Heritage monuments and buildings as an inheritance, passed on from generations, reflect a rare magnanimity. It is a treasure of unimaginable value; primarily because it draws us back to history and inspires by the sheer perseverance and immaculate dedication with which our ancestors built it to perfection, making it last for centuries. But it’s an irony that we, the Generation Now, tend to forget their journey. Considering the heavy commercialisation, the need of the day is to ensure that these heritage buildings and monuments are protected and restored.
1591 AD. The year was witness to some of the most momentous feats history has encrypted. The whole world was war torn. The Battle of Tondibi in Mali, the superiority of Dutch under Maurice of Nassau, Moroccan invaders sack Timbuktu…it was a year when man saw war as a source of inspiration. While world-over there was destruction, loss, incarceration, in a quaint but elegant and prosperous world of the Qutub Shahis, there was a major event unfolding that would eventually result in an entity which would be among the top contenders of modern world capability.
The event was the founding of Hyderabad. A city known for its rich history, culture and architecture, Hyderabad has always represented a unique character as a meeting point of North and South India. Multifaceted, both geographically and culturally, it is a versatile city waiting to welcome anyone with open arms.
Today, Hyderabad’s cultural heritage is a legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of many rulers, inherited, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Often though, what is considered cultural heritage by one generation may be rejected by the next generation, only to be revived by a succeeding generation, the case with Hyderabad is no different. There could have been plenty of heritage monuments, destroyed by the then generations or by time. But what remain today are some of the most historically significant monuments. Though Hyderabad is one of the fastest developing cities in the country and a modern hub of Information Technology and Biotechnology, it is still reminded of its past glory by these monuments which stood the test of time. An inspirational look into the city’s past to relive its royal glory often leaves one to wonder what it was like to be living during those days. Was it a struggle or was is it all about fine living, gazing and getting surprised.
Hyderabad’s heritage is as old and vivid as its nearly 420 years old history. The architectural impact in Hyderabad ranges from Buddhist Setups, Hindu and Jain temples of great importance to imposing churches; from secular monuments such as the Charminar to some of the most beautiful mosques and Islamic tombs of India. Owing to the rich cultural heritage of the city, the building style developed in Hyderabad was most unlike other parts of India.
Granite and lime mortar were the chief ingredients of Golconda Fort, the Royal Tombs, the Charminar and the innumerable Qutub Shahi mosques. The Asaf Jahis who succeeded the Qutub Shahis were prolific builders. Several palace complexes of the Nizam, landmarks like the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the Osmania Arts College and the Osmania Medical College building are among their well-known contributions. Asaf Jahi rulers also experimented with European styles and incorporated European traditions with Hindu and Islamic forms and patterns.
Apart from 32 archaeological monuments short listed by the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA), 137 heritage buildings and 9 precinct rocks have been identified. It has been widely quoted that “Hyderabad, under the Nizam’s, was the largest princely state in India. Area wise it was as big as England and Scotland put together. The State had its own currency, mint, railways, and postal system. There was no income tax.”
Charminar has been a famous monument which has become a signature of the city. While its history and its making have resulted in immensely gratifying essays by plenty, the other monuments and buildings of the city too draw equal recognition. Golconda, Qutub Shahi Tombs, Taramati Baradari are names which many know of, but there are others replete with historical diversity like the I.Prakash Building or the Armenian Cemetery or even the Monty’s Bar.
Some of the heritage buildings like Falaknuma Palace, Sita Ram Bagh Temple, St Joseph’s Cathedral, St George’s Church and the Residency Complex are more than 100 years old.
Then there are buildings like the Central Building Division, Adil Alam Mansion, Ravi Bar, and Devdi Ranachand Ahotichand which could not hold on in the face of development. Demolished, they remain in the list.
The state government has rightly recognised the need for the restoration and maintenance of the heritage structures, some more than 200 years old, and announced some financial contribution to the Heritage Fund. Protection and renovation, without altering the basic structure of the heritage buildings and monuments, are needed for promoting heritage tourism.
Few years back, the government of Iran proposed to fund a `200 crore project at Hyderabad to develop seven famous tombs of the Nizam period along with the Premamati Mosque and Badshahi Ashur Khana as sites of heritage and culture. Iran has chosen these structures for its project as all of them were said to have been constructed under the supervision of architects brought from Iran at that time.
With these signature monuments and buildings of time, Hyderabad does and will probably continue to inspire many with its bygone era of valour and grandeur.