Golconda Fort: Going Up

Hyderabad, India

Today we undertook an exploration of Golconda Fort, which dates back to the 11th Century, when the original structures were constructed out of mud. A few decades later, it was expanded into the stone complex that we see today, which was left in ruins in the 16th Century. Perhaps its main claim to fame is that it has housed a number of noteworthy diamonds, including the most legendary of them all: the Hope Diamond, which is believed to have been mined nearby.

Upon getting out of our tuk-tuk and entering the gate, the first thing we noticed was that the place was swarming with a variety of uniformed security. City police, state, police, national police, and the regular Fort security guards. And we wondered why on earth such a serene site should require such a huge detachment of sentinels, most of whom were just lounging around. We did not yet realize that the day was a special occasion: one of the celebratory days of Bonalu, a Hindu festival of gratitude observed mostly in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. And later in the day, there would be more than enough bodies streaming into the Fort to justify the beefed-up security.

Almost immediately upon entering, we also become informed of another of the Fort’s unique features: its remarkable acoustics, which also were factored in for the sake of security. The Fort was designed and built so that sound (as in, e.g., the voices of conspirators) travels as far as one kilometer, thanks to the layout, the amplifying arches and other architectural features, and the sound-conducive materials in the walls. Right after the entrance, there’s a spot where you can stand to experiment with a handclap that is projected quite a distance away.

Some of the security guards exhibited the national obsession in India with taking selfies with foreigners. And there were quite a few other people we passed who did likewise. And since we were appearing in their photos, it was only fair that we took some of our own with them.

Through this gauntlet of amateur (and sometimes not so amateur) photographers, we made our way toward the top of the hill. The Golconda complex, which is actually not just a fort but an entire city, has structures of both Hindu and Islamic significance.

At the top of the hill is Hindu temple that most of the crowd seemed to be meandering toward. The heart of the temple is a little shrine to a Hindu deity; and the attendees pile up offerings of food and flowers. (Sometimes you have to wonder if in some places the statues eat better than the people do.) We had to take off our shoes before entering the temple, of course; but we weren’t even allowed to carry them inside. All shoes had to be left on the ground out front, and we were a bit concerned that ours might get lost in the shuffle. They didn’t.

Just inside the temple, a woman was applying a bindi to anyone who wanted one. The bindi is the little dot in the forehead that has been a recognizable feature of Indian culture for many centuries. It has several meanings and interpretations, depending on the specific subculture. Though it’s most often been sported by women (sometimes to indicate that they’re married), it’s also worn by men. Most often, it’s a mark of spiritual awareness, indicating the location of one of the “third eye”.

Even though we weren’t sure exactly what kind of message we’d be sending by acquiring our own bindis, it seemed like the thing to do. So we gamely agreed to have our own foreheads get the Cyclops treatment. Unfortunately, as we should have realized, the lady was requesting a small donation to cover her expenses, etc. etc. And we gladly would have coughed it up — after all, it was our very first bindi ever, and it hardly could have come at a more appropriate time and place. But alas, we had no denomination of currency that was small enough for us to feel comfortable parting with. She seemed to understand, though no doubt she would have preferred the ka-ching.

And there we were, at the peak in Golconda Fort, with already a staggering collection of photos for our trouble. We’d have just as many coming up on the walk back down. So we’ll save those for another blog post.

“Selfies” with Others

July 7, 2023

2 thoughts on “Golconda Fort: Going Up

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