Say the word Nizamabad and your pronunciation is a dead giveaway about your ‘local’ or
Say the word Nizamabad and your pronunciation is a dead giveaway about your ‘local’ or‘tourist’ status. Just pretending to know the names of the streets and landmarks hardly works here. The moment you say ‘Nizaa-maa-baad’ and not ‘Nizaam-baad’, the auto-rickshaw driver’s eyes will gleam at having found out that you are not a local. For those familiar with Hyderabad, Nizamabad will sound and look like the Pearl City because of its apparent Hyderabad hangover. Be it the Irani cafés or the telling hoardings of Mujtaba Jewellers of Nampally (a locality in Hyderabad), locals in Nizamabad love frequenting big brother Hyderabad and associating with the capital city.
This northwestern interior district is actually the smallest (barring Hyderabad) amongst the sister districts that make up Telangana. Like the adage – all good things come in small packages, Nizamabad is a compact district with unusual sights to behold, unique legends with which to regale your friends back home and a different ambience to soak in on a lazy public holiday.
The Nizamabad Railway Station is a central landmark in the city. The bus station is a short walk away and many hotels and eateries are clustered around the two, including the Haritha Indur Inn. Some of the hotels, such as Nikhil Sai International and Vamshee International, are located 2km away, near Hyderabad Road. The sights within the city are fairly spread out – while the museum is near the railway station and the Qilla Ramalayam 3km south, Kanteshwar is 2km northeast on the NH 16 and Sarangapur is 6km west on Bodhan road.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
Two full days is ample time to see everthing Nizamabad has on offer. The district boasts of over half-a-dozen temples, a picturesque dargah, a couple of lake-side resorts, a dam, forest and facilities for watersports and trekking.
TIP All temples are open from roughly 6.00am–12.00pm and 5.00– 8.00pm; it is not a good idea to venture into the forts and palaces after dark
The Qilla Ramalayam (known as Raghunatha Swamy Temple or Quilla Indoor) is a temple inside a fort. The Rahstrakutas built the fort in the 10th century and Samartha Ramdas, a 17th-century poet and spiritual leader from Maharashtra, constructed the temple. It is believed that Maharshi Raghunatha Swami, a renowned sage, used to frequent the temple and meditate here on his cross-country treks.
There is a large gate at the entrance of the fort, next to which there is a mosque and a graveyard. There is a jail inside the fort which the Asaf Jahi dynasty used, for about 150 years. Many freedom fighters and revolutionaries were imprisoned here – one of the more famous ones is the Telugu poet Dasarathi Krishnamacharyulu who wrote a part of his book Na Telangana, Koti Ratnala Veena on the walls of his prison cell with pieces of charcoal.
A motorable road goes all the way to the base of the temple. From there, you have to climb a shaded stairwell that takes you up to the temple. There is another staircase to the back of the fort that takes you to the temple. Around the shrine, there are many chambers and halls, most of which are in ruins and closed for tourists. There is also a spacious kalyana mandapam (wedding hall) and a meditation hall that has a unique ventilation system which keeps it perennially cool. At the bottom of the hill, there is a Hanuman temple that is said to have been constructed in the 17th century by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on the orders of Samartha Ramdas, his mentor.
The local pandit mentions multiple subways from the fort temple to a neighbouring temple, the local river, the lake (Bodamma Cheruvu) next to the fort and even to the Sarangapur Temple, which is a few kilometres from here. The subways are all diligently sealed and locked, due to the proximity of the jail. The rectangular water tank has walls in eight directions to capture the prana in accordance with the rules of vaastu. The Qilla used to have a 53-feet-high dwajasthambam (pillar) that would light up the entire area underneath and enable pedestrians to walk safely after dark. It is said that earlier, it was customary for residents in the vicinity to light lanterns in their own houses only after the lamp on the pillar had been lit.
The Qilla Ramalayam lies at the heart of Nizamabad and is a landmark in itself. It provides panoramic views of the city and is popular with locals despite the dilapidated state the structure is in.
Tip Visit the temple in the late morning hours, when the pandit is likely to be free. He might take you around and even show you the fort kitchen and other rooms.
This ancient temple, also known as the Neela Kanteshwara Temple (literally ‘blue throat’), is dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to a legend, during the creation of the universe, the process of samudra manthan (churning of the oceans) threw up a lot of poison that would have ended up destroying the universe. To prevent this, Shiva swallowed the poison and Parvati pressed his throat to hold the poison from flowing in, which caused his neck to turn blue.
