Architecture · Daily Life · Monument

Charkaman – Introduction

The text below is an excerpt from an article published in the Hindu titled Glory of the Gates – http://www.hindu.com/mp/2004/03/10/stories/2004031000490300.htm. The following posts will talk about the four arches that stand in front of the Charminar.
When the fifth Qutb Shahi poet-king, Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah conceived the plan for the new city of Bhagyanagar – later Hyderabad – a few miles from the overcrowded Golconda Fort town, he wanted it to be “a replica of paradise, unequalled in the world”.

Among the chroniclers of the time, some described it as mythical, some saw in it a poetic metaphor – the Sultan being the first Urdu poet to boast of a diwan – and yet others, that he really meant it. After all, sultans dream big and this section of chroniclers vouch that he came close to achieving it at least in creating that aura. The piazza, gardens, fountains, boulevards, palaces, sarais all set to a grand scale lent the city a breathtaking image in the late 16th Century, leaving a lasting impression on foreign travellers and traders who visited the city. For Abul Kasim Ferishta (1570-1623), who came after seeing the great Mughal cities of Agra and Lahore, there was “no city as grand and as impressive as Hyderabad”. French traders and travellers like Tavernier and Thevenot had similar impressions.

The city’s plan itself looked mythical. In tune with the Sultan’s imagination, the city was planned on a “grid-iron” pattern in the form of a giant double cross with two main intersecting roads, 60 feet wide running north-south and east-west. The intersection of two main roads, marked the city centre where Charminar was built in 1591, the city’s enduring landmark. Giving shape to the Sultan’s dream plan was his trusted poet – prime minister, Mir Momin Ashtrabadi, who introduced elements of his native Iranian city of Isfahan.

After the completion of Charminar, about 250 feet to its north, the great piazza of four lofty arches known as Char Kaman was built in 1592, in perfect symmetrical scale. These arches are separated from their centre by 375 feet and the space between two arches facing each other is 750 feet. The dimension of each of these arches is simply gigantic. Each of them is 60 feet high, 36 feet wide at the base and six feet in thickness. So imposing are they that in the past a huge caparisoned elephant carrying a canopy could easily pass through them. The effort that might have gone into their building was stupendous. The Char Kaman and the Charminar formed part of a “conscious urban design scheme of the Qutb Shahis. One cannot be separated from the other”.

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