Unlike its popular biryani, Hyderabad is not a city you may fall in love with
Unlike its popular biryani, Hyderabad is not a city you may fall in love withinstantly, it’s an acquired taste. Life here is not a competition between the ancient and the modern; the fast-paced newer parts of the city don’t constantly race ahead of the laid-back charm of the Old City. On the contrary, both these elements, at either ends of a totem pole, reach a common ground and the resulting amalgamation is unique, much like one of the city’s languages – Hyderabadi Hindi.
It can get difficult to compartmentalize and distinguish the places and people of this city into categories of old and new, educated and uneducated, sophisticated and unsophisticated. It is a common sight to see a formally dressed corporate employee switch from Oxford English to crass Hyderabadi in a split second and walk into an Irani cafe or a biryani centre. Similarly, during Ramzan or Ganesh Chaturdhi, the most upmarket areas in the city turn into hotbeds of chaos, overnight.
The city and its people are very accepting of outsiders; it is in their deeply rooted tradition and rich history to unite, blend and churn out a culture that is unique.
Two perfect examples of this are Hyderabadi Hindi, a mixture of four different languages – Hindi, Urdu, Marathi and Telugu; and Hyderabadi cuisine, a mixture of Mughlai and south Indian.
One of the most striking features of the city is its communal harmony. Going by demographics, 55.41 per cent of its population is Hindu and 41.17 per cent of its population is Muslim. The city is also home to Telugu, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Marwari and Odia speaking people, amongst many others. The lyrics of a Telugu film (Okkadu, 2003) song famously claim ‘Chaarminar chaatu kadhaki, teliyani nitya kalaham’ (meaning – the story behind Chaarminar doesn’t know what difference and impurity is). Indeed, Hyderabad is mostly oblivious to communal differences that the rest of the country very often faces; the city threads its own path, staying true to the idea of ‘heaven on earth’ and fraternity and love – ideals that were the foundation of the city built by the Qutub Shahi dynasty, about 424 years ago.
Today, the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, spread over an area of 625sq km, is the fourth-most populated metropolis in India. It is home to some of the major Indian manufacturing, research and financial institutions such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, National Geophysical Research Institute and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.
The late 90s saw Hyderabad transform into a major information technology hub with Indian and multinational companies setting up their operations in the Cyberabad area of the city. The city has several popular pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as well. All of them together, make Hyderabad the fifth largest contributor to India’s overall GDP.
A true jewel in the crown of the Deccan Plateau, the city is popularly known as the ‘pearl city’ and has a history of diamond trading at Golconda. Hyderabad is also home to splendid palaces, mosques, ornamental gardens and lakes, spectacular hill forts and heritage buildings amongst others, making it one of the most interesting tourist destinations in the world.
Eight kilometres to the east of Golconda Fort, across the Musi river, lay a small sleepy village called Chichlam. Due to its location on the highway that connected the Golconda Fort to the port city of Machlipatnam, several caravans and traders passed by the village on a daily basis.
On one such day, not very far from the main temple in the village, and hidden somewhere behind the bushes, 14-year-old Bhagmati was humming melodious tunes while she waited for a noble man and his retinue to pass by the road leading to the temple. She was interrupted when a young man from the retinue stopped to address her. After complimenting her singing, he revealed himself as Abu Muzaffar, the Prince of the Qutub Shahi dynasty that held Golconda. Thereafter began the bewitching love story of Bhagmati and Abu Muzaffar who was also known as Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah.
The Prince and Bhagmati kept meeting each other and sharing private moments, often, until one day when the Prince left for a war, without telling her. In the days that followed, Bhagmati grew more and more anxious as rumours about the prince getting engaged to another lady spread in the kingdom. However, Abu Muzaffar returned, as the fifth king of the Qutub Shahi dynasty and married Bhagmati. He made her his queen and often gave expensive gifts to the people of Chichlam. So great was his love for Bhagmati that he ordered the construction of a new city – which would replicate heaven on earth – dedicated to his wife.
He entrusted the building of the new city to his prime minister Mir Mohammad Momin, who soon began work at the village of Chichlam. He also invited architects Mir Abu Talib, Kamal-ud-din Shirazi and Sheharyar Jehan to help him execute the project.
For the first monument, the architects came up with a plan for a rectangular structure, with four arches and four minarets. Four roads intersected at the foot of the structure, whch faced a fountain and four channels of the River Musi. The whole plan was symbolic of the sacred Garden of Eden and Mohammad Quli’s heaven on earth, according to Islamic tradition. Thus Bhagyanagaram, named after Bhagmati, was born in the year 1591. Several palaces and other structures were built in the area after the construction of the first monument, the Charminar.
After a few years Bhagyanagaram was renamed Hyderabad after the king’s new name for Bhagmati, ‘Hyder Mahal’. Mohammad Quli’s long and prosperous rule ended with his nephew Sultan Mohammad acceding the throne.
The seventh king of the Qutub Shahi dynasty, Abdullah, had to deal with the Mughals who attacked Golconda Fort in 1656. The attack resulted in payment of heavy indemnity. Abul Hasan Tana Shah, the eight and last Qutub Shahi ruler, ably defended his kingdom against the mighty Mughal empire. However, it was during Tana Shah’s rule that Aurangzeb finally stormed into the fortress when a traitor opened the gates in 1687, after a seige of eight months. Tana Shah was taken prisoner, first to Bidar and then to Daulatabad. He died in the prison there and his grave rests opposite Aurangzeb’s, the man who took him prisoner.
After the fall of Golconda Fort, Hyderabad’s importance declined until Mir Qamaruddin, also known as Nizam-ul-Mulk, establised his authority in the Deccan and laid the foundations for the Asaf Jahis to rule the princely state of Hyderabad for the next 224 years.
Due to the Asaf Jahis’ cordial relations with the British, Hyderabad state was left to flourish without Colonial influence. The Asaf Jahis, who were also known as Nizams, built their palace in the city of Hyderabad. They were one of the most opulent and wealthy families that ever existed in India. They left behind many grand palaces and heritage structures such as the Chowmahallah Palace (see p119), Falaknuma Palace and Purani Haveli, which are on tourists’ must-see list today.
After Indian independence, Hyderabad became a part of the Indian Union in 1948. It was made the capital of Andhra Pradesh in 1956 and as recently as 2014, the city became the capital of the newly formed state of Telangana. It is also the de jure capital of Andhra Pradesh for a period of 10 years beginning from June 2014.
If you’ve got a new job, or bought a house or new car, brace yourself and bulk up your wallet because your Hyderabadi friend’s first reaction to any news big or small, good or bad is going to be “daawat ekkada?” (Where is the feast?). This daawat involves huge amounts of biryani, easily available alcohol (wine shops, interestingly, named after gods, are the most common sight in this city and the state of Telangana) and uninvited guests.
Obviously, most of the city’s cultural idiosyncrasies stem from the period of Nizam rule. The Nizam’s were well heeled and lavish in their display of wealth. During their reign, Hyderabad is said to have been one of he grandest and richest cities that ever existed in the whole of south Asia.
The city dresses up in its celebratory best from July to September when Ramzan and Ganesh Chaturdhi are observed. People are up all night dancing, singing, eating, playing football, and making merry. The streets turn into fairs and every corner has a haleem stall and a Ganesh pandal. Sometimes, the Ganesh pandals are designed in the shape of a mosque and as the night wears on, the religious differences blur further. Although the traffic jams could get a little unnerving and the occasional rain could play spoil sport, this is the best and the easiest time to savour a slice of the city’s culture.
The twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, can be roughly divided into four parts – Old City, newer city of Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Cyberabad. The Old City, which houses most of the historic monuments, occupies the southern part of the main city. A little to its north, is the comparatively newer city, which is the largest and the most prominent of the four regions. On to its west is Cyberabad and to its extreme north lies the twin city of Secunderabad.
The city itself is spread out like an octopus with its head lying at Abids, a popular commercial centre. The main road of Abids is a one-way that connects several areas in new Hyderabad to the older parts of the city. Abids has several restaurants, shopping centres and second-hand goods’ markets. It is also the area from where road distances in and around Hyderabad are calculated.
Tank Bund, built along the beautiful Hussain Sagar lake, separates the newer part of Hyderabad from Secunderabad. Other roads such as Sardar Patel Road also connect Secunderabad to Hyderabad. Beyond Sardar Patel Road and areas of Hyderabad such as Begumpet, Punjagutta, Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills, lies Hyderabad’s newest region and information technology hub, Cyberabad. The most popular areas to experience nightlife or the cosmopolitan side of the city are Begumpet, Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills and Kondapur and Madhapur in Cyberabad.
Hiring a cab is the most convenient way to get around within Hyderabad. The auto-rickshaws in the city hardly ever ply by meter and tend to quote exorbitant prices. Taking a Road Transport Corporation (RTC) bus is not a bad idea either. The buses are safe, comfortable and well connected. The local train system caters to some parts of the city and Hyderabad is also getting a metro system and trial runs were underway at the time of research.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Owing to its rich history, Hyderabad has much to offer in the form historic forts, grand palaces and heritage buildings. There are several beautiful lakes and parks, as well, that are spread across the city. You might need several days to cover everything this city has to offer and still might not be able to tick every sight off your list. However, here’s a guide to the things you shouldn’t miss out on when you’re in the city of pearls.
