The excavations at Qutb Shahi Heritage Park (lat. 17o-33’’ long. 78o-1’’) were carried out under the Directorship of Dr. Brahmachari, Deputy Director, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums assisted by Mr. K.K Muhammed and other archaeologists from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Prior to carrying out the excavation a thorough study of various archival photographs collected from various sources, national and international, including the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Hyderabad, Alkazi Foundation and British Museum, amongst others, was done. The archival photographs were compared with present site conditions, the site contours and topography for further in-depth study and analysis.The entire area of the tomb complex was divided in to six zones as given below:
The entire area of the tomb complex was divided into six zones as given below:
- The Area north of Hamam, (Summer Palace): QQT-I
- The Area around Sultan Quli Qutb ul Mulk’s (1518-1543) Tomb: QQT-II
- The Area around Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah’s (1550-1580) Tomb: QQT-III
- The Area around Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah’s (1580-1612) Tomb: QQT-IV
- The Area around Muhammad Qutb Shah’s (1612-1626) Tomb: QQT-V
- The Area around Abdullah Qutb Shah’s (1626-1672) Tomb: QQT-VI
The Area north of Hamam, (Summer Palace): QQT-I
This archaeological site was earlier excavated by Dr. Waheeduddin Khan of the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Andhra Pradesh, from 1970 onwards. But as it was not properly conserved and maintained and the area was used as a dumping yard, it was filled up with filth and overgrown with vegetation. The site was re-excavated and is now being conserved in such a way that it does not deteriorate in course of time.
The excavation has exposed the remains of a residential mosque with sleeping chambers for the priest and other inmates. It is possible that the area might have been used by not only the head priest, but also by the Quran reciters who were engaged for the continuous chanting of the Quranic verses in various tombs. The probable use of the site as a Yatish-khana (resting room for those who are on the religious duty of the tombs and its maintenance) cannot be ruled out. There were two sets of toilets, one meant for the head priest and the rest for the common reciters of the Quran. The complex also had a storage facility for food material, etc. on the north-east side of the complex. The eastern entrance to this mosque complex leads to a baoli and two water tank clusters.
Two clusters with four water tanks each, connected with terracotta pipes and open water channels, were exposed east of the mosque complex. It appears that these areas were probably used for washing the sacred cloths which were used for ceremonious covering of the graves (chadar). It is widely practised in Islamic tombs that the sacred cloth covers were changed every Friday and on festival days of Islamic calendar. Sacred cloths were offered whenever a dignitary visited the tomb for offering of Fatiha (a religious recitation of the first sura of Quran). The open water channel leads away from one tank cluster to the garden of Muhammed Qutb Shah which falls in the area QQT-V.
Clearance on the southern side of the baoli has exposed a number of terracotta pipes connected with the hamam, suggesting that the water for the hamam was provided by this baoli, situated just on the back side of the hamam.
The excavation on the Northern side of the residential mosque has exposed another residential complex with a charbagh. The presence of a charbagh suggests that it was used by Mughal officers who had occupied it during the siege of Golconda by Aurangzeb in 1687. This view has been attested by A. Claude Campbell1. The author says, ‘‘When Aurangzeb besieged Golconda in 1687 and the tombs were converted into barracks for his soldiers, the beautiful gardens were laid waste and used as camping grounds in which the horses were tethered. It is said that the guns were mounted on these magnificent monuments, wherewith to bombard the citadel.’’ (Pg 252)
On the northern side of the second residential complex, a number of flimsy structures without any binding material have been encountered, which indicated that this might have been the military encampment for the common foot soldiers during Aurangzeb’s siege of Golconda. Such remains occupy a vast area, extending to the present boundary wall. The whole area is marked by unpretentious mosques, tombs and wells. At places, there are little raised platforms with water tanks. It seems that the area might have been used as a camping site for a brief time and once the purpose was served, they left it to its own fate.
During the excavation, the portion of the fallen Sarai was located towards the south of the mosque complex. This was identified on the basis of a photograph published in the book Glimpses of the Nizam’s Dominion by A. Claude Campbell. The buried remains of the arcades on the Northern and Western side were exposed as well as a water tank in the central courtyard.
The Western side of the Summer House reported another housing complex with 14 rooms, a verandah on the Southern side and an open quadrangle with four water tanks. All the above mentioned water tanks are interconnected with terracotta water pipes, suggesting that the site was a part of a water pavilion. This complex was also connected with Zir Zamin, an underground water pavilion, provided with fountains and sitting chambers. The entire area was supplied with sufficient quantity of water by a small Baoli south of the complex.
The area around Sultan Quli Qutb-ul Mulk’s Tomb: QQT-II
The tomb of Sultan Quli Qutb ul Mulk was held in high veneration and it was known as Dar ul Aman, an abode of peace, where even a criminal taken refuge would not be caught by the administration as long as he is within its hallowed precincts. Archival photographs from the 1860s indicate the presence of a ceremonial pathway and gateway. In the excavation carried out, lower part of the gateway and a ceremonial pathway were encountered. An ablution tank - possibly for washing the feet before entering the tomb was also cleared. Such a tank just before entering the tomb is a feature not seen in other tombs, highlighting the sanctity attached with it. Gulzar i Asafi, a contemporary Persian manuscript, makes a reference about Bagh i Faiz which was later on converted to the present Qutb Shahi tomb complex prompted the excavation team to locate the original enclosure wall of the garden. Built of fine ashlar masonry and surmounted by medium height arcades, the length of the enclosure wall measures 560 m. At places the depth of the wall goes to 2.5 m below the present ground level.
