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QUTUB SHAHI TOMBS



A little away from Golconda fort are a cluster of tombs, the most authentic evidence of the Qutub Shahi architectural traditions. Ensconced amidst picturesque and landscaped gardens, known as Ibrahim bagh, is the grandeur of these tombs dedicated to the memory of the seven Qutub Shahi kings who ruled Golconda for nearly 170 years. These constitute the most eloquent specimens of Indo-Persian architecture influenced by Deccani structural perceptions. The total impact of this fusion is the emergence of a distinct Qutub Shahi school marked by ostentation of arches, domes, minarets and columns. These architectural tendencies began surfacing in the time of Ibrahim Qutub Shah and reached their climax in the reign of Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah. The tombs are also an unequivocal manifestation of the structural engineering talent of the Qutub Shahi period.

The tombs still retain their original glory despite the combined assault of time, weather and man. The mausoleums of the rulers of Golconda and the founder of Hyderabad city are a standing tribute to their artistic fervour and constitute a storehouse of history. In the complex known as the Qutub Shahi tombs are buried others too who were either the close relatives of the rulers or nobles who served them faithfully. Prominent among these other tombs is the one erected in the memory of Hayath Bakshi Begum, daughter of the illustrious Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah, founder of Hyderabad city and the man who built the masonry colossus Charminar.

Most of the larger tombs are double storeyed while the smaller ones have single storeys. This large and close group of royal sepulchres stands on a raised plateau, each one of them erected on a wide quadrangular terrace reached from all sides by flights of steps. From the plinth to the peak, the mausoleums are marked by symmetry in arches and arcades. At the centre of each tomb is a sarcophagus crowning the burial vault and the crypt below. Several of the green and blue tiles adorning the many domes are missing now, a sad commentary on our sense of history.

Almost all the tombs are quadrangular and rise from nine to 15 metres above the terrace, surrounded by balustrades with beautiful minarets at the corners. The complex has around 30 tombs while a few can be found outside its compound. Salar Jung I undertook restoration of these tombs, which were in a state of disrepair and ensured that a protective wall was built to ward off vandals. The tombs are in two large quadrangular enclosures, the first of which houses the mausoleums of Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah, Ibrahim Quli, Jamsheed Quli, Sultan Quli and Kulsoom begum, daughter of Muhammed Qutub Shah.

In another quadrangle are the tombs of Muhammed Qutub Shah, Hayath Bakshi Begum, Taramathi and Premamathi, the last two being the favourite courtesans of Abdullah Qutub Shah whose tomb is outside of the quadrangles. Though people try to grade the beauty of these tombs, each of them is a match to the other in architectural grandeur, though not in size. The modest among them are the tombs of Sultan Quli Qutub-ul-Mulk, founder of the Qutub Shahi dynasty and his son Jamsheed Quli Qutub Shah. The tomb of the founder, who built it himself during his lifetime, is marked by simplicity and symmetry in design and stands on a platform of 30 metres on each side. Its walls and dome measure 12 metres from the plinth while its ramparts have Bahmani style bouquets, four on each side of the tomb. Its inside is octagonal, each side as wide as 10 metres. An inscription outside the tomb says that people always referred to Sultan Quli Qutub Shah as Bada Saheb.

Although small in size, the tomb of Jamsheed is octagonal and extremely well proportioned and imposing, standing as it does on a high quadrangular platform. It is the only tomb where black basalt has not been used in its construction. It also does not have any inscription. Jamsheed’s son Subhan Quli ruled only for seven months and there is no separate tomb for him.

One of the biggest tombs belongs to Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah, who started the tradition of erecting magnificent structures in the city. His tomb, like others in the complex, is quadrangular with two rows of five arches on each side crating the illusion of a double storeyed building. Above each arch is a balustrade of small arches at the four corners. One can find vestiges of the enamelled glory of these tombs on the upper arches of this tomb. Ibrahim’s tomb has two graves in the main chamber and 16 on the terrace. On all the sides of the sarcophagus are inscriptions in Tulth. It may be mentioned that the most celebrated calligraphers Isphalan, Ismail and Taqiuddin, whose contribution to the wealth of inscriptions on Qutubshahi edifices is legendary, were all contemporaries of Ibrahim Shah.

The tomb of founder of Hyderabad Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah is easily the most impressive, rising to a height of 42.5 meters with a large dome and 28 open arches on each side. The tomb is built on a two-tiered terrace designed to look like a captivating gallery with false openings and with two central pillars. One finds also a feature so conventional to Islamic sepulchural architecture, that is, rich ornamental parapets with minarets at the corners. The founder’s grave is in the vault in the middle of the plinth at the lower level of the terrace, reached by a flight of steps. Another impressive mausoleum is that of Mohammed Qutub Shah, son-in-law of Muhammed Quli. The last of the royal tombs belongs to Abdullah Qutub Shah.

There are several other tombs which belong to non-ruling members of the royal families. At the entrance of the first enclosure is that of Fatima Sultan, sister of Muhammed Qutub Shah. Between Muhammed Quli’s and Jamsheed’s tomb in the second enclosure is the mausoleum of Kulsoom Begum, Mohammed Qutub’s grand daughter. Other tombs belong to Taramathi and Premamathi, Muhammed Neknam Khan, who served Abdullah’s army, Fatima Khanum, one of Abdullah’s daughters. The latter’s tomb like that of her father is outside the two enclosures and the only one which has no dome. There is also the tomb of the great sufi saint Husain Wali, the man who built Husain Sagar, bridging Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

Hayat Bakshi’s beautiful tomb is heralded by a stone tank with a fountain in the middle. The mausoleum befits the status she had enjoyed in statecraft. The mausoleum stands on a terrace, two metres above the ground and is reached by a flight of steps. On its four sides are corridors made up of arcades of seven pointed arches each. Between the dome and the first terrace is a smaller structure with five closed arches on each of the four sides. The parapets on the entabulature of this mausoleum resemble those of the Toli masjid.

The parapets on the roof comprise of a row of miniature arches with perforated screens of different designs. There are ramparts above the roof separated by six small minarets. The interior of the mosque is reached through a great foyer with five impressive arches resting on squat columns. The inner space consists of two small halls between which is positioned a bigger hall providing for mehrab highlighted by floral and stucco decorations. On both sides of the mehrab are arches with inscriptions on them.

In the middle of the ceiling of the inner central hall is a huge stucco lotus with eight petals. Two minarets, each 20 feet tall, stand like faithful sentinels of the mosque. They are an excellent example of the synthesis of Hindu and Muslim architectural usages. From the roof to their peak, the minarets reveal heavy ornamentation and four graceful balconies. There is an inscription showing that Musa Khan had built it.

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