The road that leads to the Charminar passes over the Musi river. Although the area is chaotic, with people in every direction, the sacred Garden of Eden plan that it was initially built on is easy to trace.
Teeming baazars selling clothes, bangles and jewellery flank both sides. The Charminar stands tall, 56m above ground level, overlooking the pandemonium. Built in between 1590 and 1591, the Charminar is a true masterpiece of Qutub Shahi architecture and is now used to represent Hyderabad pictorially.
Built out of limestone and mortar, the Charminar has four imposing arches, each 11m wide and 11.5m high. Above the arches lies the first floor with arcaded balcony that runs around the structure with openings to both its interior and exterior sides. There are accounts of the first floor once being used as a madrasa and the chambers here were meant for students. On the second floor is a mosque, with five arches that display exquisite stucco designs. The mosque has prayer halls that can accommodate 45 people in all. A large open space in front of it was utilized during Friday prayers. On the eastern end of the mosque’s courtyard is a porch surmounted by a dome and petal-shaped flutings.
Each of the four minarets has arched balconies at three different levels and the top most balconies are crowned by domes adorned by metal finials. The average thickness of the pillar portion of the minarets is 1m and the thickness of the lime plaster is 40–80mm. The grand spiral stairway that begins at the base of the monument has 149 steps, which lead you to the highest point. The monument cost 9,00,000 rupees to build – a significant amount in those days. In 1824 CE, during the reign of Asaf Jah III, the entire monument was re-plastered. In 1889 four clocks were fixed on the second floor of each side of the structure.
Location Old City Entry ₹100; Free for children below 15 years of age Timings 9.00am–5.30pm
The biggest mosque in Hyderabad, Mecca Masjid lies 100 yards southwest of Charminar. Its name has been derived from the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Construction of Mecca Masjid was started by Sultan Mohammad Qutub Shah, under the direction of Choudhary Rangaiah and Daroga Mir Faizullah Baig. The work continued during the reigns of Abdullah Qutub Shah and Abul Hasan Tana Shah. However, it was the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who finished building the monument in 1694, 77 years after it had started. Close to 8,000 masons and labourers were involved in the construction work.
The main hall of the mosque is 67m long, 54m wide and 23m high and can accommodate a thousand people at a time. There is a huge wall blocking the western side of the mosque, to provide for Mehrab. At either end are two huge octagonal columns, made out of a single piece of granite. With 15 graceful arches along its walls, the mosque displays astounding architectural symmetry. It is also believed that several bricks used in the construction of the mosque were brought from Mecca. At the southern end of this mosque are the graves of Nizams Ali Khan and Mahboob Ali Khan besides other members of the Asaf Jahi family.
Timings 8.00am–12.00pm; 3.00–8.00pm
The historic fortress of Golconda is one of the most awe-inspiring structures in India. Its excellent acoustic system is one of the prime attractions of the fort. Most visitors stop at the Fateh Darwaza near the entrance to clap, hoping that the echo produced will be heard all the way up at the Baradari, which lies 480ft above the citadel, and is the highest point in the fort.
During the Qutub Shahis reign, this acoustic system was used to warn the royals in the event of an attack.
The fort was originally built by the Kakatiyas in 1143 CE. Initially, it was only a mud fort called Gollu Konda (shepherd’s hill), which served as the Kakatiya’s western military outpost. After the downfall of the Kakatiya dynasty the Bahmani Sultanate acquired the fort. At this time Golconda was ranked amongst the sultanate’s most important centers. However, the Bahmani Sultanate eventually weakened and the then governor of Golconda, Sultan Quli, proclaimed independence, effectively laying foundation of the Qutub Shahi dynasty. The Qutub Shahis, who ruled from Golconda for over 170 years, spent millions of rupees on the fort to acquire a stable command over the Deccan region. The walls of the fort were strengthened and various canals were built along the walls for proper water supply. Several palaces, mosques and schools were built within the boundaries of the outer walls. Within a short period of time, Golconda had a beautiful city within its walls, with big gardens, mahals and shops. The fort fell into lesser significance after Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah built the city of Hyderabad in 1591 CE. Golconda was unbreachable for a long time but finally fell in 1687 CE after an eight-month long siege by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
There are eight entrances to the fort’s outer wall, Fateh Darwaza, Bahmani Darwaza, Banjara Darwaza, Mecca Darwaza, Patancheru Darwaza, Jamali Darwaza, Naya Qila Darwaza and Moti Darwaza. It was through Fateh Darwaza that the Mughal army, led by Aurangzeb, conquered Golconda Fort in 1687 CE. It is best to enter this fort through Fateh Darwaza and explore significant structures such as the Rani Mahal, Diwan’s Palace, Habshi Kamans, Nagina Bagh, Taramati Mosque and Ramdas jail – where the famous Carnatic musician Bhakt Ramdas was imprisoned by the last Qutub Shahi ruler, Tana Shah. A walk up to the highest point – Baradari of Bala Hisar (throne of the king) – involves ascending 360 huge granite steps, which can be a little exhausting. However, the panaromic view of the fort and the city of Hyderabad from here is definitely worth the physical effort. After exloring the fort, you can emerge from Banjara Darwaza, which opens near the Qutub Shahi Tombs complex.
Entry ₹5 Closed Fridays
Qutub Shahi Tombs
Although the resting place of the powerful Qutub Shahi kings and their various family members is more like a playground cum picnic spot today, the tombs have managed to retain their air of grandeur thanks to the ASI’s consistent conservation efforts.
The complex is situated about a kilometer north of Banjara Darwaza and is made up of a large cluster of tombs, each built on a raised platform. A mixture of Hindu, Persian and Pashtun architectural styles were employed while constructing the tombs. The platforms are essentially square bases upon which the domed structure of each tomb was raised. Arches run along all sides of these structures, which have been decorated with intricate stone work. The complex houses approximately 30 tombs including. The most important tombs are of the seven Qutub Shahi rulers and one that belongs to Hayath Bakshi Begum.
Entry Adults Rs. 10; Children Rs. 5 Closed Fridays Photography Rs. 20
If opulence and luxury are what you seek, then look no further than Falaknuma Palace. This glorious palace can seduce you with its lavishness and give you a taste of what every day life must have been like for the royals.
Viqar-ul-Umara, the sixth Nizam’s prime minister, constructed this palace in late 19th century CE. The palace, which has been laid-out in the shape of a scorpion, was designed by an Italian architect. Built on a hillock that is approximately 2,000ft high, Falaknuma Palace’s first stop is the clock tower. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond this point and guests are taken to the main buiding in buggies. The building is an unusual blend of Tudor and Italian architecture, and is surrounded by sprawling, manicured grounds. The main lawn was once used by the Nizams to park their umpteen Rolls Royce cars.
The prime minister had only one goal – to replicate heaven on Earth. In order to do so every statue, carving, piece of furniture, motif, minton tile, bohemian lantern, fresco painting and fountain carries some symbolism of heaven. The name of the palace itself literally translates to ‘belonging to heaven’.
The palace has a number of exquisite rooms, amongst them are the ball room, the royal library with a ceiling made from carved walnut wood and a dining room which could accommodate 100 guests at its 108ft-long table. The palace’s jade collection is considered to be the the most unique in the world.
The building has a grand marble staircase with curved balustrades that support marble figures. Another attraction at the palace is a custom made pool table. It is one of two pool tables of its kind in the world – the other being at Buckingham Palace – and is made by Burroughes and Watts in London. Its legs are intricately carved and the balls are made out of ivory. The table is bigger and slightly higher than other pool tables. Once you exit the main building, you will see hotel rooms on either side and at the other end of the property is the ‘Gol Bungalow’ which houses two restaurants and a sit out area which looks out onto the city.
A few days after its construction was completed, the sixth Nizam arrived for a day’s visit. However, he fell so madly in love with the beauty of the palace that he ended up staying here for 20 days. Eventually, he bought the palace from his prime minister for ₹68,00,000. A few days after residing in the palace, the Nizam met with an untimely death. For this reason, the seventh Nizam, Osman Ali Khan, never used Falaknuma as a residential palace for himself. Instead it became a guesthouse for elite visitors such as the Prince of Wales.
The Taj Group of Hotels acquired this palace in the late 90s and took ten years to refurbish it. The palace opened up for guests as Taj Falaknuma in 2010. It is interesting to note that it took 10 years and ₹40,00,000 to build the palace in late 19th century CE, another 24 years after that to decorate the palace and in recent times, the Taj Group spent 50 million dollars to refurbish this palace.
Entry The only way to enter the Falaknuma Palace is to either book a room here or book a meal at one of their restaurants. The meal will cost approximately ₹5,000 for two people and guests are taken on a tour of the palace grouds
Salar Jung Museum
Hyderabad has the distinction of being home to the world’s largest private collection of antiques. The Salar Jung Museum houses close to 43,000 art objects – Pesian carpets, Mughal miniatures, Chinese porcelain, Japanese lacquerware, some famous statues and 50,000 books. The grand white building stands majestically across the Musi, close to other historical monuments such as the Charminar. A vintage fire engine is on display opposite the museum entrance. A detailed floorplan of the museum is next to the entrance.