At the entrance of the temple, there is a grand gopuram which features exquisitive carvings and has now been painted in white. The gateway opens into a small courtyard, at the centre of which is the main shrine. The temple is built of stone and has a towering vimana in front of which there are smaller carved spires. A few carvings on the facade of the temple are still intact. There are a few smaller shrines around the temple, including one dedicated to Hanuman, and a chariot that is used to carry the deity during festivals. A small shop within the premises sells prayer books and items used in rituals.
Close to the main shrine, a gate leads to a temple tank enclosed by a small garden. The reservoir is usually dry, though it might get filled during the monsoons. Along its periphery, there are many stone-carved statues of deities and warriors. There are public toilets on one end of the temple complex.
It is believed that Satkarni II, a Satavahana king, constructed this temple for Jains. The temple was originally built on a hillock, though this is not evident anymore, owing to the rampant constructions in the vicinity. An artisan family from Rajasthan occasionally lives near the side entrance of the temple – you can buy colourful handcrafted statues made from plaster of Paris and even observe the process of their fabrication.
Many devotees also make a stopover at the Ramalayam on the road behind Kanteshwar.
As you exit the Kanteshwar temple, you can see a mosque on the other side of the road and a dargah located further away. Along with a church a few steps down the road, they form a triangle that is symbolic of the peaceful coexistence of diverse religions. The bhajans of the temple blending in with the aazaan of the mosque, throughout the day, are a powerful testament to the state’s syncretism.
The dargah (on a hillock) houses the grave of Muslim saint Hazrat Fazal Bayabani Fatahullah. It is a cuboidal stone structure that has now been white-washed. There are paved steps leading up to the shrine, from where you can get panoramic views of Nizamabad.
Church Of South India
The century-old church, set in a small garden, is a respite from the concrete overgrowth of the surrounding neighbourhoods. With its tall windows, red-tiled roof and whitewashed exteriors, the cathedral harks back to the architecture of the Colonial era. A plaque at the entrance of the church mentions that JC Hudson laid its foundation stone in 1903. The church is now a part of the Nizamabad Pastorate and Medak diocese.
Timings 10.00am–5.00pm Mass Telugu 7.00am & 9.30am (on Sunday), 7.00am (on Wednesday); English 6.30pm (on Sunday)
Archaeological & Heritage Museum
In 2001, an enterprising district collector of Nizamabad set up an archaeological museum in the city’s Town Hall. The structure, constructed by the eighth Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan in 1936, is located inside the Tilak Garden. The museum has three sections – archaeological gallery, sculpture gallery and bronze gallery. The archaeological section has many tools and artefacts that date back to as far as 50,000 BCE. The highlight of the museum is its collection of coins – those of the Kakatiyas, Satavahanas, Qutub Shahis and Ikshvakus. Unfortunately, tourists do not have access to this heritage anymore. According to park officials, the museum has been closed since 2013 as the Town Hall is on the verge of collapse. Inquire from the tourism department regarding the state of the museum before you plan a visit.
The tiny Tilak Garden is well maintained and frequented by locals, though not of much interest for tourists. The entry gate is shaped like a monster’s face, serving as a landmark to locate the garden.
Tilak Garden timings 11:00am– 9:00pm Entry ₹10
Sarangpur Hanuman Temple
The Hanuman temple complex in the village of Sarangpur is laid out along the slope of a hillock. It is believed that Samarth Ramdas, the guru of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, installed the foundation stone of the temple.
To go to the temple – 6km west of the city centre – take the SH 25 and turn left at Sarangpur village. There is a grand arch at the turning of the road.
WHERE TO STAY
The best hotels in the town include Telangana Tourism’s Haritha Indur Inn (Tel: 08462-224403, Cell: 09603668200, 09603667724; Tariff: ₹945–1,935) near the railway station; Hotel Nikhil Sai International (Tel: 236634-37; Tariff: ₹1,049–2,400) and Vamshee International (Tel: 234848-49, Cell: 09985536222/ 46222; Tariff: ₹1,000–3,500), both on Hyderabad Road. All hotels have similar amenities. Haritha has a swimming pool as well.
