Hyderabad (700 kilometers west of Mumbai and 480 kilometers north-northwest of Chennai) , is curious blend of northern and southern Indian culture even though it is located well south of the Vindhyas. The regions's language incorporates quite a few Urdu words and the architecture has strong Mughal and Islamic influences. Although its is a large bustling modern city, Hyderabad's character is defined by the beautiful monuments left behind by the many dynasties that have ruled the city. The population of the city is almost 7 million, while the population of the metro area is about 8 million. Hindus make up 65 percent of the population; Muslims, 30 percent.
Hyderabad was the capital of Andhra Pradesh but when Telangana split off from Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad became the capital Telangana. Hyderabad is a fairly prosperous city and , is a major high tech center. Many parts of Hyderabad are quite pleasant due in part to a massive “greening” campaign that involved the planting of millions of trees throughout the cty and planting flowers in parks an along expressways. A garbage dump was converted to a park. A site occupied by an electric plant was transformed into the modernist NTR Garden,
Located on the banks of the Musi river on the Deccan Plateau and ruled for many years by ostentatious nizams, Hyderabad is famous for semiprecious stones, Birdriware pearls and food like Hyderabadi Biryanis. While its Old City area is an impressive heritage haven with iconic monuments dotting its narrow lanes, its contemporary counterpart has carved out a name for itself with it fast-paced cosmopolitan life. The four-sided archway of Charminar, overlooking a bustling bazaar, is the centerpiece of the city around which the township developed. Along with the nearby city of Secunderabad, Hyderabad forms a twin city hub, which is separated by the expanse of the renowned Hussain Sagar Lake.
Today, Hyderabad is a thriving center for trade, commerce and technology. Several major information technology companies have set up offices here, ensuring a steady influx of people from across India that has resulted in cosmopolitan culture. Glitzy new hotels, posh restaurants, and premium shopping complexes have come up. As far as industry, it has lon had many paper factories, pottery works, sugar refineries, and carpet and textile mills. The University of Hyderabad was founded in 1918.
Telangana is one of the youngest states of India. Formally recognized on June 2, 2014, it is known for its hospitality and multicultural and pluralistic society. Hyderabad, the capital city of this state is the fifth largest city in India and home to some of India's best educational institutions, public sector and defence companies and a thriving global services sector and film industry and known for its world famous dish Hyderabadi Biryani. State Tourism Website : telanganatourism.gov.in/
Telangana state covers 112,077 square kilometers (43,273 square miles), is home to about 36 million people and has a population density of 307 people per square kilometer. About 61 percent of the population live in urban areas. Hyderabad is the capital and largest city, with about 7 million people. Hindus make up 85 percent of the population; Muslims, 12.7 percent. The people of Telangana are called the Telegu. They speak Telugi, a Dravidian language related to Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam and with its own alphabet. The Hyderabad film industry is called Tollywood.
Constituting a major part of Deccan plateau, Telangana has a pleasing climate, with abundant natural and water resources. The state is the gateway to Krishna and Godavari Rivers in South India and is considered the seed capital of India and has one of the more prosperous economies of India. Telangana attractions include serene lakes, verdant forests, rocky regions, wildlife, elaborately carved temples, magnificent palaces and forts reflecting architectural blends of Hindu, Pathan and Persian styles. Telangana is famous world-wide for its amazing Bronze castings that require exquisite skills for creating incredible idols. Nirmal town is world-famous for its varied range of handicrafts made using best traditional techniques to create masterpieces. Other prominent art works of the state include Nizamabad panels, Nirmal painted furniture, Dokra castings, Silver Filigree, Cheriyal Scroll Paintings, Bidri craft, Pembarthi brassware etc.
History of Hyderabad
Hyderabad was founded 400 years ago, according to one story, after a Muslim king fell in love with a village Hindu maiden. To perpetuate her memory he laid the foundations a huge monument near the site of his queen's village. Later she earned the title "Hyder Mahal" and that city that grew up around her village was called "Hyderabad." Though the story has many truthful elements the actual origin of the city back to the Kakatiya rulers of the 13th century and the Qutb Shahi dynasty of the 14th century.
The city was formally founded by Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah and ruled by the Qutb Shahi dynasty from 1518 to 1687 The Qutb Shahi Islamic Sultanate was one of the five prominent dynasties that emerged in the Deccan following the downfall of the Bahmani Dynasty in 1518 Seven rulers of the Dynasty ruled for 170 years and successfully resisted the Mughal attack until 1687 It was the last kingdom to be absorbed in the expanding Mughal Empire.
Hyderabad was part of the Mughal Empire and became known as Nizam's Dominions, after the sovereigns who ruled the region for many centuries. In 1724, the Mughal viceroy in the Deccan, Asaf Jah Nizam al-Mulk, declared independence. Thus, the Deccan kingdom, with Hyderabad as its capital, was called the princely state of Hyderabad. While Hyderabad continued to expand, its twin city, Secunderabad, grew as a British cantonment. The princely state of Hyderabad became a part of the Indian republic in 1950. Until 1948. Under the Muslim nizams, Hyderabad was the capital of India’s richest princely state.
Nizam of Hyderabad
The Nizams of Hyderabad were perhaps the most famous of all the local rulers of India. They were the leaders of a Muslim dynasty that ruled the southern Deccan Plateau in southern India, first as subjects of the Mughals, and then as allies of the British Raj. The first nizam was favored by the great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The family remained in power until the state of Hyderabad was merged with India in 1948, a year after India gained independence.
