The city of love: Hyderabad
Sheher baqi hai, mohabbat ka nasha baqi hai
Tu nahin hai teri chashm-e-nigaran baqi hai
~ Makhdoom Mohiuddin
It was another month of Muharram, 425 years ago, when the story of Hyderabad began. Muharram in the Shia kingdom of Golconda was marked by official mourning commemorating the martyrs of Karbala. It involved planting of tazias and placing alams inside ashoorkhanas and evenings of marsiyas and majlis. One of the tazias was placed at the road junction that connected the fortress of Golconda with that of the seaport of Machilipatnam.
Here, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the poet king of Golconda laid the foundation stone of the city. Muhammad was perhaps wearing black robes as a mark of mourning for Muharram but he recited the famous manajat (prayer) about filling the city with people like fish in an ocean. And so it was.
A city of magnificent palaces, shopping arcades, parks with flowing streams soon developed rapidly around the monument which was completed by 1596 and the people started calling it Baghnagar and Hyderabad.
Today, only the Charminar, the Char Kaman (four arches), the fountain in the middle of the piazza called Gulzar Houz, the Baadshahi Ashoorkhana and the Mir Momin Ka Daira exist both in reality as well as in public memory. The rest of the medieval city has been erased just like its older name Baghnagar. The city built for the love of Bhagmati as Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah says:
“Ay Qutb Shah
Nabi ke sadqe mein Bhagmati se milkar…
Khud ko Qutb Shah ki dasi samajh kar khoob saj sajakar ayi hai.”
(By the grace of Nabi you have met Bhagmati… She who has decked up just for you).
While most Persian histories record the name of the city as Hyderabad, the first among them, Ferishta called it Baghnagar. Rayavacakamu, a history of Vijayanagara empire written about 1600 AD in Madurai records an envoy of Bagnagaram called Baboji Pantulu at the court of Mukunda Gajapati in Odissa.
Gita Dharampal-Frick, professor of Modern South Asian History at the Heidelberg University, has translated German traveller Heinrich von Poser’s travelogue in the Deccan. Poser records the name as, “On 3rd (December 3, 1622) we reached the city of Bagneger or Hederabat, the seat of the king Sultan Mehemet Culi Cuttub Shah and the capital of the kingdom.”
(The French travellers who came to the city about 50 years after its creation were awestruck by its wealth and the glittering panoply of life. Gem trader Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who visited the city a number of times wrote: “Bhagnagar is then the town which they commonly call Golconda, and it was commenced by the great grandfather of the King who reigns at present, at the request of one of his wives whom he loved passionately, and whose name was Nagar (actually, Bhagmati),” is the translation of Tavernier’s lines from his six voyages. He gets the name wrong but vouches for the fact that it was built for a woman and doesn’t reference gardens.
On the other hand, H.K. Sherwani, the authoritative historian of Deccan, translates the same lines and abbreviates them: “Bagnagar was founded by the grandfather of the present king. Here the king had very fair gardens…Bagnagar or the Garden of Nagar.” Tavernier doesn’t reference gardens.
Another French traveller Thevenot refers it as Bagnagar and Aiderabad. The ‘h’ sound is missing in both!
“There are events in life that have intangible value. Events and fables are a part of life; we cannot negate stories romanticised around an event. I consider the story of Bhagmati as one such thing. Human value gives it a romantic idea and tries to establish it as a historic fact. We should be receptive to such ideas and not be dissuaded by critics. We should bring out facts and verify them and interpret in the context,” says N. Taher, the Superintending Archaeologist of Hyderabad circle of ASI.
But why this spot and not somewhere else? And was the city called Bhagnagar/Bagnagar/Baganagaram? Did Bhagmati exist? “Who knows. She must have. I for one would like to believe it. Isn’t it great that the city was built for love?” says Oudesh Rani Bawa, who has read and translated works of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah.
MetroPlus celebrates Hyderabad’s 425th anniversary with stories that capture the unique character of the city that evokes a sense of pride and enthusiasm in all.
‘At home in this sheher’
‘Pride of Hyderabadis’
‘Expat in Hyderabad’
‘Cinema and the city’