Other decent options include Hotel Kapila (Tel: 234561-62; ₹787–1,155) in Yelammagutta; and Hotel Mayur (Tel: 222925-26, Cell: 09866312324; Tariff: ₹599–1,100) near the railway station. Both the hotels have restaurants.
WHERE TO EAT
The restaurant at Haritha serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian south Indian food. Vamshee and Nikhil Sai offer south Indian, north Indian and Chinese fare. Angeethi is popular for its vegetarian meals. The restaurants at Hotel Kapila and Mayur are also known for their vegetarian food.
You can club a visit to Sarangpur Hanuman temple with Asok Sagar and Ali Sagar lakes, both a few kilometres ahead, on the SH 25. Armoor and Pochampad Project are north of Nizamabad, on NH 7, en route to Nirmal. Mallaram Forest, Sirpur Fort and Bada Pahad Dargah are to the south of the city, along the Nizamabad-Varni Road. Dichpally Ramalayam is to the east, close to the Hyderabad Highway (NH 7). The Domakonda Fort is further south, on this road.
Asok Sagar (7km)
If you visited Asok Sagar before 2001, you would not be able to recognise it today. Earlier, this lake was a rodent-infested swamp that was known more as a garbage dump rather than a tourist destination. However, the government conducted a massive cleanup operation which yielded stunning results. This lake resort, west of Nizamabad town, on the way to Bheemgal, has boating facilities, a rock garden and a few restaurants.
A 15-feet-tall Saraswati idol made of white marble stands majestically in the middle of its waters and is a sight to behold on moonlit nights. Many tourists stop here while en route to Basar and the neighbouring state of Maharashtra.
Interestingly, this lake, which was earlier known as Jankampet Cheruvu, was renamed after the collector Asok Kumar, who was instrumental in developing it. Few civil servants manage to get this rare privilege during their tenure.
There are boating facilities at the lake, though they were not functional at the time of research.
Ali Sagar (13km)
Going by the number of couples whispering sweet nothings in broad daylight, this reservoir is certainly the most popular weekend spot in Nizamabad district.
Spanning an area of 33 acres, it has all the trappings to draw crowds – a lush forest with a summer house, well maintained lawns and a restaurant and guesthouse, which are set on an island in the lake. You can take a cruise across the waters in a pedal or speedboat (not functional at the time of research). The adjoining Deer Park offers good walks. It is home to several species of deer, most notably the golden-hued deer.
The Nizams built this reservoir in 1931, while the park was established in 1985. It is a short drive away from the Ali Sagar lake.
Mallaram Forest (7km)
The Mallaram forest (not to be confused with the village of same name) is a patch of forests south of Nizamabad on the Nizamabad- Varni highway. Here, you can find a 1.45-billion-year-old rock, a mushroom-shaped rock, which dates back to about 2 billion years, a lake known as Mallaram cheruvu and a watchtower.
While there were plans to develop the forest as an eco-tourism destination, no efforts have been made in recent times to make it more tourist-friendly. The jungle is known to have rich mineral deposits and some say that consequently, only government personnel are allowed inside. However, there are no barriers to entry or checkposts and it is up to your initiative to trek along the various trails leading into the woods. The drive through the forest itself is quite enjoyable, owing to the lush greenery, sound of the crickets and the little rivulets that flow from across the rocks. In fact, you will encounter dense dry deciduous forests for most of the route from Nizamabad to Varni.
Sirpur Fort (8km)
On the periphery of the village of Sirpur, 8km south of Nizamabad, there is a small fort whose antecedents are unknown. Located atop a slight elevation, the fortress is square in plan with large bastions at the corners. Parts of the rampart are still extant, though they are accessible only by a crumbling staircase. Near the entrance, there is the dargah of a saint known as Mahbub Subhani. The rest of the fortress is carpeted with thorny vegetation, amidst which you can see the ruins of a hall with a few pillars and beams intact.
There is not much to see at the fort and it might be of interest only for those that are passionate about obscure and remote monuments. To go to Sirpur, you can either take the Nyalkal road (8km) or Nizamabad- Varni road (11km). If you opt for the latter, turn left at the Meghna Institute of Dental Sciences and continue further. On this route, you will come across many adivasi (tribal) villages. Keep a lookout for the shrines of village deities and statues of warriors here.
Balikonda Fort (8km)
You will notice sceptical looks on the faces of locals when you ask for directions to the Balikonda Fort, simply known as Qilla. The fort, 8km from Nizamabad, is a good stopover on the way to Armoor. While the structure itself is intact, the dense outgrowth masks the real beauty of this fort. The arches are well defined and so is the circular ceiling inside.
