Hyderabad: The city of Nizams and delectable Biriyani

Qutub Shahi Hyderabad

Hyderabad is somewhat like Kolkata. A sprawling economic center serving as the hub for corporate agglomerations but the core of the city still maintains its quaint charm. Threads of 400 year old traditions weaved as a fabric of a modern city. A perfect blend of traditions and modernity. Hyderabad served as the capital of undivided Andhra Pradesh and now Telangana. Hyderabad emerged as the cultural capital of India following the collapse of the Mughal dynasty with Qutub Shahis and later the Nizams taking charge. Apart from iconic monuments, Hyderabad is also famous for its food joints and unique recipes. The scrumptious Hyderabadi biriyani, in particular, has accomplished worldwide fame and is popular among food lovers.

Major attractions: Golconda Fort, Charminar, Chowmahala Palace, Salar Jung Museum, Birla Temple, Qutub Shahi tombs.

I went to Hyderabad in January which is one of the best times in the year to visit Hyderabad or for that matter any place in South India. I stayed there for 3 days in one of my friends apartment at Gachibowli. He carefully planned the trip so that I can cover most of the places without making it a tiresome affair. I have many more friends at Hyderabad and they all contributed in making the trip memorable for me. This trip was somewhat different from my other trips. It was not only about sightseeing. We explored many popular food junctions, auto rickshaw rides, strolled in the necklace road, visited IT Tech parks including my own company (WIPRO) office at Hyderabad. Good friends can add an essence to everything which makes even mundane things memorable.

Day 1

As expected, it started bit late. After a whole night bus travel from Bangalore, I was bit exhausted and slept for some time before freshening up. At first I went to WIPRO and met few friends there. I was meeting them after a long time so I had lunch and spent few hours with them. After that I went to the Golconda Fort.

Golconda Fort:

Golconda is a strategic architectural wonder and an engineering marvel with fantastic acoustic communication systems. It showcases the great glory of the Kakatiya dynasty and later the Musunuri Nayaks. Built on a 480 feet high granite hill, its one of the most magnificent fortress complexes in the country. Although now the fort is remnants of the original structure one can’t help but wonder about the technology that existed hundreds of years ago. Some marvelous highlights of the fort is the clapping portico, the mortuary bath, mosques while you climb up, Persian style tombs & pillars, Turkish architecture, Ramdas prison, Rani Mahal, Nagina Bagh, the administrative offices of those times, the vast gardens, the open terrace where performances used to happen and the darbars. There are stone pillars installed near these places describing them. Golconda Fort once housed the famed Kohinoor diamond before it was looted by the Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji. The elaborate architecture to carry drinking water to the top and acoustic warning system are marvels and should be carefully observed. Although the guide charges are quite high and also subjected to bargain(not fixed), hiring a guide will make things interesting for you. Without a guide, Golconda fort may just be a ruined archaeological site for the visitors.

Golconda Fort

Although Golconda fort is a site of rich cultural heritage, I was appalled by the rubbish strewn all over this historical site; there was a total lack of bins for waste collection. Over it you will find graffiti and names inscribed and written literally on every wall, there are no drinking water facilities along the stairs in spite of the supervision of ASI. The lack of proper management made the experience somewhat sour.

Climbing to the top of the fort is quite enervating. It is a difficult trek, particularly for old aged people. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes for the meandering stairs and carry a water bottle with you as there is no drinking water facility until you reach the top. A good quality sunscreen protecting your skin is always advisable. On the top, there are few snacks and beverage kiosks where you can buy eatables to rejuvenate yourself. If you visit there in the evening don’t miss the light and sound show which elaborately narrates the history of the fort and the rulers of that era.

Qutub Shahi Tombs:

The Qutub Shahi dynasty ruled over the Deccan between 1512 to 1687. About 1 km from the Golconda fort is the Ibrahim Bagh which has the tombs of 7 generations of Qutub Shahi rulers. In total there are 16 large tombs and a few smaller ones of the Qutub Shahi rulers, their family members and other close aides. The tombs are mammoth in size, having beautifully carved domes and are built over a raised platform in Persian architecture. In the center of each tomb is a sarcophagus under which lies the actual burial vault. Apart from the mausoleums, the other notable structures in the premises are- the mortuary bath (used for the last bathing rites of the dead kings) and the dargah of Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali. The tomb of Abdul Hasan Qutub Shah, the last Qutub Shahi Sultan is incomplete and without a dome. If you are visiting Golconda, I would suggest you to spare about 30 mins and have a quick visit to this place.

The Qutub Shahi Tombs
The incomplete tomb

From the tombs, I went back to the office and then my friend`s place. At around 7:30 PM, we went to the famous Necklace road and spent some time near the Hussain Sagar. Hussain Sagar is another iconic spot of Hyderabad; its a large lake located right in the heart of the city. We spent some time there and left for dinner near Charminar.

