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The Potharajus enjoying themselves during the Bonalu festival.

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Some of us fail to see what the fuss is about!

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HydandSeek as a book!

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The blog has remained dormant for sometime now…but I return with good news.

It is not often that something which starts as a simple creative side project eventually takes the form of a book and is on the shelves at bookstores, today.
The book has been conceptualised, designed and published by Blue Pencil Creative. It was launched at the Hyderabad Literary Festival 2015 and received great feedback and reviews.

If you are in Hyderabad you could pick up a copy of HydandSeek at any of these locations
BookPoint, Narayanguda
Saptaparni, Banjara Hills
The Secret Garden, Hotel Avasa, Madhapur

For those interested in procuring a copy of HydandSeek from other cities in India, please send an email to the[dot]bookpoint@orientblackswan[dot]com. You will receive instructions in an email. The payment mode is via bank transfer and the cost of the book is Rs 750/- including shipping.

As always, thank you all for your support and good wishes and get your copy today!

PS: Do follow us on our Facebook page for more recent updates.

Under cover

With the rains this year, I hope the farmers are able to yield a good crop, and the water tables have risen and the lakes in and around the city heave a sigh of relief. Rains are generally good, except for the kids engaging in the gully-cricket tournament.

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Iftar 2013

Iftar 2013

The Mecca Masjid decorated with lighting during the holy month of Ramadan this year. The image has been taken during Iftar when the roza(fast) is broken.

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Hyderabad’s favourite timepass – irani chai, biscoot aur gupshap

I have always been wary of walking into an Irani Cafe, a woman in such a place would stick out like a sore thumb. And not really a tea drinker myself(thanks to the lactose intolerance), I wondered why I would bother going to one.

I had heard good things about the chai as well as the osmani biscuits at the Nimrah cafe near Charminar, but was warned not to go there alone or as a ladies-only group. I had wrapped up a meeting in the part of town very quickly and had some time on hand. Perhaps it was the right time to check out the most celebrated teatime fare of the city. There was the usual crowd but being the month of Ramazan, I would guess it was on the lesser side.

I took a place outside, and as one is bound to in such a place, began to observe the people, the life, the haste as well as the leisure all right in front of the iconic monument of the city. The waiters seemed to take no notice of my presence and for some reason it did not bother me. I decided to take out my camera to take a few shots and reckoned it was always better to ask for permission to avoid a round of questions or angering anyone around. It seemed like the manager was in a good mood, when I told him that I was keen on documenting things that were essentially Hyderabadi, he insisted I start clicking only after I had my cuppa and some biscuits(on the house). This wasn’t the reception I expected, moreover it also served to mock my initial apprehensions. He looked disappointed when I told him of my allergy and agreed to let me carry on with my work.

Once I was done, I went to say thank you, and he handed me a box of osmani biscuits, “Do visit us again!”

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Film City – Sets

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I was at the Film City on some work and had a couple of hours to wait. Luckily with a car at my disposal at the site, I wandered around and made some shots. The film city bus rides do pass by some of these sets with the guides telling you which film scene was shot there I am not sure I can recognize any of them. Perhaps you do?

Needless to say some of these sets were under constructions.

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Navroz

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March 21 2013 Secunderabad Fire temple opposite Chermas

The place was decorated with unique and colourful rangoli and some simple torans and everyone who entered the temple greeted “Navroz Mubarak”. The Parsis dressed in all their finery, come together at the Fire Temple opposite Chermas to celebrate the first day of the Parsi new year. Everyone is seen holding the sacred kusthi and tying it around the waist before entering the temple. A Jashn or a special prayer takes place within the Agiary(Fire Temple) which is soon followed by food and revelry. Then everyone heads to the Seth Vicajee Seth Pestonjee Fire temple situated just behind the Chermas, a famous clothing store run by a gentleman from the same community. After the prayers, everyone is served Feluda and enjoy catching up with friends.

The evening usually has cultural activities at the Zoroastrian Club for which everyone meets once again.

Food is an important part of the celebrations but unfortunately I couldn’t stay long enough. This time I have made friends and perhaps next year I shall be able to blog about the cuisine as well.

