Growing up in India, the long summer vacations were always broken up lazing around the neighborhood, playing hopscotch and marbles, eating snow cones and a week to ten day trip vacationing within India. My Papa usually decided where the trip would be and now that I think back to it, it almost always headed north to Delhi via Shatabdi Express and then off to some hill station. No wonder the south was never explored..who would want to escape the 100+ temperatures of Gujarat to yet another 100 degree city?
So in 2007 I was excited to make my first trip to Hyderabad. It was an 8 hour stop in the city for a 1 hour meeting. I had rented a taxi service from the airport to visit a potential supplier. When I reached the site, I was informed in the typical non chalant Indian style “sahib nahi hai!”, the business development guy had completely forgotten my visit and was out of town. A short meeting was made even shorter and the taxi driver and I took a quick drive around Charminar. He advised me against getting out of the taxi for the potential of being pick pocketed and dropped me at the Airport whereupon I find my ticket missing from my bag (which carried cash value in those days)…so much for pick pockets in Charminar! This was the good old days of paper tickets and short of filing an FIR and no immediate resolution in sight I forked out $400 USD for last minute ticket to Mumbai….and HYD was chalked off my list…I thought forever….until recently…
You see our good friends have decided to call Hyderabad home. No trip to India would be complete without visiting them (or more importantly their little ones who were growing up too fast). We had one full day in Hyderabad and this time too Charminar was removed from the Aagenda. If you are frequent visitor here you will have noted how J is allergic to museums so Salarjang was off the list. So what is left? Ramoji Film City, Shopping for Silks or Golconda Fort off course!
I was surprised at the sheer size of the fort when we got there. After paying our foreigner entrance fee we enrolled in the tourist trap complete with the orange haired guide. This land of Kohinoor that was a mud fort is now an intricate and massive structure of granite.
Oh how I could have spent exploring every nook and cranny. But our Guidesahib was more interested in turning us over in the the requisite 2 hours so just kept walking ahead of us. He did take a few extra minutes at the entrance…showing us the god knows how many lb weight that all soldiers needed to lift for the qualification round and demonstrating the fabulous acoustics of the fort.
The massive stone corridors with their vantage windows to the gardens and the eunuch living quarters are a perfect hide and seek playground for young children. A long climb up to the Bala Hasir Pavilion the highest point (at which point the guide will again demonstrate the acoustics …which i couldn’t discern btw…and I am chalking it to wax build up…gross i know but the alternative is age…and i am certainly not going there :)).
I did not know much about the fort except that it was from the Qutb era and reflected the affluence of the time. So I was quite surprised to see each step lovingly revered with vermillion and turmeric. As we turned around the corner I saw the symbolic flag of a hindu temple…there is a Ram and a Durga temple at the top. What secular thinking… I paused to think …why do we forget such honorable history and carry forward the reprehensible divisions? Todays Hyderabad is far from secular.
As much as the steps leading to the dieties are revered, there is complete disregard for the fort itself. How difficult is it to carry an empty water bottle through to the next bin? Instead the the massive funeral baths are now spiritually dead with all manner of rubbish. As you climb to the top, stop to admire the stone nails, the superb engineering of the plumbing system and the ingenious use of in situ boulders as part of the of the building itself.
Much of the Palace is now in ruins but its glory days are evident in the design of the courts.
A perfect blend of Hindu, Moghul and Persian architecture. I believe this is on the UNESCO list. I do hope it gets the funding and the TLC it deserves.
We wrapped a wonderful morning at Golconda and headed for silk shopping at Nallis.