Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Golconda Fort

All of us were to assemble at 3 in the afternoon at the Mayfair bus stand opposite to Anand theatre. We asked a few people the best way to reach Golconda. Mehdipatnam was thus decided as the first stop to reach. A minority amongst the womenfolk - there were 4 gals and a happy me, I had collated information from my sources who had informed me that 49M was the bus to Mehdipatnam. The gals were a bit late - as usual, and the buses were not coming. Dimple had a brainwave and she flagged off a cab. The cabbie agreed to drop us off as near as possible to Golconda. And thus we reached Toli Chowki. From there we all of us got into a single rickshaw that took us right into the Golconda Fort, through small paths, huge gates, a huge lake and a lot of people. It cost us around 10 bucks a person.

The moment we entered the gates of the fort, we saw the history of Golconda, inscribed in stone as captured in the snap on the right. The fort derives its name from "Golla Kunda" aka A shepherd's hill. The fort was initially under the control of the Kakatiyas, then to the Bahamanis of Gulbarga, then onto the Qutub Shahi dynasty and finally to Aurengzeb - the last of the great Mughals. The moment we entered the fort, guides swarmed us. Inspite of Dimple's vehement protests, we finally agreed to have a Government certified guide for 150 bucks - for half the fort and started the journey.

The Golconda Fort was unique because of the acoustics present in the fort. A clap at the Fateh Darwaza - the entrance of the fort could be heard right at the Balahissar tower ramparts. The system was built such that the gaurd at the Balahissar Tower would inform the gaurd at Fateh Darwaza of any suspicious movement. Once this was ruled out, only then will the gaurd at Fateh Darwaza open the gate.

Lifting the huge stone that the man in the adjoining picture is shown lifting was the Entrance Test for all army aspirants in those days. Even I tried my hand at it. And failed.
The fort was completely self sufficient with its own supply of water from wells and food that could be grown in it. Because of this it was believed that the Golconda fort was impregnable.

But even its three concentric stone walls, impregnable as they seemed, were no defense against treachery. Aurengzeb, bribed a saboteur to open the Fateh Darwaza for him and won the fort.

There is a famous story about two sisters, Taramathi and Premamathi, who are believed to have lived in these little palaces, and legend has it that when they sang from their pavilions, their voices, pure and clear floated right across the vast undulating rock strewn landscape, to charm the royal entourage on Golconda’s Balahissar terrace. Apparently, the buildings had been cleverly positioned so that the sisters’ music was carried on night winds to their enraptured audience.

On the way to the top, we saw the baths - hamams of the queens, the ammunition depot, the accounting section, the place where the Wazir - the main minister of the Nawab used to sit and the elaborate mechanism of fans that was in place in those days to keep them cool inside the fort.

There were places in the fort that were full of bats and at night could have been eerie. Imagining the Nawab, his courtiers and the grandiose that had once been associated with this place, where the famous Kohinnoor is said to have been found, was tough amidst such ruins.
Half way to the top, I realised the folly of taking on Golconda with the womenfolk. Parita was dead tired, Dimple suddenly lost her tongue, the usually indefatigable Monika was deflated and Naiya was quietly taking pictures. Somehow we egged each other on and kept pushing ourselves to the top as slowly more and more of Hyderabad came to our view.

When we reached the top, the view was awe inspiring. We could see the city of Hyderabad on one side and the sprawling fort all around as the strong wind threatened to blow us away. It was a captivating view from the top and we rested there, waiting for the sun to slowly sink down on the city of Hyderabad.
There was a sound and light show organised in the fort below, but we were too tired to wait and we made our way back home by a rickshaw to Mehdipatnam and my trusted 49M through Banjara Hills to Secunderabad.
All in all, it was a wonderful half day trip that made us determined to visit Golconda again for the fort and the Qutub Shahi tombs both.

Loony Tips:
Spend a whole day visiting both, the Qutub Shahi tombs and the Golconda Fort.
Hire a guide. Or else you are wasting your time.
Listen to the acoustics of the fort.
Don't miss out on the sound and light show as we did.
Golconda is a beautiful place to photograph. Spend more time and you will get some amazing pictures.
Avoid climbing Golconda in the hot sun.
Bring lots of water and some food to chew on for the trip.

Sound and Light Show Timings
November to February : Winter
Show starts at 6:30, Duration : 55 Minutes
March to October : Summers
Show starts at 7:30, Duration 55 minutes
English version : Wednesdays and Sundays
Hindi version : Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Telugu version : Thursdays.
No show on Mondays.

Good Links For Golconda:

A wonderfully well written travelogue

Nice Photographs and Descriptions

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid

Mecca Masjid Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad is one of the oldest and the biggest masjids of India. Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah began building it in 1617 under the supervision of Mir Faizullah Baig and Rangiah Choudhary. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb completed the construction in 1694. It took 77 years to come up as the magnificent edifice we see today. Like many other ancient buildings in the city, the mosque is a granite giant with awe-inspiring innards. The main hall of the mosque is 75 feet high, 220 feet wide and 180 feet long, big enough to accommodate ten thousand worshippers at a time.

Mecca MasjidThis is a snap of the Masjid as viewed from the Charminar which is just 100 yards away from Mecca Masjid. The beautiful clouds with the blue sky in the background, which are a Hyderabadi specialty make a fine picture.

I had missed out at visiting the Jama Masjid on my last visit to Delhi and so I was very keen to visit this one. It is believed that the Mecca Masjid is one of the top ten largest masjids in the world. This close up photograph with the people in it might give you a sense of the size of this magnificent structure.

