Ahmedabad and Bidar – Tale of Two Islamic Cities

I have been living in Ahmedabad for 10 years. Thanks to its historical structures, I have cultivated an interest on the Islamic aesthetics of the city. I like their synthesis of Hindu, Jain and Islamic faiths and beliefs and not to say ‘aesthetics’. Because of my interest on Ahmedabad’s Islamic heritage, I have also started looking at similar Islamic cities that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries AD. On this weekend I visited Bidar, yet another Islamic city, which flourished under the Bahamanis and later under the Barid Shahis. Bidar is located in the north-eastern tip of Karnataka.

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Shola Khamba Mosque at Bidar Fort
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Ahmed Shah Mosque at Ahmedabad

Both Ahmedabad and Bidar owe their foundation to the similar root – the controversial decision of Muhammad Bin Tughluq of shifting the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in Deccan and the subsequent raid by Tamerlane. Before Ahmedabad was founded as the capital of Gujarat Sultanate, it was Solankis who dominated the region. They were known for their contribution in temple and step-well building. Some of the remarkable Jaina and Hindu temples are the Sun Temple at Modhera, Kitistambhas at Vadnagar, Rudra Mahalaya Temple at Sidhapur and step-wells like Rani ki Vav at Patan.

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The Ceiling of Inner Porch at Modhera Sun Temple
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Kirti Stambha Torana

When Islam took over, they simply adopted the earlier tradition and moulded according to the laws of Islam. In Ahmedabad, we see beautiful geometrical patterns, trees of life and other features like jhorokas, toranas, etc, all in relief stone work.

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In contrast, at Bidar we see a lot of elements from Persia and Central Asia, uniquely blend with local tradition. Here there had been a focus on building grand tombs, a feature absent in Ahmedabad. Pointed arches and moreover mosaics in coloured tiles, both in interior and exterior, all pointing to the Persian tradition, are hallmarks of Bidar architecture. According to historians, Bidar after became capital, its rulers had invited a large number of scholars, artisans and diplomats from Iran and Central Asia to serve in their courts. They also brought their art and replicated in the Islamic city.

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No doubt, both Ahmedabad and Bidar are positioned as unique medieval Islamic cities, yet with their distinctive regional characters.

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