Once you enter the building, the first room on to your left provides audio guides and ahead of it lies the museum shop. The shop has several books on Hyderabad, a catalogue on the museum and souvenirs that range from bidri works to Kalamkari paintings. Further ahead on the left is Central Block. Most of the items on display in this section are from the personal collection of Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Bahadur (1889–1949), the ‘curator’ of the museum. Also known as Salar Jung III, he was raised by the sixth Nizam Mahboob Ali Khan, and was given the best of education. The seventh Nizam, Osman Ali Khan made Salar Jung III the Prime Minister of Hyderabad State. However, Yousuf Ali Khan Bahadur gave up the post November 1915, thereafter devoting his entire life to enhancing his collections of art and literature. He traveled extensively in India and abroad to add to his humungous collection of priceless books and antiques that are now on display at the museum. The museum was established in 1951 by the Salar Jungs. Later, the Government of India appointed a committee to take care of the museum.
The Central Block houses the Founder’s Gallery where you can see portraits of various Salar Jungs. The most exquisite one is framed with miniature portraits of Salar Jung III and his ancestors. The gallery also has objects of art, tea sets, glassware, wine glasses amongst others from the Salar Jungs’ personal collection. The central display here is Salar Jung I’s masand. The next enclosure in the gallery contains Salar Jung III’s clothes, cutlery and jewels besides other badges of honour he got from across the world.
Opposite the Founder’s Gallery is a small portico that has a digital display of the highlights of the museum. It is strongly recommended that one spends an entire day at the museum to explore its rich collection but if you’re in a hurry, seeing just the highlights listed in this digital display is a good option. The refurbished corridors of the museum are filled with photographs from the past – the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru laying the foundation stone of the museum, the late president of India Zakir Hussain inaugurating the museum, and portraits from Salar Jung III’s childhood days amongst many others.
The proceeding gallery to the left is the Indian Bronzes and Painted Textiles Gallery. It contains bronze statues of Hindu gods from the 9th century CE to 16th century CE, belonging to the Chola, Pallava, Chalukya and Vijayanagara dynasties amongst others. Karamkari paintings of Lord Krishna and other Hindu legends can also been seen here. The most enticing piece in this gallery is the bronze Nataraja statue from the 14th century CE. The following gallery on your right is the Indian Sculpture Gallery, at the entrance of which you are welcomed by two granite Nandi (bulls) statues of the 12th century CE that belong to the Kakatiya dynasty. The gallery houses ancient sculptures from different dynasties such as the Guptas, Kakatiyas and Cholas. The most interesting pieces here are the ‘Sila Bhanjika made from red mottled stone in the 1st or 2nd century CE in Mathura and Buddha statue from the 2nd or 3rd century CE, made out of limestone belonging to the Ikshvaku dynasty. At the centre of the gallery is the ‘Eka-MukhaLinga’ – an intricate sculpture with just Lord Shiva’s head. It is made from grey sandstone that is found in Kosambhi and belongs to the early Gupta period of the 4th or 5th century CE.
Next up on your left lies the Minor Arts of South India Gallery which houses well-carved wooden furniture. The highlight of this gallery is the carved wooden mandapam from the 19th century, which depicts Lord Rama’s coronation. This gallery is followed by Indian Textile and Moghul Glass Gallery. Several massive chogas, belonging to 17th century CE Mughal period are on display here in glass panels. There are also gorgeous brocade saris here and one exquisite gold leaf patterned Himroo design sari from the 19th century CE. The gallery also has hookah bottoms that belong to the Mughals. At the other end of this gallery is a small food court, which serves lunch and snacks to visitors.
The Children’s Gallery after the food court is the least impressive of all, housing small toys depicting war scenes. However, the Ivory Carvings Gallery, which is adjacent to it makes up for the lacklustre display. Distinctly carved ivory tusks – one in the shape of a boat and one depicting Buddha’s enlightenment and others showing daily life in China – are prime attractions here. The gallery also houses one of the smallest chess boards, carved out of ivory, in India. The ivory used to make the antiques in this gallery include not just elephant tusks but also teeth of walrus, narwal – an arctic dolphinoid and the Hippopotamus. The tradition of ivory carving was considered precious, next only to Jade, in 11th century China. Two heads of Boddhisatvas, from the 15th century CE, belonging to Ming dynasty are showcased here. Japan’s earliest ivory carvings from the 8th century CE are also on display here.
Up ahead is the large portico that displays the musical clock, which is one of the biggest attractions of Salar Jung Museum. The English bracket clock, which is fondly called the musical clock, was acquired by Salar Jung III in the early 20th century. Behind the portico is the Gallery of Veiled Rebecca, another highlight of the museum. This gallery contains several other 19th century CE marble statues, particularly of women and their dressing styles in various seasons. The detailed marble work on each of the sculptures is fascinating. The sculpture of Veiled Rebecca here is exquisite. Although fully carved out of marble, one can clearly see the serene and beautiful face of the lady through the veil. The pleats of the veil and the dress are superbly etched. The sculpture belongs to 19th century Italy and was carved by GB Benzoni.
The next room is the Walking Sticks Gallery, which has a variety of walking sticks made out of cane, Malacca cane, wood, sandalwood, ivory, fish bone, jade, glass and leather among other materials. Some sticks here are decorated with semiprecious hilts and belong to the Salar Jungs’ personal collection. The Walking Sticks Gallery is followed by the Arms and Ammunition Gallery. Mughal coat of mail, chain mail, swords, flint lock guns and blunder busses from the 17th and 18th century on display here will will delight visitors who are interested in weapons. As if that’s not enough, situated at the centre of the gallery is a European. The next two galleries are Metal Ware Gallery and Modern Indian Paintings Gallery, which display antiques such as the Persian hanging incensory from 1501 and Raja Ravi Verma paintings such as ‘Kerala Beauty’ and ‘Stolen Interview’. The last gallery on the ground floor is the Indian Miniature Paintings Gallery. The overall pattern, interplay of bright, unmitigated colours and dimensions are some of the features in the miniatures here. Most miniature paintings in this gallery belong to the Mughal period. The staircase that leads you to the first floor opens in the Eastern Block on the right. The most interesting galleries here are the Chinese Gallery, Porcelain Gallery and Japanese Gallery, all of which contain exquisite antiques from China, Japan and Southeast Asian countries. Beyond this area is the Western Block, the main attraction of which is the Painting Gallery. Besides several historic paintings, romantic paintings and natural paintings, the gallery houses the famous Double Statue which is one of the prime attractions of the museum. The statue is based on the German drama Dr Faust, authored by Goethe. Mephistopheles – the frontal side of the statue – is the demon to whom Dr Faust, the hero of the play, sells his soul to and brings to tragic end the life of his beloved, Margaretta – the rear side of the statue. The Double Statue is carved out of wood and dates to late 19th century CE France. The Clock Gallery in this section is also quite interesting. Clocks from the 18th to 20th centuries CE are on display here. One can see time recorders ranging from tiny pieces set in magnifying glasses to huge and stately grandfather clocks from France, England and Germany.
It can easily take up to a day to explore the vast collection of antiques this museum houses.
Entry ₹20; Free for anyone under 18 (school/ college ID proof mandatory); Foreigners Rs. 500 Timings 10.00am–5.00pm Closed Fridays Photography Camera and Mobile ₹50
A narrow, bustling lane adjacent to the Charminar leads one to the Chowmahallah Palace. The palace may look plain and simple on the outside but once you enter the premises, the sprawling gardens and splendid architecture will not fail to mesmerize you. Built by Nizam Salabat Jung, in 1750 CE, the palace is a copy of the Shah’s palace in Tehran although it is finer in its architecture than the latter.
A manicured garden with firangipani trees and a majestic white fountain greets visitors as they enter the palace complex. There are two long porticos that begin at either side of the entrance gate and run along the perimeter of the complex. The left portico has rooms that are now used for conservation purposes, as souvenir shops and as a canteen. The drawing room here, although cordoned off, can see seen from the doorway and the princess still stays here when she is visiting.
At the heart of the complex is the two-storey Khilwat Mubarak. The structure is adorned by carefully crafted stucco work all over its windows and arches. The imposing yellow building has two peripheral blocks jutting out on either side and at the centre lies the Darbar Hall, which has beautiful Belgian crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. This is where the Nizams held important court congregations and the coronation of Nizam VIII took place here on 6 April, 1967.
The Darbar Hall is surrounded by various rooms, which exhibit artefacts collected by the Nizams and their nobles. Some of the exhibits here include paintings, brass items, daggers and old photographs of the Nizams and the British viceroys who visited Chowmahallah Palace. On the floor above are rooms dedicated to heritage arts, crafts and crockery – some of the items on display include portraits of the Nizams, delicately carved wooden furniture, a rich collection of textiles, ceramics from China and gigantic mintons. A room at the back of the building houses the arms and ammunitions used by the Asaf Jahis, including helmets, armours, daggers, swords and guns.
