views updated May 21 2018


HYDERABAD Hyderabad State, named for the city long the cosmopolitan capital of kingdoms in India's Deccan plateau, developed autonomy from the Mughal empire in the second half of the eighteenth century and ended only in 1948. India became independent in 1947, and in 1948 Hyderabad State was incorporated into it, acquiring a new national language, Hindi (Hindustani written in Sanskrit script). In 1956 the federal reorganization of Indian states along linguistic lines made Hyderabad city the capital of the Telugu-speaking state of Andhra Pradesh. (The former state's Kannada-speaking districts went to Karnataka and the Marathi-speaking districts, in 1960, to Maharashtra.) The offical state language is Telugu, although English continues to be used for many administrative and educational purposes.

Deccani and Mughal Origins

The state changed orientation over time, pulled by political engagements with powerful neighbors. Nizām al-Mulk, the Mughal nizam, or governor, of the Deccan province in the early eighteenth century, ruled by military force from his capital city of Aurangabad in the western Marathi-speaking region of the Deccan. But the expanding Maratha power in the western Deccan—under Shivaji's successors, the Peshwas—was not the nizam's only regional competitor. The rise of new powers in Mysore and Madras and the increasing activities of the French and English trading companies heightened diplomatic and military competition in southern India. Nizām al-Mulk Asaf Jah I maintained nominal allegiance to the Mughals in Delhi, but he and his successors had established a separate dynasty by the end of the eighteenth century.

Nizām Ali Khan Asaf Jah II, who reigned from 1762 to 1803, stabilized the state. Under him, the capital moved from Aurangabad to Hyderabad, reflecting pressures from the Marathas in the west and from Tipu Sultan in Mysore. Aurangabad and Hyderabad remained, however, almost equally important until the end of the century. Then Hyderabad, an attractive, well-planned administrative city for the Qutb Shahi dynasty in the late sixteenth century, was rebuilt, resettled, and became truly hegemonic.

Hyderabad city began when the Kakatiya Hindu rajas of Warangal established Golconda fort just north of the Musi river by the thirteenth century. In 1364 Golconda passed to the control of the Bahmanis (Shiʿa Muslim kings of Iranian ancestry). By 1530 the Bahmani kingdom had split into five Deccani sultanates, with the Qutb Shahi dynasty ruling from Golconda fort. Hyderabad city developed south of the river across from the fort. A bridge was built across the Musi in 1578, but the city's traditional founding date is 1591, when the landmark Char Minar was constructed during the reign of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah. Popular belief credits Quli Qutb Shah's founding of the new city to his love for a Hindu dancing girl, Bhagmati, who lived south of the river, and the city was first known as Bhagnagar (after her, or, in other versions, "city of gardens"). After Quli Qutb Shah married her, Bhagmati was renamed Hyder Mahal and the city was renamed Hyderabad. In this first phase, Hyderabad city was closely tied to Golconda fort and its surrounding area, particularly Karwan, where the leading bankers lived.

In 1687 the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb conquered Golconda fort and incorporated the Deccan into his empire. From the 1760s, as the first nizam's successors shifted the capital back to Hyderabad, the great palaces of the nizam and his nobles revitalized the city. Major gates in its walls led to Machilipatnam, the seaport on the eastern coast, and Delhi, the Mughal capital. To the city's south, the establishments of the nizam's military officers formed rural outposts, with weapons stored in their extensive gardens. Other gardens at the city's boundaries housed Hindu temples or Muslim graveyards.

The Hyderabad nobility in the eighteenth century was a military one, based on the collection and deployment of resources for warfare. Leading nobles dispensed highly personal patronage. Vakils, or diplomatic agents, were crucial to the patron-client system of the time. Mughal vakils were more prominent in the eighteenth century, followed by those of the Maratha Peshwa, the Peshwa's nominal subordinates, chiefs Scindia and Holkar, and the nawāb of Arcot in the late eighteenth century. Securing land revenue and loans from bankers then became important to the state, and the Mughal bureaucracy grew, supporting Hindus and Muslims alike as part of the growing state establishment centered in Hyderabad city. The nizam's household establishment, the Sarf-i-Khas, eventually grew as well, employing many in the city of Hyderabad. Hindus were high-ranking members of the military, revenue, and household administrations, although Muslims were the majority among the nobles of the state.

