Where is the Bhagyalakshmi temple?
The temple in question is a small shrine dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, adjacent to the southeast Minar of the iconic Charminar, the late 19th-century monument located in the heart of the Old City of Hyderabad.
The southeast minar constitutes the back wall of the temple, which is made of bamboo poles and tarpaulin and has a tin roof.
How old is this temple?
There is no definitive history of how and when the temple came up, but it has been there since at least the 1960s when the current idol of the goddess is said to have been installed. The construction of the Charminar was begun in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, apparently to commemorate the end of the plague in his dominions — and according to Secunderabad MP G Kishan Reddy, the temple predates the monument.
According to ASI officials, a small guard pillar erected to protect the monument from vehicles negotiating the roundabout on which it stands was found painted saffron some time in the 1960s, and some people had started performing aarti there. After a state road transport bus accidentally hit the guard pillar and damaged it, a small structure made of bamboo was built overnight, and the idol of the goddess was placed under it.
“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,”
Who visits the temple now?
A large number of Hindu traders and businessmen who have shops in the Charminar area visit the temple daily. During festivals, especially Diwali, the temple attracts many devotees and sees long queues.
Devotees associate the name with their belief that praying to the goddess in the temple will bring them good luck and fortune.
On the other hand, Hindu political organizations associate the name of the goddess with Bhagyanagar and claim that Hyderabad was earlier known as Bhagyanagar, but its name was changed to Hyderabad by the Qutbshahi rulers after they moved their capital here from Golconda.
When did the temple become a site of political contestation?
The old city of Hyderabad is communally sensitive, and the temple has been at the center of communal tensions and violence since at least the 1970s.
In November 1979, after extremists seeking to overthrow the House of Saudi in Saudi Arabia seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), the Hyderabad-based party that is now led by MP Asaduddin Owaisi, 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.
A few years later, in September 1983, banners put up on the temple on the occasion of the Ganesh festival caused tensions after it was reported that the temple had expanded. Both the temple and the Allwyn mosque in the city were attacked by mobs.
In November 2012, clashes broke out after reports that the temple management was expanding it by replacing the bamboo structure with sheets. The Andhra Pradesh High Court had stepped in to halt all construction activity at the site.