ByÂ Neha Dwivedi:
Blue sky littered with smoke arising from the auto-rickshaws makes my nose tinge, my mouth quenching for something sweet. Moving further I bump into strangers, few giving a sly smile while some scan the camera in my hand. The bandis running along the narrow lanes beguile me, forcing me to stop and have a look followed by an hour of haggling. While my body urges for something cold, the hot sun above forces me to cringe my eyes until it witnesses an Indo-Islamic architectural structure – the Charminar.
Charminar stands in the middle of the old city. Listed among the most recognized structures of India, the monument cum mosque has become a global icon, housing some of the oldest bazaars. Standing on the east bank of Musi River, the river dividing the old city from the new city, the monument was built in 1571 CE by MuhammadÂ Â Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth sultan of Qutab Shahi Dynasty. Supported by four grand arches, Charminar is a combination of the Urdu words Char and Minar, meaning four towers. Designed on the lines of Persian architecture, the structure is composed of granite, limestone and pulverized marble, allowing one to have a glimpse of the bustling bazaars of the old city.
The Taj Mahal of Hyderabad
Lost in the congested traffic of the old city, each of the arcs is crowned with a clock. The long line for entry tickets does not astonish me as I am well aware of the popularity of the great Charminar. It doesn’t take long to acquire a ticket and within minutes I am climbing the stairs leading to the first of the two floors supported by the arches. While my heart pounds with excitement, I am amazed by the ease with which Nizams climbed the steps bound within four inches of walls. The fear of stumbling is worth it when I reach the balcony. Allowing my eyes to engulf the royal beauty, I look down, scanning people taking photos with their loved ones.
“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference.” It was Muhammad Qutb Shah’s love for the people that made him build the famous structure. After shifting his capital from Golconda to Hyderabad, the city was attacked with plague. Not bearing the pain of his beloved citizens, he prayed for the end of the plague and vowed to build a masjid at the place where he was praying. Contradictions and history go hand in hand. While Charminar has its own story of vehemence and kindness, few beg to differ. It is believed that Charminar was constructed to commemorate the beginning of the second Islamic millennium, an event celebrated widely throughout the Islamic world.
Food and ‘Chai’
Mention food and how Hyderabad can be behind. For people who believe in the motto “you live to eat”, old city is the place. One can find anything from the traditional Hyderabadi biriyani to Pathar ka ghosh, mirchi ka salan and double ka meetha.
While food is identity of the old city, Irani chai is its soul. Irani chai is a thick and creamy blend composed of condensed milk and tea leaves. It tastes the best when served with the local Osmania biscuit. Hyderabadis love variation, whether food or tea, monotony is just not their thing. Khade Chammach ki chai and Burkhe wali are few of Irani Chai’s variants. It isn’t surprising to know that an average Hyderabadi drinks eight to ten cutting teas a day.
It isn’t just charminar
The old city is full of grand monuments. Overlooking the charminar is the Makkah Masjid, a mosque built by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. The central arch of the mosque is made from the soil brought from the holiest shrine of Islam, the Makkah. One can always find children feeding pigeons hounding the space beside the holy water.
Laad Bazar and Patther Gati are two of the oldest bazaars of old city. While the former is known for exquisite bangles and jewellery the latter is famous for pearls. One cannot help admiring the beautiful stones adorning the bangles. Abuzz with Hyderabadi tones like ‘dama sahi lagao ji‘, ‘aisa kaiko bolre maidam’, it doesn’t take much time for one to settle into the tone of Hyderabadi accent.
A sign of Unity
The beauty about Charminar is that it isn’t limited to one religion. The coincidence of bell at the Bhagyalakshmi temple and the siren for iftar ringing at once brings into picture the cultural and religious harmony of the city. While there have been many controversies surrounding the Bhagyalakshmi Temple located in the base of Charminar, the popularity of the great monument remains status quo .