Charminar is a monument and mosque located in Hyderabad the capital city of the south Indian state of Telangana. Its name literally means “four minarets” – and as the name suggests, it has four large minarets which are its identification marks. It is a major landmark in Hyderabad city and is often listed among the most recognized and must-visit structures in India. Owing to its architectural similarity, Charminar is often termed as ‘’Arc de Triomphe of the East’’.
Built 400-years ago by Sultan Muhammed QuliQutb Shah, the 5th Sultan of the illustrious Qutb Shahi dynasty, Charminar is the centerpiece around which the city of Hyderabad is inhabited. A significant part of the history of Hyderabad, the Sultan constructed this edifice right after he shifted his capital from Golkonda to Hyderabad.
According to historians, the scarcity of water and the plague that affected Golkonda compelled Quli Qutub Shah to construct a new city for his people. He then prayed to the Almighty and took an oath to build a mosque at the same location if the sufferings of his people will seize. Another legend that is associated with the construction of Charminar is that the Sultan saw his beloved, the gorgeous Baghmati, at the current site and the built a monument representing his love unending love for her. This romantic legend gained popularity among the masses but does not go along with the historical dates. Apart from this, the inscriptions carved during laying off the foundation stone translates as ‘’Fill this of mine city with people as You have filled the river with fishes O Lord’’, which indicates that the construction of Charminar was simultaneous with the founding of the city.
The Charminar has been constructed at the juncture of the historical trade route that links the market of Golkonda with the port city of Machhilipatnam. From the time of its construction, the city of Hyderabad was designed keeping the Charminar as its centerpiece and is sprawled around in four quadrants along the four fundamental directions. The structure was designed by Mir Momin Astarabadi of the Qutb Shahi dynasty who played a crucial role in the layout and preparation of the monument along with the new city. Several architects Persia were also invited to offer additional designs and suggestions.
The structure of the Charminar is a perfect square with individual side measuring 20m each. The inspiration for the structure has been taken from the shapes of Shiya Tazias built to commemorate the tragic death of Prophet Muhammaed’s grandson Hussain, at the battle of Karbala. The four grand arches of the structure are 11 m each and open to four different lanes on each side. The four minarets on each corner 56m high that houses two balconies and are adorned with small delicate domes and detailed carvings on the exterior walls. Inside these minarets, there are spiral staircases with 149 steps and 12 landings. The entire structure is a fine specimen of the Indo-Islamic architectural style with plenty of Persian influence as well. while the arches and the small domes are made according to the Islamic architecture, the minarets show Persian architectural influence. The intricate stucco floral designs on the ceilings, balconies, and exterior walls speak of Hindu architectural influence as well.
The oldest mosque of the city is inside the second floor of Charminar on the western roof while the eastern part of the structure served as the king’s court during the time of Sultan Qutb Shah. There are two galleries one over the other with the main gallery consisting of 45 uncovered prayer spaces that can accommodate more people during the Friday prayers.
The Charminar is open to visitors from 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM daily, on all days of the week. An entry ticket is needed to enter the monument, which will cost INR 20 per head, for Indian nationals. For non-Indians/foreign nationals, the ticket price is INR 250 per head.
The distance from Charminar to Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is 25 km, and it can be reached within 40 minutes by road. The nearest railway stations from Charminar are Hyderabad Deccan Railway station (4.1km away) and Kacheguda Railway Station (5.5km away), either of which can be travelled to under 20 minutes.
The heart and soul of the city of Hyderabad, the grand Charminar was built in 1591 by Muhammad QuliQutb Shah of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty. A mosque with four towering minarets on all its side, Charminar is an iconic symbol of the city’s legacy and a centerpiece around which the city was planned. Reflecting the composition of Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, the Charminar is a fine specimen of the ancient masterpiece with an even grand interior.