Friday, December 1, 1995

Seven kulchas and Seven Nizams

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 8

Seven kulchas and Seven Nizams
by Narendra Luther

Golconda was captured by Aurangzeb in 1687. It then became a part of the Deccan province of which the capital was Aurangabad.Hyderabad thus lost its primacy in the south. A Mughal governor was appointed for the Deccan.
The First Nizam
Mir Qamruddin was the grandson of Khwaja Abid better known by his title of Qilich Khan. He was a general of Aurangzeb and died due to wounds he received during the siege of Golconda. While he was buried near Himayat Sagar, his right arm blown off by a cannon and was found later and was buried in Qismatpur. His son, Ghazi-ud-din Firoz Jung took the place of his father and served Aurangzeb with distinction. Qamruddin was born in 1671 and at the young age of 20, was given the title of Chin Qilich Khan (meaning small sword) for his courage and bravery.
He rose in the service of the Mughals by his devotion and hard work. While he was the prime minister of the Mughal empire he was also appointed the governor of the Deccan in 1713. He was a remarkable man and was rated highly for his competence and self-respect. He was given the title of Asaf Jah after a minister of Solomon who was known for his sagacity. The dynasty founded by him was thus called Asaf Jahi and ruled from 1724 to 1948.
In one of his journeys to the Deccan, Mir Qamruddin is said to have lost his way in a jungle. Thirsty, hungry and woe-begone, he approached a saint called Shah Inayat for succour. All that the saint could offer him was dry baked bread (called kulcha) and plain water. The exhausted noble had his fill and inspite of the saint's insistence, could eat no more than seven loaves. Thereupon the hermit remarked : "My son you have eaten seven kulchas. Your dynasty will rule for seven generations. God bless you."
It is interesting to note that the first Nizam never declared his independence of the Mughals. On the other hand he affirmed his loyalty to the emperor and advised his son and successor to do likewise. However, by 1724 he was virtually independent.
Although it is said that the Asaf Jahi dynasty lasted only seven generations it is interesting to note that actually there were ten Nizams. However, out of them only seven are counted as proper member of the `Asaf Jahi' dynasty. As noted above, `Asaf Jah' was a title given by the Mughal emperor to the first Nizam. It was not given to the second, third and fourth Nizams who ruled between 1748-1762 and spent all their time in fighting with each other with the help of the French or the British. As a result, when the fifth Nizam, Mir Nizam Ali Khan ascended the masnad in 1762, one third of the territory of the Deccan province had been lost to various powers most of whom had never counted earlier - the English, the French, the Nawab of Karnataka and Hyder Ali. Nizam Ali Khan came to rule the remaining territory as a protege of the English for over 40 years. He was given the title of Asaf Jah and so became Asaf Jah II. From then on the succession was regular and the successive Nizams did not need the specific conferment of the title by a weak Mughal emperor. The Nizams were independent of the emperor at Delhi in all but name. After the War of Independence (`Mutiny') of 1857, the British forced the then Nizam, Afzal-ud-Dowla to proclaim his independence of the Mughal emperor by striking his own coin and having his name read in the Friday `khutba' in mosques. The Nizam complied reluctantly.
Kulcha or Moon on the Flag ?
A legend grew that the Asaf Jahi flag carried the symbol of the Kulcha in commemoration of the incident of his having eaten seven loaves. However, the first Nizam himself dismissed this theory and in his anecdotes recorded by his chief secretary, Lala Mansa Ram, the Nizam stated that actually the flag carried a symbol of the moon. That, in turn, was derived from his own name - Qamaruddin (Qamar means moon). However the tradition persisted and a new design of the flag submitted to Nizam VI was approved by him in 1899 with observationthat the symbol was that of a kulcha. Such is the force of tradition that even a specific denial by the subject could not scotch it.
The Legacy of Wealth
The first Nizam died in 1748. In his will and testament, amongst other things, the first Nizam also said that there was enough money in his treasury to last seven generations, if properly spent. It can't however be said that every Nizam spent money wisely or properly. There were times when the state got into trouble because there was no money in the treasury. This is one of the factors which helped the British strengthen their foothold in Hyderabad. However, the last Nizam had a way of collecting money and spending very little of it. He was, therefore, reputed to be the richest man of the world in his time. The wealth has thus lasted not seven but ten or rather eleven generations so far.

