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heritage along the hyderabad metro

One of the cool things about the metro rail is the new perspective it gives us of our city. Iconic buildings that we are used to seeing while on the road look entirely different seen from the train above. Plus, it’s the perfect way to at least catch a good glimpse of buildings that the public is not allowed into. Some time ago, I took a ride on the red line in the Miyapur to LB Nagar direction and took some phone photos (phone photos, so don’t judge them haha) of the heritage buildings on this route. Let me tell you about them.


1. Fakhr-ul-Mulk Tomb

The first building to watch out for on this route is a beautiful granite tomb on the Sananthnagar main road. This is the tomb of Nawab Fakhr-ul-Mulk II. I’ve photographed it a couple of times, but on both occasions it was locked, and I could only get a few photos through the gate. Thanks to the metro, we can now get a fabulous aerial view of this tomb.


Nawab Fakhr-ul-Mulk II was one of the Umra-e-Uzzam, the Great Nobles of Hyderabad, during the rule of the Nizams. He was related to the illustrious Salar Jung family, and was known for his lavish lifestyle as well as for his kindness and philanthropy. He died in 1934, and is said to have supervised the construction of this tomb along with his wife, before their death. Both of them, and a few of their family members are buried here.

Fakhr-ul-Mulk Tomb
FAKHR-UL-MULK TOMB

(Watch out for this tomb soon after the ESI hospital stop. If you’re going towards LB Nagar, it should be on the right.)



2. Erum Manzil

In 1870, Nawab Fakhr-ul-Mulk II built himself a massive palace on top of a hillock, called Erum Manzil. In its time, it was one of Hyderabad’s grandest palaces, with about 600 huge rooms. It had numerous gardens in the compound, a pond for boating, tennis courts and even polo grounds. It is currently a part of the Chief Engineer’s Office. The Erum Manzil metro station is right in front of the palace, and you can get a really good view of the palace from there.

The same Nawab also built another palace very close by in Erragadda – it is called the Erumnuma Palace and is a part of the government TB hospital today. The metro route does pass by the hospital, but I could not spot the palace from the train.

Erum Manzil
ERUM MANZIL

(The best view of this palace is from the Erum Manzil metro station.)



3. Bella Vista

The Bella Vista palace was built in an Indo European style by Muhammad Muslihuddin, who served as the Chief Justice of Hyderabad High Court between 1914 and 1916. The 7th Nizam Osman Ali Khan acquired it from him. In 1931, when the heir-apparent Prince Azam Jah married Princess Durrushehwar, the daughter of the Ottoman Caliph, this was the palace the newly-weds moved into. It was taken over by the state government in the early 1950s, and since 1957, it has housed the Administrative Staff College of India.

Bella Vista Palace
Bella Vista Palace

(Look for this palace soon after the Erum Manzil stop. If you’re going towards LB Nagar, it should be on the left.)



4. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy State Archaeological Museum

This museum was built in the 1920s by the then Public Works Department. It was built to be a museum. It is a pretty building with elements of Qutb Shahi as well as Mughal architecture. By the way, this museum is pretty cool – one of its artefacts is an Egyptian mummy – definitely worth a visit.

Y S Rajasekhara Reddy State Archaeological Museum
Y S Rajasekhara Reddy State Archaeological Museum

(You’ll see this immediately after the Lakdi-ka-Pul stop. If you’re going towards LB Nagar, it should be on the right.)



5. State Legislative Assembly

The pristine white assembly building is easily the most exquisite one on this route. It was originally built to mark the silver jubilee of 6th Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan’s reign in 1905, and the money for its construction was raised by the public. The Nizam laid the foundation stone himself, and the Indo-Saracenic building was designed by an architect named Khwaja Anwar Hasan. Construction was completed by 1913, and it was used as the town hall at first. Today, it houses the state legislative assembly.

Legislative Assembly
STATE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(This is adjacent to the museum above.)



