By Avanija Katiyar:
My journey to Hyderabad started in the last week of November, 2011. It was a rainy day and I was accompanied by two friends. Braving the semi-heavy rain, we reached the Chennai Central station in the evening from where we were to get a train to Hyderabad. The journey started at around six in the evening. As it was a rainy day, nothing much could be seen of the countryside. In fact, it got dark pretty quickly. We were scheduled to reach the Secunderabad station at around 4 am. Our talk was accompanied by some tea and pakkodaas, until we fell asleep.
We reached exactly at 4 am as per schedule. On reaching there, we were picked up by a friend who took us to the place where we were to be accommodated. It was the Youth Hostel of Secunderabad, just off the Hussain Sagar Lake. In fact, from the terrace of the hostel, the lake could be clearly seen.
After freshening ourselves, we started off with the intention of sight-seeing for which we had come. Luckily it was a sunny day. We were guided by the friend who showed us the city by means of local city buses to help us get the extra fun a traveler should get. We had only that day to see all we can in the city.
The city, in the beginning, felt like a part of the middle-east to me. The culture of the people was completely different. It was for the first time that I was in a metro city and I was seeing niqab and hijab-clad women and girls heading for their offices and colleges. The hijab had always been a sign of oppression for me. But, women cannot be forced in a metro city! After all, how can it be that so many women and girls dress this way in India? After all, Hyderabad is a part of the biggest democracy in the world, India, and not the middle-east or Afghanistan! Thus, I was forced to believe that the women had taken it up on their own choice!
The very first monument we visited was the Birla Mandir-
The Birla Mandir, located in south end of Hussain Sagar in Hyderabad, stands atop the Kala Pahad, the twin hillock of the Naubat Pahad. The temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara (Vishnu), is constructed with white marbles from Rajasthan. “Kausalya supraja Rama poorva sandhya pravartate…”, the chanting mantra to awake the Lord, is sung every morning at around 5.30 am. And as for the evenings, they are melodious; sweet melodies of cuckoos and the kirtans of Annamayya, Tyagaraja and Ramadas at the backdrop of the orangish-red sky can relieve any one from the tensions of day-to-day life. From the extreme top of the temple, the entire urban Hyderabad can be seen, which is a breath-taking sight.
The second stop was the old-city of Hyderabad. Of course, when we speak of the old city we talk of the Charminar-
Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, built Charminar in 1591 shortly after he had shifted his capital from Golkonda to Hyderabad. He built this famous structure as a sign of the elimination of a plague epidemic from the city. He is said to have prayed for the end of a plague that was ravaging his city and vowed to build a masjid (Islamic mosque) at the very place where he was praying. He wanted it to be open for all people of all religions.
Charminar was given to a contractor called Sanamvenkata Balaya to construct and today one can see the city as evidence of the prayer being answered. The Mosque was called as Charminar because of its four minarets.
The structure was constructed from granite, lime, mortar and, some say, pulverised marble. Initially the monument with its four arches was planned in such a way that when the fort was opened one could catch a glimpse of the bustling Hyderabad city as these Charminar arches were facing the streets. There is also a legend of an underground tunnel connecting the palace at Golkonda to Charminar, with the intention of being an escape route for the Qutub Shahi rulers in case of a siege, though the exact location of the tunnel is not known.
The bazaars surrounding the Charminar are also bustling. Herein, one can find a wide variety of products, ranging from bangles to books and from CDs to pearls. “Pearls” are the actual specialty of the city. While purchasing them, a lot of bargain needs to be done. The cost of the pearls can range from mere Rs. 100 to several thousand! Islamic population here wears the niqab, the hijab, caps, Pathan suits; Islamic perfumes are also readily available. Never to forget, that if anyone is looking for some delicious and inexpensive biryani, this is the exact part of the city you are to be in.
A huge and magestic structure lies just next to the Charminar. Yes, this is the Mecca Masjid-
Makkah Masjid was built during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Qutub Shah, the 6th Qutub Shahi Sultan of Hyderabad. The three arched facades were carved from a single piece of granite, which took five years. More than 8,000 workers were employed to build the mosque. It is said that Muhammed Qutub Shah himself personally laid the foundation stone of the ‘mosque’.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, the French explorer, in his travelogue wrote about the Mecca Masjid, “It is about 50 years since they began to build a splendid pagoda in the town which will be the grandest in all India when it is completed. The size of the stone is the subject of special accomplishment, and that of a niche, which is its place for prayer, is an entire rock of such enormous size that they spent five years in quarrying it, and 500 to 600 men were employed continually on its work. It required still more time to roll it up on to conveyance by which they brought it to the pagoda; and they took 1400 oxen to draw it”
Being a girl, I was not allowed into the mosque for not being in proper attire to be within the premises. Thus, I took a picture of the mosque from within the Charminar.
It was afternoon. We had some local Hyderabadi Biryani in haste, as we were to rush towards Golconda fort. By around 2 p.m., we were on our way.
Golkonda is the name of the ruined city of south-central India and capital of ancient Kingdom of Golkonda (c. 1364—1512). It is 11 km west of Hyderabad.
The most important builder of Golkonda was Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah Wali, the fourth Qutub king. The fortress citadel of Golkonda, was rebuilt for defense from invading Mughals from the north. They laid out Golkonda’s splendid monuments, now in ruins, and designed a perfect acoustical system by virtue of which a hand clap sounded at the fort’s main gates, was heard at the top of the citadel, situated on a high hill. The kingdom of Golconda stretched over the Telangana region and some parts of present day Karnataka and Maharashtra. The fort has many places within it to see. Some mosques, beautiful gardens, high cliffs, etc.
Hyderabad is a beautiful city to be in. In fact, I could cover only a few important tourist attractions due to lack of time. Other tourist spots worth mentioning are the Lumbini Park, Hussain Sagar Lake and Ramoji Film City (a city within a city).
Hyderabad is a city of pearls, biryani, kebabs and monuments. The only precaution one needs to keep in mind, however, is that anything related to communalism and the political situation in the middle-east should never be discussed in public. Issues related to the Telangana region should be avoided in discussions. Once, these precautions are taken, Hyderabad is a paradise to be in; a place harbouring everything a human being needs.