Hyderabad: Photographs of a tunnel or an underground bunker in the Bella Vista Palace (now Administrative Staff College of India) in the city have rekindled discussions on age-old, still unconfirmed but compelling stories of a network of tunnels connecting the historic Charminar with the imposing Golconda Fort.
The Bella Vista bunker is no story but a fact, with city-based photographer and heritage enthusiast Mohammed Habib-ur-Rehman confirming it with his photos of the structure, which has a board calling it the Prince Azam Jah Tunnel. Discussions on a Facebook page run by Habib-ur-Rehman, ‘Paigahs of the Deccan’, indicate it could be a bunker that was built by the royals during the Second World War, presumably to escape air strikes. Habib-ur-Rehman says though it is mentioned as a tunnel, it was actually a bunker.
Even as the discussion on the tunnel-bunker is continuing, the old debate over the existence of a tunnel connecting Charminar and Golconda is also being revived in several circles. Legend has it that there was a tunnel connecting Charminar and Golconda Fort and that kings used to traverse through it frequently. The tunnel was supposedly patrolled by soldiers on horseback.
“I heard the tunnels were constructed during the Qutb Shahi period to enable an escape during attacks. Also, our grandparents used to narrate tales of hidden treasures kept in those tunnels,” says Mohd Farooq Taher, a government school principal.
Retired Assistant Director of Census Operations, Khaja Moinuddin, who conducted a survey of Hyderabad in 1962, also has mentioned about the tunnel. He wrote that in 1936, during the Nizam era, the then Commissioner of Hyderabad Municipality Inayat Jung and Director of Archaeological Ddepartment Ghulam Yazdani conducted a detailed survey of the tunnel and a map was also prepared by them, which was officially submitted to the then ruler Nizam VII Mir Osman Ali Khan. He adds that tunnel excavation works were taken up at different places around the Charminar and a tunnel was indeed found and a report submitted. However, there is no clarity on what happened afterwards.
“Some years ago, there was lot of buzz about the tunnel when an ancient construction was found at Petlaburj. However, archaeology officials could not find any evidence and a police quarters was constructed there later,” says Ahmedi Begum, a social activist.
Mohd Safiullah, historian, says the existence of the Charminar-Golconda tunnel is a myth. “Hyderabad is a plateau region and it is highly impossible to build such a long tunnel. There was an underground palace though, around the Mahboob Chowk tower, spread over 4.5 acres which caved in,” he says.
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