January 14, the National Kite Flying Day, was perfect for the purpose: sunny and windy with a stunningly clear blue sky! The markets around the city’s most famous monument Charminar were buzzing with kite merchants. Boys of all ages rushing to collect the spools and new shapes and glittering colours for the day. Got to love a nation whose grown men get excited about flying kites with their kids!
There’s even an International Kite Flying Festival in in Ahmedabad, Gujarati on the same day. The ancient belief is that this festival marks the awakening of the gods from their winter slumber, so why not get the kites flying to celebrate the welcoming back of the Sun. The rooftops of Hyderabad were filling up quickly as the kites rose up to amazing heights and the chasing and cutting in and out started in earnest! One of those times I wished I owned a digital SLR with a mega zoom lens! Those of you who couldn’t be here on this special day, please make sure you won’t miss the wonderful scenes of this ancient art form in the film Kite Runner, based on the book of the same title by Khaled Hosseini.
The Charminar is the signature of Hyderabad much the same way as the Taj Mahal is of Agra. Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of Hyderabad, built this spectalar structure in 1591 at the centre of the original city layout. It was said to have been built as a charm to ward off a deadly epidemic at that time. Four graceful minarets soar to a height of 48.7 meters. I found climbing the spiralling narrow stairs to the top worth every agonizing step to get the view of the old Hyderabad. The hustle and bustle of a busy Saturday market filled the air with the smells of fresh melons and figs, hair oil, sweat and the fumes of hundreds of auto rickshaws packed with 5 or more in the backseat made for 2. India on a Saturday afternhoon is unforgettable!
Chow Mohalla Complex
This wonderful compound was built in several phases by the Nizams between 1857-1869, and is now one of the Indian heritage sites, The four palaces were designed both in Moghal and European styles and have the most delightful and peaceful gardens to walk in. For the first time in months, I found myself NOT surrounded by hundreds of people as I strolled in the spectacularly serene setting soaking up the sun.
My day of hanging out in my new home town was topped by the walk up the Italian white marble stairs, cool and soothing under bare feet (shoes are not allowed) to this famous Hindu temple of Lord Venkateshwara which dominates the city skyline on Kala Pahad. The line up to get inside was too long, but the breathtakingly beautiful ornate decorations cascading in layers of marble kept me in a state of worship of the mastery of the craft alone. It is a good thing cameras are not allowed in this holy place;snapshots could never capture the divinity of this masterpiece.
So, when are you coming?