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The Damsel and Her

          HYDERABAD: Every city has a history or some legend, so has Hyderabad, Capital of the erstwhile Nizam state. Very often the origin of their names can be traced to kings and their conquests of territories, towns, forts and women.

          Hyderabad was known originally as Bhagyanagar, a city Sultan Muhammad Quli of the Qutub Shahi dynasty had founded and named after his beloved Bhagmati or Bhagyamati in 1590. Once she entered the royal household and embraced Islam, she was rechristened Hydermahal and as a natural consequence, the city got its second name, Hyderabad.

          Who was this Bhagmati? Mughal chroniclers tell us she was a courtesan from the village of Chenchulam (Shalibanda) across Muse river. French travellers Thevenot and Tavernier corroborate the traditional view that Quli had taken Bhagmati as his wife. She was one of the many Hindu girls who, though legally wedded to kings and nobles, are referred to by Muslim historians of the Mughal period as courtesans, mistresses and prostitutes. But the fact was that in the palaces of their sultans they enjoyed full freedom and were accorded royal treatment.

          Mughal chroniclers Abul Faiz, Nizamuddin Bakshi, Abul Baqi and Khafi Khan are unanimous that Muhammad Quli was greatly fascinated by the charming courtesan. He was the grandson of Sultan Quli of Hamdan of Turko-Iranian descent who founded the Qutab dynasty in 1518 AD.

          Many anecdotes have been handed down on how fascinating Bhagmati was. The Purana Pul (Old Bridge) too has a tale hanging by it. The story is that once when Quli came riding on a horseback to go across Muse to his Chenchulam sweetheart, the river was swollen and overflowing. But that did not deter him from his pursuit. His father Ibrahim Qutub Shah came to know of this. What did he do? He ordered a bridge across the river, making Chenchulam accessible to the palace seven-days-a-week. The bridge was completed in 1578.

          Once much after his coronation Quli found the environment of the impregnable fort of Golconda no more salubrious. It was then that he founded the new city, first named Bhagyanagar and later as Hyderabad.

          The poet-king had pet names for all his 17 damsels kept at his call.
Hydermahal, it is mentioned in his own book, `Kulliyath', was Bhagmati's pet name.

          Bhagmati had entered Quli's life when he was a prince. Their long-lasting romance was more than a legend. Whereever the queen of love moved, the sultan had a thousand horses reined in. The legend is not forthcoming if she was slim, or fat and fertile, voluptuous or salacious and beautiful, but it is chronicled that the damsel was passionately in love with the man in the monarch.

          Alas! Bhagmati story ends without a climax. Quli's love has no tomb! Click on Taj Mahal for that.

-by A Correspondent

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