Four other buildings lie behind the Khilwat Mubarak – the Aftab Mahal, Mehtab Mahal, Tahniat Mahal and Afzal Mahal. The Nizam’s collection of vintage cars is also here – on display are cars such as cars such as Napier Type L 7640 HP from 1906 and Ford Tourer from 1934. The biggest attraction is the magnificent Rolls Royce Silver Ghost in a rich canary yellow with gold mountings. This was made to order with many features, in 1911. The car was used only for ceremonial occasions. As you walk out of this complex, there is a Council Hall on your left and a Quran Gallery on your right. A little ahead is the clock tower famously called the Khilwat Clock. The clock in the tower has been ticking away for hundreds of years and chimes on the hour.
Entry Indians ₹50; Children ₹10; Foreigners ₹200 Timings 10.00am–5.00pm Closed Fridays Photography ₹50 Video ₹100
A structure that stands alone, Taramati’s Baradari is located on a rugged hillock not far from the serene Osman Sagar Lake. The double-storey, square shaped edifice with arches on all sides, sits on a raised terrace.
This baradari was a pavilion that belonged to Taramati, a royal mistress during the days of Abdullah Qutub Shah and Abul Hasan Tana Shah. Once upon a time it reverberated with music and dance. A legend has it that on moonlit nights, Taramati used to dance on a tightrope that extended from this pavilion to Golconda, which was about a mile away.
Paigahs were powerful nobles under the Nizams of Hyderabad. They were great patrons of art, literature and sports. Hence it is nor surprising that their mausoleums are unique.
The Paigah Tombs are a group of monuments located on the road to Santosh Nagar Colony from the Mir Jumla Tank. Although not as famous as other similar historic structures in Hyderabad such as the Qutub Shahi Tombs, the Paigah Tombs are just as magnificent, decorated in fine stucco work and harmoniously blend the Asaj Jahi and Rajasthani styles of architecture. Further, the tombs are known to be masterpieces of local artists who used a variety of marble in the construction. The complex includes the tombs of Paigah nobles such as Asman Jah, Shams-ul-Umara and Viqar-ul-Umara.
Built to look like an 18th-century European palace, Purani Haveli was the official residence of the Nizam. This grand mansion was constructed using European architectural styles, and is home to some old western-style furniture including the world’s largest wardrobe – a 240ft long wooden wardrobe with two levels. The second Nizam acquired this land and constructed the palace for his son Sikander Jah. Most Nizam rulers lived in this palace and built subsequent wings to it.
Malakpet Race Course
The princely state of Hyderabad was a prosperous kingdom and past times such as horse-racing and betting were popular amongst the elite. The Malakpet Race Course was built on the southern banks of the Musi river during the reign of the sixth Nizam. It had a grand pavilion where special seats were arranged for the Nizam and his nobles, in order of rank.
Today, the race course is considered one of the best in the country and contains all modern facilities. Races are held during the monsoon and winter seasons in Hyderabad.
Mozzam Jahi Market
At the intersection of the busy Nampally Road stands the royal granite structure of the Mozzam Jahi Market. The seventh and last Nizam Osman Ali Khan commissioned the building, the construction of which was completed in 1935. Subsequently, the Nizam inaugurated the building and named it after his second son Nawab Mozzam Jah Bahadur. The front section of the building has a high-domed clock tower and the rest of the building spreads around like a triangle. The market is one of the largest centres for retail trade in fresh fruits and vegetables in Hyderabad.
For the lack of a better word, Hussain Sagar can be safely called Hyderabad’s heart. With a surface area of 4.4sq km, the lake is centrally located and the areas around it are a preferred destination for recreational activities and entertainment. Although surrounded by the Tank Bund Road and Necklace Road, this beautiful lake is best viewed from the Telugu Talli Flyover, which stretches for 0.3km from Basheerbagh junction to Lower Tank Bund Road.
The lake was built by Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali in 1562 during the rule of Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah. The world’s largest monolith of Buddha was installed in the middle of the lake in 1992. Carved out of white granite stone, the statue is 58ft high and showcases Buddha in the Abhaya mudra. A concrete structure, now called the Rock of Gibraltar, was constructed in the middle of the lake to aid in the installation process of this statue. In 2006, the Dalai Lama consecrated the statue after performing a ritual. The Rock of Gibraltar can be accessed via a boat from Lumbini Park.
Lumbini Park is a small urban park constructed adjacent to the Hussain Sagar in the year 1994. Owing to its close proximity to other attractions in the city such as Tank Bund and Birla Mandir, the park attarcts a high volume of visitors every evening. The highlights of this park are the laser auditorium, boating and musical fountains.
Speed boats and cruise boats such as the Bahgheerathi and Bhaghmati leave from Lumbini Park and complete a circuit of the Hussain Sagar. Some of the boats also take visitors to the Rock of Gibraltar on which stands the Buddha statue. The auditorium in the park has a seating capacity of 2,000 and organizes a laser show on the history of Hyderabad, in the evenings.
Laser show timings 7.15pm on weekdays; 7.15pm & 8.30pm on weekends Park closed Mondays
Running along the Hussain Sagar, Tank Bund connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. An evening spent here is a refreshing experience – you could walk along the boulevard or see the 33 statues of famous people from Telangana that line one side of the road or savour some lip-smacking street food sold by several vendors.
The road also has the Pakistan Patton Tank, a war trophy given to the 54th Infantry Division, which is the one that the Indian Army disabled in the Battle of Basantar in 1971. Tank Bund road also provides for an excellent view of the Birla Mandir and Buddha statue in the Hussain Sagar.
An aerial view of this road, which stretches from NTR Gardens to Sanjeevaiah Park, resembles a necklace; hence the road is literally named after its shape. This boulevard is Hyderabad’s answer to Mumbai’s Marine Drive and is complete with picturesque lawns, lake-side eateries, exhibition grounds, fountains and recreational facilities.
People’s Plaza here frequently hosts musical shows and fairs. Adding the right amount of fun to this beautiful area is Eat Street, built along the lake. It has numerous restaurants, play areas and is visited by people of all ages.
At one end of Necklace Road is Jalvihar, a water park, which has India’s largest wave pool. Next to it is the Ohri’s complex, which has themed restaurants and promises a fine-dining experience. The Sanjeevaiah Park, named after the former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Damodaram Sanjivayya, is home to about 100 species of resident and non-resident birds and more than 50 species of butterflies and insects.
Besides being one of the largest Imax screens in the world and the largest in India, Prasad’s Imax holds the record of being the most viewed screen in the world; this record was achieved during the screening of popular films such as Interstellar, Spider Man and Harry Potter. The 72-ft-high, 95-ft-wide screen is accompanied by a whooping 12,000-watt sound system and can accommodate 635 people.
Although Prasad’s no longer screens Imax-format films due to the unavailability of a digital projector for its large screen size, it presents movies with a Cristie 4k projector. It is a delight to watch large-scale films on this screen.
Other than the large screen, the complex has a five-screen multiplex, a food court, multi-national fast food outlets, a shopping area and an exciting gaming zone. Ever since its inauguration in 2002, Prasad’s Imax has been Hyderabadis’ preferred destination for a weekly dose of entertainment.
Location Beginning of Necklace Road, overlooking the Hussain Sagar
Although similar to the various other Birla Mandirs constructed by the Birla Foundation across the country, the one in Hyderabad stands out for its perfect location. Sitting on the Naubath Pahad, at a height of 250ft above ground, the riveting white structure can be viewed from several points in the city. The presiding deity here is Lord Venkateswara. Apart from the main shrine, there are several others dedicated to Shiva, Shakti, Ganesh, Laxmi, Hanuman, Bramha, Saraswati and Saibaba.
The temple is an excellent place to catch a quite moment away from the chaos of the city. Further, no prayer bells have been installed in the temple, making it conducive for meditation.
One of the most beautiful gardens in Hyderabad, Public Gardens is quite popular amongst the locals.
The State Legislative Assembly building was built in 1913 and originally served as the Hyderabad Town hall. This striking white structure has a combination of Rajasthani and Persian architectural styles. A huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi stands in the central lawns in front of the assembly building.
The State Archaeological Museum was constructed in 1920, by Nizam VII. The building is an excellent example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Some of the interesting galleries in the museum are the Brahmanical and Jain Gallery, Buddhist Gallery, Arms and Armour Gallery, Numismatics Gallery and Ajanta Gallery. Besides, the museum contains an Egyptian Mummy that dates back to 2,500 BCE.
Lalita Kala Toranam and Jawahar Bal Bhavan are arts and culture hubs. The former is an open-air auditorium, which organizes several functions, plays and other cultural programmes. The opening and closing ceremonies of the International Children’s Film Festival, which is held in Hyderabad every November, take place at Lalita Kala Toranam. The area is also home to one of the oldest and most renowned theatre groups in Hyderabad called Surabhi. Jawahar Bal Bhavan is a children’s educational and cultural centre.
Jubilee Hall derives its name from the silver jubilee celebrations held in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of the seventh Nizam, Osman Ali Khan. The building has an elegant façade built in the Indo-Persian style.
Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills
These two posh areas are well-known for their shopping malls, nightlife, star gazing, by which we mean trying to spot Telugu film actors, long drives and fine dining.
Banjara Hills houses several malls such as GVK One and City Centre and several boutiques, coffee shops and fine-dining restaurants, hospitals and schools within its lanes. The locality also has a new cultural centre called Lamakaan, which is increasingly becoming an important centre for art and culture enthusiasts in the city. Other than this, it has the Jagannath temple where a famous RathYatra is held every year.
