“The city, however, does not tell its past but contains it like the lines of a hand” ― Italo Calvino
The architectures of great cities around the world are fantastic sources of remarkable stories, adventure, and legend. The 400-years-old city of Hyderabad taps into this legacy.
Spanning over 650 square kilometres, and holding a population of 6.8 million people, Hyderabad is the fourth largest city in India. A historical pearl trading centre and a multi-cultural hub, Hyderabad has earned monikers such as ‘The City of Pearls’ and ‘The City of Nizams’. But what seems to define the unique character of this city is its architecture.
Hyderabad – A Fusion of Ancient and Modern Architectural Styles
Hyderabad is famous around the world for its historical monuments. Grand masterpieces, built during different time periods, dot the city. The erstwhile Deccani kingdom shared close ties with Arab, Turkey, and Persia that led to the import of varying cultures. The distinct confluence of architecture forms strongly reflects this cultural amalgamation that Hyderabad has experienced through centuries.
At the same time, the city has embraced the modern steel-and-glass structures with equal ease. That’s why it’s so common to see historic relics coexisting with glitzy skyscrapers – Hyderabad has it all!
Hyderabad’s Date With Indo-Persian Architectural Style
In 1347 AD, after the foundation of the Bahmani dynasty, Persian architectural styles steadily ushered into India’s Deccan region. This point in time can be considered as the beginning of a new era in Indian architecture, greatly inspired by the Iranian art of construction.
During this era, heavy stress was laid on military and religious architectures, which dominated the landscapes of Deccan. A large number of mosques and forts were constructed across strategic points, throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom.
The Bahmani style of architecture comprised low flat domes, fluted turrets at the corners, battered or sloping walls, and arched doorways, usually narrow and tall.
Qutub Shahi Architecture Forms
Indo-Persian architecture flourished during the Qutub Shahi dynasty as well, however, with significant convergence with local art forms. The results of the conflux manifested in the form of gigantic arches, seen in Hyderabad’s Charkaman and the iconic Charminar.
Lime mortar and granite were key ingredients of Qutub Shahi architectures, found in the Charminar, the Royal Tombs, the Golconda Fort, and innumerable mosques constructed during the Qutub Shahi dynasty.
Most of the mosques built by the Qutub Shahis have vaulted ceiling and flat roofs. The domical structure rested on arches, intersecting from the columns. This style of architecture is visible in Baradari of Golconda, the Baradari of Bhongir, and Bala Hisar.
The Asaf Jahi Architectural Style
The Nizam VII, Osman Ali Khan of the Asaf Jahi rulers, is the creator of new Hyderabad in many ways. The buildings constructed during the rule of the Nizams portray rich and imposing architecture, synthesizing medieval and modern styles, such as the grand Osmania University.
Osman Ali Khan’s intent to build a modern Hyderabad is expressed through a variety of architectures, such as the stately Legislative Assembly in Saracenic-Rajasthani style, the aristocratic High Court in Indo-Saracenic style, and the regal Osmania General Hospital in Mughal style. Other buildings like Purani Haveli, Chowmahalla, and the Falaknuma Palace are also classic representations of Asaf Jahi architectures.
The Emergence of Art Deco in Hyderabad
In the 1920s and 1930s, affluent tradesmen and merchants from Hyderabad started visiting different parts of Europe. During their stay abroad, they got highly drawn to world art, especially the European style of architecture. Art Deco, at that point in time, was a popular trend in Europe, which started in Paris in the 1920s. This form of architecture, characterized by boat-windows and smooth structures, was imported to Hyderabad, reflected in several stores and houses in the city’s Rashtrapathi Road, Chikkadpally, and Marredpally area.
The Charismatic Spanish Mosque in the Heart of Hyderabad
The magnificent Spanish Mosque near the city’s old airport is a unique example of Moorish architecture. Moorish architecture is a form of Islamic architectonics that originated in the Iberian Peninsula. The peninsula, located in the southwest corner of Europe, is divided between Spain and Portugal, with Spain comprising most of its territory.
Heavily influenced by Roman art form, Moorish architecture is typically characterized by mosaic work, intricate calligraphy, and horseshoe arches. The Spanish Mosque in Hyderabad was commissioned by Nawab Viqar-ul-Umra Iqbal-ud-Doula in the year 1900, after returning from his trip to Spain. The mosque, also known as Jama Masjid Iqbal-ud-Doula, is named after him.
An unusual feature of Jama Masjid Iqbal-ud-Doula is, instead of globular domes seen in other mosques, the minarets of this mosque end in slim octagonal spires that are plastered in lime. The prayer hall is decked up with delicate calligraphy and elegant Moorish arches.
Nawab Viqar-ul-Umra Iqbal-ud-Doula, the inspiration behind the construction of Hyderabad’s Spanish Mosque, was the maternal grandson of third Nizam. Among his contributions to Hyderabad architecture are Vikhar Manzil, the Paigah Palace, and the breathtaking Falaknuma Palace.
The Present Day Hyderabad Architecture
With the dot-com boom, the city of Hyderabad, rechristened as Cyberabad, embraced globalisation, and the newness that came along with it. The newly formed Hi-Tec city increasing paved the way for global companies to set up their businesses, which sparked a real estate boom driven by tech-parks, special economic zones, and sprawling multinational offices.
Within years, the result of globalization manifested in the form of futuristic towers encapsulated in glassy exteriors, dotting the landscape, and piercing the skyline of the Pearl City. Today, Hyderabad is a home to top-notch global companies including Deloitte, Amazon, Accenture, Oracle, Microsoft, and Google, their offices, simply awe-inspiring.
A captivating panorama of ancient and modern times, Hyderabad is a city of smiles, colours, and lights. The foreign influences in Hyderabad’s architecture have intensified its cultural diversity, making it beautiful and visibly unique.