With a clearly outlined plan to see the places of heritage importance in Hyderabad, I boarded the bus to Hyderabad from Bangalore. But I often ignore other variables when it comes to travel. And such was the case this time too when I realized that the trip to Hyderabad was to attend a family function and not to see around the city. Within few hours of my arrival in Hyderabad and more so at my relative’s place, I could foresee my next 3 days in the city and exploring appeared out of the scene. And then an offer for a guided Hyderabad heritage walk was served on my plate by a travel company, RuddBuddy.
I immediately got in touch with them to show me around the old city for few hours the next day. The zeal of sharing the heritage knowledge probed the founder of the company to take me himself on Hyderabad Heritage walk the very next day.
The next morning, we met up at the very popular Nimrah cafe and bakery which itself is a landmark located right in the middle of Charminar and Mecca masjid. The cafe was bustling with locals for whom it’s probably a place where they begin the day from. A few tourists were sampling their most talked about Irani Chai (tea) and Osmania biscuits and I too laid my hands on these. While the Chai was a delight to the taste buds of the chai lover in me, the biscuits were melt in the mouth delicious. From outside the cafe, I could click my best shots of Charminar. The cafe has been there for around 25 years now and the bustle hasn’t died. It was a perfect start to the Hyderabad heritage walk but beware there is another Nimrah cafe in Hyderabad, look out for the one near Charminar.
Stories around the name HYDERABAD surfaced during Hyderabad Heritage Walk
After our introduction at Nimrah cafe, Sudeep, the founder of RuddBuddy started unveiling the layers of heritage of Hyderabad. As we began our walk, he talked about how the city of Nizams was named Hyderabad. A legend says that the city was originally called Baghnagar (city of gardens) and it was named so because Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah believed that heaven is full of gardens and this city should be like heaven.
Another legend says that Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah was in love with a local dancer Bhagmathi, so he named the city “Bhaganagar” after her. He faced a lot of objections on naming a muslim region after a Hindu woman. Later under religious pressure, the dancer converted to Islam and adopted the title Hyder Mahal. And then, the city was renamed to Hyderabad after her name.
Also read – Vijay Vilas Palace, Mandvi, Gujarat
Mecca Masjid during Hyderabad Heritage Walk
Having walked a few minutes from the cafe, we reached Mecca Masjid which is the largest mosque in the city and one of the most popular and largest in the country. The mosque dates back to the times of Aurangzeb in the year 1693 when it got completed. Sudeep told that the mosque has been modeled on the design of Grand mosque in Mecca.
As we entered the mosque, I was given a dupatta to wrap around myself. We then headed to the arch gallery where the tombs of all the Nizams from the year 1803 are kept. We paid our respect and clicked few shots there and moved to the main structure of the mosque. Non muslims are not allowed to enter that area, hence we were asked to peep inside from the channel. That’s when Sudeep told me that the mosque can accommodate 10,000 people at any time. We strolled in the premises contemplating how 10,000 would fit in.
Another amusing fact what he told was that the bricks were brought from Mecca for the mosque’s construction. It is also heard that the two domes at the back of the mosque are smaller than the ones in front because Aurangzeb reduced the budget of the construction of the mosque.
Charminar, the landmark of Hyderabad
We took a U-turn and reached Charminar which is not only a landmark of Hyderabad but also a very important heritage monument of India. Charminar true to it’s name has 4 minars built in Indo Inslamic architecture. Legends say that Mohammed Quli Qutb Shahi built it to commemorate the end of the lethal plague that had engulfed the city. The other legend claims that a secret tunnel under the monuments was connected to Golkonda fort to make sure the safe exit of royals during emergency. The other story tells that Mohammed Quli Qutb Shahi built it in honor of Bhagamathi.
Having heard the amusing stories of this monument, I intended to climb up the Charminar and see the details of architecture from inside. We met with a long queue at the small entrance of Charminar and heard that it is a common scene on weekends. A fountain placed in the center of the monument was getting cleaned. It stuck to me that it’s not too late yet for us to preserve our heritage and I smiled instantly.
