In its heyday, the wall around the ‘new city’ of Hyderabad had a circumference of 24km; it had 13 darwazas (gates) and 13 khidkis (windows), historians say. These gates were locked at dusk and opened at dawn, the keys held safely by a senior keeper of the gates.

Though the Qutb Shahis began constructing the wall, it was completed by Asaf Jah I. By the time the granite structure was declared a protected monument, only one gate remained intact—the Purana Pul (Old Bridge) darwaza.

The longest surviving stretch of the wall is between where the Lal Darwaza and Aliabad Darwaza stood. Conservationists fear that even this stretch might crumble anytime.

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True or not, there is a romantic story about Purana Pul, the bridge near the gate. The bridge was built 13 years before the Charminar, in 1578. Apparently, Sultan Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah found out that his son Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah was crossing the River Musi to meet his Hindu love, Bhagmati. The father built a bridge across the waters to keep his heir safe from tricky river crossings.

A more unromantic and strategic explanation for the bridge is that it enabled smooth deployment of armed forces from the old city to the upcoming one. The bridge connected the old city of Golconda and the new township, which would later become Hyderabad. Muhammad married Bhagmati in 1589, and founded Hyderabad in 1591. Hyderabad
began as a garden city without any protection, and then became fortified.

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“The walls [of Hyderabad] were completed in 1740, taking close to 60 years for the city to be fortified completely,” said Shajad Shahid, a conservation engineer. When foreigners needed to visit with someone in the city, they would stay in the serais (inns) outside the walls. A petition would be sent and after it was cleared, they were sent inside. After the gates were closed at dusk, khidkis remained the only point of emergency entry for city
residents.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the city improvement board saw the walls as a hindrance for the movement of people and goods. It asked the public to help dismantle the wall, and even advertised to that effect. The great floods of 1908 washed away a large section of the wall between Purana Pul and Dar-ul-Shifa. By 1930, most of the wall was gone.

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Demolition went on, until historian Haroon Khan Sherwani approached the Central government, seeking a ban on the bulldozing of the wall. Now, only two gates remain: Dabeerpura, which is in bad shape, and the Purana Pul darwaza—literally, a gateway to the
past. #KhabarLive

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