The Twin - Secunderabad
What started as an exclusive preserve of the army in the British Raj has now turned into a city in its own right. And a beautiful one at that. We take you through a tour of Secunderabad, the twin.
Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England during World War II, was posted in Secunderabad during the 1880s as a subaltern. He lived in a bungalow, surrounded by a large compound. It is still pointed out to visitors. He was very conscious of the fact that he and his colleagues were in Secunderabad to keep guard on the Nizam and the Old City of Hyderabad. They were convinced that it contained "all the scoundrels of Asia." Legend has it that Churchill's unit was transferred at such short notice that he was unable to settle his outstanding bill with the Secunderabad Club. This document is supposed to have become a part of the Club's archives.
The Army still has a substantial presence in Secunderabad, which was founded at the end of the 18th century as a British cantonment. The Nizam of Hyderabad and the East India Company signed a deed of Subsidiary Alliance for military and political cooperation, to make this possible.
The exclusive Army area was named Secunderabad after Sikandar Jah, the third Nizam of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, who was one of the signatories to the pact. For over a hundred years, Secunderabad had its own Municipality and style of city government. Now, merged with Hyderabad, it is very much an integral part of the capital of Andhra Pradesh. The bund at Hussainsagar is supposed to be the divide between what are often referred to as the "Twin Cities".
Join us for a guided tour of the twin to the more popular metropolis!
The Residency, near Alwal, was the second home of the British Agent in Hyderabad State. It quickly became a symbol of the omnipresence of the Paramount Power in the Deccan! Still habitable, it is now called Rashtrapathi Nilayam - the official residence of the President of India in South India.
There are three interesting things to see in the Cantonment. The first is the Trimulgherry Fort, completed in 1867. The outer walls are surrounded by a moat, almost three miles in circumference. The fort once had barracks, arsenals, stables, mews, mess houses, and military offices inside.
Today, it houses the Military Hospital. Another building worth looking at is Trinity Church, once patronized by famous British regiments, and now supported by its own parish. The third site is a grim Military Prison from Victorian times, thankfully no longer used as a detention barrack.
Culturally, Secunderabad is very different from its next door neighbour on the other side of Hussain Sagar. It is more cosmopolitan, not so steeped in history, has a plethora of well-founded schools and colleges, and, because of the presence of many different religions, is dotted with Parsi fire temples, temples and churches, not only ancient mosques, minarets, monuments and Qutb Shahi sites! It is the home of the South Central Railway, with imposing modern headquarters in Lalaguda, surrounded by residential flats and bungalows, a splendid recreation centre, clubs, schools, colleges, technical training establishments and a hospital.
The French, very interested in the political affairs of the Deccan in their own time, established a full-fledged embassy in Secunderabad, well over a century ago! Of course, it is no longer functional.
There are a few interesting places to visit a little outside Secunderabad. One of them is the lake and deer park at Shamirpet. Bookings must be done through the Forest Department, Saifabad, not far from the State Secretariat. Second, Dhola-ri-Dhani, an ethnic Rajasthani village at Kompally (tel 27721586/27845911/27819988). The third is Ramoji Film City, off the Vijayawada highway.
Secunderabad has four major thoroughfares. The first is the Sardar Patel Road, which runs past the Rajiv Gandhi Airport, the old race course on a part of which first class cricket matches are played, the polo Maidan, the Parade Grounds, the British cemetery, and the Secunderabad courts. The second is the Sarojini Devi Road. It runs through congested business areas, and past cinemas, hotels, and the offices of the Deccan Chronicle, the most widely read English newspaper in Andhra Pradesh.
The other thoroughfares are the Mahatma Gandhi Road, an important business address, and the Rashtrapathi Road, with offshoots running through Ranigunj, Big Bazar, Pot Market and the lane to Secunderabad Market. Past St Ann's School, at the very end of Sardar Patel Road, is St John's Church, which must be seen if time is available to the visitor.
Once upon a time, most of the leading merchants of India had an outlet in Secunderabad. Of these, A. S. Abdul Khader (1899) survives on M. G. Road. The victualers, tailors and cutters, stationers, boot makers, printers, piano tuners, confectioners, silversmiths, wool merchants, saddlers, and photographers who served the Cantonment in its heyday have disappeared. Needless to say, they have been replaced by modern counterparts, drawn to Secunderabad by the business opportunities still available in this part of the world.
Gangaram's (books), Shafali (hand printed cotton garments and linen), the Taj Mahal hotel (coffee and South Indian snacks), Royal Frames (to get your paintings framed), Ramesh Watch Company (for repairs), Bulchand's (for fabrics and upholstery), and Mr. Chellum's little shop in Kalasiguda (jewellery), are some of the town's age-old establishments.
You might be tempted to sample the piping hot snacks served by mobile carts on the Sindhi Colony road. For those who are feeling peckish and adventurous, a drive to the dhabas of Bowenpally, is heartily recommended. The dhabas are roadside joints offering hearty food, often served alfresco, with the minimum of fuss. Don't expect uniformed waiters, or chefs in starched aprons and hats. Just seat yourself at the simple tables and enjoy the experience.
The newer eateries in Secunderabad include Mc Donald's (Trimulgherry), Pizza Hut (S D Road), and other food chains of widespread repute.
Suggested reading to get a feel of what it must have been like in the old days:
Secunderabad - Paradise Lost by P. Anuradha Reddy, INTACH Heritage Annual 1999.