This 17th-century mausoleum is topped with an acoustic marvel.
Gol Gumbaz is a fabulously imposing structure, towering 51 meters above the surrounding city of Vijayapura and representing one of the most important examples of late-medieval Indo-Islamic architecture. Meaning “circular dome”, it is appropriate that this mausoleum is most famous for its massive crowning feature — which is not only architecturally impressive, but also houses a sonic funhouse.
With a diameter of 44 meters, the dome of Gol Gumbaz ranks among the largest domes of the pre-modern world and is supported by a series of interlocking arches without any columns. A balcony rings around the interior of the dome, creating the so-called “whisper gallery” where any sound, loud or quiet, is amplified and carried throughout the cavernous space, ringing off the concave walls and echoing back a dizzying number of times. In the dim twilight of the gallery’s interior, hovering 33 meters above the main chamber below, the effect is truly surreal.
Gol Gumbaz was built as a mausoleum for Sultan Mohammed Adil Shah, the seventh ruler of the Adil Shahi dynasty and head of the Bijapur sultanate. Construction began shortly after he ascended the throne in 1627 and apparently was not yet fully completed by the time he died in 1656, when work finally stopped.
Its massive single chamber covers 1,700 square meters and sits atop a basement tomb containing the remains of sultan, as well as those of his two wives, his mistress, his daughter and his grandson. Each corner of the building is graced by a seven-story-tall minaret containing stairs that provide access to the whispering gallery.