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From the 'Ante-natal' Scenario to the Present

Bilkiz Alladin

By Narendra Luther
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 423, Rs. 550.00


Until some years ago, there were hardly any books on the history of Hyderabad written in English by Indians, and historians and research scholars had to necessarily pour over Urdu and Persan manuscripts in the Archives Department and libraries. Then suddenly there was a spurt of them ranging from small pamphlet like booklets to lavish coffee-table publications. Narendra Luther’s first book was on Mohamed Quli, the poet-king of Golconda and the founder of Hyderabad city. This book, Hyderabad: A Biography was published first in 1998 by Orient Longman , and as the author says in his preface, was quickly sold out and there was a great demand for it. A new edition was published by Oxford University Press in 2004. This edition has been updated and has many additions, bringing it up to the present time. On the cover is a painting of the Charminar by M.F. Husain.   This edition also has footnotes which in the opinion of this reviewer makes the historical material doubly interesting. They were deliberately avoided in the earlier edition, as the author again explains, it is commonly believed that readers find footnotes distracting. A bibliography and a list of oral history narrators is also there. A great deal of history in Hyderabad is often hearsay. There are hundreds of persons who can give very different versions of the same event. There are also often very exaggerated. In the Charminar area, there is a saying that if an eagle flew, the local people would say a buffalo flew – “cheel oodhi, to bole bhes oodhi”. So the historian has to be very careful.   Condensing the history of two dynasties – the Qutb Shahs and the Asaf Jahs – and modern Andhra Pradesh, a total of four hundred and fifty years into three hundred and eighty-two pages could not have been an easy task, but the author has wisely picked out details of important events and lives and achievements of well-known personalities and knit them into an easily readable narrative.   Beginning with what he calls “the ante-natal scenario”, Luther describes how a small hillock becomes the Golkonda Fort, the capital of a kingdom and the seat of power of seven kings. The well-known love story of the prince and the dancing girl—Mohammed Quli and Bhagmati is described, and the building of the new city of Bhagnagar or Hyderabad, part fact, part fiction, part fantasy. Luther carries on, describing the rise ...

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