It is not curious
that an Indian shop should organise a sales promotion campaign in which the first prize is
a trip to Paris. The bait for free travel is unexceptionable. The description
of Paris as The Culture Capital of The World, however, requires attention.
The distinction of. being the culture capital of
the world is normally reserved for ones own native city or city of nativity. The
culture fracture caused by alien rule for 200 years is responsible for the
slave mentality manifest in the advertisement. Perhaps, as the
event is Hyderabad based we should remind our readers of the great and abiding
romance connecting Hyderabad/Secunderabad with the original city, town or settlement.
This habitation was called Bhagnagar.
It honoured Luck, Chance, as well as Love and
Romance. Bhag means fortune. Soubhagya
or Good fortune for those who have access to Sanskrit learning or
High Hindi. The name Bhagnagar honours a rural (she would
today be called tribal) beauty who captivated a Prince of the Qutub Shahi
dynasty ruling from the Golconda Fort. Her name was Bhagmati.
Bhagnagar can mean either the City of Fortune or the City of the Lady
Bhagmati. The story of this great and fabled love has passed into the legend and
folklore of India.
The poet Makhdoom Mohiuddeen has written a
luminous lyric in honour of the lady, the love and the city which we can attempt to
translate for the delectation of our readers at an appropriate time.
First the story. The lover prince Muhammad Quli
was not the eldest son of his father the Sultan. He was the third eldest. Quli
means slave and his name made him a slave of the Prophet (On Whom Be Peace!). Although the
Qutb Shahis were of Central Asian Turki origin, their residence in India had made them
native in a most cultivated and cultured manner.
Muhammad Qulis own father, Ibrahim, had
fled Golconda when his brother, Jamshed slew their nonagenarian father to usurp the
throne. He sought and was given shelter in the neighbouring realm, the Empire of
This exile was spent in great comfort and luxury
as the Rajas of Vijaynagar practised Sharanaagat Koa Abhaya! (The one seeking
shelter must be made so comfortable as to feel safe and without fear). Ibrahim lived like
any Prince of the Vijaynagar house would have done.
This meant that he was exposed to all the
cultural influences which made Vijaynagar into a fabled land.The learned and the creative,
the performers and the poets, the dancers and the musicians, the architects and the
painters, each vied with the other for the attention of the royal guest and treated him to
the choicest morsels of his or her discipline and calling.
No Central Asian before Ibrahim enjoyed this
great good fortune. Having been born in India and having grown up in Golconda he knew
Telugu and the language that was coming into being in the great melting pot where Persian
Turki and Arabic shared the echoes and the cadences of Sanskrit Marathi and Tamil.
This was to become Dakhkhini
or Reykhtaa and storm North India in times to come. The
nobles ultimately grew tired of the parricide and invited Ibrahim to return and be Sultan.
The Ibrahim who returned was a truly cultured, cultivated and mature prince.
The music, dance, poetry and myth of the Deccan
was part of his being and his ladies were adept and accomplished in the areas of his
interest. The mother of Muhammad Quli is likely to have been exceptionally gifted as she
had a hold and power over her husband which made her someone to reckon with and her son a
favourite for succession. As he approached manhood and while still in his adolescent
teens, Muhammad Quli was to be seen frequently sallying forth from the Fort of Golconda to
indulge his passion for hunting.
The plains below the fort were watered by the
Musi (Moosee) river and had scrub and bushes alternating with dense forests. Game birds
and deer abounded in the area and the boy came home with his bag which he displayed with
neo-manly pride to his mother and other inmates of the palace.
One day an exceptionally fleet gazelle had
Muhammad Quli gallop his horse most furiously in the chase for such a long time that the
guards, companions and courtiers were left far behind.
The prince found that he was well and truly
lost. Worse, he was thirsty and his horse all lathered with sweat and winded. There was
nothing to it except to climb a tall tree and look around to find some sign of habitation
where water and help would be available.
As he scanned the various directions Muhammad
Quli saw that evening was approaching. In the direction of the setting sun he saw what
could be a copse or a cluster of huts. He climbed down and rode in that direction. Soon he
came to the outskirts of a village.
A few paces further, he saw a well where someone
with their back to the direction in which he was approaching was busy drawing water and
filling a whole row of freshly shone brass and copper vessels.Muhammad Quli approached
near and found that the person drawing water was a lady.
He got off his horse and led it up to the
platform of the well and asked for water. He stood with lowered eyes and head bowed in
supplication awaiting the cascade of life renewing water to fall into his cupped hand. As
the stream descended upon his hand he looked up to adjust the receptacle so as to prevent
the water splashing onto the ground.
As he looked up he was struck dumb and inert by
the spectacle of beauty that met his gaze. His hand became limp and the water fell on the
ground and the mud splattered his clothes.Muhammad Quli found his way home but was to
return every day to catch a glimpse of the fair Bhagmati.
When the rains came and the river flooded over
in a wild spate Ibrahim was greatly worried about his darling sons safety. Most
urgently the Sultan had a bridge constructed to span the river. The prince brought a great
pageant of a procession to wed Bhagmati.
Her home and its surroundings were jazzed up by
the Sultan for this most auspicious occasion. The fates smiled on Muhammad Quli. He
succeeded his father as Sultan and then proceeded to immortalise his love by building a
new city where a village had once stood.
The architecture of Bhagnagar/Hyderabad is in no
way inferior to what one sees in Paris. The Char Minar (Chaar Meenaar) is
quite a unique building and the concept of that whole area including the Char Kaman (Chaar
Kamaan) is dazzling to behold. Unfortunately the road has risen and risen until the
elevations are lost.
The care, love and concern that those in
authority should have for the heritage is missing. The culture fracture makes educated
Indians prefer the vast mounds of flesh painted by Titian and Reubens to the lissome and
lithe ladies one sees in the Muraqqas like the Album presented by Dara Shikoh to
his wife Nadira in the tenth year of their marriage. Or the beauties of the Golconda
School of Deccani painting.
We need a renaissance of the spirit to get out
of the slough of despond in which eight generations or 200 years of slavery has relegated