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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrLong under the age of Muslim rule, the land of India has been a major diffusion of Muslim culture right from the days of Mohammad Bin Qasim (An Arab) which was in 715 A.D until the final reign of the Last Great Mughal Emperor of India, Bahadur Shah, which ended in 1858. From the introduction of Islamic architecture, arts and music to gastronomy, the Muslim rule has made a major foundation besides the traditional Hindu establishment which were already there in the then-Hindustan .
The pomp and grandeur that was prevalent during the Muslim rule can still be felt when visiting some of the popular destinations of India where they have marked their presence. Amongst all such places where the Muslim rule has established their foundation right from the birth of the town, modern Hyderabad is one such city that deserves special mention in that respect.
Established by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, Hyderabad was once a city of jewels, pearls, art and architecture which are aspects of Hyderabad that can still be felt today amidst the rapid urbanization of the city over the last few decades. Hyderabad is also nicknamed as ‘Cyberabad’, by the tech-savvy youths of India because of the large concentration of blue-chip companies there.
History and DemographicsHyderabad and Secunderabad are the twin cities separated by the famous Hussain Shah Lake . The imperial Hyderabad city is also the capital of Telengana or erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, and serves as a major business hub in India.
Before the accession of the long-standing Muslim rule in the city, Hyderabad was once ruled by the kings of Hindu and Buddhist royalty. The Chalukya kingdom also established their strong presence for a long time in this land. However, in 1321 AD the Muslim ruler, Mohammed Bin Tughlaq, of the Tughluq dynasty created total carnage in the city, decimating the Chalukya kingdom after a fierce and bloodied war. From there on, many dynasties made their aggression to take the city under control. Finally, during the 15th century, the city came under the control of Bahmani Sultanate.
In 1518, the actual history of Hyderabad as a city began, after escaping from the clutch of Bahmani Sultanate, and Sultan Quli Qutub Shah (the founder of modern Hyderabad) established his kingdom in the fort of Golconda. That was the start of Qutb Shahi dynasty in Hyderabad which continued for a pretty long time. The city of Hyderabad prospered under the rule of Qutb Shah and so by the 17th century, Hyderabad was the seat of art and culture in the southern territories in India. The city also became a major trading point of diamonds to different corners of the world.
Nevertheless, in 1686 the fame of Hyderabad city was no longer unknown to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, and he finally led his siege in Golconda. At first Emperor Aurangzeb was unable to lay hands on Golconda fort because of the impregnable protection, which became hard for him to penetrate. Later in 1687, the Golconda fort finally came under the control of the Mughals. The last king of Qutb Shahi Dynasty, Sultan Abul Hassan Tana Shah, was arrested by the Mughals and this was the start of Hyderabad's downfall. The diamond trade ceased to exist and the city slowly turned into ruins.
During the 18th century, when the Mughal Empire slowly crumbled to pieces and the British rule rose in prominence, Hyderabad came under the rule of the Nizams. During the Nizams reign, Hyderabad again regained her prominence from both economic and cultural facets. Finally in 1947, when India was declared an independent country, Hyderabad was freed from all the rulers and was included in the Indian Republic.
Hyderabad is located on the north-west of Telangana state, by the banks of the Musi River. The Deccan plateau falls in the north of the city. Hyderabad is dotted with a number of lakes and hillocks, giving the city a unique presence unlike other cities of India.
EtymologyThe name ‘Hyderabad’ is derived from two Urdu words: Hyder means ‘lion’ and bad means ‘city’. In other words, it means “The city which is protected and ruled by a Lion”.
Sightseeing in HyderabadOwing to the historical significance, Hyderabad has a number of historical locations to visit. Following are the places that you should plan to see during your tour to Hyderabad.
CharminarHyderabad is identified with the famous city landmark Charminar.
Built by Qutb Shah, the historic structure is built under the influence of Indo-Islamic architecture. Charminar has four minarets at each corner with 149 steps to reach to the top of the tower. The middle section of the building is used for prayer which overlooks the city of Hyderabad. Charminar remains open every day from 9 AM till 5 PM with the exception of Friday. It also remains closed from 1 PM till 2 PM for prayer. To enter the building, you need to pay ₨ 100 ($1.60) as a foreigner. For the use of video cameras, you need to pay an extra ₨ 25 ($0.40).
