by Soumya Prakash
What conjures up in the mind when we hear about or think of Hyderabad? Charminar, biryani, and pearls! Yes, of course! And if we go by the name we will go back to 16th century when the current city began its journey. But history of Hyderabad or to be particular the area doesn’t start from 1589 AD¸ it dates back to 500 BCE. Archaeologists excavating near the city have unearthed Iron Age sites of that era. Starting from the Maurya Empire in the third century B.C., the area subsequently came under the rule of Sātavāhana Empire (or Andhra Empire), Andhra Ikshvaku dynasty in the ancient times. From Ashoka the Great of the Mauryan Empire to Nagarjuna, a southern Indian master of Mahayana Buddhism from Andhra Ikshvaku era after whom their capital city ‘Nagarjunakonda’ was named, and then in the medieval times from the Chalukya kings to the Kakatiyas, and then its fall to Muhammad bin Tughluq’s forces from the Delhi Sultanate in 1321 AD, then from Musunuri Nayaks to the Bahmani Sultanate and then the Qutb Shahi dynasty all have left their stamp and influence upon the city.
Under the Bahmani Sultanate, Golkonda slowly rose to prominence. Actually, the Kakatiyas had build the Golkonda Fort in the vicinity of Hyderabad as part of their western defences along the lines of the Kondapalli Fort. The fort was rebuilt and strengthened by Rani Rudrama Devi and her successor Prataparudra. (Now you know where from ‘Andhra’ of ‘Andhra Pradesh’ came!)
Coming into Existence:
In 1589, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the ruler of Qutb Shahi dynasty, selected the present site of the city and named it “Bhaganagar” or “Bhāgyanagar” after his beloved Bhāgmathi, a local nautch (dancing) girl. When she later converted to Islam and adopted the title Hyder Mahal, then city was renamed ‘Hyderabad’ in her honour. But, according to another historical source, the city was named after Haidar, the son of Quli Qutb Shah. Whereas Andrew Petersen, a scholar of Islamic architecture, says the city was originally called Baghnagar or the ‘city of gardens’. All seven Qutb Shahi sultans were patrons of learning and were great builders. They contributed to the growth and development of Indo-Persian and Indo-Islamic literature and culture in Hyderabad. Some of the sultans were known as patrons of local Telugu culture as well. During the Qutb Shahi reign, Golconda became one of the leading markets in the world for diamonds, pearls, steel, arms, and also printed fabric. In the 16th century, the city grew to accommodate the surplus population of Golconda and eventually became the capital of the Qutb Shahi rulers. Hyderabad became known for its gardens (called baghs) and its comfortable weather. Later the city came under the rule of Mughals and the British. During the British rule, Hyderabad was still ruled by the Nizams, and it became the largest princely state of India and as a princely state, it had its own currency, railways, mint, and postal system and the citizens enjoyed no income tax. Finally, it was accessed to the union of India under the leadership of India’s first Home Minister, Iron Man – Sardar Patel.
So, the culture of Hyderabad is an amalgamation of many facets. The city has been the place where the traditions–both cultural and linguistic–of North India and South India meet. Hyderabad’s culture can also be seen through the various monuments and iconic architectural structures in the city that are testaments to the city’s glorious history, such as the Charminar and the Golconda fort. The residents of the city refer to themselves as Hyderabadis and they have developed for themselves a culture that is distinctly a mixture of both Muslim and Hindu traditions. It is not to say, however, that Hyderabad is perpetually locked in its history; far from it, actually. Owing to the fact that the presence of information technology is particularly heavy in Hyderabad–in fact, it is one of India’s primary IT cities and is the centre of India’s scientific and technological development–modern lifestyle is particularly embraced in Hyderabad. The city’s cosmopolitan outlook and modernism have also attracted people of different ethnicities, religions, and lifestyles, contributing to the diversity of its culture. Yet, even with this touch of modernism, Hyderabad has managed to preserve its heritage. Thus, it is not surprising to see women in tank tops and shorts in the posh places one day and then see them wearing the traditional saris and worshiping in temples the next. Modern and tradition mesh well in Hyderabad, a fact that the Hyderabadis are proud to show.
For the discerning palate, the Hyderabadi cuisine can best be described as a surprising blend of Persian, Mughal and Indian cuisine. As such, they have a distinct spicy and tangy quality. The Hyderabadi cuisine is mostly influenced by the Mughals. The most famous example of this also happens to be the iconic dish of the region, the Hyderabadi biryani. Traditional Indian sweets are also known well-known mainly due to their ghee-based items. Irani chai or tea is already quite popular and are commonly served on street corners around the city.
Importance of Hyderabad:
This capital city of Telangana is the fourth largest city in India and has been the IT, business, education and regional filmmaking hub of India. It houses a number of prestigious educational institutions like Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Osmania University, Indian Institute of Technology, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, etc. owing to its historical, cultural and contemporary significance the city has been a favourite venue for a number of international events and continues to be. Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump and a senior adviser to the president is scheduled to attend as a featured speaker in the international conference – Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in the city later this month. Another international event – World Telugu Conference is also coming up in December.
Soumya Prakash is a writer who has been contributing in different fields of mass media under various capacities in the last two decades. His blogs on city infrastructure and real estate are pathbreaking!