Saturday, December 19, 2015

When Palaces and Forts Brim with People


Fill this city with people
 As Thou hast filled the ocean with fish, O Lord!
- Quli Qutub Shah 

Thus goes the prayer of the royal founder of Hyderabad, and ever since, the city has seen swarms of people flocking to its topography and making the same their homes. And why not. Hyderabad from time immemorial has been a seat of art, architecture, music and poetry bringing art lovers to the city. It’s not for nothing that poets like Makhdum Mohiuddin and Dagh Dehlavi added splendour to this Deccan capital. Lately, the city has been a host to a number of events that didn’t just engage the audience and mesmerise them with their special themes, but also the historical places they were conducted in, lighting up moods and taking audience on historical trips.

Even before that, Quli Qutub Shah himself wrote diwans in Persian, Telugu and Urdu. Other than that, Sufi saints like Syed Yousufain Chisti and Hazrat Husain Shah Wali made Hyderabad their home and now when tunes of qawwali emanate from their dargahs it is a scene of Kaifiyat. Even now after years Hyderabad is resonating with the same qawwalis, ragas and display of artworks at different events. What adds charm to these soul-inspiring events is that they are being organised in palaces, forts, and mausoleums bringing alive times gone by. The winter chill that descends on heritage structures of the City of Pearls sets the perfect mood for music to flow and art shows to blend with nostalgia of eras gone by which these events reflect a shadow of. What Hyderabad has to offer -- palaces and tombs of Deccani kingdoms of Bidar, Berar, Ahmed Nagar, Gulbarga or Bijapur pale into contrast.

For example, the necropolis of Qutub Shahi tombs contains the regality of an entire dynasty. Read on to find out how these relics of history are inviting common public inside their regal facade and leaving them spell-bound and at the same time instilling into them, a sense of lost glory that must be seen, visited and experienced:

Qutub Shahi Tombs

Located close to Golconda Fort this complex is distinctive with its bulbous domes reminiscent of Persian architecture blended with Pashtun and Hindu forms. Completed in 1550 AD, the tombs of all eight rulers of Qutub Shahi Kingdom are ornamented with exquisite lime-stucco works blended with glazed tiles-work here and there. In the complex there are 40 mausoleums, 23 mosques, 6 baolis and a hamam complete with gardens and surrounding walls.

On a misty evening of December 12, in the open space of the complex with the towering domes as the backdrop Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad the noted qawwals of ‘Qawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana’ of Delhi made the audience smitten with their music. The Dakhni compositions of poets Siraj Aurangabadi, Kamil Hyderabadi and Amjad Hyderabadi that they sang enlivened the entire complex. A mesmerised audience sat there asking for more. It was organised by Agha Khan Trust for Culture as their three-day heritage and cultural event named ‘Engaging Hyderabad with Conservation’.

Says heritage conservationist and secretary for Deccan Studies Sajjad Shahid, “Way back in 1940s a grand musical event Jashn-e-Mohammed-Quli used to be held every year in remembrance of the poet-prince. It stopped and started again in 1970 by efforts of poeple like Narendra Luther and Abid Ali Khan. Now, after the restoration of the tombs started, this is the first time a qawwali evening was organised by AKTC. We plan to make it an annual event.”

Chowmahalla Palace

The word chowmahalla is a blend of two words – Persian and Arabic, and they together mean four palaces. Built in 1880, it was the seat of Asaf Jahi rulers and later the official residence of the Nizams. The palace with beautiful yellow facade and ornate Persian stucco came alive again as Ustad Mazhar Ali Khan and Ustad Jawad Ali Khan sang Raag Bhagyashree along with compositions of 13th century poet Amir Khusro. In 1306, Khusro had come to the Deccan region with forces of Alauddin Khilji; there is no record of the poet visting the region that is now Hyderabad. It was on a vibrant evening of December 13 as part of International Sufi Music festival named Jashan-e-Khusrau organised by All India Markazi Majlis-E-Chistia (AIMMC). The rows of chandeliers glittered as the backdrop of the stage. Muzaffar Ali Soofi, the organiser and president of AIMMC says, “The idea is to engage people from the city into the depths of music which is essential for the spiritual growth of an individual.”

Red Fort Hill

Located at the base of Naubad Pahad, it was once the official residence of Prince Moazzam Jah. The ruins of Fort Hill Palace at Basheer Bagh was temporarily revived in a garb of colours as Shrishti Art Gallery held its 22-day-long art festival Ramaniyam at its neglected rooms. The six-acre-property stands old yet proud on the elevated surface of Naubad Pahad overlooking the expanse of Hussain Sagar Lake. A variety of sculptural works by 83 artists have was put on display. The old facade, looks exactly like that of Trinity College, Cambridge.

The palace was once known as Ritz Hotel and saw flash of life after two decades. It became a heritage property in 2015 after it completed 100 years. Talking about taking heritage as part of people’s life the owner of Shrishti Art Gallery Lakshmi Nambiar opined, “This place is part of our heritage. If we blend art into its derelict areas people will understand the heritage that surrounds us.”

Taramati Baradari

The anecdote associated with this heritage structure which was once a sarai with beautiful gardens is the love story of prince Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah and singer-dancer Taramati. People say that the prince sitting at Golconda Fort used to listen to Taramati’s songs as she sang for travellers staying at the serai. That’s how they fell in love with each other. The structure built around 1625 AD has 12 arched doorways in an open pavilion. In 2012, Hyderabad Literary Festival was held here. In 2014 another Sufi Music Festival Ruhaniyat was held at its premises. The open air auditorium was filled with more than 500 people. One of the Sufi singers Bhai Nirmal Singh from Punjab who sang at Taramati as part of Ruhaniyat, Sufi Music Festival shares, “Not only the music and songs that we played were soulful. The entire structure with its history added depth to the compositions.”

Hyderabad Public School

Established in the year 1923 as an educational institute for the aristocrats of Hyderabad it was renamed as Hyderabad Public School after feudalism was abolished in 1950. It encompasses 160 acres and is built on Islamic architecture with arched doorways, high ceilings and, minarets and lattice work. Yet to attain the 100-year-old tag HPS is now the official venue for Hyderabad Literary Festival held every year in the month of January.

Last year itself poet and Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar came for his book launch and sitting in its green lawns said, “A literary event gets bejewelled if held in such beautiful pieces of regal architecture.”

Golconda Fort

Golconda needs no introduction. Built at a rugged granite hilltop, Golconda was the crown of Hyderabad. First built by Kakatiya dynasty it fell into the hands of Qutub Shahi dynasty in 1507. Its construction was completed in 1600. It’s known for its acoustic architectural wonders, tunnels and huge pavilions surrounded by lofty arched doorways. Once alive with sprawling gardens now on special occasions grand events are organised by theatre personalities like Mohammad Ali Baig of Qadir Ali Theatre Foundation. His play ‘Quli Dilon Ka Shahzada’ and Sawaan-e-Hayat’ was staged at ramparts of the Fort in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

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