Golkonda, also known as Golconda (originally Golla Konda, meaning “Shepherd’s Hill” in Telugu), is a ruined fort and city 11 km (7 mi.) west of Hyderabad in Southern India. Established by the hindu Kakatiya dynasty in 1143 CE as part of their western defenses, the fort was originally built of mud bricks. After the Kakatiya dynasty ended in 1323, Golkonda was first ruled by the state of Warangal, then absorbed into the Islamic Bahmani Sultanate and became a regional capital within the empire.
After the collapse and splintering of the Bahmani Sultanate in the early 16th century into five independent states, Golkonda rose to prominence when it was made the capital and seat of the new Qutb Shahi dynasty in 1518. Over a period of 62 years the original mud fort was expanded by the first three Qutb Shahi kings into a massive fortress of granite on the lines of Kondapalli Fort in Vijayawada, extending around 10 km in circumference. It remained the seat of the Qutb Shahi dynasty until 1590 when the capital was shifted to Hyderabad. The Qutb Shahi sultanate itself lasted until its conquest by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1687. The fortress was beseiged and held out against Aurangzeb’s battering for nine months, but eventually was betrayed to the Mughals from within, and has since fallen to ruins.
Golkonda consists of four distinct forts spread out over several square kilometers and surrounded by a 10 km-long city wall and 87 semicircular bastions, some still complete with cannons. The city and fortress are built on a granite hill 120 meters (400 ft) high and are surrounded by massive crenelated ramparts. At the Fateh Darwaza (“Victory Gate”) can be experienced the fantastic acoustic effects designed into the structure, characteristic of the brilliant engineering at Golkonda: A hand clap at a certain point below the dome below the entryway reverberates and can be heard clearly at the Bala Hisar pavilion, the highest point of the fort, a kilometer away. This acted as a warning note to the royals in case of danger.
During the city’s existence India had the only known diamond mines in the world, and Golkonda controlled the nearby Kollur mines, which produced diamonds from the Kakatiya days until the mid-19th century, when it finally ran dry. Among many other stones mined at Golkonda’s Kollur are the Koh-i-Noor (Persian, “Mountain of Light”), its double Daria-i-Noor (“Sea of Light”) which is currently part of Iran’s crown jewels, and, most famous of all, the Hope Diamond. Golkonda was a hub of the diamond trade and became so famous for its stones that Europeans of the time believed diamonds were found only in Golkonda’s fabled mines, though they actually came not only from Kollur but from mines in other regions as well.