Thursday, 12 April 2018

Seven kings and a Begum -Qutub Shahi Tombs

Hyderabad is a city of history,of culture,of romance,of culinary delights,of pearls,of Dakhni,of tradition and of monuments.The awe inspiring majestic Golconda fort looks down on the city from its perch and was the seat of power of the Qutub Shahi kings of this land.
I have been an ardent fan of the Heritage walks in any city.For the layperson it gives interesting insights into the history and stories that go with each monument.So it was gladly that I signed up for the Jashn-e-Hyderabad trails and joined a large group to discover the very intriguingly titled  "Seven kings and a Begum Sahiba". From the Cantonment side we pass through the Fateh Darwaza of Golconda fort,go pass the fort on the left and reach the Qutub Shahi tombs.It is a royal graveyard where the seven kings and one queen of the Qutub Shahi dynasty are buried along with about 40 other tombs of their relatives and doctors and even two courtesans.
We assemble at the ticket counter and promptly at 4.30pm Gopalkrishna calls us to order.It is a large group and it is a happy thing to see so many people from different spheres showing an interest in the history of the city.We move towards the tombs and assemble in the gardens of the tomb of Abdullah Qutub Shah.

In the days when the city was not so crowded and there were no high rise buildings the eight domes of the bigger tombs were clearly visible from almost anywhere in the city.The tombs are about 2 kms north of  Golconda fort.Going for a Heritage walk is like a moving story telling session.Just before we enter the main gate where our tickets were checked is an unfinished tomb on the left.This is the tomb of Abdul Hasan Tana Shah,the last Qutub  Shahi ruler who died a prisoner of Aurangzeb and is buried in Daulatabad .He lived the life of a mendicant in his early years and was named Tana Shah by a Sufi saint meaning child saint.A benevolent ruler he spent the last twelve years of his life as a prisoner and sadly is not buried with his family.
Incomplete tomb of Tanashah
 We enter the main complex,assemble at Abdullah Qutub Shah's tomb and start a voyage of discovery of the kings who found this remarkable city and gave a century of peace and prosperity.All tombs are surrounded by gardens and are made on raised plinths.Bulbous domes, parapets, columns,arches, minarets and spires on top resembling the spires on Hindu temples.We are introduced to the  lotus designs,pineapple motifs,some blue and green tiles which originally had been used for the overlay design of the tombs,arches,minarets,galleries,Hindu brackets and pendants Gopal points out several unique features of the architecture and the motifs.

We assemble again at Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah's tomb,the man who founded Hyderabad,built the Charminar and whose 453rd birth anniversary is being celebrated this month.We hear of court intrigues and conspiracies and to the south we can see the Golconda fort clearly where Jamsheed Quli Shah murdered his own father to sit on the throne and how Ibrahim Quli Shah was sent to and  brought up in the court of the Raja of Vijaynagar to protect him.He learnt Telugu and literature and became a patron of art and culture. Ibrahim married a Hindu girl and was thus a tolerant loved ruler.He tells how line of sight and being in the visual space is very important and hence all temples or palaces were built on hills. The Charminar, visible from Golconda fort and from even his tomb,  built by Quli Qutub Shah in the village where for a girl he loved lived  so he could see the place always.But that is nother tale with different versions.
Quli Qutub Shah lies here and in the backdrop is Golconda Fort
There is a mortuary bath nearby where the bodies would be dressed before their burial.Interestingly the gate or tunnel once used for a funeral procession from the Golconda Fort to this necropolis would be sealed forever so that spirits of the dead do not go back.The Hamam is in Persian style and hs channels for the water to flow.
We move to an interesting tomb of Hayat Bakshi Begum,the daughter, wife and mother of kings.Stories say that Aurangzeb came to meet her and was so impressed by her wisdom and dignity that he married his son tio her younger daughter and did not trouble Golconda for next thirty years. Her mausoleum is truly befitting such a great lady the Ma Saheba of Golconda.Next to it is a mosque with pineapple motifs, mashaals and corns,two imposing minarets and calligraphic inscriptions Folklore has it the Aurangzeb being an austere Muslim did not want to offer prayers in  a mosque which was so embellished.So there stands a small mosque just at the entrance of Bakshi Begum's tomb,small,simple,built in a day so Aurangzeb could offer namaz. Another account is that one of the motifs on the arch of the wall looks like a lion and hence Aurangzeb did not offer prayers there and got another small mosque built .Whatever be the truth it all adds up to the mystique of these historic monuments.There were times when  days when they would be covered with carpets,ceilings with chandeliers,and tombs with  velvet canopies and tops with golden spires.Readings of the Quran held at regular intervals.Time is a great leveller.
Inside the tomb of Ma Saheba Hayat Bakshi Begum

Some other interesting tombs are those of two physicians in the court of Abdullah Qutub Shah,which are open from all sides because anyone should have access to hakims at anytime.The famous courtesan Taramati and Premmati are also buried here in the complex of their patrons.
We visited the Baoli or step well  three tier structure which has been restored some three years ago by conservation efforts.The rainwater collected here and was used to water the gardens and orchards of this sprawling necropolis.The walls were cool to the touch and the water collected is now being used for irrigation of the place.
Corridors of time and spirits past and present 
The Qutub Shahi tombs covers a vast area and it would take much more than two hours to explore it.Fortunately lot of restoration work is being undertaken  and one can see signs of work going on.This is indeed a boon for the city and monuments. But the graceful tombs of this Royal graveyard warrant another longer visit to appreciate the dynasty that gave Hyderabad to us,the city,its monuments and its culture.

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