Conservation work on grand mosque nearing completion

The facade of the Hayat Bakshi Begum masjid which has regained some of its lost charm, thanks to conservation efforts.   | Photo Credit: SERISH NANISETTI

After a break due to the COVID-19 lockdown, conservation work on the royal mosque in the funerary complex of Qutb Shahi Heritage Park is nearing completion. “This is a mosque attached to the mausoleum of Hayat Bakshi Begum. It is not a congregation mosque. It was meant for use by the royal family to pray for the begum buried here,” says Ratish Nanda of Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

Called the grand mosque or the mosque of Hayat Bakshi Begum, its twin minarets soar to a height of 110 feet or about 11 storeys. The protective shields are still there, some of the scaffoldings remain in place but a major chunk of the work has been completed. “We are looking at a mid-September date for finishing the work,” says Prashant Banerjee of AKTC, giving a timeline of the work. The conservation work is being carried out the Telangana Department of Archaeology and Museums, AKTC and the Tata Trusts.

Key figure

Hayat Bakshi Begum was the daughter of Muhammad Quli, who founded Hyderabad in 1591, and wife of Sultan Muhammad who reigned for a short period. She then played a key role during her son Abdullah Qutb Shah’s reign. The mosque was completed in the year Hayat Bakshi Begum passed away and she was buried in the tomb built during her lifetime, earning it the moniker Hayat Bakshi Begum Masjid.

Challenging for artisans

The challenges faced by the conservation artisans can be seen from the scattered pre-fab concrete flower patterns that were stuck to the 17th century lime-mortar structure. “The height of the flooring was changed during the earlier restoration work. Enamel paint was used to colour the ornamental designs of the alams and the ceiling medallion. Some of the slopes of the raised platform were inverted leading to water stagnation,” informs Mr. Banerjee pointing to chunks of concrete shapes lying around the mosque.

Original craftsmanship

The original craftsmanship can still be seen from the capital band details that have been left unmolested by multiple conservation and restoration works. The removal of outer layers of cement plaster has revealed details of fire breathing mythical monsters known as shirdal (griffin) on the alams in the niches of the arches.

The prayer niche has a band of chiselled inscription attributed to Taqiuddin Muhammad and gives the date of completion of the mosque to 1666. Once work on the mosque is completed, a key element in the story of the Qutb Shahi necropolis will come alive for the visitors and tourists.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 1:32:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/conservation-work-on-grand-mosque-nearing-completion/article32490875.ece

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