By Mohammed Shafeeq
With the 13th Century Ramappa temple of Telangana getting the status of UNESCO World Heritage site, the focus is on Hyderabad, which has long been a contender for the coveted tag but the neglect of its build heritage hampered the efforts.
As Telangana celebrates its first UNESCO world heritage site, there is growing clamour for the state government to redouble its efforts to get the inscription for this 429-year-old city.
Immediately after the 800-year-old temple located in Mulugu district, about 200 km from Hyderabad, was declared the UNESCO World Heritage site, citizens started demanding that the state and the central governments make similar effort to get the status for the state capital.
Historians and heritage activists believe that the city with its rich legacy of architectural and cultural landmarks deserve the status.
Endowed with rich architectural legacy and vibrant culture, Hyderabad is considered natural choice for the inscription.
They feel that the city famous for its pearls, palaces, minarets, rich culture and lip-smacking cuisine should have been in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites long ago.
Dr. Lubna Sarwath said old city and various parts of Hyderabad should be declared as World Heritage city/corridor for the numerous heritage monuments and structures. “One finds these heritage structures every mile of the city not to mention heritage-cum-public utility structures,” she said.
After Ramappa temple was declared as World Heritage site on Sunday, minister for municipal administration and urban development K.T. Rama Rao tweeted that the government’s next aim is to get World Heritage site status for Hyderabad.
The minister had also stated in the past that the government would make all efforts to get UNESCO World Heritage city status for Hyderabad as the coveted tag is expected to further promote tourism.
It was a decade ago that the proposal was submitted for including Charminar, Golconda Fort and the Qutb Shahi tomb complex in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The Government of India submitted a nomination dossier to UNESCO for securing the inscription for these monuments, but the world body had termed it incomplete.
According to heritage activists, the proposal was not re-submitted.
They alleged that the neglect of heritage and official apathy in proper documentation denied the city monuments a certain place in UNESCO list.
Charminar, Golconda Fort and Qutb Shahi tombs complex are the most significant heritage sites in the city and are visited by hundreds of tourists every day.
Built in 1591 by Hyderabad’s founder Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, Charminar is the symbol of Hyderabad.
The majestic Golconda Fort was built by the Kakatiyas of Warangal during 10th century as a mud fort. It was later fortified by the Qutb Shahi kings, who ruled from 1518 to 1687.
Qutb Shahi tombs complex comprises 72 monuments including mausoleums of rulers of Qutb Shahi dynasty. According to historians, there is no other site like this in the world as it offers huge diversity of architectural styles.
P. Anuradha Reddy, convenor of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) recalls that Jaipur was declared UNESCO world heritage site because of its Hindu-Muslim and European architecture and culture. “Hyderabad also has the same rich diversity. Moreover, we have our own style Osmanian that was developed here from local population, history and culture,” she told IANS.
The best example of Osmanian, according to the heritage activist, is Arts College on Osmania University campus. It has Chinese Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic Qutb Shahi architecture incorporated in it.
The citizens feel that Hyderabad is also missing on the opportunity to get the coveted tag due to the neglect of the heritage structures and in some cases threat to them from those in power.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in its affidavit in High Court reportedly revealed that Bhagyalakshmi temple cost Charminar UNESCO World Heritage site nomination. ASI, responsible for the upkeep of the monument, has time and again maintained that the temple abutting the monument is an illegal structure.
Many heritage structures have disappeared over last few decades either due to the apathy of the authorities concerned, encroachments by land sharks or due to the widening of roads or other development activities undertaken by successive governments.
The city’s landscape has undergone a big change in recent years with the heritage structures making way for new roads, bridges and high-rise buildings.
It was the intervention of Telangana High Court that saved 150-year-old Errum Manzil, which the government wanted to demolish to build a new Assembly building.
Errum Manzil is a palace built in 1870 by Nawab Fakrul Mulk, a noble of erstwhile Hyderabad State. Built in Indo-European style of architecture, it has 150 rooms and is located on a hillock in the heart of the city.
The conservation activists, however, failed to save Saifabad Palace which was demolished to build new Secretariat complex.
Sixth Nizam Mir Mahabub Ali Khan (1869-1911) had built the summer resort, which was popularly known as Saifabad Palace. It was being used as one the buildings in the Secretariat of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
The famous Osmania Hospital building on the banks of Musi river is now at the centre of a tussle between the government and heritage activists. The authorities plan to demolish nearly century-old structure to build a new hospital.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be reached at [email protected])