Jubilee Hills, on the other hand, is the Juhu of Hyderabad – people flock here to admire the many sprawling and beautiful bungalows built here and wait outside the houses of their favourite actors to catch a glimpse of them. Jubilee Hills is home to the Telugu Film Industry and houses various renowned studios such as the Padmalaya studios, Annapurnam studios and Ramanaidu studios, all owned by eminent film families.
Both localities have renowned hospitals such as LV Prasad Eye Institute, Care Banjara, Indo-American Cancer Institute and Apollo. Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills are the most prestigious boroughs to live in in Hyderabad.
A jungle amidst the concrete jungle, the Kasu Bramhananda Reddy (KBR) National Park is located in the middle of Jubilee Hills and is spread over an area of 390 acres. The park is a jogger’s paradise and has over 600 species of plants, 140 species of birds and 30 other species of reptiles. The park received National Park status in the year 1998.
Within the park’s area is the Chiran Palace, which was given to Prince Mukarram Jah on his coronation, by his father Prince Azam Jah in 1967.
Unlike other palaces belonging to the Nizams, the Chiran Palace is a more modern structure. The duplex building has two cellars, which house an armory hall, a conference hall, residential area, office, pantry and kitchen and a place for visitors.
Timings Summer 5.30–10.00am, 4.30–6.30pm; Monsoon and Winter 6.00–10.00am, 4.00–6.00pm
Hyderabadi’s absolutely love their cinema; and once you visit RTC Crossroads, you’ll realize that ‘love’ is really an understatement. The locality has numerous single screen cinema halls, all with comfortably cushioned-chairs, DTS sound systems, ACs and unbelievably inexpensive ticket pricing. The most famous halls here are Devi, Odion, Sandhya, Sudershan and Usha Mayuri – all of them have large cut outs of actors on their walls.
Interestingly, each of these halls screens movies of one particular actor. For instance, most of Mahesh Babu’s films release in Sudershan 35mm and most of Pawan Kalyan’s films release in Sandhya 70mm. Whatever be the box office review, these cinema halls screen a big star’s film for a pre-designated number of weeks. Even if you don’t understand Telugu, watching a superstar’s film at one of these theatres is an exciting experience.
Established by and named after the seventh and last Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, Osmania University is a public state university, known for its faculty of engineering, law, arts, sciences, management and commerce. The university was the first of its kind in the erstwhile Hyderabad State. Today, it is one of the top universities in Hyderabad and several colleges spread across the city are affiliated to the university. The university boasts of a prestigious alumni that includes the 9th prime minister of India late PV Narasimha Rao, the 16th and last chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh, Kiran Kumar Reddy, former Indian cricket team captain Mohammed Azharuddin and cosmonaut and first Indian to travel in space, Rakesh Sharma. In the recent past, the university has been a hotbed and epicentre for the student agitation for a separate state of Telangana that started in December 2009.
The 1,600-acre campus is a preferred destination for joggers and fitness enthusiasts because of the space it offers and the amount of greenery within its boundaries. The university has a Landscape Garden, central library and a swimming pool. Owing to its Nizami origin, the university also has several heritage buildings, the most famous of which is the College of Arts and Social Sciences, which forms the nucleus of Osmania University. Inaugurated in 1919, the edifice of the building is majestic and it has fountains and gardens in front of it. Built from pinkish granite stone, this notified heritage building is a harmonious blend of the pillar and lintel style of Ajanta and Ellora. The architecture of the building is similar to that of the College of Sultan Hassan in Cairo.
Mahavir Harini Vanasthali NP
Established in 1975, the park was named after Jain saint Mahavir, commemorating his 2,500th nirvana anniversary in the same year. Located in Vanasthalipuram, the park had once been the private hunting ground of the Nizams. It spreads over an area of 3,758 acres, making it the largest green lung space in the city.
The forest is dry deciduous mix with grassland and scrub jungle and has a few hundred animals such as the blackbuck, porcupine, Indian pond heron, short-toed eagle, kingfisher and cormorant. There are 30 species of reptiles and over 120 species of birds here. The flora in the park varies from sandalwood, rosewood and pala to teak and accacia.
The Telangana State Forest Department organizes guided tours around the Mahavir Harini National Park. Safari vehicle tours are also available within the park.
Established as a British cantonment area in 1806 and named after Sikander Jah, the third Nizam of Hyderabad, Secunderabad is much smaller in area and population as compared to Hyderabad. Although the two are considered twin cities separated by the Hussain Sagar Lake, both have different histories and cultures, which is evident from the architecture found here. However, together they form the Hyderabad metropolis and come under the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
Secunderabad is home to the Parsi and Anglo-Indian communities and has many famous churches. It is one of the biggest cantonment areas in the country and has quite a few residential areas for defence service officials. Compared to Hyderabad, Secunderabad has laidback charm, owing to its residential colonies. South Central Railway has its headquarters in Secunderabad and Hyderabad’s largest railway station, Secunderabad Junction is located here. The Secunderabad Club, established in 1878, is extremely popular and prestigious and remains one of the prime attractions in this city
Spread over 65 acres of land in Hitech City, Shilparamam is an arts, crafts and cultural village, which was established in 1992. The village houses an amphitheatre for cultural performances, a lake, umpteen stores selling Indian handicrafts, artefacts, clothes and several canteens serving south Indian snacks and food. The lake offers boating facilities.
Every year, from December–Janauary, a 15-day-long crafts mela is organized in Shilparamam. The mela witnesses huge crowds and is considered one of the largest in the country. Artisans from across India come here during this period and sell their products.
Adjacent to the village is Shilpakala Vedika, an auditorium where large-scale Telugu film and other cultural events are held. Grand Sanakranti celebrations are held in Shilparamam with Telugu traditions followed everywhere. During the festival, the roads in the village are decorated with muggu (rangoli) and a kite festival is held as well.
Entry Adults ₹40; Children ₹20
Cyberabad/ Hitech City
Hyderabad’s newest suburb, Hyderabad Information Technology, Engineering, Health informatics, and Bioinformatics city is a brainchild of former chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh and present Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Nara Chandrababu Naidu. Hitech City, which is also known as Cyberabad, is two kilometres from the prestigious suburb of Jubilee Hills comprising the areas of Madhapur, Gachibowli, Kondapur, Manikonda and Nanakramguda, saw rapid development in the 2000s. Several multinational companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft have set up their Indian headqurters in this area. Besides, Hitech City is also home to several posh residential colonies, Hyderabad’s biggest mall – Inorbit, umpteen restaurants and commercial areas, HITEX exhibition centre and numerous Indian and multinational companies offering information technology services. Due to the job opportunities it creates, Hitech City is home to many people from across the country.
Nehru Zoological Park
Established in 1963 near the Mir Alam Tank, Nehru Zoological Park is one of Hyderabad’s most visited destinations. The park is spread over an area of 380 acres and houses 1,100 animals of 100 different species – birds and reptiles included. The Indian rhino, Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, slender loris, python, panther, gaur and Indian elephant are some of the species here.
The zoo park has a nocturnal house, which artificially reverses night and day. This ensures that the animals here – fruit bats, slow loris, civets, hedgehogs, leopard cats, barn owls, wood owls, etc. – are active while visitors are at the zoo. The zoo also runs multiple trips each day through its safari area where one can spot species such as the Asiatic lion, sloth bear and Bengal tiger. Since the safari area is not very large, animal spotting is almost guaranteed here. The zoo also has a natural history museum and a toy train for visitors. Due to its multiple attractions, the Nehru Zoological Park serves as a perfection destination for a day’s picnic.
Timings April to June 8.00am–5.30pm; July to March 8.30am–5.00pm
Moula Ali Dargah
Atop the hillock of Moula Ali sits the Moula Ali Dargah dedicated to Hazrat Ali, who was the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad. Built during the rule of Ibrahim Qutub Shah, the dargah is a white structure, which can be reached after climbing a slightly tiring flight of stairs. The interior of the structure is decorated with several thousand mirrors. The dargah forms one of the 11 heritage sites conserved by Hyderabad Urban Development Authority.
When you’re in the city of pearls, the first thing you must look out for is a strand or two of the lustrous gem. The best place to acquire one is at the famous Mangatrai Jewellery store in Basheerbagh or at the various stores in front of the Charminar. However, you need to be careful because there are several fake ones in the market as well. The Charminar area also has Lad Bazaar famous for its stone-studded bangles The bangles here are made out of glass and are usually coated with bright colours and finished with shiny stones. Bargaining with the shopkeepers is essential here. A short distance from the Charminar is Madina. The market at Madina has good Indian clothes for women and men, however, bargaining is essential.
Hyderabad has stores that sell handicrafts and artefacts from the rest of the state. In this category, the state emporiums on Abids Road is a good place to shop. Begum Bazaar and Sultan Bazaar are some of the oldest markets in the area. General Bazaar in Secunderabad is famous for its fabrics, readymade clothes and shoes. For malls, head to Banjara Hills or Hitech City.
WHERE TO STAY
The city has a large number of luxury hotels scattered around the newer parts of the town while the middle and budget hotels are closer to the Abids and Nampally Railway Station area.
