Tuesday, October 1, 1996

The Rambagh Temple

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 18 :

The Rambagh Temple
by Narendra Luther

We have seen (The Legend of Ramdas - November, 1995 issue) how the temple at Bhadrachalam was built during the rule of last Qutb Shahi ruler, Tana Shah. The Tahsildar of Bhadrachalam had misappropriated some of the state revenues to supplement his resources to build the now famous temple. For this he was imprisoned. But, according to a legend, the dues against him were cleared by Rama and Lakshmana during a nocturnal visit to the Sultan. He therefore, pardoned and released him and also offered to reinstate him. After that a presentation of jewels used to be made to the temple on every Ram Navami day. This practice continued under the Nizams also and even today the chief minister of the State presents the jewels to the deities.

An interesting and indeed surprising incident occurred during the rule of the third Nizam, Nawab Sikandar Jah (1803-29).

The Kayasths were the trusted and prominent civil servants of the Nizams. The Kayasths had come with the first Nizam from the North and settled down in Hyderabad. They adopted the ways of the ruling elite and served as a bridge between the rulers and the subjects in all matters. They made good in their career and some of them rose to high civil and military positions and even to nobility.

One such who rose to nobility in the 19th century was Bhavani Pershad. He was in charge of the salaries of the employees of the royal palaces. When he became prosperous, and was given the title of Raja, he decided to celebrate it by constructing a temple dedicated to Rama. It was constructed near Attapur about 15 kms from the city (off the road which leads from near the Nehru Zoological Park to Rajendra Nagar).

The story goes that the idol of Rama installed there was originally commissioned by Raja Som Bhopal of Gadwal for his own temple. Gadwal was a Hindu samsthan or a tributary estate in Raichur district of the old Hyderabad State. It consisted of the town Gadwal and 214 villages spread over an area of 1384 sq. kms. It is now part of the Mahboobnagar district of A.P. The Gadwal estate had been in existence long before the Hyderabad State came into being. While the idol was being sculpted, the Raja had a dream in which he was told to retrieve an idol from the bottom of a well and install it in the temple.

At the same time, Raja Bhavani Pershad also dreamt of the idol commissioned by Raja Som Bhopal. He told the latter about his dream and made a request for the gift of the idol for his temple. Som Bhopal readily obliged since in his own temple, he had installed the idol which he had been retrieved form the bottom of the well.

When the temple was ready, Raja Bhavani Pershad invited the third Nizam, Nawab Sikandar Jah to perform the ceremony of the installation of the idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshamana. The Nizam agreed and the ceremony was performed in 1812. From then on a regular annual `yatra' takes place there on the Rama Navami day. Not only that, the Nizam also granted a jagir for the maintenance of the temple and sanctioned regular payment for persons who looked after the temple.

The archives of the A.P. Government contain two documents relating to this temple. One is from Daftar-e-Istifa dated 6th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1231 Hijri corresponding to 1816 A.D. This sanctions a daily grant of two rupees to the persons who looked after the temple. The other, issued on 28th Safar, 1239 Hijri corresponding to 1822 A.D. is in favour of Raja Bhavani Pershad and is for the amount of Rs. 2,093, eight annas and four pies (a little more than Rs. 2,093.50 in today's currency) to meet the expenditure for maintenance on the temple.

Farkhunda Buniyad :
Both these documents refer to Hyderabad as the Farkhunda Buniyad suba (province). This was the title given to the city after it was founded by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 A.D. The original name of the city was Bhagnagar, `Farkhunda Buniyad' was the chronogrammatic title in Persian which connoted the year of its completion - 1596 A.D.Incidentally, both `Bhagnagar' and `Farkhunda Buniyad' mean the same thing - `The Fortunate City'.

It is both surprising and inspiring that a Hindu temple should have been inaugurated by a Muslim. Incidentally, this was not held to affect the faith of either the idol - worshippers (Hindus) or those who professed to be breakers of idols (Muslims). This sort of harmony between the two communities was quite common. This and similar acts reinforced the spirit of tolerance and communal harmony bequeathed to the city by its founder, the poet-king Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah who, in one of his poems, said :

There is no kafir or Muslim;
The basis of all religions is love.

Tana Shah, the last ruler of the Qutb Shah dynasty had a Hindu prime minister. He also granted a jagir for the preservation of the Kuchipudi dance form. That is another story.

This spirit became so characteristic of the city that it was widely cited everywhere. In dress, manner of speaking and general behaviour, one could not make out whether a person was a Hindu or a Muslim. This harmony was disturbed only towards the later part of the first half of the 20th century when some communal riots took place and later the Razakar movement raised its ugly head. That however, is to be seen as an aberration in the harmonious flow of history of this city founded on love and built, in the words of its founder, "as a replica of heaven".

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