October 2, 2023

Hyderabad History

Hyderabad was the chosen residence of the ex­Arneers of Scinde and their families, but their stronghold is now held by the European officers of the garrison.

Hyderabad History

'Forth-West Front of Hyderabad fort, 1844

Hyderabad and its commanding fort were founded in 1768 by Mir Ghulam Shah, the Kalhora chief, as his capital. Subsequently, in 1789, Mir Fateh Ali Khan, his Talpuri successor, shifted to it from Khudabad near Hala and continuing its status as a capital greatly expanded the fort by building residential chambers within for his extensive family.


woodcut engraving published in The Illustrated don News, April 1843.

This early and rather freely interpreted view of hyderabad fort was used to illustrate a news des-h on the decisive battle of Miani fought on 17 nary 1843 between the combined forces of the of Hyderabad, Khairpur and Mirpur, and the :7h troops under the command of Sir Charles Napier.

Imagining the Fulaili rivulet which flowed near the hyderabad fort to be deeper than it actually was, the engraver has shown in the middle distance a Paddle steamer, similar to the ones which later plied o he Indus river.

A more accurate description of the impressive b, on has been provided by J.F.Heddle, Assistant Surgeon, Bombay Medical Establishment, who vis­ited he fort in May 1836, and reported: ‘The ditch,

The Fort at Hyderabad, 1843

insulates southern extremity of the hill on which the citadel stands, and the communication is maintained by means of a bridge, which is situated in front of the principal entrance to the fort, and opposite the main street, or bazar, which stretches from this point to the northern extremity of the town, in a straight line. The entrance is defended by a semicircular curtain, and in order to reach it, on whatever side the approach be made, you must traverse one-half of the breadth of the town, through streets of about ten yards wide.’

Commenting on the crowded often airless inte­rior of the fort complex, Heddle wrote: ‘The build­ings in the interior of the citadel present great con­fusion – much more so than is observed in the town itself. The structures are of all kinds, placed without any apparent arrangement, and only admit of com­munication between one part of the fort and another by narrow crooked lanes. The bungalows in which the princes reside, the chambers set apart for public business, and in which they hold their Durbar, the dwellings of their domestics, their mosques, stables, and Harems, are all situated within this fort; in which there are no gardens, no Maidan, or open square, for the purpose of exercise, or for ventilating the intricate mass of dwellings which are heaped together in close disorder, and are all surrounded by a high wall, which is overtopped only by a large round tower, the most conspicuous building in the citadel, and by two or three bungalows, in which the Ameers reside. Within this stronghold the princes of Sind live immured, and seldom go out except for hunting, in which amusement, however, they seldom indulge more than once or twice a year.’ (Report of J.F.Heddle, Assistant Surgeon, Bombay Medical Establishment, May 1836, Selections. 449 – 450).


Steel engraving by Dureau and printed by Gilquin and Dupain. Published by Dufour Mulat and Boulanger, Paris, c. 1845.

33 The Fort at Hyderabad, c. 1845.

A print of French origin, used perhaps to illus­trate a translation of the narrative of a British traveller or officer, this picture seems to have borrowed heavily from the preceding composition which had already appeared in The Illustrated London News. Although certain cosmetic changes were made – the prominent palm-tree and the domed skyline of city of Hyderabad – the essential features of the earlier view including its obvious topographical inaccura­cies have been carried into this later picture.


Lithograph by Charles Haghe based upon a sketch by William Edwards,1843. Published in W. Edwards Sketches in Scinde (London, 1846), Plate 1.

The original notes to this plate read : ‘ The fort and city of Hyderabad was one of the strongest places in Scinde and is yet of great importance. The city occupies the site of the ancient Hindoo city of Neirumkote, and the foundations of both were laid in 1758 [sic] by Khan Ghullam Shah Kallora.

Here was the residence of the ex-Ameers of Scinde. The inner walls of the apartments are from four to five feet thick, and like the ceilings they are beauti­fully and elaborately painted in fresco and enriched with gilt cornices. All round the apartments par­ticularly of the Zenana were massive glass mirrors some being of great size, these were removed by the prize agents but the frames richly gilt and fixed in the wall still remain. The town is at the extremi: v- of a long range of buildings the entrance from which into the fort is seen.

Hyderabad was the chosen residence of the ex­Arneers of Scinde and their families, but their stronghold is now held by the European officers of the garrison. The fort crowns the summit of the scarped termination to a range of hills; and though on a near approach its defences are seen to be in a dilapidated state has from its great elevation and a large and lofty interior citadel, a very picture, clue appearance, gardens with thick clusters of trees . end the branch of the river flowing near the walls diver­sify the scene.’

