Travel Bucket List: India – Telangana Part 1


The next state we will explore is India’s newest state. Situated on the south-central stretch of the Indian peninsula on the high Deccan Plateau, Telangana is the eleventh-largest state and the twelfth-most populated state in India. On 2 June 2014, the area was separated from the northwestern part of Andhra Pradesh as the newly formed state with Hyderabad as its capital. Telangana is bordered by the states of Maharashtra to the north, Chhattisgarh to the northeast, Karnataka to the west, and Andhra Pradesh to the east and south and the terrain consists mostly of hills, mountain ranges, and thick dense forests covering.

Known for its Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb culture, the cultural centres of Telangana, Hyderabad and Warangal are noted for their wealth and famous historical structures including the Ramappa Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Charminar, the Qutb Shahi Tombs, the Falaknuma Palace, the Chowmahalla Palace, the Warangal Fort, the Kakatiya Kala Thoranam, the Thousand Pillar Temple and the Bhongir Fort in the Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district. The historic city of Golconda in Hyderabad established itself as a diamond trading centre and, until the end of the 19th century, the Golconda market was the primary source of the finest and largest diamonds in the world and so the legendary Golconda Diamonds became synonymous with Golconda itself.

A popular etymology derives the word Telangana from Trilinga Desa or the land of three lingas, a region so-called because three important Shaivite shrines were located here: Kaleshwaram, Srisailam and Draksharama. According to experts, Telangana is of Gondi origin with the name derived from Telangadh, which means south in Gondi and has been referred to in the Gond script dating back to about 2000 years. One of the earliest uses of a word similar to Telangana can also be seen in a name of Malik Maqbul, a commander of the Warangal Fort, who lived in the 14th century, who was called the Tilangani, which implies that he was from Telangana. The word Telinga changed over time to Telangana and the name Telangana was used to distinguish the predominantly Telugu-speaking region of the erstwhile Hyderabad State from its predominantly Marathi-speaking one, Marathwada. After Asaf Jahis ceded the Seemandhra region to the British, the rest of the Telugu region retained the name Telangana and the other parts were called Madras Presidency’s Circars and Ceded.

Throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages, the region was ruled by multiple major Hindustani powers such as the Mauryans, Satavahanas, Vishnukundinas, Chalukyas, Cholas, Rashtrakutas, Kakatiyas, Delhi Sultanate, Bahmani Sultanate and the Golconda Sultanate and by the Mughals during the 16th and the 17th centuries. During the 18th century and the British colonial rule, Telangana was ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad who lost control of the Northern Circars or Coastal Andhra and the Ceded Districts or Rayalseema to the East India Company in 1823. The Northern Circars were governed as part of Madras Presidency until India’s independence in 1947, after which the presidency became India’s Madras state. Hyderabad state joined the Indian Union in 1948 after an Indian military invasion and in 1956, was was dissolved as part of the linguistic reorganisation of states and Telangana was merged with the Telugu-speaking Andhra State which was part of the Madras Presidency during the British rule to form the state of Andhra Pradesh. A peasant-driven movement began to advocate for separation from Andhra Pradesh starting in the early 1950s, and continued until Telangana was granted statehood in 2014.

Situated on the Deccan Plateau, in the central stretch of the eastern seaboard of the Indian Peninsula, Telangana is drained by two major rivers, with about 79% of the Godavari River catchment area and about 69% of the Krishna River catchment area, but most of the land is arid with a predominantly hot and dry climate. One of India’s classical languages, Telugu is the official state language and Urdu is the second official language with about 77% of the population speaking Telugu and 12% speaking Urdu.

Telangana has an agriculture driven economy though the state has also started to focus on information technology and biotechnology and is one of top IT-exporting states of India. The state is also mineral rich and the Golconda region has produced some of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the colourless Koh-i-Noor, the blue Hope, the pink Daria-i-Noor, the white Regent, the Dresden Green and the colourless Orlov, Nizam and Jacob, as well as the now-lost diamonds – the Florentine Yellow, Akbar Shah and Great Mogul.

Hyderabad Part 1
The city of Hyderabad is the capital of Telangana and also a shared capital for Andhra Pradesh until the new capital of Amaravathi is ready. It is the largest city of the state and lies on the Deccan Plateau along the banks of the Musi River, in the northern part of South India. Much of Hyderabad is situated on hilly terrain around artificial lakes, including the Hussain Sagar lake, which predates the city’s founding. Hyderabad is the fourth-most populous city in India and the sixth-most populous metropolitan area in India and has the fifth-largest urban economy in the country.

