Kazipet railway junction: The link between the great North India-South India divide

Located in Hanamkonda district of Telangana is Kazipet, a railway junction that is considered as the gateway to north and south India.

ByRama Ramanan

Published Feb 26, 2024 | 1:34 PMUpdatedFeb 27, 2024 | 10:36 AM

By 1924, the Balharshah-Kazipet line was established to connect the north and the south.

The North India-South India divide has historical roots that trace back to ancient times. While both regions have contributed significantly to India’s heritage, their differences have often taken centre stage.

Characterised by fault lines like political dynamics, societal constructs, and economic complexities, the polarisation of North-South India has deepened with the politicisation of underlying disparities.

But beyond these fault lines is a railway line with a rich slice of history, and geography too, that makes a significant positive connection between North India and South India.

Also Read: Did you know this place in Tamil Nadu was the birthplace of India’s first mutiny for Independence?

Of Presidencies and railway connections

“We are talking about the 1870s when the British were the allies of the Nizams,” says Hyderabad-based Sibghatullah  Khan, founder of The Deccan Archives.

“Back then, the British Presidency included the Bombay Presidency, the Madras Presidency and the Bengal Presidency. These surrounded the Hyderabad state, which had no railway,” chips in Dr Anuradha Reddy, Hyderabad-based heritage activist and convenor of INTACH Hyderabad.

Bombay had the Great Indian Peninsula Railways that went from Bombay to Madras via Wadi, the borders of Hyderabad state. From Madras, there was a railway connection to Bengal.

“There were different railways. One was the Madras and Southern Maratha Railway (M & SM). Then there was the Eastern Railways. And the north of Hyderabad had the Bengal and Nagpur Railways (B & NR). So these were going from respective Presidencies to each other,” shares Reddy.

Also Read: Have you been to this Kerala park that houses the world’s largest bird sculpture?

Going past the resistance for Kazipet

Mahboob Ali Khan, Nizam VI

Mahboob Ali Khan, Nizam VI (Wikipedia)

Eventually, she says, the British suggested that there should be a railway line in Hyderabad state. But the locals considered it unsuitable as it was unheard of, and besides, it would mean intrusion in state affairs.

“The locals were also worried that the sound of the steam engine would disturb the farmers on the fields,” shares Khan.

Unable to stop the resistance, the British reached out to Salar Jung I, the Prime Minister of the state at that time, during the reign of Mahbub Ali Khan, Nizam VI.

“He was a young ruler, and Salar Jung I was quite revolutionary and keen on the betterment of the state. He made a visit to Bombay and discovered the benefits of a railway line,” she narrates.

Gradually, everyone realised that a railway line would bring an ease of connection for the import and export of goods from Hyderabad to the Bombay Presidency, adds Khan. Being a landlocked state, until then, everything had to be sent via Bombay. Nanded, he shares, was one of the inland ports for Hyderabad state, and Nanded was connected to Bombay.

Also Read: Have you been to this Kerala park that houses the world’s largest bird sculpture?

The origin of NGSR

Nizam’s Guaranteed Railway Map (Wikipedia)

But setting up a railway line in Hyderabad state was a huge experiment, and the question was — who would pay for this project?

Thus was born the Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railway (NGSR), says Reddy. And a company was created in England that offered railway bonds and shares. Locals in Hyderabad also bought those bonds, she adds.

“Eventually, the NGSR was built by the British but with a 5 % guarantee and that’s why it was called the Nizam Guaranteed. According to the agreement, Hyderabad state paid 5% a year, whether the railway connection made profits or not,” she shares.

Also Read: Mythic Society’s Bengaluru Inscriptions 3D Digital Conservation Project seeks to rescue city’s microhistory from oblivion

The birth of Kazipet

Secunderabad Railway station in 1874

Secunderabad Railway station in 1874. (Wikipiedia)

But before the NGSR, the British set up the Secunderabad Cantonment to station their officers. “This made way for a railway line from Wadi in Maharashtra to Secunderabad, as it was beneficial to bring men and animals like horses, mules, etc.” Reddy notes.

The Wadi to Secunderabad line was inaugurated in 1874. Before that, one line, which branched off before coming into the station, went into the cantonment areas called Cavalry Barracks.

“This line ended at Secunderabad. Therefore, it was considered suitable to carry on from Secunderabad to Vijayawada because it linked the east coast and west coast through Hyderabad,” Reddy shares.

