While its monuments remind one of a bygone time, a sense of genteel charm still lingers in the city, writes UDAY K CHAKRABORTY
Hyderabad combines the riches of its multi-cultural past with the progressive face of the future. The lifestyles of the north and the south, Hindus and Muslims, combine to produce an enchanting atmosphere, best savoured at a slower pace.
Monuments and Mosques
Hyderabad abounds with monuments of glorious bygone ages. With a background of 400 years of Muslim rule means, besides palaces, there is a profusion of mosques, monuments and memorial tombs. The iconic Charminar, which got its name from its four slender domes, is the most well known of them. It encloses a tiny mosque on the second floor. In earlier days, one could take a bird’s eye view of the city from top of the minarets.
There are many other mosques worth seeing for their architecture alone like Jama Masjid and Begumpet Masjid. Mecca Masjid, standing on the southern banks of the Musi River, is the biggest mosque in South India. The most remarkable feature of the mosque is that its lofty minarets and door arches are made out of huge single blocks of granites.
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To the west of the city lies historic Golconda fort, founded by fourth Qutb Shahi in 1589. Today, the fort is in semi-ruined state. The surrounding walls of Golconda Fort had eight gates out of which only four are in use today. Then there is also an ingenious water distribution system, consisting of clay pipes and Persian wheels, to cool the roof gardens and the high walled palaces. The fort, in its heydays, was also a diamond market, as the area around this place had diamond quarries, which yielded among other famous diamonds, the Koh-I-Noor.
I was more interested in the Qutb Shah Tombs – the royal cenotaphs of the seven Qutb Shahi kings, located north of the fort. Qutb Shahi dynasty ruled the Telengana region for 169 years, until Mughal king Aurangzeb established his control over the Deccan in 1687. Situated in a sprawling garden, the fineness of their distinctive architecture surprises all discerning visitors. Generally each tomb is a dome built upon a square base surrounded by a galleried arcade of pointed arches. Every mausoleum has an adjacent mosque, among which Dominar, built near the only tomb of a princess, is strikingly beautiful with its twin towers,
While in the city, try to visit Chowmahalla Palace to get an idea of erstwhile Nijam’s home and lifestyle. Then there is the Salar Jung Museum where thirty-six halls are filled with an array of about 49,000 pieces of art and artifacts, including historically significant antiques Like Noor Jahan’s dagger Jahangir’s wine cup and Aurangzeb’s sword apart from precious stones. There are also many foreign origin items like the stone statue of Veiled Rebecca in marble and a wooden statue of Mephistopheles and Margaretta, standing back to back. While craftsmanship of these and many other objects are of highest caliber, I suspect those were merely high quality commercial products, palmed off by the foreigners as antique art to the rich and unsuspecting noblemen. For more authentic archaeological finds from different periods you may visit the State Museum.
Symbols of modern times
Huge Hussainsagar Lake, that symbolizes the city’s transition in to modern era, separates the twin city of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The surrounding Tank Road, connecting the twine city, is the focal point of both the parts, where the old and the new cultures meet. In the centre of the lake stands a huge monolithic statue of Lord Buddha. Adjacent Lumbini Park is a well-landscaped park offering a range of water sports and moonlit cruises.
Secunderabad has Hitech City, Ramoji Film City, The Zoological Gardens and the NTR gardens. The last one is a sprawling 26,000 square meter garden with lush green expanse and a very well manicured park. Even National Geographic described it as “Urban Eden” and cited it as “a shining example of a global vision in urban planning”.
Nehru Zoological Park is the biggest of its kind in India. It is spread over a vast expanse of undulating landscape that preserved huge boulders in their natural settings. It showcases more than 240 species. The park also houses the Natural History Museums, aquarium and a pre-historic animal park, showcasing fiberglass models. There is also a lion safari, where one can ride a caged cars inside the lions own habitat.
Nostalgia in the atmosphere
The area around Charminar offers the heady Hyderabadi atmosphere in a most concentrated form. The old city transport you back in time through a maze of streets. There are mansions behind high walls and the muezzin’s call from the nearby mosque. It. is a web of quaint little shops, the air heavy with the calls of hawkers, the jingling of rickshaw bells and the rhythmic tapping of the silver smith’s mallets; women in black veils occasionally rubbing shoulders with colourfully attired Banjara gypsies, fragrance of Jasmine and smell of appetizing spiced non-vegetarian snacks.
While skilled craftsmen flourish in this twine city, so are the traditional chefs. While glitzy malls and wide boulevards proliferate in a big way, shops dealing in pearls bangles, gunmetal ware, jewelry and aromatic food, flank the narrow streets, No visit to Hyderabad would be complete without sampling its cuisine, starting with Hyderabadi Biryani.
Indeed there is a sense of nostalgia that still lingers in the city, along with its rich heritage structures and traditional cuisine, make both the locals and the visitors high on Hyderabad.