Restoring the original character of Qutb Shahi tombs’ landscape

Adults play cricket in front of a tomb even before work on the stone pavement is completed.   | Photo Credit: Serish Nanisetti

Early 19th century paintings and photographs of Qutb Shahi Tombs in Hyderabad show the monuments in open splendour surrounded by gardens. But visitors to the heritage complex in the latter part of the 20th and 21st century saw a different precinct — reinforced concrete fountains, walls, monuments with connecting platforms, iron railings on platforms, a Japanese garden with a bridge over a water channel and an asphalt road connecting it all.

But now, things are changing as the State government and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture are working on the landscape to restore the historic character of the necropolis. “This was not how the garden was visualised by the builders. The founder Sultan Quli’s buried garden enclosure was revealed during our research. It was an important discovery as it showed that the Qutb Shahis continued the Persian tradition of mausoleums in enclosed walled garden. The levels had changed over the years right from the time of Ibrahim Qutb Shah who built his own tomb at a higher level,” informs Ratish Nanda, CEO of AKTC.

Outside the tombs complex, the Quli Qutub Shah Urban Development Authority built a Deccan Park. Inside, a boating facility, a toy train, an amphitheatre and assorted park amenities came up blighting the heritage complex. The earth excavated from the pond for boating was heaped on one side creating an unseemly mound that found favour with dozens of Telugu filmmakers.

Now the entry to the Quli Qutb Shah Tombs complex will be through what used to be the Deccan Park. Visitors can see connecting pathways that show the monuments in a new light. The aqueducts and water channels that had been buried over layers of soil and concrete forced the conservation architects to re-plan multiple times. “Access to the Hamam required earth levels to be reduced by over three feet to reveal the original stone paving. This excavation revealed a 17th century aqueduct criss-crossing the site and some of it will remain exposed for visitors to see for decades to come,” says Mr. Nanda.

The key to symmetrical Islamic gardens are the plants and trees. “The area is huge and I have suggested planting of cypress, kewda (screw pine), gul-e-abbas, gul-e-dawoodi (referred to by J.B. Tavernier), grape bower, maulsari and other plants in the garden. There are references to these in historical description as well as in poetry of the period,” informs historian Sajjad Shahid who helped the conservation team with research in Persian and Urdu documents.

“There are descriptions of night and day gardens. The plants and shrubs for night garden should have leaves that reflect moonlight and be aromatic. We will have Juhi (jasmine), Chameli (Arabian Jasmine), Raat ki rani (night blooming jasmine) and others in the night garden,” says Mr. Shahid.

Tombs of commander and hakims that were plastered into one platform are now separated and show them in a new light.

A stone pavement is also being laid to ensure the site can bear the footfalls of rising number of visitors anticipated after the conservation effort is complete.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 4:21:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/restoring-the-original-character-of-qutb-shahi-tombs-landscape/article33317161.ece

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