Thursday, 26 April 2018

A Night Walk For Knowledge

Essentially, this is a post about a walk that I went to on the 22nd of April, 2018. The walk was held by Hyderabad Trails -an organization that holds walks across monuments or places of historical significance in Hyderabad.

Thirteen of us (eleven adults and two teenagers) set out that fine evening, after a wonderful course of tea and biscuits, with one of the most influential guides in Hyderabad-Haseeb Zaffri. Below is a list of all the places we visited and wonders we stumbled upon in the narrow gullies of old Hyderabad.

1. The Mahboob Chowk Clocktower:

The Mahboob Chowk clock tower is also known as the Jame Masjid clock tower as it is next to the famous Jama Masjid mosque. The concept of a clock tower was introduced by the first Nizam of Hyderabad. A clock tower is a tall, rectangular tower with a pointed, prismatic top with clocks fixed on all four sides.

Clocks like these were usually established in chowks (an open market area in a city at the junction of two roads) where people could look at the time. Back then, many people couldn't afford watches as they were considered a luxury. The clock tower is placed in an exquisite green garden with tall trees and well-maintained bushes. However, since the park around it is open 24/7, many homeless people have made it their abode.

The Mahboob Chowk clock tower is a five-storeyed architectural structure that was built in the year 1892 by the prime minister of Hyderabad, that is the Paigah noble Nawab Asman Jah Bahadur. The tower's grandeur really steals one's breath away.

The first storey (the base) has humongous wooden doors fitted in so that people could go into the tower to wind the clock or set the time (currently the doors are sealed to prevent entry). The second and the fourth storeys have intricately carved Persian/Islamic work on them. The work is done on blocks of stone and mortar coated with an earthy brown coloured cement.

The fifth storey has large old clocks fitted on all four sides. The clocks are circular and white with long, distinguished-looking, black hands. The best of them all is the third storey. It has long, royally shaped doors, inlaid with delicate carvings and a very unique, and admirable structure. Both the third and fifth storeys have balconies with black railings that starkly contrast with the color of the structure, making it look exceedingly beautiful.

Right next to this clock tower is the famous Jame Masjid Mosque. The story of the devotees in this mosque is quite impressive and funny. Five times a day, many religious men walk into the mosque for their namaz. For about a few minutes, they sit in rapt attention, reciting their prayers with all the devotion their soul can offer to God. At the end of the namaz, they rush out of the mosque, back to their bustling businesses but a vast majority of these men climb down the stairs into a large cellar that acts as a workplace for artisans.

2. Khursheed Jah Devdi:
Khursheed Jah Devdi is a European styled architectural palace located in Hyderabad. It was built by the Ancestors of the celebrated Paigah noble Khursheed Jah Bahadur. Its interiors were once adorned with expensive carpets and exclusive chandeliers, the gardens blossomed with flowers and fountains made the ambiance livelier. It is located at Hussaini Alam, just a kilometer from the famous Charminar. Despite numerous demands for restoration by heritage activists, the Khursheed Jah Devdi, once home to the majestic and powerful Paigah nobles, now lies in ruins.

Right behind the grand palace lies a government degree and PG college. The thirteen of us rested for a while under the trees there, eating sweets that we had bought on the way. The sweets were indeed as delicious as the owner had claimed.

There, under the trees, we met two sweet little girls who, as their age required them to be, were inquisitive and asked us many questions about who we were and where we came from. Needless to say, once they had gotten all their answers, the took us to a small cluster of trees beside which their little hut lay. We had the honor of getting to meet their goat and their hen, whose eggs had just hatched.

3. Yahiya Pasha Dargah:
The right words to describe this marvelous dargah would be- cream, green and serene. After a long walk from the devdi, the little group reached the Yahiya Pasha Dargah and as we entered through small iron gates, we visibly noticed a drop in the temperature. The dargah seemed much colder than all the places we had visited earlier.

The trees seemed to whisper greetings above us as we walked forward listening intently to the guide. At the main structure, we were asked to remove our shoes and socks. The ladies were then lead to an attached courtyard (because women are not permitted to enter dargahs or mosques) while the men entered the dargah to pay respects to the divine Pasha.

The floor of the dargah was covered in sand while beautiful glass chandeliers hung from above. The women covered their heads with dupattas while men tied handkerchiefs around their forehead as it was obligatory for an individual to cover their head before entering the dargah. The women sat there for a long time praying while the guide showed the men around the dargah. I prayed to God to grant me the strength to survive my upcoming exams and to take good care of everyone I knew including himself.

An honest confession? After praying for a few minutes (at the most), I began feeling bored and drew patterns on the cold, hard cement slab on which we were all seated. Then I proceeded to admire the colorful and tastefully hung pieces of glass in the dargah.

When the men returned from inside, the whole group slipped on their shoes and began walking to our next and final destination.

4. Dargah Syed Shah Raju Qattal:
Hazrat Shah Raju was eighth in the lineage of the Sufi saint Hazrat Syedna Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gesu daraz of Gulbarga. He was most popularly recognized for being the guide and teacher of the Eight Sultan of the Qutb Shahi dynasty- Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (nicknamed "Tana Shah").  Abul Hassan had a good voice and sang well. He also had a certain innocence about him. Shah Raju, therefore, gave him the nickname of 'Tana Shah' which meant "a child saint". 

