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Explained: Behind Bhagyanagar, a Hyderabad temple and the city’s name

Amit Shah is the latest in a line of BJP leaders who have visited the Bhagyalakshmi temple over the last several days. Some BJP leaders claim the temple derives its name from Bhagyanagar.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Hyderabad | Updated: December 9, 2020 9:57:13 am
Home Minister Amit Shah being presented with a memento during his visit to Bhagyalakshmi Ammavari Temple, in Hyderabad. (PTI Photo)

On Saturday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited the Bhagyalakshmi temple while on a trip to Hyderabad to campaign for the city’s municipal elections. And Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, campaigning in Hyderabad, made a pitch for renaming the city as Bhagyanagar, which BJP leaders claim used to be its name earlier. “Some people were asking me if Hyderabad can be renamed as Bhagyanagar. I said — why not?” he said.

Shah is the latest in a line of BJP leaders who have visited the Bhagyalakshmi temple over the last several days. Some BJP leaders claim the temple derives its name from Bhagyanagar.

What is the Bhagyalakshmi temple?

It is a small temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, adjacent to the southeast minar of Charminar. Made of bamboo poles and tarpaulins, it has a tin roof, and the southeast minar forms its back wall. There is no definitive version on how and when exactly it came up, but it has been there since at least the 1960s. Secunderabad MP G Kishan Reddy claimed that the temple predates Charminar, whose construction was started in 1591.

Sources in the Archaeological Survey of India said the temple encroaches on the protective perimeter of Charminar. Officials say a small guard pillar erected to protect the monument from vehicles was found painted in saffron sometime in the 1960s and some people started performing aarti there. When a state road transport bus hit the guard pillar damaging it, a small structure made of bamboo was built overnight and the idol of the goddess was placed.

“After that incident, the shrine started expanding by a foot or two during every festival until the High Court directed police to stop any expansion in 2013,” said Mohammed Shabbir Ali, Leader of Opposition in the Telangana Legislative Council.

A large number of Hindu traders and businessmen who have shops in Charminar area visit the temple daily. During festivals, especially Diwali, the temple attracts long queues.

Also in Explained | Hyderabad civic polls: What is at stake for the TRS and BJP?

Why is it in the news now?

It is because of the visits by BJP leaders in the run-up to the elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, and the connection being made with the name Bhagyanagar.

On November 18, on the directions of the State Election Commission (SEC), the Telangana government stopped distribution of flood relief as the model code of conduct was effect. The ruling TRS alleged that the BJP’s Telangana chief, Bandi Sanjay Kumar, had written to the SEC complaining against the distribution of relief. Sanjay denied this and challenged TRS leaders to visit the Bhagyalakshmi temple and take an oath of truth. On November 20, Sanjay himself visited the temple and said under oath that he had not written a complaint to the SEC.

Since then, several BJP leaders have visited the temple, including Amit Shah on Saturday. Shah said his visit was to seek blessings, and denied that it was symbolic or a statement.

What is it called Bhagyalakshmi temple?

Devotees associate the name with their belief that praying in the temple brings good luck and fortune. On the other hand, Hindu organisations associate the name with Bhagyanagar. BJP leaders say Hyderabad was earlier known as Bhagyanagar but it was changed to Hyderabad by Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Has the temple been the subject of controversy before?

It has witnessed violence in the past:

# In November 1979, after an armed group seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the MIM called for a bandh in the Old City of Hyderabad. As Diwali was approaching, many Hindu shopkeepers requested the MIM to allow them to keep their shops open. This resulted in clashes and the Bhagyalakshmi temple was attacked and desecrated.

# In September 1983, banners put up on the temple on the Ganesh festival caused tensions as it was reported that the temple had expanded, and the temple as well the Allwyn mosque were attacked.

# In November 2012, clashes broke out after reports that the temple management was expanding it by replacing the bamboo structure with a sheets. The then Andhra Pradesh High Court halted any construction activity of the temple.

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