Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Heritage Walk I – Charminar to Chowmahalla Palace

On Diwali Day, we ventured to the third heritage walk – the one that we missed earlier– Charminar to Chowmahalla Palace. I called our guide Suryakanth Sambrani the previous night and he said the walk was on at 730. (Of course the call centre chap at the Tourism Centre told me confidently and politely that the a) walk had been discontinued b) will start at 2 O clock 3) will start at Tank Bund and 4) there are only city tours and no heritage walks any longer. Don't call them, call Sambrani.) 
Mecca Masjid from the side entrance
We landed at Charminar at 715. There were huge serpentine lines of Hindus praying to one of the minars of Charminar or rather the Bhagyalakhsmi temple that is now attached to the minar. Women dressed in all their splendour, jewellery and fine silks made a beeline for the darshan. Men as well. So crowded we could not get to the usual place where we assemble and meet the guide.
Lane to Mecca masjid
There we were – Shobhs, Anjali, Pooja, Milind, Neelima and I. We were joined by a small group of another five and off we went. But not before we drank some wonderful chai at Café Nimrah and ate some crisp tie biscuits with it. The key is to dip the tie biscuits in the chai and eat else its a waste. 

We headed west of Charminar, into the famous Laad bazaar which they say was the trade route that connected Charminar to Golconda. The Laad bazaar market is full of little shops selling bangles, dresses , perfumes, laces, mehendi, etc. Of course the shops were mostly shut and one or two were opening for the festival shopping. 

A few meters into the street and we went left and saw the secondary entrance to the Mecca masjid. The street is worth a walk, for its tiny houses and shops. We headed back to the main road and saw the Jilu Khana gate, an old entrance to the Chowmahalla palace. It shows how far the Chowmahalla extended – its almost half a kilometer away from its entrance now. This entrance was the official entrance for dignitaries once. A couple of pics and off we went.
Jilu Khana gate - the main entrance to Chowmahalla once
Straight down Laad bazaar and past the turn that goes to Chowmahalla palace comes the Mehboob chowk – where we cannot miss the quaint old clock tower.
Clock Tower at Mehboob chowk
Behind the clock tower lies the mosque with lovely little shops all around it. I saw one shop up and about making naan. Looked delicious. There were some exotic bird vendors also there. Apparently the shops also sell kebabs etc and it looks like one worth a visit at night.
Mosque behind clock tower
The mosque was built in 1817 and runs on the rent paid by the shops around the mosque. The clock tower was built in 1850 by the Paigah noble Asman Jah.
Mohammedia Naan in front of the mosque
The Mehboob chowk market has around 200 shops mostly selling meat and exotic birds. All numbers and dates as on the brochure.
Loved this building
The homeopathy hospital also called Moti mahal was once a palace for the Nizam. It is not functional anymore.
Khairunnisa's house in the middle
We walked into the Amir – e – Kabir street and saw some old devdis.
One devdi or house which he said was where the famous Khairunnisa of the Kirkpatrick fame lived. The Khurshid Jah Baradari is a huge palace with a huge ground in front of it. I remember playing a highly forgettable match here in the one and only game I played in the old city.
Ground at Khurshid Jah Baradari 
 We lost the game and it’s a match I described in 50 Not Out! where I threw my wicket away and did not complete the task at hand and the rest of the team collapsed after me. It was nice watching all the Sunday cricketers play.
Khurshid Jah baradari
The we went into the Asman Jah Bahadur devdi. Its dilapidated but there is s much history seeping out of every wall.

First sight of Chowmahalla palace
We walked along and came upon the Chowmahalla palace. The palace, now restored and open to tourists, was built in 1750 by Salabat Jung II, successor of Nizam ul Mulk, the first Nizam. It was about 9 am, an hours walk and some. Inside the Chowmahalla we were treated to the lovely two idlis and one vada breakfast by the Telangana Toursism department officials. That ended the third heritage walk and I am so glad I did it.

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