Among the luxury hotels are the heritage Taj Falaknuma Palace (Tel: 040-66298585; Tariff: ₹38,500–7,50,000), the grandest of the city’s palaces; and Taj Banjara (Tel: 66669999; Tariff: ₹9,500–40,000), one of the three Taj properties located in the posh Banjara Hills. The hotel’s open-air Kebab-e-Bahar restaurant overlooks the lake on the property. Walking distance from the Lifestyle building, one of the city’s liveliest night spots, is the ITC Hotel Kakatiya Sheraton & Towers (Tel: 23400132; Tariff: ₹13,500–70,000). Amongst its many facilities is a restaurant, bar, gym, spa and swimming pool.
Located in Sagar Mahal Complex, The Golkonda Resorts & Spa (Tel: 30696969, 24193000; Tariff: ₹8,000–34,000) is another heritage property overlooking the Osman Sagar Lake. It’s Jewel of Nizam – The Minar is a one-of-a-kind restaurant, located in a minar, offering lavish fine dining experience. Besides, the resort also boasts of a lounge bar, a multi-cuisine restaurant, spa, swimming pool and games.
The Hyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre (Tel: 27522999; Tariff: ₹7,500–30,000) is another lake-facing property offering good value for money. It is centrally located and close to the shopping districts of Abids and Basheerbagh. The hotel has a bar, restaurant, swimming pool, spa and health club. Just a short distance away on Lower Tank Bund Road is another Marriott property, Courtyard by Marriott (Tel: 27521222; Tariff: ₹6,750–10,000), a modern business hotel with all amenities. Their 24-hour restaurant serves excellent multi-cuisine fare.
The Park (Tel: 4499000; Tariff: ₹6,000–1,00,000) has a superb location facing the Hussain Sagar Lake. It is a beautifully designed boutique hotel on Raj Bhawan Road with luxurious rooms and suites. Its fine dining restaurant Aish serves exquisite Hyderabadi and Andhra cuisine. The hotel spa is also a good place to de-stress. Lemon Tree Premier Hotel (Tel: 44212121; Tariff: ₹7,000–25,000) in Hitech City, is a conveniently located with 267 rooms, restaurants, a bar, swimming pool, gym and spa. Other properties from the same group include Lemon Tree Hotel (Tel: 44141414; Tariff: ₹5,500–20,000) in Gachibowli with clean, spacious rooms, restaurants, a swimming pool, spa and gym; and Red Fox Hotel (Tel: 44484848; Tariff: ₹5,500–10,000) also in HITEC City with restaurants and a gym.
Other high-end properties in Hitech City include Trident (Tel: 66232323; Tariff: ₹14,000–35,000) and Westin Hotel (Tel: 67676767; Tariff: ₹8,500–85,000). Both offer restaurants, a bar, a swimming pool, a gym and a spa.
The elite Banjara Hills boasts of two Taj properties. Taj Krishna (Tel: 66662323; Tariff: ₹16,000–1,00,000) is perhaps one of the best hotels in the city. Located on Road No. 1, amidst beautifully landscaped gardens, the rooms offer breathtaking views of the Hussain Sagar Lake. Close by is Taj Deccan (Tel: 66663939; Tariff: ₹12,500–50,000) with 151 rooms and all modcons. Park Hyatt Hyderabad (Tel: 49491234; Tariff: ₹10,500–1,15,700) on Road No. 2 is another luxurious property. The rooms and suites are spacious and stylishly designed. The hotel’s several restaurants and a bar offer memorable culinary experiences. Radisson Blu (Tel: 67331133; Tariff: ₹7,000–16,000) on Road No. 6 has big, spacious rooms, a swimming pool, a well-equipped gym and good buffet spreads. Other reliable hotels in the area include Fortune Park Vallabha (Tel: 39884444; Tariff: ₹5,500–12,000) on Road No. 12; and The Golkonda Hyderabad (Tel: 66110101; Tariff: ₹7,000–25,000) in Masab Tank area.
More affordable in Banjara Hills include Hotel Minerva Grand Banjara (Tel: 67198888, 66127373; Tariff: ₹4,200–6,500) with 44 rooms; Hotel Sitara Grand (Tel: 66738888; Tariff: ₹3,600) with 27 rooms; GenX Banjara Hills (Tel: 23374860, 66464860; Tariff: ₹2,500–3,000); and Hotel Crystal Banjara (Tel: 23384477/ 4488, 33085576; Tariff: ₹3,000–4,000) with 36 rooms. All have restaurants.
Vivanta By Taj (Tel: 67252626; Tariff: ₹11,500–50,000) in Begumpet is another Taj property with great ambience and food. Begumpet also has Green Park (Tel: 66515151; Tariff: ₹6,000–13,000), which has a multicuisine restaurant and a bar; Marigold Hotel (Tel: 67363636; Tariff: ₹6,000–15,000) offers a restaurant, gym and spa; and The Plaza Hotels (Cell: 09553833319, 09553855560; Tariff: ₹2,750–4,000) with 82 rooms, a restaurant and swimming pool.
Novotel Hyderabad Airport (Tel: 66824422; Tariff: ₹8,000–19,000) is a clean and comfortable hotel near the airport in Cyberabad. On offer are a restaurant, gym, a spa and swimming pool. Ellaa Hotel (Tel: 23002488, 66288488; Tariff: ₹5,500–14,000) in Gachibowli is a 5-star property with multi-cuisine restaurants, a spa, health club and swimming pool. Manasarovar, The Fern (Tel: 30839999; Tariff: ₹7,000–12,000) is an ecotel hotel located on SP Road.
Amrutha Castle (Tel: 44433888; Tariff: ₹4,800–10,500) is modeled on the legendary Bavarian Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle. It comes with a swimming pool, health club and pub. Daspalla (Tel: 66545678; Tariff: ₹5,650–9,500) on Jubilee Hills has clean rooms with decent amenities. Hampshire Plaza Hotel (Tel: 23335555, 44225555; Tariff: ₹5,500–9,000) in Lakdi-ka-Pul area has a good location, decent food and Internet, and is good value for money. Other comfortable options include Hotel Aditya Park (Tel: 66788888; Tariff: ₹5,900–9,500) on Satyam Theatre Road; Hotel Avasa (Tel: 67282828; Tariff: ₹6,500–15,000) in Huda Techno Enclave; The Central Court Hotel (Tel: 23232323, 66661666; Tariff: ₹4,800–9,895) in Lakdi-ka-Pul area; Kubeera Palace (Tel: 67196719; Tariff: ₹4,000–7,000) in Himayath Nagar; Best Western Ashoka (Tel: 48800222; Tariff: ₹4,500–5,500) in Madhapur; and Royalton Hotel Abids (Tel: 67122000, Cell: 08121082015; Tariff: ₹4,500–7,000) in Abids with a restaurant, gym, spa and Internet.
Secunderabad also has numerous mid-range and budget options. Justa On Necklace Road (Tel: 66336644; Tariff: ₹6,500–11,000) is a 3-star property on Necklace Road. As is Times Square – The Landmark Hotel (Tel: 42222222; Tariff: ₹4,000–5,500) on SD Road. Hotel Minerva Grand (Tel: 67308888, 66117373; Tariff: ₹4,400–8,000) also on SD Road has large, clean rooms, a spa and good food.
Mango Hotel (Tel: 60500116; Tariff: ₹3,967–4,967) on MG Road is a very comfortable option. United 21 (Tel: 67338800, Cell: 080085-58666; Tariff: ₹3,800–6,800) opposite the Passport Office on St Mary’s Road has well-appointed rooms and suites. The Purple Leaf Hotel (Tel: 66006600; Tariff: ₹4,000–5,000) in Karkhana has, well-designed interiors.
Belsons Taj Mahal Hotel (Tel: 40357810, 66489090, 27810810; Tariff: ₹2,400–4,000) on Main Guard Road has 55 rooms and a restaurant. GN International Boutique Hotel (Tel: 27532911/ 3911/ 4911/ 6911; Tariff: ₹2,300–4,400) in Padmarao Nagar has 19 rooms and a restaurant. Heritage Inn (Tel: 66488588; Tariff: ₹2,300–4,000) in Sindhi Colony is clean and comfortable with good food.
Budget options include Hotel Ambassador (Tel: 27843760/ 9657; Tariff: ₹1,600–2,300), Hotel Annapoorna Residency (Tel: 27891221-23, 66497778; Tariff: ₹2,100–2,350), Hotel Maya Deluxe (Tel: 27711271/ 5343; Tariff: ₹1,200–2,200), and Yatri Nivas (Tel: 23461855; Tariff: ₹2,600).
WHERE TO EAT
Although the historic city of Hyderabad is home to numerous attractions, the one thing that definitely comes to everyone’s mind with the first mention of the city is its world-famous biryani. But there’s much more on offer than just biryani – there are dozens of canteens serving south Indian cuisine, the small bandis that make mouthwatering fast food, the Chinese restaurants and the eateries that are reputed for their Italian and Continental cuisines.
