There does exist a Utopia for movie-makers, and it has to be this one.
In Hyderabad, as indeed in all of Andhra Pradesh, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful movie. People here are so movie crazy that some of them would even forego a meal to watch one. The stars are demi-gods, movie halls their temples, and indeed every wall on every street a canvas on which to splash the most colourful movie posters imaginable! Passion is the operative word to describe almost everything the people here involve themselves in. A pickle made here will not be content being a mere pickle; it will be simply the most tongue-tingling, pungent and unforgettable one.
An affluent home will not stop short of sheer opulence; a wedding will happen over not one but often 3 whole days; a movie facility will not be less than 2000 acres vast and will go the entire distance; the names of people will easily and commonly contain over 45 letters, and so on and so forth!
Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh, has much to show off by way of beautifully preserved past civilization, exploding with cultural exceptionalities and more. This rambunctious, colourful city with its beautiful old-world exhibits might have been an unlikely IT hub, but it is – and quite successfully at that.
With its IT exports topping a Billion Dollars in 2004, Hyderabad is unarguably the second biggest IT hub in India after legendary Bangalore (now Bengalooru). A few years ago, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu designated himself CEO and operated as one, rapidly infusing new age technology and practices, and transformed the capital of Andhra Pradesh into this teeming metropolis. So much so that Hyderabad is now often referred to as Cyberabad! Hyderabad is divided into two parts – Hyderabad, which really refers to the old city, and Sikandarabad, the new one – and together they’re referred to as “twin cities”. The locals pronounce the latter as “Secunderabad”, which has come to be the name of this satellite town. Separating the two is the magnificent Husain Sagar lake, constructed in 1562 A.D. under Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah Wali.
400 years old, Hyderabad delights the eye with its venerated monuments, its gardens, bridges and lakes, and the natural splendour of its undulating terrain atop the Deccan Plateau, 1776 feet above sea level. It owes its rich variety to a host of influences. Its various and distinguished inhabitants left their individual stamp and character on their residences (often palaces!), their places of worship, and their administrative facilities, not to mention the various symbols as monuments they created to commemorate or celebrate events and achievements.
Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, founded Hyderabad on the banks of the River Musi in 1591-92. Nearby Golconda was the headquarters of the Qutb Shahi rulers; as the population here grew, the people spilt over into the newly founded city, and the city grew and grew.
Golconda was one of the five kingdoms that emerged out of the disbanding of the Bahamani Empire. The Kingdom of Golconda was created by the Qutb Shahi dynasty and it was from here that seven generations of rulers ruled all of the Deccan for over 170 years. This era saw a great deal of encouragement to learning and the arts and architecture, because this line of rulers were great patrons of both. Persian and Islamic artistry fused with Indian sensibilities and new heights were reached in literature, arts and culture, new genres created. This glorious age saw Golconda become of the world’s leading markets for pearls, gems and diamonds, steel for arms, and for designed printed fabric.
The year 1687 was witness to the fall of this great Kingdom, when Aurangzeb took over Golconda, having laid siege to it for nearly eight months. He imprisoned Abul Hasan Tana Shah at Daulatabad, and the unfortunate last ruler of Golconda was to die in prison after 12 years of incarceration. This massive conquest ensured that Aurangzeb’s empire now spanned the entire sub-continent. However, this was to last merely another 20 years. After Aurangzeb passed away in 1707, there was never a Mughal ruler powerful enough to rule like he did. Mir Quamaruddin, an appointee of the Mughals as the Subedar (Governor or viceroy) of the Deccan, declared himself and his province independent of Mughal rule in the year 1724. He awarded himself the title of Nizam-ul-Mulk Feroze Jung Asif Jah. Thus began the era of the Nizams, and the Asif Jahi dynasty. The reign of the Nizams lasted nearly 224 years thence, the headquarters of which were shifted to Hyderabad from Aurangabad in 1769 by Nizam Ali Khan Asif Jah II.
This period was no less illustrious for Hyderabad; Urdu, Persian, Telugu and Marathi flourished in harmony across the Deccan in the era of Asif Jah. In true secular spirit, persons were offered positions of great authority purely on the merit of their capabilities rather than their religious backgrounds. The operative official languages that prevailed were Persian, and after 1893, Urdu.
