Hyderabad’s Charminar ‘crying’ for preservation

By Prashant K. Nanda, IANS

Hyderabad : It’s breathtaking, majestic and historic but the 400-year-old Charminar, the iconic symbol of Hyderabad, is slowly becoming a victim of errant tourists and street vendors.

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Cement plasters are peeling, the intricate granite work on the Minar corners are chipping off, and the graffiti on the walls by tourists have marred its once splendid visage. The area around it has become a dumping ground, littered with food packets and used water bottles.

And the Charminar, built of granite, lime and mortar, is increasingly becoming darker due to air pollution.

As one climbs up the winding one-way staircase, one notices uncovered electrical wiring and live wire joints, which could prove dangerous to visitors.

“The place around Charminar is so dirty. Instead of beautifying the adjacent areas, authorities are allowing businesses to flourish,” said S.K. Raju, a tourist from Orissa’s Berhampur district.

“We all know that the old city is known for its colour and thriving business but all these can happen at some distance from the monument. The road to Charminar is clogged and all sorts of hawkers have surrounded it,” Raju told IANS.

Emperor Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah built the over 150-foot-tall structure in 1591 soon after he shifted his capital from Golkonda to what is now known as Hyderabad. A tribute to aesthetics, the structure is an epitome of architectural marvel. Atop the great monument are 45 prayer spaces that have small and large arches.

Said Mahesh Thappa, a security guard at the monument: “Tourists are defacing the walls. We have complained to the local authorities about the writings on the wall. It can only stop if visitors refrain from such activities.”

He added: “We have caught visitors defacing the walls, writing about their lady loves but were let off after being warned. We are private security guards and don’t have the right to punish them. I think people defacing the structure should be fined.”

Some tourists complain that government negligence and the greed of shopkeepers are degrading the architectural beauty.

“It is in a very bad shape compared to what it was four years ago. The number of hawkers has grown manifold and they do not hesitate to throw waste around the iron railings of Charminar,” said Aftab Ahemad, a resident of the city.

“Both shopkeepers and locals park their two-wheelers close to the monument and litter the surroundings. You will find litter even as you climb up the winding steps,” he said.

“Everyone is busy making money, but no one bothers about Charminar. It is crying but no one listens to it,” Ahemad, an IT professional, said with concern.

Byomkesh, another tourist, said that although the area was highly sensitive and a bomb blast had occurred at the nearby Mecca Masjid, security arrangements were still not adequate.

“Police were least bothered about frisking visitors entering the Charminar boundary and the metal detector is not functioning,” he said, while walking over a metal detector to prove his point.

Asked about the state of Charminar’s preservation, an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official in New Delhi said: “The state office is taking care of the monument. People have a habit of blaming officials, but why are they defacing the walls? They display their love by writing on monument walls. Shouldn’t they be responsible as well?”