Restoration of a Qutb Shahi tomb leads to new discovery

Tomb of seventh Golconda king found to have ribbed dome that was plastered over earlier

January 05, 2020 11:41 pm | Updated January 07, 2020 04:33 pm IST - Hyderabad

The 49-metre tomb of Abdullah Qutb Shah which is being jointly restored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Telangana government.

The 49-metre tomb of Abdullah Qutb Shah which is being jointly restored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Telangana government.

There is a palpable sense of excitement as the restoration of the Qutb Shahi tombs complex gains pace. “We have discovered that the Abdullah Qutb Shah’s tomb had a ribbed structure that was plastered over during restoration in the 19th and 20th century,” says Ratish Nanda, CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), which is carrying out the conservation work along with the Telangana government.

“All the tombs have some uniqueness. When we began chiselling the outer layer of Abdullah’s tomb, we found originally it was a ribbed dome, not tiled like Sultan Muhammad Qutb Shah or flat like Hayat Bakshi Begum’s tomb,” informs Mr. Nanda. “We had hints about it, but once we began peeling away the outer layers, we could confirm it had ribs. We will restore the ribs and the whole effort may take a year,” he says.

The crew working on the Abdullah Qutb Shah’s tomb drive chisels into the dome. At places, the four layers added in the 19th and 20th century, are six inches thick. The rubble is sent down a makeshift chute from a height. The 49-metre mausoleum of the seventh Golconda king is one of the biggest in the funerary complex. At the pinnacle of the dome is a 25-foot high copper finial. “The finial looks small but it is very tall. Its pieces also required a bit of mending and welding,” says Prashant Banerjee of AKTC. The conservators turned to the expertise of coppersmith Muhammad Saleem who plies his trade near the Chowk Masjid to restore the finial to ensure there is no seepage of water.

Ingress of water and seepage has been one of the main challenges encountered during the conservation effort of the structures which were built in the 17th century using limestone mortar and stone. “We removed vegetation from the tombs. On Abdullah’s tomb, the roots of a plant went down to 15 feet,” says Mr. Nanda. As it is a double dome with the flatter inner ceiling, the delicate stucco and paintwork has remained nearly intact.

The height of the work site means it is a harness and hard-hat zone. The wind that comes down the Golconda fort is like a roar and not for the faint-hearted. “We are used to working like this. We just have to follow the instructions,” says Mehbub, a worker, who deftly moves from one scaffolding to another as if it was flat ground.

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