The sixth Nizam of Hyderabad was a profligate spendthrift. He reportedly never wore the same set of clothes twice and accumulated the world’s largest wardrobe. The seventh Nizam of Hyderabad was once regarded as the richest man in the world. He used the Jacob diamond as a paperweight and owned 50 Rolls Royces, one of which had a solid silver body and an interior upholstered with gold brocade. He was notorious for hoarding cash. Once he lost three million pounds when rats ate through a big pile of British banknotes stored in his basement. He was so cheap he reportedly smoked the cigarette butts left by his guests. He surrendered his kingdom after a failed rebellion against the Indian government in 1948.
Maukuran Jah, the man who would have been the eighth Nizam, fled India to get away from tax officials, greedy relatives and conniving acolytes. His attempt to run an Australian sheep farm ended in disaster and his second wife, an Australian, contacted AIDS. He returned to Hyderabad for a while, married two more times and in the 1990s lived mostly in Europe.
Jewels of the Nizams of Hyderabad
The Nizams of Hyderabad were renowned for one of the greatest jewel collections in the world. Among the hundreds of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other jewels they possessed were the 184-carat Jacob Diamond; the 277-carat Nizam diamond; a set of 22 emeralds, with the largest 59 carats; a turban ornaments known as sarpech, made of diamonds and walnut-size emeralds set in gold; and pearl and diamond necklaces made for Napoleons's wife Josephine. The collection, valued at more that $2 billion in 2001.
Many of the jewels were obtained through the centuries-old custom of nazar: tributes of gold and jewels given by nobles and vassals to show their loyalty. They included rubies from Burma, emeralds, from Columbia, diamonds from India and South Africa and pearls from the Persian Gulf. The Nizams claimed the finest diamonds from the legendary Golconda mines which were part of their kingdom.
The duck-egg-size Jacob’s diamond is regarded as one of the largest and finest diamonds in the world. At 184.75 carats is almost twice the size of the famed Kohinoor diamond. It is believed to have been found in a South African mine and sold by a dealer named Alexander Malcon Jacob to the Sixth Nizam in 1891. The sixth Nizam liked clothes but was reportedly not so fond of Jews. After his death, the seventh Nizam found the diamond in the toe of slipper and then used it as a paper wight. In the early 2000s the diamond was valued at $90 million.
An emerald ring—with a large, square emerald set in gold and inscribed with the title “boy-swordsman”—was given to the first Nizam by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. After the death of the seventh and last Nizam the jewels were put into a trust and finally purchased by the Indian government in 1995 after a three decade court battle for the equivalent of $71 million. In August 2001, the jewels were displayed at the national museum in New Delhi. Most of the time they are locked away in a vault at the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of India.
Transportation in Hyderabad
According to ASIRT: Most roads are in fair condition. Traffic is often heavily congested. Traffic is chaotic. Traffic signals may not function. Traffic is congested in the Old City (purana shaher). One-way roads help reduce traffic jams. Enforcement of traffic laws is inadequate. Drivers seldom abide by traffic laws. Road crashes are frequent. While helmets are not required for cyclists and motorcyclists, wearing one reduces road risk. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]
Recommend that travelers hire a professional driver when visiting the region.Sidewalks are not always available, forcing pedestrians to walk on roads. Streets Drivers often fail to yield to pedestrians or share the roadway. Use caution when walking across main roads. may be affected by low-level flash flooding. May cause heavy congestion and traffic delays. Decline offers of cheap residential accommodation or transportation. Vehicle thefts are infrequent but proper security measures should be taken. Vehicles should be locked at all times.
Most buses and trams are poorly maintained and often overcrowded. Bus drivers may park on main roads and wait for passengers. Use metered taxis or hotel vehicles for transport to and around the city. When using a non-metered taxi, agree on fare before leaving. Avoid using unmarked taxis or taxis lacking official markings. Taxi drivers often speed.
Getting There: By Air: The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad is connected to all major Indian cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, and Chennai. Crime is uncommon in the airport, due to a strong police presence. Crowds outside the airport generally include many pickpockets. By Road: Hyderabad is connected by reasonably good roads to the neighbouring cities of Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Aurangabad, Chennai, Tirupati and Panaji. By Train: Three railway stations service the city of Hyderabad. These are the Hyderabad (Nampally station), Secunderabad and Kachiguda railway stations.
Shopping in Hyderabad
Hyderabad is very famous for pearls, even though it's not located by the sea. It is said the Nizams were fond of imported pearls and that's why the trading began here and has continued. The city is dotted with pearl shops. Char Kaman near Charminar is another area for pearl shopping. Often called the Pearl City, a reference to the fine quality of pearls that have been traditionally traded here, Hyderabad is also near the mining area the produced the world-famous Kohinoor diamond.
Hyderabad is brimming with markets that are filled with delights for shoppers. The famed Laad Bazaar near the Charminar is a very old market that is most famous for its glittering and colorful lacquered bangle shops. One will also find in its narrow lanes cubbyhole stores offering saris, wedding paraphernalia, Kalamkari paintings, semi-precious stone jewelry, silver ware, Bidri ware, brocade fabrics and lots more. One can also shop for pearl ornaments here. Visitors can also head to Shilparamam, an Arts And Crafts center that is set up like a traditional village. It is a great place to buy traditional crafts, textiles, carpets and toys. Jubilee and Banjara Hills are areas that are filled with glitzy malls and high-end boutiques.
