Most of Hyderabad’s many sightseeing options are near the Musi River where the original city came up in the 1500s. Built in 1591, the Charminar (Four Columned monument) is the enduring symbol for Hyderabad. Commissioned by Mohammad Quli as a memorial at the end of a severe epidemic, the four arches face the four cardinal directions. Minarets top the columns and the entire structure looks ethereal when it is illuminated after dusk. The second floor houses the oldest mosque in the city. Steps lead up to the very top of the minarets from where the city reveals itself in a bustling sprawl below. The Charminar is open to visitors during the day.
The old city is a maze of atmospheric streets. Steeped in religious relevance for the Shia Muslims, this part of Hyderabad has many precious relics including an alam in the Biha ka alawa, which as bits of the plank on which the Prophet’s daughter bathed, woven into its fabric. Also, make your way to the Sar Tauq ka alawa.
The Mecca Masjid next to the Charminar is one of the largest in the world. Construction began during the reign of Quli in 1614 but was completed under the auspices of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Some of the bricks are made from soil from Mecca.
The Salarjung Museum houses an astounding assortment of objects d’art from all over the world. Collected by three generations of the Nizam’s prime ministers but mostly by Salar Jung III, the museum has oil paintings by obscure western artists, oil paintings by well-known ndian artists, marble sculptures, carpets, clocks, china and porcelain, Chola sculptures, miniature paintings, a massive ivory collection and religious objects.
The Hussain Sagar Lake in the northern part of Hyderabad is impossible to ignore. It’s a large man-made lake with dimensions to the tune of 6.5 kilometres by 800 metres, and a depth of 16 metres. A recent addition has been a gigantic statue of the Buddha that sunk to the bottom when installation was first attempted, but was subsequently successfully retrieved and set up in 1993. The Lumbini Huda Park on the lake is quite a spiffy little place. Landscaped and well maintained, it has boating facilities.
Set against the Hussain Sagar is the Naubat Pahar Hill on which are the Birla monuments. The Science Centre has enough gadgets to keep you happy for an entire morning. There is also a Planetarium hat has an informative and entertaining show about celestial bodies. The Archaeological Museum has artefacts from Vadamannu, which date between 100 BC and 200 AD. There are also displays of miniature paintings, stone and wood sculptures. The beautiful Birla Temple is dedicated to the Lord Venkateshwara. Commissioned by the big industrialist Birla family, its built in Rajasthani white marble and has a stunning view of the lake and the city.
Visit the largest incorporated film studio complexes in the world at Ramoji Film City, to get enthralled by the magic of cinema! The Quli Qutub Shahi Tombs are where the Qutb Shahi kings are buried in marvellous tombs, the constructions of which they personally oversaw. All seven sultans are buried in the same compound where garden paths wind past these phenomenal monuments.
The Falaknuma Palace is now a museum for the riches collected by the Nizam of Hyderabad. It was designed by an Italian architect and stands well-preserved only four kilometres from Charminar. (It’s closed on Fridays).
The Golconda Fort, 11 kilometres from city centre, is counted among the most remarkable in India. The Qutb Shahi dynasty established its capital city in the fort, and it was from here that the prince Muhammad Quli rode out every night to meet his beloved Bhagmati in what used to be a small village by the River Musi. The fort predates the Qutb Shahi dynasty as the Kakatiyas built it in the 13th century AD before passing into the hands of the Bahamani kings. It was a successful siege on the Golconda Fort by the Mughal forces of Aurangzeb that ended the Qutb Shahi rule in 1687.
The main features of the fort are the heavily studded Balahisar Gate, the Grand Portico where you can sample the acoustic soundness of the design by clapping your hands, the royal Nagina Gardens and the bodyguards’ barracks, three 12 metre deep tanks which fed a complicated water system, and finally the Durbar Hall, which is at the end of a thousand-step climb. Situated at the summit of the hill, the Durbar Hall commands a view of Hyderabad and Secunderabad and if you look carefully (very, very carefully) you’ll even spot the Charminar. Another attraction in Hyderabad is the Jalavihar, a Water Park to relax and have fun with family and friends.