The New CityThe Musi river flows lazily through the city, a trickle for most part of the year. In the monsoon months, when the sluice gates at Gandipet are opened, it regains its vigor and rushes past the embankments that separate the old city from the new. Just as the south shore is a monument to the glory of the Qutb Shahi sultans of Golconda, the north is a testimony of the expansion that took place under the Asaf Jahis who followed them.
The Asaf Jahi dynasty was founded in 1724 by Mir Qamruddin Chin Qilich Khan Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah (those folks evidently didn't believe that there's nothing in a name!). It lasted till 1948 when Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam of the line, signed an Instrument of Accession, and the State of Hyderabad became a part of the Indian Union. The last Nizam was once considered to be the richest man in the world. The tales of his overflowing treasuries, his jewelry, gold, and collection of precious gems became fables that have not yet been fully corroborated or denied.
An austere man himself, almost an ascetic in personal habits, he certainly became the symbol of a culture that had taken deep root in the Deccan over a period of two hundred and fifty years. It was probably the last flaring of the Mughal effulgence to which it traced its roots. With his passing, Hyderabad changed irrevocably, never to return to the feudal days of the past.
Today the city is the capital of Andhra Pradesh, a State that came into being forty five years ago, in answer to the aspirations of the Telugu speaking people who wanted a home land of their own.
Join us for a guided tour of the newer part of town!
EVOLUTION IN BRIEF
Hyderabad has always been more than an amalgam of monuments, mosques, minarets, mansions, mandarins and memories. For two hundred years, it was the capital of a Muslim dynasty that ruled over a populace that was predominantly Hindu. This fact gave rise to a curious composite culture, which was hailed by many. But it certainly led to misgivings, dissension, and finally revolt in the people in the post-Independence years. Later, after the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, there was a great influx of the people from the east coast into the capital. Gradually this demographic shift was to change the character of the city altogether.
Modern Hyderabad has grown exponentially, north , south, east and west! In the early part of the century, the City Improvement Board and envisaged growth up to 800,000 people. Today, the population is over five times that number. The three major problems facing the city are water supply, sewage disposal and traffic congestion. Nevertheless, the city functions and is counted amongst the six major urban conglomerates in India.
THE HUB OF TOWN
The State is administered from an enormous cluster of buildings called the Secretariat in the Khairatabad locality. Not far away is the Legislative Assembly, where the elected representatives of the people hold their sometimes-acrimonious debates. The Assembly house was the Town Hall in the Nizam's time. It has been enlarged and refurbished, and now has a giant statue of Mahatma Gandhi on its front lawn.
Strangely, the most incongruous building in modern Hyderabad sits right opposite the Secretariat. It is a replica of one mad King Ludwig's Bavarian follies, a full-fledged castle, adorned with towers, turrets, crenellations, buttresses, and even a Dutch style windmill! This curious edifice is one of Hyderabad's newer hotels, the Amrutha Castle.
North of the Secretariat is the Hussain Sagar, a refreshingly beautiful spread of water. The lake was created by Hussian Shah Wali, son-in-law of one of the Qutb Shahi sultans, over three centuries ago. Today, its broad bund is the prized promenade of the city. There is statue of Buddha in the lake, carved from a granite monolith, and brought to the capital from a neighboring district at huge cost. Installing this enormous figure was not a simple matter. It slipped off its barge and sank to the bottom of the lake the first time.
A year later, it was salvaged, towed gingerly to the platform built to take it, and slowly inched into place. Cleaning it of all the moss and fungus took a few months! The statue attracts visitors from all over the Buddhist world, and has also given its name to a park that almost encircles the water.
From the south end of the bund one can drive along a broad thoroughfare to Afzalgunj bridge, the river and the old city, passing famous colleges, a cricket stadium, a cluster of schools, Abid Road, the Mozamjahi Market, the Siddi Amber Bazaar, the Begum Bazaar, and the truly magnificent mosque at Afzalgunj, on the way.
Abid, an enterprising person of Jewish extraction, was once valet to the sixth Nizam. He made so much money working for that gracious and generous man that he was able to start a business of his own. His shop was modeled after one of the better stores in London, and soon became a meeting place for the well-heeled. I do not remember the famed establishment. It had gone by the time the thirties came around.
