THE SIXTH LARGEST CITY in India, Hyderabad was founded in 1591 and planned as a grid with the Charminar at its centre. It has now grown well beyond the confines of the original walled city, to include a new town north of the Musi river, the militaiy cantonment at Secunderabad, and a burgeoning high-tech estate, nicknamed “Cyberabad”. The city’s sights include the grand palaces of its erstwhile rulers, the Nizam , and the colourful bazaars and mosques of the old city.
PURANI HAVELI (NIZAM’S MUSEUM)
This sprawling complex of mid-19th-century Neo- Classical buildings was the main residence of the sixth Nizams, Mahhuh Alai Pasha. A glimpse of his lavish lifestyle can be seen in the eastern wing of the main building, in the Massarat Mahal. This has the Nizam’s gigantic wooden wardrobe, a 73-sq m (786-sq ft) room with closets on two levels, and a mechanical elevator affording access to the upper tier. Its contents once included 75 identical tweed suits – the Nizam liked the pattern so much that he bought the Scottish factory’s entire stock of it. Pursni Haveli also houses the Nizam’s Museum, which displays china, silver objets d’art, and several fascinating photographs that capture the legendary opulence of the Nizam and his court.
This eclectic collection of over 40,000 objects once belonged to Salaiung III, Prime Minister of Hyderabad between 1899 and 1949. Salaiung’s highly individual taste ranged from objects of sublime beauty to some bordering on kitsch, which is what makes this museum so fascinating.
The pride of the museum is the outstanding Mughal jade collection, which includes an exquisite, translucent leafshaped cup. Miniature paintings are also wellrepresented, including those of the local Deccani School as are Indian stone and bronze sculpture, inlaid ivory objects and medieval Islamic manuscripts. A prized 13th-century Koran has the signatures of three Mughal emperors. slarjung’s rather florid taste in European art is represented by some 19th-century statuary, while the collection of oil paintings include a Canaletto, a Guard and a Landseer.
A spectacular stone building with soaring domes, Osmania Hospital was built in 1925 as part of the seventh Nizam’s modernization plan after a catastrophic flood in 1908. Opposite it, across the river, are the Boys’ High School and the High Court, built in pink granite and red sandstone. An imaginative blend of Islamic decorative detail and Western interior layouts, all three buildings, as well as the city’s Railway Station, were constructed between 1914 and 1936, and are the work of the British architect Vincent Each.
This historic building, the Ashurkhana or “Royal House of Mourning”, was built in 1595 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth Qutb Shah’ ruler as a congregation hall for Shias during the month of Muharrarn , It houses beautiful silver and gold alams (ceremonial standards) studded with precious stones, are caned in procession during Muharram and are on display here through the year, on Thursdays. Exquisite enamel-tiled mosaics adorn the central niche and the western wall, in glowing yellow, orange andturquoise. The outer hall with wooden colonnades was added later.
The most opulent of the Nizams’ many palaces, Falaknuma Palace was built in 1872. The front facades is in Palladian style, while the rear is a jumble of Indo-Saracenic domes and cupolas, added on to house the zenana. A huge amount of money was lavished on the interior, with tooled leather ceilings created by Florentine craftsmen, furniture and tapestries ordered from France, and marble imported from Italy. The Nizams’ most important guests, including King George V, stayed at Falaknuma, but after the death of the sixth Nizams here in 1911 (after a _ heavy bout of drinking), it was rarely used again. The palace is now being converted into a luxurious hotel.