Although Hyderabad’s most well-known biryani restaurant, Paradise, is probably not the city’s most favourite haunt at present, it still deserves a mention because Paradise and biryani are simply inseparable. The 62-year-old restaurant has opened up several branches around the city but it’s best to visit the one at Secunderabad for an authentic experience. Obviously, on the must order list are mutton biryani, chicken biryani, haleem, qubani ka meetha, double ka meetha and Chicken 65. Next up is Café Bahar in Hyderguda. This restaurant, albeit not world-famous, is extremely popular for biryani among Hyderabadis. Bawarchi in RTC Crossroads is famous for its extra-delicious flavour and fragrant biryani. Then there is Shadab in Old City; it is impossible to walk into this restaurant and not binge on their mutton biryani – it is out of the world. Jewel of Nizam in Golkonda Resort, Gandipet, is a fine dining restaurant that serves delicious Hyderabadi and Mughlai food. For more Hyderabdi cuisine, head to Shah Ghouse and Pista House, both in Old City. The restaurants serve mouthwatering haleem and desserts such as qubani ka meetha, phirni, double ka meetha, kaddu ka kheer and gajar ka halwa.
Another one of Hyderabad’s favourite cuisines is Chinese. From Indian Chinese to authentic Chinese, any chef in the city is nothing short of professional when it comes to preparing this cuisine. The city boasts of three illustrious restaurants in this domain – Haiking in Hyderguda, Nanking in Secunderabad and Blue Diamond in Abids. Most items on their menu are delicious. Other than these, there is Chung Hua in Basheebagh, which is famous for its basket noodles and Alex’s Kitchen in Himayath Nagar – their boiled noodles in diced chicken is a tasty dish. Mekong in Green Park Hotel, Begumpet, is famous for its Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Tibetan, Thai and Japanese cuisines. Almost every street corner has a Chinese bandi, which offers hot, spicy Indian Chinese food.
There is a Raghavendra Tiffins centre in almost every area in Hyderabad. The tiffin centers don’t belong to the same franchise but all serve good south Indian food. Rava dosa, masala dosa, set dosa, poori korma and meals (thali) are among the most famous items on offer. Minerva in Himayath Nagar and Chutneys in Himayath Nagar and Banjara Hills are fine-dining restaurants that serve great south Indian food. Rayalaseema Ruchulu, with branches in Lakdi-ka-pool, Hitech City and Ameerpet, serves lip smacking Andhra food. While here, try their naatu kodi (chicken marinated in Andhra spices and deep fried), ulava charu and raagi sankati. They say a trip to Hyderabad is not complete without a midnight dosa session at Ram ki bandi in Nampally. Although just a small cart serving dosas, dozens of people line up here in the middle of the night, when the store opens, to taste Ram’s wide and unusual variety of dosas.
Ohri’s and Hyderabad has a long-standing relationship. With numerous branches across the city and each restaurant having a different, quirky theme, the franchise has never failed to entertain Hyderabadis; and what’s more, the quality of food is great. The branch in Basheerbagh is the most famous – it includes the Ohri’s Metro, which is shaped like a Metro trail, Gufaa, shaped like a cave and a couple of other Chinese and casual dining restaurants here. The Ohri’s complex on Necklace Road won’t disappoint you. The most famous restaurant here is Ohri’s 70mm – completely themed around films. There is also the beautiful Ohri’s Tansen here – the spicy curry, known as chowgra is a must try here. Another great Ohri’s outlet is Ruci and Idoni, on road number 10, Banjara Hills. The bistro serves great Italian, European and Continental food.
Heart Cup and Over The Moon, both in Jubilee Hills offer great Continental food and have become preferred destinations for a night out on town. The Little Italy in Jubilee Hills makes it to this list because of its breathtaking ambience; one can see the entire city while having a meal here and the food is great too. 10 Downing Street in Begumpet is another one of the city’s favourite haunts. The place serves good Italian food for lunch.
Gokul Chaat bandhar in Koti and Mayur in Boggulakunta are famous for their street food. While here, don’t forget to snack on some samosa chaat and pani puri. For desserts, head straight to your nearest Cream Stone outlet. The ice creams here are mixed on a cold stone and the number of flavours and combinations on offer will only leave you confused. But for starters, we strongly recommend the Browie Break and Willy Wonka. Famous Ice Cream in Mozzam Jahi market is one of Hyderabad’s oldest and most favourite haunts for dessert. The various fruit flavoured ice creams here are worth trying. The famous Karachi Bakery is also situated. If you’re driving past any of the Karachi stores, the tempting aroma will draw you in. Although their fruit biscuits are the most popular, we suggest trying the kaju biscuits as well. G Pulla Reddy Pure Ghee Sweets also has multiple outlets in the city and they have tasty Andhra sweets on offer.
Keesara Gutta (40km)
Located on the outskirts of Hyderabad, Kesara Gutta is a town famous for its Shiva temple constructed in the south Indian architectural style. The temple has shrines dedicated to Shiva’s consorts Bhavani and Sivadurga. According to a legend that is tied to the Hindu epic Ramayana, Rama installed a shivalinga in this area to atone for the sin of killing Ravana. He selected this beautiful hillock surrounded by greenery around to place the shivalinga and ordered Hanuman to bring one from Varanasi. However, the twist in the tale is that Hanuman did not arrive in time for the auspicious occasion. Hence, Lord Shiva himself appeared and presented Rama with a linga, which has been installed here.
Hanuman, who returned with 101 lingas, felt guilty about arriving late and threw all the lingas in the surrounding area. In order to console him him, Rama named the hillock after Hanuman – Kesarigiri (son of Kesari). Eventually, the name of this place transformed into Keesara Gutta.
Shamirpet Lake and Deer Park (34km)
An artificial lake constructed by the Nizams, Shamirpet Lake is now a prime picnic spot and has several resorts and private dhabas around it. Alankrita Resorts and Leonia Resorts are some of the famous ones, there is also a Telangana Government run Haritha resort here.
Several prestigious educational institutions such as the Nalsar University of Law and BITS Pilani, Hyderabad are located in close proximity of the lake.
Nearby, there is the Shamirpet Deer Park – officially known as Jawahar Deer Park – that is spread over an area of 54 acres. The park houses over 100 deer and is a popular tourist destination.
Chilkur Balaji Temple (29km)
Want a visa to set off for the United States of America? Visit the Chilkur Balaji Temple on the outskirts of Hyderabad and your visa request is sure to be granted superfast. Thousands visit the temple every day to seek blessings from Lord Venkateswara, the presiding deity, and pray for quick visa approvals; and for this reason, the temple is famously known as Visa Balaji Temple. Interestingly, for a deity that is expected to do so much, there are no cash donation boxes anywhere in the temple premises.
Constructed in the Kakatiyan style of architecture, the temple is over 500 years old. It is situated at Himayath Sagar Lake at Gandipet.
Mrugavani NP (20km)
Located close to Chilkur, the Mrugavani National Park is spread over an area of 850 acres and is home to over 600 different species of plants that include teak, bamboo, sandal, picus, palas and rela. The fauna species in the park include the cheetal, sambar, wild boar, jungle cat and civet cat. The Mrugavani National Park and the Chilkur Balaji Temple together make for a perfect day’s picnic from Hyderabad.
Inputs by Karen D’Souza
A Guide to Hyderabadi Hindi
Sometimes crass and uncouth, sometimes strange and weird and mostly ridiculously funny, Hyderabadi Hindi is famously infamous because of the kind of liabilities it takes. Hindi, Marathi, Urdu and Telugu are mixed up in a format that has no grammatical boundaries and defined vocabulary, though it has an abundance of defining vocabulary.
The plural of every word (English including) is formed by the addition of ‘an’ at the end and genders are either messed up or not paid heed to at all. Any adverb or adjective used to describe any major action or extreme emotion is followed by an ‘ich’. The language, Hyderabad’s lingua-franca’, is a simple maze of four different languages.
However, you can’t take the liberty of creating your own style of mixture by using the four basic languages that this dialect of Hindi takes from, for you’ll be caught easily. Marathi words are used in designated places and so is the case with the words of the other three languages. ‘Hallu’ (slow), ‘kaiko’ (why), ‘nakko’ (no) and ‘hau’ (yes) are some of the most common words used in Hyderabadi Hindi. The word ‘baigan’, which literally translates to an egg plant, is used anywhere and everywhere, replacing most expressions, as per convenience.
Getting a hang of Hyderabadi Hindi could be a little difficult for starters. But it is nothing you can’t absorb by paying attention to the language on the streets; a couple of weeks in the city and you can speak Hyderabadi too.
Diamonds of Golconda
Historians claim that Golconda was once an international market place for diamond trading. Ibrahim Qutub Shah’s reign witnessed the discovery of the splendid world-famous diamonds of Golconda at a mining area called Kollur on the banks of the Krishna River.
At that time, Kollur was the only known diamond mine in the world. Merchants from places such as Turkestan, Arabia and Persia converged at the Golconda Fort to trade in its rich assets.
Two of the world’s most famous diamonds, the Koh-i-noor and the Nizam’s diamond were once stored in a vault in the Golconda Fort. The Koh-i-noor diamond was gifted to Aurangzeb by Golconda’s Prime Minister Mir Jumla, after the former’s successful siege of the fort. Eventually, the British discovered the Golconda and the name of the fort became synonyms with rich wealth. The Koh-i-noor diamond today is part of the English monarch’s Crown Jewels.
