Published in The March of India, April 1959, pp. 37-38
The city of Hyderabad in the Deccan is one of the most elegant cities of India. It was the capital of the former Hyderabad state, and after the merger of the state as a part of the reorganization of the territories of India, it has become the capital of Andhara Pradesh.
The city was founded in 1589 by Mohammad Quli Qutab Shah, the fifth King of Golconda. It was originally named ‘Bhagyanagar’ after Bhagyamati, the celebrated wife of the founder. Bhagyanagar became Hyderabad when she was given the title of Hyder Mahal.
The city had a romantic origin. Born of a humble parentage, Bhagyamati lived in a small, crumbling cottage which stood at the site where now stands the stately structure of Char-Minar (four minarets).
One day while filling her pitcher, Bhagyamati slipped into the flood-waters of the river Musi and was swept away by the strong, unmerciful currents. No one on the banks dared to go in for her rescue.
Mohammad Quli, the young heir-apparent of Golconda, was at the time taking a joy ride in the vicinity. On hearing the shouts of the people for help, the royal rider raced his steed down alongside the Musi, the plunging into its surging waters, saved Bhagyamati from the jaws of death. This was the beginning of a rare royal romance - of a prince and a pauper.
By and by, the news of the prince’s love for the girl reached his father. Shocked at the waywardness of his son, the King put him under the strict watch of his prime minister.
The obedient prince showed no signs of revolt against the will of his father. He suffered calmly and quietly. Meanwhile Bhagyamati added to her charms by learning, singing and dancing, and waited patiently for the time when she could join her royal lover. And so it happened. As soon as the trumpets from the ramparts of the fort of Golconda heralded the reign of Mohammad Quli, Bhagyamati drove in state from her cottage to the royal palace.
A great patron of art and architecture, music and literature, the poet-king, Sultan Mohammad Quli, spared no pains to make his dream city - Hyderabad-worthy of the beautiful Bhagyamati.
‘No city of India approaches Hyderabad in beauty and grandeur… The city spreads over five kos (ten miles)… All the roads run parallel and water channeled line both sides of the streets and rows of trees are planted alongside them’, wrote Farishta, the well-known Persian traveler and historian of the medieval period.
M. Tavernier, the famous French traveler who visited the city as it sprang up majestically on the banks of the river Musi, observed that the ‘city was most artistically planned and constructed and had very wide roads’.
Hyderabad of today is, however, no more the glittering city built and adorned by Mohammad Quli. Golconda was sacked by Aurangzeb in 1687, and Hyderabad fared no better. It was thoroughly pillaged and plundered, and almost all of its beautiful buildings were razed to the ground. The Char-Minar somehow escaped the fury of the Moghul armies.
The Char-Minar was built by Mohamad Quli to commemorate the cessation of plague which took a heavy toll in his domain. With the Muslim mosque and the Hindu temple side by side in the heart of the city as a monument to the remarkable religious toleration of its noble builder. Surrounded today by a maintained roadway, the Char-Minar is a mixture of the old and the new.
The magnificent Mecca Masjid is the only other notable building which survived the catastrophe. Later, it was considerably beautiful and expanded. Constructed entirely of stone, the mosque offers a fine example of stucco decoration in exquisite Indian polished plaster adorned by fresco or gesso enrichment. Some twenty-five thousand devotees can pray here at a time.
Though it has lost much of its former glory, Hyderabad still remains one of the most picturesque cities of the Orient. Apart from old mountains, the city has many modern attractions.
About the two miles from the city is a collection of splendid buildings which constitute the vast Osmania University. There are few university buildings in India at the present day comparable to them. They are unique in many. Their design is a combination of the Hindu and Muslim architecture of the Deccan, each with its distinct characteristics but blended in such a way as to produce a most attractive ensemble. A grand staircase and highly ornate ceiling decorations greet a visitor as he steps into the Entrance Hall of the University Library and the Law College. The decorative treatment of its walls, ceiling and gallaries is luxurious.
The imposing buildings of the High Court, the City College, the Osmania Hospital, etc. stand surrounded by river-gardens on the Musi which flows right through the city.
The most magnificent among other buildings of Hyderabad is the Falaknuma Mahal (sky-like palace). Built by Nawab Sir Viqarul Umera at a cost of rupees 17.5 millions Chowmahala and the King Kothi (residence of the Nizam) are the other palaces which are noted for their architectural beauty.
The structures of the Town Hall, the Museum and the Jubilee Hall lie within the premises of the ‘Public Garden’, laid out in the Moghul style. One of the biggest city gardens in India, it is a combination of a Zoological and botanical gardens.
Spread over an area of four square mills, the Husain Sagar, a fascinating sheet of water lies between Hyderabad and its twin-city of Secunderabad. The lake was constructed by Sultan Mohammad Ibrahim, the third King of Golconda, to supply water to his capital and was named after Imam Husain, the martyred grandson of Prophet Mohammad. The panoramic view of the reservoir from the picturesque road that runs over its bund is a memorable sight.
Published in The March of India, April 1959, pp. 37-38