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Hyderabad – The City of Pearls

When you read about Hyderabad, you also have to experience the typical Hyderabadi talk. The essence of this city is wonderfully captured in 'Hyderabadi Baataan' - Part 1 & Part 2.

Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh, India), as we know it today, was established in 1591 AD. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah laid the foundation of a new city on the banks of River Musi and called it Bhagyanagar after his beloved queen Bhagmati. There are a couple of theories about how Bhagyanagar was renamed Hyderabad. One legend goes that when Bhagmati embraced Islam and took the name Hyder Mahal, the city of Bhagynagar was renamed Hyderabad after her. According to another story, it was named as the City of Hyder after the title of the Fourth Caliph Ali (of the Shia sect).

The city and its surrounding areas have a long history, even before the period of Quli Qutub Shah. It was part of the Mauryan Empire in third century B.C during the reign of Ashoka the Great. After the death of Ashoka  in 232 BC, the Maurya Empire began to weaken and decline. As a result, the Sātavāhanas who started out as feudatories to the Mauryan dynasty, declared independence and established their empire in this region. The Sātavāhana Empire or Andhra Empire, was a royal Indian dynasty based out of Dharanikota and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra. The territory of the empire covered much of the Deccan plateau & central India for about 450 years from 230 BC till around 220 AD. After the decline of the Satavahana Empire, the region came under the rule of the Andhra Ikshvaku dynasty until 325 AD.

Various Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms ruled the area during the subsequent centuries, including the Chalukyas and Kakatiyas. In 1321 AD, the area fell to Muhammad bin Tughluq's forces from the Delhi Sultanate. For the next few decades, the Bahmani Sultanate of the Deccan fought the Musunuri Nayakas on the north and the Vijayanagara Rayas on the south for control of the region. By the middle of the 15th century, the region was under the firm control of the Bahmani Sultanate which controlled the Deccan north of the Krishna River from coast to coast.

Sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk, who was of Turko-Persian descent, served the Bahmani Sultanate. He conquered Golconda (currently in Hyderabad), after the disintegration of the Bahmanis into five Deccan sultanates. Soon after, he declared independence and established the Qutub Shahi dynasty of Golconda. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, founder of Hyderabad was the descendant of Sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk.

During the Qutub Shahi period, Hyderabad flourished and became a vibrant center for culture and trade. 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 also great patrons of the local Telugu culture. Golconda became one of the leading markets in the world for diamonds, pearls, steel, arms, and also printed fabric. Hyderabad became known for its gardens (called baghs) and its comfortable climate. Visitors from other lands compared the city most to the beautiful city of Isfahan in Iran.

By the mid-17th century, the landscape changed drastically.  Mughal prince Aurangzeb spent most of his time in the Deccan fighting local Hindu and Muslim kingdoms to establish and enforce Mughal Sovereignty. And finally in 1687, Hyderabad was conquered by the Mughal army. For a few decades, Hyderabad declined, and its vibrant diamond trade was all but destroyed. Aurangzeb's attention moved away quickly to other parts of the Deccan, with the Marathas slowly but steadily gaining ground against the Mughals. With the emaciation of the Mughal Empire after Aurangzeb's death in 1707, the Mughal-appointed governors of Hyderabad gained more autonomy from Delhi. In 1724, Mir Qamaruddin Siddiqi (Chin Qulich Khan Asaf Jah I) was granted the title Nizam-ul-Mulk ("governor of the country") by the Mughal emperor. He defeated a rival official to establish control over Hyderabad. Thus began the Asaf Jahi dynasty that ruled Hyderabad until a year after India's independence from Britain. Asaf Jah's successors ruled as Nizams of Hyderabad. The rule of the seven Nizams saw the growth of Hyderabad both culturally and economically. Hyderabad now became the formal capital of the kingdom.

