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.
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.