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Wednesday, November 1, 1995

The Legend of Ramdas

Legends and anecdotes of Hyderabad - 7

The Legend of Ramdas
by Narendra Luther

Gopanna was born around the year 1620 . At an early age he was inspired by Pothanna's Bhagavatham and came to revere Rama both as an ideal human being and as Paramatma i.e. supreme soul pervading the universe. Gopanna adopted Rama as his family deity and called himself his servant. Thus he earned the epithet of Ramadas - the name by which he became famous later.

In Bhadrachalam, a tribal woman called Pokala Dommaka had heard the legend of Sabari and Lord Rama. According to that, Sabari had given some berries to Rama when he had passed that way during the course of his exile. In order to make sure that the berries were sweet, Sabari ate a part of each berry before offering it to Rama. Dommaka imagined herself to be Sabari and became a great devotee of Rama. One night, the story goes, Rama appeared in her dream and told her that there were three idols - of himself, Sita and Lakshamana hidden somewhere in the nearby hillock. He also told her that in course of time a devotee of his would come and construct a proper abode for them. Dommaka searched for the idols and was successful in locating them. The local people constructed a shed for them.

Some time after that Gopanna was posted as a revenue officer of the Husnabad pargana which included Bhadrachalam. On hearing the story and seeing the idols, he took upon himself the task of building a temple dedicated to Lord Rama on the bank of the Godavari at Bhadrachalam. First, he started with his own savings. Then he collected donations. The project kept on becoming more and more ambitious and so he started dipping into the public treasury in his custody. He is said to have spent around four million rupees on the construction. A good part out of that was from government funds. For the misappropriation of public funds he was dismissed from service and imprisoned in a cell in the Golconda fort.

There Ramadas, as if in a trance, started composing and singing devotional songs. The wardens of the jail in their inspection rounds seldom checked on him. His presence there was certified by his melodious chanting of his kirtans.

Ramadas spent 12 years in jail and wrote in all 125 songs mostly kirtans. These songs reveal his varied moods - from the ecstasy of devotion when nothing mattered, to the depths of despondency when he bemoaned his fate and chided his deity for letting him down. In one of his sarcastic moods he lambasted Rama saying :

"With great devotion and love I got the aigrette made for you. At whose expense are you wearing it and strutting about ? Did your father Dasaratha provide it to you or did your father-in-law Janaka give it to you ?"

Then, suddenly, he would realize that he had been insolent. He was then overtaken by remorse and would entreat his Lord :

"Do not take amiss what I said. I said all that because I could not bear the torture in the jail. I burst out in pain and scolded you."

In another song he rebuked Lord Rama and requested him to see that his debt was repaid.

In one complaint to Sita, Ramadas had the temerity to allege that Rama was Dharmaheena i.e. devoid of righteousness.

And thus for twelve long years, he carried on his frenzied one man kirtans in his cell.

The story goes that one night he was visited by two young handsome princes with long hair and armed with bow and arrow. How could he not recognize them ? Ramadas was dazed, but he did not stop his recitations till he heard his name. "Ramadas I have come. I am here on your summons," the dark one, Rama said with his charming smile.

And with a mocking tone Ramadas replied : "My Lord I am here because of you. I did not know you punished your devotees !"

"It is all over now," Lord Rama said - and the two princes disappeared.

The next day there was a furore in the fort. The sultan was visiting the jail himself. He made straight for the cell in which Ramadas was lodged. He took the key from the superintendent and ordered the removal of shackles from the prisoner's body.

"Ramadas, you have suffered enough punishment. Your dues have been discharged. You are free to go now."

"But Your Majesty ..." Ramadas faltered, "I haven't ..."
"Somebody paid for you," smiled the sultan. Ramadas was incredulous. "But who could it be, My Lord ?"

"I do not know," replied Tana Shah, "last night two young and handsome princes came to my chambers. One was slightly dark. He placed a bag near my feet and said : "Here is what Ramadas owes you. Let him be released now."

"My Lord, My God," cried Ramadas falling at the sultan's feet. "So you have seen them too. My penance is over."

