had done more research before visiting the place. I’d have demanded to know where everything was and asked to be taken inside. All I did was walk around, clicking pictures and admiring the beauty and the serenity of the Fort area, without a clue whether we were passing the Rangin Mahal or the Jami Masjid. It was August 15th, our Independence Day, but at that moment I felt least patriotic for the kind of Country I lived in, that didn’t honor its rich heritage and ensured its preservation for future Indians to enjoy.

Beautiful but poorly-maintained

The “guest room” had been closed, but the guide asked us to enter through the back door (which might have been a window, not sure, because it was too narrow.) and one could climb down a couple of storeys (?!?!) into rooms where (apparently) there was enough lighting and ventilation. Prasad came out drenched in sweat, but full of admiration for the ingenuity of the builders centuries ago. I thought it wasn’t right, going where one’s clearly not supposed to go, but HE didn’t mind; He was too happy to have seen an Engineering marvel!

Closed "Guest room"

We were told some “facts” like “this is where a scene from the movie “Dirty Picture” was shot” and some such. But we thanked the guy anyhow; He hadn’t exploited or harmed us. We paid him and explored the place by ourselves for a while. The weather was good and the long leisurely walk was energizing.

Perfect Weather for a walk

Wow! Let me try that pose!

The next day we visited the famous Gurudwar called the “Guru Nanak Sahib Jhira”. At the Resort we’d learnt the story behind this religious shrine – Guru Nanak visited Bidar between 1510-1514 AD on one of his missionary tours and seeing the plight of the residents who didn’t have proper water supply, shifted a stone and removed some rubble from underfoot, all the while praying, and out sprang cool and fresh water, which flows even to this day.

Entrance to the Gurudwar

We went inside, covering our heads with scarves, and spent some quiet minutes with the other devotees.

Looks Cute, doesn't he?

Later, we bought some Kadas for the kids and Roasted Corn-on-the-cob for everyone from the stores lined outside near the entrance.

It’s only after we returned home, did I realize how little we had seen. Not only had we missed looking at a number of monuments from up close at the Bidar Fort, we had also skipped a viewing of the Amrit Kund, the holy spring at the Gurudwar. How could we?!

Anyway, Bidar isn’t too far from Hyderabad. We’ll probably visit again. But…

The Big Fat lesson I learnt from this experience is that I need to thoroughly research a place before visiting, especially while traveling in India.

Black Buck Resort, Bidar

Did you say Black Buck Resort? In Bidar, Karnataka? A different State altogether! Would we be able to cover the place in 2 days?

Wait wait… Black Bucks, you said??? What wild animal can possibly survive the heat and aridity of Bidar?

A number of questions circled my mind and I tossed them at Prasad, who coolly directed me to the Resort’s website. I couldn’t believe he had already booked our stay!

I’d always assumed Bidar to be one of those drought-struck places with cracked agricultural lands, desperate for a drop of rain. Even the Resort’s website with its washed-out pictures didn’t look promising to me.  But of one thing I was pretty sure- anything would be way better than staying home over the long Independence weekend. So when time came for us to leave, I was super-excited; The kids were too. Medha, on our drive to the resort, kept saying our home must be thanking us for having left it alone for a while! I thought she made sense.

The drive was good; It took us through a landscape in mottled shades of Green (not the lush green of the Tropical Rain-forests of Western Ghats, but no desert either). On our way, we stopped to buy fresh fruits like Figs, Guavas, Custard apples and a couple of Raw Mangoes from a local vendor.

Figs along our way

Bidar is about 134 km from Hyderabad. We stopped for a quick visit to the Bidar Fort (details coming up in my next post)  and then headed to the Resort. It was difficult to find the place as it is located deep in the Forest of Honnikeri, beside the Vilaspur Lake. There were no markers or roads to lead us to our destination. We got there only after we called up the resort and asked for help.

