Temple ideas

Is Bhagyalaxmi Temple in Charminar expanding?

Hyderabad: It is no secret that the existence of the Bhagyalaxmi Temple on the historic Charminar is a matter of dispute. Regardless of the fact that it is actually an unauthorized construction, the temple seems to be slowly expanding into the area bit by bit.

Heritage lovers and activists point out that after the COVID-19 lockdown, the Charminar’s Bhagyalaxmi Temple started to take up more space. The temple, located in the old city of Hyderabad, today occupies almost the entire northeast minaret of the monument, thanks to the police barricades surrounding it. All this has only favored the expansion.

The immediate heritage precinct of the Charminar, and the monument itself, are encroached upon by the erection of barricades as well as barracks to accommodate security personnel, fences and gates and have become a permanent feature.

The Bhagyalaxmi Temple has also become increasingly important thanks to the political patronage it has enjoyed for some years. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also regularly made it a point to start its important programs from there. Activists point out that even ministers of state and other leaders of the ruling TRS visit him and seek God’s blessings, thereby legitimizing him.

“The police have added barricades and poles (recently). Politically, after 2015, the temple began to gain prominence. In 2012, a lawsuit was filed against the expansion of the Bhagyalaxmi Temple. The High Court closed it saying it shouldn’t expand further. The ASI failed to protect the Charminar,” said SQ Masood, an activist from Hyderabad’s Old City.

The heavily barricaded Bhagyalaxmi temple at the southeast pillar of the Charminar. (Photo: Yunus Lasania)

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has indeed maintained on more than one occasion that the temple on the Charminar is not permitted. The Bhagyalaxmi Temple appeared in the 1960s and has been there ever since. The monument was built in 1591 as the foundation of Hyderabad by Mohd Quli Qutb Shahi, the founder of the city.

Prior to the construction of the Charminar, Golconda Fort (in Telangana) was a fortified city, from where the first three Qutb Shahi kings had ruled. The Golconda or Qutb Shahi dynasty existed from 1518 to 1687, until Hyderabad was conquered by the Mughals.

When contacted by Siasat.comASI officials who wished to remain anonymous, the temple is not expanding and the changes that were made were temporary.

“Encroachments into protected monuments and protected areas may be removed in accordance with the provisions contained in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 and the rules 1959 made thereunder,” said the lawyer based in Hyderabad, Mounis Abidi, who resides in Hyderabad. Old town, near the Charminar.

He pointed out that Superintendent Archaeologists are also authorized to issue evidence notices under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 and Rules 1959, followed by an instruction to the Collector of District/Magistrate by Central Government to remove such encroachment under Section 19.(2) of the Act and Rule 38(2).

“In order to contain the encroachments and remove them, the Chief Archaeologist in charge of the Circles has been vested with the powers of an estate agent to issue eviction notices/orders to the encroachments under the Premises Act 1971 (eviction of unauthorized occupants),” Abidi said. Siasat.com

The origin of the temple

The Charminar was built in 1591 as the foundation of Hyderabad, when Mohd Quli Qutb Shah decided to leave Golconda Fort. He relied on the idea of ​​his father, Ibrahim Qutb shah, to build a new city.

According to the ancients who saw the temple rise, the Charminar originally had four milestones around it. Unsubstantiated stories say that a small stone was first worshiped by a woman seeking alms in front of the monument for years.

An archive image of the Charminar from the book ‘Hyderabad: A Souvenir’, which shows it without the Bhagya Laxmi Temple. (Photo: Yunus Lasania)

Although some claim that the Bhagyalaxmi Temple was built in the late 1960s, however, it was in the 1970s that the first complaint was made on the matter by the ASI. What is certain is that the religious structure is not allowed.

Masood added that the district administration, including the GHMC, also “helped” the unauthorized Bhagyalaxmi Temple by giving it a power line. “Whatever the MA&UD is planning now as part of its Charminar urban project, it should focus on protecting the Charminar,” he said. Siasat.com.

