The Charminar is a monument and mosque in Hyderabad built in 1591 AD by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shahi. It is the most famous building of Hyderabad and also one of the most famous buildings in India. The Charminar lies near the bank of the river Musi.
The English name is a translation and combination of the Urdu words Chār and Minar or meenar, translating to "Four Towers"; the eponymous towers are ornate minarets attached and supported by four grand arches. The structure itself was intended to serve as a Mosque and Madraasa.
The Charminar was constructed in the intersection of the historical trade route that connects the markets of Golla konda with the port city of Machilipatnam. The Old City of Hyderabad was designed with Charminar as its centerpiece. The city was spread around the Charminar in four different quadrants and chambers, seggregated according to the established settlements. Towards the north of Charminar is the Char Kaman, or four gateways, constructed in the cardinal directions.
Built with granite, limestone, mortar and pulverised marble, the Charminar is a fine example of the Cazia style of architecture. The intertwined arches and domes are typical of the Islamic architecture. The graceful floral motif atop the Charminar is enchanting. The Charminar depicts the Indo-Saracenic tradition - a symbiosis of the Hindu and the Muslim traditions, which has woven the magic of a rich Deccani culture.
The Charminar is a square edifice with four grand arches each facing a cardinal point that opened once upon a time into four royal streets. At each corner stands an exquisitely shaped minaret, 56m high with a double balcony. A bulbous dome crowns each minaret 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 Qutub Shahi times.
There are 149 winding steps to reach the upper floor. The structure is also known for its profusion of stucco decorations and the arrangement of its balustrades and balconies. The cornice on the first floor upholds a series of six arches and capitals on each portico, rising to the double-story gallery of the minarets. The projected canopy, decorative brackets and decoration in stucco plaster add graceful elegance to the Charminar. On the upper courtyard, a screen of arches topped by a row of square jalis or water screens provides a delicate charm to the muscular look of the Charminar.
The actual mosque occupies the top floor of the four-storey structure. A vault which appears from inside like a dome supports two galleries within the Charminar, one over another, and above those a terrace that serves as a roof, bordered with a stone balcony. The main gallery has 45 covered prayer spaces with a large open space in front to accommodate more people for Friday prayers.