Hyderabad was established by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 to extend the capital beyond the fortified Golconda Fort. In 1687, the city was annexed by the Mughals and in 1724, the Mughal Viceroy Nizam Asaf Jah I declared his sovereignty and founded the Asaf Jahi dynasty, also known as the Nizams. Hyderabad served as the imperial capital of the Asaf Jahis from 1769 to 1948 and also housed the British Residency and cantonment until the Indian independence in 1947. Hyderabad was annexed by the Indian Union in 1948 and continued as a capital of Hyderabad State between 1948 to 1956 and after the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, was made the capital of the newly formed state. In 2014, Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated to form Telangana and Hyderabad became the joint capital of the two states with a transitional arrangement scheduled to end in 2024. Since 1956, the city has housed the winter office of the President of India.

Relics of the Qutb Shahi and Nizam rules remain visible today with the Charminar symbolising the city. The amalgamation of local and migrated artisans created a distinctive culture and the city emerged as a significant centre of oriental culture. Painting, handicraft, jewellery, literature, dialect and clothing are prominent still today. Through its cuisine, the city is listed as a UNESCO creative city of gastronomy. The Telugu film industry based in the city is the country’s second-largest producer of motion pictures. Until the 19th century Hyderabad was known for the pearl industry and was nicknamed the City of Pearls, and was the only Golconda Diamonds trading centre in the world. Hyderabad’s central location between the Deccan Plateau and the Western Ghats has attracted major Indian research, manufacturing, educational and financial institutions and since the 1990s, the city has emerged as an Indian hub of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

The name Hyderabad means Haydar’s City or Lion City, from Haydar or lion and abad or city, after Caliph Ali Ibn Abi Talib, also known as Haydar because of his lion-like valour in battle. The city was originally called Baghnagar or the City of Gardens, and later acquired the name Hyderabad. One popular legend suggests that the founder of the city, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, named it Bhagyanagar after Bhagmati, a local nautch or dancing girl whom he married. She converted to Islam and adopted the title Hyder Mahal with the city named Hyderabad in her honour.

There is evidence that Hyderabad and its surrounding region has been inhabited from the Stone Age with archaeologists finding evidence of inhabitation that may date from 500 BC. The region comprising modern Hyderabad and its surroundings was ruled by the Chalukya dynasty from 624 to 1075 and following the dissolution of the Chalukya empire into four parts in the 11th century, Golconda came under the control of the Kakatiya dynasty from 1158, whose seat of power was at Warangal, 148 km northeast of modern Hyderabad. The Kakatiya dynasty was reduced to a vassal of the Khalji dynasty in 1310 after its defeat by Sultan Alauddin Khalji of the Delhi Sultanate which lasted until 1321 when the Kakatiya dynasty was annexed by Malik Kafur, Allaudin Khalji’s general. During this period, Alauddin Khalji took the Koh-i-Noor diamond, said to have been mined from the Kollur Mines of Golconda to Delhi. Muhammad bin Tughluq who succeeded to the Delhi sultanate in 1325, brought Warangal under the rule of the Tughlaq dynasty and Malik Maqbul Tilangani was appointed its governor. In 1336 regional chieftains who revolted against the Delhi sultanate in 1333 took Warangal under their direct control and declared it as their capital and in 1347 when Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah, a governor under bin Tughluq, rebelled against Delhi and established the Bahmani Sultanate in the Deccan Plateau, with Gulbarga, 200 km west of Hyderabad as its capital, both the neighbouring rulers Musunuri Nayakas of Warangal and Bahmani Sultans of Gulbarga engaged in many wars until 1364–65 when a peace treaty was signed and the Musunuri Nayakas ceded Golconda fort to the Bahmani Sultan. The Bahmani Sultans ruled the region until 1518 and were the first independent Muslim rulers of the Deccan.

Sultan Quli, a governor of Golconda, revolted against the Bahmani Sultanate and established the Qutb Shahi dynasty in 1518 and rebuilt the mud-fort of Golconda and named the city Muhammad Nagar. The fifth sultan, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, established Hyderabad on the banks of the Musi River in 1591 to avoid water shortages experienced at Golconda and built the Charminar and Mecca Masjid in the city during his rule. In 1687, the Golconda Sultanate came under the rule of the Mughal empire and Hyderabad was renamed Darul Jihad or the House of War and Golconda was renamed Deccan Suba or the Deccan province. The capital was moved from Golconda to Aurangabad, about 550 km northwest of Hyderabad. In 1724, Asaf Jah I defeated Mubariz Khan to establish autonomy over the Deccan, named the region Hyderabad Deccan, and started what came to be known as the Asaf Jahi dynasty and rulers were referred to as Asaf Jahi Nizams or the Nizams of Hyderabad. In 1768 Asaf Jah II signed the Treaty of Masulipatam, surrendering the coastal region to the East India Company in return for a fixed annual rent.

