William Dalrymple sad over Hyderabad shedding its past

September 11th, 2012 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Sep 11 (IANS) Historian and writer William Dalrymple is sad that Hyderabad has shed much of its past and called for a major effort for conservation and to popularize the history and culture of Deccan, nationally and internationally.

The author of “White Mughals”, who lived in the city in 1990s while writing and researching, described Deccan’s culture as one of the greatest in Asia and stressed the need for studying and popularizing it.

Dalrymple was talking to media persons after delivering inaugural lecture on “The syncretic civilization of the Deccan” at H.K. Sherwani Centre for Deccan Studies at Moulana Azad National Urdu University (MANU) here Tuesday.

“I am fascinated by the history of this region. I am sad the city has shed so much of its past. Hyderabad’s record of conservation is one of the worst in India,” he said while pointing out that whole sub-cities have evolved since he last lived in here.

“There are historical reasons for the degree to which Hyderabad washed itself clean of its Nizami past in 1950s but in the process huge amounts of beautiful buildings were destroyed, art collections lost and a great deal of damage done to natural fabric of Hyderabad.

“My pleasure in Hyderabad is people and its food is mitigated by the sadness I feel looking at the state of ruins,” he said while adding that destruction is still on.

“This is one of the great cultures of Asia. It is quite distinct from the culture deep south of India and district from culture of north India. There is so much to be studied and so much to be brought out,” he observed.

He said it was absurd that there had been no centre for Deccani studies anywhere before and lauded MANU for taking the initiative.

“It may or many not be too late to save much that has been lost of the old, beautiful and rarefied Deccani world but it is certainly not too late to study it,” he told a gathering of historians, eminent citizens from various walks of life and students.

The author also lamented the relative absence of high level of scholarship in the studies of Deccani art and culture. “The Deccan remains a major lacuna: for every book on the Deccan sultanates, there is one hundred on the Mughals; for every book on Hyderabad there is a shelf on Lucknow,” he noted.

Quoting the historians, William highlighted the strangely mixed heritage of Deccan and pointed out that Nizams (erstwhile rulers of then Hyderabad State) preserved it. ”

After the fall of Lucknow in 1856, Hyderabad remained the last great centre of Indo-Islamic culture and the flagship of Deccani civilization with its long heritage of composite Qutub Shahi, Vijayanagaram, Mughal, Kakatiyan, Central Asian and Iranian influences,” he said.

He quoted a Hyderabadi scholar to say that not much of the mixed culture survived the collapse of Nizam, the upheavals of 1940s and Operation Polo which followed and the absorption of the Deccan into independent India.

He also disputed V.S. Naipaul’s views expressed in “India: A wounded civilisation” that Vijayanagaram was the last bastion of Hindu civilisation brought down by Muslims.

He disagreed with the Nobel Prize winner, who had described Vijayanagaram as an absolute Hindu centre which stood against Islamic civilization.

“The reality was little more muddier than that. In Vijayangaram there was a huge Islamic influence and in the Islamic sultanates there was Hindu influence. The courts which followed the two civilizations fused into one.”

“I entirely disagree with Naipaul’s view that Vijayanagaram was the last bastion of civlisation brought down by Muslims. The reality is that it was wholly integrated in the region. It was far more complicated and plural picture than simplistic slightly ‘Hindutva’ view.”

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