6. Fateh Maidan Clock Tower

The Fateh Maidan Clock Tower stands across the road from the legislative assembly. It was built in 1903 by a Paigah noble named Nawab Zafar Jung. It adjoins the LB stadium, also called Fateh Maidan. The field has played a major role in the history of Hyderabad, right from the Qutb Shahi era. It was the site where Mughal ruler Aurangzeb pitched his camp during his attack on Golconda. Since he succeeded in bringing down the kingdom, the field came to be known as Fateh Maidan (fateh means victorious).

Fateh Maidan Clock Tower
Fateh Maidan Clock Tower

(This is right opposite to the museum and assembly, so it’s very hard to see those as well as this on the same trip)



7. Nampally Sarai

Just before the train pulls into the Nampally Metro Station, you’ll see a glimpse of a dirty pinkish building – the Nampally Sarai. It was built by the 7th Nizam Osman Ali Khan in the year 1919, in memory of the signing of the First World War Treaty (which ended the first world war). Built just outside the Nampally Railway Station, it was a resting place for travellers visiting the city, and had 54 rooms. For many years after independence, it was used as a guesthouse by the state government. Today, it lies in a state of neglect.

Nampally Sarai
Nampally Sarai

(You’ll see this on the left, assuming you’re going towards LN Nagar, just before the Nampally railway station stop)



8. Nampally Railway Station

The Nampally Railway Station was originally built in the late 1800s, and is the city’s oldest railway station. The present structure however, dates back to 1938.

Nampally Railway Station
Nampally Railway Station

(You can see this from the stop right outside Nampally railway station.)



9. Moazzam Jahi Market

This iconic market was built in 1935, by the City Improvement Board set up by the 7th Nizam Osman Ali Khan. He set up the CIB in 1912 to re-design the city after it was devastated by two deadly floods and an epidemic of plague. It was active for 45 years until it was disbanded in 1957. The outer circumference of the Moazzam Jahi market is roughly triangular, and the road-facing facade is decorated with a domed clock tower. The complex is named after the Nizam’s second son Nawab Moazzam Jah Bahadur.

Moazzam Jahi Market
Moazzam Jahi Market

(This will be on the left, after the Gandhi Bhavan stop.)



10. Mumtaz College/Asafiya School

For me, this is the most fascinating building on this trail. It is unmissable – you can see it from the Moosarambagh Metro Station, towering above the neighbourhood around it. It is a 4 storeyed building that is more than 140 years old – I think that itself makes it phenomenal. It was built in 1895 by the Nizam’s Chief of Armed Forces, and as a school for the children of personnel working for the military. Later on, it was thrown open to civilian children as well. It was designed by an architect named Abdul Karim Babu Khan, and even has a mosque on the third floor. Currently, it appears to be a part of a Mumtaz College, but information about this building is really hard to come by. I plan to try and visit it and get a closer look sometime.

Asafiya School
Asafiya School/Mumtaz College

(You can see this from the Moosarambagh metro station.)



11. Victoria Memorial Orphanage

The sixth Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan commissioned this building intending to use it as a palace for himself. However, while it was being built, he came down with typhoid. He decided that the palace was unlucky for him and almost decided to abandon its construction. The then British Resident in Hyderabad, convinced him to finish the construction, but donate it to an orphanage instead. That is how it became the Victoria Memorial Orphanage.

Victoria Memorial Orphanage
Victoria Memorial Orphanage

(You can see it from the Victoria Memorial Railway station, and also just before and after it.)

Travel

Bhongir : where history meets geology

A pleasant 50km drive from Hyderabad takes one to a small town called Bhongir, where history meets geology. Long before you enter the town, its trademark egg-shaped hillock looms into view. The hillock is actually a giant rock, called a batholith. A batholith is a huge igneous rock that is formed when molten magma cools and solidifies, often running kilometers deep into the earth. The Bhongir batholith is said to be comparable in size to the one in Uluru, Australia, a World Heritage Site.