Perfume Market perfume market is located near Charminar and boasts an array of stores selling attar, which is a traditional perfume. Visitors can get a whiff of these natural fragrances and buy them directly from the producers, most of whom have been in the business for generations. Some of the popular fragrances include rose, sandalwood and musk. The speciality is that these perfumes do not contain alcohol or chemicals. They make for great gifts and souvenirs. Visitors can also attend workshops to see how the perfume is crafted.
Hyderabad Food And Cuisine
Hyderabad us home to the legendary and fragrant Hyderabadi biryani. the city has a bustling food scene that leaves one full but never satiated. From sampling the richly concocted Irani chai (tea) to digging into the spicy mirchi-ka-sallan, food in Hyderabad is not just an experience, but a long-lasting memory.
Biryani defines the culture of Hyderabad. Just like the city, this iconic royal dish, is a subtle amalgamation of rice, meat and flavorful spices; where no one ingredient overpowers the other! Hyderabadi biryani stands apart from other varieties available across the country due to its method of cooking and the mild but sophisticated spicing. There are two types of biryani cooked and served in the city. The first is kachhi biryani, in which marinated meat is cooked together with rice. The second variety, which is more common, is the pakki biryani, in which the meat is cooked separately and then layered with half-cooked rice. Both varieties are prepared on dum (a traditional steam-cooking procedure) until the meat is tender and the rice fragrantly cooked, with each grain standing apart. In both these biryanis, the spicing is subtle, with stress on fresh cardamom. There is also a hint of green chilli, ghee (clarified butter) and saffron.
Osmania Biscuits are unique soft tea biscuits that are best served with Irani chai (tea). With a sweet and salty flavor, these melt-in-the-mouth biscuits are a must-try in the city famous for its cuisine culture. According to legend the biscuits are named after Mir Osman Ali Khan, who was the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad. The ruler used to love the biscuits served at a popular restaurant in the Abids and they named them after the king. Another tale recounts that the biscuits were first made at Osmania hospital and thus have been named so. A group of dieticians are said to have prepared this delicious recipe to give it as an energy booster to patients.
Qubani Ka Meetha is a typical Hyderabadi dessert made using dried apricots, cream and rose water. It is a popular dish served at weddings and is one of the best delicacies in the royal kitchens of Hyderabad. Sheer Korma is a favorite during Eid-ul-Fitr. It is a special Hyderabadi dessert made with vermicelli fried in ghee (clarified butter) and then slow-cooked in sweetened milk with dates, other dry fruits and then topped with saffron. The word 'sheer korma' literally means milk with dates. Firni is delicious dessert prepared using broken rice, dry fruits and sweetened milk. It is a popular sweet dish had during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but is also enjoyed on other auspicious occasions. It is usually likened to a sweet rice and milk pudding.
Mirchi Ka Salaan is a unique dish with a spicy gravy of green chilli cooked in a peanut-and-sesame-seed curry. Coconut and khus khus (poppy seeds) are also added to the curry for flavor and texture. It is said that this dish was one of the favorites of Mughal emperor Akbar. Even the Ain-i-Akbari mentions it. Malai korma is a flavorful vegetarian dish made with spices and malai (cream). It comprises koftas (deep-fried dumplings of mainly paneer or cottage cheese) cooked in a mildly spiced gravy. It is best enjoyed with roti (Indian flatbread). Hyderabadi haleem is a hearty preparation of mutton, lentils, cracked wheat, yoghurt, spices, dry fruits and mint cooked over a slow fire for almost 12 hours. This flavorful dish, which is thick in consistency, is enjoyed during festivals. The Keema samosa is a unique take on the common Indian snack. These fried dough pockets are stuffed with spiced minced meat instead of the usual potato-and-pea mixture and served with a spicy mint chutney.
Irani Chai is an iconic milky Hyderabad concoction of tea leaves, whole milk, sugar and khoya or mawa (milk reduced to a solid form). This tea is best enjoyed with the special Hyderabadi Osmania biscuits. It is believed to be brought to Hyderabad by Persian immigrants who landed at Mumbai port and then migrated to Pune and Hyderabad. The preparation of Irani chai is different from that of normal tea. To make this rich tea, tea leaves are boiled in a separate container and milk in another. While serving to customers, milk is poured first and then the tea leaves concoction.
Double ka Meetha is a delightfully sweet treat prepared with lightly toasted or fried slices of bread that are doused in a sugar syrup and topped with saffron-and cardamom-infused milk. The dish is then garnished with cashew nuts, chandi ka barq (fine silver foil), almonds and raisins. It is also called Shahi Tukda. It is popularly served at weddings and parties in Hyderabad. The term 'double ka meetha' points to the milk bread that is called 'double roti' as it swells to double its size on baking.
Sights and Activities in Hyderabad
Sights in Hyderabad include Sri Venkateswara Temple (with its fine examples of modern sculpture), Hussain Sagar (a large lake in the center of the city); Naubat Pahad (two hillocks adorned with pavilions and hanging gardens); Falaknuma Palace and Purani Haveli (two splendid old mansion); 300-acre Nehru Zoological Park (with enclosures simulating the habitant of the animals); the Vansthalipuram Deer Park (with other animals and spacious gardens); and the Birla Planetarium. There are also some state buildings and a couple of archeological museums. Among the oldest ancient structures are Charminar, built in 1591, and the Old Bridge, built in 1593.
