The Charminar, built in 1591 CE, is a monument and mosque located in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. The landmark has become a global icon of Hyderabad, listed among the most recognized structures of India. The Charminar is on the east bank of Musi river. To the northeast lies the Laad Bazaar and in the west end lies the granite-made richly ornamented Makkah Masjid. The English name is a transliteration and combination of the Urdu words Chār and Minar, translating to "Four Towers"; the eponymous towers are ornate minarets attached and supported by four grand arches.
Early in the 1580's the 5th ruler of Golconda Sultanate, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah planned to shift his capital 5 miles (8.0 km) away from Golkonda and commissioned a new capital city to be constructed by Raja Ram Jagirdar,on the south-west banks of the Musi River. Shortly after Qutb Shah had shifted his capital from Golkonda to what is now known as Hyderabad, the Charminar is the first structure to be constructed. Though the Charminar lacks a foundation inscription and date of its construction is specifically unknown, multiple myths had been recorded by the historical travellers, academic scholars and historians. Some of the popular myths that are in close accord with the monument's architectural actual appearance.
Design and construction
The Charminar was constructed by Qutb Shah, who had also laid its foundation, The monument was intended to serve as a Mosque and Madraasa. Mir Momin Astarabadi, the prime minister of Qutb Shah was played a leading role to prepare the layout plan for the Charminar along with the new capital city (Hyderabad), the additional eminent architects from Persia were also invited to develop the city plan. the structure is of Indo-Islamic architecture style, incorporating Persian architectural elements in the structure.
The entire city of Hyderabad was designed around the Charminar, which was constructed on the old trade route that connects the markets of the Golconda with the port city of Masulipatnam. Constructed at the core of the old Hyderabad, standing on the intersection of the two main historical trade routes, towards the north is the four gateways constructed in the cardinal directions. The city was spread around the Charminar in four different quadrants and chambers, seggregated according to the established settelment.
Charminar has the signature style of Islamic architecture. The structure is made of granite, limestone, mortar and pulverised marble. Initially the monument with its four arches was so proportionately planned that when the fort was opened one could catch a glimpse of the bustling Hyderabad city as these Charminar arches were facing the most active royal ancestral streets.
There is also a legend of an underground tunnel connecting the Golkonda Fort to Charminar, possibly intended as an escape route for the Qutb Shahi rulers in case of a siege, though the location of the tunnel is unknown.
The Charminar is a square structure with each side 20 meters (approximately 66 feet) long, with four grand arches each facing a fundamental point that open into four streets. At each corner stands an exquisitely shaped minaret, 56 meters (approximately 184 feet) high with a double balcony. Each minaret is crowned by a bulbous dome with dainty petal like designs at the base. Unlike the Taj Mahal, Charminar's four fluted minarets are built into the main structure. There are 149 winding steps to reach the upper floor. The sturcture also known as profuseness of stucco decorations and arrangement of balustrades and balconies.
A mosque is located at the western end of the open roof and the remaining part of the roof served as a court during the Qutb Shahi times. The actual mosque occupies the top floor of the four-storey structure. A vault that appears from inside like a dome, supports two galleries within the Charminar, one over another, and above those a terrace that serves as a roof, bordered with a stone balcony. The main gallery has 45 covered prayer spaces with a large open space in front to accommodate more people for Friday prayers.
The clock on the four cardinal directions was added in 1889 and there is a Vazu(water cistern)in the middle with a small fountain for Ablution before offering prayer in the Charminar Mosque.
The area surrounding Charminar is also known by same name. The monument overlooks another and grand mosque called the Makkah Masjid. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, commissioned bricks to be made from the soil brought from Mecca, the holiest site of Islam, and used them in the construction of the central arch of the mosque, thus giving the mosque its name. It formed the centerpiece around which the city was planned by Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah.
A thriving market exists around the Charminar: Laad Baazar is known for jewellery, especially exquisite bangles, and the Pather Gatti is famous for pearls. In its heyday, the Charminar market had some 14,000 shops.
In 2007, Hyderabadi Muslims living in Pakistan constructed a small-scaled quasi replica of the Charminar at the main crossing of the Bahadurabad neighborhood in Karachi. An artistic monument of Charminar made of 50 Kilograms of Chocolate and 3 days of labor, was on display at The Westin, Hyderabad, India. Lindt chocolatier Adelbert Boucher created the scaled model of Charminar which was on display on September 25 and 26, 2010.