Beyond Charminar: Hyderabad’s heritage sites to get a makeover

Hyderabad, Jan 1 : Hyderabad’s heritage is expected to get a major facelift with the Telangana government stepping up its efforts to restore the glory of several structures, which had been victims of neglect for decades.

From Badshahi Ashurkhana, second oldest structure in the city after Charminar, to Saidani-Ma Tomb near Hussain Sagar lake between twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, and from Sardar Mahal, a landmark palace near iconic Charminar, to historic stepwells in different parts of the Telangana capital, the conservation efforts have suddenly gathered pace.

After the success of the restoration project at Qutub Shahi Tombs in partnership with Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and conservation of historic stepwell at Bansilalpet in collaboration with some NGOs, the state government is expanding its efforts.

Heritage activists say the efforts will go a long way in not only conserving Hyderabad’s heritage but will strengthen the city’s case for UNESCO world heritage status.

Arvind Kumar, special chief secretary, urban development has been visiting heritage structures in different parts of the city and announcing plans for their conservation and restoration.

The officer, who was hailed for leading the efforts to give a facelift to Moazzam Jahi Market two years ago, is now quite active in taking up the much neglected structures of Qutub Shahi and Asaf Jahi (Nizam) eras for their conservation and restoration.

Badshahi Ashurkhana, the oldest in the city, was built in 1594 by Qutub Shah king Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah, the founder of Hyderabad. It was constructed three years after he built Charminar, which symbolizes Hyderabad.

It was then the hub of mourning for the Shia community during Muharram. Though a protected monument, it fell on bad days due to centuries of neglect.

The holy precincts comprise the main building and ancillary structures Naqqar Khana, Niyar Khana and Abdar Khana. The main building is known for the masterpiece of Persian enamel work, which was carried out in 1611.

The task of giving a facelift to the holy precincts has been entrusted to Quli Qutb Shah Urban Development Authority (QQSUDA) and Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC)

They will take up adaptive intervention, prevent further decay, restore lime plaster and consolidate structure. Arvind Kumar promised efforts to strengthen the roofing, structures and restore original tiled colour scheme

Another Qutub Shahi structure Sheikhpet Sarai or rest house in Sheikhpet area of the city will also be restored.

The 17th century structure spread over three acres with 29 rooms, a camel and horse stable, a tomb and a mosque will be restored for adaptive reuse under the aegis of Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) by Aga Khan Trust.

The latest on the list of structures to be restored is Khursheed Jah Devdi at Hussaini Alam in the old city. The official announced that litigation about the structure has been finally sorted out.

HMDA and QQSUDA will restore the original grandeur of Devdi, a 140-year-old structure. The two bodies will develop a garden with fountains in the front lawns at a cost of Rs 10 crore. It will take two years for completion of the project.

After going around the structure, Arvind Kumar said he was sad to see the decay and abuse over the years mainly due to reckless shootings. He is determined to bring back the glory and pride.

Located just a kilometer away from Charminar, it was built by Paigah noble Nawab Fakhruddin and was inherited by his descendent Khursheed Jah Bahadur. It is considered one of the best examples of Palladian architecture that can be seen in European countries.

The tomb of Saidani Ma, the Sufi woman saint, will be also restored by HMDA through Aga Khan Trust. The tomb is a state protected beautiful memorial with stucco decoration and fretwork screens.

The tomb of Saidani-Ma was built in the 1880s by her son Sardar Abdul Haq Diler Jung, who was the home secretary of erstwhile Hyderabad State and also served as the director of the Nizam’s State Railways.

Located on the north side of the Tank Bund road, the tomb has been a victim of neglect for decades and a part of its land has also been encroached. There have been demands from heritage activists to save the tomb which has an onion-shaped dome on an octagonal base.

While the arches on the upper chamber of the monument reflect Qutub Shahi architecture, the ground floor arches are built in Mughal style.

Aga Khan Trust will be helping authorities in restoration of various heritage structures in the city after the successful project to restore Qutub Shahi Tombs, the royal necropolis spread over 106 acres.

With 72 monuments, including mausoleums of rulers of the Qutub Shahi dynasty (1518-1687), the sprawling complex at the foot of the majestic Golconda Fort is getting a new lease of life.

Early this month, the state government finalised the revival and restoration plan of Sardar Mahal, a landmark near iconic Charminar.

Sardar Mahal, a palace built in European style by Nizam VI Mir Mahboob Ali Khan in 1900, will be conserved and restored to its original structure with additional architectural designs.

It was announced that the Sardar Mahal will have an art gallery, cafe and heritage accommodation on lines of Neemrana Fort Palace in Rajasthan.

The works will be taken up by Kalakriti Art Gallery in a tripartite agreement with the state government and QQSUDA.

The government had already announced that Sardar Mahal will be developed as the cultural hub of the city, adding an attraction for thousands of tourists who visit Charminar, Mecca Masjid, Chowmahalla Palace and other monuments every day.

Though Mahboob Ali Khan, the then ruler of Hyderabad State, built the palace for one of his beloved consorts, Sardar Begum, she refused to inhabit this token of love as it did not live up to her expectations. No one stayed there but the building took her name.

It was declared a heritage building by the Heritage Conservation Committee and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) took over Sardar Mahal in 1965 due to outstanding property taxes.

Mir Alam Mandi, the oldest market, will be restored and renovated at a cost of Rs 16.14 crore.

More than 200-year-old vegetable market is named after Mir Alam, a nobleman who served as the Prime Minister of Hyderabad State from 1804 until his death in 1808.

The market has been in a dilapidated condition due to neglect by the authorities concerned.

Another key project is restoration and redevelopment of Mahboob Chowk at a cost of Rs 35 crore. Located near Charminar and also known as Murgi Chowk, it is a heritage structure and houses over 200 shops that predominantly sell chicken, birds besides meat.

Mahboob Chowk market was built in the early 20th century. The proposed ground plus one market complex will offer modern facilities for meat and poultry related business.

Early this month, the 17th century stepwell at Bansilalpet was thrown open to the public. It was a remarkable effort as the stepwell was in dilapidated condition and filled with garbage.

The stepwell was once served drinking water needs of the locality, but later was neglected to turn into a garbage dump. The revived stepwell will prevent inundation and improve the groundwater levels.

The urban development authorities plan to turn it into a tourist attraction and a cultural centre.

After hard work of more than a one year, the stepwell was restored by various departments in partnership with organisations like Rainwater Project, Gandipet Welfare Society and the local community.

After successful restoration of the Bansilalpet stepwell, the government announced that 10 more historic stepwells will be restored.

The restoration of Bansilalpet stepwell has also been awarded for sustainable revitalization of traditional rain water harvesting at Big 5 construction impact awards by the UAEs’ ministry of energy and infrastructure.

The award for restoration of Bansilalpet stepwell is the second major recognition for restoration initiatives in Hyderabad

In November, UNESCO recognised the conservation of six stepwells at Qutub Shahi Tombs with the 2022 award of distinction.

Hyderabad heritage sites to get big facelift.
Hyderabad heritage sites to get big facelift.