I began this walk with an intent to see the Sunday book bazaar in Sultan Bazaar and Abids area. And anything else that area may have in store. And what I found was an old market, some interesting buildings, an underground book bazaar, Rajasthani Chat, a Jain temple and lots of pigeons. The palace or the King Koti is something that this area is known as but the actual building remains elusive to the general visitor. And no request to see it is entertained, making it there but not there kind of structure.
King Koti Walking Tour at Hyderabad
Moazzam Jahi Market
We started from Moazzam Jahi Market, which with its tall clock tower is an easily recognizable structure. I had first seen its Silver model in the Nizam’s museum in Purani haveli a few months back. And since then I wanted to see this. A very geometric building that is circular on the outside with an inner promenade. But on top has three towers arranged in a triangle. Built in the early 20th century by the last Nizam Osman Ali, it was named after his second son Moazzam Jah and was meant to be a fruit market. Today on the outside you see big ice-cream shops, a bit on the side a perfumery and a hookah shop. And inside there are potters and grocery stores and yes a couple of fruit and vegetable shops too and meat shops at the end.
Open space inside the market is feeding ground for pigeons. As you walk down the arched corridor outside the shops you will see the striking blue shop doors against the dark grey stone of the building. Making it a pleasant play of bright and dull. But to see this you must go there before the shops open. And don’t worry early in Hyderabad means anytime till about 11:00 AM. On the other side, the bright red of the potter’s pots gives another contrast. And if this is not enough, stand before the Hookah shop to see all possible colors. Jambagh flower market was a part of this market but was shifted out a few years ago. Now you can only imagine what colors the flowers would have added to this market.
Heritage building – King Koti
As you see this planned market with covered corridors and open spaces, you wonder why any of the modern shopping mall designers have not looked at it and thought of an interesting design like this. That has shops, walking space, open air, sunlight and an interesting architecture that defines it. We could get access to the roof of the building. And it was good to stroll on the roof with red pots drying in the sun, towers telling tales of the gone by era and an empty open space in the middle of the crowded city area. You can see the top view of the market. And how this space at some point in time may have been used for open exhibitions or for kite flying competitions or just as a place to stand and watch the city go by.
From here we started tracing our steps towards Sultan Bazaar and saw some interesting buildings. There was this huge building that said ‘Bachelor Bldg’. And because of the font used, it felt like Bachelor Blog. That is what caught our attention and I assume it must have been a hostel for the single men. Then we saw another restaurant called ‘Taj Mahal’, that looked like an old cinema hall. When we checked we found that it was a high-end bar in the good old days. Then we saw this series of usual street scenes like vendors selling fake garments for all possible brands, Juice Wallahs, and fruit carts.
As we passed through Troop bazaar that I assume would have been used by the troops sometime and is now a hardware market, we saw this interesting demo of a pump where green water was being pumped to gain attention.
We reached Sultan Bazaar / Abids to see the book vendors lining the roads with books right outside the big bookshops and the first reaction was happy. But we soon realized that since educational institutes surround the area only textbooks are sold here. A sign saying bookshops led us to an underground subway that must have been built as an underpass for the busy road. But is now a full-fledged book market. A long, narrow, dimly lit passage is lined with small bookshops on both sides right up to the staircase comes quite close to a bibliophile’s heaven. Except the place can be a lot cleaner and must have more variety of books.
I think book corners like this would be a great idea in the cities struggling for space and people looking for some solace from the crowds. People like me can spend hours in such alleys alienated from the real world and lost in the imagined world.
While you are here, you cannot miss the Gokul chat that I was told is a must visit for anyone in the city. It turned out to be an authentic Rajasthani chat. The place is known for the terrorist attack that it faced a few years ago. And since then they have removed the sitting arrangement. And now you have to go through the security check and eat standing. From here we wanted to go to King Koti, the palace, but there were surprises on the way.
There is Small Park behind the Gokul chat that is a marked place for pigeons and belongs to Pigeon Welfare Association with a colorful pigeon house towering in the middle. There is a board that even tells you that it is a private colony. You can see thousands of pigeons in this small place. You can enter the park and feed the pigeons if you like, but that is all you can enter it for. This was the surprise element of this walk.
As you walk out of the Pigeon Park in the opposite direction you walk through an archway that was probably meant to be a community gate sometimes. As you come out you would be taken aback by the sudden chaos of a marketplace with vendors all around and customers pushing around. In this street, there is a Shvetambar Jain temple. A typical structure in white marble that is very peaceful inside almost opposite of what the street outside is. We sat here for some time, maybe to feel the peace or to re-charge our batteries after walking around and to prepare for the next leg of the walk. Actual palace is a bit of a walk from here.
A part of the palace has been converted into a hospital so you can walk into it and see it. But the actual palace is still a private property and us besides the security guards is guarded by tall walls all around it. The walls are so tall that you cannot even have a glimpse of the palace. The hospital part though gives you a fair idea of how the place must be. The KK mark that adorns the building has an interesting story behind it.
Story of KK mark
It is said that the palace was built by an Amir called Kamal Khan. And he had put his initials everywhere on the palace. Probably hoping that this would help his palace escape the Nizam’s eye. But as the fate would have it, Nizam liked it and took it away. Since the whole place had Kamal Khan’s initials, Nizam decided to call the place King Koti to match the initials. Well, when a king wants something he will have it, this way or that way.
A very simple walk dotted with small but interesting things but still managed to pack the surprise that every walk must have.
Thanks, Sriram and Andrew for being my companions on this walk.
Hyderabad walking trails by me are here, choose your preferred ones and explore.