Time to treasure the past

Heritage jottings

Monumental : A view of the sprawling remains of the Golkunda fort.These heritage sites attract visitors despite the fact that they are shabbily maintained by the very departments that are supposed to preserve and maintain them.

The magnificent Qutub Shahi tombs remind us  of the great patronage extended by the Qutub Shahi kings to Persian craftsmanship, Islamic art and also of the confluence of Indo-Islamic architectural heritage of the Deccan.

The  Golkunda monument is supposed to be protected by the Archeological Survey of India, while the seven Qutub Shahi tombs are at the mercy of the Andhra Pradesh Government and the  Department of Archaeology and Museums.

Incidentally both are ticketed monuments, generate solid revenue for  the respective departments and contain immense potential to draw more and more tourists.

Regardless of who wrests controls of these  heritage sites, the maintenance of both these monuments remains inadequate. The remains of the Golkunda fort are located amidst mindless encroachments clearly violating the bylaws governing protected monumental heritage sites.

The entry to the famous Golkunda fort starts at the clasping portico at ground level followed by other areas as we move further and further up to the Zanana (a zone exclusively for women), an armoury, the Nagina bagh (garden of passion),  Jhula khana (A zone with swings), Lakkana and  Maddana (the record office), the Ramdas Jil, Ibrahim Mosque, Maa Kali temple, Durbar Hall, Zanana Masjid (Women’s mosque), women’s dining hall,  Rani Mahal, a judgement hall, the Bhagmati Palace, Taramati Palace  and a masjid.

All these are spread across 40 acres overgrown with wild vegetation and  littered by the visitors. Even though it was declared a protected monument by the ASI, no major conservation efforts were made and the heritage conservation authorities did nothing more than carrying out structural repairs.

Chronic neglect has turned it all into a  heap of royal rubble. Development of little patches with Mexican grass and ornamental plants at the entrance does not elevate the image unless the entire fort  is taken into account and is cared for. Occasionally meagre funds are granted to undertake patch work, which is insufficient considering the expanse of monumental sites of this stature.

Qutub Shahi tombs are  spread  across  a   vast area with 70 odd structures and became a State protected monument under an agreement between the Nizam Trust and Director of Archaeology, Andhra Pradesh in 1965.

All these tombs have been created with exemplary mortar craftsmanship with intricate Persian mosaic and tile work, now  mostly eroded with time at many places. Only patches of these colourful works are now visible after the chemical washes.

Neglected : A majestic, abandoned mosque amid the Qutub Shahi tombs.The 82-acre area has several mosques besides other structures and weeds and wild plants are running rampant across the legacy.

Meagre promotional effort, absence of administrative vision and lack of public awareness has reduced the importance of these structures. Irresponsible locals and tourists scribble on the walls with colours or leave ugly graffiti over the lime mortar plaster.

Inadequate staff  cannot maintain these monuments. All these  are concerns  that need to be addressed on a priority  basis and  allocation of sufficient funding from both Central and State government agencies  must come forth to enhance the image of these priceless heritage sites.

 The recent central assistance worth  Rs 40 million  is a bounty for  the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Hyderabad. “The department has begun utilising the grant and is  laying a two meter wide granite slab around the platforms of all major mausoleums in an effort to strengthen the foundation of the tombs,”  says Dr GV Rama Krishna Rao, deputy director, (technical), Department of Archaeology and Museums, Hyderabad.

Former deputy director, MA Qayum says, “It has been  difficult to identify and engage skilled masons well-versed  with  ancient skills but the department is doing its best in accomplishing the task despite technical difficulties.”

The departmental staff claims that the funds will also be utilised in beautifying the area with landscapes besides strengthening and protecting the heritage site.

This funding should encourage the Andhra Pradesh government to throw its weight behind the maintainence. It has   promised an assistance of Rs 10 million after the complete utilisation of the central grant.

Now it is the turn of the respective departments to do their bit to conserve and beautify the monuments  so that they become not just the pride of Hyderabad but the entire country.

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