The fortress, built about 600 years ago, is now deserted and left in a state of neglect. However, the intrepid traveller can certainly take a quick peek inside. A little walk through leads you to a maidan that offers an aerial view of the entire town, an excellent vantage point for the soldiers of yore.
Dichpalli Ramalayam (18km)
For newcomers, the ramalayams are confusing because both are known as Qilla Ramalayams (fort temples). The Dichpalli Temple, one of the oldest in Nizamabad District, is 18km away from the city on the Hyderabad Highway. It is thought to have been built by the Kakatiyas in the 14th century. The temple’s construction was probably not completed as it had no idols until the 1940s. In 1949, Gajawada Chinnaiah Gupta, a devotee from the vicinity instated marble statues of Lord Rama, his wife Sita, his brother Lakshmana and his devotee Hanuman.
By the evening twilight, this temple – with a lake in the background and its 40-ft-tall victory pillar, set high up on a hillock and built inside a fort – looks like it is straight out of a movie set. The temple complex is made of white and black basalt stone and is accessible by a staircase with 105 steps built along the slope of the hill. There is also has a pedestrian subway that connects this temple to the Raghunanda Temple.
Every inch of the Ramalayam has rich carvings of religious motifs, figurines and statues of animals, deities and demons. There are also many erotic sculptures, reminiscent of Khajuraho, because of which the temple is also known as Indoor Khajuraho or Nizamabad Khajuraho. Close to the Ramalayam, there is a water tank with a pillared mandapam in the middle. During monsoon, the area surrounding the temple gets inundated and the Ramalayam looks as if it were on an island.
Born Again Banyan Tree (33km)
This little stopover is on the way to Pochampad from Nizamabad. The tourism department has put up a board and a marker to locate this sight. Known as the Padilechina Marri Chettu (the banyan tree that was born again after it died), this tree must have been over a century old. Initially it was thought to be haunted by demons, but on an auspicious day the tree got uprooted in floods and storms. Miraculously, even as a group of villages sought shelter at the nearby tree, it rose and stuck back to its roots – almost as though god pressed the rewind button and the tree came back to life! Pujas are offered here, daily.
Pochampad Project (53km)
Also known as the Sriram Sagar Project, this dam, located north of Nizamabad, is an attempt to tame the tempestuous Godavari. Just a few kilometres away from here is Basar, the seat of Goddess Saraswati, where the river does a macabre dance every monsoon. The project is a human endeavour to domesticate this raging river with the help of the hills on two sides and a concrete structure on the other. It is believed that Lord Rama and Sita were so over-awed by the scenic beauty of the hills and the Godavari that they decided to stay put here for a few months. Hence the name of the project.
Interestingly, there is not a single tree or source of food, yet the Pochampad Project houses many monkeys. The locals say that the monkeys, like their master Hanuman, are always around Lord Rama for one never knows when he would summon them for help. But for marvelling at the magnitude of the project and the hilly ranges, there isn’t much a tourist can do here, because of security reasons.
Armoor (27 km)
The rocks of Armoor have dazzled locals and tourists alike. Along the outskirts of the town, there is a 10-km-long stretch of hills that looks like a massive pile of black boulders. Comparisons to Martian and lunar landscapes are de rigeur. These are known to have formed over a million years, weathering the vagaries of nature. On the Siddula Gutta – about a kilometre outside Armoor on the route to Nizamabad (NH 16) – there is a road which goes all the way to the top of the hills.
There is an ancient temple here dedicated to Shiva that has been completely rebuilt. Nearby, there is a narrow cavern where people queue up on all fours to crawl inside for a darshan of the shivalinga. The hill provides panoramic views of the town and is a favoured spot to enjoy the sunset. People say that some sages do penance deep inside the caverns and the water, a few kilometres into the rocky terrain, has curative properties.
While in Armoor, if you are looking for a change from the usual ‘meals’ and ‘tiffins’, try AFC – Armoor Fried Chicken – near Mamidipally Chourasta.
