Ranigunj or Rani Gunj is a very busy road with paradise hotel as the biggest landmark on it. You see a constant flow of traffic on this road and wonder what is there to walk on that road. While driving past this road many times, I could see some old structures and a bustling market. A few narrow lanes with roadside vendors selling all kinds of things. During these drives, I thought of walking from one end of Ranigunj road to the other, which is a good 2 km stretch.
Walking Tour of Ranigunj, Secunderabad
I started from the necklace roadside with Saidanima’s Tomb, which is right on the road. And stands out for its ornate stucco work and the pillar and dome structure which instantly tell you that this is standing to tell a story of another era. I entered the half-opened gate and was disappointed to see the grill all around the structure and a lock hanging in there. A small ASI stone plaque tells about who lies in this tomb. Thankfully the caretaker of the monument was around and he opened the gate for me. Saidani Ma who was the mother of a senior official in the time of VIth Nawab Mehboob Ali is buried here in an underground chamber. And Nawab Jung is buried on the ground floor in a corner of this building. There is another smaller grave probably belonging to a child.
Saidani Ma Grave
A small staircase leads to the lady’s grave downstairs, but the chamber is closed with a wooden door and no one is allowed there. The caretaker said it is cleaned every Friday and then locked for the rest of the week. Interestingly, only women are allowed to visit this tomb as the lady there was a parda-nasheen or a woman who stayed behind her veil and she did not want to come out even after her death. The architecture of the structure is a fusion of Mughal, Qutab Shahi, and Paigah styles. The stucco work on the walls inside and outside is very similar to Paigah tombs. The dome looks very Qutab Shahi while the arches create an ambiance of a Mughal baradari. Standing alone amongst the modern structures, it looks like an old soldier defending its side till it can.
Hanuman Math, Ranigunj, Secunderabad
From here I walked towards Secunderabad. You see a huge yellow building with windows all over. And few boards telling you the various Govt offices that work out of this office. Just a few meters ahead on the left was this shining orange colored Hanuman math. I again faced a locked door. And was told that the place is open only in the mornings and evenings. A reasonably sized ground has a small orange temple inside besides an old tree. The main door says it was built in the memory of a ‘Fakir Chand Moti Wale’. Who I assume would have been a wealthy trader living somewhere around this area. Bang opposite this was an old board pronouncing so-called Tanatasun & Sons.
The board seems to be the only things surviving from its hay days. Inside the place seems to be some kind of a godown cum workshop.
A little ahead I stopped at the Honda showroom to catch up with a friend, who added another dimension to my walk. He showed me some of the vintage cars being restored at the place. I got to see a shiny green Chevrolet that has been restored to its original glory. And looks absolutely new even though it is almost 80 years old. Another Rolls Royce was in an unrecognizable condition as it had been torn apart. But in few days that would give a good competition to the Chevy. I was amazed at the amount of money people spend on maintaining these vintage cars. But I must say the end result is worth it. The most amazing aspect of these cars is that they are still in running condition. And they still have more years left to them than any present-day car.
James Railway Station
After this delightful break, I moved on and just as I crossed the railway bridge. On the left was the old and original railway office and ticketing window of Central railways. It is a British era structure which is intact but in as filthy condition as it can be. Besides it, the staircase leads to the James St station that also has few signs of the bygone era. I wonder why this ticketing window is lying idle. Can it not be used productively in some way so that the structure is maintained and also remembered. Right now I am sure most people miss it in the midst of the garbage piles. Just opposite the ticketing window is a turquoise colored house with a colonial façade.
A little ahead, there is a huge tree around which a closet has been built. And painted green and few green flagposts, making the tree itself a place of worship. Not an unusual sight in India, but the way a closet has been built around the tree trunk is worth noting.
From here on there are many lanes on the right-hand side and a lot of them look interesting. I walked into one of the lanes and found this small but beautiful Jain temple in a typical Jain temple style with ornate torans in white marble. Besides the temple was a Jain Bhavan. Which I thought maybe Dharamshala where the visitors can stay. But what I could see was a huge hall probably a community hall used for functions. I believe there may be a huge trading i.e. Marwari or Gujarati community that may be inhabiting this area. And this is based on not only finding this temple but also based on the food stalls around this area that sell all kinds of chaats.
James Street Police Station Clock Tower, Ranigunj
A little ahead was the expected part of Ranigunj walk – Ramgopalpet police station or the James Street police station, as it was originally known. This is a heritage building with a clock tower on top. And a working police station for the area built sometimes in the 19th century with a clock tower fitted in 1900 CE by a local trader Ramgopal. It was an experience to go inside the police station and climb its narrow spiral staircase and reach the roof to see the clocktower closely. You get a good view of the road and the streets below. Somehow from the top, the roads do not look as crowded as they look from the ground level. This is the first time I saw a police lockup and when I told this to the officers there, they had a smile on their face.
A little ahead of the police station is another old building in red and green. Which is still being used as a traditional office with mattresses covered with white sheets instead of the almost a rule tables and chairs? I could not go into this private property. But this double-story structure may be a good example of preserving the past by using and maintaining it.
Parklane, Rani Gunj
From here I went to the Parklane that I had heard a lot about. Here you can see the commercial activity of all kinds. A thriving computer market, tailors, bookshops, factory outlets, people exchanging mutilated notes, agents selling holidays to Dubai, just about everything you need.
But there was one more surprise still waiting for me. It was the Montgomery hotel located at the end of Parklane. It is a heritage property and hence locked up and left to itself. The board there tells that this hotel opened sometime in late 19thcentury. And was patronized by army officers and was known for its bar. Sure you can see the walls painted with Bagpiper ads and a Budweiser board is all you can see through the gates. I had never heard of this heritage structure and was happy to find it at the end of my walk. I wish someone could show me the place. But then there was no one around there to open it, not sure if that is allowed also or not.
What an unexpectedly rich walk… There are quite a few by-lanes left, making a case for another walk in this area.
Recommend you read following travel blog on places to visit in Hyderabad.