Modern Hyderabad (Deccan)/Chapter 2

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Modern Hyderabad (Deccan) by John Law
Chapter II : Ancient History, and the Ruins


Ancient History, and the Ruins.

Hindu Period.—The ancient history of Hyderabad is written eloquently in its ruins, and probably no area of similar size in India contains so many interesting records of the past as H. H. the Nizam's Dominions.

During a somewhat lengthy visit to the State in 1913, I gained a vivid idea of the Hindu races who lived and flourished in the Deccan tableland before the first Mahomedan invasion in 1294 a.d.; for I visited the chief places of historical interest.

I began with the rock monasteries and temples at Ellora and Ajanta, which speak of the time when king Asoka's rule stretched as far as the Upper Godavari, the sacred river that runs through the State, and in which (so legend tells us) Rama and Sita performed their morning ablutions and greeted with religious rites the rising sun. Here, rendered secure by the edicts of the great Buddhist king, followers of Lord Buddha sought Nirvâna two hundred years before the Christian era; and on the walls of the rock monasteries and temples we can trace to-day (so some authorities assert) the history of Buddhism in India, and can watch, too, Brahmanism slowly re-asserting itself and finally triumphing in the great rock temple called Kailas.

"All commentary," says M. Baudrillart, "grows pale before the magnificent ruins of the temples of Elura, which, more than any other ruins, confuse the imagination. . . . The development of the plastic art and of public religious luxury amongst the Hindus receives the most striking attestation in the magnificence of these temples, in the infinite diversity of their details, and the minute variety of the carvings."

Of the Andra kings, who ruled in the Deccan from about 220 B.C. to 550 A.D., I discovered no records; but of the Chalukya kings (550 — 1185 A.D.) I found a fascinating record in the "thousand-pillared temple" at Hanamkonda. And I marvelled much that the star-shaped mandapa there, which marks the Chalukyan style of architecture, is so little appreciated by the people who live in one of the most up-to-date towns in H. H. the Nizam's Dominions. I was told that Sir George Casson Walker caused the wall to be built that now surrounds the ruin; but to-day the interior of the temple is littered with rubbish and the walls are disfigured by scribblers.

An inscription, in ancient Telegu, is at the principal entrance, and this relates that the temple was built in 1162 a.d., during the reign of Sri Rudra Deva, and says of him:—"He was a terror to his enemies, whom he persecuted relentlessly. To the learned pundits and those who merited his admiration he was extremely merciful. He used to keep his wife always happy. He was celebrated as the most handsome man of his time. He had no equal in his skill of horsemanship, and his strength of body and muscle was so great that a seeming touch of his hand to an opponent rendered the latter powerless."

At Daulatabad I saw records of the Yadava kings, who came into power at the close of the 12th century a.d.; and who built the fort of Daulatabad, before which tourists from all parts of the world pause to-day, while on their way to the Ellora caves, and sometimes ask:—"What has become of the warlike Hindus who built this impregnable fortress?"

The fort of Daulatabad played a great part in the first conquest of the Deccan by the Mahomedans, who, after taking and re-taking this stronghold of the Hindus, went further south and besieged and took the great Hindu forts at Warangal, Raichur, and Gulbarga.

I found the fort of Warangal a wonderfully well-preserved and picturesque ruin.

Leaving the little railway station, I climbed the moss-covered rampart opposite; and then I had a fine view of the hills that rise abruptly from the plain and look like outposts. The second wall of the fort I found to be in an almost perfect state of preservation, although it dates from the middle of the 13th century a.d. Huge stones, placed one above another, form the Hindu portion of the wall, the Mahomedan additions being composed of much smaller stones, and apparently replacing the portions of the wall destroyed by the invaders.

Warangal is now a small hamlet and peasants live within the walls of the fort; but still the ruins of a Hindu temple, of stone bulls and pillars, may be seen, and on these things are written, in ancient Sanskrit, the history of the fort and the records of its great strength and vastness.

At Raichur I saw the fort built in 1294 by the Hindu minister of a Hindu raja, and I was told that a huge stone, 42 ft. by 3 ft., which forms a portion of the inner wall, and on which the date of the building is written, was placed in position by a woman. Here, as at the fort of Warangal, huge stones were laid one above another, and no cement was used; and looking at the walls, I said to myself, "These Hindu builders must have been giants!"

Of the fort at Gulbarga nothing remains to-day but a fragment of the ancient citadel; but the enormous strength of this ruin impresses the visitor, as do also the ruined forts at Mudgal, Naldrug, and other places.

And while travelling over the State, the garhis, or walled villages, cannot fail to arrest attention, speaking as they do of the unsettled condition of Hyderabad until about one hundred years ago.

