A Micro History in Hyderabad

Hema Malini is the principal investigator for the archival research project about  the Brahma Kshatriya Community (BKC) of Hyderabad. It is one of the oldest living
communities, and one that has managed to preserve its identity for centuries in the diverse religious and ethnic landscape of Charminar, the Old City and new Hyderabad and thrived as a progressive one to the present day. Primarily employed in the bureaucracy of the erstwhile Nizam, the monarch of Hyderabad State, (in southern India/Deccan) in the professions of medicine, law, banking, and education in the pre- and post-independence India, the community has expanded its presence primarily in Hyderabad but also outside of it. As a community before, during and after independence, it had and still has progressive ideals of supporting education, going beyond traditions to strictly enforce the abolishment of the marriage dowry and thriving in the geography that was not fully home to them. The Brahma Kshatriya Community was a group of about 70 families that came together in the late 1700s and set up a formal structure to associate with each other and live together. In the background to their lives is the notion of nation building, modernity and an overall progressive outlook that came to lay the foundations of what the community is today.

Why the Brahma Kshatriya Community and why now?
One reason to study the BK Community is to highlight the people’s perspective of history.
That history up to now has been written top-down by those wielding power, whether
economic, cultural, social or political and has been limited to books. Experiences drawn
from common people provide insight to the real struggle and overcoming of the social
and political challenges that a community has faced.

We propose to do this research interviewing members past 80 years of age and have been born and raised in the Old City of Hyderabad. Recording oral histories of ordinary people and their day-to-day lives as it existed back in the day enriches the understanding of the community and its history.

The outcome will be a digital/multi-media collection will be compiled as an exhibit at local cultural institutions in Hyderabad.

1. Use interviews to explore the origin and identity of this community; explore where
they are at the current moment.
2. Explore what institutions and structures where in place that were of shared value to
the community.
3. Was there participation in civic life? What forms did that take on? At what level and
how was this participation happening?
4. What kinds of capital was available to the members in economic, cultural, and social
terms? What was income primarily spent on? What was considered of utmost
5. What did the everyday life look like- while growing up and in the prime of their
6. What sort of material objects pertaining to that history are available to share?
Collection of photographs, old written notes, old books that people own, early
member directories, household artifacts that are specific to the community.

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