Bhongir Fort

Bhongir Fort

Bhongir Fort

Bhongir was named Tribhuvanagiri after the Chalukya ruler Tribhuvanamalla Vikramaditya, who is believed to have built a fort on top of the rock in the 12th century. Tribhuvanagiri became Bhuvanagiri, which eventually became Bhongir. Later, the fort passed through the hands of the Kakatiyas, the Bahmanis and the Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda. Most of the present structure dates back to the Bahmani and Qutb Shahi era, and you’ll notice similarities with the forts at Golconda, Bidar and others built by the various Deccan Sultanates.

Bhongir Fort

Bhongir Fort

Bhongir FortBhongir Fort

The climb to the top was lovely the day we went – there was a light drizzle throughout, like a gentle spray. On a blazing hot day, I’m not sure how fun it’ll be! There are steps hewn into the rock for the most part, and railings for support when the slope gets steeper. It takes about an hour, plus or minus, maybe longer if you stop frequently to take pictures.

 

At the very top, there is a pavilion that looks strikingly similar to the Balahisar Baradari, the topmost pavilion in the Golconda Fort. When you reach it, you realize it’s a bit larger than it appears from below, dwarfed by the huge hillock. The panoramic views of the countryside are breathtaking, and you can’t help wondering what it must have been like to be a ruler standing up here and surveying your kingdom. In reality though, the Qutb Shahi kings did not actually stay here. They stationed a governor in Bhongir, and used this fort to imprison people who tried to grab the throne.

Bhongir FortBhongir Fort

Since the hillock is almost egg shaped, it has sheer drops all around,  attracting adventure sports enthusiasts. Bhongir even has a rock climbing school that teaches bouldering, rock climbing and rappelling.

Bhongir Fort

You can combine a trip to this fort with a visit to the famous Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple in Yadagirigutta, just about 14kms away. Also combinable is Kolanupaka, home to a stunning Jain temple, only 30 kms away.

 

In Photos, Travel

The Streets of Fort Kochi

Obviously, I’m not done with my Kochi posts. The pretty streets of Fort Kochi have quaint names like Princess Street, Burghar Street, Napier Street, Rose Street and Lilly Street. These cobblestoned streets are lined with beautiful colonial homes that have been restored and converted into heritage hotels, home-stays, cafes, boutiques and art galleries. Some pictures:Streets of Fort KochiStreets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi Streets of Fort Kochi

Travel

The Colours of Mattancherry

Mattancherry is a historical neighbourhood adjacent to Fort Kochi, known for its Jewish legacy. Two communities of Jews are said to have migrated to the region – the Malabar Jews, who claimed descent from King Solomon of Israel, and the Sephardic Jews who came from the Iberian peninsula. The latter were white skinned, and locals referred to them as Paradesi Jews. Paradesi or pardesi means foreigner. Just like Fort Kochi, Mattancherry is Instagram heaven, and is best explored on foot. Here are some of the most interesting things in the area:

 

Jew Town, Paradesi Synagogue, Jewish Cemetery
The main point of interest in Mattancherry is the Paradesi Synagogue, built by the Sephardic Jews in 1567, on land granted to them by the Raja of Kochi. The area around it is called Jew town, and has a very pretty market selling antiques, ethnic clothes, hand embroidery and other such things. There is a Jewish cemetery nearby as well.

Paradesi Synagogue

Paradesi Synagogue

Jew Town
Jew Town
Mandalay Hall, Jew Town
Jew Town
Mattancherry Palace, or the Dutch Palace
This palace was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and gifted to the Raja of Kochi. When the Dutch took over the settlement, they occupied the palace and made some modifications to the structure. Today, it is a museum known for its collection of exquisite Kerala murals.

Dutch Palace

Dutch Palace/Mattancherry Palace

The Church of Our Lady of Life
A pretty 17th century church.

