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INDIA – HYDERABAD: Hyderabad Municipal Survey Map.





Extremely rare – no other examples traced – the authoritative city plan of Hyderabad created in the twilight days of Mir Osman Ali Khan’s transformative rule when the city was one of India’s leaders in urban planning and industrial modernization, the result of over a generation of ultra-advanced, continuously updated surveys made under the direction of the senior state engineer Faridoon Sohrabji Chenoy, published in Calcutta by the Survey of India. 


Photographic print by the Vandycke process, dissected into 16 sections and mounted upon original linen and folding into original blue cloth covers (Good, noticeable staining especially to lower part of upper half of map; some spotting to covers), 84 x 61.5 cm (33 x 24 inches).


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This extremely rare map – of which we cannot find any record – is nevertheless the authoritative official overview city plan of Hyderabad from a critical period.  It was made in 1941, in the run up to Indian Independence, being is an especially important record of urbanism, as it showcases the city following a transformative programme of modernization initiated by Hyderabad State’s visionary ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan.  The map is distilled from the work of the Hyderabad Municipal Survey, a three-decade long project to continuously map the entire city in ultra-large scale, making Hyderabad the best-mapped major urban area in all of India, if not Asia.  The map was made under the direction of the senior state engineer Faridoon Sohrabji Chenoy, who had directed the surveying programme for many years.

The map showcases what had recently been transformed into one of India’s most modern and well-organized major cities, with a recorded population of 466,896.  The map captures the unbanscape to a scale of 1,600 feet to an inch, and delineates every street and laneway (naming all major thoroughfares), labeling and outlining all key edifices, while depicting all salient features (rivers, tanks, tanks, parks, compounds, industrial estates, etc.), with all neighbourhoods noted.

The old city is shown envoloped by its ancient walls, and lies to the south of the Musi River, while the various neighbourhoods and suburbs reach out in all directions.  The ‘Reference’, in the lower right corner, proves the symbols used throughout to identify Municipal Boundaries, Cantonment Boundaries, Railways Lines, City Walls, Roads, Cart Tracks, Tanks (reservoirs), Nalas (canals), Contours, Gardens, Post Offices, Telegraph Offices, Chaukis (markets) and Police Stations.  The box in the upper right identifies all of the cities 18 ‘areas’ by name, indicated by number.

Within the walled Old City are the newly constructed City Hall, College and High Court, lining the quay along the Musi River, while to the south is the old ‘Chouk’ (market), near the ‘Macca Masjid’ (Mecca Mosque) and the ‘Ch. Minar’ (referring to the ‘Charminar’, the incredible late 16th century architectural wonder with four minarets, often considered the symbol of the city).  Beyond the walls, to the south are the affluent suburbs featuring the ‘Jahannuma’ and ‘Falakhnuma’ Palaces, the latter today being a five-star hotel.  The ‘Racecourse, perhaps the city’s greatest social scene, is located to the eastern side of city, just south of the river.

Across the Musi River is the ‘O.G. Hospital’ referring to the Osamaniya General Hospital, one of India’s leading medical centres.  Further to the north is the government district with the ‘Central Secretariat’ and further still is the large ‘Husain Sagar’ Lake, the site of a great industrial zone, as well as the Mint, the British Resident’s Estate and the ‘Nizamiya Observatory’ (to the northwest).  The map pictures many newly developed neighbourhoods, built on rational plans, that replaced former slums, while many parks and gardens and features ‘Health Camps’ (facilities to combat cholera and plague).  Notably, the two main rail lines are shown to enter the city from the north and the south, with the map showing the various stations.

Importantly, the present map was made by an ‘All Indian’ team of surveyors and draftsmen, led by the senior state engineer Faridoon Sorabji Chenoy, assisted by Mohammed Yousuf-ud-din, with the map ‘Drawn by Mohammad Ali Draftsman’.  Additionally, the map is signed in print by Mr. V. Krishnamurty, the Secretary (i.e. Minister) of the Public Works Department.  This is significant, as while Indians had always played an important role in mapping India (many of the best cartographers and draftsmen of the Survey of India for generations were Indians), the cartographic establishment (including in Hyderabad State) had traditionally been led by British officials.  However, by this time, in the run up to Indian Independence, the cartography infrastructure in Hyderabad had been taken over by Indians.  This was representative of the greater trend where the people of the Subcontinent were to assume control of their own destiny for the first time in centuries.

Something should be said of the dating of the map.  While it is not boldly stated anywhere, two clues confirm its time of publication.  Below Yousuf-ud-din’s name, lower left, is the detail ‘1350 F’, which refers to the date in the Fasli Calendar, which was then in official use in Hyderabad State, and which corresponds to ‘1940’, meaning that the present map was drafted that year.  Additionally, the printer’s plug, in the lower left margin, added by the Survey of India in Calcutta, reads: ‘Reg. no. 2149 E’41 – 500.’, indicating that the map was issued in 1941 in a print run of 500 examples.


A Note on Rarity

Despite the obvious importance of the present map as being the authoritative official overview map of the city of Hyderabad, we cannot trace even a reference to it, let alone the location of another example.  That being said, there are surely examples held in archives in India which do not make their catalogues available online.

That the map was made in a print run of only 500 examples, and as copies would have been exposed to heavy use, it is not surprising that the map had low survival rate.


