Qutb Shahi Tomb Complex restoration hit by pandemic; picking up again

Yunus Y. Lasania

Hyderabad: The ongoing restoration works at the historic Qutb Shahi tombs have been hit by the pandemic. Like all other things, work at the royal necropolis came to a stop due to the lock down recently, and has now slowed down as many workers who left the city are yet to return. 

Currently, phase-2 and phase-3 of one of the massive projects taken up recently are underway. Several major tombs like that of Hayat Bakshi Begum (daughter of Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, Hyderabad’s founder) and Abdullah Qutb Shah (7th king) are currently being restored. 

The work was originally expected to be fully executed by early 2023, but given the current situation, it is uncertain if the deadline will be met. According to one of the officials, who did not want to be quoted only about 30 of the 100-plus workers are on-site, while the rest, who left for home during the lockdown, are expected to return in the coming days. 

So far, about 30 monuments in the Qutb Shahi Tombs complex have been restored under phase-1 of the project, which was completed in April 2018. Under the first phase, major works included the restoration of the boundary wall enclosure of Sultan Quli Qutb Shah’s (founder of the Golconda kingdom) tomb, and restoration of the Eidgah, as well. 

The ongoing restoration at the Qutb Shahi tombs complex is currently being undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in partnership with the Telangana government.

A view of Sultan Mohammed Qutb Shah’s tomb Photo:Yunus Y. Lasania

Inside the Qutb Shahi Tombs complex, the tombs of Sultan Quli, his sons Jamshed Quli (second king) and Ibrahim Qutb Shah (third) and Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah (fourth) are all situated in close proximity, and have also been fully restored. In fact, Ibrahim Qutb Shah’s tomb still has some of the Persian tiles which were originally used to adorn the walls on some of the structures. 

Under phase-2 of the restoration work, major tombs that will be restored are those of Hayat Bakshi Begum, Taramati’s (courtesan under Abdullah Qutb Shah, 6th king) tomb, etc. Hayat Bakshi Begum in fact is considered to be the most powerful woman among the Qutb Shahi rulers, given that she was linked to three kings. 

Hayat Bakshi Begum was the daughter of Hyderabad’s founder Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah. She married the next king (5th) Sultan Mohammaed Qutb Shah, and was also the mother of Abdullah Qutb Shah, who would go on to become king number five. The biggest tomb in the complex is that of Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah. 

Moreover, in the ongoing restoration work, the architects working on-site also found that the dome on Abdullah Qutb Shah’s tomb had a ribbed structure. It was revealed after workers removed the layer of cement. Similarly, the wall enclosure of Sultan Quli’s tomb was also found earlier, as it was buried in the ground. “The ornamentation on Sultan Quli’s tomb was also important, as it was buried under a layer of cement,” the official, who did not want to be quoted, added. 

The Qutb Shahi Tombs is the royal necropolis where the founders of the Golconda Kingdom were laid to rest. All except the last king, Abul Hassan Tana Shah, are buried there. Hassan was taken captive after the final siege of Hyderabad by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1687, and is buried at the Daulatabad fort near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The tombs complex in Hyderabad is believed to be one of the largest in the world.

Sultan Quli Qutb Shah founded the Qutb Shahi (or Golconda) kingdom in 1518, when the last sovereign Bahmani emperor Mahmud Shah Bahmani, for whom he was serving as governor (of Telangana), died. He was originally from Hamadan (Iran), and began developing the Golconda fort (where the first 3 kings ruled from) into a walled-city. 

It eventually came to called Golconda Fort (name derived from Golla-conda, or shepherds hill). The Golconda Fort was developed between 1518 to 1591, when it was a walled-city, which was called Qila Mohammad Nagar. Sultan Quli’s grandson Mohammed Quli Qutb Shahi moved out of it and built the Charminar as the foundation of Hyderabad in 1591.

Note: Some also consider Subhan Quli, the son of Jamshed, also as one of the rulers. Subhan was a child when he was crowned king after Jamshed’s death in 1543, and the kingdom was ruled under a proxy for some months under his name. His ornate tomb is situated on the platform of Sultan Quli’s tomb.   

The writer is a Hyderabad-based journalist, who has previously worked for The New Indian Express, The Hindu and Mint.

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