Hyderabad, the city of wonders

June 2, 2008

HYDERABAD - Hyderabad is truly a city of wonders.

Hyderabad is the fifth largest city in India. It is the capital of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which has a population of about 80 million.
Besides its magnificent architectural structures, it is also home to modern academic centers such as Osmania University and the Indian School of Business, which attract many students from different countries. More importantly, it is a hub of modern software technology that has won worldwide acclaim.
The city has been blessed with a rich cultural heritage. Adorned with over 130 heritage buildings and 32 archaeological monuments, the city reflects the lyrical beauty its founder, the poet Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah, who was originally Iranian, envisioned in 1591. He said the city should be “a replica of heaven and unparalleled in the world.”
The cosmopolitan city, which has been one of the centers of traditional Indian art since its founding, has also maintained its distinctive architecture, which is a mixture of the styles and designs of various cultures.
Persian architecture
Old Hyderabad is mostly influenced by Persian architecture. The Iranian architects of Hyderabad modeled the new city on Isfahan, and that is why Isfahan No (New Isfahan) is another name for Hyderabad. The 500-year presence of Iranians in this region has helped bring about great cultural developments in southern India such that no historian or archaeologist can present a comprehensive and clear picture of the past and present status of the region without considering the role of Iranians and Muslim rulers. The effects of this presence are noticeable in the regional people’s language, culture, art, and architecture.
Hyderabad and its twin city Secunderabad are separated by a bund known in the local parlance as the Tank Bund, which was built across the Hussein Sagar, an artificial lake that was constructed during the time of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah in 1562, before the city took shape.
Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of the city, is also credited with strengthening the fortress town of Golconda, which was the world’s primary supplier of diamonds.
Aside from building mosques, palaces, and beautiful gardens in an around the Golconda fort, Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah initiated or constructed several monuments that still embellish the sands of time, such as Charminar and the Ashurkhana. These monuments display the excellent engineering and skilful works of those days.
The monuments, built by the rulers with architectural beauty, reflect the rich traditions and cultural heritage of the Deccan. These monuments, which attract thousands of tourists, have withstood the vagaries of weather and natural calamities for hundreds of years.
Qutb Shahi Tombs
If the pyramids in Egypt are structures that deify and perpetuate the memory of the Pharaohs, the Qutb Shahi tombs in Hyderabad are no less in grandeur for rulers of the Qutb Shahi dynasty to rest in peace eternally amidst sylvan surroundings.
These monuments were built between 1518 and 1687 by the Quli Qutb Shahi dynasty, who were originally from Iran and ruled Hyderabad almost five centuries ago.
The area housing the tombs is the only one of its kind in the world where an entire dynasty has been buried at one place. The Qutb Shahi tombs lie to the north of Golconda.
Planned and built by the Qutb Shahis themselves, the tombs, constructed on raised platforms, are among the oldest historical monuments in Hyderabad. They are built in Persian, Pathan and Hindu architectural styles.
Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) and the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Ministry have prepared a draft agreement for the restoration of the Qutb Shahi Tombs.
Charminar is the pearl of Hyderabad. This eloquent structure known as the gate of the city glorifies the Eastern civilization.
The structure, built from 1591 to 1592 in the southern part of Hyderabad, gives a panoramic view of the city and was declared a protected monument in 1886. The structure is what the Taj Mahal is to New Delhi, and the Eiffel Tower to Paris
Any Iranian visiting Charminar finds himself or herself at home. Even the word Charminar is a Persian name composed of two words char meaning “four” and minar meaning “minaret”.
It is a magnificent square edifice of granite built upon four grand arches facing north, south, east and west. The arches support two floors of rooms and a gallery of archways. An exemplary piece of architecture that is known for its symmetry and precision, the towering structure is a perfect square, with each side measuring 20 meters. There are lofty arched openings on each of the four sides that are 11 meters wide and 20 meters high. At each corner of the square structure is a minaret that rises to a height of 24 meters, making the building nearly 54 meters high.
Mecca Masjid
The Mecca Masjid is located two hundred yards southwest of Charminar. The work on the mosque began in 1614 by Sultan Mohammad Qutb Shah (the sixth Qutb Shahi ruler) and was completed by Aurangazeb in 1693. It is the second largest mosque in Asia. The mosque building is 225 feet long, 180 feet wide, and 75 feet high. It is the biggest mosque in Hyderabad. Its name is derived from the Grand Mosque at Mecca on which it is patterned.
Its hall is 67 meters by 54 meters and 23 meters high. The roof is supported by 15 arches, five on each of the three sides.
The mosque can easily accommodate 10,000 people at a time.
Chowmahalla Palace
Hyderabad has many palaces which have witnessed the reign of the Nizams, who were among the richest royalty in the world. The oldest and the most sprawling of the palaces belonging to the Asaf Jahi dynasty of the Nizams is the Chowmahalla Palace, which occupies a whole street between Laad Bazaar, Hyderabad’s famous bangle market, and the Mecca Masjid. In Urdu, chow means four and mahalla means palaces, hence the name Chowmahalla means four palaces. Chowmahalla is a replica of palaces in Tehran, Iran’s capital.