The Rise of the ‘New’ Hyderabad and the Municipal Survey

Hyderabad was the capital city of the eponymous princely state (an autonomous country under the umbrella of the British Raj) that was one of the most populous and economically vibrant parts of the Subcontinent, controlling a good part of South and Central India.  The Hyderabad State’s modern precursor was the Golconda Sultanate, ruled by the Qutb Shahi Dynasty from the early 16th century until it fell to the Mughals in 1687.  The state was named for Golconda fort, located just southwest of modern Hyderabad, that was home to a market that handled the great majority of the world’s diamond production, making the state immensely wealthy.  The modern city of Hyderabad was founded in 1591 on the banks of the Musi River where it soon developed into a major trading centre.

In 1724, some years after the state was conquered by the Mughals, its viceroys, the future Asaf Jahi Dynasty assumed sovereign control over the country, with the title Nizam-ul-Mulk (Administrator of the Realm), creating Hyderabad State.  While the country would subsequently lose some territory to British expansion, the Nizams eventually forged a close link with the Anglo colonial regime.  From their vast agrarian holdings and the diamond trade, the Asaf Jahi Dynasty became the wealthiest native rulers in India.

During the 19th century, the city of Hyderabad became an industrial powerhouse, with good infrastructure and grand public buildings.  However, like most large, fast growing Indian cities, it suffered from overcrowding and haphazard development, leading to poor drainage and sanitary issues.

In September 1908, the Musi River flooded way over its banks, destroying entire neighbourhoods, killing 50,000 people and leaving 80,000 homeless.  In the wake of the deluge, the city’s environment became extraordinarily unhealthy, leading in 1911 to an outbreak of bubonic plague which carried away 20% of the city’s residents.

Enter Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (1886 – 1967), the newly crowned Nizam (reigned from 1911 to 1948), a bold and visionary ruler whose ambitions were aided by the fact that he was thought to be the world’s richest man.  Osman vowed that his people would never suffer like that ever again, and he was determined to transform Hyderabad into modern city with healthy, productive residents.

In 1912, Osman created the City Improvement Board (CIB), a government committee dedicated to the ‘general improvement of the social, moral and physical conditions of the citizens’.  The CIB had sprawling powers and was lavishly financed.  Slums were knocked down and replaced with self-contained modern housing developments; new markets were set up; the Musi River was rebanked and given a flood prevention system regulated be reservoirs; while swamps were drained to create new estates.  Grand secular public buildings were constructed, while religious foundations of all kinds were given funds to expand their facilities and improve their charitable outreach.  New parks were created, some with special health facilities to prevent contagious diseases.  New Schools and medical institutes were founded, with Osmania Hospital, built in 1925, deserving special mention, as its ultra-modern facilities were the envy of India.

By the 1930s, Hyderabad had been transformed from a chaotic partial ruin into one of India’s most orderly, well-serviced and healthy large cities.  Severe flooding was a thing of the past, epidemics were localized and easily snuffed out, while the Hyderabadi people were increasingly educated and propserous.  The ‘new’ Hyderabad attracted massive outside investment, lured by the city’s stability and cultural and economic vibrancy.

A key to the city’s revival was the ‘Hyderabad Municipal Survey’ a megaproject mandated by Osman that aimed to scientifically map the entire city to an ultra-large scale.  This would be necessary to for redesigning the urbanscape, delivering planned services, and implementing ambitious flood control programmes.  The project was launched in 1912, and was headed by Leonard Munn (1878 – 1935), a professional engineer who previously served as the Hyderabad State’s Inspector of Mines.  Munn recruited a stellar team of surveyors to systematically map the entire city, which was accomplished in 1915.  The result was the publication of a map printed on 848 sheets, done to the colossal scale of 50 feet to 1 inch, making Hyderabad by far and away the best mapped major city in India, if not Asia.

Enter Faridoon Sohrabji Chenoy (1894 – 1963), who was for decades the most important surveyor and mapmaker in Hyderabad.  He was born in Secunderabad, the major cantonment town near Hyderabad, into an esteemed Parsi family, that is still prominent in the community to the present day.  Well educated, he studied at the University of Manchester.  Shortly after his graduation in 1917, he returned to India and joined the Public Works Department.

Chenoy assumed his new posting at an opportune time, as while the Munn’s had been completed, the vibrant, constantly growing and changing city required someone to map how Hyderabad would continue to develop, continually updating the Municipal Survey.  Indeed, things moved quickly in Hyderabad, as from 1931 to 1941 the city’s population rose by 55.2%, from 466,896 to 739,159.  Chenoy proved especially adept at remapping the city and was given a sizable budget from the crown to update the survey sheets.  His stellar work led him to be promoted expeditiously, and the municipal survey project soon became his personal bailiwick.  On a grander level, Chenoy represented a new generation of Indians who assumed leadership roles in government, business and technical enterprises, assuming positions that were hitherto generally held by British officials.

Importantly, the present map, distilled and refined from updated ultra-large-scale sheets of the Hyderabad Municipal Survey, was created by Chenoy in 1941 to provide an authoritative, overview of the city towards the end of Mir Osman Ali Khan’s rule, granting an integrated vision of the city that could not be achieved by the gargantuan survey sheets.

Chenoy’s work which produced the present map led him to be promoted to be the Chief Engineer of Hyderabad State in 1945.

In 1948, the year following Indian Independence, Hyderabad State was compelled to join the new nation, despite Osman’s attempts to preserve its sovereignty.  While the former Nizam was permitted to hold the ceremonial role of Rajpramukh (governor) until 1956, the old regime was resolutely over.  Since then, Hyderabad has continued to grow dramatically, placing strains upon the city’s infrastructure, undoing much of the order that was instilled during Osman’s time.  Today Hyderabad has a metropolitan population of over 10 million, making it India’s fourth largest city, and is a globally important centre of education, high-tech and biotechnology, with a young and culturally diverse population.


References:  N / A – No records located.


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