Date:06/03/2010 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2010/03/06/stories/2010030657990800.htm
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Escape route near royal harem found at Bidar Fort

T.V. Sivanandan

Recent excavations reveal 150-meter-long tunnel



The deceptive looking escape tunnel found during the excavation near the royal harem in Bidar Fort in Bidar City.

BIDAR: The excavations in some portions of the sprawling 15th Century Bidar Fort constructed by Sultan Ahmed Shah of the Bahamani Dynasty has further strengthened the belief of historians that the fort had many tunnels and escape routes for the royals.

The excavations on the north side of Bidar fort adjacent to the royal harem has revealed the existence of a 150-meter-long tunnel cutting through solid laterite soil. It is assumed that could have been used by the women of the harem as an escape route in the event of an attack on the fort by enemies.

According to senior conservationist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Anandtheerth, who is supervising the excavation work in three identified locations, and the Bidar Deputy Commissioner Harsh Gupta, who was instrumental in persuading the ASI to take up the excavation, the recent findings would through light on the history of the Bidar Fort and the Bahamani Sultanate.

The tunnel dug in a zig-zag form has at least two deep wells without protective walls. This could have been dug to trap enemy warriors who may have followed the escaping royals to give them enough time to escape. The height of the tunnel suddenly narrows down and one would have to creep through the passage to escape to the moat at the other end of the fort. Mr. Anandtheerth said that the height of the tunnel had been deliberately narrowed to fool enemy warriors and in the dark interiors it would be hard for them to locate the end of the escape route.

Another find

Mr. Gupta said that another significant find during the excavation was the “Hazar Kotri” (meaning thousand cells), which all these years remained buried under thick mounds of mud and thorny bushes.

The excavations that started a week ago, have revealed the presence of beautifully constructed row cells built with locally available limestone blocks and laterite bricks. So far, the personnel involved in the excavation have recovered several cells, which were probably used to house warriors and their families. They have been so designed that even in the height of the summer, the interiors remain cool.

Wells

At least eight wells have been identified and water was present in almost all of them. These were dug to a depth of 200 to 300 m.

The excavators, during the removal of the debris in one portion of the inner moat adjacent to the Queen's quarters, discovered that a portion of the moat, to a distance of around 400 m, was made into a park by the royals, and a well-laid pipeline to supply water to the water fountain and garden has also been recovered.

“We propose to continue the excavation in a few more identified areas to unravel the mystery surrounding Bidar Fort,” said Mr. Gupta. “Our aim is to prove that the Bidar Fort was one of the important forts in the country and develop this as one of the important tourist destination with all facilities.”

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