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The hugely atmospheric city of Hyderabad

The hugely atmospheric city of hyderabad lead.jpg

Explore this fascinating city that first came to prominence in the 15th century when it became the capital of the Qutub Shahi Sultans. Famous as the source of the great diamonds that included the Koh-I-Noor and a major entrepot for east-west trade, Hyderabad soon attracted the attention of the Great Mughal and in the 17th century passed into Mughal control.

In the 18th century, the Mughal governors moved the capital of the southern province to Hyderabad and the city became the first in India to reach a population of 1 million in the early 18th cent. As the Mughal Empire declined the governors, known as the Nizams set themselves up as semi-independent hereditary rulers who were deeply embroiled in the struggle between indigenous rulers, the French and the British. With the final triumph of the British, Hyderabad negotiated a Treaty that acknowledged paramountcy of British authority.

The turbulent history of Hyderabad, its importance in trade and the myriad influences that acted upon it have been mirrored in a fascinating architectural and social heritage. Yet it has modernized successfully as well and gained a reputation as being modern, cosmopolitan and business-friendly.

The mix of modern in the newer parts of the city and traditional in Old Hyderabad gives this city a wonderful feel. It is a city of so many treasures - many unknown even to locals that you need time to explore and rest! Do spend at least couple of days so that you will be able to visit the main sites and its hidden treasures in the most logical manner and also time to enjoy your iconic hotel – the Taj Falaknuma Palace.

The old city of Hyderabad was built from scratch by the Qutub Shahi’s and the square grid plan is still very much evident despite the overwhelming numbers of people and traffic. The original plan of the city is reminiscent, according to some scholars, of the Persian city of Isfahan. The centre of the city, placed athwart the main East-west, north-south axes, is marked by the striking Charminar the symbol of Hyderabad.

Explore this wonderful area with its vibrant life and splendid monuments that include the 4 great Gates or Kamans, the Jama Masjid and the huge Mecca Masjid begun by the Qutub Shahi’s but completed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It is here that the Nizams are buried. You can also take time off to explore the exotic Lad Bazaar. This is a street dating back to the early 18th Century and the shops have virtually all specialized in the sale of wedding paraphernalia – especially the beautiful multi-coloured glass and gold bangle sets that are such a traditional mark of Indian celebration.

Just behind the Lad Bazaar is one of the most iconic palace complexes of South India – the Chowmahalla Palace, official seat of the Nizams of Hyderabad begun in the 18th century and completed in 1869, the 4 palaces of this complex demonstrate the different architectural influences that created the Hyderabadi style. At the centre of the complex is the Durbar Hall, beautifully finished in polished marble with the throne dais in the centre. The Northern Courtyard is now restored and houses an interesting museum of Nizami artefacts and textiles and photos. The galleries that surround the courtyard house a changing exhibition of handicrafts and craftsmen from across the country. The restoration of this complex has been undertaken by the Princess Ezra, wife of the present Nizam.

The pre-Hyderabad capital of the Qutub Shahis – Golconda. Stop at the complex of royal tombs that magnificently exemplify the best of Deccani architecture. The entire landscape is dominated by the vast looming bulk of the Fort rising in tiers to the summit which is crowned by the Baradari or Pavilion, a private retreat of the Sultans which affords a panoramic view of the entire area.

One morning drive out not far from your hotel to the tombs of the Paigah Nobles - closest to the Nizams by blood and loyalty. These tombs are some of the most exquisite buildings in South India and yet are barely even known to the majority of the public. You enter through an obscure lane and are immediately transported into an oasis of calm and peace. Depending on your level of interest - visit the Salar Jung Museum the single-handed collection of Nawab Salar Jung III, Prime Minister of Hyderabad. It is something of an eclectic collection but houses some true rarities - including some of the most priceless manuscripts, jewellery, weapons and jade objects.

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