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Ramazan Shopping

As it happens every year, the Eid shopping is a delight to the senses, a plethora of sights, sounds and not to forget the aroma of the delicious food that wafts around. A seasoned shopper might set out for great bargains. But the best possible reason to be there is a sum-total of the above – the experience!

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Bade Namaz

 

Muslims in the city of Hyderabad thronged to the largest mosque, the Mecca masjid on 17 Aug 2012, to offer their prayers on this holy day. Women offer their prayers from the premises of the Unani Hospital.

Text below from Wiki:

Also known as Jumu’ah-tul-Wida. Jumu’ah-tul-Wida  (Arabic: جمعة الوداع‎ meaning Friday of farewell, also called al-Jumu’ah al-Yatimah Arabic: الجمعة اليتيمة‎ or orphaned Friday) occurs on the last Friday in the month of Ramadan before Eid-ul-Fitr. Some Muslims regard this jumu’ah as the second holiest day of the month of Ramadan and one of the most important days of the year. Some Muslims spend a large part of their day on Jumu’ah-tul-Wida doing ibadah.

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Pulling the strings

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Its festive time with Id-ul-Fitr less than two weeks away. The main preparation for the festival is Sheer Korma and the primary ingredient is the vermiclli. The three brothers live together and engage themselves in making them. With their deft fingers they work the magic and in a matter of minutes they convert a lump of well kneaded dough into strings and leave them to dry. After about 5-7 minutes, a handful of these strings are then rolled and arranged into a swirl to be sold later.

Read more about the brothers and their trade here

Excerpt from wiki: – Sheer khorma or Sheer khurma (شيرخرما, literally “milk with dates” in Urdu) is a festival vermicelli pudding prepared by Muslims onEid ul-Fitr in Pakistan,India and Bangladesh. It is a traditional Muslim festive breakfast, and a dessert for celebrations. Sheer (شير), isPersian for milk and khurma(خرما) is Persian for dates. This dish is made from dried dates.

This special dish is served on the morning of Eid day in the family after the Eid prayer as breakfast, and throughout the day to all the visiting guests.

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Fresh water fish fried and sold as a delicious treat on the streets. The arrangement of the food is usually very important for the business

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Bonalu – Closing Day

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The final day of the Bonalu festival starts from the Akkanna Madana temple where the deity of the Goddess is carried on elephant top and proceeds to the Laldarwaza temple and back to the Charminar and finally proceeds towards the Nayapul. These processions seem to wear a very festive and carnival like atmosphere with drum beats dances and performers with elaborate costumes who dance with great energy through out.

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Laldarwaza Bonalu 2012

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On July 15, most of Hyderabad celebrated the Bonalu. A more historic venue of the celebration is at Lal Darwaza in the old city. More than 100 years ago, the Nizam’s Prime Minister Maharaja Kishen Perhsad prayed at this temple to provide relief the floods. Floods effected the whole of Hyderabad. and the flood waters reached the Charminar and went as far as Shah ali-banda which killing many people. It was believed that the epidemic which followed was the result of the anger of Mother Goddess (Ammavaru).When Maharaja Kishen Prasad offered  prayers to the Goddess, then the floods came down. Since then it became an yearly ritual when people in Hyderabad and Secunderabad started offering the Bonam(bhojanam) during a Sunday in the month of aashaadam to safe gaurd from all evils. The offerings consist of cooked rice, jaggery, curd, water and other dishes which are brought in the pots and are given to the Goddess in the temples.

The Goddess at the Laldarwaza Mahankali temple is known as Simhavahini.

We first reached Akkana Madanna temple and proceeded to the Lal Darwaza temple. When we reached the venue, we were in time for the ceremony called the Potharaju Swagatham where a Potharaju would lead a procession of ladies carrying pots on their heads and enter a temple.

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Yellamma Temple Bonalu 2012

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The Sunday following the Bonalu celebrations at Secunderabad at the Ujjaini Mahankali Temple, the rest of Hyderabad celebrates the festival. The more grand and prominent of these occur at Balkampet’s Yellamma temple as well as the Old City’s Laldarwaza.

