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Telangana to give ‘neglected’ heritage structures a makeover

Jan 13, 2023 12:31 AM IST

On Tuesday, the state announced restoration and conservation of 200-year-old Paigah Tombs built in 18th and 19th century in the old city of Hyderabad with the support of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and financial assistance from the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation

Hyderabad

On December 30, the Telangana special chief secretary announced the restoration of historic palace Khursheed Jah Devdi at Hussaini Alam near Charminar. (HT Photo)
On December 30, the Telangana special chief secretary announced the restoration of historic palace Khursheed Jah Devdi at Hussaini Alam near Charminar. (HT Photo)

The 430-year-old Hyderabad, known for its historic monuments and palaces, is all set to get back its old-world charm with the Telangana government deciding to restore the glory of several heritage structures lying in a state of neglect for several decades, with the help of non-governmental organisations and trusts.

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On Tuesday, the state government announced restoration and conservation of 200-year-old Paigah Tombs built in 18th and 19th century in the old city of Hyderabad with the support of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and financial assistance from the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) to the extent of US $ 250,000.

US Charge d’Affaires, Ambassador Beth Jones visited the Paigah Tombs complex along with US Consul General Jennifer Larson and Aga Khan Trust chief executive officer Ratish Nanda. “We are proud to be part of the Government of Telangana’s efforts to conserve these magnificent monuments,” Jones said.

Paigah Tombs, located about five km from Charminar, were built over a period of time in 18th and 19th century, belonging to Paigahs, influential nobel families during the Asaf Jahi regime.

The Telangana government led by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao did not evince much interest in the heritage structures in the first stint. In fact, the government had, at one stage, proposed to demolish more than 100-year-old Osmania General Hospital built by the last Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan to construct an ultra-modern hospital.

It also proposed to demolish 150-year-old iconic Errum Manzil palace in the heart of the city at Khairatabad to construct a new state legislature complex. The chief minister even laid the foundation for the same in 2019. “In both the cases, the heritage lovers moved the high court and got the plans stalled,” Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) convenor P Anurdha Reddy said.

The state government, however, went ahead with the demolition of Saifabad Palace built in 1888, which housed the offices of several chief ministers during the combined Andhra Pradesh regime as part of the state secretariat. Now, a brand new Secretariat complex is coming up in the area.

Many heritage structures coming alive

However, in the last couple of years, the Telangana government has taken up restoration of heritage structures, including tombs, rest houses, devdis (palaces) and centuries-old stepwells, thanks to the initiative taken up by special chief secretary, municipal administration and urban development, Arvind Kumar.

In August 2020, the government restored the glory of nearly 100-year-old Moazzam Jahi Market, an iconic structure located closer to a busy shopping complex. Till then a neglected structure, the market built of stones now stands tall and has been attracting tourists.

Similarly, the Telangana government took up restoration of Badshahi Ashurkhana, the oldest monument in Hyderabad built in 1594 by Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of Hyderabad. The protected monument, known for Persian enamel work, had been subject to neglect for several decades.

“Now, it is being given a complete makeover with the help of Aga Khan Trust for Culture,” said heritage conservationist and activist Md Saifullah.

For the past three weeks, Arvind Kumar has been visiting heritage structures in different parts of the city and announcing plans for their conservation and restoration.

On December 24, Arvind Kumar announced the restoration of Saidani-Ma Tomb near Hussainsagar lake, a state-protected monument. “The HMDA (Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority) will restore through Aga Khan Trust this beautiful memorial with stucco decoration and fretwork screens,” he said.

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. It has also been subject to neglect over decades and part of the sprawling area has been encroached upon.

Shaikpet Sarai or rest house near Shaiket closer to Golconda Fort, a 17th century monument built during the Qutb Shahi period, is also getting back its glory. “The beautiful structure spread over three acres with 29 rooms, a camel and horse stable, a tomb and a mosque will be restored for adaptive reuse by Aga Khan Trust under the aegis of Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA),” Arvind Kumar said on December 26.

On December 30, the special chief secretary also announced the restoration of another historic palace – Khursheed Jah Devdi at Hussaini Alam near Charminar. “The Devdi (palace) will be completely restored to its original grandeur and a garden with fountains will be developed in the front lawns by HMDA and Quli Qutb Shah Urban Development Authority at the cost of 10 crore within two years,” he said.

The Khursheed Jah Devdi, a 140-year-old structure, was built by Paigah noble Nawab Fakhruddin and was inherited by his descendant Khursheed Jah Bahadur. It is considered one of the best examples of Palladian architecture that can be seen in European countries.

Earlier in October last, the government came up with a plan to restore Mir Alam Mandi near Charminar, considered to be the oldest vegetable market in Hyderabad at a cost of 16.14 crore. The works are expected to start shortly.

“The Nizam era market will be rebuilt and restored to its original grandeur; adding underground drain, paving and LED lighting. Works are likely to commence in January,” Arvind Kumar said.

Similar plans are afoot to revive and restore Sardar Mahal, a palace built in European style by Nizam VI Mir Mahboob Ali Khan in 1900. It will have an art gallery, cafe and heritage accommodation. The government has plans to develop it as a cultural hub for tourists visiting Charminar and the nearby monuments.

In early December, the state government restored the 17th century stepwell at Bansilalpet near Secunderabad and threw it open to the public. Once a source of drinking water, it became dilapidated over years and converted into a garbage dump.

“More than 2,000 tonnes of debris was removed from the stepwell, which was restored to its grandeur to make it a tourist attraction,” Safiullah said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Srinivasa Rao is Senior Assistant Editor based out of Hyderabad covering developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana . He has over three decades of reporting experience.

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