A charming blend of the ancient and the modern, Hyderabad , also known as the Istanbul of India, is a vital center of Islamic culture, and central India ‘s answer to the Mughal grandeur of the northern cities of Delhi , Agra and Fatehpur Sikri . Consisting of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, it is the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh . It boasts of some fine examples of Qutab Shahi architecture – the Jama Masjid, the Mecca Masjid, Toli Masjid, and of course, the impressive symbol of Hyderabad , the Charminar.
Hyderabad is the creation of the Qutab Shahi rulers. In 1589, Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah decided to shift his capital from Golconda to the banks of river Musi. Consequently, a city adorned with magnificent palaces and mosques, embodying a style of architecture that was unique to the place – the domes and minarets dressed with splendid stucco ornamentation – was born. Hyderabad retains the old-world atmosphere, unlike other cities in South India . A unique feature of the city is that it is the only city in the south, where the major language spoken is Urdu.
Hyderabad offers a glimpse into the amazing spectrum of performing arts unique to Andhra Pradesh. Kuchipudi , the classical dance form of the state presents vignettes from the great Hindu epics and mythological tales through fascinating dance-dramas. Shadow puppetry is another famous folk art. Perforated leather puppets depicting mythological characters from the epics, are handled with bamboo sticks against a brilliant lamp-lit background. This is performed to the accompaniment of percussion instruments and lyrical narration. Around 19 tribes people the Araku Valley , 115 km from Visakhapatnam . Their cultural repertoire is a profusion of dances, folk songs and religious celebrations.
Hyderabad is a center for handicrafts peculiar to the city and from around the state. There are fabulous bargains to be had at Charkaman, Mitti-ka-Sher and Laad Bazaar. They include: bidriware, hookahs, boxes, jewellery made of black gun-metal inlaid with fine silver wire in exquisite floral and geometric patterns; appliqued patchwork skirts, bags and belts with mirrors and beads, embroidered by the Banjara and Lambadi gypsy tribes; Nirmal lacquerware, brass from Pembarthi, Kondapalli carved toys, leather toys and Warangal carpets. The traders in the cluster of by-lanes surrounding the Charminar, and Laad Bazaar stock fine jewellery – antique kundan and enamel ornaments, temple sarees , old bidriware and exquisite pearls.