Andhra Pradesh Tourism has always been the frontrunner in attracting greatest number of tourists, inland and foreign, as it boasts of a naturally, ecologically, culturally and religiously rich and diverse variety of tourist destinations that are treasures of visual treat where one can continuously explore new experiences of visitor gratification and delight. The state of Andhra Pradesh having the longest eastern coastline and with a trail of Buddha Period glory, houses and holds many heritage sites adorned with pristine splendor, the forts, citadels and architectural masterpieces built by the past Royal hegemony and its noble Emperors.

The magnificent palaces and places, monuments, memorials, tombs and stately structures built by them reflect the art and craftsmanship, architecture and culture that originated on this land. There are beautiful dams, valleys, hills and ridges with the scenic dale, tranquil lake waters, swirling beach waves, meadows, resorts, hill stations, caves, virgin forests, sanctuaries and national parks which a visitor can enjoy to his heart’s content.

Temples and shrines of pilgrimage are the important destinations of tourist traffic and are a big source of revenue flow. Museums and archaeological treasure houses with different galleries showcase historic and amazing collections of antiques, artifacts, weaponry and a wide range of objects that symbolize the history and culture and marvels of the territory.

The Charminar, built in 1591 AD, is as much the signature of Hyderabad as the Taj Mahal is of Agra or the Eiffel Tower is of Paris. The English name is a transliteration and combination of the Urdu words Char and Minar, translating to “Four Towers”; the eponymous towers are ornate minarets attached and supported by four grand arches. The landmark has become a global icon of Hyderabad, listed among the most recognized structures of India.

The Charminar is on the east bank of Musi river. To the northeast lies the Laad Bazaar and in the west end lies the granite-made richly ornamented Makkah Masjid. Charminar has the signature style of Islamic architecture. This great tribute to aesthetics looks sturdy and solid from a distance and, as one moves closer, it emerges as an elegant and romantic edifice proclaiming its architectural eminence in all its detail and dignity. Charminar is a beautiful and impressive square monument.

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Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth ruler of the Qutb Shahi dynasty built Charminar in 1591 AD, shortly after he had shifted his capital from Golkonda to what is now known as Hyderabad. He built this famous structure to commemorate the elimination of a plague epidemic from this city. He is said to have prayed for the end of a plague that was ravaging his city and vowed to build a masjid (Islamic mosque) at the very place where he was praying. It is said that, during the Mughal Governorship between Qutb Shahi and Asaf Jahi rule, the south western minaret “fell to pieces” after being struck by lightning and “was forthwith repaired” at a cost of Rs 60,000. In 1824, the monument was replastered at a cost of Rs 100,000.

The Charminar is a square edifice with each side 20 meters (approximately 66 feet) long, with four grand arches each facing a cardinal point that open into four streets. At each corner stands an exquisitely shaped minaret, 56 meters (approximately 184 feet) high with a double balcony. Each minaret is crowned by a bulbous dome with dainty petal like designs at the base.

A beautiful mosque is located at the western end of the open roof and the remaining part of the roof served as a court during the Qutb Shahi times. There are 149 winding steps to reach the upper floor. Once atop, the solitude and serenity of the beautiful interior is refreshing. The space in the upper floor between the minarets was meant for Friday prayers. There are forty-five prayer spaces.

The structure is made of granite, limestone, mortar and pulverised marble. Initially the monument with its four arches was so proportionately planned that when the fort was opened one could catch a glimpse of the bustling Hyderabad city as these Charminar arches were facing the most active royal ancestral streets. There is also a legend of an underground tunnel connecting the Golkonda to Charminar, possibly intended as an escape route for the Qutb Shahi rulers in case of a siege, though the location of the tunnel is unknown.

In its heyday, the Charminar market had some 15,000 shops. Today the famous markets known as Laad Baazar and Pather Gatti, near the Charminar, are a favour, of tourists and locals alike for jewellery, especially known for exquisite bangles and pearls respectively. The Traditional Food, like Biryani, Haleem, Mirchi ka salan, Double Ka Meetha etc. is available around Charminar. The area is also famous for its variety of shops. During the season of Sankranthi, the area is completely crowded with vendors selling kites. In 2007, Hyderabadi Muslims living in Pakistan constructed a small-scaled quasi replica of the Charminar at the main crossing of the Bahadurabad neighborhood in Karachi.

Tirupati Temple
The world famous Tirumala Temple is located in the hill town of Tirumala in Tirupati, Chittoor District. Tirupati is famous for Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara. It is around 600 km (370 mi) from Hyderabad, 138 km (86 mi) from Chennai and 291 km (181 mi) from Bangalore. Tiru means ‘Holy’ or ‘Sacred’ and mala means hills/mountain in Dravidian languages. Therefore it translates as Holy mountains. The Tirumala Hill is 853m above sea level and is about 10.33 square miles (27 km2) in area.

It comprises seven peaks, representing the seven heads of Adisesha, thus earning the name Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrushabhadri, Narayanadri, and Venkatadri. The temple is on Venkatadri (also known as Venkatachala or Venkata Hill), the seventh peak, and is also known as the “Temple of Seven Hills”. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Venkateswara, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Venkateswara is known by other names: Balaji, Govinda, and Srinivasa. The temple lies on the southern banks of Sri Swami Pushkarini, a holy water tank.

The temple complex comprises a traditional temple building, with a number of modern queue aand pilgrim lodging sites. The temple is the richest pilgrimage center, after the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, of any faith (at more than INR 50,000 crore) and the most-visited place of worship in the world. The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily (30 to 40 million people annually on average), while on special occasions and festivals, like the annual Brahmotsavam, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it the most-visited holy place in the world. There are several legends associated with the manifestation of the Lord in Tirumala. According to one legend, the temple has a murti (deity) of Lord Venkateswara, which it is believed shall remain here for the entire duration of the present Kali Yuga.

Medieval history
Tirumala was under the rule of the Vijayanagara emperors, during which time the temple’s assets were accumulated. Coronation ceremonies of the emperors were also held at Tirupati. In 1517 Krishnadevaraya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels. It enabled the Vimana (inner shrine) and the roofing to be plated with gold. The Maratha general Raghoji Bhonsle set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple. The rulers of Mysore and Gadwal endowed large gifts to the temple.

The Pallavas of Kanchipuram (9th century AD), the Cholas of Tanjore (10th century), and Vijayanagara pradhans (14th and 15th centuries) were committed devotees of Lord Venkateswara. During the invasion of Srirangam by Malik Kafur in 1310-11 AD, the Ranga Mandapam of the temple served as the shelter for the presiding deity of Srirangam, Ranganatha Swamy. Later, under the rule of the Vijayanagara emperors, was when the temple gained most of its current wealth and size, with the donation of diamonds and gold.

In 1517 Vijayanagara ruler Sri Krishna Deva Raya, on one of his many visits to the temple, donated gold and jewels, enabling the Vimana (inner shrine) roofing to be gilded. Statues of Sri Krishna Deva Raya and his spouse stand in the premises of the temple. After the decline of Vijayanagara Empire, kings from states such as Mysore and Gadwal worshiped as pilgrims and gave ornaments and valuables to the temple.

Maratha general Raghoji I Bhonsle (died 1755) visited the temple and set up a permanent administration for the conduct of worship in the temple. There is an idol of Raja Todar Mal who was the revenue minister of Akbar, greeting pilgrims in the premises of the temple.

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