Nikita Sharma, New Delhi
One built the TajMahal for his dead wife and the other named a city after her. Hyderabad, more famous today as Cyberabad, was named because of the love of Muhammad Quli for RaniBhagmati, later called Begum HaidarMahal. It is a striking example of what inspired lovers are capable of doing. And what a love story it was. The son of a Muslim king in love with a Hindu, village dancer.
The construction of the city was completed in 1592. Today, the city is an ideal mix of the past and the present. Known for its pearls, biryanis and the IT revolution, Hyderabad was once the proud owner of the Kohinoor diamond, the Darya-i-Noor, the Orloff, the Pitt, and the great table of the Nizam. Today most of these treasures can be seen behind tightly secured glass cages of museums abroad, but what you can see here, is the place where it all began.
Some 550 kilometres from Bangalore, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, is well connected by road, rail, bus and the air network of the country. The official language is Telugu, but most people understand Hindi and English perfectly well. For those who understand Hindi, the heavily accented Hindi is a treat to hear.
A weekend might be enough for most travellers to Hyderabad, but if possible, budget for at least 3 days as there is enough to look out for in this place for people of all ages.
For those who are enamored by stories of love, valor and treachery, two visits to the 16th century fortress – Golconda Fort are well recommended. Visit the fort in the daytime and take a guide who will tell you the intricacies of construction of the fort. He will show you how a clap at one end of the giant fort was heard at the top of the hill by the king’s sentries; how the king could unobtrusively watch the court proceedings without anyone being aware of his presence; the days of a glorious empire and how it all ended. Then visit the fort again at night to witness the sound-and-light-show to hear more stories told by famous Indian artistes and watch the transformation of the fortress as it is lit in red, blue and gold before you.
On the way back to the city are the tombs of Qutb Shah. The seven kings of Hyderabad and their families lie here, entombed by beautiful Iranian styled arched tombs. Each was constructed in their lifetime, so after death the world could remember them. See the splendor of the sprawling city from here. The tomb of Begum HaidarMahal has been renovated recently and it glows luminously, while the other tombs still stand, greyed out, silently awaiting their turn for the Archaeological Society’s attention.
If you want to see a truly beautiful and large private collection of antique artifacts, visit the Salar Jung Museum. It boasts of books written in the 11th century, of oriental artifacts, Egyptian carpets, European glassware and Indian handicrafts. Don’t miss the famous double-sided statue of the veiled lady, and listen to the sweet chimes of the hourly clock.
A slightly long walk from the museum will take you to the famous Charminar. The majestic architectural hub of the city stands at the heart of the old city of Hyderabad, built by Mohammad QuliQutub Shah in 1591. The structure is square, each side measuring 100 feet, with a central pointed high arch at the center. The minarets, their domed finials, rise to 180 feet from the ground. The whole edifice contains numerous small decorative arches arranged both vertically and horizontally and you can climb up the structure to see the crowded market place below. The Charminar is built so that from the Golconda fort only two of its minarets are visible – like a mosque, one for Allah and the other for Prophet Muhammad.
One of India’s largest mosques is also located near Charminar. The Mecca Masjid can accommodate upto 10,000 people. Its construction was initiated by Muhammad Qutb Shah in 1617 and completed by Aurangzeb in 1693. Entry charges to these buildings are nominal at Rs. 10/- to Rs. 25/- per adult with extra charges for cameras. For foreigners, entry fees is about $5.
If shopping interests you, the nearby Chudi market with its brilliant coloured glass bangles is a visual treat. In the crowded streets here, people shop for just about anything and everything.
For those interested in spending a relaxed evening under the open sky, spend a few hours at NTR garden or watch the laser show in Lumbini Park. Then take a cruise down the HussainSagar Lake to the Buddha statue. The HussainSagar, popularly known as Tank Bund was constructed in 1562 AD by Ibrahim Qutb Shah in appreciation of Husain Shah Wali, who had cured him of a disease. It connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The Necklace road outlines it and the streetlights reflected off the water have their own charm.
The famous Birla temple is very popular with devotees seeking darshan of Lord Vekateshwara.
If you are a movie buff, spend a day at the Ramoji Film city watching how movies are made. One of the largest film cities, the Ramoji film city is located 25 kms from Hyderabad en route to Vijaywada. For Rs. 200/- each, you can enjoy bus rides in the film city and walk through many film sets. Step inside an airport and walk out of a church. Walk inside Ajanta caves and stand face to face with an Anaconda. Enjoy the rides, stroll through beautiful gardens, feel the spray from lovely fountains and watch some crazy dance fusion shows, Wild West stunt shows and comedy shows. End the day with a movie on the world’s largest Imax screen located in a city mall.
Finally, for a non-vegetarian, Hyderabad is not appropriately visited until you taste the famous biryanis. Savour the rice dishes with kababs, haleem or Nahari sheep trotters and end the meal with the royal ShahiTukra. For vegetarians the fare is not half as exciting.
• By Air
The Rajiv Gandhi International terminal, Hyderabad’s international airport is well-connected with major cities across the globe. The airport also has a domestic terminal called NT Rama Rao which is connected to most of the Indian cities. Approximately 20 kilometres away from the city, the airport is situated in the Begumpet area. Almost all airlines fly daily from and to Hyderabad. Once you reach here, you can find many private and prepaid taxis outside the airport. The cab fare may vary depending upon which part of Hyderabad city you would like to go.
• By Train
There are three major railheads in the city, namely, Hyderabad Railway Station, Secunderabad Railway Station and Kachiguda Railway Station. These railheads connect major Indian cities like Bangalore, Chennai, New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. Some of the popular trains that run daily from Hyderabad rail junctions are Kacheguda Express, Hyderabad Express, Charminar Express, Konark Express, Andhra Pradesh Express and Shatabdi Express.
• By Bus
Boasting of a huge bus terminal, the city is well-connected to its neighbouring towns like Aurangabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Tirupati and Panaji. The bus terminal is managed and well-organised by Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). You can choose from sleeper, deluxe, super deluxe, air-conditioned and Volvo buses that are operated by both state and private companies. The fare would depend upon the type of the bus and the destination.
• Road/Self Drive
The roads in Hyderabad are good and are well-connected with national highways and flyovers. Nearby cities like Nagpur, Pune (via NH 9), Mumbai (via expressway), Warangal and Bangalore (via NH 7) can be easily accessed by road.