Here I present a series of visuals at the Balkampet Yellamma temple on Jul 15, when Bonalu was celebrated.  I couldn’t stay long enough to witness the Potharaju and the other processions.

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Lashkar Bonalu 2012

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After the Bonalu kicks off at Golconda fort it is celebrated in Secunderabad. The Mahankai Bonalu Jathara  is probably the most grand celebration of the Bonalu in the twin cities with the largest turnout. The energy and the spirit of the festival must be experienced to be believed.

The preparations for the festival happen on a grand scale where flowers and pots are decorated. The arrangements are made for separate queues for the devotees.

The text below is from Times of India.

A slice of history, women with colourful pots, a man dancing to the sound of reverberating drum beats and what have you?

The festival’s history can be traced to as recent as the 18th century, unlike most other festivals whose ancestry can be traced back to the hoary past. The story has it that in 1813, Suriti Appaiah, a ‘doli’ bearer in a military battalion, was transferred to Ujjain. Cholera broke out in Hyderabad around that time claiming thousands of lives.

Appaiah and his associates went to the Mahankaal temple in Ujjain and prayed that if people were saved from the epidemic, they would install the idol of Mahankali in Secunderabad. On their return, they installed a wooden idol of the goddess in Secunderabad in July 1815. This was replaced with a stone statue in 1964.

Following brahminical traditions, all hoary Hindu festivals are marked by astrological precision: their timings marked in terms of the sun/moon entering certain constellations in certain months. But Bonalu is a festival of the farming and lower classes and is certainly not brahminical. So the timing of the celebrations are not so rigorous.

Bonalu is celebrated in various parts of the city on different days, all Sundays. On the first Sunday of ‘aashaada’, celebrations are held at the temple at Golconda fort. On the second Sunday, at Ujjain Mahankali in Secunderabad, and the third Sunday, at the Matheswari temple of Lal Darwaza in Old City.
B Narsing Rao, a social activist says: “The celebrations begin at theGolconda, on July 22, followed by Secunderabad on July 29 and at the OldCity on August 5”.
Bonalu involves the worship of Kali and her various forms. She destroys disease and keeps pestilence at arms length. Narsing Rao adds: “Three deities — Maisamma, Pochamma and Elamma, are worshipped. The performances are marked by an element of agression. Potharaju, a masculine power, is believed to weed out all evils. Earlier, they used to sacrifice a he-buffalo. Now, goats or chickens are sacrificed to ward off the ‘evil spirit’. During Bonalu, colourful brass pots, smeared with haldi and kumkum, and decorated with neem leaves are offered to the goddess. The pots usually contain a mixture of raw rice, jaggery, and milk. Sometimes, curd is also used. G Shankar, who lives near the Mahankali temple in Secunderabad, says: “A month before the actual festival begins, there is a ritual called ‘ghatam’, wherein the deity is decked up with flowers and taken to the doorstep of those who cannot come to the temple”.
He adds: “On the first day of Bonalu, ‘phalaru bandulu’, a buffalo cart, laden with fruits is taken around (phalaru means fruits and bandlu, cart). On the second day of the festival, a ritual known as ‘rangam’ is held. Here, a woman stands on a wet clay pot and makes predictions. This is held mostly between8.30 am and 9.30. An hour later, a procession is taken out on an elephant up to Mettuguda. Earlier, Mettuguda was the border of the city. To this day, the tradition continues”.
“There’s a lot of revelry attached to the festivities. Since animal sacrifice is banned at the temples, people mostly do it at home”, says Shankar.
“Bonalu is celebrated in the Old City too. There are three main temples that celebrate the festival: Akkanna Madanna temple in Haribowli, Muthyalu temple in Shah Ali Banda and the Mahankali temple at Lal Darwaza.”
However, of these, celebrations at the 400-year-old Akkanna Madanna temple are the most popular. A bonalu procession is taken around the area on an elephant with the image of goddess Mahankali. Ayub Khan, who has seen Bonalu celebrations for long says that fifty years ago, Muslims too would participate in this festival. “In fact, one year, a Muslim was the potharaju.” Ujjain Mahankali temple’s executive director K Krishnaswamy says: “Every year, lakhs of devotees congregate to pay obeisance to Mahankali. Since some areas in Bidar and Maharashtra were part of the Nizam’s dominions, people from those areas also come here to take part in the celebrations”.Other than these big temples, many villages have their own version of the festival. Gandicheru, a tiny hamlet tucked away near theRamoji Film City, celebrates it by worshiping a small idol of Poshamma mata, decorated with vermillion and turmeric.
Lalithamma, who has been part of this for over 50 years says: “Every year, a family spends around Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 for Bonalu. We start decorating the pots with haldi, kumkum and neem leaves and by evening, we are all set for the procession. This goes on till midnight”, she says. “The purpose behind this ritual”, chips in another veteran Gangamma is that “our children should remain healthy” Source: Times of IndiaHyderabad21 July 2007

