Hyderabad once had beautiful gardens; now a concrete jungle

Founders had constructed a lush, green capital.

HYDERABAD: O Lord, listen to this prayer,
O Lord, bless my days and nights with contentment,
O Lord, make thou my country prosperous and populous,
O Lord, grant me a hundred years to live,
O Lord, among all the thrones, let my throne be like the gem that adorns a ring,
O Lord, fill this city with people as thou hast filled the ocean with fish.
This is the translation of the prayer (munajat) that Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, said after founding Hyderabad city with the magnificent Charminar. Now a concrete jungle, Hyderabad city was once a ‘City of Gardens’ and was called ‘Bagnagar’ or ‘Baghnagar’.

Though some attribute the nickname to mystic queen Bhagmati, the beloved of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, it is true that historians over the years were taken in by the gardens of the city that celebrates its 425th birthday on October 9.

Noted historian Dr M.A. Nayeem said Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah’s reign was marked not so much by fresh conquests, as it was by the blossoming of art, literature and architecture. His love for beauty had led to the planning and construction of a new capital, away from the overcrowded Golconda.

“The king ordered architects to prepare plans for a new city that would be a replica of paradise. He constructed several gardens in the new capital. This fascination for gardens continued with the Nizams, especially Nizam VII,” Dr Nayeem said.

He soon named the new capital Haiderabad (City of Haider) after the title of fourth Caliph, Hazrath Ali. Gardens dotted the four sides of Charminar. Bagh-i-Muhamad Shahi, along the eastern bank of Musi river, was full of gardens extending for several miles with date and coconut palms, jamun, champa, pomegranate and Indian almond trees.

Mughal historians and Europeans travellers like Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a 17th-century French gem merchant, in their travelogues call Hyderabad ‘Bagh-nagar’ as it was full of gardens and groves. Rafiuddin Shirizi in Tadhkirat-ul-Mulk said: “The whole city is just one large garden.”

Another French traveller Francois Bernier in 1667, too, called it ‘Bagnagar’. Hakim Nizamuddin Gilani, a contemporary chronicler, in Hadiqat-as-Salatin called Hyderabad ‘qita of bihist (fragment of Paradise)’.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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