Miyan Mishk Mahal: Lost link to the past

Every old monument in the city tells a story; neglecting it would imply losing the history behind it

Published - June 23, 2018 04:51 pm IST

Attapur is an old locality on the right bank of Musi, before Charminar. While one road is dotted with ancient temples, nothing much remains of the other old structures that would have existed in the area — except a grand palace complex whose hulk can still be seen once you enter the inner lanes on the left side of the main road. Surrounded by tall grass, the grandeur of the building can still be evidenced from the shape of the balcony or the staircase. This is the Miyan Mishk Mahal built by an African soldier in the employ of Abul Hasan, the last ruler of Qutb Shahi dynasty.

A few kilometres away, in the Malakpet area of the city, is another grand old structure. A building in ruins that has virtually been boxed in by a housing complex built by the Andhra Pradesh Housing Board. This is the Mahbub Mansion built by the sixth Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan.

This is not about the buildings that were built in the height of power by the two gentlemen; but their current status. Nobody is certain about the status of these buildings. Caught in a legal limbo in the status where the archaeology department is not involved but where a number of heirs and neighbours in the area eye the land, Hyderabad is losing its link with the past.

Ironically, both the buildings — Miyan Mishk Mahal and Mahbub Mansion — were built for women. Miyan Mishk built a screened off upper story for the women in his Zenana to have the pleasure of watching the Musi. Mahbub Ali Khan built the palace for sharing the joy of watching the races with his favourite consort Sardar Begum. Today, it is difficult to imagine the sight of Musi from the Miyan Mishk Mahal or the Malakpet Race Course from Mahbub Mansion area.

The two buildings are emblematic of the fate of much of heritage in Hyderabad. If it is private property, the owners try to sell it off. And if it is public property, the neighbours and localities try to usurp the property and erase it. Even the state government is not above this subterfuge as a number of buildings are being allowed to go to seed, like the grand Osmania General Hospital. While the City College got a maintenance grant and a conservation plan is being executed on the site, the OGH has had no such luck. “It was built by our family. It should be protected and saved from destruction. That would be a real tribute to Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan who was a visionary and who built such a grand hospital for the people of the area. Despite so many complaints about the state of disrepair, nothing has been done. Even the vegetation growing on the building has not been removed,” says Najaf Ali Khan.

A few days back, when civic activists tweeted about the need to save the Miyan Mishk Mahal, there was a positive response from the key bureaucrat in the Ministry of Municipal Administration and Urban Development. Now it remains to be seen what action follows on the ground.

The one easily accessible building that still gives a glimpse of past glory is the Baradari of Khurshid Jah. As children and adults play football, cricket and run around the area, the grand columns of the building with flaking paint are reminders of a different era. Much of the parquet flooring is gone. But for a brief moment, this and the other dilapidated buildings show us a possibility — if all these heritage sites are saved, Hyderabadis would be able to show a heritage beyond Charminar and Golconda.

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