Hyderabad

Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, was founded by Muhammad
Quli Qutb Shah, the Sultan of Golconda, in 1591. It is the fifth largest
city in India.

Its twin city, Secunderabad, is located 10km north, and the large Golconda
Fort is located about 10km west. Between the 15th and 19th centuries,
Hyderabad was ruled by Muslim leaders known as Nizams, even though the
Hindu population was predominant.

At one time Hyderabad was a center for some of the greatest jewelry
design and art work in all of India. Hyderabad is still famous for its
art, jewelry, poetry and architecture. The wealth and grandeur of the
collections in Hyderabad’s museums can easily rival some of the
greatest museum collections in Europe.

Golconda Fort
This impressive fort, 10km west of Hyderabad, was the capital of the
seven Qutb Shahi kings from 1512 to the end of the 16th century, at
which time the capital moved to Hyderabad. Its outer walls are as high
as 18m. It has 8 huge gates (four still used) with ele­phant spikes
and had 87 bastions for cannons. Some of the cannons are still on the
walls. In the fort are temples, the Hall of Public Audiences, mosques,
the Rani Mahal, and ruined palaces. The perimeter of the fort is over
5km. After two sieges on the fort, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb took
the fort, and the kingdom reached its end.

Golconda was famous as the market for the neighboring diamond mines.
Some of the famous diamonds that came from here are the Orloff
Diamond
(Catherine the Great), the Hope Diamond,
Kohinoor (British Crown), and the diamonds on the Peacock
Throne
(Shah of Persia).

You enter the Bala Hissar Gate. It is said that if
you clap your hands at the entrance of this gate it can be heard at
the Durbar Hall, on top of the hill. So you will hear a lot of clapping.
On the right is the mortuary bath, where the bodies
of nobles would be bathed before being buried. If you follow the path
you come to the residences of the ministers, Madanna and Akkana. You
then start walking up to the Durbar Hall.

To reach the Durbar Hall, where you can get a great
view of the surrounding area and the fort, is about a 1000-step climb,
which takes about 30 minutes. Near the top is the Mosque of
Ibrahim Qutub Shah.
Nearby, is a temple dedicated to Mahakali
(a form of Durga). At the top of the hill you come to the three-storey
Durbar Hall. It is said that if you clap your hands at Durbar Hall it
will reverberate at 5 places along the fort’s walls. There is
also the ruins of the Queen’s Palace.

The fort is open daily 7 am to 8 pm; Free. Guides cost about Rs 50
an hour. There is a Sound and Light Show every evening: Nov to Feb 6.30
pm, March to Oct 7 pm, 1 hr; Adults Rs 25, children Rs 15. English show
is only on Wed and Sun. To get here you can take buses #119, #142 or
#80R from Nampally, near the railway station in Hyderabad. From Secunderabad
you take #80D and from Charminar #66G. You can buy a detailed booklet,
which includes a map, at the fort from vendors. It takes 2 to 3 hours
to see the fort.

Qutb Shahi Tombs
These elegant tombs, located about 1½ km northwest of the Balahisar
Gate of the Golconda Fort, contains the remains of seven of the rulers
of the Qutb Shahi kingdom. Each tomb is built on a square base and has
a dome on top. They have outstanding stonework and are designed with
lotus decorations and leaves. There is an ornamental coffin on top and
the real remains are below. Open daily except Friday 9.30 am to 4.30
pm.

Salar Jung Museum
This huge museum has over 35,000 exhibits from all over the world. It
has an incredible collection of Chola sculptures, weapons, metal­wares,
textiles, ivory, and jade. The exhibits were collected by Mir Yusaf
Ali Khan (Salar Jung III), the Prime Minister (wazir) of the Nizam and
his son and grandson. It is easily one of the best museums in India.

