My skepticism of the media flared “Telangana issue” had been forcing me to procrastinate a long pending visit to the beautiful city of “Hyderabad”, but the persistence of a long time close friend, Smiriti, gave way and finally I boarded the Hyderabad bound Indigo flight.
The Hyderabad city has witnessed the rise and fall of many dynasties. It was during the rule of the Qutub Shahis that the city flourished and many palaces and beautiful monuments and forts were built, which added to the beauty of the city. Hyderabad was previously known as Golconda. Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah of the Shahi Dynasty named it Hyderabad. It is said that he fell in love with a humble courtesan named Bhagmati. He named the city Bhagyanagar after her. After they got married, she changed her name to Haider Mahal and that is how the city was named Hyderabad. Literally translated, Hyderabad means the “city of Haider”. Hyderabad flourished during his reign extensively as it became an important trading zone for all the merchants coming from Asia and Europe.
It gives a food for thought “when did the religious divide start within us?”. Since time immemorial people from various religions have been thriving peacefully all along. The heritage of Hyderabad depicts the most astounding peaceful relationships and tolerance between individuals from various religions co –existing together in harmony. The Muslim kings had Hindu queens and courtesans. So why are we fighting on such trivial issues today when it never ever mattered way back in our civilization?
The fame and abundant prosperity of the Hyderabad city reached the ears of the powerful Mughal ruler Aurangazeb who captured and plundered the wealth of the flourishing Hyderabad city. Aurangazeb then ruled the city of Hyderabad with his newly appointed Prime Minister Asaf Jah. When the Mughal rule came to an end, Asaf Jah became the ruler of the whole Deccan region, which undoubtedly includes Hyderabad city. In 1798 Nizam II, the second Asaf Jahi ruler signed a pact with the British and East India Company that made the British troops stay nearby. The British chose a place near the Hussain Sagar Lake and became involved in building Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad. It was named after the Nizam Sikander Jah.
As India gained independence, the state got its first democratic government and the representatives of its 18 million people were initiated to the Constituent Assembly drafting a constitution for free India. For the following eight years, Hyderabad continued to be a separate state within the union of India. On November 1st, 1956, the states of India were restructured on linguistic basis. Accordingly, the territories of the state of Hyderabad were separated between newly created Andhra Pradesh, Bombay (later Maharashtra), and Karnataka. Hyderabad and the surrounding areas were added to Andhra Pradesh based on Telugu linguistic majority and that is how Hyderabad became the capital of the new state of Andhra Pradesh.
My friend, packed up all the “worth visiting Hyderabad symbolic places” into the itenary, which was though of just 2 days, but surely heart warming and magnificent.
The first day we visited places of historical significance, which mark the very inception of Hyderabad.
The Charminar- “The landmark of Hyderabad”: The elegant structure of the Charminar in Hyderabad is a vivid example of Cazia style of architecture comprising of granite and lime-mortar. Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah built this Islamic architectural splendor in the year 1591. The wonderful monument with its four arches is so proportionately planned that when the fort is opened one could catch a glimpse of the bustling Hyderabad city as these Charminar arches were facing the most active royal ancestral streets. At each corner stands a tall minaret, which measures more than 55 meters long and also has a double balcony. The monument has the signature style of Islamic architecture.
A mosque has been built on the western side on the open roof of the Charminar fort. The streets around Charminar are bustling with colourful and vibrant shops and locals, the main attractions include the bangle shops, pearl shops, and anything one desires to buy for one’s wedding day. The place reminds one of the Chandni Chowk of Delhi. The people are quite warm and one can see the burqha clad women shopping around with absolute bliss!
The Salar Jung Museum: Next we headed to the The Salar Jung museum. It is the only museum that has the largest compilation of personally collected artifacts from all around the world. This museum has the greatest collection of rare antiques and knick-knacks from all over the world. Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, commonly known as Salar Jung III, did the major collections. However it was started by his father Nawab Mir Laiq Ali Khan also known as Salar Jung II and his grand father Nawab Mir Turab Ali Khan i.e. Salar Jung I. The museum boasts of a collection of 40,000 items, which have been accumulated from every possible place in the world.
The portraits of the Salar Jung, the Nizams of the Hyderabad city can be found in the Founder’s Gallery. The Indian art is exhibited in an assortment of stone sculptures, bronze images, painted textiles, wooden carvings, miniature paintings, modern art, ivory carvings, jade carvings, metal-ware, manuscripts, arms & armor etc. One can also find Middle Eastern Art in the collection of carpets, paper (manuscripts), glass, metal-ware, furniture, lacquer etc. These have been collected from Persia, Arabia, Syria, and Egypt. The Museum is also horded with porcelain, bronze, enamel, lacquerware, embroidery and paintings, which have been skillfully done in China, Japan, Tibet, Nepal and Thailand.