The culture of both city and state expanded as the Deccani urban culture of the Shiʿa Muslim Qutb Shahis—modeled on that of Persia, but with many Telugu-speakers in the ruling class—incorporated the Mughal or Indo-Persian northern court culture and those who brought it. Muharram, the Shiʿa commemoration of the martyrdom of Hasan and Husain in 680, continued to be a major public observance. Under the Sunni Muslim nizams, many new men, speakers of Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, and Urdu, entered the ruling class. Other new participants in Deccani politics were the French and British East India companies, contending with each other on Indian soil and giving European military training and arms to Indian soldiers. The nizam eventually lost Machilipatnam, Hyderabad's seaport, to the British East India Company, and the latter, victorious over the French, forced the nizams to sign successive treaties of "subsidiary alliance" in the later eighteenth century. The second largest "native state" in India, Hyderabad remained independent of direct British control, but a British cantonment settled in the hamlet of Secunderabad and a British resident (political representative of the British East India Company and later of the British government) settled in Hyderabad north of the river.

The Influence of British India

With expansion to the north, a second phase of urban development began, the twin cities now being Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The British Residency secured economic concessions for the adjacent Residency Bazaar, attracting many merchants and bankers. A powerful diwan, or prime minister, Sir Salar Jung (1853–1883), recruited modern administrators from British India and initiated modernizing projects, such as, in 1874, a railroad linking Hyderabad to Bombay and the British Indian economy. The nizams built a palace near the Residency, and movement from the old walled city to the new Hyderabad accelerated. At the same time, Salar Jung protected the old Mughal administration and its employees in the old city from the new British-patterned administration and its high-ranking employees based in the new city.

As the city sprawled over the boulder-strewn fields and hills along both banks of the Musi River, three historically distinct zones developed in the metropolitan area: old Hyderabad (the walled city dating from the sixteenth century, south of the river); new Hyderabad (north of the river); and Secunderabad (developed from a British cantonment in the early nineteenth century, north of Hussain Sagar Tank or lake). In the nineteenth century, the old walled city fell behind the modernizing new Hyderabad, yet even in the newer city the pace of change was slow. Hyderabad was under a kotwal (the Mughal equivalent of a police commissioner, city magistrate, and municipal commissioner) appointed by the nizam until 1869, when a department of municipal and road maintenance was created, which included a municipal commissioner. Hyderabad under the nizams did feature much lower taxes than British India, but this advantage was offset by the delayed development and low level of municipal politics. The 1934 introduction of limited municipal elections, modeled on the 1884 Bombay municipal reforms, came too late to produce experienced local politicians by 1948. Hyderabad city's urban services and general condition in the 1940s were relatively quite good, but the rising population since then has severely taxed the city's resources and services.

Hyderabad State introduced reforms in its judicial and educational systems in the late nineteenth century. In the 1870s, a modern Anglo-Indian legal system replaced the Mughal judicial system, and, in the 1890s, a High Court on the British Indian model was established. The modern educational system began in 1883 and 1884 with vernacular primary and secondary schools in the state's four major languages. These fed into the small and elite English-language Nizam College, affiliated to Madras University in British India in 1886 and 1887. The innovative founding of the Urdu-language Osmania University in 1918 sought to educate more of Hyderabad's youth and equip them for administrative service, using the state's official language and emphasizing its independence from British India. Purdah, or the seclusion of women, marked most higher educational institutions until 1948, when it was abolished in Osmania University and elsewhere. The new federal University of Hyderabad was established in the 1980s just outside the city, placing the city firmly on the all-India educational map.

