Living Hyderabad History & Culture

There lies a forgotten story

Badi Masjid   | Photo Credit: Serish Nanisetti

Hyderabad is a city of surprises and of things unknown. As the Metro pillars pass through the main thoroughfare between RTC Crossroad and Oliphenta bridge, an inner lane takes you to multi-storied building with a wide partition in between: The Musheerabad Badi Masjid. In the run-down neighbourhood with craftsmen and artisans, the tall building looks like an anomaly.

Inside, after crossing the gateway with small minarets, the older part of the masjid comes into view. It is breathtaking. Framed by two bulbous minarets, the five-arched masjid is a tribute to the endless possibilities of stucco. The ledge, the water spout, inner arches, pillars and every imaginable part of the masjid is luxuriously decorated with symmetrical limestone plaster, some of it dating back to the time it was built in 1601, though it is credited to Ibrahim Qutb Shah who ruled Golconda between 1543 and 1580. The design of the masjid has a interesting aspect in that the Mehrab appears like a room. The carvings on the inner walls are part of the newer modifications.

After the fall of Golconda, the Masjid went into disuse and remained abandoned till the area became a jagir of Nawab Arastu Jah Mushir ul Mulk, the prime minister of Nizam Ali Khan.

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According to oral history, it was Nizam Ali Khan who granted the estate to Nawab Arastu Jah Mushir ul Mulk in 1795. The latter then constructed a palace marking out a garden in the wild forested area away from the hurly burly of the city on the other side of Musi.

Mushir ul Mulk’s fortunes waxed and waned due to battle strategies. If he was responsible for the withdrawal of Nizam’s forces at the battle of Adoni allowing Tipu Sultan to conquer the fort without firing a shot, he was also responsible for diplomatic manoeuvring in the Maratha court in Pune to get back ceded territory including the Daulatabad Fort.

Vanishing courtyard

The Masjid again became run down in the waning years of Nizam’s rule. Before people started moving into the area in large numbers and it got another lease of life on February 16, 1951 when parts of it were repaired. One of the minarets which had become bent was repaired.

There lies a forgotten story

Syed Bilgrami, in his Landmarks of the Deccan, refers to the extensive courtyard in the middle. Alas, the courtyard is where the four-storied structure has come up to accommodate the namazis. “There used to be a large wazoo khana here with dressed stone all around it, but now we have this fountain and this tank,” says Muhammad Nayeemuddin who has been praying at the mosque for the past 35 years and has seen it change and evolve.

Musheerabad is one of the oldest localities in the city and it was from here T Anjaiah rose to power backed by union activism and settlement of slum dwellers.

It is ironic that the masjid gets the name of the area and not the other way round as is the norm.

Between utility and ugliness is a thin line. Only if a balance can be struck between aesthetics and human need, is there any hope that the city will have some heritage left behind for future generations to feel proud about.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 4:26:10 AM |

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