The Muhamadan Invasion.—Returning to Daulatabad I was greatly interested in the history of Mahammad bin Tughlak, the sultan of Delhi, who tried to move his capital there in 1339 a.d. I read that the people of Delhi suffered terrible hardships on the way to Deogiri (the ancient name for Daulatabad), that many died on the way there, and that those who arrived safely "pined among the idolaters." The sultan found his coffers empty, and caused the gold and silver coinage to be replaced by copper, saying that his brass was equal to the precious metals of other men; but business came to a stand-still and he was obliged to withdraw his coinage edict. And, later, cholera attacked his subjects, and he himself nearly died of it, and then, being somewhat chastened and subdued, he gave permission to his subjects to return to Delhi, and a handful of despairing men, women, and children went home.

The Bahmani Kings (1347-1527 a.d.).—The various Mahomedan Governors of the Deccan asserted their independence after the sultan of Delhi had gone away, and the first to assume the title of King were the Bahmani rulers, who established their capital at Gulbarga.

I visited the tombs of these kings there—small square stone buildings, with a bulbous roof, and containing a grave of the simplest character. Standing at some distance from the city, the tombs are cool and quiet; and I was told that during the reign of H. H. the late Nizam, a local official appropriated two of them to his private use—one for a living place and the other as an office—a piece of vandalism that called down upon him the wrath of His Highness's government, when it was discovered.

After a time, the Bahmani kings moved their capital to Bidar, and there more of the tombs of these kings may be seen, also the remains of a great college built by a Bahmani minister.

The Barid Shahi Kings (1538-1609 a.d.).—At Bidar I saw the tombs of the Barid Shahi kings, who succeeded the Bahmani rulers. And here I would like to mention that Bidar, which is historically the most interesting city in the State, is very difficult to get at, unless one has a motor car, for there is no railway communication between Bidar and the capital, and the usual mode of performing the sixty miles journey between Bidar and Hyderabad city is by bullock cart.

Originally a Hindu stronghold, Bidar was besieged and taken by Mahammad bin Tughlak, the sultan of Delhi, in 1321 a.d. In 1430 a.d. it was annexed by the Bahmani kings, who moved their capital there from Gulbarga, and later on it became the capital of the Barid Shahi kings. In 1656 a.d. Aurangzeb besieged and took both the fort and the city, and, finally, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Bidar passed quietly into the hands of Asaf Jah, the first Nizam.

The Kutb Shahi Kings (1512-1687 a.d.).—After the Barid Shahi dynasty, came the famous Kutb Shahi kings, who made their capital at Golconda.

As every one knows, the Golconda fortress lies five miles west of Hyderabad city, and the tombs of the Kutb Shahi kings are just outside it. Muhammad Kuli, the fifth Kutb Shahi king, founded the present capital of Hyderabad in 1589 a.d., and most of the old buildings in the city were erected by him, such as the Char Minar, the Char Kaman, the Ashur Khana (the city wall), and the Purana Pul (old bridge), which connects the city with the road to Golconda.

In 1687 the Golconda fortress was taken by Aurangzeb, after a siege of eight months, and the last king of Golconda, Abul Hasan, was made a prisoner and confined in the fort of Daulatabad, where he died in 1704 a.d.

The Emperor Aurangzeb.—At Roaza I saw the tombs of Abul Hasan, the last king of Golconda, Asaf Jah, the first Nizam, and Aurangzeb, the conqueror of Hyderabad, Golconda, Daulatabad, Bidar, Raichur, and the other strongholds in the Deccan that had refused to acknowledge the supremacy of Delhi. And before I briefly describe the tomb of that great conqueror and iconoclast, I would like to point out that at Roaza may be seen most, if not all, of the Indian styles of architecture—the Pathan style, characterised by horse-shoe shaped dome and pointed arches, the later Moghul style, with bulbous dome, slender minarets, and scolloped arches, the Jain, the Dravidian, the Indo-Aryan and the Chalukyan—all these styles may be seen at Roaza or near by. And at Ellora is one of India's greatest architectural triumphs, the Kailas rock-cut temple, built by Krishna, the Rashtrakuta king of Malkhed, in the eighth century a.d.

Midway between the north and south gates of Roaza is a domed porch that leads into a large quadrangle, with a mosque on the west side; and passing through a small gateway the visitor comes to a courtyard where a white cloth covers the simple grave of the great emperor Aurangzeb. He died on the 4th of March, 1707, in the eighty-ninth year of his age and the fifty-fourth year of his reign; and his last words to his sons were:—"I am going. No man has seen the departure of his own soul, but I see that mine is departing. Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!"