The actual plan was to go to the doctor for my wife’s treatment by 11 after an X-ray, have a lunch at a dhaba which my wife likes very much, roam around for some time, be at Birla Mandir by 4 PM and reach home by the time for Puja. Chowmahalla was in my mind but it’s not a concrete proposal.
But as usual, we were late and were at the X-ray centre at 12:30 because of which the appointment with the doctor was postponed to the next day. After a heavy lunch at the Dhaba, we proceed towards Charminar in an autorickshaw snaking through the lanes of Koti selling almost everything. After crossing Afzal Gunj, first we will cross Salar Jung Museum which will be in a lane on the left and then the High Court on the right. After you cross Salar Jung, you will struggle to understand which part of the Islamic World you are. It’s very hard for you to have a feel of the regular India in that area. Yes, it’s an integral part of India, but it has got it’s own flavour of life and layout including the place names. The road, straight, leads to Charminar. You’ll have to go through two large arches, called Kaman in the local parlance before having a view of the actual construction called Charminar.
Charminar is situated at the centre of a junction of four roads, each arch facing a road. It is a sort of construction where four arches are fused and having four minarets where the arches meet. Each minaret is around 150 feet high. The ticket to Charminar is five rupees and only the lowest floor is open. The upper floor and the roof which serves as a mosque is not open. The main things to note at Charminar are a fount at the centre of it with a statue of two birds in the middle; the actual architecture, a perfect example of Islamic art; the Durgah and the temple in the complex. Don’t forget to have a look at the roof from the ground level. You climb to the top through one of the minarets and come down through another. Total steps down is 52, steps are comparitively high as compared to normal ones, some as high as two or three feet. The upper construction is like a gallery with windows opening inside and a balcony giving a view of the city. It’s a sight to behold in a bustling city. One side is Mecca Masjid and Jamai Nizamia, on the other is Laad Bazaar famous for centuries as a place to buy bangles, on the other side is Patherghati road, equally famous for ages as the place to buy pearls. Look towards the river, you will be seeing the red domes of the High Court and Birla Mandir in the distance. The construction inside is simple with extremely soft plastering, it’s just like a pathway set in the side of a building, with it’s arches and walls and nothing more. But there are many spots there where you’ll get some very good photographs – both facing outside and through the windows with it’s intricate carvings. But with all the etchings of vagabonds, there is much to do to make it look more decent. A security gaurd caught up with me and took a few photographs of mine and my wife and told us what to do and what not to do in that area. I took the directions for Chowmahalla from him and then proceeded down. Few things to note, don’t entertain any photographer or any guide. For such sort of places, it’s recommended to go through the general history before visiting the actual place. I had been to Istanbul, I stayed in England and I am yet to see something as beautiful and compact as this in those countries of something of it’s age, though it is only half a millenium old.
To go to Chowmahalla, you’ll have to take a left at the end of Laad Bazaar and walk till you reach the palace. It’s on the left side of the road. Chowmahalla palace, currently just a tourist spot for a person who knows of it’s existence, is the centre of power of the Kingdom of Hyderabad, the seat of the Nizam of Hyderabad. It is located behind the Mecca Masjid and it’s construction started in 1750s. It is still with the family of the Nizam, probably because of which it’s maintenance is impeccable, sans the riches for which the Nizam is famous for and the reason why the Nizam is shown in a positive light. Possibly because it was shut for public till 2005, no one knows of it’s existence. The entry ticket is 40 per head and the ticket for camera is 50 rupees.Entry is through the right where you walk through the courtyard, before the fusillade of offices till the end where you see the actual palace. Parallel to the courtyard, is the northern garden where there is a large water tank with fountains, statues and ducks. It is a very beautiful setting with the trees and flower plants on all the sides of the tank with a few cannons dispersed all over. Now comes the actual palace. It’s not that huge, but it’s an imposing construction. The entrance covers the full length of the Durbar Hall. The Durbar Hall is a piece of beauty in itself and a sight which you will not forget that easily. Your gaze first, goes to the multitude of chandeliers which fill the room. The hall is full of marble, including the throne of the king. The throne is set in marble, facing the entrance. People are expected to stand to the side. First, you will go to the left for an exhibition detailing who the Nizams are. Then to the right of the Durbar Hall for a completion of the exhibition. In the centre, in the first room, are some administrative implements like seals and in the second are some curios made of ivory and silver. One standing among them strikingly is a building with date trees and all other finesse made out of ivory. This level done, next, you will go to a room on the first floor containing traditionaal art – woodwork, embroidery, collectibles and others. Next, go to what they call Great Room in Britain, containing the potraits of the rulers. Next, you will be looking at a room full of Chinaware. A comment which my wife made regarding that, this crockery is not as good as the one which we saw in London and my answer for that, this crockery is for eating while the London crockery is for decoration. From all the three rooms you will be having an eagle view of the Durbar Hall. Climb down to enter first, the armouries and then a photo exhibition. The exit, then, will be into the Southern Courtyard. Actually, this will present you a better photographic oppurtunity of the palace. This done, walk interior into the next level, that again is another palace, probably some residential rooms for the royalty. There is another water tank with equally good views as that of the first one, to the right is a building containing traditional womenwear with the rich sarees and all, on the other side is the library, one side is a building closed, and which I know not and on the fouth side is a photo studio. This is the only area where you will see west in architecture – two naked Greeks wrestling. This is one of the best photographic spots in the palace complex – faing the room with the background as the water. This level done, you’ll go to the last one, which contains a selection of Nizam’s caar collection. All of them are antique and exquisite with the prize catch, being a canary yellow favourite of the Nizam which was used very rarely. Now it’s the time to turn back, this time through the fusillade parallel to the first one and to the exit. Even though it takes atleast three to four hours in the palace and the grounds, we chopped it off in two.
This is my first visit to an oriental palace and this is one of the best fusion of nature and architecture I have seen and is much better than what I saw anywhere in England. Now, there is no time for the Birla Mandir and it’s time now for a photo session in the studio and time for the Puja. And one lesson which I learnt today is India is much brighter than England and it’s not a cakewalk taking photographies in this country unlike in England.