Qutb Shahi Tombs - Staring Onto Death
The Qutub Shahi Kings as a family tradition used to get their tombs designed during their lifetime. I wonder what powerful psyche they had to take on building something that reminded them “Death is Inevitable” every day of their life
Qutb Shahi Tombs (popularly known as Seven Tombs), a resting place for the monarchs & members of Qutb Shahi Dynasty (or Golconda Sultanate). A cluster of Tombs but considered as a great showcase of architecture and art of Hyderabad city, which is famous for its rich culture & historic buildings.
About the Dynasty
Qutb Shahi Dynasty was founded by Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk, a Muslim Turkmens who moved to Delhi, then to Deccan and served Bahmani Emperor. After the Bahmani Sultanate got separated into five kingdoms (Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar, and Berar ), Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk became the king of Golkonda in 1518, took the title of Qutb Shah and established Qutb Shahi Dynasty. They ruled on Golkonda for 171 years, until the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb conquered Golkonda in 1687.
King Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, IVth King of the dynasty is the founder of Hyderabad City.
A Cluster of Tombs
As Paigah Tombs belong to the noble Paigah family, Qutb Shahi Tombs belong to the Qutb Shahi dynasty. [Read my blog on Paigah Tombs ].
There are 72 monuments in the complex area spread over 108 acres. It has total of 40 mausoleums, which includes the tombs of 7 kings, their family members and some officials who faithfully served the family. Only the 8th & the last ruler’s tomb is not here as he was captivated by Aurangzeb, died in the prison and buried in Aurangabad.
The tombs have distinctive style that blends Persian, Pashtun and Hindu forms. There are domed structures built on a square base surrounded by pointed arches.
In the center of each tomb is a sarcophagus (a stone coffin, typically adorned with a sculpture or inscription) which overlies the actual burial vault in a crypt below. It has beautiful and detailed stonework carved over the tombs.
When the dynasty were ruling these tombs were in great reverence. It was decorated with carpets, chandeliers, velvet canopies on silver poles etc. The domes were overlaid with blue and green tiles of which only a few pieces are left today.
To differentiate the tombs of the kings with the others, Golden Spires (a tapering conical or pyramidal structure on the top of a building) were fitted over the tombs.
The galleries of the smaller tombs are of a single storey while the larger ones are two storied.
There is an unfinished tomb which is said to be of Mirza Nizamuddin Ahmed, son-in-law of 7th sultan (Picture below)
Apart from the different tombs, there is a mortuary bath and baoli (Step Well) in the complex area. It is also interesting to see that a masjid had been built beside almost every tomb. The most famous of them is by the mausoleum of Hayat Bakshi Begum (daughter of Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th sultan, the wife of Sultan Muhammed Qutb Shah, the 6th sultan and the mother of Abdullah Qutb Shah, the 7th sultan J ). This roof of the Grand Mosque was decorated with fifteen cupolas (a rounded dome adorning a ceiling) and the prayer-hall is flanked by two lofty minarets.
The tomb area was surrounded by the beautiful gardens. Although there is no such garden today but there are lot of big trees in the complex which gives a fresh feel amidst the scorching heat of the city.
Maintenance & Restoration of the tombs.
After Qutb Shahi Dyansty, the tombs were neglected and were in not so good condition. In early 19th century Sir Salar Jung III ordered their restoration. Today the complex is maintained by the ASI. In fact when I visited the place in March 2017 some parts of it was temporarily closed and was under renovation
Qutb Shahi Tombs is a must see place if you are a tourist, traveller, photographer and even a resident of Hyderabad. You will need about 2-3 hrs to see the place. There are authorized tourist Guides available and charge you between INR 100 to 150 for about a 30-45 minutes tour of the place. It may be interesting to hire them for you will get know some not so obvious things about the place. I noticed that sometimes these guides double up as your camera man and help you get a picture of your family at some of the important locations. If you are interested in Bollywood stuff, they will also for sure tell you about various movies that were shot here.
If you are someone who loves architecture, you can spend several hours. Each tomb is magnificent in its own way and has some unique design in it.
The place is located in Ibrahim Bagh, very close to ‘Golkonda Fort’. It is just on the main road so you can reach by public bus. Alternatively you can take auto-rickshaws or private taxis.
The place is open on all days from 9.30AM to 4.30PM. Entry fee is Rs.10 (for Adult Indian Citizens). Photography is allowed with a charge of Rs.20 per camera and Rs.100 for Video Camera. Bikes & Car Parking space is also available
If you shoot architecture, you have ample of opportunities. You will however have to be prepared to face the challenge of low light inside the Tombs and a double challenge of Tripods not being allowed.
You will not be able to get golden hours here, so it might be best that you can reach by around noon, that’s when the initial morning tourist crowd has gone and you have max light outside. This may come handy in improved lighting inside the tombs and making your work a little bit easier. By late afternoon you should be good to get your exterior shots too.
While this is a general suggestion, you can alter a few things around to get creative too.
Suggested equipment: Any DSLR + Wide Angle Lens + Tele Lens