Salar Jung Museum is famous for housing one of the largest compilations of artefacts collected by one person (over 35,000 items). Boasting collections from ancient civilisations and modern times, it houses items that were painstakingly collected and curated by Mir Yousuf Ali Khan or Salar Jung III, the prime minister of the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad, who spent most of his income on this project, over a period of 35 years. The museum is home to collections dating from the 2nd century B.C. to A.D. the early 20th century, from different cultures such as Greek, Roman, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Islam. As many as 43,000 art objects and 50,000 manuscripts and books are housed here. It also showcases European fine arts, including a rare statue by 19th-century Italian sculptor Benzoni, South Indian bronzes and wood and stone sculptures and Indian miniature paintings. Other prominent exhibits include a fruit knife used by Nur Jahan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jehangir, and emperor Aurangzeb’s sword.
Rock Walks are a famous activity in Hyderabad to explore the natural beauty, get into some adventure as well as to educate oneself on why to protect the granite hills and the ridges of the Deccan plateau. One can sign up with the Society to Save Rocks, who traverse the rocky terrain of the city every month and take visitors on these interesting tours. The hills nearby the city also make for a good place to hike and rock climb.
Birla Mandir is constructed with white marble from Rajasthan and sits on a hillock called Kala Pahad, overlooking the Hussain Sagar Lake. Built in 1976, it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Sri Venkateswara. The temple boasts a combination of Utkal (Odia) and South Indian styles of architecture. The South Indian style is represented by the rajagopuram (entrance gate) while the Odia style is represented by the Jagadananda Vimanam tower. Along with a temple dedicated to Lord Buddha, the Birla Mandir complex also houses shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Hanuman, Lord Brahma and Goddess Lakshmi. Offering stunning views of the city, especially at dusk, its serene atmosphere calms the mind. Lit up in the evening, it's an ethereal sight to behold.
Jagannath Temple is famous for organising a Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival. This temple has been built along similar lines as the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa. Rath Yatra is an annual public procession in which idols of deities are driven around in chariots. The prominent idols of this festival are those of Lord Jagannath, who is believed to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu, his brother Balabhadra, his sister Subhadra and his weapon Sudarshana Chakra. Millions of Hindu devotees come every year to join this procession.
Ramoji Film City and Tollywood Studio is one of the world's largest film centers. Spread over 6.7 square kilometers, it is home to Tollywood, the popular name for the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh film industry. Tours of the studios and film sets and TV shows are available. An open-air vintage tour bus takes visitors around this sprawling complex to catch a glimpse of how their favorite films are made. Some of these locations include the city's gardens and film sets. The complex also boasts swanky hotels for visitors to check into to fully experience the film world. One can also enjoy toy train rides and joyrides, which are paticularly appealing to children. From ancient Indian palaces to modern European cities, and from mythological civilisations to space-age scenarios, you can see it all at the film city. The Guinness Book of World Records has certified Ramoji as the world's largest film studio complex.
Palaces in Hyderabad
Chowmahalla Palace is a luxurious palace that was once the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty and also served as the place where the Nizams entertained their official guests. Built between the 18th and the 19th centuries, the opulent palace complex is said to be a replica of the Shah’s Palace in Tehran, Iran. With the synthesis of several architectural influences, the palace is renowned for its unique style. It boasts two ornate courtyards with gardens and magnificent buildings. One of the grandest attractions here is the pillared Durbar Hall or the Khilwat Mubarak, a spectacular ceremony hall with 19 enormous Belgian crystal chandeliers. The palace houses a priceless collection of antiques, including one of vintage cars, among which the most popular is a 1911 yellow Rolls-Royce and 1937 Buick convertible. In 2010, the palace was honoured with the prestigious UNESCO Asia-Pacific Merit Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
Falaknuma Palace (five kilometers from Old Hyderabad) is spectacularly perched on top a 650-meter-high (2,000 foot) hillock, harking back to Hyderabad's royal past. One of the largest and the grandest Venetian chandeliers, gorgeous antique furniture, an exquisite Italian marble staircase, delightful marble fountains, awe-inspiring statues, rare manuscripts and precious objects d’art adorn this palace, which was the home of the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mehboob Ali Pasha. It also has a well-stocked library with one of the most unique collections of the Quran. Its manicured lawns are dotted with Mughal, Rajasthani and Japanese gardens. Designed by a European architect and built over a decade in the 1880s, the palace fell into misuse after the Nizam died in 1911. For nearly 100 years it stayed neglected until it was hired out to an Indian luxury hotel major for renovation. Today, it’s a spectacular heritage hotel, restored after almost 1,000 artisans toiled on it for around 10 years. Falaknuma means mirror in the sky.
Purani Haveli is an aristocratic palace, also called the Nizam Jubilee Pavilion. Said to have been built in the 18th century, it boasts large open courtyards and a fusion of European and Indian architectural influences. It is located on the southeast side of the Afzal Gunj Bridge near Dewan Devdi. Tourists are particularly entranced by a museum housed within the premises that captures the history of the region in the form of various artefacts. It is dedicated to Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, and one can find exhibits of souvenirs and gifts that were given to him. The museum also hosts silver replicas of monuments in Hyderabad. Some other major attractions are a gold tiffin box inlaid with diamonds, painting of Mir Osman Ali Khan, silver perfume containers, caskets, pearl-studded wooden writing box, diamond and gold studded daggers, silver coffee cups studded with diamonds etc.
Charminar (central part of Old Hyderabad) is a magnificent 56-meter-high structure built in 1591. With its imposing towers, broad gates and ornate facades, it has virtually become the symbol of Hyderabad. The monument is illuminated every evening and around it are the narrow lanes and busy markets of the Old City of Hyderabad. Next to Charminar (also spelled Char Minar) is Mecca Masjid, a splendid 17th century mosque.
