07 December, 2015

Conserving our heritage

The Trusts conserved the integrity of the monuments within the Quli Qutb Shah Archaeological Park by restoring their damaged parts with traditional materials such as lime, wood and stone. Their efforts now serve as a model for conservation works across the nation.

The Quli Qutb Shah Archaeological Park, which includes the historic Qutb Shahi Tombs Complex and Deccan Park, is one of the most significant medieval necropolises in India. The complex encompasses 70 structures within its enclosure walls built during the reign of the Qutb Shahi dynasty that ruled the Hyderabad region in the 16th – 17th centuries. The Qutb Shahi Tombs Complex, presently nominated to the World Heritage List, is proposed to be developed as an urban Archaeological Park, to ensure long-term preservation, and to showcase and enhance understanding of the 70 monuments that stand within its boundaries.

The Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and Allied Trusts have provided a Rs12 crore grant to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), New Delhi, towards co-funding conservation work on ten monuments, while the American Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation has provided a Rs60 lakh grant for archaeological investigations.  Conservation work began in earnest, with work commencing on the monuments that needed immediate attention.

Badi Baoli: The entire western wall of Badi Baoli had collapsed in October 2013. In an extremely risky and complicated effort, 600 cubic metres of stone masonry was reconstructed in an emergency measure. An alternate drain for water from the entire catchment area was created to safeguard against future collapse. The upper arcade, itself dating from the 19th century, will be restored in 2015.

Jamshed Quli Qutb Shah’s Tomb: This unique octagonal and two storied structure was in an advanced state of deterioration. The 20th century cement plaster from the dome had come loose and craftsmen had to remove this by hand prior to restoring traditional lime plaster. The decorative stucco plasterwork has been restored on both the facade and interior wall surfaces. Similarly, the granite stone edging visible in archival photographs but missing from the building has now been restored.

Sultan Quli Qutb ul Mulk’s Tomb: The removal of layers of 20th century cement from the facade revealed the original 16th century stucco and incised plaster patterns. Most significantly, the enclosure wall for this tomb has been unearthed on all four sides, providing evidence of a garden enclosure, which will soon be restored.

Abdullah’s Mosque: Rainwater was seeing through the mosque roof. Following a request from the mosque committee, conservation work commenced; 400 tonnes of concrete, laid over the roof in the 20th century was removed, and the traditional lime-based roof layer has now been restored.

Other Monuments : Conservation work has also commenced on Fatima Sultana’s Tomb, the Idgah, where again, 16th century plaster details have been revealed and are being restored, and on Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah’s Tomb, Hamam, as well as several  minor monuments and archaeological features.

The principal objective of conservation projects is to ensure the long term preservation of these monuments. This requires the removal of inappropriate 20th century modern materials and the restoration of original features with traditional materials – lime, stone, and wood. Conservation work at the site will be carried out in a phased manner starting from the south-western end, ensuring that at least 75% of the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park remains open to visitors at any given time. 

In the 2015 Union Budget, the Finance Minister, Government of India, announced the government’s intention to support landscape restoration and the creation of visitor facilities at nine Indian sites. On account of its potential to serve as a magnet for tourists following the completion of on-going conservation work, the Qutb Shahi Tombs was listed as one amongst these nine sites. A requisition is now being made to the Government of India to fund the landscape restoration of the site, but also primarily to construct a Site Interpretation Centre that will house a permanent exhibition on the Qutb Shahi dynasty, and also serve as a gateway to the Golconda Fort.

 Following the Humayun’s Tomb – Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal initiative in Delhi, the conservation and landscape effort at the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park that is being carried out under a non-profit public-private partnership effort is amongst the largest ongoing conservation effort in India. When completed, the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park will be a magnet for local, national and international visitors who will be able to enjoy a unique 16th-17th century necropolis. The conservation effort, with its recourse to required funding and human resources, will establish a model for conservation works elsewhere in Telangana and beyond. The restored Qutb Shahi Heritage Park has created enough jobs, and when completed, will safeguard a significant urban space that will lead to an improved quality of life for inhabitants of Hyderabad.