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Hyderabad observes 100th anniversary of Musi flood

Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad | September 29, 2008 09:07 IST

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Hyderabad on Sunday observed the 100th anniversary of the 'Great Musi floods', which had killed thousands of people and wiped out a large part of the city in September 1908. The city paid rich tributes to a tamarind tree, which had saved 150 lives.

A large number of people, including prominent writers, poets, academicians and environmental activists gathered under the historic 300-year-old tamarind tree on the banks of river Musi in the Osmania Hospital complex and paid their respect to the victims of the flood by observing two minutes silence.

The commemorative meeting, organised by Centre for Deccan Studies and Forum for Better Hyderabad along with several other organisations, urged the government to accord heritage status to the tamarind tree, which had saved 150 people during the devastating flood on September 28, 1908.

"I am yet to come across a person who has saved 150 lives. This tree is a sort of a hero who has saved so many lives on that day. To me the value of this tree is equivalent to 150 human lives," said Sajjad Shahid, secretary, Centre for Deccan Studies. He expressed his anger and dismay over the reports that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation were to axe the saviour tree along with other trees to widen the road.

"Our misfortune is that Hyderabad today is being run by the officers and administrators who do not have any idea of the history and the events the city has witnessed and its important monuments," Shahid said.

The tamarind tree has also attracted attention from various other quarters. The state forest department has issued a commemorative cover with the photographs of the tree, as it was hundred years ago and as it is standing today.

Viresh Babu, a photographer, has also organised an exhibition of his photo on the tamarind tree.

The gathering under the dense and cool shadow of still strong and tall tamarind tree, was treated to poems in Urdu, Telugu and English describing the death and destruction caused by the floods in river Musi, which ravaged the city over three days starting from Septmber 27, 1908.

Amjad Hyderabadi, the famous Urdu poet, was one of the 150 people who saved their lives by hanging on to the branches of the tamarind tree. Amjad who saw his entire family including his mother, wife and daughter getting washed away in the flooded Musi, later wrote a poem 'Qayamat-e-Soghra' detailing his personal tragedy. As a grim reminder of the tragedy, Prof Satyanarayana Danish recited the Urdu poem at the gathering.

V Veda Kumar, the president of Forum for Better Hyderabad, said that the commemorative programmes will continue for four months at the end of which a 'Musi Charter' will be prepared and submitted to the government demanding proper planning for the development of the city without harming its historic heritage.

Raheemuddin Kama, renowned historian and scholar, planted a sapling of a tamarind tree not far from the old tree. "We vow to protect the tree from the axe of the government, which saved so many lives," he said.

Oudesh Rani, another scholar and writer, said that the then ruler of Hyderabad Mahboob Ali Pasha had gone all out to save the citizens by throwing open his palaces for the displaced families and remained at their service till normal conditions were restored.

Ram Lal Tiwari and Shyam Prasad Tiwari, the descendants of Jhoomar Lal Tiwari, were also the focus of attention at the event. According to the historical records, Jhoomar Lal Tiwari, the Raj Purohit of the Nizam of Hyderabad, had performed the special puja to placate the angry "Musi river".

"On the advise of my forefather, Mahboob Ali Pasha had made an offering, including a bridal dress to the flooded river to propitiate it," said Ram Lal Tiwari.

The Musi flood, which uprooted and wiped several localities and low lying areas of Hyderabad, was not only a natural disaster, but a historic event and a point of reference for the people of Hyderabad, said Oudesh Rani.

"After the floods, the Nizam had taken up massive city development projects, including the building of two major reservoirs Himayat Sagar and Osman Sagar," she said.

"The floods also marked the beginning of a very tragic and sad phase of Hyderabad's history. Floods were followed by drought and then plague. On the day Mahboob Ali Khan died in 1911, the first case of plague was reported in Hyderabad. The three calamities of flood, drought and plague wiped out one fourth population of the city," said Shahid.

The Musi river, which passes through the middle of Hyderabad, was once the source of drinking water for the city.

Today it has been reduced to the level of a stinking drain.

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