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Book Review

Hyderabad through the ages

THE SPLENDOUR OF HYDERABAD — The last Phase of an Oriental Culture: (1591-1948 A.D.) M. A. Nayeem; Hyderabad Publishers, 10-2-5/8/1, A.C. Guards, Hyderabad-500004. Rs. 2000.

THE BOOK under review, authored by a well known historian, is divided into three parts, viz. The Qutb Shahi period (1518-1687), Mughal period (1687-1720) and the Asaf Jahi period (1720-1948 A.D.) when Hyderabad State was finally merged with the Union of India.

The Qutb Shahi, the first dynasty which ruled over the Hyderabad State, had reached India from Turkistan via Iran. Sultan Quli, the founder of the dynasty, was first appointed by the Bahmanis as the Governor of Telangana in 1496 A.D. He, however, became an independent ruler in 1518 A. D. and made Golkonda his capital. He rebuilt the mud-fort of Golkonda and named the city as "Muhammad nagar". It was the fifth illustrious scion of the dynasty, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, who laid the foundation of the city of Hyderabad in 1591 A.D. The author refutes the theory of "Bhagyanagar" as the earlier name of the city. However, the discovery of an early revenue record, dated in 1626, which mentions the name of the city as Bhaganagar, would leave no room for doubt in this regard. A number of Qutb Shahi miniature paintings also mention the name of the city as Bhaganagar.

The abounding fiscal resources and the brisk international trade in diamonds, colourful textiles and steel with the outside world had put the economy of the State on a strong footing which led to an all round development of the city and helped in its beautification.

Apart from a detailed description of the Golkonda Fort and its associated buildings, the book presents an interesting account of art and architecture of the Qutb Shahi era.

The Qutb Shahi monarchs were prolific builders who built a large number of edifices, such as mosques, Ashurkhanas, tombs, palaces, sarais, hospitals, tanks and hammams, which are lying scattered in and around the city.

The author has ably described the historicity of all such major monuments with suitable illustrations. A large number of rare, old photographs not only supplement the textual information but also provide visual satisfaction to the reader. They also throw flood of light on the socio-cultural and political life of the period.

Part two of the book, which deals with the Mughal hegemony over the Hyderabad State (1687-1720 A.D.), was too short a period to leave any abiding impact on the art and culture of the city.

Part three deals with the Asaf Jahi era (1720-1948), which was a period of cultural assimilation and synthesis. Asaf Jahs, being the nobles of the Mughal Court earlier, were greatly enamoured of the Mughal culture, which was a blend of the Persian and Indian, particularly Rajasthani, cultural norms and traditions.

Thus, the Hyderabadi art and architecture of the 18th and 19th Centuries is eclectic which imbibes the Mughal cultural traits and traditions on the one hand and borrows freely from the Western art traditions on the other, which had come into vogue in Hyderabad after the construction of the British Residency in 1806 A.D. The Hyderabadi artists, however, did not fail to draw inspiration from their own soil, may it be architecture, painting, dress and ornaments for which the city was famous.

The author first gives a brief history of the Asaf Jahs of Hyderbad till its final accession with the Indian Republic.

A large number of good, old photographs are then provided to present the glimpses of the Asaf Jahi culture, including Nizam's Royal Insignia, badges and buttons, coinage and paper currency and old postal stamps. He also gives details about some of the nobles who are known for their own contribution to the development of Hyderabad. The textual information is again supplemented by a good number of photographs to highlight the fables and fortunes of the Hyderabadi nobility, which comprised Hindus as well as Muslims.

The Asaf Jahi architecture, including palaces, tombs and mosques, belonging to Kings and nobles, are good examples of a mixture of the Mughal and European art styles. Besides the Residency building, there are a number of churches in the city, which are built in typical British style of architecture.

Apart from architecture, the book furnishes a good account of the jewels and ornaments of the Nizam's period, including the jewellery of the Nizam Trust.

In other words, it provides a testimony to the fabulous riches which the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII was known for throughout the world.

The book is, no doubt, a welcome addition to a number of publications on Hyderabad City.


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