If your idea of travel is like that of Mark Twain’s—to explore, dream, and discover—then Medak is a destination that’s meant just for travelers like you. The small town of Medak, less than 100 kms from Hyderabad in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, has the distinction of housing Asia’s largest and world’s second largest diocese cathedral, next only to the Vatican. Though remnants of Buddhist structures attest to the long and varied history of the area, it is the Gothic church of Medak that stands out in its magnificence.
Created on a grand scale in solid white granite, the cathedral is decorated with mosaic tiles of six different shades that were specially made and imported from England. The tiles were laid by skilled Italian workmen who were brought in from Bombay. The marble on the chancel floor and the altarpiece behind the Holy Communion were specifically procured from Italy.
The glory of the church is the set of three massive stained glass windows depicting the story of the New Testament in a panorama of colourful images. Working from his studio in London, it took British Bible artist Frank O’Salisbury about 40 years to create these masterpieces, which depict the three main facets of the life of Jesus Christ—the nativity, the crucifixion, and the ascension. Naturally, these windows were installed at different years, with the ascension in 1927, the nativity in 1947 and the crucifixion in 1958. The windows, made of solar glass, can be best viewed when the sun is at its brightest and radiating through them. All the stained glass windows have inscriptions in English, Hindi, and Telugu. The Hindi inscriptions came later, and were done at the instance of Vijaylakshmi Pandit, sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who felt that the national language should also find a mention on the stained glass.
It’s remarkable that this towering structure was conceived during a period of famine that struck the area. The sight of hungry villagers moved Reverend Charles Walker Posnett, a missionary, to suggest a “food for work” program. This set the ball rolling for the construction of the church, on which work began in the year 1914.
Supported by British Wesleyan Methodists, the farmers drudged to build the church from 1914 to 1924 under
the keen eyes of architect Thomas Edward Harding. After a decade of toil, this imposing church of 173 feet came into existence and was ceremoniously consecrated in 1924 during Christmas celebrations. (Legend has it that the height of the church was restricted by the then- Nizam of Hyderabad, who decreed that the church tower could not be higher than the Charminar, the beautiful colossus for which Hyderabad is famous.)
One of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in India, the 200 feet long and 100 feet wide church can accommodate a congregation of about 5,000 worshippers at a time.
While in Medak, one can also make a quick visit to the once magnificent Medak fort built by Kakatiyas, a powerful Shaivite dynasty that ruled the area from the 11th to the 14th century CE. The fort offers a panoramic sight of the city, though it is badly in need of restoration. Beware: Other travelers have noted the difficulty in locating the hillock where the fort is located.
A stark contrast to the fort ruins is the refreshing environs of Pocharam Sanctuary. Just about 20 kms from Medak, the Pocharam Sanctuary was once the favourite hunting ground of the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad, who declared it a wildlife sanctuary during his reign in the early part of the 19th century.
Located on the shores of Pocharam Lake, the sanctuary extends over an area of 130-sq-km and is replete with flora and fauna. The reservoir here is built on the River Aler and is a popular picnic place. If you like angling, you can take in the beauty of the place while waiting for the fish to take your bait.
Salmaan Saify is a freelance copywriter who loves travelling. For more information go to www.salmaansaify.in.
By Air: The nearest airport is Hyderabad, about 100 kms.
By Rail: The nearest railhead is Kamareddy—about 60 kms, and Hyderabad—about 100 kms.
By Bus: Medak is well connected by state buses from Hyderabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and other cities of Andhra Pradesh.
Best time to visit: October to March. Summer can be hot in these parts.
Where to stay:
If you are to planning to stay for the night, you can find small lodges in Siddipet, the district headquarters, 20 kms from Medak. You can also stay at the Inspection Bungalow at Pocharam and Medak. Contact: Divisional Forest Officer, Wildlife Management, Medak. Phone : 08452-222591.