HYDERABAD: Heritage. For a common man it’s just another word for an old structure bearing the weight of centuries in its ancient architecture. People notice, yet don’t notice especially when happenings like Orlando shooting or Udta Punjab controversy delete everything else from their thoughts. But when on a Sunday more than 100 people gather at Charminar for #MakeHeritageFun, an initiative by GoUNESCO the cityscape seen from a common man changes. No wonder that within minutes the gathering grew larger, some even coming from as far as Nalgonda. Supported by INTACH and Hyderabad Weekend Shoots, the event saw people going berserk with their cameras. Nikons and mobiles captured minarets, bazaars and domes equally.
The pictures were not just clicked in Hyderabad. People all over the world in different cities clicked the photographs and posted it with the hashtag #MakeHeritageFun. That’s how people from Nikon Camera Club, Hyderabad weekend Shoots and architecture colleges came and joined. Says the Ajay Reddy the 32-year-old man behind GoUNESCO, “Heritage is a great way to connect to people on a continuous basis. We organise heritage runs, student internships and travel challenges as part of the initiative.” A techie, now based in Bengaluru, he started the initiative after he couldn’t recognise many heritage sites printed at the back of an entry pass from a world heritage site. That’s how GoUNESCO, which started as GoHeritageRuns, was born. Later UNESCO actually extended its support giving technical assistance.
From Charminar after an address by INTACH convener Anuradha Reddy, the gathering divided into groups and headed to Chowmahalla Palace, Mecca Masjid, Laad Bazaar and other adjoining areas. Despite the fact that Hyderabad boasts of magnificent heritage structures they are yet to get the World UNESCO Heritage Site tag. However, some of them are in the proposed list. And it’s Chowmahalla Palace that won the 2010 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Restoration Award. “This could happen because of the efforts of Princess Esra, erstwhile wife of Prince Mukarram Jah, the last Nizam of Hyderabad,” said Anuradha as we entered the Chomahalla Palace gardens dotted with neatly manicured lawns, frangipani trees and fountains. Near the entrance, we spotted two small canons with Mir Qasim inscribed on it in nastaliq script. The date is 1280 Hijri. Added Anuradha asking us to identify the canons minutely, “These small canons were used for land attacks. Some canons were brought by the French.” We noticed more canons with dolphin shapes that later, in more advanced canons, turned into salamanders with French royal symbol Fleur De Lyse as part of the design. Later it was replaced by moon-crescents that showed Hyderabad state was getting its own canons. “The Europeans were using it for and against each other. The French supported the Nizam. Monsieur Raymond is said to be very close to Nizam Ali Khan. The canons were made of iron, bronze and brass and as time progressed the craftsmen in Hyderabad excelled. That’s how we had gunfoundry,” added Anuradha.
As we moved inside Khilwat, the coronation hall, the sight was bedazzling with massive chandeliers that glowed above the marbles floors as during Asaf Jahi period the chandeliers were opulent and regal in design, price and weight. Many of them are more than a century old ranging from Bohemian, French and British styles. Some of these would be ordered from stores in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. That’s how we see huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling of Mecca Masjid. These are lit only during Ramzan. Many attendees came back in the evening for shots.
Some groups ventured into the lanes of Laad Bazaar, known for its rainbow coloured bangles and fine craftsmanship. William Dalrymple in his book White Mughals writes about the noble lady Khair-Un-Nissa designing bangles as her favourite leisure-time activity. In the same lanes are shops selling jewellery of cultured pearls as the city, in its golden times, was known for pearl polishing. The nobles were fed up with gold and diamonds and tried something exotic like pearls that the foreign travellers brought. Old, weathered minarets and darwaazas all of sudden catch your attention tucked between two shops. Another group explored the morning Sunday Bazaar that sells old-time artifacts, used clocks, jewelled boxes and even navy compasses. People enjoyed the Sunday spent in the lap of heritage.