By Sruthi Vibhavari and Nihad Amani
Hyderabad: Once the residence of the Prime Minister under the Asaf Jahi dynasty, the two-storied Khursheed Jah Devdi currently lies in a pile of ruins, thanks to the monumental neglect by the authorities.
Apart from the obvious unsightliness, the structure now looks akin to a haunted house with— spider webs, a broken staircase, vandalized walls and the entire floor covered in pigeon excrement.
Well famed as a gorgeous mansion with imposing pillars and a strikingly European design Devdi Khursheed Jah’s floors were once adorned with expensive carpets and its ceiling held exclusive chandeliers. With gardens blossoming with beautiful flowers and fountains forming integral part of the building, it was a popular tourist attraction.
Once home to the royal Paigahs, now the deserted Khurshid Jah Devdi has become an adda for the drunkards.
History of the Khursheed Jah Devdi
Devdi Khursheed Jah was constructed by Paigah noble Nawab Fakhruddin, who built several other palaces in the city including the Iqbal-ul-Daula Devdi and Jahanuma Palace. Artisans from European countries were brought in to complete the structure.
A big garden and stable were also part of the palace. The water to the palace was channelled from Mir Alam Tank by a special line which also supplied water to other royal palaces.
A family that currently takes shelter in the ground floor of the Devdi said: “We have not seen officials visiting the palace at any point of time. The whole structure is just left to shatter one day.”
The erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government in the year 1981 listed the Devdi in the 150 heritage structures under the Regulation 13 of the HMDA Act. Regulation 13 of the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority Zoning Regulations, 1981, was meant for regulating and conserving heritage structures.
Who must be held responsible?
But, who is responsible for protecting the structure? Well, no one knows.
At one time it was handed over to the Quli Qutb Shah Development Authority. The Authority is now dysfunctional because of the absence of interest in keeping it alive by the government.
William Dalrymple, the author of White Mughals wrote about Khursheed Jah Devdi on Twitter:
When contacted authorities of several departments who could be possibly connected to the heritage conservation, replied in negation —“Khursheed Jah Devdi does not come under our jurisdiction.”
Greater Hyderabad Municipal Cooperation (GHMC) South Zone had a very straight ‘No’ as an answer. The officials, instead, referred to the Hyderabad Municipal Development Authority, who takes the responsibility of the upkeep of heritage structures.
The Telangana Archeology Department too said that it has no connection with the Devdi. However, on repeated queries of the same kind, Assistant Director Ch. Madhavi said that the building was listed as the Grade-3 heritage structure under the HMDA.
HMDA, on the other hand, chose not to speak about the Khursheed Jah Devdi
In 2015, the Telangana government under GO. 183 repealed the Regulation 13. But the High Court in its Irrum Manzil verdict in 2019 clearly stated: “The government did not have the power to repeal the regulation 13 of Zonal Regulation- 1981”.
This meant that the protection given to the Khurshid Jah Devdi as “protected heritage building” under the HMDA still continues. But, the government continues to ignore the fact that the historic building is under its control. The reason is simple. If it publicly owns the building it has also got to say why the building is in shambles.
What the heritage activists say about Khursheed Jah Devdi
A painful surprise revealed itself when siasat.com began contacting the well known heritage activists in the city.
Anuradha Reddy, Convenor of INTACH, Hyderabad said, “There must be at least some clarity on who is ultimately responsible for the protection of the monument.” She urged that the government must protect the beautiful Egyptian styled structure.
Sajjad Shahid, a heritage activist alleges, was forthright in his response. He said that it was HMDA which is clearly responsible for the protection and conservation of the heritage structures in the State. “If HMDA denies its responsibility in protecting the structure clearly listed under Regulation 13, it amounts to the contempt of the court,” he pointed out.
With its architectural grandeur alone, Khursheed Jah Devdi has a potential to become a major tourist attraction. It is part of Hyderabad’s glorious past.
Another activist who wished to remain anonymous said, “What makes Hyderabad different from other modern and growing cities in the country is its regal architectural past along with its unique tahzeeb or culture.
British Deputy High Commisioner to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana urged to save the monument on Twitter too.
If the government is bent upon cheating the public on its commitment to saving the Old City, the public should knock at every possible door to get some support to conserve it. The government does not seem to care much about these feeble voices.”