Hyderabad, also entitled as the city of Nawabs and the city of Pearls is the capital of Southern Indian states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Founded by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591, today the city covers an area of approximately 650 km2. Hyderabad has developed into one of the major hubs for the information technology industry in India which has earned it the additional sobriquet “Cyberabad”. The city is also home to the Telugu Film Industry which is popularly referred to as Tollywood.
HISTORY AND CULTURE : AN ACCOUNT OF THE PAST
Although Hyderabad was discovered less than 500 years ago, archaeologists have unearthed Iron Age sites near the city that could date back to 500 BC. It is said that approximately over 1000 years ago this region was ruled by Kakatiyas whereas it was Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah- a ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty who founded the city of Hyderabad on the banks of the Musi River in 1591. Later, it was the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who captured the kingdom of Golconda including the city of Hyderabad in 1687.
In 1937, Time magazine termed Hyderabad state as the richest native state in India. In 1955, Ambedkar was so impressed with amenities of Hyderabad city that he argued to make Hyderabad city as second capital of India. On 1 November 1956, the states of India were reorganized on linguistic grounds. The territories of the State of Hyderabad were divided between newly created Andhra Pradesh, Bombay state (later Maharashtra), and Karnataka. The Telugu speaking area of Hyderabad state, also known as Telangana, was merged with the Telugu speaking state of Andhra state to create Andhra Pradesh. Thus, Hyderabad city became the capital city of the new state of Andhra Pradesh.
In Hyderabad you will discover how truly fascinating the city’s culture is. With the decline of Mughal empire in Delhi, most of the artists from North and West India migrated to South under the patronage of nizam, leading to enrichment of Hyderabad’s culture and the diversification of languages spoken. Hyderabad is not only known for its rich history, but also for its food. One of the reasons it attracts the tourists of the city is by offering an extensive collection of restaurants offering wide variety of cuisines from all over the world.
If you take out time to really look at simple things, it is then you will realize how beautiful things actually are. For decades, Hyderabad has enticed tourists from varied spaces with its long list of captivating spots that include:
- Birla Mandir
Birla Mandir is one of the foremost tourist attractions in Hyderabad. Surely no trip to the city is complete without a visit to this beautiful temple. The best thing about this temple is that it is open to people of all religious faiths. The Birla Mandir was built by Raja Baldev Birla and in the year 1938, the temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi. Birla Mandir is a splendid structure that is a unique combination of both the Oriya and South Indian style of temple architecture. Open all days of the week, one can visit the temple from 07:00 am to 09:00 pm with no entry fee.
- Golconda fort
The city of Hyderabad is famous for its breathtaking monuments, one of which is the majestic and imposing monument labeled Golconda fort which lies on the Western outskirts of Hyderabad city. Built by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah in 1525, the Golconda Fort epitomizes the opulent nawabi culture of the time. In 1518, when the Qutb Shahi dynasty was found, Golconda was made its capital. The subsequent generations saw Golconda being fortified further with several additions and the formation of a beautiful city within. A new attraction at the fort is a light and sound show that brings the legend of Golconda to life. The show livens up the glorious past and it is an experience worth watching. Open all days of the week from 09:00 am to 05:30 pm, the entry ticket for Golconda fort is Rs 5 for Indian locals and Rs 100 for foreign nationals.
Hyderabad is most famous for its charming minarets – Charminar. The city is often identified with the majestic Charminar which stands at the center of the old city with all its splendor amidst the colorful shops of Ladbazaar. Often called “The Arc de triomphe of the East”, Charminar was built in 1591 by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah and is a beautiful structure with four intricately carved minarets. Enormous in its size, this imposing monument exudes a charm that is more than 400 years old! The Charminar and its bustling bazaars is where the spirit of old Hyderabad lives on. It’s here, that you will find age-old nahari stalls that serve the steaming sheep’s-trotter broth and kulchas that form the traditional Hyderabad breakfast even today. Open all days of the week with no entry fee, the breathtaking structure is sure to mesmerize you with its ravishing beauty.
