Hyderabad is most famous for its charming minarets - Charminar. The city is often identified with the majestic Charminar which stands at the center of the old city in all its splendor amidst the colorful shops of Ladbazaar with its glittering traditional bangles.
Often called "The Arc de triomphe of the East", Charminar was built in 1591 by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah and is a beautiful structure with four intricately carved minarets. Enormous in its size, this imposing monument exudes a charm that is more than 400 years old!
The Charminar and its bustling bazaars is where the spirit of old Hyderabad lives on. It's here, that you will find age-old nahari stalls that serve the steaming sheep's-trotter broth and kulchas that form the traditional Hyderabad breakfast even today. Try to come is just before sunrise on a winter morning, when there's still a slight shiver in the air and the echoes of the azaan -- the call to prayer - wraps the city.
The Charminar is a square edifice with four grand arches each facing a cardinal point that opened once upon a time into four royal streets. At each corner stands an exquisitely shaped minaret, more than 55 meters high with a double balcony. Each minaret is crowned by a bulbous dome with dainty petal like designs at the base.
A beautiful mosque is located at the western end of the open roof and the remaining part of the roof served as a court during the Qutb Shahi times.
About 149 winding steps guide the visitor to the upper floor. Once atop, the solitude and serenity of the beautiful interior is refreshing. The space in the upper floor between the minarets was meant for Friday prayers. There are forty-five prayer spaces.
The summit of Charminar offers an excellent panoramic view of the city. Even as one turns towards the Golconda fort, the mind goes back into time and recapitulates the past glory of Hyderabad during the Qutb Shahi times. It is indeed baffling for a visitor to come to terms with the reality now. The Charminar which was once surrounded by royal piazzas is today encompassed by skyscrapers and the bustling modern city life. But inspite of all this, nothing can wane the elegance of Charminar!!
It's here that you'll find the traditional teahouses, known for their hearty repartee and their burqe-vali-chai ('tea that wears a veil' -- a reference to the thick layers of cream on top). Then there are all the narrow little streets with their specialist trades: the street of the silver-beaters, the street of the flower-sellers, the street of the apothecaries and, of course, Laad Bazaar, the street of the bangle-sellers. Named, perhaps appropriately, after a pampered Qutub Shahi princess, Laad Bazaar is lined on one side with shops selling brightly coloured glass bangles -- and on the other side, with those selling traditional Hyderabadi cosmetics, bridal accessories and attar, or perfumes.
Built with granite and lime-mortar, the Charminar is a fine example of the Cazia style of architecture. The intertwined arches and domes are typical of the Islamic architecture. The graceful floral motif atop the Charminar is enchanting!
The Charminar depicts the Indo-Saracenic tradition - a symbiosis of the Hindu and the Muslim traditions, which has woven the magic of a rich Deccani culture. The nightly illumination of Charminar is spectacular.