Charminar is an imposing four-sided archway with four minarets soaring above its surrounding bustling market area. It was built by the Muslim king Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah, who was the fifth ruler king of the Qutub Shahi dynasty, some say, to honor his Hindu queen. Other say it was built to mark the founding of Hyderabad and the end of a plague that had devastated the region. Charminar is one of the Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: It “is a ceremonial Gateway built to celebrate the foundation of Hyderabad, a new Millennial City, in 1591 A.D. The monuments are masterpieces of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, and stand as testimony to the past glory of the Qutb Shahi dynasty and its creative achievements. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“Charminar stands at the crossing of two arterial axes in the old city of Hyderabad and forms the symbolic fulcrum of the city, with its four gateways oriented towards the cardinal directions. Contemporary historical sources date the Charminar's construction to the year 1000 AH (1591 A.D.), as the first building in Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah's new city of Hyderabad outside the Golconda fort. Of special significance is its date of construction that marks the beginning of the second Islamic millennium, an event that was widely celebrated in the Islamic world and therefore suggestive of Hyderabad being deliberately founded as a "Millennial" city.
“The Charminar is an acknowledged masterpiece of world architecture on account of its grand conception, design and execution. Charminar's most compelling quality is the originality of its unprecedented design that was to stylistically exercise a profound impact on the subsequent development of Deccani architecture. Based on a system of interlocking voids and solids is seen in the alternating rhythms between its lofty arches and towering minarets, it became the archetype for later Islamic buildings in India. Functionally, it does not conform to any of the familiar building types from the Indo-Islamic world, but serves as a monumental marker for the central node in Hyderabad's four-quartered design. Charminar is the archetype of the chaubara or "four-fold house" marking the intersection of four cardinal avenues, affording a series of impressive vistas. It is a singular monument as it embodies a singular design and ideas not seen in earlier structures.
“The urban ensemble of Charminar and the Char Kaman resonates deeply with symbolic and ceremonial meaning to commemorate the beginning of the second Islamic Millennium and is a remarkable example of Shia city planning. This symbol envisioned the universe as a domed quadrangular structure of immense proportions, carried on four arches and illuminated at its apex by the sun as the light of heaven and earth. The Charminar's ground storey is indeed capped by a low compressed dome adorned with a solar lotus at its apex.”
Paigah Tombs (near Charminar) is a tomb complex, spread over an area of 30-40 acres, consists of 27 stunning marble tombs with intricately carved walls and pillars, delicately patterned filigree screens and stunning turrets. The tombs have been skilfully carved and their inlaid mosaic tile work is also fascinating. The famous 'jali' work done on them adds to the charm of the structure. At the western end, stands a regal mosque. Enjoy an ethereal atmosphere at dawn and dusk as sunlight filters in through lattice-worked walls, creating myriad patterns on the marble floor. The origin of Paigah Tombs can be dated to the late 18th century and they are considered a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.Paigahs were essentially the highest-ranking nobles in the princely state of Hyderabad who married the daughters of the Nizams. They were the only ones who were allowed to have a private army by the Sultans.
Mecca Masjid (near Charminar in Old Hyderabad) is a resplendent century mosque with lofty colonnades, ornate minarets and entrance arches carved from single slabs of granite. One of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity to house up to 10,000 worshippers at a time, the Mecca Masjid's construction began under the rule of Sultan Quli Qutub Shah in 1614. But it was Aurangzeb who completed it in 1693. It is located on the southwest side of Charminar. Built using local granite, the mosque is 225 feet long, 180 feet wide, and 75 feet high. It derives its name from Mecca’s Grand Mosque after which its design is modelled. The bricks used in its construction are believed to have been brought straight from Mecca. A sacred relic of the Prophet is said to be housed at this mosque. An enclosure next to the maid courtyard contains the tombs of several Nizams.
Each side of the structure faces a cardinal direction and has a pointed arch. These arches support a gallery of archways and two floors of rooms. The square structure of the monument measures about 20 meters to a side and at each corner is a minaret that rises to a height of 24 meters. Each of the four minarets (leading to the structure's name Charminar or four minarets) houses 149 circular steps. The minarets stand on a lotus-leaf base, which is a recurrent motif in the Qutub Shahi style of buildings. The Charminar has been built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The materials used are granite and lime mortar.
The first floor of the monument was used as a madarasa (college) during the Qutub Shahi times. The second floor houses a mosque, which is the oldest mosque in the city, on its western side. The dome of this majestic mosque can be seen from the road from quite a distance. One can climb to the first floor for a view of the old bazaar with its labyrinthine lanes. The upper portions are not open to the public. Stucco decorations, intricate motifs, balustrades and balconies are the hallmarks of its design.
In 1889, four clocks facing the four cardinal directions were added to the monument. At night (from 7:00 to 9:00pm), the illuminated Charminar is a stunning vision, pitted against the dark sky. Charminar is not just an architectural icon of Hyderabad. It reflects the city's royal soul, the nature of its laid-back lifestyle and in its shadow Hyderabad's heritage lives on.
Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad
The Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad — Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar — were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar are the landmarks that symbolize the Qutb Shahi Dynasty. Golconda is a fortified citadel and an early capital city of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. It is an ensemble of military structures, ramparts, gates, bastions, armoury; religious structures such as mosques, temples; residential structures such as palaces; water systems such as canals, fountains and landscaped gardens. The tombs of Qutb Shahis are a mausoleum complex, a royal necropolis of 30 tombs of the royal family and also a mortuary bath and mosques. The tombs belong to the rulers of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty spanning the 130-year period from 1543 to 1672. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“The iconic Charminar is a ceremonial Gateway built to celebrate the foundation of Hyderabad in 1591 A.D. Within its stone fortifications that is over seven kilometers long, the Golconda Fort envelopes a medieval Islamic settlement. The historic structures range from military and defensive structures, mortuary baths, silos, mosques, gardens, residential quarters, pavilions and royal courts, showcasing the entire range of structures that catered to life in a medieval fortified town in India. Within the citadel or Bala Hisar are the Silah Khana, Nagina bagh, Ambar Khana, Akkanna-Madanna Offices, Ramdas Jail, Darbar hall, Baradari, Hammams, Mahals, and royal courts.
Golconda Fort lies 11 kilometers to the west of city of Hyderabad, while the Qutb Shahi tombs are a further kilometer northwest of the Fort. Charminar is located in the heart of the old city of Hyderabad. Even though not located within the same complex, these three monuments together represent the earliest Qutb Shahi layer of Hyderabad's history and belong to the Qutb Shahi dynasty that ruled the region from 1518 A.D. to 1687 A.D. Qutb Shahi Islamic Sultanate was one of the five prominent dynasties that emerged in the Deccan following the downfall of the Bahmani Dynasty in 1518 A.D. Seven rulers of the Dynasty ruled for 170 years and successfully resisted the Mughal attack until 1687 A.D. It was the last kingdom to be absorbed in the expanding Mughal Empire.
“Together, these monuments are a product of the same period; technology, skills and innovations, which developed during the rule of Qutb Shahi Dynasty. They are great markers of the grandeur of the Qutb Shahi Period (1518-1687 A.D.) and even today continue to dominate the cityscape of modern day Hyderabad...The monuments of the Qutb Shahi period represent different building typologies...Charminar provided a point of origin and reference point for the planning grid that determined the layout of the city of Hyderabad. The city of Hyderabad served as the capital of the Qutb Shahis, the Asaf Jahi Nizams.
“The Qutb Shahi monuments of Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar are the oldest and most significant monuments of the sister cities of Golconda and Hyderabad, successive capitals of the Qutb Shahi Islamic Sultanate (1518-1687). The legendary center of diamond trade, Golconda was a medieval fortified city complete with residential, military and courtly functions. The Qutb Shahi tomb complex was a grand royal necropolis in the distinctive Qutb Shahi architectural style. As the court grew beyond the confines of the Golconda fort, the urban metropolis of Hyderabad was founded with the monumental Charminar in the center as a grand millennium marker. Unique in its architectural typology, the Charminar remains an acknowledged masterpiece of Islamic architecture.155. With its unique form, architectural typology and location, it is among the most recognizable icons of Indian architecture.156
Reasons the Qutb Shahi Monuments Are Important
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The monuments of the Qutb Shahi period provide vivid testimony of the creative synthesis of Persianate and Indic cultural traditions with a unique Deccani identity. Qutb Shahi architecture began with Bahmani moorings and evolved a sophisticated architectural aesthetic within the Deccani paradigm, symbolising the zenith of Islamic architecture in South India. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“Together, these Qutb Shahi monuments provide a unique testimony to the vibrant cosmopolitanism that characterized the medieval period in India and in the Deccan region in particular. Other Deccani sultanates were similarly multi-ethnic and multi-lingual, but the Qutb Shahi Sultanate appears to have been at the forefront of this cosmopolitanism. The founder of the dynasty and many influential nobles were immigrants from Iran. The success of the Qutb Shahi state depended critically on the ability of these "westerners" (gharbian) to form alliances both with members of the deeply rooted class of Deccani Muslims, and the local Telugu-speaking Hindu elite. In a manner that is more striking than at any other site, the Qutb Shahi monuments reveal the innovative and inspired blending of Persianate and Indic cultures that flowed from the successful integration of this multi-ethnic society.
“The monuments of the Qutb Shahi period provide a unique testimony to the social, economic, cultural, political and technological landscape of the period of the Deccani Islamic Sultanate in medieval India. The Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar epitomise the flourishing of Deccani art and architecture and are unique expressions of the religious and artistic flowering of the Islamic Sultanate in Southern India.Golconda Fort lay on an important trade route from the port town of Masulipatam to hinterlands and thus grew as a great trade center and an international market place for textile, printed cloth and the famous Golconda diamonds and one of the leading cities of the East. Given the vicinity of diamond mines, it flourished as a diamond trading center and thus played a significant role in the economics of the region.
“The Qutb Shahi rulers were patrons of a culture which is sometimes dubbed the Deccani culture, a result of the synthesis of cultures from the indigenous dakhani culture of southern India to the mingling of the cultural nuances and ideas brought by the afaqi settlers from other parts of the Islamic world and the many travelers that swarmed to the diamond trade center of Golconda. The twin capital cities of Golconda and Hyderabad were witness to a unique flowering of art, architecture, language, literature, music, cuisine and costume reflected subtly but perceptibly in the miniature paintings architecture and the Shi'a culture of the period.”
Golconda Fort (11 kilometers from Hyderabad) was established in a primitive form 800 years ago and used during the last four centuries by the Qutb Shahi dynasty. It is the oldest structure in Hyderabad. Originally built from mud, it was expanded by the Qutb Shahi rulers into a formidable citadel. It is known for the use of acoustics in architectural designs where sound signals can be passed from the entry gate to the top of the fort (190 feet away) with the use of amplification equipment. About a mile from the fort is the final resting place of the Qutb rulers, a cluster of tombs surrounded by well maintained gardens. A light and sound show is performed at the fort.
