Hyderabad Past and Present: The Qutub Shahi Dynasty

During my time in Hyderabad, I was able to explore and witness the diverse history, architecture, culture, and religion found in the area. What fascinated me most was the ability of all of these factors to seamlessly merge the past and present together. During a bus tour of the city, Dr. Anant Maringanti, one of the staff members we worked closely with from Hyderabad Urban Lab, spoke about the types of buildings within the city. He explained that Hyderabad is broken up into four quadrants: the old old, the old new, the new old, and the new new city. Although these are not exclusive to a particular geographic area, they are distinct entities that intermingle with one another.

I had the opportunity to visit many landmarks and historical sites in Hyderabad. Many of the structures were part of the old old city that have slowly become the old new city.

You can view how the past becomes part of the present.

It is as if a metaphor has taken real form. Not only do the histories of the religion, culture, and language merge to become modern, but the architecture also takes on new functions.

Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, the fifth ruler of his dynasty, founded Hyderabad in 1591 in the middle of the dynasty’s reign beginning in 1463. The Qutub Shahi Dynasty is one of the most influential forces that has shaped the city. Much of the old architecture still remains from their reign. This Persian dynasty spanned 171 years in total. The first ruler, Sultan Quli, took over the Golkonda Fort in 1463, which became the central location for this dynasty’s power in the area.

The Golkonda Fort
The Golkonda Fort, Picture by Kassidy Hadley
Top of the Golkonda Fort
Top of the Golkonda Fort, Picture by Kassidy Hadley

The Golkonda Fort  was originally built for trade. Precious gems and medals passed through the hands of tradesmen from all over the world. The most famous gems to have originated from Golkonda are the Hope Diamond and the Koh-I-Noor. The Hope diamond now resides in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, and the Koh-I-Noor is embedded in the British royal crown. There has been controversy over the Koh-I-Noor ownership in past years since India’s independence in 1947. Some Indians argue that they are the original owners of the gem and should repossess the precious stone.

The crown shows the diamond that once was traded in the Golkonda Fort.
British Royal Koh-I-Noor Crown

The Qutub Shahi Dynasty was run by seven rulers. They were a Muslim ruling force; however, they remained religiously tolerant. In Golkonda alone, one can see how religious tolerance was practiced. There are mosques in the fort, but Hindu temples and sacred trees are intermixed within the walls of the area.

Inside the Golkonda Fort
Inside the Golkonda Fort, Picture by Kassidy Hadley

People of Hyderabad have tried to classify Golkonda as a World Heritage Site, but because of the mixture of the modern within its walls, it was rejected. This old old site has become old new. The fort has two layers of walls, which used to define the inner area where the royalty lived and the outer area where the rest of the civilization dwelled. Still, people live within the walls. The inner ring has been set apart for tours, but outside the inner ring, citizens of Hyderabad live and work. There are even some houses built within the structure of the wall so that the old wall becomes one of the walls of their home. This is just one example of how the past becomes redefined in the present.

View from the Golkonda Fort
View from the Golkonda Fort, Picture by Kassidy Hadley

The Qutub Shahi Dynasty did not build the Golkonda Fort, but they did construct many architectural wonders in Hyderabad and the surrounding areas. This Muslim dynasty built numerous mausoleums for themselves and their family members. The Qutub Shahi Tombs stand tall amidst the growing infrastructure in the city. These tombs display the incredible design and craftsmanship for which the dynasty is remembered. The architecture depicts the melding of Persian and Hindu styles, styles that are still replicated in the modern infrastructure of Hyderabad.

One of the Qutub Shahi Tombs in Hyderabad, built for the royal family of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty.
One of the Qutub Shahi Tombs, Picture by Kassidy Hadley
Inside the Qutub Shahi Mausoleum
Inside the Qutub Shahi Mausoleum, Picture by Emma Wetenhall

Another landmark built in 1594 by this dynasty is Charminar. This structure is said to have been made in celebration of the end of the plague in 1591. Muhammad Quli QutubShahand built this structure to thank Allah for good health. It was also constructed to commemorate the dynasty’s conquering of the surrounding area of Golkonda: Hyderabad. Muhammad Quli QutubShah was the first to name the city Hyderabad.

Charminar, Picture by Kassidy Hadley

Charminar is the central location of Hyderabad. Many people live and work amongst the structure’s surrounding areas. The Charminar market is one of the largest in Hyderabad. This old structure, from 1594, stands amidst the shops and streets below. It represents the opening of the “new” city, which still exists in the present day. The new has become the old, but the old is still present.

Bangles Shop in the Markets Next to Charminar
Bangles Shop in the Markets Next to Charminar, Picture by Kassidy Hadley

The final building I visited that was built by this dynasty was Makkah Masjid. This mosque was also built by Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah. People from all over the world and all religious backgrounds visit. The religious tolerance that the dynasty taught is still practiced today. The mosque is the center of the city and the center of many individuals’ lives. It is still in use even though it is a major tourist attraction.

The Makkah Masjid Mosque with Charminar in the background.
Inside the Makkah Masjid Mosque, Picture by Kassidy Hadley

Although I have only shared a small portion of the history of this dynasty and Hyderabad, one can clearly witness how the past has shaped the present. These invaders were only one of the many ruling forces of the land. However, the legacy of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty clouds Hyderabad. The melding of the old architecture with the new exemplifies how the old practices are also recycled into the modern world. The houses within the old walls, the markets throughout the Charminar, and the continual community of the mosque are only a few examples. Culture and structure have reformed. Hyderabad has not rid itself of its history. Rather, it has given old spaces new uses. The past and the present melt together to form a unique concoction that makes Hyderabad so diversely unite.
















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