- Ramoji film city
Ramoji Film City is formally defined as the World’s Largest Film Studio Complex as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. Millions of tourists from all over the world come to the complex every month to witness the spectacular film city which is spread over 2500 acres amidst serene beauty of hills, woods, lakes & striking architectural triumphs. Ramoji film city is one of Asia’s fastest growing tourist destinations. Open all days of the week from 09:00 am to 05:30 pm, the entry fare is Rs 900 per adult and Rs 800 for children.
- Ocean Park
Ocean Park is one of the best amusement parks in India. Occupying 20 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens the Ocean Park is located at Gandipet, which is just 15 Kilometers away from Hyderabad. It has a number of world class amusement rides, water rides and multicuisine restaurants offering variety of food at affordable prices. Ocean Park delivers fun for all ages. Packed with the ultimate dose of fun and entertainment, this water and amusement park is must visit for all the tourists. Open all days from 11:00 am to 07:30 pm to visit the amusement park and 11:00 am to 06:00 pm for entry to water park, the entry fee for adults is Rs 350 and for children it is Rs 230.
- Snow World
An astounding wonder in itself, the Snow World in the city of Hyderabad is the first snow-themed park in India that offers a splendid experience of snowfall at all times of the year. The first of its kind, it is also the biggest snow-park in the world with an area covering around 2 acres. The most impressive feature of this park is that the artificial snow that is produced using various technologies is made up of mineral water and is filtered four times to make it absolutely safe for the children. Open all days of the week from 11:00 am, the entry fare for adults is Rs 450 and for Children it is Rs 250.
- Salar Jung Museum
The Salar Jung Museum is an art museum located at Darushifa, on the southern bank of the Musi river in the city of Hyderabad. Included among one of the three national museums of India, the Salar Jung museum displays a collection of sculptures, paintings, carvings, textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, metallic artefacts, carpets, clocks, and furniture from Japan, China, Burma, Nepal, India, Persia, Egypt, Europe, and North America. Closed on Fridays, the visitors can plan to visit the museum on other days from 11:00 am to 05:00 pm with a nominal fare of 10 Rs per person for Indians and Rs 150 per person for foreign tourists.
- Pearl Markets
No trip to Hyderabad can be complete without purchasing some fine pearl jewellery. Each shop has its own specialty and it’s better to have a look at several other shops before making up your mind. Famous for its precious and exquisitely elegant pearls the Pearl Market is an ultimate destination for women who love pearls. The market near Charminar and Hussain Sagar lake has some of the best pearl collection.
India serves as a home to a host of festivities – along with a diverse population, it has diverse festivals as well, and Hyderabad being a culturally rich city is no behind in celebrating these festivals with liveliness and enthusiasm. Some of the local festivals celebrated in the city are:
- Batkamma and Batkamma Panduga
The festival mainly belongs to or has been originated in the Telangana region and is hence, very special to the locals there. Celebrated with liveliness and enthusiasm, this festival continues for a month. The idol of the Goddess Batkamma is worshipped during this time. It is then left afloat gently on the rivers and lakes. Celebrated for nine days in a row, this festival is dedicated to a married Vaisya woman, who was killed by her own brother at the instigation of his wife. Legend has it that the victim was reborn in her grave as a flowering tree. During both these celebrations, there are dance performances, music, dramas and a variety of entertainment that are enjoyed equally by both, the tourists as well as the locals.
The holy month of Ramzan is a special occasion in the life of a Muslim. Muslims fast the whole month and at the end of it they celebrate the Ramzan with joy. Fasting during this month is considered as the third pillar of Islam. For many, Ramzan shopping is incomplete if the Old City is not visited. The real Ramzan action is seen in the Charminar area as one wades through the crowds at majestic Charminar, which is the hub of all activities. A significant part of Hyderabad’s population are Muslims, and to them, no festival is as auspicious and as important as Ramzan, more commonly known as Ramadan.
Also famous as the harvest festival, it is believed that Sankranti marks the entry of the sun into the northern hemisphere. Sacred to the Hindus, the Sun God is worshipped on this day. This is a three-day festival celebrated with much pomp and splendour. Falling generally in mid-January, the city of Hyderabad on this occasion witnesses its streets bustling with seasonal lingo. The Annual Kite Festival is organised at Shilparamam and some other parts of the City.