"You can resume your duties now," said Tana Shah in a gesture of forgiveness.

"My duties are now in the temple where my deity lives." Ramadas folded his hand and made a bow to the sultan.

This was some time in 1683. Tana Shah, to make up for the years of incarceration of Ramadas, granted a jagir of three villages Sankaragiripatti, Polavancha and Bhadrachalam for the maintenance of the temple. Ramadas, now a living legend, spent the few remaining years of his life composing and singing songs and looking after the temple.

Ramadas wrote in a simple homely language. He had a good knowledge of tradition and his verses are replete with devotional sentiment. His compositions can be sung by common folks without any formal training in music. He therefore, became a people's composer and has remained so till today. In the south he is a revered household name and you are likely to hear his kirtans in any religious congregation.

History and legend have blended so beautifully in the life of Ramadas and one would not like to separate them. The Nizam's government used to present jewels for Rama and Sita on Ramanavami. Now this is done personally by the chief minister of the state.

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Sunday, October 1, 1995

The Mountain of Light

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 6

The 'Mountain Of Light'
by Narendra Luther

The world-famous diamond, Koh-i-Noor was mined in Golconda. Not in the fort but in the state the territories of which comprised most of the areas of the present Andhra Pradesh and some areas of the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Golconda was known as an emporium for diamonds the world over.

A French priest called Abbe Carre was amongst the many travellers who visited Hyderabad and recorded his impressions about it in glowing terms. In 1673 he noted that the city was `full of strangers and merchants and trade is carried on by foreigners and others without any or particular business. There is such a concourse of every kind of people merchandise and riches, that the place seems to be the centre of all the trade in the East'.

The well-known French traveller, Tavernier who was a jeweller by profession came to Golconda in 1695. He observed that diamonds were cut and polished in a place called Karwan. It lies on the road from the Golconda fort to Charminar and is still known by the same name.He saw 60,000 labourers at work in Kollur, in the valley of the Krishna river which was part of the Golconda sultanate. Of all those diamonds, the Koh-i-Noor is the most famous and is the only extant diamond which has the longest history to date. This diamond was mined probably in 1656 and it weighed 765 carats uncut (10 carats make 2 grams).

The story of the Koh-i-Noor diamond begins with that of the emergence of Mir Jumla. His original name was Mir Mohammad Sayyed. He came to Golconda from Ardistan during the reign of the sixth Qutb Shah ruler, Abdullah Qutb Shah (1626 - 1672) as a merchant and rose to be the prime minister (called `Mir Jumla')of the kingdom. He conquered Karnataka (which included much of present Tamilnadu) for Abdullah. Through these conquests he collected a lot of booty which made him very rich and arrogant. Even his son behaved very insolently with the Sultan. When Abdullah pulled him up, he fell out with the Sultan and defected to the Mughals. He met the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to whom he presented the magnificent diamond in 1656. The diamond at that time was uncut and weight 360 carats valued at 2,16,000 rupees (21,600 pounds sterling). It seems to have been chipped before it was presented to Shah Jahan. Later it was entrusted to a Venetian named Bronzoni and was so damaged and wasted in his hands that when Tavernier saw it in Aurangzeb's treasury in 1665 it weight no more than 260 1/2 English carats.

In 1739 Nadir Shah attacked and ransacked Delhi and on return to Iran, carried a lot of loot with him. The story goes that the then Mughal emperor Mohammad Shah Rangeela hid the Koh-i-Noor diamond in his turban to prevent it from falling into the hands of Nadir Shah. Some body told Nadir Shah that the diamond was in the turban of the Mughal emperor. Nadir Shah then very cleverly suggested that to mark their friendship they must exchange their headgear. Mohammad Shah naturally could not refuse this and that is how the Koh-i-Noor passed on from the Mughal emperor to the Iranian conqueror. It is he who gave the diamond the name Koh-i-Noor by which it became famous in history. It means `Mountain of Light'.After Nadir Shah's death it fell into the hands of his general Ahmed Shah, founder of the Durrani dynasty of Afghanistan. His descendent Shah Shujah at one time sought refuge in India. For that he gave it as a gift to Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab. Ranjit Singh died in 1839 and at that time the Koh-i-Noor was valued at 1 million pound sterling. The Punjab was annexed in 1849 by the British and the diamond was taken by Lord Lawrence and presented to Queen Victoria. In 1852 it was re-cut by Voorsanger. Its weight now is 106 1/2 English carats. The diamond was incorporated as a central stone in the queen's crown fashioned for use by Queen Elizabeth, the consort of George VI at his coronation in 1937. It now forms part of the royal jewellery and is lodged in the tower of London. The crown is used by the British monarch on most formal occasions like the coronation.

