There are cities which capture the heart and mind due to the warmth of their inhabitants. Complete with a sense of history, these are places which exude a welcoming attitude and leave visitors charmed. Hyderabad, where I had lived for a good three years, and went back recently for a few days, is one of these places. It has that old-world touch and a relaxed attitude to life which does not fail to charm visitors and inhabitants alike.
Established in the year 1591 AD, by the rulers of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, Hyderabad has the iconic Charminar (monument of four minars) as its centrepiece. This monument was established by 1591, when the rulers shifted base from the Golconda Fort, 8 km away due to water shortages, and established the city of Hyderabad. It is believed that the Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, constructed the Charminar as a mark of gratitude to God after an epidemic of plague, which had overswept the city, abated and life returned to normal for the inhabitants.
The Charminar, so iconic of Hyderabad, is situated in the busy Old City of Hyderabad. This building, constructed out of limestone, mortar, granite and pulverized marble, has four grand arches, and at the corners are four distinctive and symbolic minarets which are 184 ft high. From 9 am to 5 pm, visitors can ascend the steps (all of 149 steps to the top) and gaze at the surroundings, at the Old City buildings and the Golconda Fort away in the distance. Situated at the base of the monument is a Hindu temple, known as the Bhagyalaxmi Temple.The relative communal amity in Hyderabad, with a low incidence of Hindu- Muslim riots, is an example for the rest of the country.
The area surrounding the Charminar leads to nearby alleys which have a quaint collection of metalware, bangles, textiles. The nearby Laad Bazaar exhibits metalware and bangles in all colours and sizes, which adorn the shops. Apparently it is here that the women of the Hyderabadi sultanate used to shop for fancy bangles.I bought a few bangles for my daughter from one of the shops.
As an aside, I also discovered that in a nearby street leading to Sadar Bazaar, there was an assortment of dentists’ shops, and a large number of dentures were on display outside the shops. Quite an unexpected place for finding dentists’ shops, I must say!
The main thoroughfares around Charminar are lined with shops selling jewellery, clothes and many assorted wares. There are also a number of good eateries nearby.
In the vicinity of Charminar, are also situated the Mecca Masjid, and the Unani and Ayurvedic hospitals. While the Mecca Masjid is a huge, domed building, the two hospitals, made in the Indo- Saracenic structure ,are graceful buildings made in the Deccani( Hyderabad ) style.
It is implausible that a visit to Hyderabad be complete without its culinary delicacies. At a roadside shop near Laad Bazaar, I gorged on delicious Chicken 65 with Roomali Roti , priced very reasonably at Rs. 70.For those inclined for a full-fledged feast, the nearby Shadaab restaurant is highly recommended.
It is interesting to note that Modernity has made inroads in the Old City too, as evidenced by a Cafe Coffee Day shop situated bang opposite Charminar! It is good to see that the old and the new coexist side by side in this city.
At the end of the visit to the Old City, I politely turned down offers by the Auto rickshaw wallahs to take me to Mangatrai Jewellers, an outlet famous for another of the Hyderabadi specialities, i.e. pearls. As the Autorickshaw took me back towards my guest house, I looked back contentedly, anticipating yet another visit to the Old City in the future.