Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hyderabad : The City With a Hallowed History

It’s depressing. It’s depressing when I hear some of my friends boastfully declaring that they do not read other’s blogs! But I will be happy if at least a single sole read this piece, whatever shit it might be, and relate to my way of looking at things. Anyway, it’s not the craving for readers’ appreciation that enthuse me to write. Rather, it’s an inexplicable array of random thoughts engaged in Brownian motions inside my brain wanting expression and shape, which compels me to crouch over the keyboard.

The Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony no. 6, which RealPlayer is continuously playing to my ears over the Apple head-phones, made me totally aloof from the outside world. I can see…I can see the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad dressing in his 250 ft long wardrobe and proceeding toward the mirror painted with his own portrait. There lies the map of his kingdom of Hyderabad spanning across part of present day Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, which the Nizams refused to hand over to the British. Lo and behold! The magnificent manually operated lift, which is operational till date. Over there are the gifts which the Nizams got from their counterparts in Arab states – the silver made replica of Mecca masjid, silver and gold utensils, perfumes and many more. Ah! Look at the marvelous marble furniture – table, chair, almirah – used by the Nizam VI, known for his lavish lifestyle. And there’s the awesome model of the art department of Osmania University – an amalgamation of Christian (entrance in Roman gothic style), Hindu (ground floor arches in Hindu style) and Muslim (first floor arches in Muslim style) architectures…to foster unity in cultural diversity!
If you haven’t figured out already, what I was talking about in the last paragraph is Nizam palace at Hyderabad. The first Nizam of Hyderabad was born in 1671 and the last Nizam died in 1967 – a 300 year reign! A visit of the place gives one a feel of the abundance the Nizams used to live in. The sons and grand sons of the last Nizam (VII) live in the Middle East. A trust on their behalf runs two schools and a college here at Old Haveli.
On our city tour with state run Andhra Pradesh Tourism last Sunday, we (Ganesh, Pradeep and the author…arrr…the blogger) witnessed another unforgettable piece of genius, The Salarjung Museum, housing the enviable collection of Salarjung I, II and III. But before entering into the museum, I like to share a few words about this wonderful guy – the great Ganesh alias the Background. This little fellow loves to be filmed but values the background more than his own portrait in photographs! If you are struggling to get what it means, let me tell you in simple terms – he want to be shot with a bevy of beautiful eves in the background. He has made up an interesting justification, too, which goes like this: his “not-nonsense” (male) friends, who anxiously wait for his photos to be uploaded in Orkut, wants to see cute faces of the opposite sexes in the background. They are bored of seeing Ganesh’s face times and again! Oops! If that is the case, better get rid of Ganesh, altogether, and film only backgrounds, right? Well, I don’t want to comment about Pradeep at this time. He is a big guy (I mean in size, relative to me!). Already he showed me his teeth on Sunday, while I photographed him while having lunch with his tongue out to reach a spoonful of curd or something like a hungry cheetah. So, no comments.
Getting back to the Salarjung temple, three most beautiful objects here, as told by the guide, are the musical clock, veiled Rebecca and the double statue. But according to me, every single object is worthy of a watch. The individual parts (750 of them, if I remember correctly) of the mechanical musical clock were brought from England and assembled in Kolkata. It was made by a company called Kelvey and Cookie (or something same sounding) – a wonderful piece of art and engineering. The veiled Rebecca is cut out of a single marble stone – it is so beautifully curved out that you can separately visualize Rebecca’s body and the cloth cover (the veil). The double statue is a figure of an armored man as seen from one side and becomes a lady figure when viewed the other side in a mirror. The museum has 5 galleries full of European paintings, glass and jade wares, ivory sculptures, armory collections and many more.
We had a drive around the historical Charminar and Mecca Masjid. But the beauty and grandeur of the royals of the past will be unimaginable unless you visit the Chowmohallah – The four palaces. Wonderful in design, a scenic beauty with its exterior and interior architecture, fountains and gardens, expensive women wear (I mean Sarees) of the royal ladies, old vintage cars from the stable of Rolls Royce, Fiat, Buick etc, collection of other articles used by the kings and the queens  – this place is amazing! It made real sense to brave the summer sun in order to soak in the royal scents, even if it is for an hour only!
The plastic free 380 acre Nehru zoo is one of the biggest attractions in Hyderabad. Though we did not encounter many of our jungle friends, but it’s a nice place to hang around on a Sunday afternoon. The zoo has some caged animals whereas some are set free (and we are caged to see them!) Some of the animals who showed themselves up during our safari in a netted Swaraj Mazda were a lion, three tigers (Royal Bengal type), a few peacocks, a playful bear, a bunch of Nilgais, couple of deers etc. But the drive through the jungle was exciting. From one higher terrain in the zoo, some important places like Charminar, Birla temple, Banjara hills etc were visible.
The most exciting part of our journey was the Golkonda fort. Golkonda (Gol – round; Konda – hill) was built on a round hill, and hence the name. This fort was built and used by many kingdoms over a long period of time. The fort has an outer boundary with 8 entrances and an inner boundary with only one door. The doors had special hidden spikes – if the enemy tries to overpower it the spikes would come out and kill them! The fort was a very well planned structure with water tank and supply system, market place, kings’ and queens’ quarters, supply and storage rooms, a jail, Darbar hall, a temple, a masjid, murda darwaja( separate door for carrying out the dead bodies to the burial, which was booked in advance before the death of the person) etc. The inhabitants used to use different kind of clapping code to communicate during emergency or attack from the entrance point to the top by specialized sound system. From the top of the Golkonda fort much of the Hyderabad city is visible, the most nearest being the Banjara Hills. In earlier days Banjara tribes from the Banjara Hills used to come to the fort for cultural performances. Now the most wealthy and important people and politicians (and corrupt people as well, as jokingly commented by the guide), including the tennis sensation Sania Mirza live in the Banjara Hills. In spite of all the glory, I must say that there is lackadaisical maintenance of the place (it’s maintained by Archeological Survey of India). In spite of “Do not write on the wall” sign boards, you will find to your horror that the walls of the fort are replete with “I love you” messages from love-bitten souls in their foolish attempt to make their feelings permanent.
Standing at the top of the fort, 450 meter above the sea level, I closed my eyes and the fort came into life. The elephants roared, the queen on board the palanquin set out for the temple, Qutub Shah sitting in the Darbar hall started the proceedings of the day, the diamond market woke up to the buzz of the teeming crowd, Taramathi was getting ready for an evening performance…

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