Nevertheless, it gave its name to a major thoroughfare, maybe a whole locality. This quarter is still called Abid Road, despite the fact that it was officially rechristened in the fifties after the first Prime Minister of India! Old habits die hard in Hyderabad.
MONUMENTS - PALACES AND TOMBS
The Asaf Jahi period of Hyderabad history begins in 1763 when Nizam Ali Khan, the second Nizam, shifted his capital from Aurangabad to where it had been in Qutb Shahi times. The Nizams started building their palaces in the Old City. Chowmahalla, a cluster of buildings behind a high wall, is still intact. The palace is within easy striking distance from the Charminar. However, it is private property, and entry is strictly controlled.
The other group of buildings used by the Nizams was Purani Haveli, close to the City Police Commissioner's office. The haveli is no longer a royal residence. Its buildings have been turned into centers for technical training, a nursing school and a museum. A modern hospital has also been founded within the precincts.
North of the Musi, new localities like the Begum Bazaar came into being. This was perhaps the first building venture outside the old city wall. Today, the Begum Bazaar is a busy, crowded, overflowing area, dotted with shops and commercial establishments, still inhabited by some of its original pioneering families.
The other interesting buildings from this period are the Paigah Tombs, the oldest one dating back to 1786. The Paigah family, founded by Tegh Jung Shams-ul-Umra, was inextricably tied by blood and marriage to the Asaf Jahs. The patriarch and his successors are buried in this exclusive cemetery, still reserved for his modern day descendants. The Tombs, exquisite examples of the stucco jali work of the 17th and the 18th centuries, are sited opposite the Deccan Medical College by the Santoshnagar Colony.
Another monument from the time is the tomb of General Michel Joachim Marie Raymond, a Frenchman in the Nizam's Army. It is situated on a hillock in the Saroornagar quarter, south of the National Highway to Vijayawada. An annual usr is held at his obelisk on the day of his passing, in accordance with the Muslim lunar calendar, and he is remembered and venerated.
MONUMENTS - SCHOOLS, COLLEGES AND MORE
The British, in the form of the East India Company, had helped Nizam Ali Khan, the second Nizam, to secure the throne of Hyderabad. Thirty-five years later, they arrived in the capital with a deed offering Subsidiary Alliance. In 1803 the building of a Residency for the British Agent began. Three years later it had become a majestic villa, surrounded by a massive, fortified wall, and it remained a vital center of the Paramount Power in the Deccan till 1947. Today, the Residency is the autonomous Womens' College, still referred to as 'the Kothi', in the Sultan Bazaar - Chadarghat area.
The arrival of the British was followed by the gradual growth and expansion of new Hyderabad. School, Churches, and Convents came into being. St.George's church on Abid Road, and All Saints, with its beautiful twin towers, on the hillock in Gunfoundry, are both over a hundred years old.
Many public buildings came up during the reign of Mehboob Ali Pasha (1869-1911) and survive to this day. But the flowering of modern Hyderabad can be attributed to his son, Osman Ali Khan (1911-48), whose thirty-seven year reign witnessed the emergence of what is known as Hyderabad today.
The list is too numerous to recount in toto, but some of the landmarks come to mind straight away: the High Court on one side of the Musi and the Osmania General Hospital on the other, the Asafiya Library on the Afzalgunj embankment, the Legislative Assembly, the Archeological Museum and most of the other buildings in Public Garden, Mehbubia Girls' School on Abid Road, Hyderabad Public School (once the Jagirdar's College) in Begumpet, the Osmania University, especially the Indo-Saracenic splendor of the Arts College in pink granite, the railway stations at Nampally and Kachiguda, and the old airport terminal at Begumpet are some of his contributions.
He also built two dams upriver to prevent the Musi from flooding. One he named after himself, Osmansagar; the other after his eldest son and Heir Apartment, Himayath Ali Khan. The lake is called Himayathsagar.
RESTAURANTS AND HOTELS
To cater to the requirements of its visitors, there are dozens of hotels in Hyderabad, from top rung establishments like Novotel, ITC The Kakatiya, The Taj Krishna, to low budget inns, guest houses and dharamsalas.