The ASI, which is the guardian of Charminar and Golconda fort in Hyderabad, has also been writing letters to the state for decades to move unauthorized construction. This was also mentioned by former ASI Chief Archaeologist of Hyderabad Circle, Milan Kumar Charley during a lecture on the monument in 2019.

Activists also said that as early as 1977 itself, the ASI wrote a complaint to the Hyderabad Police regarding the construction of the Bhagyalaxmi Temple on the Charminar. According to sources, Superintendent Archaeologist, South-Eastern Circle, Hyderabad had sent it to Inspector General of Police, Hyderabad via complaint number ’11/1/HYD/77-M/1945′, dated dated: 20-05-1977.

A letter was also addressed to the Commissioner of Police of Hyderabad on March 31, 1977, which read: “A self-proclaimed Pujari from the Bhagyalaxmi temple near Charminar forcibly entered the fenced area of ​​the protected monument namely ‘Charminar’. A complaint has already been filed against him at the Office of the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad void No. 11/1/Hyd/77-M/1297, dated 31-03-1977 but I regret to say that no action has been taken against the encroachment so far I request you to give proper instructions to the Commissioner of Police to immediately take notice of Pujari’s activities and expel him from the protected national monument, Charminar, failing to register a case against said Pujari.

Like the temple, there is also a Chile inside the monument which is not allowed. However, it does not expand like the temple does.

Bhagyanagar’s claim

Apart from the unauthorized temple itself, right-wing groups in Hyderabad are also using it to spread rumors that Hyderabad was called Bhagyanagar. However, there is no truth in that. Recently, the (ASI) also said that they have no information about Hyderabad Bhagyanagar’s name. He also said that he also did not have details of the historical records of the Bhagyalaxmi Temple at Charminar.

ASI’s response on the name Bhagyanagar for Hyderabad and the Bhagyalaxmi Temple was given to activist Robin Zacheus. The activist posed a bunch of questions to ASI’s Hyderabad Circle, which includes Fort Charminar and Golconda. Robin requested documents or historical evidence on these issues through a Right to Know (RTI) request.

Bhagnagar

However, the Hyderabad-Bhagnagar claim is another lingering issue. It is often debated among scholars whether Hyderabad was ever called Bhagnagar or even Bhagyanagar. Many historians have wondered if Mohd Quli’s lover Bhagmati even existed.

According to legend, Mohd Quli Qutb Shah was in love with a Hindu woman named Bhagmati even before the founding of Hyderabad. His father was former King Ibrahim Qutb Shah who built Puranapul Bridge. The bridge connects Golconda fort and the old city, and the story goes that it was built for his son so that he could meet Bhagmati.

The founder of Hyderabad Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah

After becoming king in 1580, Mohd Quli Qutb Shah is said to have married Bhagmati. Later, he named the new city he founded (after leaving the fortified city of Golconda Fort) after her: Bhagnagar. The name Hyderabad comes later after Bhagmati converted to Islam and took the name Hyder Mahal, according to legend.

Historians have often denied this story. In the book History of the Medieval Deccan, edited by HK Sherwani and PM Joshi, it is pointed out on page 459 that “numismatic evidence also points in the same direction (non-existence)…we have coins minted in 1012 /1603 at Daru -Saltanat Haidarabad, but we have no coin that was minted at ‘Bhagnagar’”.

Another thing that many point out is that other courtesans like Taramati have their graves and other evidence of their existence. So if Bhagmati was in fact real and important to Hyderabad, ideally a marker of his life should have been found. A few claims to his grave have been made in the past, but nothing substantial.

Does it matter?

However, many others believe that Mohd Quli Qutb Shah had a lover as there is circumstantial evidence. Bhagmati is mentioned, albeit pejoratively, in some 16th-century Mughal sources about Hyderabad.

Hyderabad was destroyed by the Mughals under Aurangzeb who conquered the kingdom of Golconda after a long battle of eight months in 1687. Anyway, it can however be noted that Bhagmati being real or not makes no difference to Hyderabad . All this is also not related to the Bhagyalaxmi temple, which is not allowed.