Symbols of harmony
In times of strife the city can learn a lesson from past images of communal accord
IF NORTH Indian history is replete with the heroic deeds of Rajputs, Hyderabad State too had its share of Kshatriyas, though on a smaller scale. Brave and loyal warriors, some of them served Muslim rulers in key posts, helping them annexe many a fort. But they continued to be rooted in tradition, deeply religious and never allowed their faith to come in the way of their loyalty.
Gregarious, they migrated to distant places often at the call of duty, assimilated well into the local cultural milieu, overcoming language and other barriers and left behind their imprint in whatever they did. Jham Singh, was one of those gallant y Rajput cavaliers who migrated from Unnao district in Uttar Pradesh and went on to become a kumandan, a commandant of the remount corps in the armies of Nawab Sikandar Jah and Asaf Jah III (1803-1829).
Singh had a passion for horses and an uncanny ability to pick the best of the lot. Impressed by his equine sense, he was chosen by the third nizam as the cavalier in-charge of buying horses for the army. And like some of the Muslim nawabs of the time who had an obsession for quaint palaces and mosques, he too took his passion far and gave a new meaning to the old saying "if wishes were horses... .." Combining his innate talent with single-minded devotion, he gave shape to his imagination and the result was the Jham Singh Balaji Mahadev temple built in 1810, making the stallion a sort of leitmotif. The grand entrance with the rajagopuram has stone images of horses on either side besides the temple chariot which is also led by two wooden horses!
This imposing temple gateway and the nearby mosque which used to be called as the Jham Singh mosque have been listed in the heritage buildings of Hyderabad. The temple, having several typical features, apart from the horse images, is located near Karwan, once the famous diamond cutting and trade centre of the Qutub Shahi era, close to the wholesale vegetable market at Guddi Malkapur. In fact the market has come up on the 22 acres given away by the descendents of Jham Singh from the original sprawling 55-acre chunk of the temple. It is believed by some that the area itself got its name, after this temple, guddi being a corrupted version of gudi (temple).
The nearly two centuries-old temple is magnificent, a symphony in stone, patterned on the famous south Indian temples of Tirumala and Kanchi. The main temple stands on 12 pillars of dressed stone. Endowments Department officials managing the temple say the pillars and the monolithic dhwajasthambham has no parallel in the twin cities. The presiding deity is Lord Balaji (Sri Venkateswara Swamy) with his consorts, on either side, all in black granite bedecked in jewellery.
Next to the sanctum sanctorum is the temple dedicated to Lord Mahadeva (Shiva), another unique feature, according to J. P. Singh, former IAS officer and a close relative of the descendents of Jham Singh. Now into its fifth generation, the family takes a keen interest in the temple's affairs. "Nowhere will you find Vasihnavite and Shaivite temples in the same complex without even a wall separating them".
Elsewhere in the complex are temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman and Lord Krishna and a kalyana mandapam. The tulasi vrindavan in granite located near the dhwajasthambam has images of Jham Singh and his spouse sculpted in a posture of worship. Apart from daily sevas, the temple attracts a large congregation during the brahmotsavam in May and the Dussehra festival.
Legends abound on the construction of the temple and the equally marvellous mosque by Jham Singh. One of them has a parallel to the one on the Bhakta Ramdas of the Qutub Shahi times that happened in Golconda Fort, not faraway. It is said, the reigning nizam, Sikander Jah, got furious when he came to know that Jham Singh had used funds meant for the purchase of horses, for building a temple. He nearly sent him to the gallows when his prime minister, Chandulal, sought his mercy and the punishment was modified. Singh was asked to also build a mosque. That is how the mosque was built close to the temple, next to the temple choultry meant for pilgrims. Strangely the beautiful mosque is built in the Qutub Shahi style and not in the Asaf Jahi style of architecture. Whatever the legend, the temple and mosque truly reflect the essential Ganga-Jumni cultural character of Hyderabad, which goes to show the contribution of different communities to its rich common heritage.
Another tale refers to the way Jham Singh, cut short his trip to Malegaon in Nanded, from where he bought horses, after he had a "revelation" in his sleep. Respecting it, he returned to Hyderabad and started building the temple, stone by stone. When the nizam heard about it, he visited the temple and was struck by the sight of horses in front of the temple. Awed by the "miracle" and impressed by the temple's architecture, he awarded a jagir (land given away as gift), in a village now called Jham Singh Lingapur in Medak. Jham Singh who had no sons dedicated this land to the temple.
Two other features of the temple complex deserve particular mention. One is an intricately designed naqqar khana, (the place for drum beaters) enclosing in it a ratha sthala and dominated by overhanging balconies, standing in front of the entrance of the temple. Unfortunately, it is in a state of disrepair, as is the case with the kalyana mandapam and the dharmashala. The second is that the temple well has a plaque with a Persian quatrain, inviting pilgrims and wayfarers to relax and drink the sweet and cool water of the well!
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