September 17, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Book Review/Pictorial Hyderabad
Author: K Krishna Swamy Mudiraj
Hyderabad has always fascinated people far and wide. Travellers, historians, archaeologists and social scientists have, down the ages, made attempts to rediscover Hyderabad. And yet the city remains as enigmatic as ever. The more one wants to discover this city of love, monuments and pearls, the more one is left intrigued.
Politician, advocate and journalist K Krishna Swamy Mudiraj, an eminent personality of his times, made one such attempt to read Hyderabad, its nobles, its people, its culture, his history, its monuments and its literature. The result is the two-volume, Pictorial Hyderabad. The book published about 70 years ago is still in high demand as it was in late 1920s. The fresh reprint of Pictorial Hyderabad was recently released for the benefit of historians, researchers and the common man alike.
Krishna Swamy Mudiraj presents a vivid description of the life and times of Hyderabad of yore, the erstwhile royal Hyderabad State to be precise. The book is backed by high quality and rare photographs which give an insight into the lifestyles and living standards of Hyderabadis, two decades before India became free.
Pictorial Hyderabad is of a high literary standard. When it was published in 1929 Indian and foreign newspapers alike came out with rave reviews. Krishna Swamy Mudiraj was born in a simple middle class family but rose to prominence through sheer hard work and his dedication to the cause of the downtrodden.
The book is not a mere historical, geographical or biographical record of Hyderabad. It contains all that is required to have a transparent picture of the then Hyderabad State, the administration of its rulers, its culture, its traditions, its quality, its finances, its difficulties, its living conditions, the historical aspect of its rulers, ancestors, and activities of all its jagirdars, zamindars, nawabs, bureaucrats and others.
Krishna Swamy Mudiraj explains the reasons behind the publication of the book. He says, “my purpose to publish Pictorial Hyderabad is that there should be an unvarnished and faithful record of all that has been done during the rule of the illustrious of the Great House of Asaf Jah. It is aimed to place on record the wonderful and fascinating history of this State”.
Pictorial Hyderabad contains very high quality photographs of rare nature. Almost every second page of the book contains a photograph. Certain photographs of this book are not at all available anywhere. Special photographs of the Durbar Hall of the Sixth Nizam in golden paint are the rare collection.
The photographs of various temples, mosques, forts, palaces, gardens, parks, hospitals, offices and the places of market etc depict the real cultural and social aspect of the period. The pictures showing the costumes, dresses, methods of hunting, living huts, houses and ornaments of the tribal folk of then Hyderabad state is another noteworthy photographic work of Krishna Swamy.
If what the author says is true, Hyderabad police of those days was the best in the country.
“As there is no Arms Act one can have in the city proper as may daggers, swords and stilettos as one fancies. One might suppose that with such freedom, murder and crimes must of necessity be of frequent occurrence. This is not the case. The city of Hyderabad is as law abiding as any city in India and it has a police, which where its CID is concerned, can beat several British cities. In fact, some one who knew India well recently declared that the Hyderabad city CID is the best in India. Crime that is not detected within 12 hours of its taking place is of rare occurrence. If the people of Hyderabad are noted for anything, it is for their unbounded hospitality”.
Giving glimpses of the religious culture of the people of those days, Krishna Swamy says, “religion played no part whatsoever in the selection and appointment of prime minister. In any case, religion never entered into any of the party whirlpools or maelstroms. Mohammedans supported Hindus, and Hindus supported Mohammedans and Mohammedans went against
Mohammedans and Hindus went against Hindus. Hyderabad state was free from such religious antagonism. It was absent in the court; It was absent in commercial intercourse; it was absent in public life; and altogether entirely absent in the cottages and hamlets of the countryside.”
Several traditions and annual events that used to take place in Hyderabad are no more on the list these days. One such was the langar festival. The langar is a festival peculiar to Hyderabad and though it is celebrated in the month of Moharrum it is in no way connected with it. The langar procession consists of a march
past of the whole military before the minister and High Highness the Nizam. They consist of the regular forces, the Golconda Brigade, the Paigah, or household troops and the irregulars etc... Their total strength between 20,000 and 30,000.
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