The text concludes with an observation on the figures in the picture: ‘In the foreground appear, a group of native Belochees, and two women carrying water under their arms. They are peculiar to Hyderabad and this method of carrying the water, under the arm and not upon the head as is generally the custom, denotes superiority of castl[e].’ It is quite unlikely that Edwards would have made such a mistake; a more probable explanation is that his lithpgrapher in London, more practised with South Indian scenes, enhanced the composition by adding two local female figures, but depicted them dressed in incongruous bordered saris.


Lithograph by Charles Haghe based upon a sketch by William Edwards,1844. Published in W. Edwards Sketches in Scinde (London, 1846), Plate 3.

The Round Tower of Hyderabad fort, 1844.

‘In the centre of the fort there is a massive tower unconnected with the works, standing alone and overlooking the surrounding country on all sides. The round tower was the depository of a great portion of the wealth of the Ameers of Scinde, while Omercott in the Desert the birthplace of Akbar Khan held the treasure of the Khypoor branch of the family which was the accumulation of ages’ (Edwards, text to plate 3).

An earlier visitor to Hyderabad, Dr. James Burnes, who had visited the city in 1827 when he had gone there to attend to the senior Mir Murad Ali Khan, had seen the jewels of the Mirs. Dazzled by the spectacle, he wrote : ‘But of all the things which are calculated to engage the attention of a stranger on visiting the court of Sinde, none will excite his sur­prise more, or is really more worthy of observation, than the brilliant collection of jewels and armour in possession of the Ameers. A great part of their immense treasure consists in rubies, diamonds, pearls, and emeralds, with which their daggers, swords, and matchlocks are adorned, and many of which they wear as rings and clasps’ (Burnes (1831), 93 ).

The value of the total treasure can be gauged from the portion of 70,000 Pounds sterling which was only Napier’s share. Even then, Edwards who had joined Napier after the booty had been distributed but unlike Burnes had not actually seen the treasure while it was in the Round Tower, thought that some of it had been secreted out surreptitiously: ‘The riches of the round tower were estimated at not less than twenty million sterling, of which thirteen were calculated to be in money and the remainder in jewels, but a great portion of this vast wealth es­caped the search of the conquerors, having been most probably carried away by the ladies of the Zenana and their families, who were suffered to depart, much to the honour of the General who achieved the conquest, without being stripped of their ornaments’ (Edwards, text to plate 3).


Tinted lithograph by Charles Haghe based upon a sketch by William Edwards,1844. Published in W. Edwards Sketches in Scinde (London, 1846), Plate 3.

A coloured version of the same view of the Round Tower, such lithographs were hand-tinted and lightly varnished to give the effect of being a water-colour.


Lithograph by Charles Haghe based upon a ske by William Edwards,1844. Published in W. Edwa _ s Sketches in Scinde (London, 1846), Plate 4.

View from the Round Tower of Hyderabad fort, 1844

Edwards’ notes described the view to be had from top of the tower : ‘The Falailee river insulates the site of the Fort and the City of Hyderabad; it is a con­siderable stream during the rise of the Indus, but in the dry season it is scarcely knee deep. In extent and rich effect this view cannot be surpassed: as the scenery near Hyderabad is varied and extremely beautiful. The banks of the river are covered with lofty trees, and to the north west the distance is closed by a background of high land which relieves the monotony of the dingy sky and arid plains of the Delta. On the left appears the north west face of the Fort which forms the subject of Plate No.1 [see no. 34]; and on the right is a portion of the Pettah or Suburb of the city. At the distance of about fourmiles and a half flows the Indus, and in the middle distance is seen a pile called the Fakir’s Fort.’

Describing for his readers the life style of the deposed Mirs, Edwards continued: ‘Hyderabad recommended itself to the Ameers as a place of residence from its central situation, their hunting preserves being accessible by means of the river. They were also charmed with the climate for though very sultry during certain seasons of the year, it has a drier atmosphere than the Delta, and less exposed in its neighbouring country to inundation to most portions lower down, whilst it enjoys in common with lower Scinde the monsoon winds and a shorter duration of excessive heat than below Schewan.’

In the foreground can be seen a distinctive archi­tectural feature of the fort – its ‘ornamental kanguras, or merlons,’ which, according to a later archaeolo­gist of Sindh Henry Cousens, ‘at a distance, owing to their attenuated necks, look like rows of heads stuck upon stakes’

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