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Renaming Hyderabad: An Attempt to Distort History for Political Gains?

The issue once again came into the spotlight when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, referred to Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar.

By: Nabila Mulla, Student of Journalism, Telangana Women’s University, Koti

After the Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Executive meeting in Hyderabad, North Indian BJP leader Raghubar Das tweeted about changing the name of Hyderabad, which has raised eyebrows. This issue is a debated topic in India. What is to be seen is that a 400 year old city founded and named ever since it flourished on the banks of Musi River as Hyderabad, is being dragged into a political controversy for the vested interests.

The issue once again came into the spotlight when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, referred to Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar.

On 3rd July, during the National Executive meeting, PM Modi said that it was in Bhagyanagar that Sardar Patel, a prominent freedom fighter of India, had coined the term “Ek Bharat”. The mention of “Bhagyanagar” in place of “Hyderabad” has stirred up the debate once again.

Views on Renaming Hyderabad

On being asked if Hyderabad will be renamed as Bhagyanagar, Union Minister Piyush Goyal, during the BJP National Executive meeting, said, “When BJP comes into power in the state of Telangana; the Chief Minister will decide this along with the cabinet colleagues.”

Citizens, activists and historians have refused to accept the demand. They want peace and progress. They want the government to focus on the problems that the state struggles with including the hikes in price of petrol, hunger, health during COVID-19 and unemployment. 

On Sunday, when PM Modi mentioned the name Bhagyanagar, Telangana IT Minister KTR has tweeted criticizing the move. He cornered BJP by asking “Why not change Ahmedabad’s name to Adanibad first?”

A former resident editor of The Times of India, Kingshuk Nag, has questioned the previous announcements that people of Hyderabad have given no proposal to change the name, which reflect the personal motives of political parties. “Ahmedabad’s name was not changed despite the proposal, because the BJP is already in power and does not feel the need to do so. When they could not find a reason to justify renaming the city, they have developed a false historical narrative to do so,” he said.

Rishitha, a journalism student said that changing the name of the city is trivial, when there are other bigger problems in a country. “The name Bhagyanagar should not be used, as the reasons presented are irrational. The history of Hyderabad should not be disregarded for political purposes,” she said.

Syed Inamur Rahman, a Research Scholar, in an interview said that it is a malicious attempt to rewrite the history for political gains. “The documents available in Telangana archives, coins and photographs all bear witness to the fact that Hyderabad has continuously been used by Qutb Shahi, Mughal and Asif Jahi dynasties. There is no empirical evidence of ‘Bhagmati’ as a favourite queen or the one bestowed with the title of Hyder Mahal,” he said.

“Half truths are harmful and should be shunned,” he added. He hopes that people would use their wisdom and maturity to live and let live, and not distort history for political gains.

Discussions and Proofs over the Name

The Deccan Heritage Trust has held a press conference titled ‘Hyderabad Forever – Truth vs. Myth’ in January 2022, where the members attempted to solve the great mystery surrounding the name ‘Bhagyanagar’. The conference was addressed by prominent historians, journalists and activists, who have established that there was no other name of Hyderabad when the city was established by Quli Qutub Shah.

The name Bhagyanagar is a myth, without any historical evidence. There is no existence of Bhagmati. Bhagmati is a fictional character. Also, there are no historical documents from Persian, Mughal, Arabic, Qutub Shahi records mentioning Bhagyanagar in reference to the city of Hyderabad.

The city of Hyderabad was founded in 1591, by Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah, the son of Ibrahim Qutub Shah.

Political Significance of Bhagyalaxmi Temple

The Bhagyalaxmi temple, located adjacent to the historic monument Charminar, assumed more political significance after Union Minister Amit Shah offered prayers before undertaking Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) election campaign in November 2020.

The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, too visited the temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagyalaxmi while campaigning in Hyderabad for the civic polls and called for renaming the city after Goddess Bhagyalaxmi. “Some people were asking me if Hyderabad can be renamed Bhagyanagar. I said – why not?” he said.

Origin of Bhagyalaxmi Temple

A famous historian and activist, Captain L. Panduranga Reddy has proved with documents and photographs that there was no temple at Charminar before 1957-58. The so-called Bhagyalaxmi temple has appeared in 1963, but there are no official records of how it came up. The image archives of The Hindu clearly show that there was no temple near Charminar until 1963.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for the conservation of Charminar, has called the existing temple “an illegal or unauthorized construction”, but no action is being taken to remove the illegitimate structure at Charminar. The temple started slowly expanding during every festival until the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, in 2013, ordered that the expansion should stop.  

Though the debate over changing the name of Hyderabad city might have political reasons behind it, what matters is that the citizens respect the 400 years of history of Hyderabad city. Hyderabad was built and founded based on practical requirements and not to fulfill the wish of the rulers.

In democracy, everyone should respect the historical facts. The people wish for the government to focus on the real problems of the society. The citizens are exercising their right to vote in order to bring a party into power and all they want in return is respect, harmony, peace and progress via good governance.

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