Bonalu 2012

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The month-long Bonalu festival started last Sunday(Jun 24) at the Golconda Fort. Every Sunday ladies would make offerings to the Goddess and carry it to the temple in decorated pots. They are at times accompanied by strong able bodied men who are smeared with a lot of turmeric, wear a garland of lemons and carry whips made of ropes.

One can read more about the festival on wiki 

Over years the festivals(not just this one) seem to get louder and more ostentatious. There are some occurrences that I have noticed for the first time and shall add them as captions. If you have anything to add please do leave a note as a comment(s).

Over the following weeks, I shall try cover the festival at various parts of the city.[Please watch out for this space]

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The ever-changing landscape of the city!

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Grilled Delights!

Of the immensely popular street food on the streets of old city Hyderabad, the kebabs deserve a special mention.

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Kids rallying amidst celebrations of the Milad-un-nabi 2012.

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People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. – Joseph Fort Newton

The arid vegetation around the Golconda fort during a summer morning might make you wonder if it’d look more appealing during a monsoon evening. Perhaps I shall revisit the place in a few months to find out!

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Flying Colours

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Patang, maanjha, charkha, pench, dheeel and …… kaatteeey!!

Happy Lohri /Pongal/ Makar Sankranthi!!

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Kalyani Nawab Maqbara

The tomb is all that remains of the Kalyani Nawab ki Devdi. The ornate arches, colourful tile work , delicate stucco surround the  filigree-worked marble grave which lies amidst many other graves would most certainly remind one of the Paigah tombs.

Kalyani Nawab hailed from Kalyani in Bidar and came to Hyderabad in the late 18th century. His residence was known as Kalyani Nawab Ki Devdi and he was buried in the same residence when he died, so the place also came to be known as Maqbara Kalyani Nawab.

Incidentally this site was also the birthplace of the Kalyani Biryani, a biryani supposedly made out of beef and equally aromatic and palatable and available at less than half the cost. The devdi served two meals a day to guests (from their estates in Kalyani) who were staying in Hyderabad. When fortunes dwindled and the expenses soared the recipe for the biryani was modified without the knowledge of the Nawab and is still well know today.

Never ceases to amaze me how there are so many tales waiting to be told in these lanes and bylanes!

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Iftar

Iftar at Mahboob Chowk Mosque – Ramzan 2011

Text from wikipedia below:

Iftar (Arabic: إفطار‎), refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is done right after Maghrib (sunset) time. Traditionally, a date is the first thing to be consumed when the fast is broken.

Many Muslims believe that feeding someone iftar as a form of charity is very rewarding and that it was practiced by Prophet Muhammad.

In places like Hyderabad, people break their fast with Haleem because it has a rich taste and is quite filling.

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Charminar@night on the Independence Day Night. As seen from the top of Unani Hospital. At twilight many break the Roza and hence the vendors lined around selling fruits!

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Choodi Bazaar

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One of the preliminary steps involved in making the famous Hyderabadi lac bangles would be to flatten the base aluminium rings. Going by the number of bangles seen in the image, it is not hard to imagine how many lac-bangles are made in a day.

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Hyderabadi Dum ki

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– Biryani from the famous Paradise Hotel.

