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Qutb Shahi

Tomb of Mah Laqa Chanda
Travel

two incredible women from Hyderabad’s history

Happy women’s day, everyone! I’ve not blogged at all since 2017 began, and what better way to resume than by remembering two incredible women from Hyderabad’s past. The city has seen so many, many iconic women – right from Bhagmati, after whom many believe Hyderabad was first named Bhagnagar (although many historians dispute her very existence), to present day superstars like Sindhu, Sania and Saina. Since I cannot possibly talk about all of them, I’m going to stick to two exceptional ladies from the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

The first is Hayath Bakshi Begum from 17th century Golconda. She was the daughter of the Qutb Shahi Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, who founded the city of Hyderabad. She was brought up to play an important role in her kingdom. Her father chose his nephew, a contender to the throne to be her husband and the next Sultan of Golconda. Hayath Bakshi’s husband loved and respected her immensely, and regularly asked for her opinions regarding the affairs of the state. Unfortunately, he passed away when she was only in her twenties, and their 12 year old son was suddenly the Sultan of Golconda. Since he was so young, it was up to his mother to run the kingdom until he turned 18. After that, she went into retirement, and became active again only when she needed to save her kingdom from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. She negotiated a deal with him that bought Golconda at least 30 more years of peace.

 

Here are some pictures of the beautiful Hayathnagar mosque, a sarai (inn for travellers) and a baoli (step well) commissioned by Hayath Bakshi Begum in the Hayathnagar locality.

Hayathnagar Mosque

Hayathnagar Mosque

Sarai adjoining Hayathnagar Mosque

The sarai or inn that runs around the mosque complex

Hathibaoli Stepwell near Hayathnagar Mosque

Hathi Baoli – the stepwell near the Hayathnagar Mosque

The 18th century gave Hyderabad another shining star in the form of Mah Laqa Chanda, an 18th century poet and courtesan. She was the first woman to publish an anthology of her poems in Urdu. She was raised by her sister and her husband, Prime Minister to the second Nizam of Hyderabad. She was proficient in music, poetry, horse-riding and even archery, and shattered so many stereotypes way back in the 18th century. She actually marched with the Nizam’s army in battle. She advised him on important matters of policy. She was an immensely talented dancer who had a fan following from all walks of life. She commissioned a library. She paid for the education of hundreds of girls. She was no ordinary woman – she was truly special.

 

Mah Laqa is buried in a beautiful garden tomb at the foot of the holy Maula Ali hill in Hyderabad. Here are some pictures:

Tomb of Mah Laqa Chanda Tomb of Mah Laqa Chanda Tomb of Mah Laqa ChandaI hope you enjoyed reading about these two wonderful women who enriched the world around them – happy women’s day again!

Bhongir Fort
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.