The European chamber of artifacts in the Salar Jung Museum comprises of oil and water paintings. These paintings originate from countries like England, France, Italy and Germany. A well-preserved library within the museum provides a rare treat to all book lovers. The main attractions of the museum are the statue of Veiled Rebecca, crafted knives of Mughal Emperor Jehangir and Queen Noor Jehan, famous European paintings like Venice, etc. A huge clock in which a tiny soldier comes out to strike the gong should not be missed and is a special attraction of the Salar Jung Museum.
The museum is so vast that one needs a complete day to look through the offerings of the amazing and varied cultures that cut across our mother earth.
Golconda Fort: Our next destination was the famous Golconda Fort, which actually marks the conception of Hyderabad city. Golconda Fort in Hyderabad is a majestic monument, which lies on the western outskirts of the city. It speaks of a great cultural heritage of 400 years and is considered as a place that is worth visiting. Golconda was famous for its diamond mines in olden days. The world-renowned ‘Kohinoor’ diamond is believed to have come from here. The Golconda fort is built on a granite hill 120m high. The fort has 8 gates or Darwazas as they are called in local language.
The main gate is called Fateh Darwaza. The hills around the fort lend a very mysterious charm and colossal grandeur to the gigantic fort.
Qutub Shahi kings who reigned during the 16th century built the Golconda fort. There is an interesting story behind the Golconda Fort. The place was originally called as ‘Golla Konda’ in Telegu, which is the official state language of Hyderabad city. Roughly around 1143 in the rocky hill called ‘Mangalavaram’, a shepherd boy found an idol, which was given to the then king, Kakatiya who built a mud fort. From 1507, within a span of 62 years the Qutub Shahi rulers transformed the humble mud fort into a marvelous granite wonder. The stunning Golconda Fort lost its entire splendor and luster as the Mughals invaded and plundered this breathtaking wonder into a heap of ruins.
The Golconda Fort reaches to a height of 120 meters with a boundary wall covering a range of 10 kilometers of the outskirts of Hyderabad. The Golconda fort comprises of four small forts within itself. Some of those are heaped with cannons, drawbridges and number of royal living chambers & halls, temples, mosques, stables etc. You have to enter the fort through ‘Fateh Darwaza’, which is also called the ‘Victory gate’. The main attractions of this entrance are the acoustic effects, which is a remarkable feature of the Golconda Fort. It is said that such an articulate construction was used in those ancestral days for security purposes.
It is always a good idea to hire a guide so that one can know about the grand history of the fort. Its often said the Golconda Fort exemplifies great heights of architectural and technological genius of its times. The walls can convey sounds so that the kings could keep a tab of any treacherous plans being hatched in this court. A well known adage in the local language goes “ halloo halloo bolo deewar ka kan hota”…its really refreshing listening to the local hyderabadi hindi language. One can actually put ones ears to the wall and get to know about the discussions being held at some farther location. The main attraction is the reverberation of sounds from the main entrance of the fort to the baradari located at the highest peak of the mountain, so that any surprise enemy attack on the fort could be heard by the soldiers some 7-8 kms away and necessary arrangements could be made to avert the attack.
The latest feature that adds more excitement to the Golconda fort is the Light and Sound show. The amazing light and sound impacts with the narration of the hair raising story of the Golconda Fort.
Seven Tombs-The resting place of the kings of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty: Qutub Shahi Tombs are located in the heart of the Hyderabad city. The Qutub Shahi Tombs are quite close to the Golconda Fort.
The Qutub Shahi Tombs are a perfect blend of Indian and Persian architectural forms, constructed in gray granite decorated with exquisite ornamentation. The tombs are domed structures, which are built on an elevated square base surrounded by pointed arches.
Each tomb is quadrangular and rises to a height of 9 – 15 meters above the terrace. The smaller tombs are single storied while the larger ones are double storied. The domes were originally covered with blue and green tiles, of which only a few pieces remain now.
The tombs were once furnished with carpets, chandeliers and velvet canopies on silver poles. Qurans or the holy book of the Muslims, were kept on supports and readers recited verses from the sacred book at regular intervals. Golden spires were fixed over the tombs of the Sultans to distinguish their tombs from those of the other members of the noble family.
These mausoleums of the Golconda Sultans are truly splendid monuments that have stood the trial of time and braved the natural elements. During the Qutub Shahi period, these tombs were held at such high esteem that criminals who took refuge there were pardoned and let off. But after their rule, the tombs were uncared for. Later, Sir Salar Jung III ordered their renovation and refurbishment in the early 19th century.
