After many a hiccup, the Agha Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) finally commenced restoration work at the historic Qutb Shahi tombs here on Saturday.

This follows permission given by the Wakf Tribunal to take up repair of the ‘Badi Bouli’ at the entrance to the tomb complex pending final decision on the case. After two days of hearing, the Tribunal gave the go-ahead to the Department of Archaeology and Museums on Friday to carry out repairs of the step-well which has collapsed on one side.

Experts visit tombs

A multi-disciplinary team of the AKTC, comprising conservation archaeologists, engineers and landscape architects, visited the Qutb Shahi tombs on Saturday morning and cleared debris in and around the well. The work will start in right earnest on Sunday, with specialised artisans preparing lime-mortar comprising jaggery, sand, fruit pulp and stone aggregates.

The AKTC team, however, had to face a shower of abuses from some opponents. But it is nothing new for the agency executing projects in 30 countries.

“Initially, there was suspicion and vested interests are in play. But we will overcome that,” said Ratish Nanda, project director, AKTC.

Interestingly, AKTC is the only agency in India taking up conservation work on ASI protected monuments.

It plans to replicate the good work done by it in Delhi at Humayun Tomb and 50 monuments around it. “We adopt the traditional Indian approach to conservation everywhere,” said Mr. Nanda.

He made it clear that the Qutb Shahi tomb complex was not handed over to the AKTC but remained in the control of the Department of Archaeology. “It is a public-private partnership not for profit,” he added.

Dorabji Tata Trust

The partnership has been further strengthened, with the Dorabji Tata Trust evincing interest in the project. It will be providing co-funding to the conservation work estimated to cost Rs. 100 crore.

The Qutb Shahi Tombs are one of the most important Islamic heritage sites in India comparable to the Taj Mahal. Nowhere in the world are 70 monuments at one place representing an entire dynasty, which ruled for 170 years. “If properly protected, it is capable of drawing huge number of visitors,” Mr. Nanda felt.

Urgent repair needed

All monuments are in urgent need of repair, with vegetal growth, cracks and vandalism taking a heavy toll. The dome of the Jamsheed Quli tomb runs the risk of caving in as the wooden beam used in it has chipped away in many places.

The lime mortar material will be used to bring back the original sheen.

The AKTC is here for a long haul. It will take 10 long years to complete the restoration work. “But once it is through, the site will be safe for another 400 years,” said Mr. Nanda.

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