Charminar, The Charm of Hyderabad

charminarIndia may be facing security alerts in some cities, most notably in Mumbai where a widespread terror attack in November 2008 killed over 100 people. However, you need to remember that India is a pretty large country and many of its cities still achieve peace between Hindus and Muslims, especially in Hyderabad where one of India’s largest Muslim populations is located (although they are still part of the city’s minority).

Considered as India’s version of Silicon Valley, Hyderabad is a bustling business city and the center of the country’s IT industry. But beneath the city’s fast-rising urbanization is a 400-year old colorful history, highlighted by a single structure that has become synonymous to the city: Charminar.

Built in 1591 at the center of the city’s original layout, Charminar is a four-storey monument topped by four minarets that reach up to 48.7 meters above ground. It contains 45 prayer spaces and a mosque on the top floor. The Charminar’s elegant structure, whose name literally means "four towers," exemplifies the Cazia style of architecture comprising of granite and lime-mortar.

The monument was built by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth sultan of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty of Golconda in southern India, shortly after he had transferred his capital from Golconda to what is now known as Hyderabad. According to legend, the building honors a promise that he made to Allah after the end of a plague. It is said that the four minarets signify the first four caliphs of Islam.

Each side of the Charminar measures 20 meters, with each corner decorated with a tall and pointed minaret. Each minaret has four stories, which are marked by a carved ring around it, as well as 149 winding steps that lead to the top floor that provides a panoramic view of Hyderabad. Meanwhile, each side of the structure opens to a plaza through giant arches that overlook the city’s four major streets that used to be royal roads. Each arch measures 11 meters wide and 20 meters tall.

If the Charminar is beautiful on the outside, it is much more splendid on the inside through its carvings and moldings. The painstaking details result in a graceful and lace-like look. At the end of the day, Charminar looks spectacular when it is illuminated at night time.

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