- Ganesha Chaturthi
Also known as the Ganesha Festival, Ganesha Chaturthi marks the day in which Lord Ganesha, the son of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati, is believed to grant his presence to all the devotees on Earth. In the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated in the month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chathurti, also known as the fourth day of the waxing moon period whereas in the Gregorian calendars, it typically falls between the 20th of August and the 15th of September, and lasts for ten days. During the festival, idols of the god Ganesha are installed in colorfully decorated homes and temporarily erected structures. After the tenth day, they are immersed in holy water. This represents the cycle of creation and dissolution in nature.
In the Islamic calendar, the Muharram is the first month and it is one of the four months of the year in which fighting is strictly forbidden. This festival commemorates the death and martyrdom of Imam Hussain – Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, who was killed in the 680 AD battle. As 40% of Hyderabad’s population belongs to the Muslim religion, this celebration is greeted with much fervor and joy, most notably by the Shia Muslims.
Ugadi is the New Year’s Day for the people of Andhra Pradesh and also for the Telugu people all over the world. Ugadi marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon’s orbit. On this day, people chant mantras and the pundits make predictions for the coming year. Celebrated in the months of March and April, the Ugadi festival is also famous as the Telugu New Year. House-cleaning, painting, decorating with mango leaves form a major part of the celebration process performed in each household.
- Raksha Bandhan
Rakhi, commonly called “Raksha Bandhan” is one of the most popular festivals of India. The Rakhi festival is a celebration of the pure and sacred bond between a brother and his sister, the festival celebrates the emotional bonding by tying a holy thread around the wrist of her brother. This thread, which symbolizes love and care, is called the ‘Rakhi’ which also refers to the bond of protection. On the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, different kinds of Rakhis are available in the market. Some Rakhis are made of silken, golden and silver threads and studded with semi precious stones, while the others are simple and sober with just a piece of string.
Celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and religious fervor. Prayers are offered in the mosques and in iddgahs on the auspicious day of Bakrid. Meeralam and Madannapet iddgahs are some of the famous iddgahs in the twin cities, where special prayers are offered during the festivals of Ramzan and Bakrid. Thousands gather near Charminar to offer id prayers in Mecca Masjid, and the entire area from Madina circle to Mecca Masjid is cordoned off during the prayer time. Muslims wear new clothes and apply itr (perfume) and soorma on the eve of Bakrid as a part of their ritual.
Bonalu had its origin in 1869, when Hyderabad and Secunderabad were plagued by an epidemic that killed scores of people. The citizens believed that the plague was the manifestation of the Mother Goddess’ anger at them. A Hyderabadi prayed to the Mother Goddess and promised that if he survived the plague, he would build a temple in her honour in Hyderabad. The Bonalu ritual was also started to ward off the goddess’ anger. In this ritual, the women craft an offering of food to the Mother Goddess which is later shared by family and friends in the form of prasad. There is then a celebration of community feasts and colourful processions including the Ghatalu procession and a procession where the Mother Goddess is placed astride an elephant. At the end of the celebration, a Rangam ceremony is held, where a young girl in a trance predicts the future.
- Dussehra & Diwali
Another festival that signifies the triumph of good over evil is Dussehra where the people celebrate the death of the demon king Ravana by the hands of Lord Rama. The celebration lasts ten days, with the first nine days spent in the worship of the Godden Durga, and the tenth being the slaying of the demon lord. The festival is also associated with the festival of Bathkamma, a floral festival full of colours where women dress in their finest and arrange flowers in colorful pyramids. Celebrated as the “Festival of Lights”, the Diwali is celebrated not just in Hyderabad but throughout the country.
- Given the traffic, driving in Hyderabad can be a bit of a challenge. It is always better to opt for a public/private transport.
- Apply an insect repellant all day and all night without a miss.
- Always keep some hard cash because some of the local restaurants do not accept cards.
- When in city – make sure you visit the best of the restaurants offering local cuisine so that you don’t have to miss on the famous Hyderabadi biryani and kebabs.
- Always make note of the local numbers just in case of emergency, like 100 for police and 102 for ambulance. The STD city code for Andhra Pradesh- Hyderabad is 040.