View of the Necklace road from the Hussain Sagar

Hyderabadi biriyani & Charminar:

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Delectable Hyderabadi biriyani

Hyderabad and biriyani have become synonymous over the years with Hyderabadi biriyani receiving worldwide recognition for its delectable taste. Being a food lover, I wanted to go to Hyderabad and taste the most authentic version of the spicy Hyderabadi biriyani. So that day`s dinner was to fulfill that wish. We went to Shadab restaurant which is about 1 km from Charminar. I ordered a plate of mutton biriyani and wow how tasty it was !!! It’s not that I never tasted a better biriyani than that but it was definitely different from everything I had ever tasted.

After completing the satiating dinner, we walked to the Charminar. It was really surprising to see shops open even at 11:45 in the night. The Charminar area is mostly inhabited by Muslims which was evident from the pathani suits and topis of the locals. Charminar was built by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 and was situated right in the center of Hyderabad when it was constructed. It has become a global icon representing Hyderabad. The Charminar has a square structure with four grand arches. At each corner, there is a 56m minaret and each minaret is crowned by a bulbous dome with dainty petal like designs at the base. The structure has a combination of stucco decorations and an elaborate arrangement of balustrades and balconies. In the night, the Charminar looked beautiful with colourful lights illuminating the ancient structure. The only unfortunate thing about that place is the crowd quality. The area near Charminar is not safe, particularly in the night time. When we visited Charminar, I had 2 girls with me and we were subjected to some unwanted attention and abuse which was appalling. So I would suggest you to avoid going there in the night time.

The Charminar

Day 2

On the second day, I went to Ramoji Film City which is the largest film studio complex in the world. I have written a separate article on that. Click on the below link to read about it:

Ramoji Film City: World’s largest film studio complex

Day 3

The Chowmahalla Palace

The third day was not quite planned. It was supposed to be a day connecting the left dots on the tourism map of Hyderabad. I wanted to start with the Falaknuma Palace, but as I later found out, the palace has now been acquired by the Taj group and converted into a hotel cum restaurant. To visit that palace, you have to become a guest of the hotel or pay a hefty entry charges. So we dropped that plan. Instead of Falaknuma, we went to the Chowmahalla Palace which is very close to Charminar. Chowmahalla Palace was the official residence of the Nizams and is owned by the royal family even today. The entry fees is Rs.40 for Indians, Rs.150 for foreign nationals and an additional Rs. 50 for still cameras. The exterior of the palace is not very grand but the interior is completely opposite. (As the saying goes.. don’t judge the book by its cover). As we entered into the palace, we first came across a huge hall with marble floors and large marble pillars. This place used to be the darbar of the Nizams and has hosted many religious and royal ceremonies. It has an exquisite collection of crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Inside the palace, in the upper floors, there is a museum which houses many royal artifacts, ceremonial dresses, old paintings and gifts received by the royal family.

Palace interior

Behind the palace, is the residential area. Visitors are not allowed inside this building and can only peek into its magnificent interiors through the glass windows. There is a museum of the holy Qurans. It has a collection of Qurans in different languages, old copies of holy Qurans as well as those written and studied by the Nizams in the past. The oldest copy of the Holy Quran is from 1450 CE and is written in Khat-e-Kufi, the Arabic script in which the earliest copies were copied. There are also copies which were written in two other popular scripts – Nasq and Thulth. There is also a large Quran which was written on a cloth measuring 9 feet by 7 feet around 200 years ago. Besides, there are copies which are from Kashmir and are scripted on rice paper.

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The Clock Tower

Then there is a clock tower with a mechanical clock called the Khilwat clock that has been ticking over 250 years showing the accurate time. It took about an hour to explore this palace and after that, we went to Charminar again to have lunch in a nearby restaurant. After lunch, we went to the Birla temple. It is a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara located on the top of a small hill. There are few other small temples within the temple premises. The temple was built by the Birla foundation with pure white marble in 1976. Outside the temple, there is a large black granite idol of Lord Krishna. The temple has a quiet and peaceful ambiance and looks beautiful particularly in the evening time. However, I was in a hurry as I had the bus at 9 PM and also had plans for shopping. So I returned to my friend’s place and then went to a famous jewellery shop (Mangatrai Pearls & Jewellers) to explore pearl ornaments. Hyderabad is traditionally known for its pearl ornaments. I wish I had more time to explore.

At last, I had dinner and boarded the bus to Bangalore. Bye Bye Hyderabad..!!!!!!!!

When you visit Hyderabad, you have a hell lot of things to do in this amazing city and I could not complete all. The biggest miss was the Salar Jung museum followed by the Snow World. Hopefully next time. If you happen to visit Hyderabad or have already been or staying there do share your experiences in the comments section for the other viewers. Keep Travelling & Spread Love.

Soul Esplanade

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