Travel guides are often prescriptive or a casual listing of places. However, this book, which is a part of the Pictor series of travel guides, is refreshingly different. It is a well researched tome that provides an in-depth view of the cultural and architectural heritage of the cities of Gulbarga, Bidar and Bijapur, in north Karnataka. Author Helen Philon is an authority on the Bahmanis of the Deccan, and has written several books on this region. This explains the scholarly nature of the guide, perhaps one of the few reliable books on these three cities.
These cities were the capitals of the Bahmani and Adil Shahi kingdoms between 14th and 17th century. The author, in the introduction, systematically describes the layered milieu that resulted in the extraordinary heritage that still survives. The visionary rulers of the time encouraged multiethnic influences, including that of open immigration, to bring talent to their territory. The introduction also highlights the building material, architectural techniques and ornamentation used. “The Deccan relies for its agricultural wealth on the monsoon and its age-old irrigation system,” writes the author, who also describes the use of intelligent water harvesting systems that resulted in lush landscapes which were integral to the building complexes. The book is divided into three sections, each one focusing on one city.
A compendium of supporting visual devices, including city plans, artwork, scaled plans of major buildings and complexes, rare watercolour maps and sketches from various archives, has resulted in a well-illustrated book. Claire Arni’s brilliant photographs only add to its visual quality. Its compactness makes the book a valuable travel companion. This book is for readers and travellers who are interested in history, culture and architecture, especially of lesser known, but culturally rich places — a must-read for all those who crave a deeper insight into such regions. Discerning readers will look forward to the other books in the series.
Book: Gulbarga Bidar Bijapur
Publisher: Pictor Publishing, Mumbai
Author: Helen Philon
Photography: Clare Arni
Pages: 144 Pages
Available at Landmark, Flipkart
Price Rs 495
Some images from the book…