Recipe and text courtesy http://spicyindiankitchen.wordpress.com/2008/03/16/hyderabadi-dum-ka-mutton-biryani/

Hyderabad is famous for its Dum Biryani. Hyderabad is famous for its Dum Biryani.Hyderabad is famous for its Dum Biryani. It is a traditional celebration meal made using goat meat and rice and is the staple of a die-hard Hyderabadi. The Hyderabadi Biryani is so named as it is created in the city of Hyderabad, India. The blending of mughlai and Telangana cuisines in the kitchens of the Nizam (ruler of the historic Hyderabad State), resulted in the creation of Hyderabadi Biryani.

Ingredients

Mutton – 1 lb
Basmati Rice – 1 lb
Kesari food color – 1/4 tsp
Butter – 3 tsps
Onion – 3 large
Milk – 10 tsps
Ginger Garlic Paste – 2 tsps
lemon – 1
Eggs – 5 Boiled
Green Chillies – 1
Chopped Cilantro – 2 cups
Mint Leaves – 1 whole bunch
Spices
Cloves – 10
Cinnamon Sticks – 10 medium
Anise Star – 2
Elachi – 10
Bayleaves – 5
shajeera – 1 tsp
Jeera – 2 tsp
For Marinating Mutton
Yogurt – 1 cup
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Green Chillies slit (small) – 2
Ginger Garlic Paste – 3 tsps
Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
half lemon squeezed juice – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 2 tsps

Wash Mutton thoroughly. Make medium sized pieces of Mutton and marinate the same with all the above ingredients for atleast 24 hours.Procedure
1) Cook basmati rice with half of all the spices, salt, 1 tsp butter (not completely cooked)
2) Drain water from rice and keep it aside.
3) Take a big vessel and add 2 tsps butter, 3 tsps oil. Dice 1 onion and start frying it in the vessel. Add copped Mint Leaves to the same.
4) Crush Anise Star into powder. Add the same along with remaining spices, slit green chillies and fry.
5) After the onions are cooked, add 2 tsps Ginger Garlic paste and fry it until the raw smell disappears.
6) Add the marinated mutton and let it cook until almost done. The curry should come together. I normally cook mutton in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles or until done.
7) Add salt if necessary. Add 2 tsps Shan Biryani Masala (Sindhi Biryani) and 2 tsps Garam Masala Powder. Cook it for 5 more minutes and turn off the stove.
8) Take milk in a container, warm it. Add kesari color to the milk. Add 2 cups of cooked rice to the same and mix it well. Keep it aside.
9) Cut 2 Onions thinly sliced length-wise. Fry them in butter+oil until it gets a good brown color (caramalized) and keep it aside for Garnishing.
Layering
1) Preheat oven at 375 deg.
2) Take a deep bottomed alluminium tray. Butter its inside walls properly.
3) Keep one cup of cooked rice aside. Divide each of rice, mutton curry, coriander leaves, caralamized onions and saffron colored rice into 2 portions.
4) Add one layer of rice (1/2), one layer of mutton curry ( 1/2 ), one layer of coriander leaves, one layer of caramalized onions ( 1/2) and one layer of Saffron colored rice ( 1/2) in the same order.
5) Repeat this process for one more time with the rest of the portions in the same order. So, the top most layer now is saffron colored rice. Layer it with 1 cup of cooked rice that we kept aside in Step 3.
6) Garnish it Cilantro. Make holes for eggs on the top layer. Make 2 halves of each egg. Place eggs in the holes we made.
7) Place the tray in the oven carefully and cook the same for 40 mins. Check if the rice is cooked. Ifnot, keep the tray back in the oven and cook until done.
8) After it is done, allow the biryani to rest in the oven for 10 more minutes. Take the tray out and squeeze half lemon on the top and mix it slowly.Biryani tastes great with Kheera Raitha and Mirchi Ka Salan.

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Kettles

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“Polly put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea” – Charles Dickens

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Take on daily life

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Always wondered if “reel life” mimics (or drew inspiration from) “real life” or vice versa!

I was only trying to frame the actor/poster(on the bus) wondering which real life subject would be good to include in the frame. And the lady hurriedly ran past in the hope of catching a bus in front of this one.

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