Moula Ali Hill: A Test of Faith

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    A long but gentle flight of steps leads to a summit that offers a wonderful panorama of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. But there’s another compelling reason to climb the 400-odd stairs that will get you to the top of Moula Ali Hill.

    The word ‘Moula’ means my lord. It’s a visit to a dargah built during Qutb Shahi period but renovated by Asaf Jah II (second Nizam) in memory of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Although he isn’t buried here, the dargah houses a stone believed to bear an imprint of his hand. Secured under lock and key, the stone is taken out once a year during the annual Urs festival.

    The Legend of Moula Ali

    Moula Ali Hill is a gentle, dome-shaped hillock in the Greater Hyderabad Area, the dargah and other monuments on its slopes and summit being mentioned in Landmarks of Deccan: A Comprehensive Guide to the Archaeological Remains of the City and Suburbs of Hyderabad (1924) by Syed Ali Asgar Bilgrami, the Director of Archaeology for the princely state of Hyderabad in the 1920s.

    In his book, Bilgrami narrates the legend of Moula Ali Hill. The story goes that during the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shahi IV (r. 1550-80), a eunuch called Yaqut had a dream in which a man clad in green Arabic garb told him he could meet Janabe Amir (Hazrat Ali), who was waiting for him. In his dream, Yaqut followed him and saw Hazrat Ali seated on the summit of the hill, where the dargah now stands. Yaqut saluted him and stood still for some time, without either of them speaking.

    After he woke up the next morning, Yaqut climbed to the top of the hill and was stunned to see the imprint of a hand, presumably Hazrat Ali’s, on the stone where Hazrat Ali had been seated the night before. Yaqut had an arch built on the site and made offerings there in the name of Hazrat Ali. Soon, the word about his dream spread like wildfire.

    When the Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shahi IV learnt of the incident, he too visited the hill to pay his respects and built a dargah on the site. Ever since, it has been an important pilgrimage site for people of all faiths and a large Urs (mourning ceremony) is observed here annually.

    The Fort of Arjuna

    In his book, Bilgrami lists other monuments of importance on Moula Ali Hill, many dating to the 16th CE, built by Qutb Shahi rulers. These are Kohe Sharief Moula Ali Hill; the mosque of Ibrahim Qutb Shah; graves of Phiki Bi, Ruknud Dowlah and Vikar-ud-Dowlah; Ashur Khana and arch of Kush Hal Khan; Chihl Cheragh; and the mausoleum of Mahlaqa Bai and Raj Kunwar.

    According to the archaeological records of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, a second hill in the vicinity once had the remnants of a magnificent fort called the Fort of Arjuna (‘Arjuna’ being one of the Pandavas). Although there is no trace of the remains now, they included a stone gate and a wall that were still standing in the 1920s as they were recorded in Landmarks of Deccan…

    The Qadam Rasul (relics of the Prophet) is another religious monument located on a third hillock nearby. Landmarks of Deccan… states: “There is another hillock opposite the Moula Ali hill, which is called Qadam Rasul, on which sacred relics of the Prophet were deposited by Muhammad Shukrullah Khan, a servant of Nawab Ghufran Maab, Asaf Jah II… On the southern extremity of this hill, there is a Baradari (citadel), which is ascribed to Syed Muzaffar, minister of Sultan Abdullah Qutub Shah VII, and Tana Shah. The adjoining hill has several huge boulders piled one over the other; locally this is called Bhandoli Hill (which literally means ‘a number of jars borne one over the other’), and traditionally it is said to be a fort belonging to one of the Rayalu Rajas (ruler of the Vijayanagara empire); remains of a stone gate and wall may still be seen here, it is also called the Fort of Arjuna.”

    Visiting Moula Ali Hill is a must-do when in Hyderabad or Secunderabad, and not only for the panoramic view. The site is steeped in history and if you have a specific wish, who knows, maybe a visit to the dargah here could make it come true.

    Inside the dargah, there is a grill adorned with locks, which symbolise ‘locking one’s wishes for fulfilment. Devotees place a lock on one of the chains hanging on the grill, if they have a wish to be fulfilled, and they take away the key. Once their wish is fulfilled, they return, remove the lock and take it back with them!

    Visiting Moula Ali Hill is an especially pleasant experience between October and January, when the weather is cool. Sunrise and sunset present the most spectacular vistas.

    LHI Travel Guide

    Autorickshaws and cabs accessed via ride-hailing apps will take you to Moula Ali Hill from both Hyderabad and Secunderabad. And you don’t need to climb all 400 steps as the road goes halfway up the hillock. You can park your car in the parking lot before you ascend the steps.

    The closest railway station is Secunderabad, 9 km away. The nearest airport is Shamshabad Airport (now called the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport), 55 km away, in Hyderabad. The nearest MMTS station is Sitaphalmandi railway station in Secunderabad, and Tarnaka, in Hyderabad, is the nearest Metro Rail station.

    There is no entry fee for the dargah. Photography is allowed everywhere. Both men and women are allowed inside the dargah, and they need to cover their heads when inside, as a mark of respect.


    Aveek Bhowmik is an independent journalist with over 18 years of experience in the field. He is an avid traveller and a passionate storyteller who likes to write about heritage, lost traditions, local communities, sports and food.

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