When Tank Bund was out of bounds for Hyderabadis 

Only the British, ruling nobility of Asaf Jah dynasty and Paigah nobles could use the Tank Bund road as it was feared the general public may leave it damaged

Updated - February 08, 2024 04:09 pm IST

Published - December 16, 2023 07:11 am IST - HYDERABAD

The Tank Bund lit up, making it appear like a fairyland, but the road was out of bounds for citizens of Hyderabad.

The Tank Bund lit up, making it appear like a fairyland, but the road was out of bounds for citizens of Hyderabad. | Photo Credit: SERISH NANISETTI

Lit up by hundreds of LED lamps, the Hussainsagar looks like a shimmering sheet of water. In the morning, it is a promenade that is thronged by yoga enthusiasts, joggers and pigeon-feeders. In the evening, the promenade turns into a carnival with balloon sellers, snack vendors and rides and games for children. This was not always the case. The Tank Bund was out of bounds for most citizens. Only Britishers, the ruling nobility of Asaf Jah dynasty and Paigah nobles could use the Tank Bund road as they feared that the it would be damaged by others. 

“There is a great tank by the name Hussainsagar between the two (Secunderabad and Hyderabad). A fine road has been laid on this Tank Bund for use by the English moving in elephants and horse carriages; guards are posted on six places of the road to prevent men and vehicles from walking on this road and spoiling it. Foreigners alone can use this road and others can do so only by permission,” is how Enugla Veeraswamy chronicled the restricted access of the Tank Bund on Hussainsagar Lake in 1830.

Veeraswamy was a traveller from Madras going to Varanasi. HIs day-to0day chronicle in Telugu called Kasi Yatra Charitra gives a glimpse of the city as it was at then. The 1830 visit was the second one and he recalls how the city has grown over the past 20 years due to the fertility of the soil. 

Around the same time in 1830, Captain J. R. Wilson, a soldier in the service of Nizam’s Subsidiary Force, wrote a similar experience about the Tank Bund being out of bounds for ordinary people of Hyderabad: “The natives are never permitted to ride or drive over the bund, for which reason a guard of infantry is posted at both ends of it, to make them keep to a road which has been expressly marked out for them immediately below it. This rule of course would not affect the Nizam, or any one attached to his court, who, excepting on very grand occasions, never come out in this direction.” 

Within a few decades, the access to people changed on the road. “A part of the Bagh-e-Mohammed Shahi on the Naubat Pahad was marked off and turned into the Baagh-e-Aam. A public garden that people could access to. The entrance arch bears the date of 1868 and was probably the year when the out-fencing was created,” says architect Sibghat Khan. 

The cycle of limiting access or ‘elite capture’ has a long history in Hyderabad. The royal precinct of Qutb Shahis near Charminar remained inaccessible for people except of celebratory occasions or observances like Muharram. During the reign of Mir Osman Ali Khan, roads would be cleared of all the traffic and an ‘all clear’ sign was passed on during his movement in the city. This ended after Hyderabad was integrated with India. The removal of barricaded pathway in the middle of the road in Somajiguda is one more case in Hyderabad’s where ‘elite capture‘ was ended after the change of State government. It remains to be seen in what other form it manifests itself. 

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