Khwaja Mohammed Gawan served under several Bahamani kings. He joined the court of Allaudin, worked with his son Humayun and was on the council to conduct the affairs of the state when Humayun’s eight-year-old son Nizam Shah ascended the throne, and then again, he looked after the affairs of the state for nine-year-old Mohammed Shah III. While Mohammed Gawan was the Prime Minister, the council also included Khawaja Jahan Turk as the Controller of the State and the Queen Mother. Khawaja Jahan Turk grew greedy; he wanted Mohammed Gawan far out. So he assigned Mohammed Gawan to the administration of the frontiers, forcing him to be away from Bidar for long periods. Khawaja Jahan Turk eventually grew too big for his boots, and the Queen Mother punished him with a death sentence. As a frontier administrator, Mohammed Gawan did some excellent work fortifying and strengthening the outlying areas of the kingdom, for which he earned praise and gifts from Mohammed Shah III. With popularity comes jealousy. Ambitious courtiers forged a letter to the not-so-friendly Rai of Orissa, supposedly from Mohammed Gawan, and showed it to Mohammed Shah. In a drunken stupor, Mohammed Shah ordered the execution of Mohammed Gawan. The king regretted the decision when he sobered up and did not forgive himself for his impulsive behaviour till his death a year later.
Mohammed Gawan was multi-talented. He was not only a great statesman but great at prose and poetry and was exceptional at mathematics. The Bahamani kings were all for education and edifices, and Mohammed Gawan did not have to put in too much effort to get a school built in Bidar in 1472, though he used his own funds.
The shape of the building, the massive tower and especially the tile work (though most of it has fallen off, it is still possible to imagine how it must have looked when it was built) reminded me of Samarkand. And I was right. Mohammed Gawan had connections with the learned folks at Khorasan and Samarkand. The architecture of those two cities may have inspired him to build his dream project. The school is a square building with a central quadrangle and a cistern in the courtyard’s centre.
There were four domes on the outer centre of the four sides; only two exist today. A section of the square used to be a library that housed nearly 3000 manuscripts; it no longer exists. One theory states that lightning caused it to fall, and another theory states that an accidental gunpowder explosion by Aurangzeb’s army destroyed it. A stone pillar supports the leftover arch.
There were 100-foot tall towers on either end of the main entrance to the school. There is only one now. Green, yellow, and blue tiles covered the 3-storey tower in a chevron pattern. Look closely, and you can see balconies around the tower at the upper reaches.
The three-level residential school had 36 rooms; each room could take up three students. In total, the school would have had about 108 students. There were rooms for about 12 teachers. Jaalis, at every level, let light into every room.
The building adjacent to the existing tower is a mosque. At the top of the facade is a row of Persian calligraphy in white over a dark blue background. The rest of the tile work in a similar colour scheme as on the tower has all fallen off.
This monument is remarkable because there is no other like this in India. I was not expecting to see something so spectacular in Bidar, of all places.
Apart from the security guards and random goats, we had the place to ourselves for as long as we wanted. How I wish we could walk inside the building and get a feel of what it may have been to live in one of the rooms of this residential school! Or marvel at the mosque! We had to satisfy ourselves with the facade views. Seen enough to conclude it is a true gem of a monument this one!