Mecca Masjid
The name of the mosque has an interesting short story behind it. It is believed that some bricks were brought from Mecca and inserted in the walls of its main arch. Hence it came to be known as Mecca Masjid. There are fifteen arches that support the hall of the mosque. Three walls of the great hall have five arches each. This huge hall is 75 feet high, 220 feet wide and 180 feet long. No wonder it can accommodate about 10,000 people at a time during worship. It is said that about 8000 workers had been employed to construct this grand mosque. The mosque took 77 years to be completed.

Mecca Masjid This snap shows an exquisitely graceful, rectangular, arched and canopied building housing the marble graves of Asaf Jahi rulers from Nizam Ali Khan to Mehboob Ali Khan and their family. It is possible that this structure came up during the rule of the Asaf Jahs because it contains the tombs of the Nizams and their family. At both ends of this resting place for the Asaf Jahs and very much a part of it, are two rectangular blocks with four minarets each. The Charminar and its surrounds are extremely crowded, old city locations with hawkers, sellers, buyers, tourists, policemen all seemingly congregating at the same location. Amidst all this hustle bustle, the masjid seems to be an oasis of peace and calm.
Mecca Masjid

This is a frontal view of the Masjid which has lots of pigeons flying around the small lake in the front and nesting in the numerous minarets of this worship place.

There is a room in the courtyard of the mosque that stores ancient and holy relics. It is believed to contain the hair of Prophet Mohammed.

Being very near to the Charminar, it is recommended to keep a trip to the Mecca Masjid at the same time at which you visit the Charminar and the Chowmohalla Palace. It is also advised to keep away from Mecca Masjid during times of communal tension.
Most days of the year though, you can have a quiet and serene moment with yourself near the man made pond, which has soothing blue water. There are seating arrangements at the edges of the pond and it is believed that if a visitor sits on it, the person will surely visit Hyderabad again. Dunno about you, but as far as Hydi goes, I am bewitched.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Charminar, which is synonymous with Hyderabad, is one of the magnificient structures built by Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutub Shahi dynasty and also the founder of the city, in 1591-92 A.D. This is the frontal facade of the Charminar. The streets adjoining it are crowded at all times and even this shot took a lot of patience to get. The structure of the Charminar, built using granite, lime, mortar, inspite of being so old, is incredibly well maintained.
Charminar The Charminar is a square structure measuring 31.95 metres on each side with imposing arches spanning a distance of 11 mts. There are four minarets, each having four stories, rising to a height of 56 mts. The spiral staircase inside the tower has 146 steps leading to the top with 12 landings. The double screen of arches on the roof and the ornamental arches on the minarets add to the aesthetic value. The notable feature of the Charminar is the location of a mosque in the western section on the second floor, probably one of the most beautiful of that period. There are 45 prayer spaces with an open courtyard in the front.

There are various theories abound about the purpose for which the Charminar was constructed. However it is widely believed that the Charminar was built at the centre of the city to commemorate the eradication of plague.

CharminarThe French commander Bussy, made the Charminar his headquarters in the mmiddle of the 18th century. The four clocks in the four cardinal directions were added later in 1889. One of the clocks and the balcony can be seen in this snap of the Charminar.

At the center of the Charminar there used to be a Vazu (Water Cistern) with a small fountain for customary ablutions before offering prayers at the mosque.
Charminar The snap shows the fountain and a view of the road beyond the Charminar. On the left of the road is the medical hospital and on the right is the Mecca Masjid. Just inside the Charminar on the left is an office of Andhra Pradesh Tourism. They sell some memoribilia and provide valuable information about Charminar and where to shop in and around the Charminar too.
A view of the roof of the Charminar. The structure is also known for its profuseness of stucco decorations and arrangement of balustrades and balconies. The floral designs are varied and delicately executed. It is a combination of Mughal and Hindu architecture executed by the local artisans.

How to Reach?
1. Lots of local buses go to Charminar. There is a big bus stand just behind the Mecca Masjid that will take you back to the city if you want to travel by bus.
2. Most rickshaws will take you to the Charminar all the way from Begumpet for less than 100 bucks according to the meter charge as of Dec - 2008.
3. Try and plan a trip to the Charminar in such a way that you can go to the nearby Mecca Masjid and also have a look at the beautiful Chowmohalla Palace. These three monuments will most likely take a whole day's time if you want to take photographs and really enjoy the feel of the place.
4. The Charminar shuts down at 6. So, don't get very late.

Loony Tips for Charminar Darshan
1. Night time is a very good time to photograph the Charminar. The traffic during the day is horrendous - to say the least.
2. Get a good good guide if you can. There are a lot of interesting tit bits that they can tell you. Like the Charminar is connected with the Golconda through a underground thoroughfare.
3. Ask someone as to where you can get the best, original pearls and bangles. The best shops are located around the Charminar, but there are many shops where you can get cheated. So better as one or two AP tourism officials to direct you to the right shop.
4. The hyderabadi chicken biryani is very famous. Ask any rickshaw wallah and he will take you to Shadaab Restaurant. It serves the best Biryani in this part of the city.
5. If you visit during the month of Ramzaan, do not forget to get a taste of the Haleem. It is also a Hyderabad speciality and the best of Haleems can be found in this part of town.

Some really good links I found while researching for Charminar
Very Rare Photograph of Charminar
A Blog about Hyderabad that describes Charminar
Charminar and its surroundings in the morning

For more.......keep reading the blog.....


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