While Hyderabad State fell into the colonial "indirect rule" category during the British period, historians of the princely or native states have found that Hyderabad, the second largest and most populous such state, resisted conforming to patterns typical of other such states. The East India Company had a resident in Hyderabad, but the governor-general and the Madras Council contended over issues within the state, and often the resident and the company were also at odds. For various reasons, Hyderabad had more consistent internal policies and more independence from the resident in the nineteenth century, and Hyderabad's nobility remained dependent upon royal, not British, favor. Difficulties specific to Hyderabad continued in the twentieth century. The seventh and last nizam, Osman Ali Khan, often did not fulfill British wishes or did so for what can easily be seen as his own reasons. Most notably perhaps, in 1917 and 1918, the nizam refused to be associated with those other rulers working toward constitutional arrangements and a Chamber of Princes. Also, again and again the nizam raised the question of "the return of the Berars," referring to the mid-nineteenth century subsidiary alliance treaty ceding that rich province to the British East India Company to support a company-led military force; this issue clearly deflected the nizam's attention from what was going on in the rest of India and led to the state's isolation from the nationalist movement, though it was eventually incorporated into modern India.

Politics in Hyderabad really moved beyond court circles only in the 1930s, when the Indian nationalist movement against British rule finally brought political turmoil into the city. Even in 1947, when India and Pakistan became independent, the nizam thought he could retain his autonomy. He failed to negotiate seriously with India, precipitating the Indian army "Police Action" of 1948, which brought Hyderabad State into the Indian Union. Another rupture came in 1956, when India's reorganization of states along linguistic lines dismembered the old trilinguistic state. Hyderabad city and the Telingana districts were united with the Telugu-speaking districts formerly under British rule and oriented toward Madras city, and Hyderabad became the capital of Andhra Pradesh.

Hyderabad State's history is reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and linguistic and religious diversity. From the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries in this part of India, successive Muslim-ruled dynasties had promoted Persian as the state language, while the peasants in Hyderabad city's hinterland came from three linguistic backgrounds, Marathi, Telugu, and Kannada (the first an Indo-Aryan language, the latter two Dravidian or South Indian languages). In the city itself, the lingua franca was Urdu or Hindustani, a language developed first in the Deccan under Shiʿa Muslim rulers and then in North India under the Mughals. Its structure is derived from the Indo-Aryan or Sanskritic languages of North India; Urdu has many Persian words, and it is written in Perso-Arabic script. Urdu replaced Persian as the official language of Hyderabad State in 1884, and English became important then, too, because of the hegemonic influence of British India and the British-trained Indians recruited to the Hyderabad administration.

Present-Day Hyderabad

Hyderabad State boundaries were dismembered in 1956, but the city continued to have a cosmopolitan population, although the ruling class has shifted its composition over time. It has shifted from mostly Muslim to mostly Hindu, and its languages have changed from Persian and Urdu to Telugu and English. While Hindus are scattered throughout the city, Muslims and Christians are clustered: almost two-thirds of the old city is Muslim; one-fifth of Secunderabad is Christian. Speakers of Telugu are the majority, but sizable numbers of people speak Tamil, Sindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, and Kannada, as well as Urdu. The city population has grown steadily since 1881, when it had 367,417 people, to some 5 million at the start of the twenty-first century (save for a 19 percent decline from 1911 to 1921 due to the 1918 plague epidemic). After the formation of Andhra Pradesh, rural to urban migration increased greatly, and extensive industrialization began in the late 1950s. There was some Muslim out-migration, but most immigrants were Hindu Telugu-speakers, some of them replacing departing Muslims in the old city and increasing tensions there. Average population density has been highest in the oldest parts of the walled city, in Secunderabad, and in Hyderabad's economic center just north of the river.

