The Paigah Tombs are just 4 km southeast of Charminar and yet, it is hard to find them, lost as they are in a maze of alleys. Blink and you could miss the entrance, hidden behind a tree in a quiet street, not far from Owaisi Hospital. The lime and mortar tombs are 200 years old and house the final resting place of several members of the Paigah family, who distinguished themselves in every field, while being loyal to the Nizams. Rahmatullah, the caretaker, is all praise for the Archaeology Department that took up the protection of this place in 1989. His relationship with the place has lasted almost three decades. ‘Land-grabbers are aplenty and the place might have gone for good, had it not been for the Department,’ he says, thankful that obstinate settlers were evicted from inside the compound in 2009. Now, while the main complex could do with a few funds, the department had earlier undertaken repair works involving the floral motifs, minarets, ceiling and pillar bases.
An arched gate proudly reads Paigah leading to the courtyard of cobblestones, surrounded by a well-landscaped garden. It is a piece of history that has remained ignored by tourists, like a poorer cousin of the square that boasts of Charminar and Mecca Masjid. A proud guide of the place talks about Abul Fateh Khan Tegh Jung, the first of the Paigahs, who received the title of ‘Shams-ul-Umra’. He chose this resting place over a spot beside the Dargah of Baba Farid in Ajmer. The second Nizam conferred upon him the title Paigah, meaning pomp and rank, a word of Persian roots. The complex that retains an old-world charm has an arched entrance called Naubat Khana leading to a courtyard that has several tombs. Ornate trellises, beautifully carved pillars and embellished domes surround the mini mausoleums and bear some Turkish influence too. The tomb of Asman Jah holds particular significance, opening up to the sky as a dedication to his name. A beautiful, carved green stone on the sarcophagus was famous for its ability to change colour as per the season.
One of the most notable tombs is that of Hussain-Un-Nissa Begum, daughter of the fifth Nizam who was married to Kursheed Shah. Known for being a replica of Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb inside Taj Mahal, this tomb boasts of beautiful pietra dura inlay work on Makrana marble. There is also the tomb of Parwarish-un-Nissa, daughter of the fifth Nizam and wife of Nawab Bashir-ud-Daulah, whose tomb is one of the best carved ones in the complex. Extensive jaali work and floral stucco ornamentation capture the vivid imagination of any student of architecture. Ornate wooden doors are made of mahogany, teak and rosewood, surviving, almost miraculously, the test of time. One of the most notable tombs is that of Lady Zahir-e-Jung, who died in 1996. She was responsible for handing over the tombs to the Archaeology Department. Another elaborate tomb is that of Fakhruddin Khan, a son-in-law of the second Nizam. There is also an intricately carved tomb of Nawab Zahir Yar Jung, the Last Amire Paigah, who died in 1968.
Called a Jewel in the heritage of Hyderabad, the necropolis boasts of Mughal and Rajput influences as well. An Asaf Jahi style mosque inside the complex complete with a small pond beautifully reflecting the arches is a photographer’s delight. The tombs feature among GHMC’s plans for a walkway for pedestrians and tourists while traversing between Golconda, Quli Qutb Shah Tombs, Deccan Park, Paigah Tombs and Hayath Bakshi Tombs. The Aga Khan Foundation had conducted surveys for this a couple of months ago. If the plan materialises, the city will regain a piece of its forgotten heritage.