Apart from this legendary diamonds, there were others diamonds also like Pitt or Regent diamond found in Paktial near Madras in 1701. It originally weighed 410 carats but was later reduced to 137 carats. It is now hosed in the Louvre Museum of Paris.

Then there was the Nizam diamond, weighing 277 carats. There was also the Great Table diamond which was seen by Tavernier at Golconda. It was considered to be exactly like the diamond called `Darya-e-noor' or the Sea of Light of the Persian monarch. The Hope diamond is believed to be the part of the blue diamond shaped like a drop. That was found and sold by Tavernier himself to the French king Louis XIV in 1642.

Thus Koh-i-Noor was not the only diamond found in the mines of the Golconda Sultanate but it turned out to be the one which had the most chequered and glorious career and is still in use for most glamorous and historic occasions - the coronation of the British monarchs. And what is even more exciting is that you can still see it. All that you have to do is to visit the Tower of London where the British royal jewels are kept.

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Friday, September 1, 1995

The Fall of Tana Shah

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 5

The Fall of Tana Shah
by Narendra Luther

Aurangzeb attacked Golconda in 1687. Since his last attack in 1656, the fort had been strengthened and was now very well- stocked. It therefore proved very difficult for the Mughal forces to reduce it. Unexpectedly, the siege lasted 8 lunar months during which the Mughal army made several sorties on it which were foiled by the Qutb Shahi defenders.

During the siege Tana Shah exhibited a strange mixture reckless of defiance and abject humility. In one of the raids by the Mughals, some of the officers of their army and generals were captured by the Golconda army and brought to Tana Shah. He treated them well and showed them how well-provided his garrison was. He, however, released them and sent them back with a message to Aurangzeb offering to make peace. Aurangzeb however, did not relent and said that he wanted to see Tana Shah presented to him with folded hands or as a prisoner in chains.

Tana Shah nevertheless continued to exhibit great chivalry. Once, when Aurangzeb was at prayer in the small mosque specially built by the side of Hayat Bakshi's tomb (which can still be seen intact in the Qutb Shahi metropolis),one of Tana Shah's marksmen took aim at him. Tana Shah pulled him up : "Don't you see that the man is at prayer?" On another occasion, he turned a soldier's gun away from Aurangzeb at whom it was aimed saying: "Not the emperor man ! Aim at the combatants."

Larry's Gallantry & Loyalty :

Ultimately the fort fell to the Mughals due largely to the treachery and defection of some of the defending commanders. One by one all of them were lured away by various inducements and rewards by the Mughal side. Only one general, Abdul Razzak Larry remained steadfast in his loyalty to his sultan. For him, he said, it was a holy war and he would rather go down fighting than change sides. When, one night a traitor opened the main gate to the enemy, now called `Fateh Darwaza' (Victory Gate), Larry got up with a start and with a dozen faithful soldiers fought valiantly till, suffering over 70 grievous wounds, he fell unconscious in the Nageena Bagh at the foot of the inner fort. Aurangzeb was so impressed by his gallantry that he sent his personal physician to treat him. He also offered him and his sons jobs in his army, but Larry declined. A year later, on his full recovery he again declined a similar offer. Later however, he was persuaded to accept a rank of 4,000 horse, and joined the Mughal army.

After the fall of Golconda when the victorious Mughal commanders arrived in the palace, Sultan Tana Shah was at prayer. He took his time to finish his prayers and then went and sat coolly on his throne. There he received the Mughal general Ruhulla Khan who with a small contingent of soldiers has gone to arrest.