Blackbuck entrance

Black Buck Resort is hidden behind a veil of Greenery and is surrounded by hills. But I couldn’t find a Lake anywhere. It must be hidden too, I thought, at first. Soon I learnt that it had dried up because of sparse rainfall for the past few years. We were slightly disappointed. The views from the balcony of our cottage were beautiful, but I’m sure it would’ve been breath-taking, had there been a sparkling lake instead of a grassland. Still, there was just a tiny bit of water and cattle could be found grazing or lolling beside it, which felt serene.

View from the balcony

We headed for lunch right away. Food wasn’t too rich or the variety too much; There were a couple of curries, freshly-prepared Rotis, Biryani and Rasam and Sambar to go along with Plain Rice. A simple Rice pudding served as a dessert. Everything tasted finger-licking good, as if it was carefully prepared at home… The kids (hard to please) and Grandparents (harder to please) ate without a fuss! Phew!

It was soon time for Tea/Coffee and Black Buck sighting. We boarded a Balero and our guide, Harish, drove us to a grassland quite far from the Resort.

Blackbuck Safari

It wasn’t exactly a Savannah as I thought it would be. Short grass  covered the land here and there; A Runway (Our Air-force has a training center there) ran beside it and factories surrounded the area. Harish informed us that the animals had gotten used to the noise, but I was skeptical.

Blackbucks leaping

Hordes of Black Bucks grazed and chilled and went about their business without a care in the World, until they saw us approaching; When they did, they took off running and leaping, and boy how they leapt! It was a surreal vision! They looked like they were flying, especially the younger ones, who kept jumping higher than the rest.

Despite the runway and the factories nearby, the place did look serene and I remember wishing how awesome it would be if I could capture the feeling of the place too.

On our return, we snacked on French Fries and Capsicum Pakoras (not part of the meal. We had to order separately) and watched documentaries on a Projector screen. I wish the Government of Karnataka, of which this Resort is a part, screened educational documentaries related to Bidar, its history and wildlife, instead of just advertising their other resorts  or playing a documentary on the Rain-forests of Sahyadri Hills like they did, although those were interesting too.

Then it was Bonfire-time, which wasn’t much fun at all with a bunch of kids (Medha and Madhav made a new friend there) who kept running too close to the fire or too far from the light.

Bonfire

We gobbled up our dinner (Good food again!) and headed to our rooms. We had to wake up early for some bird-watching.

The next morning we were taken on an easy hike along the periphery of the resort.

Hiking in the morning

We spotted a bunch of Langurs perched on trees and relaxing on rocks, watching us with interest as if we were the animals and they, the spectators (Who knows, it might be the case in their World!), Big Eagles circling overhead and a few other species of colorful birds. We searched high and low for Peacocks whose familiar cries we could hear everywhere, but couldn’t spot a single one. They were evading us, probably because of all the noise the kids were making.

Langur family

But everyone seemed to be having a good time walking, enjoying the beautiful views and spotting (or trying to spot) wildlife. A few visitors to the Resort complained of not having experienced anything special, but my family was pretty satisfied.

View of a hut on our trail

The hills, shrubbery, early morning dew on leaves, villagers digging a well, a mama Langur picking lice off her baby, another mama protecting her tiny one from us, the absolute tranquility of the place, interrupted only by the screams of Peacocks who played Peek-aboo with us or the giggles of our kids, everything, made us feel glad we’d visited this obscure place. I didn’t mind having my perception of Bidar and its beauty altered for good.

Cottages and the dried-up vilaspur lake

Medha wanted even more of the experience; She wasn’t ready to head back home. But when she spotted a Scorpion in our bathroom, her resolve wavered.

Scorpion in the bathroom

We helped her (hopefully) understand that the wild is the home of beasts and critters and we were only  guests there. We just needed to be extra extra careful and leave their home just the way we found it.

After a hearty breakfast, it was time for us to leave.

I felt our Home was too happy to have us back. And Medha agreed with me.

(We paid Rs. 4352 per adult per night that included accomodation+ all meals + safari + Bird watching +taxes)