The Nizams maintained their peace even through the British Raj, and indeed forged a peaceful friendship with the British without relinquishing their power. The Seventh Nizam was conferred upon with the title “Faithful Ally of the British Government”, and all he had to accommodate was a resident British supervisor, while he continued to rule the State unhindered. This meant that the cultural, artistic and economic development of Hyderabad continued uninterrupted. The state of Hyderabad was the largest of India’s princely states, spanning an area that surpassed that of England and Scotland’s put together! The Tungabhadra, Nizam Sagar, Himayath Sagar and Osman Sagar, all huge reservoirs, were built in this era. The groundwork for Nagarjuna Sagar also began in this period. Besides all of this, Hyderabad had its own currency and its own mint, and afforded itself an exclusive railway and postal system of its own. There was also no income tax – a factor that no doubt heartened entrepreneurs and businessmen at the time.
Shortly after India won its independence in 1947, India as a Union embraced the state of Hyderabad, and not long after that, when India was reorganized with linguistically classified states, Hyderabad became the capital of Andhra Pradesh.
Hyderabad is located on the Deccan Plateau on the banks of the Musi River, in the Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh, which in turn lies in the South East of India. Hyderabad is about 541 meters above sea level.
How to get there
By Air: Hyderabad by air is quite convenient, with IA, AI, Jet and most major air carriers flying in and out, to and from all the major cities of the country. The Begumpet Airport is extremely accessible and conveniently located.
By Road: There is a regular bus service to Hyderabad from many cities in southern, central and southeastern parts of the country. Regular and luxury buses connect Hyderabad to close and distant cities with a good frequency of buses and easily availability of hired cars and taxis.
By rail: Rail connectivity to Hyderabad is as convenient as can be, with the Rajdhani Express traveling in from Delhi, Bombay Express from Mumbai and the Charminar Express connecting it to Chennai. The three railway stations –Hyderabad, Secunderabad, and Kacheguda are easily accessible.
Places to visit:
Hyderabad - The Old City
Originally built to aggrandize Sultan Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah’s glory, Hyderabad, situated on the south side of the Musi river, now extends in every direction. South of the river Musi is the Old City, at the heart of which is the Charminar – iconic symbol of Hyderabad down the ages. Some of the popular monuments you’d get to see here are…
The Mecca Masjid
This one is the magnum opus of the Qutb Shahi period. Built over a stupendous 78 years, this is the seventh largest mosque in the world, and the second largest in India. The gigantic colonnades that characterize this mosque are built out of massive monolithic blocks of pink granite. This awe-inspiring edifice can casually accommodate a whopping 10000 worshippers, though even this becomes insufficient to fit the throng of worshippers on a holy day.
186 feet high and 100 feet wide on each of its four sides, Charminar is the iconic symbol of Hyderabad, and its proudest monument. It is as old as the city itself and is as magnificent now as it must have seemed when it was built towards the end of the sixteenth century by the king then, Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah. The word “Charminar” merely means four (char) pillars (minar). There is an entire civilization that exists around the Charminar in blissful oblivion of the fact that they’re in the presence of grandeur and history. There are perfume vendors selling all the various kinds of perfumes from Persian to Arabian to Afghan in origin, pearl dealers in shops and the like all around this monument.
Hussain Sagar was built by Hazrat Husain Shah Wali on a tributary of the Musi river to serve the water needs of the city. Across this tank is a dam that bridges the twin cities, and is known popularly as the Tank Bund. There are scores of sites you’d love to visit around here – parks, temples etc. and it is one of the most prominent landmarks in Hyderabad. A monolithic Buddha serenely stands at the heart of this lake, a majestic spectator to centuries of development.
Probably one of the most spectacular and well preserved of India’s fortresses, Golconda fort stands proudly atop a granite hill. The fortress is built on a granite hill 120 metres high, made up of as many as four distinct forts and still replete with war paraphernalia centuries old, besides all the trappings of royalty.
The Sound and Light Show at the Golconda Fort
Rather than recount all of Golconda’s rich history, tourists are urged to enjoy the terrific Sound and Light show at the fort that brings alive the Legend of Golconda for its viewers. Aural and Visual wizardry mesmerize you into internalizing Golconda’s story spanning centuries and generations, voiced by none other than that other Legend, Amitabh Bachan.
