Golconda (sometimes spelled as Golkonda) Fort was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Golconda which flourished in the 14th to 16th century. It is situated 11 kilometers from Hyderabad, the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh. With walls ranging from 17 to 34 feet broken by 87 semi-circular bastions, some reaching 60 feet in height, and built on a granite hill that is 400 feet high, it remains one of India’s most magnificent fortress complexes.
Even before the Kingdom of Golconda rose in prominence, when the Kakatiya Dynasty ruled the region. According to legend, a shepherd boy found an idol in the area. When this was reported to the Kakatiyan king, he ordered a mud fort to be built around it. The fort eventually known as Golla Konda, which in Tegulu meant Shepherd’s Hill. The area eventually became a heated battleground between three kingdoms, finally culminating in the victory of the Islamic Bahmani Sultanate and the fort became a capital of a major province of the Sultanate. When Quli Qutub Shah declared his independence from the Bahmani Sultanate in 1518, the Qutub Shahi Dynasty arose and Golconda became its seat of power. Over the next couple of decades, successive Qutub Shahi kings expanded the mud fort into a massive and expansive fort of granite, with a circumference that extended to around 5 kilometers. The fort remained to be the dynasty’s capital until it was moved to Hyderabad in 1590. The fort was then expanded to have a 10-kilometer outer wall that enclosed the city.
In 1686, the Mughal prince Aurangzeb started to lay siege on the fort of Golconda, with the intent of claiming Hydebarad, the wealthy capital of the Qutub Shahi dynasty. The fortress proved to be as impregnable as its reputation claimed. In 1687, when Aurangzeb finally managed to breach the fort after a nine-month long siege. It was said that the fort only fell down because of a traitor who sabotaged the gate.
Golconda was once renowned for the diamonds found on the south-east at Kollur Mine near Kollur (modern day Guntur district), Paritala (modern day Krishna district). During that time, India had the only known diamond mines in the world.
Golconda’s mines yielded few diamonds. Golconda was the market city of the diamond trade, and gems sold there came from a number of mines. The fortress city within the walls was famous for diamond trade. However, Europeans believed that diamonds were found only in the fabled Golconda mines.
Magnificent diamonds were taken from the mines in the region surrounding Golkonda, including Darya-e Nur, meaning sea of light, at 185 carats (37.0 g), the largest and finest diamond of the crown jewels of Iran. Many famed diamonds are believed to have been excavated from the mines of Golconda, such as:
- Darya-e Nur
- Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond
- The Koh-i-noor
- The Hope Diamond
- Princie Diamond
- The Regent Diamond
- Wittelsbach Diamond
Today, even after almost 800 years, the fort still stands as one of Hyderabad’s greatest architectural wonders. One of its greatest engineering marvels is the fantastic acoustic effects: one hand-clap at a certain point below the entrance dome can be heard at the highest point of the pavilion almost a kilometre away. This was said to be used for warning the royals in case of an attack.