Golconda Fort reopens sans publicity

Hyderabad: Five months after being shut due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the historic Golconda fort has finally re-opened, albeit sans any announcement. The citadel of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, which ruled Hyderabad from 1518-1687, had opened for just one day earlier in July. Later the authorities decided against keeping it open due to rising COVID-19 cases in the city and Telangana.

A senior official from the Archaeological Survey (ASI) of India said that the fort was re-opened on September 1 itself, but that the ASI did not publicise it for various reasons. “One thing is that we did not want everyone rushing to the fort, and the other thing is that we wanted our security personnel to also get used to working with the current scenario,” the official added.

However, while the Golconda Fort has fully re-opened, the historic Charminar that was built in 1591 is still closed. Earlier, in July the ASI had announced that both the monuments would be opened on July 6 and that tickets could only be purchased online. But given that both were in containment areas, it was decided against re-opening them.

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A handful of people who had booked tickets online were allowed to enter the fort on July 6. Later it was shut again until the end of August. There was also concern among officials of the Hyderabad district about opening a monument like the Charminar, which has very narrow staircases that often lead to crowding.

As of now, visitors must also purchase tickets online from the ASI’s website to enter the fort. According to the ASI’s website, tickets for the Golconda and the Warangal forts are available for purchase. Currently, this is the only major tourism monument that has been re-opened, while others like the Charminar and Salar Jung Museum are still closed.

History of the fort

The Golconda Fort’s origins are traced back to the 14th century when the Rajah of Warangal Deo Rai (under the Kakatiya Kingdom which ruled from Warangal) built a mud fort. It was later taken over by the Bahmani Empire between 1358 and 1375. It was later developed into a full-fledged citadel by Sultan Quli who founded the Qutb Shahi kingdom in 1518 following the death of last sovereign Bahamani emperor Mahmud Shah Bahamani.

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Earlier, Sultan Quli was a commander and later governor of Tilang (Telangana), under the Bahamani Empire (1347-1518), when its second capital was at Bidar. Sultan Quli, who was originally from Hamadan, rose to the level of Governor under the Bahamani empire. At this point of time he was given the fort, which he began developing into a walled-city. It eventually came to be called Golconda Fort (name derived from Telugu Golla-conda, or shepherds hill).

The fort has 87 bastions, and eight gates, of which a few are not accessible to the general public as they are under army control. It is believed to be one of the Deccan’s most impregnable forts, and had kept Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s army at bay for eight months when he laid siege to Hyderabad in 1687. Aurangzeb succeeded and ended the Qutb Shahi reign that year and took Abul Hassan Tana Shah, the last Golconda king, captive.

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