Chowmahalla PalaceBuilt during the 18th century, the breathtaking Chowmahalla Palace was once the residence of the Nizams and is famous for its elegance and splendor. The palace remains open from 10 AM till 5 PM and is kept closed on Fridays and other Indian national holidays. As a foreigner, you will need to pay ₨ 150 ($2.40) for entering the palace. For still camera you need to pay another ₨ 50 ($0.80) and ₨ 100 ($1.60) for the use of video camera within the royal edifice. In order to preserve its intricately marble motifs on the palace floors, use of any kind of camera tripod is strictly prohibited inside the fort.
Golconda FortThe architectural landmark, that is Golconda Fort, near Hyderabad city is one of the most remarkable places to visit. The massive fortress served as the capital of the Qutb Shah Dynasty until they moved to Hyderabad. The Golconda Fort is around 800 years old and it stands as the witness of the former rulers that once helped in building the still prosperous city of Hyderabad. The fort is located around 11 kilometers from the main Hyderabad city. The walls of the fort vary in height from 5 meter to 10 meter and are broken by 87 semi-circular bastions. Some of the bastions are 18 meter in height and the majestic fort stands on a granite hill that lies at an altitude of 122 meter.
Falaknuma PalaceLocated around 5 kilometers from the historic Charminar, Falaknuma Palace was built by the former president of Hyderabad and the emir of Paigahs, Nawab Vikarul-Umra.This magnificent palace was built based on a mix of Italian and Tudor architecture. The entire palace is built of Italian marble, accommodating 222 rooms with 22 massive halls and also a library. The design of the palace resembles the shape of a scorpion and it houses some of the greatest treasures from the time of the Nawabi rules. From the best collection of Qurans to a spectacular collection of Jades, the palace is just a pure treat for all to see. The ceiling of the roof is decorated with frescoes and has an abundance of Victorian furniture and chandeliers which are a real spectacular to look at. Falaknuma Palace opens every day from 8 AM and is kept open till 10 PM.
Salar Jung MuseumConsidered as the largest privately held collection in the world, the museum showcases the treasures that once belonged to Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan. With a rare artwork collection, 47,000 printed books and 9,000 manuscripts, the museum is a treasure trove and draws huge attention from the connoisseurs and students of art. Besides, it has a magnificent collection of rare watches, swords and daggers of the past Mughal rulers along with a vast collection of carpets, fine China, and porcelains.
The museum is located in Salar Jung Road and remains open every day from 10 AM till 5 PM, except Friday. As a foreigner, you need to pay ₨ 150 ($2.40) and an extra ₨ 50 ($0.80) for the camera.
Purani HaveliLocated near Afzal Gubj Bridge, Purani Haveli is another palace of the last Nizam of Hyderabad. The U-shaped palace of Purani Haveli was built with an influence of Indo-European architecture and has a sizeable display of Nizam’s belongings like gifts, souvenirs and mementos received by the Nizam, from various dignitaries all over the world, during his tenure. The palace remains open every day, except Friday, from 10:30 AM till 5:00 PM.
Raymond’s TombRaynond's Tomb belongs to Monsieur Raymond, a French general in the Nizam’s army. The tomb is accompanied by a beautiful pavilion and is placed on the top of a hillock. Raymond’s tomb is located near the Asman Garh Palace.
Bhongir FortLocated around 48 kilometers from the Hyderabad city, the magnificent fort was built during the 12th century by the time of Vikramaditya VI, the ruler of the Chalukya Empire. The fort is located on the top of a hill and is spread out on 40 acres of land. With the course of time, Bhongir Fort has lost its glory and one can only see the ruins, but still nevertheless it’s definitely worth a visit.
Qutub Shahi TombsLocated very in close proximity to the Golconda Fort, the impressive tomb rests all seven rulers of the Qutb Shahi dynasty who ruled Golconda for roughly 170 years. The tomb is surrounded by a beautiful garden called Ibrahim Bagh. All of the seven tombs have their own distinct pattern constructed and designed with an influence of Hindu, Persian and Pathan architectural forms. Qutub Shahi Tombs remain open every day from 9:30 AM till 5: 30 PM. You will need to pay ₨ 10 ($0.16) for entry. For still camera, you need to pay ₨ 20 ($0.32) and ₨ 100 ($1.60) for the use of video cameras.