Back in the 20th century when Yousuf Ali Khan Bahadur, the third Salar Jung, brought home this English bracket clock from Cooke and Kelvey Co., little did he imagine that a century later, people would excitedly line up to see the small toy figure of a bearded man come out of an enclosure in the clock to strike the gong every hour. The bearded man comes out three minutes prior to the 60th minute, strikes the corresponding hour’s hand of the gong three times (once each minute till the 60th minute) and goes back inside. Next to him is the toy of a man who is supposedly a blacksmith. He is always visible and is seen holding a hammer and striking the seconds without a break.
Enriched with wrought metallic mounts, this musical clock was manufactured in England and assembled in Calcutta in the late 19th century CE. The most interesting thing about this clock, however, is that it is made out of more than 350 individual parts, which include three dials for day, date and month and it chimes every 15 minutes.
The Salar Jung Family
The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad is one of three national museums of India and is almost always on the must-see list of tourists. It is a repository of rare objects from all over the world, right from Europe to the Far East. Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Bahadur, bestowed with the title of Salar Jung III, was the last patron of the Salar Jung family and is responsible for most of the collection, conservation and preservation of the artefacts – dating from the Mauryan period to the Mughal era as well as from the period of Nizam rule in Hyderabad.
The famous Salar Jung family, now known only as connoisseurs of art, played an important role in shaping the contours of the history of Hyderabad. The family acquired so much importance under the Nizams that five of its members served as the prime ministers of Hyderabad from the years 1808 to 1914. They were the ‘Umra-i-Uzzam’ or the leading nobles, and played a key role in the administration of the state as well as the social and cultural life of Hyderabad.
The family of Salar Jung traces its descent from Shaikh Ovais-i-Qarani of Madina in present day Saudi Arabia. In the 17th century, the Shaikh migrated from Madina to the Adil Shahi kingdom of Bijapur and married into a noble family. His family served the Mughals in Delhi after the fall of the kingdom of Bijapur and later transferred their allegiance to the Asaf Jahi family, and served them with great distinction.
The branch of the Salar Jung family, which rose to prominence are descendents of Ali Zaman Khan Ghayur Jung, the third son of the daughter of Dargah Quli Khan Ghayur Jung. Ali Zaman Khan succeeded his father-in-law Mir Alam as prime minister of Hyderabad. He was the first to occupy the high post from the Salar Jung family and was followed by four more members of the family.
Among all the prime ministers, Mir Turab Ali Khan, Salar Jung I (1829–83), is acknowledged to be the greatest prime minister of Hyderabad. The Salar Jung Museum was originally housed in Mir Turab Ali Khan’s Diwan Deodhi palace and therefore he has come to be associated with the history of the museum. This is despite the fact that Khan had a major role to play in laying the foundation of modern Hyderabad. The British knighted Khan as Sir Salar Jung, and he was addressed by that name, while the general public referred to him as Nawab Sahib.
His son, Mir Laiq Ali Khan succeeded him and served for three years. Upon his early demise the Nizam personally supervised the upbringing of the future Salar Jung III and also appointed a committee for the administration of the Salar Jung estates.
Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, Salar Jung III, was appointed prime minister and held office for two years only before retiring from a brief public life to spend the rest of his life travelling around the world, purchasing extraordinary objects d’art to add to the grand collection he had inherited from his grandfather.
The family name was immortalised by a museum that was created to display this fascinating collection. Originally housed in the Salar Jung Palace, the Salar Jung Museum is one of the world’s largest and most unusual art collections.
The Powerful Paigah Nobles
According to historical records, ‘paigah’ was the term used to denote the Nizam’s household troops or guards. Paigah nobles were influential and extremely faithful to the Nizam. The head of the Paigah family ranked second only to the ruler. The Paigahs were so popular with the ruler that they were permitted to use their own revenue stamps and maintain their own revenue offices and educational institutions within the Nizam’s dominion.
Abdul Khair Khan, a noble from the north, received the title of ‘Khan’ and ‘Mansab’ from the then emperor in Delhi, Muhammad Shah, for his services. Originally from Shukhwabad near Agra, he arrived in the Deccan with Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah I. Abdul Khair Khan was employed at Burhanpur by the Nizam. During his tenure he won many battles for the latter and received many titles.The Nizam also relied on his advice on important matters. He died in 1750 at Burhanpur.
Abdul Khair Khan’s son Abul Fateh Khan received the title of ‘Tegh Jung’ from the Nizam Ali Khan Asaf Jah II. The Nizam offered him the post of prime minister, which he respectfully declined and instead took up the post of the Commander-in-Chief of 12,000 troops including cavalry and infantry, which formed the core of the Paigah. The Nizam gave him the jagirs in Berar, Hyderabad and Bijapur covering an area of 4134 sq. miles, which yielded an annual revenue of over ₹30 lakhs. This went towards the maintenance of the troops. The title Shams-ul-Umara, which was originally conferred upon Abul Fateh Khan, became the family title and the defence of the state subsequently became the hereditary function of the Paigah nobles.
Following the death of Abul Fateh Khan, his son Fakhruddin Khan, Shams-ul-Umara II, became the head of the Paigah family and received another title of ‘Amir-e-Kabir’. The Nizam was very fond of him and gave his daughter in marriage to Fakhruddin Khan. It is interesting to note that the Nizam’s daughters were only given to this house in marriage, thereby creating a class of nobles unique in the feudal system. Tied by blood and marriage to the royals, the Paigahs were above all the great nobles of the realm. They were the only nobles who were allowed to use a ‘Turra’ (plume) on their ‘Dastar’.
After Fakhruddin’s death, his two sons Rafiuddin Khan Umdat-ul-Mulk Shams-ul-Umara III Amir-e-Kabir III and Rasheeduddin Khan Iqtidar-ul-Mulk received the title of Viqar-ul-Umara.
The income from the Paigah jagir during the later years reached up to ₹52,00,000 annually but the army was gradually reduced as there was no need to maintain a large army for the Nizam.
In the 19th century the Paigah family was divided into three branches and were known as Paigahs of Sir Asman Jah, Sir Khursheed Jah and Sir Viqar-ul-Umara.
The Paigahs were richer than the average Indian Nawab or Maharajah and each maintained their own court, extraordinary palaces, and 3,000–4,000 strong private army.
The family promoted art and literature and built many beautiful palaces including Falaknuma, Asmangarh and Basheer Bagh. Nawab Moin-ud-Daula Bahadur donated a gold cup for cricket and the tournament is still conducted in his name.
The Paigah tombs are located 4kms southeast of Charminar, Hyderabad, in a quite neighborhood of Pisal banda suburb. The tombs are exquisite pieces of craftsmanship and the design is said to be unique and not seen anywhere else in the world. The Paigah tombs or Maqhbara Shams-al-Umara, are 200-years-old and made out of lime and mortar with beautiful inlaid marble carvings and mosaic work.
PVNR Expressway: India’s Longest Flyover
When the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport opened in Shamshabad, not a lot of people were happy with it because of the long journey involved in getting there. First there was the distance to cover because the new airport was outside the city unlike the older one in Begumpet, which was at the heart of the city; secondly, one had to navigate through a lot of traffic to actually reach the new airport. However, the PV Narasimha Rao Expressway, named after India’s ninth prime minister, was constructed to ensure easy access to the new airport. The flyover opened to traffic on 19 October, 2009.
PVNR Expressway enjoys the distinction of being India’s longest flyover at a length of 11.6km. It begins at Mehdipatnam in the city and extends to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, passing through areas in the city such as Rethibowli, Attapur, Upperpally and Rajendra Nagar. Cyclists, two and three-wheelers, three and four-wheeled seven seaters, pushcarts and bullock carts, are prohibited on the flyover, making sure it doesn’t face traffic congestion.
When to go October to February when the weather is pleasant; summers are hot and monsoons see heavy rainfall
NSF Shakar Bhawan
Opp Police Control Room
Tourist Information Centre
Tank Bund Road
Tourist Information Centre
3-5-891, Tourism House
Opp Haiking Restaurant
Tel: 23262151-54/ 57
STD code 040
Location In the central region of the Deccan Plateau, at an elevation of 505m
Distance 1,529km S of New Delhi; 706km SE of Mumbai
Route from Mumbai NH 9 to Pune; Expressway to Mumbai
Air Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad (25km/ 1hr) in Hyderabad, is connected to all metros and several other cities in India. Flights from London, Chicago, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur also land here. Radio taxis and pre-paid taxis are available at the airport. Taxi costs approx ₹600 for a drop to the city centre. TSRTC also operates a luxury bus service, Pushpak Airport Liner, from the airport to important destinations in the city, at regular intervals
Rail The three railheads in Hyderabad: Hyderabad Deccan Railway Station, Secunderabad Railway Station and Kochiguda Railway Station, connect Hyderabad to all major cities in India through Express, Superfast, Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. The station at Secunderabad is more well-connected
Road Hyderabad is well connected to other metros by road. NH 7 connects the city to Bengaluru, NH 9 upto Pune and then the expressway to Mumbai, NH 9 and NH 5 to Chennai
Bus Mahatma Gandhi Bus Stand (Tel: 040-23434263/ 69), also known as Imlibun, in Hyderabad, and Jubilee Station (Tel: 27802203) in Secunderabad, are two important bus stands. Both TSRTC and private buses regularly operate large number of ordinary and luxury buses to other parts of the state and neighbouring states
Mirchi ka Salan