It was at this juncture that a link connecting the north and the south became mandatory, marking the historic establishment of the Kazipet railway junction. Subsequently, between 1874 and 1889, the Secunderabad-Wadi line was extended to Kazipet and then to Vijayawada, Reddy details.

Also Read: The bane of travelling is crowded destinations, South India is working on it

Connecting with the Madras Presidency

“Soon, they realised that the network had to be extended to the Madras Presidency and central provinces like Madhya Pradesh. This meant that the railway line from Secunderabad would now be extended eastwards towards Vijayawada and then continue to the Madras Presidency,” shares Khan.

In 1899, the connection between Vijayawada and Madras opened, making rail travel between Hyderabad and Madras possible.

Kacheguda Railway Station (Wikipedia)

Kacheguda Railway Station (Wikipedia)

In 1916, another railway terminus, the Kacheguda Railway Station, was set up. This served as the railway’s headquarters.

“Balharshah in Madhya Pradesh was a major link for the north and south of India. Kazipet was the northernmost part of the south, and Balharshah was the southernmost part of the north,” reveals Khan.

When this connection was established, Kazipet became an even more significant junction. “Because, earlier, someone coming from the north to Hyderabad would have to come to Bombay and then come to Hyderabad,” he adds.

By 1924, the Balharshah-Kazipet line was established to connect the north and the south.

Six years later, in 1930, Nizam VII, paid off the railway shares and NGSR became Nizam State Railway, wholly Hyderabad-owned, in 1932.

“Back then, Kazipet had locomotive workshops, steam and electric engines, as modernisation happened. All this happened until 1950 by Hyderabad state under NSR. This is the revolutionary contribution of the state,” points out Reddy.

Also Read: Nilgiri Mountain Railway: A summer escape to South India’s iconic UNESCO Heritage site

How railways made way for road connectivity

With the railway line now positively impacting trade along the north-south route, Nizam VII found it only fitting to make way for a road network as last-mile connectivity.

“After the roads, came the buses. Subsequently, in the 1930s, aviation activity began in the state. That’s how the Air Department of NSR came about,” explains Reddy.

This soon paved the way for air connectivity from North India to South India.

“It’s a huge contribution towards modernisation, and foresight and forethought. This is what forms the core of the railways of India. But people don’t realise the importance of all these historical events. All the railway networks are from the period of the NGSR and the NSR,” Reddy comments.

Also Read: An explorer’s guide to Karnataka’s majestic Bidar Fort

Missing from history textbooks

Hyderabad Deccan Railway Station before 1905 (Wikipedia)

Hyderabad Deccan Railway Station before 1905 (Wikipedia)

Khan and Reddy are disappointed that the historical significance of Kazipet has no mention in any history textbook.

“Until ten years ago, Hyderabad and Secunderabad were called twin cities. Similarly, Warangal, Kazipet and Hananpanna are three cities together. Kazipet was next to the second largest city in now Telangana. It was the ideal place to have a junction. So there were three cities with one junction,” shares Khan.

Reddy laments that people don’t care about the importance of what the ancestors did for us. “But it should be known that this piece of history is what connected the north, south, east and west of India. Salar Jung I, Mahboob Ali Khan, Nizam VI, and Nizam VII, had all said that these connections will take us forward into the future,” remarks Reddy.

Also Read: Undavalli Caves: Why this monolithic marvel in Andhra Pradesh should be on your must-visit list

Why Kazipet junction is iconic

Giving us a peek into some interesting trivia about Kazipet junction, Khan reveals a few lesser-known facts about the station.

“There is an interesting photograph of the inauguration of the Kazipet junction which has Mahbub Ali Khan, Nizam VI in it. Besides, there is also an artefact from the event. Nizam VI was known to be a sharpshooter from Hyderabad. Often, someone would throw a coin in the air and he would shoot it down. There is a gold coin in the Purani Haveli museum in the city. He hit This coin in the air when the station was inaugurated. The bullet mark is still visible,” shares Khan.

Also, there are photographs of a tennis match that happened next to the Kazipet railway station. “There used to be a small tennis court right next to the station. There is a picture of the last Nizam playing tennis over there as a young boy,” discloses Khan.

In the 90s, the Kazipet railway line was electrified. The station now has modern facilities.

But Khan and Reddy rue it’s not the same heritage building that was originally built. Meticulous preservation is the need of the hour before history disappears, and these treasures are lost, they sign off.