A Qutb Shahi aqueduct which believed to have supplied water to the Golconda fort from Durgam Cheruvu, a distance of 12 km was traced out. Close scrutiny reveals that this was not supplying water to Golconda fort, but for people living outside the fort. The remains of this aqueduct outside the tomb complex were found on the South-West side of the tomb complex. Had it supplied water to the fort, the army of Aurangzeb which was camping inside the tomb area could have easily forced the Qutb Shahi army to surrender by poisoning their water source. The fact that the Qutb Shahi army could withstand the siege for 11 months further strengthens this line of argument. This aqueduct had manholes at intervals for clearing any obstructions.
The Area around Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah’s Tomb: QQT-III
Ibrahim, the third king and a prolific builder extended the boundary of the tomb complex southwards, making his tomb the centre of this extension. The south-west extension of the boundary wall could be only partially traced as the area has been encroached by a number of illegal occupiers. However, the exposed portion bears the stamp of the truncated arches of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah, also evident in the mosque constructed by him in the Naya Qila of Golconda fort.
It was widely believed that the dead bodies of the deceased kings were brought to the respective tombs through an underground pathway opening below the present mosque on the southern gateway which is now closed. This unconfirmed tradition handed over from generation to generation was strengthened by the location of a revealing archival photograph which showed remains of broken walls and depression in front of the mosque.
During the excavation of the site two parallel walls from the gate leading towards Ibrahim’s tomb, directly in alignment with it was encountered, confirming the veracity of the local tradition. Fallen debris such as the wedge shaped stones indicated that the pathway had a vaulted roof. To further ascertain the facts, the external wall of Golconda Fort was examined thoroughly. It seems possible that dead bodies might have been brought to the tombs through the western Patancheru Gate. This argument has been further strengthened by a reference given by the famous French traveller Jean de Thevenot who had visited the area2 ‘‘The Sepulchres of the King who built Golconda, and of the five princes who have reigned after him, are about two Musquet- shot from the castle. They take up a great deal of Ground, because every one of them is in a large Garden; the way to go thither is out at the West Gate, and by it not only the Bodies of Kings and Princes, but of all that die in the Castle are carried out; and no interest can prevail to have them conveyed out by any other Gate.’’
However, the effort to locate a structure which looked like a baoli in the archival photograph did not yield any tangible result.
The Area around Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah’s Tomb: QQT-IV
As per archival photographs of the garden north of Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah’s tomb, the north-eastern side of the garden had a slanting wooden frame on stone pillars for supporting grapevine creepers and the rest of the portion a series of short pillars. Although the location of vine gardens, celebrated in Kulliyat-i-Muhammad Qutb Shah, could be located, the base of the short pillars could not be exposed as every vestige of it had been removed while preparing the ground for the later charbagh garden.
The Area around Muhammad Qutb Shah’s Tomb: QQT-V
Another aqueduct that supplied water from the small baoli south of the so called summer house has been exposed and it runs along the north side of the hamam, emptying into the orchards near Muhammed Qutb Shah’s tomb. From the construction material and size of the stones used, it appears that both of them belong to Qutb Shahi period.
A second aqueduct with narrow water thread has been exposed starting from the garden of Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah and running along the garden of Muhammed Qutb Shah. The use of lime and smaller stones suggest that it might belong to a later period- 18th or 19th century.
The excavation on the back side boundary of Muhammed Qutb Shah, adjacent to the present Noor mosque uncovered a number of structures, aqueducts, water tanks and pavilions. All of them are linked with terracotta pipes and underground aqueducts. During clearance, an underground water drainage channel, with a depth of 6 feet was encountered and recorded near the Noor mosque.
During the course of clearance, a number of antiquities such as terracotta objects, stone cannon balls, mortar and pestle, etc were found. The site also yielded Chinese pottery, glazed pottery, red pottery and martaban-ware.
As part of the exploration and excavation, manual line drawing was made of the entire site. Also, total station survey was carried out, bringing into sharp focus some of the important topographical features- both natural and man-made. This, in turn, helped in flagging the important potential archaeological sites.
High accuracy 3D laser scanning of the site, with a grid of 3x3 mm, made an accurate record of the excavated sites, which was not possible by the traditional recording of the site. It allowed the replication of real objects, without using any invasive methods. It also helped to get a comprehensive picture of the archaeological site, as the same could not be done photographically since the area was vast and overgrown with a number of trees.
In order to be on the safer side, manual line drawing was also made of the entire excavated site.
The existing walls and columns of the mosque, rooms and corridors were raised in random rubble masonry upto 3 feet height using traditional lime mortar.
The existing corridors and room floors were covered with lime concrete laid to adequate slope for water drainage ensuring long time preservation.
The existing walls were cleaned and re-pointed with lime mortar.
The ground surface was dressed to proper slope, ensuring drainage of water into the existing baoli.
Missing portions of the dressed stones in tanks and corridors were replaced with stones of matching textures.
An archaeology peer review was held on 13th December, 2015 with the following experts as members of the peer review committee:
- Prof. RC Agarwal- Former Joint Director General, Archaeological Survey of India
- Prof. K Pulla Rao- Professor, Department of History, University of Hyderabad,
- Dr. Babji Rao- Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India,
- Dr. Padmanabhan- Assistant Director, Department of Archaeology and Museums and
- Mr. KK Muhammed- Former Regional Director, Archaeological Survey of India and Project Archeological Director, Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
After the completion of the inspection, the peer review committee appreciated the Department of Archaeology and Museums of the government of Telangana, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for discovering and excavating a number of structures hither to unknown. They expressed their satisfaction for the meticulous care and precision with which the excavation was carried out and also for applying the laser scanning technique at the archaeological site.