It feels weird asking for directions to a place called ‘Rakasipet’, which literally means the place of rakshasas (demons). But then that’s what this little town in Nizamabad District is known as. Legend goes that the demon Bakasura went on a killing spree when Bheema, during the Pandavas’ exile, decided to kill him. He offered to be the demon’s meal for the day as per their agreement. When the day dawned, Bheema turned into his real self and vanquished him at Bheemgal. The boys here show off the supposed knee-cap marks of Bheema when he leaned across to kill the evil demon. A little beneath the temple, on the rocks, are chariot marks.
From Nizamabad, take SH 25 and then SH 6 to Rakasipet, which is close to Bodhan.
Bada Pahad (48km)
What would you do to make your enemy shut up? The Nizamabadis have the solution. They buy a lock and a key, mount the Bada Pahad, turn the key in the lock and throw it at the feet of the Syed Sadullah Hussaini Dargah. In less than three working days, it is said, their wish comes true. Take a look at the number of ‘dushman ka mooh tala’ paraphernalia at the dargah and you would believe it works.
A trek of over 1,000 stone steps leads to the dargah, the climb giving you the most spectacular view of the green landscapes of the Mallaram Forest and the punch of pure oxygen when you trek high enough to get beyond the pollutants. The dargah is of Syed Sadullah Hussain, a saint who emptied his personal and professional coffers to feed the poor during a drought. When the cops came searching for him for siphoning off government funds, the earth split and embraced the saint in its arms. It is here that the dargah has been built.
Domakonda Fort (78km)
This 18th century fort is one of the most well preserved amongst the lesser known fortresses of Telangana. This might be because it is still privately owned – by the Kamineni family. Domakonda was in the news in 2012 as it was the venue for the wedding of Telugu film star Ram Charan Tej with Upasana Kamineni, whose family owns the fort.
The fortifications of Domakonda are made of granite blocks. There is a wooden door at the entrance which opens into a straight path around which structures within the fort are laid out. To the left, there is a smaller two-storied white fort. This fort, which incorporates elements of Asaf Jahi style of architecture, has stucco work in its interior. Legend has it that the building’s white hue is because porcelain was powdered and used in the paint.
In front of the fort, there is a palace known as Addhala Meda (glass house). The courtyard of the mansion has a water pond with granite pillars around it. The ground floor has arched pillars with intricate stucco designs that seem to be influenced by Mughal architecture. The first floor, with its round pillars and flat ceiling, has elements reminiscent of Western architecture. Further ahead, there is a Shiva temple that was probably built under the reign of the Kakatiyas.
The inner fort and palace are currently being restored and are completely closed off to tourists. Even photography of the exterior is not permitted. Locals say that the restoration work has been underway for the past four years and is nowhere close to being finished. Inquire from the Telanagana State Tourism Department regarding the current status of the monument before planning a visit.
The fort is about 4km off the Nizamabad-Hyderabad Highway (when arriving from Nizamabad, take the left turn after Basic College to reach the fort).
When to go October to March is the most comfortable time for travel
Haritha Indur Inn
Opp Railway Station Nizamabad
Central Reservations Office
Department of Tourism
NSF Shakar Bhawan
Opp Police Control Room
Tel: 040-2980140, 66745986
STD code 08462
Location Northern region of Nizamabad District
Distance 174km N of Hyderabad
Route from Hyderabad Via NH 7
Air Nearest airport: Hyderabad airport (230km/ 3hrs) is well-connected by flights from home and abroad. Taxi costs ₹4,500 (inclusive of toll fare)
Rail Nizamabad Railway Station on the Secunderabad-Manmad line has links to almost all major cities such as Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Ahmedabad and Bhopal. Important trains include Nizamabad-Mumbai Express, Nizamabad-Kollam Express, Indore- Bangalore Express, Ajmer-Hyderabad Superfast and Amravati-Tirupati Superfast. Taxis charge ₹10 per km
Road Follow NH 161 via Sangareddy, and Nizampet after which the highway curves left (near the Jukkal-Kallakal Road exit on the right) for Pitlam and Madnor and on to Koulas Fort Road
Road Follow NH 7 via Domakonda and Arepally to Dichpally, where you take the left exit for Dharamaram and Nizamabad. Taxi from Hyderabad Station (180km) takes 2hrs. Cost is ₹4,000 (including toll charge)
Bus The route between Hyderabad and Nizamabad is well served by both state-run and private transport services. From Jubillee Bus Stand, Indra and Garuda buses take 3hrs, and from MGBS 4hrs. Pooja Travels (Tel: 040-64590400/ 9400) runs private bus services
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