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Pulling The Beloved Apart

Demolition of the Mahbub Chowk Market is a new low in Hyderabad's built history.

A high quality scan of a 1915 Munn Map of Chowk, showing the clock tower, masjid and market area.

A stone’s throw from Charminar, at the end of Lad Bazar, stands the Mahbub Chowk Clock Tower, one of the oldest clock towers in the city. It is an unmissable monument as it stands quietly in a quaint garden. However, around the clock tower, several important and beautiful buildings that formed the Mahbub Chowk Market Complex are no more. One such building was a beautiful Italian villa from the late 19th century with lofty arches attached to the Chiri Khana (aviary) of the Chowmahalla complex. This villa was quietly demolished sometime in the past decade.

The Chowk in its heyday.

To the west lies the Jama Masjid Chowk, which was constructed in 1817 in what can be called the Neo-Qutb Shahi style of architecture. The Masjid is built on a raised floor, with shops underneath it which are still in use. Old and famous businesses are still run from these shops under the Jama Masjid Chowk. Rare book collectors and sellers Haziq and Mohi can be found here, apart from other book stores, Kalai workshops, metal foundries, achaar shops, food joints, finial makers, and more. The two-century-old mosque and surrounding markets appear to be structurally fit and need basic maintenance.

To the south of the clock tower is, or was, the Mahbub Chowk Poultry Market. It is said to have been modeled after the souqs in the Arab world, with four Mughlai multiple-foil arches opening into the market with a metal roof supported by cast iron trusses resting on thick plastered stone walls. The market was surrounded by an envelope of shops on three sides, forming an enclosed market space under a unified roof. The market was named Mahbub Chowk as it was built in the period of Nizam VI Mahbub Ali Khan (1866-1911). The Chowk and the clock tower complex with its gardens were built by Sir Asman Jah when he was the prime minister of Hyderabad in the year 1892, who lived down the street from the Chowk in his Khana Bagh Palace (of which only the gate exists) on the Shah Gunj street.

Ever since it was constructed, the Mahbub Chowk, also known as the Murgi Chowk for its poultry market, was the most important wet market in the walled city region. In recent times, Mahbub Chowk had turned into a sanitary nightmare because of unhygienic working conditions and lack of upgradation of the wet market. There were several calls over the decades for improvement and upgradation of the chowk and converting it into a tourist hub due to its proximity to the Charminar. However, heritage enthusiasts and activists always advocated for the restoration of the old market and pushed for adaptive reuse as an approach.

In 2020, it was announced that the market would undergo an upgrade as the old market was too dilapidated to be retained and must be pulled down. On 29 May 2021, the author accompanied a team of experts from INTACH Hyderabad to the Murgi Chowk to survey the condition of the market. The INTACH team led by Mrs. Anuradha Reddy had submitted a report against the demolition of the market. The INTACH report is attached here in this blog to download.

Murgi Market INTACH Report 02062021
Download PDF • 339KB

Unfortunately, on June 5, 2023, the Murgi Chowk was pulled down by bulldozers. In its place, a multi-storied structure will come up with ‘similar’ features to the new building costing the exchequer INR 36 crores. It is a sad day for Hyderabad’s heritage yet again as another piece of history crumbles to dust. Murgi Chowk now joins the likes of Malwala Palace and King Koti palaces, other historic edifices that were pulled down due to poor policy and decision making. It is also a question of what happens to the poultry market on which livelihoods depended for a hundred years? It also makes one wonder if the Charminar too will be meted out with a similar solution in the coming decades? Maybe build the HITEX Charminar in place where the original stood?


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