After Tana Shah married Abdullah Qutb Shah's elder daughter and settled in as the eight and last Qutb Shahi ruler, Shah Raju Qattal Hussaini sent a pomegranate for Abul Hassan Qutub Shah (as a blessing) but Tana Shah only ate 14 pieces (seeds). When informed about this incident, Shah Raju Qattal Hussaini made a prediction that Tana Shah would rule Hyderabad for a short but prosperous period of 14 Years. And only for 14 years did Tana Shah rule. 

14 years after his coronation, about the period of 1683, Tana Shah began becoming irregular in the payment of his taxes to the Mughals and his relations with Sikandar Adil Shah also caused concern among the Mughals. Abul Hasan Qutb Shah consequently refused to be a vassal of the Mughal Empire and prompted Aurangzeb to initiate a campaign to assert the rule of the Mughals on Golconda. He attacked Golconda with his commanders, Nawab Khwaja Abid Siddiqi (Qilich Khan) and Nawab Mir Ghaziuddin Khan Siddiqi Feroze Jung, father and grandfather of Nizam I (Asaf Jah I). 

Tana Shah defended the fort for eight months, but Aurangzeb succeeded in capturing Golconda at the end in September 1687. Abul Hasan Qutb Shah surrendered and handed over the Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond, the Hope Diamond, the Wittelsbach Diamond, and the Regent Diamond, making the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb the richest monarch in the world.

Tana Shah was taken as a prisoner and was imprisoned in the Daulatabad Fort, where he would die after twelve years of captivity. When the Sultan died, he was not buried alongside his ancestors and other Qutub Shahi Kings but in a modest grave at Khuldabad near Aurangabad
Here's another very popular story about the saint:
Shah Raju Qattal Hussaini was known to meditate at a particular hill, a little further away from a village settlement in Hyderabad. Everyone in the village knew the saint and respected him. One day, they saw him walking down the hill towards the village and all the villagers dropped whatever they were doing to rush to the saint. 

The saint, in a most humble tone, asked for help from the villagers and the villagers, eager to help their beloved saint, agreed. The saint then revealed that he needed help burying a dead body near his cave. Startled but obliging, the villagers rushed back to the village to gather tools for digging the grave. When they returned to the spot where they had met the saint, they were surprised to see his absent. 
But still determined to help the saint, they marched over to the saint's cave next to which a body lay shrouded in a white cotton sheet. When the priest uncovered the body to give it a ritualistic bath, the villagers were shocked to see their beloved saint, lying there, pale and lifeless. Just a few minutes before he died, the saint had personally come to inform them. They marveled at the miracle and solemnly gave him the most religious and respected burial. 

When one sees the dargah with his or her own eyes, they understand better the love that the people had for this Sufi saint. The dome of the dargah is one of the largest in all of Asia and rises majestically into the sky. The inside is even beautifully built and decorated. When, at night, the lights come on inside the dargah, they illuminate every building around them.  It is a  truly marvelous sight and leaves a great impression on those who have the fortune to see it with their own eyes.

The dargah is also said to be a great place to pray. Every night, hundreds of Muslims flock to the dargah to plead with the Sufi saint to grant their wishes and ease their pain. Men write their wishes to a piece of paper and tie the paper to the rails around the shroud while women sit in the attached corridors and pray silently. Men also sit in the main courtyard, back to back and shoulder to shoulder, to read out their namaz five times a day. 

By the grace of our very friendly and influential guide, the group got to meet one of the main figures behind the running of the dargah. The guide had originally caught hold of the leader's little son and had asked the boy to call his father. When the father arrived, the guide exclaimed: "How audacious the boy is to have gone and called his father at my request!". This took the group by shock and one of the members asked the guide about what he meant. To that, the guide replied: "When I was a little boy, I didn't dare to interrupt my father during a prayer in the constant fear of receiving a hard slap to the face!". 

We spent a good deal of time laughing about it. The leader (who happened to be a distant cousin and great friend of the guide) then elaborated to us about the greatness of the Sufi saint and the dargah and stated that a number of individuals found inner peace while meditating here. He said they felt as if their sins had been wiped clean and they had been handed a new, fresh slate to rewrite their life as they wished it to be.  Thanking him and promising to visit again, we left for the main road where we parted ways. 

After we parted, I began feeling hungry. I approached my daddy dearest and squealed and whined to him about how hungry I was and how it would be a great idea to eat out for dinner. He agreed and the three of us (my dad, mom and I) began walking through narrow residential streets to reach my favorite restaurant- Shah Ghouse. There, we ordered a biryani and tandoori chicken. When the food arrived, we dug into the delicious, steaming flavored rice and the tender, spicy chicken with great relish. My mother, being vegetarian, ate the veg biryani along with some spicy gravy and raita. All in all, it was a wonderful night and I am sure you would enjoy it too.

In hopes that you would follow the same route and enjoy as much as we did (or even more), I enclose the link of this map that will act as a tour guide (walking is the best mode of transport). But remember, to always do more than the tour guide tells you to. It's more fun that way. Don't you agree?

For the link of the tour guide map, click here: Tour guide map link

Be sure to contact me on my email ID:
(you can also contact me on my other ID: or on my
Instagram ID: tholakari_medida) and share your experiences and suggestions.

Thank you for reading and au revoir!

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