Mecca MasjidBuilt by Qutb Shah, the mosque is one of the most important and the oldest places of worship for the Muslims in India. Located in front of the Charminar, the sheer breadth of the mosque can occupy 10,000 devotees at one time. The construction of Mecca Masjid is designed under the influence of Islamic architecture and was completed in 1694.
Besides the mentioned places of interest above, you can also visit Taramati Baradari, Yadagirigutta Temple, Paigah Tombs, Botanical Garden, Legislative Assembly, King Kothi Palace, Birla Science Museum, Chilkur Balaji Temple, Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, Mir Alam Tank, Birla Planetarium and Ramoji Film City which lies in and around the city.
Also be sure to visit some of the famous lakes of Hyderabad. They are Hussain Sagar Lake, Saroornagar, Durgam Cheruvu, Shamirpet, Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar.
Festivals in HyderabadHyderabad has a mix of Muslim and Hindu faith and the major festivals enjoyed by the people in the city are Ganesha Chaturthi, Muharram, Diwali, Bonalu, Holi, Ugadi, Dussehra, Sankranthi, Ramzan and Rakhi.
AccommodationSome of the recommended budget and mid-range hotels in Hyderabad are Sitara Paradise, Minerva, Parklane, Dwaraka Heritage, Haridwar, Ashoka, Aahwaanam, Classic Lodge & Boarding, The Central Court, Best Western Amrutha Castle, Anmol International, Athithi Inn, Asrani International, Falcons Nest Imperia Suites, Hotel Mandakini Jaya International, Grand Solitaire, Harsha, Minerva Grand, Leo Continental, Kamat Lingapur, Quality Inn Residency, Sai Prakash, Rukmini Riviera and others.
If you are looking forward to getting pampered with luxurious services, some of the recommended high-budget hotels in Hyderabad are Taj Falaknuma Palace, Taj Hotels Group; Novotel, Marriott; Ista Hyderabad, ITC Kakatiya; Green Park, Hampshire Plaza; The Golkonda, Aditya Park and Fortune Select Manohar.
Where to EatOwing to the influence of the Muslim rule, Hyderabad is famous for its Mughal cuisine. In fact, a journey to Hyderabad remains incomplete if you don’t taste its most famous Mutton or Beef Biriyani .
The other famous cuisines that you should try in Hyderabad are Hyderabadi dum biryani, Double Ka Meetha, Hyderabadi Haleem, Kachchi gosht ki biriyani, Gosht (Beef), Falooda and Irani chai.
Some of the recommended budget and mid-range restaurants of Hyderabad which are well known by both the residents and tourist for its local delicacies are Rayalseema Ruchulu, Paradise Restaurant, Zafraan Exotica, Ullaasa, Sahib Sindh Sultan, Malgudi, 4 Seasons, Shadaab, Taj Mahal Restaurant and others.
Moving Around in HyderabadHyderabad is a modern city and a major business hub of India. In order to travel within the city, you can avail local bus, taxis and auto-rickshaw. Walking is also a good idea in order to get a feel of the city. If you plan to do some sightseeing, the best option would be to hire a private car to travel to all the major destinations in and across Hyderabad.
How to reachWith a large concentration of IT sectors located in the famous Hi-Tec Park, Hyderabad is well connected internationally as well as domestically.
Hyderabad is also well-networked via train services as it connects to most of the popular locations within India.
Best Time to Visit HyderabadHyderabad is best to visit from October until the end of March. Summers are hot and moist in this part of the Indian subcontinent, hence it’s always nice to visit Hyderabad during its winter months.
Shopping in HyderabadIf you are in Hyderabad, shopping is a must. Once famous for precious diamonds and jewelries, the city still tries to retain its value. The famous Laad Bazar in the Charminar area is one of the most popular spots for the shopaholic tourists. The market is famous for jewelries, bangles, bracelets, necklace and earrings of different designs and varieties. These jewelries are either crusted with semi-precious stones or exquisite pearls and the price may vary according to their model.
For traditional handicrafts and jewelries, you can check out the Meena Bazar in Abids Street.
Like other modern cities, Hyderabad also has a number of shopping malls such as, Big Bazaar, MPM Malls, Inorbit Mall, and Lifestyle.
Tip for the travelersBe cautious, most of the public tourist spots remains closed on Friday in the city of the Nizams and the Nawabs. Hence, plan your trip accordingly.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Jan 04, 2015