Amidst the colours, sounds and gaiety of local markets, Sultan Bazaar has its share of history
Photo: P.V. Sivakumar
WOMEN AT their haggling best caring two hoots for the `fixed rates' boards that stare at them. Push-carts parked in the middle of the road selling everything under the sun from `Chinese silks' to `Italian belts'. Petty vendors coming up with their own knick-knacks, the latest ear-shattering offer being ear buds. The enterprising among them thrust their wares before you realise what is happening, leaving you with little choice but to buy one.
Taking a furlong's stroll down this crowded street can be a test of endurance. Shoppers need that extra bit of physical strength and mental alertness in place. For there is no knowing how you will be tossed around on this busy road.
And there is no lifeguard here. If a horn-honking motorist spares you, you could be hit by an equally ferocious scooterist. Just when you jump to the other side and feel it was a great escape indeed, you run into a cyclist who gives you that dirty stare after nearly crashing into you. Or worse, you suddenly find yourself perilously close to a bovine ruminating on what this mad rush of people is all about.
That is good old Sultan Bazaar for you. In a city graduating into hypermarkets, giant bazaars and shopping malls, it looks anachronistic. You may not find anything royal left here.
But one of the oldest bazaars to be steeped in history, it has its own attraction going by the people who throng the place from dawn to dusk, a sizable chunk, of late, coming straight after disembarking from a district bus at the Central Bus Station at Imlibun not far away.
It is not all about bargaining and shopping here, from the stretch beginning at Andhra Bank, Koti and ending at the Sultan Bazaar crossroads. Do take time off and look up. Amid all the chaos, two buildings stand out on either side of the Jain Temple, famous for their Rajasthani style of architecture. There may have been many such buildings but most of them have given way to modern steel and concrete structures. These two still survive thanks to their listing as heritage buildings.
The first one built around 1910, now in the possession of the descendants of Raja Sukhdev Pershad, a business magnate of the Nizam's era, has all that a Rajasthani building could boast of and more.
There are projected wooden balconies, ornamental iron railings, intricate sunshades and the use of indigenous material like lime and mortar with carvings all over the place.
You look at it from any corner and not an inch of space is left without some decorative work of art. It simply leaves you wondering at the artistic bent of mind of the builder, the tonnes of patience and resources he had and the craftsmanship of the artisans.
A series of electric bulbs with glass shades dot the wooden border of the balcony and rafters inside the building, possibly for illuminating the building during Diwali.
Fitting well into its classification, it is a small residential building in traditional style in what could have been a row, typifying the architectural character of the entire neighbourhood, but for its usage for running a business.
For all their string of successes in their business, the trading communities migrating from Rajasthan and Gujarat never lost their moorings and showed their aesthetic sense in what they built, something that is hard to find these days. They made Hyderabad their home and contributed their mite to its cultural heritage.
"Yes, it is great to run a business that spans five generations from a heritage building. But maintaining it pinches you as the rents you get from the old tenants are a pittance. Somehow, we manage but for how long we don't know," says Ajay Agarwal, youngest of the large family of Pershads. Moving away from banking and other trades, they now have a plastic business. A huge banner with "Sri Jagadamba Plastics", written on it with plastic buckets, stools and tumblers, shrouds the beauty of the building.
The other one, Raja Bhagwandas Building, also in the same style, is three-storied and much bigger in size. Notwithstanding 20-odd tenants, it is in a dilapidated state. But a significant feature is the way the entire building looks like it is leaning onto the road. Hyderabad's own Leaning Tower?
The shopping and buildings apart, Sultan Bazaar has an over 150-year-old turbulent history. For over a century, it used to be called the Residency Bazaar, located close to the British Residency complex (now housing the Osmania University College for Women). It evolved as a suburb around the Residency over a period of time, a spillover of the overpopulated walled city across the Musi.
But the area's administration became a bone of contention between the Nizams and the British Residents, till it was resolved during the time of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan and T.H. Keyes, the British Resident. It was restored to the Nizam on June 13, 1933, when it was renamed Sultan Bazaar.
Historians of the time described the area as "territory neither assigned, ceded or annexed by conquest (by the British). Although laws of both Governments were identical and on broad principles, the existence of a separate administrative machinery with different judicial, revenue and public health institutions for a fraction of the city's population (that stayed around Residency), became a source of friction, misunderstanding and a clash of interest".
When the issue was finally resolved, the handing over ceremony was elaborate. Lt. Col. Amir Sultan, Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Nizam's police took charge from De La Condamine Ozanne, Superintendent, Cantonment Police, Secunderabad, "in the presence of a throng of spectators who watched the proceedings from the roadside".
Their curiosity gave way to cheer when shortly after, a party of the Nizam's police in buff coloured uniforms emerged smiling from the Residency building and proceeded to relieve and replace their khaki-clad British colleagues on duty at the Residency area".
So next time you shop at Sultan Bazaar, tread carefully and don't look down upon it. It's a bazaar wrapped in history.
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