Forgotten and vandalised tombs show the sorry state of heritage

The tip came last week. “There are these maqbaras in Balapur. One of them is double-storied, like that of Jamsheed Quli Qutb Shah. They must belong to someone important. We could climb up and the decoration is largely intact,” said P N Praveen, who teaches architecture. He sent a location map. A satellite map showed a square open area with two round structures.

The location turned out to be beyond the Barkas area in Old City. Beyond the shanty town of Rohingya refugee camps is the open area where the two domes pierce the sky. If shouts and laughter echo from one side where children gather to play cricket, on another side a Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation vehicle comes to dump garbage from the surrounding areas. “I make four or five trips per day,” says the driver of the garbage tipper. When the garbage reaches a certain height, he sets the heap alight. The fire and smoke envelop the area.

The two domes are raised on a square platform. The small, low and squat, more ornate dome would easily fit into the landscape of the Qutb Shahi tombs complex at the foothills of Golconda Fort. The other one appears to be double-storied, but with something amiss with the symmetry. “It lacks a defined parapet with battlements,” says Prashant Banerjee, a conservation architect after seeing a photograph.

“These tombs belong to the Qutb Shahi era. Two Sufi saints Bhole Shah and Bhale Shah are buried here. Over time people have vandalised and removed all signs of the graves but they are buried inside the tombs,” said Muhammad Shareef, who is secretary of the Roushan Ud Dowla Masjid, that abuts the tombs. A sign painted in Telugu speaks about the property being under the care of the Waqf Board. How these two tombs slipped out of the net of the memory of the city is anybody’s guess. The tombs are from a layer of history which hasn’t got much attention from historians.