Before the present city of Hyderabad was built, the area around it saw numerous rulers: from the Mauryan King, Asoka during the third century B.C. to the Chalukyas, and Kakatiyas till the 14th century. The area ultimately succumbed to the might of Mohammed Bin Tughlak’s forces and came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate in 1321, a rule that brought anarchy along with it.
The Bahmani Sultanate of the Deccan wrested control of part of the city north of the Krishna River, by the middle of the 15th century.
The governor (Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk) of the Bahmani Sultanate set up base in Golconda Fort on the Kakatiya hills to quell disturbances in the area. He ultimately declared independence and set up the Golconda Dynasty under the title of Sultan Quli Qutb Shah.
By the end of the 16th century, (1589-1592) Sultan Mohammed Quli, the fifth ruler of the dynasty, shifted his capital from the fortress of Golconda to across the river Musi. Hyderabad was built under the supervision of his prime minister, Mir Momin who wanted to create a replica of paradise to please his master, and modeled it on the Iranian city of Isfahan.
The Sultan, known popularly as Quli Qutb Shah also built The Char Minar, (literally the four minarets) the famous landmark of Hyderabad, as a mark of gratitude to the Almighty for having spared his city from the plague epidemic.
As the city grew, it accommodated the overflowing population of Golconda and by early 17th century the city had established itself as a major centre of trade for diamonds, pearls, steel, arms and printed fabrics. The city of Hyderabad flourished under the Qutb Shahi rulers who promoted the growth of Indo-Persian and Indo-Islamic culture and literature.
Mid 17th century brought another upheaval in the history of Hyderabad. The Mughal prince Aurangzeb who had spent most of his time in the Deccan fighting with different Hindu kingdoms had set his eyes on the rich and vibrant city of Hyderabad. On ascending the throne in Delhi he attacked the Golconda fort that protected Hyderabad. Unsuccessful in 1686, he returned the next year to lay a nine month long siege. According to a local legend, had the city not been betrayed by a saboteur, the fort would have held and frustrated the tyrant again.
Aurangzeb was more inclined to curb the growing power of the Marathas in the Deccan and the four decade long Mughal reign did irreparable damage to the vibrant diamond trade in Hyderabad.
After the death of Aurangzeb, Asaf Jah I who was initially appointed as governor (Nizam-ul-Mulk) of Hyderabad declared his independence from the rulers in Delhi. The seven Nizams of the Asaf Jahi Dynasty restored Hyderabad’s lost glory and the city flourished once again. They built huge reservoirs like Nizam Sagar, Tungabadra, Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar that gave the city its eponym, The City of Lakes.
The Nizams were autocratic but benevolent at the same time. They were also shrewd rulers who successfully retained power during the period when the British and French were vying for control over India. It was during this time that the twin city of Secunderabad was formed, first as a military base for the French and later for the British troops.
The seventh Nizam, Mir Osaman Ali Khan transformed a bankrupt State into the wealthiest princely State in the sub-continent. The eccentric the Times Magazine considered Nizam as the wealthiest man in the world in 1937. He was an efficient ruler who maintained law and order, a separate judiciary, promoted both Hindu and Islamic cultures, and set up the India’s first modern university that taught in an Indian language.
India gained independence in 1947, which brought the partition of the country along with it. The fate of Hyderabad again hung in a delicate balance with the Nizam refusing to accede to either India or Pakistan. As the State was surrounded by India on all sides, he signed a Standstill Agreement to enable free passage of supplies and trade. However, violence erupted and India initiated a police action that led to wresting controls from the Nizam on September 17, 1948. The State of Hyderabad, was formed when Nizam signed an Instrument of Accession.
The States of the Indian Union were reorganized in 1956 on the basis of language and Hyderabad and the surrounding areas were added to form Andhra Pradesh with the rest of the Hyderabad State going to Bombay (now Maharashtra) and Karnataka.