Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Hyderabad: Travel down memory lane in the city of deodis
February 27, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad is a city where the past lives in the present. The old structures that once dotted the city have given way to modern buildings. But Hyderabadis have not forgotten the glorious past of their city. The charm and grandeur that's associated with the old and imposing structures of Hyderabad continues to linger in the memory of Hyderabadis, old and young alike.
Hyderabad, being the city of Nawabs and nobles, had sprawling palaces architecturally perfected to the last detail. The palaces were called deoris or deodis. The city once had hundreds of such palaces. Today only a handful of them remain, giving a peep into the past.
Author Rani Sarma brings to light little known facts about the glorious deodis of yore. The Irram Manzil Palace had altogether 900 odd servants, who lived in "wadas" behind the palace. Behind the deodis lived the hordes of servants, who worked in them. Clerks, office superintendents and the other staff lived in quarters, within easy reach of the deodi.
The cooks,drivers, farrashes, ayahs, maalis, polishers, security guards and numerous other retainers lived in huge villages either close to the deodi or sometimes in the grounds of the deodi itself. There was a marked difference between the mansions they served in and their own humble dwellings, says Rani Sarma, who recently authored, The Deodis of Hyderabad - a lost heritage.
She takes readers of her book on a journey of the Nawabdom, where art and architecture flourished and communal harmony was at its zenith. Some 1200 deodis once existed in the old city of Hyderabad. Almost all of these traditional homes have been demolished in recent years, leaving little trace of a now vanished lifestyle.
"The vibrant new phase of development is commercially driven. It has swept aside most traces of the old. Today the city of Hyderabad bristles with evidence of the latest wave of wealth. But a stranger to the city would be hard put to find traces of the city's past, its former premier residences of stateliness and splendour," says Prince Muffakham Jah. Rani Sarma's book is the latest addition to the treasure-trove of publications on old Hyderabad.
Muffakham Jah, who has been witness to the transformation of the city for over five decades, further observes, "it is these deoris that the Hyderabadi culture evolved Hyderabadi "Tehzeeb," its refined way of life."
Agreeing with Muffakham Jah, Rani Sarma writes, "be it the language, literature, music, dance, etiquette, courtesy, entertainment, cuisine or dress, they were all important and tradition dictated the norms. Transgressions were frowned upon and social standing and acceptability depended on the degree of refinement that the individuals acquired. Special care was taken to teach children the finer points of
etiquette right from their childhood."
The landscape of Hyderabad changed with the entry of the Britishers. The second half of the 19th century was a period of change in Hyderabad, writes Rani Sarma. Englishness came to influence the architecture, lifestyle, education, spoken language, and eating habits of the upper echelons of society.
The British Residency was a built by 1806 and it became fashion to build modern palaces modelled after it. Even the nomenclature of the buildings that they built changed from a "deodi" to a "palace". We have the old-style deodi of the Malwalas being called Malwala Palace.
The writer vividly brings out the communal harmony that co-existed along with deodis. "It is often said that in Hyderabad, the people enjoyed a composite culture. `Ganga-Jamuni' is one word Hyderabadis are fond of using, indicating that Hyderabadi culture was a blend of Hindu and Muslim cultures. One was a Hyderabadi, and that was all that mattered, whether one was a Hindu or a Muslim did not matter."
The three outstanding features of the deodis, as seen in Hyderabad, were their prominent main entrances, high enclosing walls and inner courtyards. Each deodi had its own rhythm of life and activity, its tone set by the master of the house.
The forecourt of the deodi was strictly meant for performing official functions of the lord. The large jagirdars like the Paigahs and the Diwans not only maintained troops but also took care of the civil and judicial administration in their jagirs. They employed a large staff that operated from the peshi of the deodi.
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