Hyderabad: The restoration work at the Qutb Shahi Tombs is in full swing. However, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is not just working to restore the structures. They are also looking at developing the premises as an eco-space that will give the 106-acre Qutb Shahi Heritage Park a green facelift.
“Earlier, several families used to come here for picnics. Even today, we see visitors coming and sitting with their family, playing football and spending some nice time. We would like the space to be a great hangout place after the restoration is completed,” said Ratish Nanda, Chief Executive, Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
To meet the ecological objectives, an exhaustive tree survey was undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture wherein 3,300 existing trees of 72 individual species have been mapped. Over 2,000 trees have been planted along the edge of the site to create a natural buffer. Not just ecological, these parks also have a historic significance.
“In the past, many have argued that this place was only reserved for the tombs. But there are several baolis in the premises supporting the fact that beautiful gardens were maintained at this premises,” Nanda pointed out.
On developing an eco-space, he said the plan was to develop the northern and southern sections of the Heritage park, nearly 15 hectares of area, as ecological zones by introducing appropriate tree species and enhancing bird habitat unique to the region.
“About 10,000 trees will be planted in the process,” he said, adding that similarly, to the east, the Deccan Park could be an ideal entrance zone to the grand complex.
“We feel that judicious modification and re-organisation of the entrances and paths will increase accessibility of the older parts of the complex and allow visitors to easily traverse the whole site and understand its sequential development rather than restrict their experience to only one part,” Nanda said.
Restoring the jewel of Deccan
Restoring a monument as important as the Qutb Shahi Tombs is not an easy task. While ensuring that the structures are restored and strengthened, one has to make sure that they do not lose their ancient touch. To ensure that the structures retain their authenticity, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture team is doing everything exactly as it was done when the tombs were being built.
“Conservation work on all structures commenced with the structural removal of cement and restoration of lime plaster. The lime mortar that we made consists of traditional additives such as jaggery, aloe-vera, dried palash flowers, tree gum and other organic materials. We make the mortar in-house, so as to ensure that the material used is of good quality. Stucco work — a very significant architectural element — has been restored where missing and where evidence had survived in-situ. Cement flooring of the monuments and their platforms have been replaced with stone paving to ensure long term preservation,” said Ratish Nanda, Chief Executive, Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
“The lime mortar is to cover the structure, which is further covered by a finer lime-stone plaster. That plaster is handmade by the workers with the help of the grinding stone. We could have, like many others, used cement to do the restoration work. But that would not bring out the grandeur of these structures. So we are doing everything the traditional way,” he said.
Apart from the plastering, the team is also restoring the art work and tiles on the monuments.
“Many art works have already been restored. Some of the tiles were found on the structure when we removed the cement. We will be putting the tiles on the structures, however whenever possible we will retain the old tiles as they hold histotic significance. I hope that all this work will keep the structure in a good shape for decades to come,” Nanda added.
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