We managed to squeeze through the bumper to bumper traffic and proceed towards the highly recommended monument in the area – Chowmahala Palace. My driver was clueless about how to get there. He said – “who will come here madam, so much traffic… no one agrees to even drive in this area..” My eyebrows raised quietly in surprise.
Beyond Charminar, the roads were narrow but traffic flowed with little resistance unless there was a bus. We saw the famous Pista House that is supposed to churn out the best Haleem in the Ramzan season. (My husband’s mouth started to water right there!) Haleem is an extremely rich dish with butter and dry fruits made out of finely minced lamb meet.
As we approached the palace, I saw something that I have never seen before. There were open shacks on both sides of the road with atleast four men in each, sometimes even cute little children wearing pathan salwars with caps holding a stave in their hands – all manning goats. Lots of goats. Slowly I realised that they were selling them all for meat. Their goats were also segregated like their shacks. Each shack had a different colour painted on their goats’ horns to indicate ownership. Tempos pulled up to shacks and rates were being discussed. Men pinched goats backs to judge them on meat, they were all being fed (or overfed?) leaves to gear them up for sales of the day. As some goats were being tied and lifted off for baits, they struggled to free themselves fearing for their lives. My tummy churned.
Finally came the gateway to Chowmahala. We entered huge iron gates to sheer expanse. Huge pond with water fountains and ducks floating by, beautifully maintained gardens and the Mahal. I was spellbound by how massive the area was, apparently it was 43 acres and now just 12 remains. This is a place one shouldn’t miss visiting.
What impressed me most is the fact that the Nizam family had taken great care in placing plaques everywhere, small pieces of information in every hall. There was the huge darbar with gigantic glass chandeliers which lead to smaller pathways and halls. The crockery room had crockery from India, Persia, Japan and china. The best was the Bidri work, silver inlay on black metal. There were the usual display of clothes, shoes, shawls and bedsheets with silk embroidery and zardosi work. There were also intricately carved furniture made of marble, wood, brass and ivory. The artists probably took months to finish one piece. The emblems, coins, and envelopes with stamps of those days were very nicely explained. It was the first time I read and understood the intricate art of making weaponry. There were also the jaw-dropping magnificence of the cars that they drove in those days. A room had photographs of all the Nizams starting from the 16th century up until now. The jewellery that the queens wore were so spectacular that it would take her a while to gather it all up before they sat or got up from their seat. Rubies, sapphires, diamonds, pearls, and gold oozed out to add to their innate beauty. Their finger and toe rings were so hug that they would automatically keep their toes and finders spread out. The women looked so regal and elegant with sharp features and subtle beauty, always adorned in rich silk and muslin with heavy embroidery.
What I will always remember about my visit here is the fact that the Nizams were/are so culturally rich and they have displayed their cultural richness so beautifully. I haven’t seen this pride and joy of culture being displayed in Mysore or in various Mughal forts in the north of India. Kudos to Princess Esra for the renovation and maintenance of this piece of Jewel in Hyderabad.