Hyderabad, the capital city of the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, is famous all over the world for its magnificent Charminar (four minarets). Often called "The Arc de triomphe of the East", Charminar was built by Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah, the erstwhile Qutub Shahi Sultan of Golconda, in 1591. It was the centre of attraction of the magnificent capital city of Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah. In spite of it being dwarfed by present day buildings, the Charminar has not lost its erstwhile majesty and continues to attract travellers. Presently, Charminar stands with pride, at the centre of the old city.
The monument was built by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 to commemorate the eradication of plague, shortly after he had shifted his capital from Golconda to what now is known as Hyderabad. Legends has it that the emperor Quli Qutb Shah prayed for the end of plague and took the vow to build a masjid on that very place. He ordered the construction of the masjid which became popular as Charminar because of its four characteristic minarets. The top floor of the four-storeyed structure has a masjid which has 45 covered prayer spaces and some open space to accommodate more people in Friday prayers. Madame Blavatsky reports that each of the floors was meant for a separate branch of learning - before the structure was transformed by the imperial British administration into a warehouse for opium and liqueurs.
Charminar – Architecture and Importance
Indo-Islamic style of architecture is neither a local variant of Islamic architecture that reached India in the middle ages, nor a modification of Hindu art, but it is an assimilation of both the styles, though not always in an equal degree.
It is so because each region in India has its own form of Indo-Islamic architecture, which varies from place to place and there is no standardization. On the other hand Islamic art itself was a composite style, which had various Muslims influences like Turkish, Persian and Arabic.
Rulers from different parts of the Muslim world, who came and settled in India, brought with them the artistic traditions of their regions. The intermingling of such traditions with local Indian practices resulted in different forms of Indo-Islamic art. In Delhi, Islamic influences dominated while in the Deccan, local styles were more prominent in the buildings. In Bengal, the indigenous practice of using bricks for building was adopted and the monuments were richly decorated with chiselled and moulded decorations typical of Hindu temples.
Though both the Indian and Islamic styles have their own distinctive features, there are some common characteristics, which made fusion and adaptation easy. Both the styles favour ornamentation, and buildings belonging to both these styles are marked by the presence of an open court encompassed by chambers or colonnades.
The Charminar is an excellent example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. The four arched gates and the four towering minarets of this building reflect its Islamic lineage but the overall rendering of the building reflects a strong local influence. The decorations on the main structure and the minarets are ample evidence of local architectural traditions.
The Charminar is an imposing monument, which reflects the glory of the Qutub Shahi dynasty. It is a massive square structure, 56 m (183.72 ft) high and 30 m (98.42 ft) wide. This monument is built entirely of granite and lime mortar. It has 4 minarets one on each of its corners. These fluted minarets are attached to the main building and rise towards the sky to a height of 56 m (183.72 ft). Each minaret of the Charminar has a double balcony. A small bulbous cupola crowns each of these beautiful minarets, which is decorated with petal like formations. A short pointed spire crowns all the minarets.
The four grand arches of the Charminar face the four cardinal directions. Once upon a time each of these arches led to four royal roads. Each of the four arches is decorated on its sides with a row of small arched niches. The Charminar is a two-storied building with the first floor being covered. The elegant balconies on this floor provide excellent vantage point for viewing the surrounding areas. There is a small mosque on the top floor of the building, which can be reached by climbing a total of 149 steps. The mosque is situated on the western side facing the Muslim holy city of Mecca. There are as many as 45 prayer spaces on this floor, which does not have a roof on top of it. It is said that people thronged this mosque to offer Friday prayers, during the reign of the Qutub Shahi dynasty in Hyderabad. This mosque is the oldest surviving mosque in the city of Hyderabad. The panoramic view of the city from the top is simply breathtaking.
The Charminar is a unique blend of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture that flourished in India during the medieval period. The beauty of this enchanting monument is accentuated every evening when it is illuminated.
Location and Transport
Hyderabad and Secunderabad are twin cities, and share the same airport - Begumpet airport that is well connected by air with important Indian cities. It is located at a distance of six kilometres from Secunderabad and is 15 km from Old City (Old City of Hyderabad), where Charminar is situated. Taxis are easily available from the airport for the twin cities.
Hyderabad is also well connected by train and road with important destinations in India. To travel to the Charminar, you can make use of local buses (that ply on fixed routes within the city), taxis or auto-rickshaws. Rented cars available