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Stepwell in Qutb Shahi tombs complex restored by AKTC 2021-11-14

Sunday, 2021, November 14
The Hindu
Lessons from the past: The restored stepwell inside the Qutb Shahi tombs complex in Hyderabad. Serish Nanisetti
Serish Nanisetti

'Probably one of the earliest structures here; might pre-date the necropolis’

In the marvellous garden of a stucco work necropolis of the Qutb Shahi tombs, it is a deep stepwell of dressed granite. While curvy flowy lines and stucco decorations are the norm in the tombs complex, the stepwell is all about straight lines and minimalistic design. Recently restored to the way it appears in archival images from 19th century by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, the effort has been aided by US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

“It is probably one of the earliest structures here, along with the Idgah and might pre-date the necropolis. The other boalis (stepwells) are built on rocky outcrops. This one is built into the earth with huge blocks of hand-dressed stone blocks and masonry,” informs Ratish Nanda of Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which is working in coordination with the State government to restore the tombs complex.

The Qutb Shahis ruled the Golconda kingdom between 1518 and 1687.

Restoring a deep stepwell presents its own challenges. “Portions of the stone blocks had bulged out and required to be reset; this was dangerous due to the depth of the baoli. We also needed to channelise rainwater into it, requiring extensive restoration of earth levels all around out,” says Mr Nanda.

A photograph clicked during the restoration work shows the intimidating depth of the well and dealing with large blocks of dressed stones that needed to be moved around. Above the ground, large blocks of the stones were also displaced as the well was not in use for a long time. The well reaches to the depth of 20 metres or about 60 feet — the same height as a six-storey structure. The Idgah baoli is among the seven wells inside the Qutb Shahi tombs complex that are being restored as part of the conservation efforts at the site.

Recently, speaking at a seminar, Special Chief Secretary Arvind Kumar had spelled out the State government’s plans for revival of stepwells in the city. “Hyderabad had 140-plus stepwells. Most of them have disappeared; we are rediscovering. We have repaired and restored 12 stepwells. Corporates are eager to be involved in the restoration. Once restored, they will be part of history and heritage of the city and we will ensure some meaningful activities take place in those areas,” said Mr. Kumar at the seminar held at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University here.

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