Thursday, April 01, 2010

Charminar--Another Face of India

Charminar Mosque
Hyderabad is a short plane ride from Bangalore but though it's only an hour and a half north, it doesn't sit as high on the Deccan Plateau and the lower elevation makes it about 10-15 degrees hotter. It hasn't hit the peak of the heat yet and I think it was a bit over 100 for the three days we were there but hey, it's a dry heat, right?

While Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka, Hyderabad is the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh and has a large Muslim population which makes all sorts of differences in culture between the two cities. You see more burkas than saris and many men wearing traditional tunics, caps and beards--even the architecture reflects Islam more than Hindu.

Instead of speaking Kannada, as they do in Karnataka, in Hyderabad they might speak Telagu (the language of Andhra Pradesh). But if you're a Muslim then you're more likely to speak either Farsi or Urdu (which is actually very close to Hindu). If you're following this it means that the city's count is up around five different languages that you'll be likely to hear if you were to visit.

One of the most famous sites in the city is Charminar mosque which you see pictured at top. It sits as a hub with markets and merchant streets radiating from it like spokes on a wheel and there are hordes and hordes of people swarming around it at all times. After we climbed the steps going up and around and up in the corner turrets we caught our breath and took pictures of people from the top.

If you've ever imagined what India might be like you'd probably picture something along the lines of the scene at Charminar--women in black veils, shop vendors selling fruits and baskets and cloth, beggars making their way through the masses of people and bicycles loaded to twenty times their normal size. As we stood on the balcony gazing down there came this mass of noise with all the sounds mingling together as people moved here and there, each on their way to someplace new.

After visiting the mosque we walked down Laad street where stalls offered everything from gold bangles to hand-stuffed mattresses to beaded saris but turning down one of the alleyways the people disappeared (or at least it seemed we were practically alone after all the pressing crowds from the street) and one hundred feet from where the goods were sold on the street we stumbled on the manufacturing center.

In a shady spot near a cement wall three men were sewing up a mattress they'd just stuffed, a little farther on a man sat at a frame where a piece of blue silk was stretched out as he sewed gold beads in intricate patterns. In a dark recess a father and boy worked on shaping shiny golden bangles, hiding from the hot afternoon sun.

One hundred feet from manufacturing to retail, probably the shortest distance between the two processes I've ever seen, and as we wandered through, taking pictures and asking questions we were followed by children wanting us to take their pictures or begging for chocolate.

It made me wonder if I were to travel to all the largest cities in India if I'd see such differences in each place. I imagine my feet would give out before I'd run out of things to see.

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Lucy said...

When you get home, it's going to seem very, very q.u.i.e.t to you. :)

Chrissy Johnson said...

Another riveting post. I just sang your glory a bit on my other blog:

Have a safe trip home (or have you already left?)

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I am loving these posts! We have part of our business based in Hyderabad, am definitely hoping to go there someday. With the muslim population, the food is to die for. (the food!!) Also, Urdu is to Hindi like American English is to UK English. Mostly vocabulary differences. :-)

Rohit Goel said...

only thing i can think of is hyderabadi biryani.