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200 Years of Secunderabad

The city and its residents gear up to celebrate two centuries of existence.

How does one commemorate a city's survival in a worrying new time? By reviving its past glory, of course. As Secunderabad celebrates 200 years in June 2006, artists are drawing vignettes of old Secunderabad for an exhibition, sports enthusiasts are practicing forgotten games like stilt racing. City officials were animated about a rerun of the old bullet train, only to realise that the four-coach train used between Secunderabad and Kazipet until 40 years ago was dismantled in 1986. It would have been an entertaining ride back in time.

What's getting the city abuzz is the historical treasure hunt. Only those who know their city well can do this - few remember that the famous Hanuman Mandir was the only concrete structure in Karkhana area for almost 50 years, before factory outlets of big brands came up around it.

Ask photographer Lenny Emanuel, whose grandfather Mario Francis set up a photo studio, M F Emanuel & Co., in the city in 1840, and he produces an archive for you - photos of St Mary Church, Parklane, Tankbund and Methodist Church. "There were few photographers in those days and few things to photograph in Secunderabad but its landscape, which has changed drastically only in the past 10 years," says Lenny, 58, who has gone digital.

Vasanta Shobha Turaga, a conservation architect, believes the British forced the city into place. Nizam Ali Khan, Asaf Jah II, the second official ruler of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the British in early 1798. He had to sign a subsidiary alliance treaty to gain the support of the British troops parked in tents in the open areas of the maidan of the village Ulwul, north-east of Hussain Sagar, the lake that separates Hyderabad from its twin city. Later, in 1803, Nizam Sikandar Jah, the third Nizam of Hyderabad, named Ulwul Secunderabad.

Old-timers, however, need no historians to map the city for them. Ratna Manikya is in her 80s and has lived in Marredpally, one of the earliest middle-class residential areas, since she got married. Little has changed inside their homes - Manikya's deceased husband's rocking chair sits in the same place for the past three decades - but everything has changed outside. Several families who lived in Marredpally have moved out into greener and more open suburbs like Sainikpuri and Vayupuri. Cars jostle for parking space, water is a perennial problem and disposal of waste is a civic issue crying for attention.

Pollution is fast laying siege to one of the world's most treasured sites - both Secunderabad and Hyderabad are built on the Deccan Plateau, one of the oldest rock systems of the world. In 2004, in a survey conducted by newsmagazine India Today, Delhi was voted as the city with maximum number of cars on the road, Hyderabad and Secunderabad were voted the cities with maximum number of vehicles ("largest number of two-wheelers and three-wheelers") on the road.

Santosh Muralidhar doesn't really mind this. "Today, people of Secunderabad are more willing to accept outsiders," says the 65 year-old, comparing the scenario with more than 50 years ago when his family had migrated to Marredpally after Partition. Even 75 year-old Roshan Patel is quite upbeat about the enormous changes she has witnessed in her lifetime. "It's true that the city's roads were washed every evening by order of the Nizam, but look at the changes today - the malls and the high rises," she says. "Yet it's a beautiful city and the heritage is preserved. I was happy then and I am happy now."

Shyamola Khanna

St Mary's Church

This church is adjacent to St Ann's High School, one of the earliest girls schools established in Secunderabad by Christian missionaries. The St Mary's Cathedral was one of the first churches built in Secunderabad in 1850. Over the years, it has seen several changes - and yet, the years have not been able to wither its majesty and splendour.


There are no records to say where the name Parklane came from. But old timers say the present day NCC grounds used to be the old race course. In fact, the postal address of the Officers Mess, College of Air Warfare is still 'Bolton Road, Old Race Course'. The race course has moved to Malakpet, nearly 30 years ago.


The Hussain Sagar or tankbund is a man-made lake, which has supplied drinking water to Hyderabad for a long time. The bund was put up to protect the water from flowing away into the low-lying areas. The road on the top became the connecting link between the twin cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad. The cool breeze from the lake attracted people for evening walks.

Methodist Church

The Methodist Church was established in 1882 in a small way. After nearly a 100 years, the building began to leak and crumble. So the parishioners decided to rebuild it. In 2001, it was unveiled in its new avatar - much bigger, roomy, and built with the money and labour contributed by its members.

Featured in Harmony Celebrate Age Magazine
May 2006

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