In 1769 Hyderabad city became the formal capital of the Asaf Jahi Nizams and the Nizam signed a subsidiary alliance with the East India Company in 1798, allowing the British Indian Army to be stationed at Bolarum in modern-day Secunderabad to protect the state’s capital, for which the Nizams paid annual maintenance to the British. After India’s independence, the Nizam declared his intention to remain independent rather than become part of the Indian Union or the newly formed Dominion of Pakistan. On 17 September 1948, the Indian Army took control of Hyderabad State after an invasion codenamed Operation Polo. With the defeat of his forces, Nizam VII capitulated to the Indian Union by signing an Instrument of Accession, which made him the Rajpramukh or the Princely Governor of the state until it was abolished on 31 October 1956. On 1 November 1956 during the state reorganisation on linguistic lines, Hyderabad state was split into three parts, which were merged with neighbouring states to form the modern states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The nine Telugu and Urdu speaking districts of Hyderabad State in the Telangana region were merged with the Telugu speaking Andhra State to create Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as its capital. The Telangana movement which demanded the creation of a new Telangana state took place in 1969, 1972 and 2010 and on 30 July 2013, the Indian government declared that part of Andhra Pradesh would be split off to form a new state of Telangana and Hyderabad city would be the capital city and part of Telangana, while the city would also remain the capital of Andhra Pradesh for no more than ten years. The state of Telangana thus was formed on 2 June 2014.

The Golconda Fort is one of the region’s best-preserved monuments with construction completed in the 1600s and is reputed for being where once, the Koh-I-Noor diamond was stored. It is said that if you clap your hands at the bottom of the fort, the echoes of it can be heard right to the top. As per legend, an idol was found in the area by a shepherd. Soon after, the Kakatiyan king was informed about the same, and he gave the order to build a mud fort around the idol in 1143. The fort came to be known as Golla Konda which meant Shepherd’s Hill in Telugu and then Golkonda. The fort rose to prominence when it came under the rule of Qutub Shahi Dynasty during the 16th century and the fort expanded from a mud fortress to a lofty structure having a 10 km outer wall. After a failed attempt in 1686, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was finally able to breach the impregnable fort in 1687 after a long nine-month siege.

A grand structure, the Golconda Fort is built at an altitude of 400 feet with a circumference of 7 km displaying a fusion of Hindu-Islamic styles of architecture. Its walls comprise of 8 gates and 87 bastions with each reaching heights between 50 to 60 feet. There are three powerful consecutive fortification walls each within the other with the first wall containing a town, the second wall which is a double wall that runs around the foot of the hill on which the citadel stands and the third wall which is further up the hill lies within the second and is comprised of masonry and natural boulders. Situated with the fortress are the dwellings of the queens and princesses and their retainers. The fort is famous for its royal apartments, parade grounds, numerous halls and mosques. Amongst the eight gates, the Fateh Darwaza is the main gate as the victorious march of King Aurangzeb proceeded through it. This door is 13 feet wide and 25 feet long and was made up of steel spikes to protect it from elephants. The Balahisar Darwaza which was built in the Nawabi style is another magnificent structure, but today, only the eastern gate can be visited.

The Golconda mines are known to produce some of the most coveted and popular diamonds ever known including the Idol’s Eye, the Hope Diamond, the Darya-i-Noor and the famous Koo-i-Noor. In the evening, the fort comes to life with the light and sound show which showcases snippets from its past. On all days, the first show is in English while the second show is in Telugu on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and in Hindi on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Between November and February, the first show takes place at 6:30 pm and the second show at 7:45 pm while between March and October, the first show takes place at 7 pm and the second show at 8:15 pm. The ticket counter opens from 5:30 pm with tickets costing INR 140 for an adult and INR 110 for a child in the executive class and INR 80 for an adult and INR 60 for a child in the normal class. The fort is open from 9 am to 5 pm and the entry fee to the fort is INR 5 for Indians and INR !00 for foreigners. Camera fees are INR 25. Naya Qila is an extended version of the Golkonda Fort.

The Gomajipet Fort located about 110 km from Hyderabad is a popular tourist attraction. It has lately been restored and boasts of magnificent architecture and reflects the grandeur of a royal time. The Asmangadh Fort constructed in 1885 translates to the home in the sky is because it was situated on a hilltop. Today, it has been converted into a school called the St. Joseph’s Public School.