When India gained independence in 1947, the Nizam declared that he would remain independent, either as a sovereign ruleror by acquiring Dominion status within the British Empire. In order to keep essential trade and supplies flowing, he signed a Standstill Agreement with the Indian Union which surrounded him on all sides. The law and order situation soon deteriorated, with escalating violence between the private Razakar army fighting for continuation of the Nizam's rule and the people who were fighting for joining in the Indian Union. The people had the support of Congress leaders like Swami Ramanand Tirtha and the communists of Telangana. As the violence spiraled out of control and refugees flowed into the coastal Andhra region (of the erstwhile Madras state of India), the Indian Government under Home Minister Sardar Patel initiated a police action called Operation Polo. On September 16, 1948, the Indian Army moved in to Hyderabad State from five fronts. Four days later, the Razakars were defeated and hundreds of people died in the process. The Nizam finally surrendered and signed the Instrument of Accession to the Indian Union and Hyderabad was integrated into the Indian Union as a state. The state got its first democratic government and the representatives of its 18 million people were admitted to the Constituent Assembly drafting a constitution for free India. For the next eight years, Hyderabad continued as a separate state within the Union.

On November 1, 1956, the states of India were reorganized on linguistic grounds. Consequently, the territories of the State of Hyderabad were divided between newly created Andhra Pradesh, Bombay state (later Maharashtra), and Karnataka. The twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad became the capital of the new state of Andhra Pradesh.

Today, Hyderabad is a major tourist hotpot in the Deccan region. It is home to several historical sites, including the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage site of Chowmahalla Palace. Other popular landmarks and tourist destinations include the Charminar and Chudi bazaar, Golconda fort, Salarjung museum, Falaknuma palace, Qutuib Shahi tombs, Hussain Sagar (Tank Bund), Osman Sagar (Gandipet), Hyderabad Zoo, Birla Mandir, Public Gardens and old Assembly buildings, Ravindra Bharati theater, Sultan bazaar area, Ramoji film studios and, Hitech / Cyber city.

Hyderabad is traditionally known for its trade of pearls and other precious gem stones. The Laad Bazaar and nearby markets has shops that sell pearls, diamonds and other traditional ware and cultural antiques. Tourism industry is another big contributor to the city’s economy. The retail industry is also on the rise along with achieving major strides in setting up biopharmaceutical and information technology (IT) offices. Many national and international companies such as Microsoft, Google  etc.have set up shop in the city. Hyderabad witnessed a high growth in the real estate business due to the proliferation and IT and other Hi-tech industries. In 2011, Hyderabad was ranked as the fourth best city to live in India A large number of mega malls have come up in the past few years.

Hyderabad has always been known as a city where distinct cultural and linguistic traditions of North and South India meet. So Hyderabadis (residents of the city) have developed a distinctive culture and language of their own, which is a mixture of Hindu and Muslim traditions. ‘Dakkhani’ (a form of Hindi which includes Urdu, Telugu, Marathi and Kannada influences) is the most widely spoken language in Hyderabad. Festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Bonalu, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.are publicly celebrated.

The city’s unique cuisine has over 400 years of history and is highly influenced by Mughals and partially by French, Arabic, Turkish and Irani food where rice, wheat and spices are widely used to great effect. It is influenced by the native Telugu and Marathwada cuisine as well, bringing in a unique taste to the dishes. Some of the most popular Hyderabadi dishes are Hyderabadi Biryani, Baghaare Baingan, Mirchi Ka Saalan, Hyderabadi Haleem, Khubani ka meetha, Double ka meetha and Kaddu Ki Kheer. Of course, traditional South Indian dishes like Idli, Dosa, Uttapam, Sambar etc., are also very popular. The cosmopolitan nature of the modern city has also popularized other cuisines like Punjabi, Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Continental.

Hyderabad continues to be a cultural melting pot today as it has been throughout history.

You may also like 'Hyderabadi Baataan' - Part 1 & Part 2.


Hyderabad – The City of Pearls