Ride into Captivity :
Thereafter, an attendant came and announced that breakfast was ready. The sultan got up and invited the party to join him in his repast. Some Mughal officers tried to prevent him from going for breakfast, but their seniors pulled them back. Mukhtar Khan and one or two officers, joined him out of politeness. General Ruhulla Khan asked Tana Shah in surprise: "Is this the time to eat ?" Tana Shah replied calmly: " This is my usual time for breakfast". Ruhulla said he understood that but was surprised how the sultan could feel any appetite on an occasion like that. Tana Shah smiled and replied, "Ups and downs come in one's life. I belonged to the royal family but spent 14 years of my life as a mendicant. The Almighty raised me once again for a humble position and made me a king. I have lived a full life and must have been guilty of some sin that the Creator has done this to me. But I have this satisfaction that my kingdom is passing on to the ruler of the piety of Alamgir."

After his breakfast he consoled the wailing ladies of the harem, bade them farewell, sent for his horse and in his full royal regalia, joined his captors on his last ride out of his fort and into captivity.

As the procession of the defeated monarch passed by the Hussain Sagar lake, his youngest son sitting in a palanquin, felt thirsty and asked for water. It was late afternoon and a water - carrier who was sprinkling water on the road was summoned. He poured out water from his goat- skin bag. The infant princes cupped his hands ineptly and quenched his thirst. The water carrier thanked his former sovereign for bestowing the rare honour on him. Tana Shah fumbled about in his pocket and founding only one silver coin, gave it to the water carrier. "This is the only thing I have on me. God be with you", he said to his former subject. The procession then resumed its march towards Daulatabad where he was to spend the last 14 years of his life in prison.

Thus ended the story of the last ruler of Qutb Shahi dynasty. Incidentally, he is the only one of the rulers of the dynasty not to have been buried in the dynastic necropolis near the fort. You can still see his unfinished mausoleum there.


Tuesday, August 1, 1995

The Strange Life of Tana Shah

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 4

The Strange Life of Tana Shah
by Narendra Luther

The story of the life of Tana Shah, the last Qutb Shahi ruler of Golconda (1672-1687) reads like a fairy tale. His real name was Abul Hassan. He was distantly related to Abdullah Qutb Shah, the seventh sultan of the dynasty (1626-1672) and was therefore accommodated in the royal palace. There he grew up and for some misdemeanour, he was the story of the life of Tana Shah, the last Qutb Shahi ruler of Golconda (1672-1687) reads like a fairy tale. His real name was Abul Hassan. He was distantly related to Abdullah Qutb Shah, the seventh sultan of the dynasty (1626-1672) and was therefore accommodated in the royal palace. There he grew up and for some misdemeanour, he was expelled from the palace at the age of 12. Having spent his infancy and adolescence in ease and comfort without having acquired any mental or physical wherewithal to earn a living, Abul Hassan could not do a thing to support himself.

On the advice of a friend he went to the monastery of a Sufi saint called Syed Shah Raziuddin, popularly known as Shah Raju Qattal. Shah Raju was eighth in the line of Saint Khwaja Gesu Daraz Bande Nawaz of Gulbarga. He came to Hyderabad and set up his hospice on the west side of the Fateh Darwaza gate of the city (not the fort). He was believed to possess great spiritual powers and was an influential teach of the Sufi doctrine. He was greatly revered by the people. Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah became his disciple at a fairly early age and Shah Raju also had a soft corner for him.

Shah Raju took pity on the young boy expelled from the palace and accepted him as his disciple. He became his errand - boy and was constantly in and out of the cell in which Shah Raju spent most of his time in contemplation and meditation.

Abul Hassan had a good voice and sang well. He also had a certain innocence about him. Shah Raju therefore gave him the nick name of `Tana Shah' which means a child saint. Having been brought up in the palace Abul Hassan was also of a delicate build and was often seen lost in reverie.

Abdullah had three daughters and no son. The eldest daughter was married to Prince Mohammad Sultan, son of Aurangzeb, after the treaty entered into between Aurangzeb as the Viceroy of the Deccan and Abdullah, in 1656. As a consequence of this marriage the sultanate of Golconda was to pass on to the Mughal prince on Abdullah's death. But as fate would have it, for his having opposed Aurangzeb in the War of Succession to the throne of Delhi, Mohammad Sultan was imprisoned by Aurangzeb and he died in jail. The second daughter was married to Nizamuddin Ahmed of Mecca. The youngest was engaged to Syed Sultan of Najaf. However, misunderstandings developed between the second son-in-law who was very powerful in the court and Syed Sultan. As a result the proposed marriage of the third daughter of Abdullah to him was opposed by the second son-in-law and a number of other members of the royal family.