Church of Our Lady of Life

Church of Our Lady of Life

Bazaar Road
Without a doubt, my favourite part of Mattancherry. With its crumbling mansions and colourful spice warehouses (Kochi had a flourishing spice trade, which was what attracted the colonial powers here), this street is incredibly photogenic. This post was basically an excuse to share at least some of my gazillion Bazaar Road photos!
Bazaar Road
Bazaar Road
Bazaar Road
Bazaar Road
Bazaar Road
Bazaar Road
Bazaar Road
In Photos, Travel

Fort Kochi Beach : A thousand shades of grey

I opened up wordpress to compose a post on Mattancherry, but the steady drizzle outside my window took me back to the Fort Kochi beach under the pouring rain. The monsoon is my favourite time of the year, and grey skies give me so much joy. You’ll never see me complaining about ‘gloomy’ days – this is India, after all, and any respite from the heat is most welcome!

 

The Fort Kochi beach is truly gorgeous during a downpour. The famous Chinese Fishing Nets are here too – apparently, these cantilevered fishing nets were introduced to the Malabar coast by Chinese travellers who came from the court of Kublai Khan in the 13th century. The artificially reclaimed Willingdon Island (India’s largest man-made island) across the water houses the Kochi Port and the Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy. The sea washes a fair bit of debris ashore, but there is enough beauty around to help you overlook that. Check it out:
Fort Kochi Beach 6Fort Kochi Beach 5 Fort Kochi Beach 3
Fort Kochi Beach 2
Fort Kochi Beach 7 Fort Kochi Beach 8
Travel

Things to do in Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi is a historical neighbourhood at the edge of the modern city of Cochin, or Kochi. Kochi was an obscure town until the 14th century, when a devastating flood in the Periyar river propelled it into prominence. There was a major port for spice trade called Kodungallur about 30 km to the north of Kochi. The deluge permanently blocked that port and created a new natural harbour in Kochi. And all that flourishing spice trade shifted to Kochi, which started attracting the attention of the various European powers looking for a monopoly in the region.

 

In the 15th century, the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived on the Malabar Coast via a maritime route. He was the first European to do so. The Portuguese quickly negotiated an agreement with the local Rajah of Kochi, set up a trading post here and built a small fort that gave this area the name Fort Kochi. In the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company captured Fort Kochi after a siege and a century later, they ceded it to the British, with whom it remained until independence.

 

Because of its rich history, Fort Kochi is crammed with influences from different parts of the world. It’s a very small and compact neighbourhood though, so the best way to experience it is to walk, walk, walk. Here are some nice things to do and see in this picture perfect quarter 🙂

 

1. Stroll through Fort Kochi’s pretty streets
Princess Street, Burghar Street, Napier Street, Rose Street, Lilly Street – Fort Kochi’s charming cobblestoned lanes have names as pretty as them. They are full of beautiful colonial homes that have been restored and converted into heritage hotels, home-stays, cafes, boutiques and art galleries. It is a joy to wander about these photogenic streets with their bright colours, beautiful architectural details, quirky street art and pops of greenery.
Streets of Fort Kochi
Rossitta Wood Castle

 

2. Beautiful colonial era churches
The St. Francis Church was built by the Portuguese in 1503, just a couple of years after Vasco da Gama’s first visit, making it the oldest European Church in India. Vasco da Gama died during his third visit to the Malabar Coast, and was buried in this church. His remains were moved to Lisbon a while later, but you can still see his original burial site.
St Francis Church or Vasco da Gama Church
The Santa Cruz Basilica is just a 5 min walk away from the St Francis church. It was built by the Portuguese, and rebuilt in its current form by the British.

Santa Cruz Basilica

 3. The Indo-Portuguese Museum

Honestly, this museum isn’t very interesting. However, the cool thing about it is that in its basement, you can see a bit of Fort Kochi’s (now sunken) fortification originally built by the Portuguese.

