From Mumbai we headed south to the state of Karnataka. Our first stop was Bijapur, a small town with very few foreigners, but lots of interesting remains of from the sultan dynasties that once ruled here.
Like Agra, there are several beautiful mausoleums in Bijapur (the Muslims certainly take the cake for glorifying their dearly departed). The Golgumbaz is an imposing monument, with the second largest dome in the world (after St. Peters in Rome) and perhaps the loudest acoustics of any place on the planet. You climb up into the dome to enter the so-called "whispering gallery", where you can supposedly here the whisper of someone sitting on the opposite side. However, we happened to be there when hundreds of students were visiting on school trips, which meant that the whispers were replaced by amplified screams and our ears were ringing when we left. It also meant we had to shake scores of hands, pose for several pictures and answer countless questions about our names and "native place".
Other mausoleums we visited were the Ibrahum Rouza, a delicately decorated pair of dome-topped structures set in a beautifully manicured garden, and the Bara Kaman, a structure that originally mirrored the Golgumbaz in design, but is now little more than a series of interlocking arches. Other fascinating sites around town were the Malik-e-Maidan, a 3 ton cannon shaped like a lion with an elephant in its mouth (representing Islam conquering Hinduism), and the sprawling ruins of the citadel complex.
The town also has a very colorful flower and vegetable market (we have never seen so many chili peppers in one place before!) and really friendly people. It was great to be off the foreign tourist trail for a while, although the limited English spoken here did pose a few challenges for us in trying to figure out how to get to our next planned destination - the Badami caves. In the end, we opted to get on a bus headed straight to Hampi instead to save us from some logistical headaches....