Largely built in the 16th century Golconda Fort is one of the most famous and impressive forts in India. It is part of The Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Golconda is a fortified citadel and an early capital city of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. It is an ensemble of military structures, ramparts, gates, bastions, armoury; religious structures such as mosques, temples; residential structures such as palaces; water systems such as canals, fountains and landscaped gardens. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“Golconda Fort is an outstanding example of military architecture, with its impregnable defence mechanism, unique water supply and distribution system, as well as the unique sewage disposal mechanisms and extraordinary acoustical system unparalleled in the architectural history of the Deccan and perhaps the military architecture of India. Golconda is one of the biggest fortresses in south India and has commanded the geo-politics of the region as well as the coveted diamond trade over seven centuries and governed the trade and destiny of South India.
“The monument provided inspiration for the design of another Charminar, constructed in 1807 in the city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan160 and now included as part of the World Heritage Site "Historic Center of Bukhara". Although the Bukhara Charminar functions as a gateway rather than as part of the larger urban armature, it nonetheless follows its design quite closely.”
History of Golconda Fort
The capital of the Golconda kingdom, the fort was the center of the Golconda stronghold in the region and was thus built as an impregnable structure. Its former glory and majesty can still be seen in the mighty ramparts and fortifications encircling it. The Golconda Fort was originally built as a mud fort, with the Yadavas of Deogiri and the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal ruling over it. Moreover, the fort was a citadel until Mughal emperor Aurangzeb conquered it in 1687.
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “In Golconda fort, the medieval diamond trade drew travelers from the world and the blending of cultures is manifest in a succession of constructional phases. The uppermost circuit of 14th century walls represents a local Indic architectural tradition. The Qutb Shahis introduced the Persianate style of elevated citadel (bala hisar) and fortified lower city (pa'in shahr). The Iranian urban traditions are best seen in the axial alignments of defensive gates, commercial streets, ceremonial portals and audience halls158. The accurate acoustical system and water system at the fort are the most innovative advances in the defence technology at Golconda. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“It was with Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah's founding of Hyderabad in 1591 (AH 1000) to commemorate the beginning of the second Islamic millennium159 that the full synthesis of Indic and Persianate cultural strains was achieved. Although this was a Persianate impetus, the planners were drawing on ancient Hindu cosmological traditions of the central ritual node (chaubara) from which the four-quartered capital would unfold. In its formal expression however, the Charminar was inspired by a venerable Persian image of the cosmos, known as the chahar taq or "four arches".”
Parts of Golconda Fort
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Golconda is a fortified citadel and an early capital city of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. It is an ensemble of military structures, ramparts, gates, bastions, armoury; religious structures such as mosques, temples; residential structures such as palaces; water systems such as canals, fountains and landscaped gardens. Within its stone fortifications that traverse a length of over seven kilometers, the Golconda Fort envelopes a medieval Islamic settlement. The historic structures range from military and defensive structures, mortuary baths, silos, mosques, gardens, residential quarters, pavilions and royal courts, showcasing the entire range of structures that catered to life in a medieval fortified town in India. Within the citadel or Bala Hisar are the Silah Khana, Nagina bagh, Ambar Khana, Akkanna-Madanna Offices, Ramdas Jail, Darbar hall, Baradari, Hammams, Mahals, royal courts that served the capital of the Qutb Shahis.”[Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
Situated on a 120-meter-high hill, Golconda Fort enjoyed a prominent vantage point from where a lookout for the enemy could be kept. Today, its high-rising position gives tourists sweeping views of the surrounding areas, where one can see almost as far as the horizon. Climbing further up, one can spot the stunning Deccan plateau and also get a bird's eye view of the bustling and lit-up city.Touring the fort, one can sample the rich flavor of its history, which saw the throne change hands among various dynasties.
While the several beautiful palaces housed here echo the royal grandeur of times gone by, the famous Fateh Rahben gun, reminds one of the brutal onslaught that the fort experienced when Mughal emperor Aurangzeb laid seize to it. In the evening, a unique light and sound show takes one back in time when Golconda was full of life and splendour.
The fort is a marvellous work of engineering of that time and perhaps that is why so many mighty emperors sought to occupy it. Its massive gates have been acknowledged with iron spikes to stop elephants from breaking them down and inside, a futuristic concealed water pipeline ensured uninterrupted water supply during sieges. The most spectacular, however, is the ingenious acoustics of the fort that ensured that even the slightest sound from the entry gates would echo across the complex. It also has four drawbridges, eight gateways, halls, and stables. The outermost area houses the Fateh Darwaza (victory gate), which is called so because Aurangzeb’s victorious army marched successfully through it.
Qutub Shahi Tombs
Qutub Shahi tombs (two kilometers from Golconda Fort) is a complex of 21 domed granite structures. Featuring an amalgamation of Indian and Persian architectural styles, the tombs are marked with intricate colonnades and delicate lime stucco work. The complex also houses several mosques. Nestled amidst serene landscaped gardens, the tombs are renowned for the fact that they are among the few places in the world where an entire dynasty is buried at the same spot. It is said seven of the eight Qutb Shahi rulers rest here. Among the finest tomb is that of Mohammed Quli, the founder of Hyderabad. It stands on a platform near the edge of the complex, with views of Golconda Fort.