 
4. The Old Jail Complex

This is a prison with 8 cells in it, and during India’s struggle for independence, freedom fighters from Kerala were imprisoned in them by the British government.

Old Jail Complex Fort Kochi

Old Jail Complex Fort Kochi

5. Dutch Cemetery
There’s a Dutch Cemetery with more than a hundred graves just a couple of minutes from the beach. It is usually kept locked, so you can only take a peek through the gate.

Dutch Cemetery

 6. Parade Ground

Fort Kochi’s Parade Ground has been in use right from the days of the Portuguese occupation. The armies of all three colonial powers used it until independence. Today, you’re more likely to find a bunch of local kids playing football, but the VOC gate overlooking the ground was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1749. VOC stands for Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, which is what the company was called in Dutch.

VOC Gate overlooking Parade Ground

7. Fort Kochi Beach
The original seaside fort that stood here is mostly gone, but there are traces of it like the remains of a gunnery, a couple of steam boilers, etc. The seashore isn’t the cleanest, but is lovely to walk along during a downpour, with the sea and the sky taking on a thousand shades of grey. The biggest attraction here are the Chinese fishing nets. They say Chinese traders who came to these parts in the 13th century introduced the cantilevered fishing nets here.
Fort Kochi Beach

Chinese Fishing Nets

8. Kerala Kathakali Centre

If you’re in the mood to catch a traditional performance of Kathakali, Kalaripayttu, Mohiniyattam, etc, this is where you need to go. And if you get there early, you can catch a demonstration of how Kathakali dancers put on their makeup. You can find the schedule on their website here.

 

WHERE TO EAT
I’m a vegetarian, and not a very knowledgeable foodie, so I’m probably not a very good person to write about food, but I still thought I’d share some of the places that I really enjoyed in Fort Kochi.

 
David Hall Gallery Cafe

This was my favourite because not many things in the world are better than eating a hot, yummy wood-fired pizza in a pretty garden, watching the pouring rain. David Hall was built in the late 17th century by the Dutch East India Company. It first served as the residence for one of their governors, and later as the home of a Jewish merchant. Today, it houses an art gallery with a charming garden cafe. The pizzas here are quite well known, and with good reason. Do try the Green Pizza – it is soooo delicious, piled with spinach, basil, parsley and coriander. And the best part – you can almost convince yourself that you’re only eating salad 🙂

David Hall Gallery Cafe

David Hall Gallery Cafe

Teapot Cafe

This is the most darling cafe ever, so I think I might do another post about it. True to its name, it is decorated with a huge collection of antique teapots. The menu has quite a big selection of teas, and simple, hearty food. My favourite was the yummy blueberry cheesecake.

Breakfast at Teapot Cafe

Teapot Cafe

Another charming art gallery with good food – this is a breakfast-all-day, soups, salads, sandwiches, cakes kind of place. I loved their lemonade flavoured with a local herb called narunandi (also called sarsaparilla or nannari). It is used in Ayurveda as a coolant, and is said to help alleviate many disorders.

Kashi Art Cafe

Kashi Art Cafe LemonadeSaffron
During the non-tourist season in Fort Kochi, many places work limited hours or shut down altogether, so late dinners can get a little tricky. The Saffron restaurant in the Spice Fort Hotel is a nice option as it is open from 7:30 AM to 10PM. They claim to be an organic restaurant, which is another plus. The menu is quite huge and I really enjoyed their appams and stew.
Spice Fort Saffron Restaurant

Many more places like Oy’s Cafe, Dal Roti and Loafer’s Corner Cafe are highly recommended, but since we were there during the off season, they were closed most of the time.
 

I hope you liked this mini guide to Fort Kochi! I’m going to do a few photo-posts too, with pictures from Fort Kochi and the adjacent neighbourhood of Mattancherry – please do come back to take a look 🙂