The stairs to the top were small and steep. Climbed up carefully and clicked the busy streets on all the 4 directions from the jharokas. It is believed that the city of Hyderabad was measured in four directions from Charminar for administrative purposes. My chain of thoughts got broken when I noticed the scribbled names on the walls of this important heritage monument. While Charminar is called Arc de Triomphe of the East, my heart ached to see the scribbled walls.
Secrets of Gulzar Hauz and Char Kaman
We got down from Charminar and headed in the direction of Gulzar Hauz which is the intersection of roads near Charminar and has an octagonal fountain at the center. The four arches in four directions seen from Gulzar Hauz leading to different parts of the city are called “Char Kaman”. Sudeep mentioned that initially there were four streams originating from the fountain resembling the streams of water, honey, milk and wine as mentioned in Islamic description of paradise.
The arches to the East, West, North and South of the fountain were called Kali Kaman, Kaman Sher Dil, Machli Kaman and Charminar Kaman respectively. The people in those times used to live in these areas as per their ranks. Kaman Sher Dil in the West housed the royals but their palaces were destroyed during the reign of Aurangzeb. I was also shown this arch which is said to be studded with diamonds and other precious stones to mark the territory of the royals.
There was so much to grasp and experience during the walk but the hunger struck at the right me when we were near Govind ki bandi and I had to indulge in the extremely famous utterly butterly delicious dosa. It’s a street food place which is actually just a cart but people start thronging here from 6:30 am in the morning. Govind ki Bandi has been there from last 30 years serving the best breakfast in town.
Laad Bazaar during Hyderabad Heritage Walk
From the top of Charminar, I could see the bright colors adorning a street. That was the Laad Bazaar famous for Bangles made of lacquer. The 1 km stretch was fluttering with the women looking for the most gorgeous bangles and other wedding stuff. While strolling on the street taking shots of the glittering showrooms of bangles, we took a by lane and saw a workshop where 2 men were busy making bangles. They have been doing it for years and have mastered the art by now. Such stunning pieces, I must say!
Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad
The last place of the Hyderabad heritage walk for me was the popular Chowmahalla Palace which is at a walking distance from Charminar. This palace took me straight to the lives of Nizams and started unveiling the chapters bit by bit. Two huge wooden doors welcomed me to the house of Nizams. The first impression of the palace was no less than a palace from a fairy tale where a set of fountains and a well maintained garden laid the path to the Grand Durbar Hall. The Durbar hall is studded with 19 dazzling chandeliers and no two of these are same. I spent most of my time in the Grand Durbar Hall appreciating the chandeliers and learning about all the eight Nizams.
Chowmahalla palace derives its name from the four mahals (palaces)- Tahniyat Mahal, Mahtab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, and Aftab Mahal which are located inside the premises. I walked through the alleys of the palaces appreciating their architecture and the belongings of the Nizams. The vintage cars, the precious stones studded clothes, the beautiful kitchen ware , the multi hue chandeliers, the weapons and so much more that Chowmahalla deserves an entire post which I will be writing soon.
The collection of more than 200 Qurans at display intrigued me the most when I figured out the oldest Quran at display was from 1450 CE. There were phrases of qurans written on vessels , kitchen ware, very old pieces of clothes which have been restored. I had never seen such a huge collection of religious books anywhere else. Photographing the Qurans were not allowed to maintain the sanctity of the place. Another tower of my interest was Khilwat clock tower where the clock has been ticking for more than 250 years and is being maintained by a family of clock repairers who wind the clock every week.
The verdict of Hyderabad Heritage Walk
Hyderabad is a city with heritage embedded in every nook and corner of it. Having visited Hyderabad multiple times before, I had not seen the Hyderabad I saw this time. I am in awe of the intriguing stories, unbelievable facts and the rich heritage I explored during this trail. The layers of history of Hyderabad which RuddBuddy laid open for me not only instilled in me the zest of appreciating heritage more but also filled my heart with pride.
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