Hyderabad city, arguably more than any city in India, combines features from India's north and south, its Muslim and Hindu peoples, in an urban culture that has always been strikingly cosmopolitan. Hyderabadi cuisine featured Mughal dishes with a Deccani flavor, a touch of tamarind in the lentils, a special rich biryani, slow-roasted kebabs, delicious thick-sauced eggplant and green chili dishes (begara began and mirch ka salan). As in Central Asia and Mughal India, people used to sit on the floor around a dasturkhana, or tablecloth, eating with their hands, or, if South Indian, eating from banana leaves spread on the ground or table. South Indian Brahman vegetarian restaurants and Persian tea houses were always there, and spicy coastal Andhra food has come to Hyderabad since 1956.

The defining features of the present city evoke competing versions of the past. Major buildings from the nizam's period, especially those so proudly constructed in the early twentieth century (the High Court, Osmania Hospital, Osmania University, the State Legislature) are still much in evidence. However, the harmonious Mughal design they imposed on the city has been broken by new buildings and monuments as the government of Andhra Pradesh tries to re-create a past reaching back to Buddhism and Hinduism. Andhra's chief minister in the early 1990s, the film star N. T. Rama Rao, installed a huge statue of the Buddha in Hussain Sagar Tank (lake). The new Telugu University has changed the look of the public gardens, its bold, powerful lines suggesting South Indian Hindu temples and contrasting with the earlier, lighter Indo-Saracenic buildings. Along the Tank Bund road from Hyderabad to Secunderabad stand many statues erected by the state government. Almost all are of cultural heroes from coastal Andhra; the last nizam, Osman Ali Khan, and Hyderabad's great nineteenth-century diwan (prime minister), Sir Salar Jung, are not included.

The assumption of political power by Andhra's peasant castes has reoriented the city to the eastern coastal districts and to Delhi, India's capital, and the wider world. However, internal differences still reflect the region's history. Development policies favoring the newer urban areas and the coastal regions of the state reflect the still-unsuccessful integration of the former Hyderabadis and the Andhras, and resentment is particularly acute among long-standing residents of the capital city. Hyderabad State ended in 1956, but Hyderabad city still features a Deccani or regional dialect of Urdu, a distinctive cuisine and style of dress, and a leisurely sense of time. The popular culture of earlier days combined Shiʿa Muslim commemorations with Mughal or Indo-Persian court and literary traditions, and this has been overlaid with British Indian culture and Telugu South Indian culture. Hyderabad State's legacy to modern India might be its cosmopolitanism, best exemplified in Hyderabad city, and its political culture that linked people across caste and community lines.

Karen Leonard


Bawa, Vasant K. The Nizam between Mughals and British: Hyderabad under Sir Salar Jung. New Delhi: S. Chand, 1986.

Bilgrami, Syed Hussain, and C. Willmott. Historical and Descriptive Sketch of the Nizam's Dominions. 2 vols. Mumbai, 1883.

Briggs, Henry George. The Nizam: His History and Relations with the British Government. 2 vols. London: B. Quaritch, 1861.

Fraser, Hastings. Our Faithful Ally, the Nizam. 1865. Reprint, Delhi: Modern Publishers, 1985.

Khan, Yusuf Husain. The First Nizam. 2nd ed. New York: Asia Publishing House, 1963.

Leonard, Karen. Social History of an Indian Caste: The Kayasths of Hyderabad. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

Safrani, Shehbaz H., ed. Golconda and Hyderabad. Mumbai: Marg Publishers, 1992.


views updated May 14 2018

Hyderabad City on the River Indus, Sind province, se Pakistan. Founded in 1768, Hyderabad was the capital of Sind until captured by the British in 1843. Industries: chemicals, pottery, shoes, furniture, handicrafts. Pop. (1998) 1,151,274.


views updated May 17 2018

Hyderabad City in the River Musi valley, s India; capital of Andhra Pradesh state. Founded in 1589, Hyderabad has a number of notable buildings dating from that time, including the Char Minar (1591). Industries: tobacco, textiles, handicrafts, vehicle parts. Pop. (2001) 3,449,878.