“Hyderabadi Khane Aur Kahniya” – Culinary Tales of Hyderabad

By Dr. HASEEB JAFFERI

Badshahi Ashurkhana a mourning place, near Charminar in Hyderabad, India. It was constructed in memory of martyrdom of Imam Hussain and is used during the festival of Muharram. It was built by Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah in 1611, three years after building the Charminar. The brilliantly coloured tile-mosaic decoration was completed under Abdullah Qutb Shah in 1611; whereas the wooden colonnades, outer halls, as well as the entry gate were added by Nizam Ali Khan, Asaf Jah II in 1764.

Hyderabad (Rahnuma): If one is a resident of Hyderabad he knows that “Haleem” sold in Ramzan is the best but if one stays a little longer he would also vouch that in Islamic new year Muharram the local bakers have an equally famous item up for sale called the DUM – KE- ROAT. This hard burnt large sweet cookie is loaded with dry fruits. There is also a lesser famous cousin of this dish called the “CHOONGA” which is still made in a home especially in for Muharram and distributed during Manjlis (Religious congregation) as a Tabaruk or Prasad. Choonga is a sweet-savory drizzled with icing sugar.

The story behind this delicacy is even more adventurous during the times of Hayath Bakshi Begum. The queen was blessed with a lone son named Abdullah. The young prince was a boisterous and reckless in his nature and caused many sleepless nights in the kingdom with his antics.

In one such incident while crossing the elephant stable near Hussaini Aalam area the young prince demand that he rides the largest elephant named the ‘Murat’ but the mahout refused to do so saying the elephant is in a state of ‘Musth’ (A wild and erratic behavior of elephants during their hormonal cycle), the young prince did not heed to the mahout’s request and rode the elephant. The elephant in his anger trampled a few unlucky souls and wandered away from civilization. The queen popularly called Ma Sahiba (Queen Mother) was very anxious of her young son’s well-being and appealed to her subjects for help.

The citizens of Hyderabad in return made food and hung them in large containers on trees in a thin hope that the young Prince could grab if the elephant passed by during these days some people believe that they made sugary Dum ke Roat and Choonga also and hung them on trees so the young Prince could eat the sugary treat.

Dum-ke-Roat, the traditional Hyderabadi cookie, has swamped the market with the advent of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is the fastest moving item during the month and occupies the pride of place in bakeries across the city.

Miraculously after a three-day ordeal finally the young Prince was back to the gates of Golconda during the month of Muharram with the now calm elephant ‘Murat’ on the news of his arrival Ma Sahiba ordered preparation of a large “Langer” and a gold chain made of 40 maunds (Approx 1500 Kg) at the Ashoor Khana near Hussaini Alam.

“CHOONGA” which is still made in a home especially in for Muharram and distributed during Manjlis (Religious congregation) as a Tabaruk or Prasad. Choonga is a sweet-savory drizzled with icing sugar.

The story is a testimony to the spirit of Hyderabadis and their belief to feed anyone without bias whether it is fit for Prince or a commoner.

(The Author is a heritage curator, to listen to more such stories of Hyderabad do join him on his next city walk with SufiTrails)

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