The Pride of Andhra
Situated in the heart of Hyderabad, Charminar has become the most famous face of the
city. In fact it is the most recognized monument in entire Andhra Pradesh. It is around
Charminar that entire Hyderabad developed into a world class city. Famous for its unique
architecture, the exquisite arch of glory is the masterpiece of Qutb Shahi Dynasty. Also
called as 'The Arc de triomphe of the East', Charminar is called so, because of the four
Minars that adorn all the four corners of the monument. Some even believe that the four
minars may be depicting the first four khalifs of Islam.
The Story Behind Charminar
The magnificent monument was built in the year 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. It
is said that he built it to signify the eradication of plague shortly after he shifted his
capital from Golconda to Hyderabad. He had vowed to build a Masjid at the very place if
the plague ended. And accordingly, he built the Charminar. The top floor of Charminar
has a Masjid which has 45 covered praying spaces. There is more open space to
accommodate more people during Friday Namaaz (Prayers). There are around four floors
which were all meant to be used for imparting education. But the British used it as a
warehouse for opium and liquor. It is said that during the Mughal rule, the south eastern
minar was destroyed by a lightning strike. It was then rebuilt in the year 1824.
The Speciality of Charminar
Charminar is built of granite and lime mortar which were available locally. One gets to
see exquisite forms of Indo Islamic architecture in Charminar. The amalgamation of
Indian style and Islamic style is clearly visible in the monument. Though more emphasis
is given to Islamic architecture. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that, instead of minars
being built separately, like in Taj Mahal, they are infused in the main structure itself.
Charminar is a square monument that rise to a height of 20 m, The pointed minarets on
all the four corners rise further 28.7 m to total a height of 48.7 m from the ground. All the
minarets are divided into four storeys that look like rings encircling the minaret. Apart
from the minaret, other dominating feature of the monument are the four huge arches on
all sides of the Charminar. They are 11 m wide and 20 m high. Notice the clock that has
been put up on top of all the four arches. At the top of Charminar, there are two galleries
and a terrace. From inside, the galleries are scintillatingly beautiful with walls filled with
moldings and carvings. To reach the upper floor, you have to climb 149 steps through the
minarets. One is not allowed to go above that. Even from this position, one gets a
mesmerizing view of the nearby areas of Old city Hyderabad.
And to get even more mesmerizing view of Charminar, the best time is at night when the
monument is illuminated from top to bottom. Along with the Charminar, one can count
the nearby market too, as an attraction for the tourists. In this market you can get
everything from traditional to modern, though it is better to go for traditional items. It is
said that during its peak, the market had more than 14,000 shops in it and people coming
from all India to buy and sell items.
You would not want to miss out on this marvel for anything in the world. Such is the
sheer brilliance and charm of Charminar that it puts even the most modern buildings to
shame. A landmark for Hyderabad, it is a pride for the entire Andhra Pradesh.
It is one of the largest mosques in India - one of the largest in the world in fact - and took
8,000 masons and labourers, 77 years, and, if stories are to be believed, 1,400 bullocks (!)
to be finally completed. The Mecca Masjid is a must-see on any self-respecting tourist's
itinerary, and with good reason. Lying in the center of Old Hyderabad and just southwest
of the Charminar, this mosque, which claims to be able to accommodate over 10,000
worshippers at a time, has several stories behind it.
Its construction was begun in 1617 by Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, who is said
to have transported earth from Mecca, got bricks made out of them, and placed these
bricks in the central arch of the mosque. And that is how the mosque got its name.
Legend has it that when the foundation stone was about to be laid, the Sultan announced
to all the religious elders in the city that he wanted the stone to be laid by one who had
never missed his prayers. When no one volunteered, he laid the stone himself; he hadn't
even missed a midnight prayer since he was 12.
The pillars of the structure were carved out of single slabs of granite, which is where the
1,400 bullocks came in - to drag them from the quarry to the site. Fifteen beautiful arches
support the roof of the prayer hall, with five arches on each of three sides, and a sheer
wall on the fourth to provide mehrab (a place for the holy books to be kept).
Inscriptions adorning the arches and doors are verses from the Quran, and a roof
enclosure to the left of the courtyard houses the tombs of the Asaf Jahi rulers, the Nizams
of Hyderabad. The courtyard has a story of its own: a room inside it is said to contain a
hair of the Prophet Mohammed. And that's not all. This one's our favorite: the pond is
flanked by two stone seats, and it is said that anyone who sits on either of the seats will
surely return to Hyderabad once more. Fills your heart up, doesn't it?
The mosque was completed in 1694 by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and since then
has come under considerable repair. Patches on the walls and cracks in the pillars are
common, even after the chemical wash in 1995. The giant walls of mesh put up to protect
the sacred space from the attack of the pigeons do tend to ruin the overall effect of the
structure, but this cannot be helped.
Non-muslims are not allowed to visit the mosque during prayer times and on Friday. But
do visit when you can, and remember to sit on the stone seat. We'd love to have you
come back someday.
Birla Mandir, Hyderabad
The Birla Foundation has constructed several similar temples in India, all of which are
known as Birla Mandir.
The temple manifests a blend of South Indian, Rajasthani and Utkala temple
architectures. In its entirety, it is made of 2000 tons of pure Rajasthani white marble.
The granite of the presiding deity is about 11 ft (3.4 m). tall and a carved lotus forms an
umbrella on the roof. The consorts of Lord Venkateswara, Padmavati and Andal are
housed in separate shrines. There is a brass flagstaff in the temple premises which rises to
a height of 42 ft (13 m).
The temple is built on a 280 feet (85 m) high hillock called the Naubath Pahad on a
13 acres (53,000 m2) plot. The construction took 10 years and was consecrated in 1976 by
Swami Ranganathananda of Ramakrishna Mission. The temple does not have traditional
bells, as Swamiji wished that the temple atmosphere should be conducive for meditation.
Though the chief deity is Lord Venkateshwara, the temple has pan-Hindu character with
deities of Shiva, Shakti, Ganesh, Hanuman, Brahma, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Saibaba.
The selected teachings of holy men and Gurbani are engraved on temple walls.
Birla temples are open to all Hindus including dalits, as identified by Mahatma Gandhi
and other Hindu leaders as one of the major social evil that was to be reformed in modern
India as part of Freedom struggle.
The temple complex overlooking the southern side of Hussain Sagar offers a magnificent
panoramic view of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. It presents a colorful
and spectacular sight when illuminated at night.
Other nearby structures are Andhra Pradesh Secretariat, Assembly and Birla Planetarium.