A Time to Remember

Dear Diary,

'aalamtirinigah se haisarshaardekhna meritarafbhituk to bhalayaardekhna nadan se ekumrrahamujhkorabt-e-ishq daana se abpadahaisarokardekhna 'chandaa' ko tum se chashm ye haiyaaalikiho 'haak-e-najafkosurma-e-absaardekhnaa' - MahLaqa Bai Chanda

As I record now, the past, self quarantined in the time of Corona, I am increasingly reminded of the significance of carpe diem or seize the moment. The little snatches away from work were made most of in my heritage explorations, here in the jewel of the Deccan. Thank God for that!

Poetry and our rich and diverse cultural heritage is a sure shot winner in my eyes. And when both meet, it's as good as gold!Armed with the newly acquired knowledge about the little known but extremely important tomb of MahaLaqaBai 'Chanda', the 18th century poet and courtesan, I promptly booked a cab and not surprisingly, the driver had no clue of what or where the place was. GPS comes in handy, like always!

That Deccan heritage is rich, is a no-brainer; but that every nook and cranny houses history, is just pleasantly overwhelming!The ornate, AsafJahi architectural tomb complex of MahaLaqaBai 'Chanda' (1768-1824-5), is a case in point. Madame Moon Cheek' the court title, was bestowed on her by, Nizam Ali Khan, the second Nizam of Hyderabad, 'Chanda' being her nom de plume. She began as a singer and Kathak dancer (Deccani style), later became an advisor in the court.

As a patron of the arts and education, especially of the girl child, she bequeathed a large part of her fortune in educating them- this included a library that housed manuscripts, poetry and other books. It is claimed that she was the first woman poet to have a published a diwan (an anthology) of her own. The tomb complex is flanked by two 'dalans', or pleasure houses. The Moula Ali dargah towers over it at the top of a rocky hill, almost 2,000 feet above its surroundings.

Since most of my trips were solo, owing to the paucity of time, I am often asked if they are daunting. No they aren't in the least, in fact one can spend time on one's own at one's own pace and yes do a lot of reading up on the place to be visited too.

Tip: Don't be afraid to ask questions, however stupid you may come across. Better than being cocky than messing up with history! However, whenever one can, it's an enriching experience to visit these sites with heritage enthusiasts, in a group. The next one was such with Hyderabad Trails. A visit to the PaigahTombs – aarchitectural marvel of a Necropolis, of the senior aristocracy in the erstwhile, Hyderabad state, has been aptly described using, grandiose epithets such 'Diamond in the Dust', 'Taj of the Deccan'.

Delicate inlay marble work on the crypts made of lime and mortar and of stucco work are breathtaking. An instance of sterling craftsmanship is the geometrical symmetry in the screens, the ever changing trellised wall designs on each of the Paigah's tombs. A treasure trove of intricately designed latticework; of the delicately hand-carved wooden jaali doors and screens that are screwed together with nuts.

Built in translucent marble from Makrana, Rajasthan, of the TajMahal fame, the sarcophagus of Paigah Amir Nawab Sir KhursheedJahBahadur and his wife ShahzadiHussainunnisa Begum has remnants of luminous semiprecious stones' inlay designs, the Pietra Dura. The motifs, as fantastic as they are fantastical-Pineapple, serpents, damru, eggs, lotus petals, exotic flowers reaching the ceiling in intricately carved gigantic vases; oh yes an Ostrich egg too!

Irani Chai and samosa/ Osmania biscuits, and exchanging stories, post a group walk is a bonus!

Truly… 'Hyderabad hogayahaidil…' Keep the 'mind's eye' open for wonders to follow! - Me

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