Friday, November 23, 2012

Charminar and the Temple

When I was a young boy I used to frequently visit the ‘old city’ of Hyderabad because that’s where my grandparents used to live.  On the way we had to take road next to Charminar.  I have a vague memory of a very small temple next to Charminar.  But, now that temple has grown in size according to the latest pictures.  As we speak, old city is rioting once again after a gap of many years.  The topic of contention is the growing size of the temple next to Charminar which has now become a prominent place for Hindus.  Muslims are objecting to this. 

Here are the pictures from THE HINDU where it shows that there was no temple whatsoever sixty years ago.  A few days ago, a lady showed an old photograph from her family on a Telugu news channel which doesn’t show the temple next to Charminar.  

Charminar in 1957:

Charminar in 1990:

Hindus and Muslims have been fighting over religious places and festivals for a long time now.  Even during British there was rioting during festival times.  Here is a description of one such episode from 1870s:

…what should be done about the pipal trees on the Moharram route at Pitampura.

This problem occurred again and again.  On the tenth day of the month of Moharram, images of the tombs of Hasan and Husain, the grandsons of the Prophet, slain at Karbala, are taken in procession to be buried.  They are gaudy towers of tinsel and papier maché. They jolt, swaying on men’s shoulders, through the narrow streets and along the sandy rutted roads between the fields.  And then comes a pipal tree, sacred to Hindus.  Either the tower or the pipal tree has grown since last year; the image will not pass unless a branch is cut.  The Hindus with their six-foot bamboo quarter-staffs wait grimly for the first insult to the sacred tree.  The Muslim escort of the tower will not agree to deviation by a yard, still less that the tower should bow its head.

An Indian inspector of police once persuaded the leaders of the village to call out the landless laborers and dig the roadway deeper. 

Better still to avoid the confrontation.  E H H Hyde arranged between festivals for two elephants to graze near an offending pipal tree; elephants are under the special patronage of Ganesh and no one would grudge them a branch or two from a pipal.  And next year, to everyone’s surprise, the image passed easily where before it had stuck.

Looks like the feuds that happen between religions require ingenious solutions, because they are not subject to reason.  

Source: The Men Who Ruled India by Philip Mason.


  1. For as long as I remember, the Charminar depicted in the Charminar cigarette pack has never depicted the temple..

  2. Who do you think is wrong? Hindus or Muslims? What is your suggestion to Hyderabad? Should it continue traditions which are source of feuds? Will scrapping religion altogether help bring peace to the city?

  3. Government should demolish all illegal constructions that are built after independence and take action against those people involved. In this case, if temple is constructed illegally, it should be removed. If temple is constructed legally, who/why is the officer gave the permission?

  4. Sujai - Our families have lived in flourished in old city Hyderabad around Aliabad and Shalibanda. The families in these areas are closely knit and very educational focused. In Aliabad there is a library in Reddy Jana Sangham that preserved books back in the 50s-mid 90s. Now, the library and its standards are in an extinction phase due to the lack of community interest and funds. This library was a major resource of quality books to the people in that area. If you aren't from that area you would know that Bhagya Laxmi temple existed from the late 50s/60s. What is wrong to have a temple in a monument? while a mosque can also exist beside it? I think the location of the religious worship places is not a problem. The problem is the vibe of the people that takes erratic turns due to religious affinities. Parallely if you go back in history Babri Masjid never existed and there could be photographs/paintings that can prove that too. Its the cultural affinity that needs to be brought closer in that area.

    1. Agree completely. The main issue that people most conveniently forget is how Owaisi and his party need a reason to back out of Congress and join the YSRCP. Everything else is nautanki.

  5. Why suddenly comparing Babdi masjid with Charminar. There is proof before you, Charminar has no mandir in its affinity. Charminar was never the subject matter for disgust in the reign of the NIZAMS. However, something happened, and dont know what, that things went out of hand. Lets just stay maintain the peace and harmony around. Let things stay as they were. Dont touch them. Also, with respect to Ari TT, if we go back in history dateline, we may also find things we all never knew existed on the places we talk about.... We are ready to go till up the big=bang.... What say..

  6. Addendum to the earlier note..after some extensive research...From the Government Record
    The Andhra Pradesh Government’s Endowments Department clearly lists Charminar’s Bhagyalakshmi temple under the serial number 4839 as a legitimate temple bringing revenue to the Government, under the classification 6C. If the temple was ‘illegal’, why would a secular Government extract its income for Government use?{A946DB2B-2380-4521-893C-808D2519535E}&FilterField1=Title&FilterValue1=Hyderabad&FilterField2=Mandal&FilterValue2=Hyderabad&FilterField3=Town_x002f_Village&FilterValue3=Charminar
    The city Hyderabad was originally named Bhagya Nagar after Bhagyavati, a Harijan mistress of the founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty rulers of the erstwhile State of Hyderabad. The temple in Charminar, Hyderabad, Bhagyalaxmi, was in her memory, and even now a Harijan woman is a trustee of the temple.ReadSrikanta Ghosh’s Indian Democracy Derailed: Politics and Politicians, published in 1997. On pages 73-74 he gives some key information. Srikanta Ghosh was with the Law Research Institute of Calcutta.

    The book’s online link is here:
    Read the current Government of India Minister, and former Under-Secretary-General of United Nations, Shashi Tharoor’s book Elephant, Tiger & Cellphone. On page 42 he describes Bhagyalakshmi Temple at Charminar clearly. The key takeaway from this very learned man’s book is this: “But at the foot of the city’s most famous monument, the four-turreted Charminar, sits a Hindu temple to the goddess Mahalakshmi, the priests chanting their mantras for centuries under the celebrated Islamic minarets.”

    The book’s online link is here ->

  7. In India, people build temples, mosqueues and other religious structures illegally without any permits. Supposing there is no temple or there was a small structure next to Charminar, what is the objection? Is Charminar a religious structure? No. So why so much communal hate by Owaisis to make this a communal war and threatening to eradicate 75 crore Hindus? Is it Okay for a Ismalic militant leader aligned with Congress party in the state and center to threaten to eliminate 75 crore people? Looks like the author who is always ready to support Islamic rebels, Islamic causes and even Islamic terrorism is silent on this note.

  8. Sujai, Thanks for this blog.

    My mother has her roots in Old City, so I get to frequent the area. While I marvel at the Architectural geniuses of Charminar and the Masjid across, the temple has been nothing but an eyesore.

    Though I dont want to play the blame game, over the years, I see muslims getting too aggressive over moving a stupid grave for the purpose of public benefit like widening of roads. Once can understand if the graves have any historical significance but most of them dont.

    Somewhere along the line, even Hindus started doing the same by building temples and spreading their area. This goes on and on, and our so called leaders are as usual scared to do the right thing.

    Personally, I dont go to temples that I know are illegally built, and I ask one question to people who do. It is ok to go to a temple that was built on occupied land but it is not ok if some Goonda/Politician occupies your plot/land? One moral standard for the society but a different one for yourselves?

    1. Sridhar, in this country no one have balls to write against Muslims, for road extension in Vijayawada corporation staff is able to demolish temple wall bot not able to demolish Muslim grave yards wall!! even this guy sujai took this subject because a Temple has been getting prominence beside Charminar not other way!!!!

  9. I am not sure if anybody know but there is a Darga within Vemulawada temple compound. There is nothing wrong with that. There are many more such places in this region built such a way.


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