The tombs of Qutb Shahis are a mausoleum complex and a royal necropolis which comprises the tombs of the Royal family and the officials who faithfully served them. The complex is part of The Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The Qutb Shahi tombs complex consists of 30 tombs, mosques and a mortuary bath. The tombs belong to the rulers of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, their queens and children and the nobles who faithfully served them. It contains the epigraphically documented tombs of five of the dynasty's seven sultans, as well as those of another four members of the royal family, spanning the 130-year period from 1543 to 1672. The Qutb Shahi tombs collectively constitute an outstanding example of an Indo-Muslim dynastic necropolis and is the most extensive and best epigraphically documented in all of India. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“The group of Qutb Shahi tombs constitutes an outstanding example of an Indo-Muslim dynastic necropolis. Although many other Indo-Muslim dynasties also produced such necropolises, that of the Qutb Shahis is unique on three counts. First, it is a more complete dynastic complex than any other in India, as it unites in one location the tombs of five of the dynasty's seven rulers as well as four other identified members of the royal family. Second, its chronological span of 130 years is longer than that of any other documented necropolis in India. Third, because of these first two factors, the necropolis provides unique testimony not only for the stylistic development of Qutb Shahi architecture, but also for the dynastic politics within the family.
“Because the Qutb Shahi necropolis includes nine tombs of members of the royal family, all firmly datable by means of their epitaph inscriptions, the complex affords the best controlled means of understanding the developing Qutb Shahi architectural style and its chronology. The earliest tomb-that of the dynasty's founder Sultan Quli (d.1543)-reveals its dependence on late Bahmani traditions of tomb design, while the tomb of the next to last ruler, Abdullah (d.1672) exhibits all of the distinctive qualities of the fully formed Qutb Shahi style. In between, every intermediate stage is represented, and several unusual variants as well, including the tomb of Muhammad Quli (d.1612) with its Iranian-inspired post and beam porticoes (talar), and the so-called tomb of Jamsheed (d.1550) with its unusual two-storeyed octagonal plan.
“The complex also provides invaluable evidence shedding light on the nature of dynastic politics within the Qutb Shahi family. Tombs were built not only for the ruling sultans, but also for their wives and consorts, and for sons who were excluded from the succession. The spatial relationships between these various tombs are often highly instructive. Thus, until the 1620s, the original necropolis was confined to the southwestern block of the present enclosure and contained the monumental tombs of Sultan Quli (d.1543), Ibrahim (d. 1580), and Muhammad Quli (d.1612). Additionally, there was the small tomb of Ibrahim's son, Mirza Muhammad Amin (d.1596), which occupied the same terrace as his father's tomb, and numerous smaller tombs lacking inscriptions and most likely belonging to various members of the Qutb Shahi elite. Although this area also contains two structures that are popularly identified as the tombs of the Sultans Jamsheed (d. 1550) and Subhan (d.1550) -with whom Ibrahim fought a succession dispute-neither contains epitaphs confirming this identification, and moreover, they are built in the fully developed style of the mid-seventeenth century, making it impossible that they should belong to these two rulers. At least during the sixteenth century, it would appear that Jamsheed and his son Subhan were excluded from the royal necropolis, as if to deny that their reigns had ever occurred.”
Churches Of Hyderabad
St Mary S Church was built in Indo-Gothic style in 1850. The oldest Roman Catholic church in the city, it was once the Vicariate of Hyderabad. The church’s curved arches and buttresses are praiseworthy. On the inside, it houses side altars for various saints and is adorned with four bells that were brought from Italy in 1901. A huge statue of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms greets the eyes as one enters the church. The Vatican has bestowed the church with a 'Minor Basilica' title, which is given to Roman Catholic churches based on the Canon Law.
Church Of St John The Baptist was consecrated in 1813. It is oldest church in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. It was set up to serve the needs of the British soldiers stationed at Lancer’s Line. It is one of the most popular spiritual sites of the city, where tourists often stop to admire the beautiful architecture and worship at the altar.
All Saints Church was built in 1860 by the British who had settled in the cantonment of Secunderabad. With a beautiful pink facade and arched windows with colored glass, it is situated in Trimulgherry and was mostly attended by members of the British army. It has now been converted into a tamil Anglican church and runs services in English and Tamil languages. The church boasts a stained-glass altar with Christ on the cross.
Hussain Sagar Lake
Hussain Sagar Lake (connecting the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad) is considered to be one of the largest man-made lakes in India. Shaped like a heart and circumvented by open spaces on all its four sides, it is been built on a tributary of Musi river and is a hub for water sports, including parasailing, kayaking, pedal boat rides, canoeing, jet skiing, boating, yachting, catamaran rides and even luxury cruises. The annual regatta (boat race), which is an annual affair, draws professional contestants from all over the world. If you want to try your hand at sailing, choose from the several short-term courses offered by the Yacht Club of India at the lake.
If you are not into water sports, you can opt for a pleasant boat ride around the lake. Regular boats make a 30-minute return trip to Lord Buddha's statue from both Eat Street and the popular Lumbini Park, situated on the edge of the lake. Or you can sit by the lake, colorful sails bobbing on its blue water and watch the city of Hyderabad go past. The lake was built by sufi saint Hussain Shah during the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah in 1562. It was made to meet the drinking water and irrigation requirements of the city. It was also the site of the historical treaty between the Mughals and the Golconda rulers, and is sometimes referred to as Tank Bund by locals as a bund (dam) was constructed here in the 1990s.
Lumbini Park (on the banks of the Hussain Sagar Lake) is a sprawling garden complex. Offering entertainment options like boating, children’s play areas, eateries, floral clock and two musical fountain shows, it makes for a great place for a family outing. The park was developed by the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority in 1994 and has been named after the birthplace of Lord Buddha. The park is near to the famous statue of Lord Buddha.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020