Charminar

चारमीनार / Dört Minare

The Charminar, constructed in 1591, is a monument and mosque located in Hyderabad. The landmark has become known globally as a symbol of Hyderabad and is listed among the most recognized structures in India. The Charminar’s long history includes the existence of a mosque on its top floor for more than 400 years. While both historically and religiously significant, it is also known for the popular and busy local markets surrounding the structure, and has become one of the most frequented tourist attractions in Hyderabad. Charminar is also a site of numerous festival celebrations, such as Eid-ul-adha and Eid-ul-fitr.

The Charminar is situated on the east bank of Musi river. To the west lies the Laad Bazaar, and to the southwest lies the richly ornamented granite Makkah Masjid. It is listed as an archaeological and architectural treasure on the official “List of Monuments” prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India. The English name is a translation and combination of the Urdu words chār and minar, translating to “Four Pillars”; the eponymous towers are ornate minarets attached and supported by four grand arches.

The fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, built the Charminar in 1591 after shifting his capital from Golkonda to the newly formed city of Hyderabad.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the current caretaker of the structure, mentions in its records, “There are various theories regarding the purpose for which Charminar was constructed. However, it is widely accepted that Charminar was built at the center of the city, to commemorate the eradication of Cholera”, a deadly disease which was wide spread at that time. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah had prayed for the end of the plague that was ravaging his city and vowed to build a Mosque at the very place where he prayed. According to Jean de Thévenot, a French traveller of the 17th century whose narration was complemented with the available Persian texts, the Charminar was constructed in the year 1591 CE, to commemorate the beginning of the second Islamic millennium year (1000 AH). The event was celebrated far and wide in the Islamic world, thus Qutb Shah founded the city of Hyderabad to celebrate the event and commemorate it with the construction of this building. Due to its architecture it is also called as Arc de Triomphe of the east.

The Charminar was constructed at the intersection of the historical trade route that connects the markets of Golkonda with the port city of Machilipatnam The Old City of Hyderabad was designed with Charminar as its centerpiece. The city was spread around the Charminar in four different quadrants and chambers, segregated according to the established settlements. Towards the north of Charminar is the Char Kaman, or four gateways, constructed in the cardinal direction. Additional eminent architects from Persia were also invited to develop the city plan. The structure itself was intended to serve as a Mosque and Madarsa. It is of Indo-Islamic architecture style, incorporating Persian architectural elements.

Historian Masud Hussain Khan says that the construction of Charminar was completed in the year 1592, and that it is the city of Hyderabad which was actually founded in the year 1591. According to the book “Days of the Beloved”, Qutb shah constructed the Charminar in the year 1589, on the very spot where he first glimpsed his future queen Bhagmati, and after her conversion to Islam, Qutb Shah renamed the city as “Hyderabad”. Though the story was rejected by the historians and scholars, it became popular folklore among the locals.

Qutb Shah was also among the early poets of Dakhani Urdu. While laying the foundation of Charminar, he performed the prayers in Dakhini couplets, which are recorded as follows:

Dakhini Urdu

Translation into English

میرا شہر لوگوں سے مامور کر
راكهيو جوتو دريا میں مچھلی جيسے

Fill this city of mine with people as,
You filled the river with fishes O Lord.

During the Mughal governorship between Qutb Shahi and Asaf Jahi rule, the southwestern minaret “fell to pieces” after being struck by lightning and was repaired at a cost of Rs. 60,000. In 1824, the monument was replastered at a cost of Rs. One lakh.

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