Camera battery failure on day one is not good, so I’m borrowing photos here.
The centre of Hyderabad is great. Four ceremonial gates surround the Charminar, a four towered mosque/memorial/gateway built in 1591. It’s surrounded by textile and bangle markets and the Makkah Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. It’s a vast building (1694) of soaring granite arches and keystone bricks baked of soil from Mecca. Kim didn’t get past the security with her ‘fashion trousers’ while tummy exposing sari wearers breezed through. The complex houses a simple row of tombs of the the Nizams and their families.
Nearby but hidden behind modern decay is the Chowmahalla Palace, the main palace of the Nizams and reopened in the last few years. There’s a series of courtyards surrounded by corridors of storage rooms and servants quarters. A durbar hall of marble and chandeliers has display photos of the family and the visits from the Viceroys. There are the usual collections of arms, the European rooms decorated in Edwardian taste and collections of textiles and costumes. Like so many other Indian Prines, there’s a collection of carriages and cars, including a perfect 1914 canary yellow Rolls Royce, now housed in one of the Victorian bandstands. At its peak the palace had 6,000 employees including 38 just to dust the chandeliers.
Another palace was the Purani Haveli, where the last Nizam lived. The complex is now a school but there’s a museum in one of the wings. It mainly contains a set of ornate gifts given for his Silver Jubilee in 1937, including many silver deco architectural models of the modern buildings the ruler brought to the city. But the highlights were the 150 year old hand-cranked lift and the world’s largest wardrobe; 70m of teak cupboards.
We failed to get into the most sumptuous palace, the Falaknuma. Locked since the 50s it was leased to the Taj Hotels chain, restored and reopened in 2010. Furniture and artworks restored, the only realistic way to visit was for afternoon tea. But failing to reserve our car was turned away at the gate.
The Golkonda Fort dates from the 16th century and sits on a hill in the outskirts of the city. Or it used to. Fortunately the extensive land run by the army – sports grounds, parade grounds, golf courses – has stemmed some of the development in this direction. We’ve picked Sankranti, the harvest festival to visit and the place is packed. Three or four sets of walls defend layers of the hill up to a pavilion on the top. The acoustics are said to be so good that a clap at the lower gate can be heard at the top of the hill, though was presumably not tested with so many visitors. There’s a view to a series of domed tombs to the north of the fort and of the largely intact 11 km lower wall. Beyond this are the while tower blocks of the city.
The site is heavily ruined. It fell to a siege by the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb in 1687. You’re left with massive and impressive blocks built into the natural granite boulders of the hill. The royal quarters have the remains of vase-shaped niches for lamps, stucco ceilings, fountains, water course and toilets.