The palace is unique for its style and elegance. Construction of the palace began in the late 18th century and over the decades a synthesis of many architectural styles and influences emerged. The palace consists of two courtyards, southern courtyard and northern courtyard. The palace was the grand venue of the state receptions hosted by the Nizam.
Golconda fort
The grand fortress town of Golcondais is built on a granite hill. It was synonymous with diamond mines in its heyday. It was a nerve center of global trade in diamonds and other precious stones. The fort is 120 meters high and is surrounded by massive crenellated ramparts.
The origins of the fort date to 1143, when the Kakatiya dynasty ruled the area. Later the fort fell to the Bahamani sultanate. After the fall of the Bahamani kingdom, the fort once again rose to prominence as the seat of power during the reign of Qutb Shahi kings around 1507.
The Bahamani kings as well as the first three Qutb Shahi kings expanded the mud fort for more than six decades. They made it an impregnable structure of granite that extended around 5 kilometers in circumference. It remained the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty until about 1590, when the capital was shifted to Hyderabad. The Qutb Shahi’s sway over the fort continued until Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb’s conquest in 1687.
Golconda originally consisted of four distinct forts with a 10-kilometer-long outer wall having 87 semi-circular bastions, many of them mounted with cannons. The fort had eight gateways measuring 69 feet high, four drawbridges, royal apartments, grand halls, temples, mosques, etc. inside. The outermost enclosure is the Fateh Darwaza (victory gate, signifying Aurangazeb’s victorious march through the gate).
Salar Jung Museum
Salar Jung Museum houses the world’s largest one-man collection of priceless antiques and relics from practically every part of the world. The museum contains a collection of more than 48,000 artifacts including manuscripts and 50,000 books including Persian poetry.
5,400 Persian manuscripts are kept in the museum. A collection of antique Iranian carpets is also kept in a separate gallery of the center.
The original collection is attributed to Salar Jung III, a scion of a family that gave the last two Nizams of Hyderabad renowned prime ministers. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of period clocks and a sculptural masterpiece called the “veiled Rebecca’. Named after Nawab Salar Jung the III, the museum is an unfailing source of endless delight to art lovers, history buffs, and those who have cultivated an eye for peerless objet d’arts.
Many foreign visitors who visit the national museum will see a trace of their country’s artworks there.
Exquisite antiques, paintings, porcelain articles, jewelry, carpets, weapons, fabrics, toys and priceless items in the museum give endless streams of visitors to the museum unforgettable experience.
Ramoji Film City
Ramoji Film City is considered the world’s largest film city. It is located 25 kilometers from Hyderabad. Spread over 2000 acres, it gives visitors the chance to be part of the magic, allure and grandeur of films. It is a popular tourism and recreation centre, containing both natural and artificial attractions. Extraordinary gardens and authentic sets make this experience truly memorable. An exhaustive guided tour is offered in a special vintage bus.
Film producer Ramoji Rao, head of the Ramoji Group, opened the facility in 1996. The creation of the Ramoji Film City was an outcome of the group's association with Indian cinema through Usha Kiron Movies, its dedicated film production house, which has produced over 80 films in several languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi and Bangla. Inside there is Hawa Mahal, based along the lines of the Golconda Fort, which is on a hilltop from where one can have a bird’s eye view of the whole studios.
A Japanese garden, artificial waterfalls, breathtakingly accurate airport terminal, hospital set, railway station, churches, mosques and temples, palace interiors, rural complexes, urban dwellings, and a winding highway are some other places for tourists to visit.
Twenty international films and forty Indian films can be produced simultaneously in the complex. It has attracted not only filmmakers from the country, but also producers from Hollywood.
HITEC City (Hyderabad Information Technology Engineering Consultancy City) is a major technology township which is at the center of the information technology industry in Hyderabad. Situated on the outskirts of the city, it is the nucleus of Cyberabad, the IT destination in this part of the world.
The base of the HITEC city is a creatively and yet efficiently constructed 10-storied cylindrical building encircled by a cluster of grand structures raised to house IT companies, both Indian and foreign. The HITECH city has already attracted multinational software giants like IBM, Microsoft, GE Capital, Toshiba, and Oracle and Indian companies like Satyam Computers and Wipro. An earth station has come up in the township which links Hyderabad to the five continents of the world.
Medical tourism
In addition to being a hub of software technology, Hyderabad has already gained the status of medical capital of India. There are many corporate multi-specialty hospitals and other medical institutes in the city.
Today the city receives many medical tourists as the costs are too low in regard to other medical centers in the world.
Leonia Holistic Resorts
In light of booming Hyderabad the Leonia Holistic Resorts is ready to meet today’s needs. Leonia is an innovative world-class resort which offers guests the synergy of leisure, business, recreation and health care facilities artfully brought together in one serene location. It is a luxurious estate that blends tradition and modernity in a unique, natural, restful and inspired setting with clear pools, floral gardens and green landscaping. Leo Conclave is one of the Asia’s grandest multipurpose convention facilities with a variety of halls designed to cater to different needs ranging from the largest national and international seminars and conferences to the smallest in-house company meetings.