The MoU tasks the AKTC with the conservation work, albeit under the aegis of the state’s department of archaeology. “There are two kinds of public-private partnerships. One is where the responsibility is shared; the other—which is this one—is where we, the government, provide administrative (and) legal support while the trust carries out the conservation,” Visalatchy explains.
One of the most important tombs in the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park—that of the founder, sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk—is also interestingly one of the smallest in the complex. Before founding his empire, Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk served in the Bahmani Sultanate, the first independent Muslim kingdom in south India. He had migrated from Persia to Delhi in the early 16th century before making his way to the Deccan. Quli Qutb declared independence and staked claim to Golconda when the Bahmani Sultanate disintegrated in the early 16th century, taking on the title of Qutb Shah.
Situated in the southern part of the park, 12 minarets with crenellations flank the dome of his tomb; the base is adorned with petals. Archival images dating back to 1860, sourced from the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts—a trust dedicated to the preservation of cultural history—show a monument with ornate lime stucco works on walls, arches crowned with medallions, circular decorative panels and ribbed plaster on the minarets. But the monument that the AKTC’s team got to work with was covered in a layer of cement plaster, with hardly any details visible. The dome had been completely blackened by algae, vegetation was growing on it, and the walls were covered with graffiti.
“We removed cement which was at least 8 inches thick, (and) all the original details were obliterated,” explains Ratish Nanda, chief executive officer, AKTC India, when we meet at the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park in early March. For over a year during 2014-16, two dozen craftsmen worked to restore the patterns on the monument wherever possible. Layers of cement, plastered on sometime during the 19th century, were removed, revealing underlying details like patches of intricate filigree work in the medallions. These patterns were eventually restored.
“This is the tomb of the founder of the dynasty, he is the reason why the whole necropolis is here, and as such it was very important,” says Nanda.
It is believed that craftsmen from Iran worked on the tomb. “The tomb of sultan Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk is more or less in the same style as that of the Bahmanis. But with the later tombs we clearly see how the kingdom of Golconda started establishing an identity of its own vis-à-vis architecture. The tomb of Jamsheed, Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk’s son and successor, is an attempt at this. It has an octagonal dome and sloping walls,” says Hyderabad-based historian Sajjad Shahid.
In fact, according to Shahid, the idea of a necropolis, too, could have been adapted from the Bahmanis. “Their structures were in rows but the Qutb Shahis chose gardens to enclose their tombs. This can be seen as yet another attempt to establish their identity, separate from their erstwhile rulers.”
The architecture in the necropolis is a blend of Persian and Hindu styles. It is interesting to draw comparisons between Mughal and Qutb Shahi architecture, seeing that some of the greatest Mughal monuments were being built in the same period. While the Mughals worked mostly with sandstone and marble, adorning this with intricate carving, the Qutb Shahis used granite that was available locally. “Granite is hard to work with, so though the core construction was with granite, facings were done with stone dressings,” explains Yoshowant Purohit, project manager, AKTC.
The larger tombs in the park have arcaded verandas, while the parapets have crenellations. The domes are capped with lotus petal-like designs and, in some cases, have diamond-shaped bands with medallions, and patterns that run along the base, etc. The tomb of Subhan, the son of Jamsheed, who ruled for only a few months when he was still a minor before being deposed by his uncle, Ibrahim, also has extensive lime-plaster details, with elements like pineapples and squirrels.