Food is available for all kinds of taste, veg and non-veg. A new one seems to come up almost every other week, offering yet another cuisine, despite the fact that Andhra, Udipi, Chinese, Hakka, Mexican and Italian are already available! We also have numerous fastfood joints, pizzerias and snack outlets, some very popular ones being nothing more than roadside wagons.
But when one is asked to suggest a good place for "real Hyderabad Food", it is difficult to point a finger in the right direction. Hyderabadi fare- a blend of Central Asian, Turkish, Persian, North Indian and Deccani influences - developed slowly over three hundred years in this part of the world, and is perhaps only to be savored in private homes and certain city clubs. Good biryani, however, can be enjoyed in many a restaurant, either a five-star establishment, or a very humble eatery.
Once upon a time, people usually came to Hyderabad to buy pearls. They still do. But today there is an enormous spread to choose from. Western style outlets - the likes of Shoppers Stop and Westside - have recently opened their doors. Shopping malls become increasingly popular, while food store chains and departmental stores slowly edge out the small time kirana merchants.
Once upon a time, it was necessary to go all the way to Abid Road to cash a cheque at the bank, buy groceries or medicines. My father would buy fruit from the Peshawari brothers at Mozamjahi Market, and nowhere else! Today, the city has spread so widely that everyday shopping is becoming more and more localized. Each quarter has its own market, and its own collection of shops, and self-sufficiency seems to be the order of the day.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND EDUCATION
This city has emerged as one of the most important medical centers in south India. Apollo Hospital, Care, CDR, Kamineni, Mediciti, Medwin, Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences, have made a splendid name for themselves.
Hyderabad is the home of several universities - Osmania, APAU, Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University, University of Hyderabad, Telugu University, Abul Kalam Azad Urdu University. It is also one of the most important centers in India for human resoursce development. The Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) is sited in Hyderabad. So is the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Indian Railway Institute of Signal Engineering and Telecommunications (IRISET), The American Studies Research Center (ASRC), and so on. Many public sector organisations have set up their training centers in Hyderabad.
The Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has three major institutes in the Tarnaka area : Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IITC), Center of Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), and National Geophysical Laboratory(NGL). And so it goes. Our list of training establishments and research centers is very long.
Nightlife in Hyderabad is extremely happening, with lounges, pubs and nightclubs serving as perfect unwinding spots for the increasingly cosmopolitan and young crowd - Excess, Ahala, 360 Degrees and Venom are just among the most talked about. For sports buffs there's Xtreme Sports Bar, and for music lovers, there's Firangi Paani, 10 Downing Street and more. Post 8pm, there's a bunch of places you can chill out at, and most parties go on till 3am.
Also, Hyderabad is big on cinemas. There are dozens and dozens scattered over the city, showing Telugu, Hindi and English films. While Prasads was the first ever multiplex in the city, Cinemax, Inox and PVR are the other entertainment houses that have followed to set bases in Hyderabad. The city is also an important center of filmmaking. Four studios already exist, but the latest addition to the conclave is Ramoji Rao's Film City on the Vijayawada road, a sprawling estate with a host of facilities - sets, gardens, hotels, equipment. Film City has attracted international notice, and is being used by many famous directors.
Hyderabad offers you pearls, jewelry, silks, saris, carpets, handicrafts, handloom fabrics, readymade garments, designer wear, books, furniture, music, historical sites and souvenirs. But more important than any of this is the charm of its people and the warmth of the hospitality.
A final suggestion - don't leave Hyderabad until you have sampled the malai-puri at Almond House in Hyderguda, watched the sun set behind Golconda and the Tombs, listened to the cries of wild peacocks in Brahmananda Reddy Park on the Banjara Hills, sniffed the aroma of kebabs turning on the spits of the Old City, and touched the 2,500 million year old rocks at Durgam Cheravu with your bare hands.
The altitude of Hyderabad is 536 meters. The maximum temperature can go up to 43C in the summer, and come down to 22C in the winter. We have known winters plunge to 8C at Banjara Hills, but that is a rare phenomenon. However, if you are here in the winter season - undoubtedly the best time of the year - come armed with light woolens for the early mornings and late evenings.