Our next destination was the very famous Birla Temple: An enchanting temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, the Birla Mandir of Hyderabad, stands in its entire splendor on the hilltop of Kala Pahad. Made of pure white marble from Rajasthan, the Birla Mandir overlooks the serene and placid waters of the Hussain Sagar Lake. The famous Birla industrialist who had built a large number of temples all over India built the Birla temple of Hyderabad. They finished building the Birla Mandir of Hyderabad within a time span of ten years. The magnificent shrine offers a wonderfully breath-taking view of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
The intricate carvings of the temple, the ceiling and the mythological figures are a standing testimony to the dexterity and sculptural excellence of the craftsmen. Beautiful scenes from the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata are finely sculpted in pure white marble. The temple is devoted to Lord Venkateswara who is also known as Balaji, though the temple is known as Birla Mandir. It is a wonderful blend of the architectural style of northern and southern temples.
Other places of religious interest include The Mecca Mosque, The Chote Hazrat ki Dargah and the Saint Joseph cathedral Church.
Finally our first day ended with dinner on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake in a food court by the name of “Eatstreet”.
The cool breeze whiffing through the open air restaurant, carrying the fragrance of the water body beneath beautifully lit and the taste of steaming hot food in ones mouth is a divine experience. The Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad is an enchanting lake and is the largest man-made Lake in Asia. Hussain Sagar Lake always attracts visitors throughout the year who become mesmerized by its radiant calm blue water. It was built by Ibrahim Qutub Shah in 1562, on the tributary of the River Musi. Hyderabad and Secunderabad are the two cities that are connected to each other by the Hussain Sagar Lake.
They are popularly known as twin cities But the thing that lures people at the Hussain Sagar Lake is literally and symbolically is the massive Buddha statue that stands majestically in the middle of this placid lake. The 16 meter tall, 350-tonne monolithic gigantic sculpture rises high from the calm waters of the scenic Hussain Sagar Lake. The statue is entirely made of white granite, finely sculpted and stands grandly on a wide dais amidst the glistening waters of the lake. A boat ride to the statue of Buddha is an unforgettable one and gives a feeling of immense peace
With wonderful memories of the first day of my visit I stepped in to the next day to witness some of the most breathtaking technological grandeur Hyderabad had in the offing.
The Ramoji Film City is located about 35 kilometers from the Hyderabad city. A tour to the Ramoji Film Studio will justify its acknowledgement by the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the largest film studios in the world.
The studio lives upto its name of a “city” as it is spread over a vast area of around 2500 acres. One feels as if one has entered a new city all together with hills, gardens, lakes, and at the same time flanked with spotless modern buildings.
The Ramoji Film City doubles both as a tourist attraction and major film-making facility. The city looks like the product of an alliance between the famous magician P.C. Sorkar and Vishwakarma, the God of Architecture and Engineering. It is India’s answer to the Universal Studios in Hollywood, in every aspect.
It is a place where realism obtains all the traits of enchantment and inconceivable. Today, it is the filmmakers’ first choice as it is a single-window, press-button facility that opens up an unlimited arena of creativity for every major and minor aspect of film production.
As some famous directors and producers put it, “The Film City has all facilities at one place with latest technology and advanced equipment.” The studio’s brochure highlights its dictum as “Make the Magic Happen”. The magic however happens impulsively without human intrusion as though it is the key ingredient of the entire project.
Yet, everything in the studio is real, whether it is the 50 studio floors, outdoor locations, high-tech laboratories, state-of-the-art technology and the lush green landscape and scenery.
Most of our bollywood movies are shot here, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, All the Best, Sholay, Chotte Milan Bade Mila..the list is never ending.
It was an eye opener to know that most movies are shot here though we see all foreign locales, the film city has replicas of worlds most of the elite cities and buildings!
Some of the trips, excursions and performance were complimentary with the tickets.
The most astounding shows include the doll show, the earthquake show at the Ramoji Tower, where one gets a live experience of an earth quake with all the special effects The highlights for children include “Borasura” and a visit to the “Fundustan:.
Words cannot express the feeling of “returning back to ones childhood days”, one has to be there to experience the “joy”.
Exhaustion of the six hour long trip to the film city was truly wiped off by the next soothing and awe inspiring laser and fountain show at the Lumbini Gardens
It was a technological marvel. The laser show was truly amazing. It started with a short movie on the occasion of Valentines day, graduated to the time when there was nothing and then how our universe was created, earth was made, living beings were created, the first sound “Om” vibrated through the earth and then how music came into being, how humans and different cultures diverged, the message ofcourse was “Unity in Diversity”. Again there are no words to express the magnificence of the show…one has to be there to witness the “splendor”.
A wonderful experience indeed it was! The “very warm and soft spoken” people, coupled with melting the speciality cusine “hyderabadi biryani” and radiant pearls makes Hyderabad certainly one of the most fascinating cities of India.