A historical tomb in ruins

A historical tomb in ruins
The gigantic Ghulam Ali Khan Gumbaz, situated near Srirangapatna in Mandya district, has come under the plague of neglect, and is perhaps on its way to extinction. Built in 1790 by Ghulam Ali Khan, Tipu Sultan’s home minister, this structure was in a good state until 2005.

The peepal and banyan trees that have grown over the roofs and minarets due to lack of maintenance have weakened the structure. Of the four pranganas, two have been destroyed completely, while the other two have developed cracks. As many as 16 pillars of the 36 pillars, that this magnificent structure once stood upon, have fallen down. The 70-feet-high structure is surrounded by wild growth of weeds. The Archaeological Survey of India, Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage and the Tipu Wakf Board seem to have missed noticing the state of neglect of this monument. The 225-year-old monument has become a mere home to bats and pigeons.

Tipu had entrusted Ghulam Ali Khan with the responsibility of building a memorial for the former's parents — Hyder Ali and Fakhr-un-Nisa Begum. Ghulam Ali Khan, who belonged to the Shia sect, constructed a five-door gumbaz as per his tradition. But as per Sunni tradition, which Tipu followed, a gumbaz needs to have four doors. Hence, mullahs advised Tipu to construct a different memorial altogether. The five-year effort of Ghulam Ali seemed to have gone in vain. He had purchased tens of acres of land near the gumbaz and eventually set up gardens all around the gumbaz.

In 1799, Ghulam Ali Khan fled to Tamil Nadu, after the fall of Srirangapatna. After he died (after 30 years), his relatives buried him in this mausoleum. “The hard work of hundreds of people lie behind this gumbaz. It has a special vastu style too. Hence, we must protect it,” says historian Professor Karimuddin.

According to N N Gowda, an official at the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, this has never been considered a memorial. “This does not come under the list of memorials. This lies in the land under the jurisdiction of the Wakf Board. That is probably why it has slipped out of our department’s focus,” he said.

“It is said that Ghulam Ali betrayed Tipu Sultan during the fourth Anglo-Mysore war. He conspired along with Mir Sadiq and was responsible for Tipu’s death. There are several evidences in this regard. That is why the Wakf Estate has chosen to neglect the garden,” said Irfan, secretary of the Tipu Wakf Estate.

Built in the Indo-Islamic style, it has been constructed out of mud bricks, stones and concrete (a mix of cement, burnt bricks and tree sap). Stone has been used to construct all five of its doors. Although there are Islamic style carvings inside, they now appear masked. Popularly known as gumbchi by the local population, the gumbaz is situated in the middle of an agricultural land. It is locked all the time and to visit the monument, one has to obtain permission from the owner of the land.

(Translated by Deepika Nidige)

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