In the Ivory Room, Room 14, there is a solid ivory chair given to Tipu
Sultan by Louis XV. In Room 17, there are some outstanding modern Indian
paintings by Abanindranath Tagore, Ravi Varma and K Hebbar. Room 18
has some good miniature paintings. In the Jade Room, there are the swords
and clothing of the Mughal emperors and Tipu Sultan. In Room 29, there
are some outstanding old manuscripts, including a copy of the Koran
signed by Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. There is an ancient sculpture
collection and some great picchwais, temple hangings depicting the pastimes
of Krishna.

The museum is located south of the Musi River at CI Badari Malakpet
(523-211). It is open daily except Fridays and government holidays from
10 am to 5 pm; Admission Rs 5, children Rs 2. Sundays are best avoided
because of heavy crowds. On the right as you enter is an office which
gives out a good map of the museum. Free guided tours also start from
this office.

Charminar
The Charminar (Four Towers), is a 56m (185 ft) high arch, which has
four minarets, nice balconies and a small mosque. Muhammed Quli Qutb
Shah built it in 1591 to celebrate the end of an epidemic, which plagued
the city. There is not much to see, but the area around it is interesting.
There are some interesting bazaars nearby.

Mecca Masjid
Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah also started Mecca Masjid, about 100m down Sardar
Patel Rd, in 1614. Aurangzeb finished it in 1687, after the Mughals
took over the kingdom. It is the largest mosque in Hyderabad and 10,000
people can worship here at one time. It received its name because there
are some bricks from Mecca embedded into its wall above the gate. You
pass the tombs of some of the Hyderabad Nizams, on the left, when you
enter the mosque.

Falaknuma Palace and Purani Haveli
For those interested in art, precious artifacts, and architecture, some
other places of interest are Falaknuma Palace and Purani Haveli. These
collections are housed in grand old palaces and mansions, and prior
permission is required to visit.

Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple (Birla Mandir)
This is a beautiful, modern, white marble-carved temple built by the
Birla foundation. It is located on the highest point in Hyderabad, overlooking
Hussain Sagar lake. It is worth the trip just for the spectacular view
of the surrounding area. It is near the Birla Planetarium. Open daily
7 am to noon and 3 to 9 pm.

BM Birla Science Centre and Archaeological Museum
In the archaeological section there are excavations from Vaddamanu which date from 100 BC to 200 AD, stone and wood sculptures and miniature paintings. There are optical illusions in the science center.  It is located on top of Naubat Pahar Hill (241-067). Open daily 10.30 am to 8.30 pm.

Birla Planetarium
There is a show on the existence of aliens. It is located on top of
Naubat Pahar Hill. There are English shows Mon to Saturday 11.30 am,
4 pm and 6 pm; Sunday 11 am, 3.45 pm and 6 pm. Closed last Tuesday of
the month. Admission Rs 10.

Hussain Sagar Lake
It is a 6½ km by 4km artificial lake, which was made during the
time of the Golconda Empire. There is a 17.5m high, 350 tons monolithic
Buddha statue on a platform in the middle of the lake. While being transported
on a barge to be put on one of the dam’s wall, it sank into the
water. In 1992 it was raised from the bottom of the lake and was found
to be totally intact.

Next to the lake is the pleasant Lumbini Park (9 am to 9 pm), north
of Secretariat Rd. Boats depart to the statue from the park for Rs 10
per person. There are good views of the lake from Tankbund, which is
on the eastern bank of the lake.

Hyderabad Archaeological Museum
It has a collection of archaeological objects that were found in the
local area. There are also copies of the paintings in the Ajanta Caves
in Maharashtra. Open daily except Fri 10.30 am to 5 pm.

The museum is in the Public Gardens, which is located just north of
the Hyderabad railway station. There is also an Aquarium in the Park,
which is open daily except Sun 10.30 am to 5 pm.

Nehru Zoological Park
This large zoo, set in nice gardens, has a good collection of animals.
It has a lion safari and a toy-train that goes around the zoo. Open
daily except Mon 9 am to 5 pm.

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