Abdullah , in his confusion, went to consult his mentor, Shah Raju at his retreat. When it was announced that the Sultan was coming all the devotees who had gathered for the darshan of the saint quietly withdrew. Abdullah and Shah Raju met alone and Abdullah explained his predicament to him. Shah Raju asked him to come after three days. After Abdullah had gone, the followers of Shah Raju came back to sit at his feet. Shortly thereafter Tana Shah also scampered into his presence. Thereupon Shah Raju remarked involuntarily - "Lo ! One king goeth and the other cometh." The audience were puzzled at such a mysterious utterance.

At the palace preparations for the marriage of the youngest daughter of the Sultan to Syed Sultan were going on. The prospective groom was also getting ready to lead his wedding procession.

At the monastery Shah Raju told Tana Shah teasingly : "We shall get you married soon. So let us go through your wedding ceremonies." A bewildered Tana Shah submitted to the seemingly eccentric orders of his master. On the third day a messenger a came from the sultan asking for an appointment with the Saint. Shah Raju told him that the Sultan was welcome and that he should bring with him appropriate dresses and gifts for a bridegroom. When Abdullah came to the monastery accordingly and with a spare horse, Shah Raju got hold of Tana Shah and presenting him to Abdullah, said : This is the groom.Take him to be your son-in-law." Tana Shah was taken to the palace, given a good scrubbing and bath, doused with scents, decked in jewellery and in no time was made into a royal groom. Syed Sultan was waiting for the signal to start the wedding possession, but that signal was never given. The switch of grooms was made at the last minute and instead of Syed Sultan it was Tana Shah who became the last son-in-law of Sultan Abdullah. Syed Sultan fled from Golconda and went to Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb laughed at this tragi - comedy and said : "Never mind. We will get you married to the daughter of Mir Jumla."

Tana Shah had spent 14 years in the palace, same period in the hospice of Shah Raju and now he was ready for the third phase in his life. In 1672 Abdullah died. Tana Shah who was very popular with the nobles was made the next ruler of Golconda.

One day when Tana Shah was enjoying himself in a boat in the river Musi, Shah Raju sent him a gift of some fruits. The messenger who brought the gift said that Shah Raju had ordered that the Sultan must eat the pomegranate straightaway. Tana Shah, willy-nilly, cut open the fruit and just to carry out the orders of his mentor ate some seeds. The messenger went back and when Shah Raju asked him how many seeds he had eaten. The messenger replied - "Fourteen". Shah Raju sighed and said "Ah! the wretch. He will rule only for 14 years."

And as it happened, it was his prophecy came true. How it happened will be the subject of our next instalment.

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Thursday, June 1, 1995

"A Replica Of heaven"

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad 2

"A Replica Of heaven"
by Narendra Luther

Last month we noted that Muhammad Quli had decreed that the new city, Bhagnagar, should be "unparalled in the world and a replica of heaven itself". Ordinarily such a decree would have been taken as a figure of speech, but in this case, it seems to have been taken literally. A German architect, Jan Pieper, has tried to show by quoting the chapter and verse of the holy Quran how the planning and architectural features of the new city corresponded to the mythical Islamic paradise.

Features of Paradise :

A reading, amongst others, of Suras 47, 14; 56;28; 7,47; and 55 of the holy Quran gives a composite picture of the Islamic paradise.

It is interesting to note first of all, that the word for paradise in Arabic is the same as for garden - `Jannat'. Note that paradise is also called the `Garden of Eden'.

At the centre of that garden there is a fountain. Four stream (of pure water, pure milk, pure honey and pure wine) flow from it. There are two types of trees in paradise - the thornless Sidr and the well ordered Talh. They have no exact counterparts on earth.

Now let us compare the features of the city with those attributed to the Islamic paradise.

