If you were to make a catalogue of India’s most visible monuments, I mean the ones who you normally tend to find on the cover pages of city guides or web portal offering pieces of information to many who seek to travel or even old fashioned postcards, it would be impossible to leave the Char Minar out of it. This beautiful monument with its four minarets and huge arches has been the symbol of Hyderabad’s legacy for centuries, since the time it was built in 1591.
Quite obviously it was one of the pit stops during a day tour of Hyderabad which I was part of last year when our team was there for a conference. The day had been long with a trip to Golconda Fort and Salarjung museum (a huge museum in Hyderabad, worthy of a visit ) and by the time Char Minar’s turn came most of the group members had given up and decided to return back to the hotel. I did not want to let go of this chance to experience one of most iconic places our country has, even though I knew that time was not enough to thoroughly absorb everything which Char Minar and its busy market had to offer. Luckily I had one more colleague who was willing to go so we got off and bid adieu to our group.
As we walked on a crowded street which directly led to the monument I felt like I was back to the Chandni Chowk, both these places are so similar in character, illustrious centers of powerful establishments once upon a time but now mere shadows of the past with progress happening elsewhere. Char Minar was supposedly the center of the old city of Hyderabad and there are many stories related to why it was built in the first place, that whether it was built after Hyderabad came into being or the other way around also has multiple accounts. Nonetheless this icon stands firm today, whatever the history may be, providing a lovely backdrop to the crowded street we were on. The street itself was full of energy and fervor with colourful shops lining it on both sides, selling almost everything from food to footwear, twilight was approaching and the market was bursting at seams with shoppers and some tourists like us. Very soon we were standing beneath the monument looking at its huge arches and minarets. A winding staircase on one of the minarets took us to the corridors above. It did feel like being at the center of a busy area with streets panning out in all directions, all of humanity seemed to have descended on them. We spent a few minutes looking at the scene around and changing skylines in the horizon where the old city merged into the new modern face of Hyderabad.
Our short vigil was appropriately rounded off by a visit to one of the shops which were selling the beautiful Hyderabad pearls, a lengthy round of negotiation ensued and in the end we ended with lovely set of pearls.