Not far from the charminar – no more than a mere stroll towards the west in fact – is a street that is a tribute to what the new-fangled sophisticate would call Indian kitsch – a bazaar that is charm personified. Lad Bazaar is the timeless shopping center of Hyderabad, a market where you can buy bangles made of literally every conceivable material – glass, metal, stones, pearls, you name it, you find it. Be sure to bargain, and start by offering half the quoted price. The local folk come here to shop for dress material, cosmetics, bridal wear and even crockery. Look out for architectural spectacles such as the Chowmahalla Palace amongst others in this area.
The place is also famous for its dress materials, bridal wear, henna, gold-coated articles, cosmetics, crockery, etc. Palaces like the Chowmahalla Palace built by the Nizams form a part of this neighborhood.
This lake attracts a whole lot of couples, and if traveling with kids, you might want to visit Elles World and Ocean Park, theme amusement parks located on the way from Hyderabad to Gandipet, which is the dam on Osman Sagar. While the 20 km drive in itself is incredibly pleasant, the site itself offers a beautiful views and a soothing and beautiful experience.
Ramoji Film City
The Telugu film industry is arguably the busiest film industry in India, if not the world. Telugu movie sets, especially those constructed for song-and-dance sequences, are a riot of colour and outlandish costumes and props. Watch a Telugu movie, and it’s very likely that the song you’re watching is shot here.
That said, Ramoji Film City is well equipped enough to handle Hollywood! You could actually book yourself into one of the hotels on location called Tara and Sitara, so that you can enjoy the entire 2000 acre sprawl of this unique place.
Conceived and owned by the film producer Ramoji Rao, this place is as state of the art as it is fun to visit – besides an Airport (purely for shooting Airport sequences), a Hospital, a Japanese garden, pools, waterfalls and even a passable replica of the Golconda Fort called Hawa Mahal, it also has a cutting edge full-function multi media edit suite that is favoured by a lot of Indian as well as international film makers.
All these, of course, besides the chance that you run into some of the big stars
Nehru Zoological Park
If you have seven hours to spare and the energy to walk all those seven hours, Nehru zoological park has about 300 acres of land to offer you, filled with near about 1500 species of animals, birds and reptiles. This is probably one of the best zoos in Asia, and even offers a Lion Safari. There are also other attractions such as a Dinosaur park, a natural history museum, a night zoo and a mini train.
There are, of course innumerable less prominent but equally interesting sites to visit, which you will find extremely easy to discover, but it would be incomplete to not describe Hyderabad’s greatest global draw today…
A mere 10 years ago, Andhra Pradesh languished at the bottom of the list in terms of infrastructure and economy friendly factors. In a paltry 3 years, the tables had turned. Today, it’d be number 1 or thereabouts.
The growth rate is rather spectacular. Especially when you consider that Hyderabad accomplished in less than 10 years what Bengalooru needed 30 years to achieve.
Nearly every IT company worth its name has a presence here – not merely back-end offices but full-fledged centers. The big ones are all here - Accenture, AppLabs, Infosys, Invensys, Microsoft, CSC, Oracle, Wipro, Kanbay, GE, iGate, ValueLabs, ADP, Dell, Deloitte, HSBC, SumTotal, Intergraph, Analog Devices, IBM, Keane, Satyam, Baan, Birlasoft, Cypress Semiconductors, InMage, SatNav Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services, Amazon and Google - almost all bar none
There have been well thought out, conscious investments in digital infrastructure, not least of these the development of HITEC City, the Hyderabad Information Technology Engineering Consultancy City, a major technology township marketed and maintained by L and T Infocity Ltd. This again is a dream township for every IT professional, with residential facilities, entertainment facilities as well as a world-class, inspiring IT environment that houses all IT majors from around the world. A virtual Haven for offshore developing.
Places that might be fascinating for the IT aficionado are:
The HITEX exhibition centre (eponymous), Mindspace IT park, Shilpakala Vedika, the knowledge centers and the ‘V’ centers, amongst myriad others.
Places to stay in Hyderabad:
5 star options are (each as good as the other, the second one is outstanding for its many restaurants)
Hotel Welcom Group Grand Kakatiya and Towers
Hotel Comfort Inn Woodbridge
Hotel Taj Banjara
Others 4 and 3 star:
Hotel Bhaskar Palace
Hotel Deccan Continental
Hotel Ramada Manohar
Hotel The Central Court
Hotel Asrani International