A Garden City :

Bhagnagar was a city of less than 3 sq kms surrounded by gardens, covering an extent of about 23 sq kms. `Naubat Pahad' where the Venkateshwara temple is now located was originally called `Naubat ghat' - botanical hillock. From this point right up to `Koh-i-Toor' the hillock 3 kms north of Charminar on which now the Falaknuma palace stands was one unbroken stretch of greenery. Rafi-ud-Din Shirazi observed in Tazkura-Tul-Mubarak in 1608 that a "large city with magnificent mansions was founded everyone of which had a garden attached to it. Some of the trees of these gardens were so tall that they seemed to touch the sky. Both bazars and houses are so full of trees..." Thus gardens and vegetation were the principal feature of the new city.

The French traveller, Jean de Thevenot who visited Hyderabad in 1655-66 was surprised at the extent of greenery both in and around the city. He says, "There are many fair gardens in this town, their beauty consists in having long walls very kept clean, and lovely fruit-trees; but they have neither beds of flowers nor water-works and they are satisfied with several cisterns or basons (sic) with water. The gardens without the town are the loveliest, and I shall describe only one of them, that is reckoned the pleasantest of the kingdom ... It is planted with palms and areca - trees so near to one other that the sun can hardly pierce through them..."

Tavernier, a dealer in diamonds (1605 - 1688) says Bhagnagar was "previously only a pleasure resort where the King had beautiful gardens ..."

Ameer Ali, the thug in Meadows Taylor's novel published in 1839 saw from Naubat Pahad, white terraced houses gleaming brightly amidst "almost a forest of trees."

Architectural Features :

The city was built as a giant double-cross. Charminar, the city centre is a perfect square, each side being 18.26 metres. The four minarets rise to a height of 48.7 metres from the ground. They are divided into four storeys each and 146 steps lead upto the top storey. On the roof is a small mosque exactly facing Mecca. Its orientation to the Qibla direction is significant.

At a distance of 76 metres from Charminar was the central plaza known as Char Kaman or the `Four Arches'. It was originally called jilukhana or the guard's square. In its centre was an octagonal fountain called the char-su-ka-houz (fountain of the four cardinal directions). Four channels flowed from it. Near the fountain coconut and betel-nut palm trees were planted to represent the Talh and the Sidr tree respectively. The four arches were located about 114.3 metres each from the fountain. Each arch was 18.30 metres high. The western arch was the gateway to the palace area. Its gate was highly decorative. Made of ebony and sandalwood, it was adorned with precious stones and nails of gold. There was a screen of cloth-of-gold behind the shutters. On the eastern arch royal musicians sat and played shehnai and other instruments five times a day.

The two northern and southern arches - watch posts of the royal guards-represented the fierce Quranic "Men of the Wall". The area behind the cloth-of-gold curtain on the western arch contained fourteen palaces amongst which was one called `Qutb Mandir' to which only women were admitted, besides of course the Sultan himself. These and the shehnai players on the eastern arch with its `nasal' sound stood for the Quranic pleasures - "houris in flowing tents singing in nasal voices ..."

The reason for adopting the plan of the giant double-cross is also interesting and is explained by Pieper. Sura 55 tells us that there is not one paradise for all but a hierarchy of them. "There are two gardens yielding flowers and all sorts of luxury for a festive and representative life, while two others are filled with herbs and fruits and humble amenities of pleasureful civic household". These two gardens are reserved for those "who live in peace with their Lord." Behind the western arch lived the Sultan - the `lord', and in other quarters lived his subjects - "in peace with their lord."

The illustration on the cover page is based on my researches into the history of Hyderabad. My findings were rendered into an zaxonometeric drawing by S.P.Shorey and further made into an `artist's' impression through the courtesy of Neelamegham of Akshara. It would be of interest to readers to know that when the former Iranian Consul General in Hyderabad, Mujtaba Karami saw this plan about three years ago, he commented that Isfahan in Iran looked somewhat like that even today. How gratifying that without ever seeing Isfahan, we were able to recreate the likeness of the city on which Hyderabad was originally modelled!

The testimony of historians, writers, visitors, chroniclers over the centuries has testified to the beauty and grandeur of the city and one could say that it could indeed have been a city "unparalled in the world and a replica of heaven itself". At least a genuine, valiant attempt seems to have been made to execute the Poet - Sultan's orders.

And look at the city now ... !

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