In An Antique Land

Phew! Its been a long time since I put pencil to paper – and it shows! Picked out Amitav Ghosh’s “In an antique land” to read and loved the cover art so much I decided to sketch it. Though the rustiness of skills are evident I still liked the outcome –

In an antique land cover art

The book itself is an ethnography based upon the author’s stay in Egypt & his interactions with the people, at the same time discussing the relationships between India and Egypt during the medieval times by tracing the life of the Jewish Merchant “Abraham Ben Yiju” (utilizing the documents from “Cairo Geniza“). The multiple parallel timelines and locations in the book are a bit difficult to keep up with, however once one gets used to the style, one realizes that narrative is designed to bring out the numerous contrasts of the two eras –

The rich multi-lingual, multi-religious trading ethos of the medieval times, to a generation where relations are broken to the point of ignorance of others’ existence, religious intolerance and warring nations.

From a time when the Indian Ocean Trade enriched the cultural and economic aspirations of all the countries involved in the trade, to a generation where a country’s progressive aspirations are measured by the number of weapons of mass destruction that it can accumulate.

An era when just communication and travel used to take days and months, to a time when a few years changed the financial and economic situation of a village for the better.

From the observation of how the military might of the west ruined the peaceful nature of the Indian Ocean Trade, to the observation of how western education and progressive ideas overtook the agrarian village society changing the lives and lifestyles of the inhabitants.

The book gives a graphic description of Egypt and its transformation over the centuries – the medieval times, the modern times and the build up and discovery of the Cairo Geniza. The stories in the book left me with a deep sense of loss – the loss of not knowing a culturally rich era and the loss of living an era of war torn nations and religious intolerance.

P. S.: The cover page is the work of Viren Desai & Bena Sareen and is used (it seems) only for books sold in the Indian Sub-continent.

The Heritage Trail 2: Old City, Hyderabad

After the first walk we were very interested to walk the rest of the routes also, and ended up attending the Walk 3.

This route as usual started at Charminar and this time mostly covered the old buildings in the north eastern area around Charminar starting at Nizamia Hospital and ending at Purani Haveli.

Nizamia General Hospital / Unani Hospital: Built in 1938 by the last Nizam of Hyderabad State, HEH Osman Ali Khan

Nizamia General Hospital / Unani Hospital

Built in 1929 by the last Nizam of Hyderabad State, HEH Osman Ali Khan, under the schemes for post-flood development, designed by Vincent Esch, in the Indo – Saracenic architecture style.

Mecca Masjid: Opposite to the Hospital.

Mecca Masjid

Sardar Mahal

Sardar Mahal

Though the style reflects European architecture, the design and construction was indigenous; built in 1900 for the use of Sardari Begum the wife of the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad. Currently it is being utilized as the south zone office of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation

The old gateways of the city!

Glimpses of the old in the new



The minarets of Bargah Panj-e-Shah-e-Vilayat visible through the entrance of Kadam-e-Rasul Alava; and the Mansoor Khan’s Mosque – remnants from the Qutab Shahi Period.

Inside the mosques




The Old Palace

Purani Haveli – The Old Palace

The Heritage Trail 1: Old City, Hyderabad

A. P. Tourism conducts “Hyderabad Heritage Walks” in the old city every weekend. Recently we participated the in “Walk 2: From Charminar to Badshahi Ashurkhana”. With the vision of spreading awareness and to help with conservation, the tourism department conducts these tours for a paltry sum of Rs. 50/- per head.

Our guide met us at Charminar at 8 am and started with a brief history of the city. Hyderabad was established in the late 16th century by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty which continued to rule for almost a century before the Mughuls captured the region. The Mughuls set up the post of Viceroy in the region and this post was taken up by the Nizam Dynasty. The Nizams continued to Rule the Deccan a princely state under the British Rule.

All the iconic monuments of the city including the Golconda Fort, the Charminar and some of the palaces were built under the rule of the Qutb Shahi Rulers, and are a mix of architecture was Indo-Persian, a culmination of Hindu, Moorish, Mughal and Persian architectural styles.

Charminar: The iconic monument of the City.

The Iconic Building of the City.  Details of minarets and the arches.

The Iconic Building of the City -Photographed from the south eastern side
Details of minarets and the arches.

The interior - water basin and the dome

The interior – water basin and the dome

The various gates of the city: Charminar was supposedly set up at the centre of the Hyderabad City and the various sections of the city – palaces, bazaars, diwan ghaar etc were build in the four cardinal directions from this structure. All sections were accessed through large Gates called Kaman. 

Kamans: Vying to maintain their position in the now commercialised area.

Sher-e-Batil Kaman, Char Kaman, Diwan Dewadi Kaman: Valiantly trying to maintain their identity in the now highly commercialised area.

Pather-ghatti Market: The design of this market was based on the markets in Cairo. In recent times it is one of the most sought after wholesale market place.

The parallel lines of pathar-ghatti bazaar - consisting of some of the oldest shops still having slated wooden doors.

The parallel lines of pathar-ghatti bazaar – consisting of some of the oldest shops still having slated wooden doors.

Arched pathways providing access to the other side.  "Antiques" for sale.  Detailing on the pillars and roof.

Arched pathways providing access to the other side of the market. 
Curios for sale.
Detailing on the pillars and roof.

Badshahi Ashurkhana: The mourning hall for the shia muslims during the festival of Moharram.

Tiles originally set with semi-precious stones.  The high arched wooden roof and exterior minarets.

Tiles originally set with semi-precious stones.
The high-wooden roof and exterior minarets.

The walk provided great insights into the architectural designs of these monuments and it was increasingly brought to our notice the difficulty of maintaining these structures in encroaching push of the populace. These walks are the Tourism department’s way of increasing awareness of the historical heritage of the city, wishing to preserve these structures at-least in peoples’ memories.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge

The Charminar is the most iconic building in Hyderabad, India. Multiple images of the monument had made me immune to its charms till a recent “Heritage Walk” that I participated in, which started at Charminar.

Charminar literally means “Four Minarets/Towers”. The four minarets support the four grand arches and the dome. The four arches converge in a very symmetric design into 8 interior arches which converge into a 32 sided polygon supporting the domed arch – making it the perfect subject for this week’s photo-challenge. 

Converged arches facing the cardinal directions

Converged arches facing the cardinal directions

Internal Convergence of the arches

Internal Convergence of the arches

All Arches converge into circular domed roof

All Arches converge into circular domed roof

P.S.: More details on the Heritage Walk coming up soon!