Synonymous with Hyderabad, the Charminar is located in the heart of the city and was erected by Quli Qutub Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty to signify the founding of Hyderabad when he shifted his capital from Golconda. It was so named as it consists of four minarets and is also famous for the market that sprawls around it and is called Laad or Chudi’ Bazaar. According to historians, the inadequacy of water and the plague forced Quli Qutub Shahi to move his capital and Quli Qutub Shahi pledged to build a monument if the suffering of his people came to an end. The Charminar was built to commemorate the decision and eradication of the plague from the city. The old city of Hyderabad was designed keeping Charminar as the centre of the city. According to legend, Quli Qutub Shahi saw his beloved wife, Baghmat he and built Charminar as a symbol of his eternal love for her. There is also a legend that talks of the existence of a secret tunnel under the Charminar that connects it to the Golkonda Fort which was created as an escape route for the royal family in time of an emergency.

The Charminar is a massive structure with four minarets. Towards the north of the monument, there are four gateways known as Char Kaman constructed in the cardinal directions. The Charminar is a perfect square, inspired by the shape of the Shia Tazias with each side 20 meters in length. It has four grand arches that face a fundamental point that open into four streets. There stands a 56 meters tall minaret at each corner with a double balcony. Each minaret has a dome on top with petal-like designs at the base. One needs to climb 149 steps to reach the upper floor. The structure is made of granite, mortar, marble and limestone and there is a mosque located at the western end of the open roof. One can get a bird’s eye view of the city from the balconies of the Charminar with the devout able to offer prayers inside the mosque. An exquisite example of the Indo-Islamic architectural style with Persian influences. The arches and domes of the monument define the influence of Islamic architecture, while the Persian influence is prominent from its minarets. The balconies and the outside walls, embellished with delicate stucco floral ornamentations on the ceiling, showcase the influence of the Hindu style of architecture. At the base of the Charminar is a small temple known as Bhagyalakshmi Temple. The best shopping in Hyderabad is the area surrounding the Charminar with the streets brimming with people and the shops displaying attractive and colourful bangles, pearls, jewellery, semi-precious stones, silverware, Kalamkari paintings, sarees, silk materials, gold-embroidered fabric, lacquer bangles, ittar and the traditional Khara dupatta. The area is also famous for its delicious Hyderabadi cuisine. The Charminar is absolutely mesmerising when illuminated between 7 and 9 pm but one can’t enter the building after 5 pm. The second floor and upper columns are not open to the public.

Once the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, the Chowmahalla Palace was built between 1857 and 1869 and can be translated to mean Four Palaces. The monument consists of two massive courtyards as well as a grand dining hall known as the Khilafat and once served as the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad and still belongs to the heir of the Nizams, Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah.

The facade of the Chowmahalla Palace is a delicate artwork of domes, arches, windows and meticulously carved out designs embellished with gentle fountains, expansive lush gardens, numerous palaces, a clock tower, the Roshan Bangla and the Council Hall. The construction of the palace was initiated by Salabat Jung in 1750 and completed during the period of Afzal ad Dawlah, Asaf Jah V in 1869 and is believed to have taken inspiration from the Shah of Iran’s palace in Tehran. Influenced by Persian, Rajasthani, Indo-Saracenic and European styles, the palace was originally spread over an area of 45 acres, but covers only 12 acres today. There are four palaces inside, Aftab Mahal, Afzal Mahal, Tanhiyat Mahal and Mahtab Mahal and the northern courtyard has the Bara Imam, where all the major administrative activities took place. The most important structure is the Khilwat Mubarak which has the raised marble platform where the Takht-e-Nishan or the royal seat was laid. A Clock Tower which is also called the Khilwat Clock is also present and has been ticking away for about 251 years now. The Council Hall has an impressive collection of manuscripts and priceless books and today, holds a priceless collection from the Chowmahalla Palace Collection. The Roshan Bangla is a royal chamber named after Roshan Begum. The Bara Imam is situated in the Northern Courtyard and overlooks a building built in its exact image and used to serve as a guest house. The Afzal Mahal in the Southern Courtyard is a two-storeyed building adorned with long pillars, detailed carvings, and majestic garden spaces while the Mahtab Mahal, the Tahniyat Mahal and the Aftab Mahal have delicate carvings and majestic archways adorning their white stone surface and are built in neo-classical architectural style. Chowmahalla Palace is closed on Fridays and is open between 10 am to 5 pm on other days. Entry fees are INR 80 for Indians, INR 200 for foreigners and INR 10 for children. Photography fees are INR 50 and videography will cost you INR 100.

Since Hyderabad has so much to offer, it will be split into two parts, with the second part coming up.

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