HYDERABAD: Come January, by Milad-un-nabi, old Hayat Bakshi Begum Mosque or the Grand Mosque in Hayatnagar, that is more than the 340 years old, is expected to be restored to its past glory.
It is on the day of Milad-un-nabi every year that the entire village surrounding the mosque gathers celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad. The state department of Archaeology and Museums, that has been in the process of restoring the monument claims that the restoration is in its last leg.
“We have Milad-un-nabi Jalsa on the last Sunday of Rabi’ al-awwal every year. Thousands of people visit the mosque which will be decorated. Prophet’s teachings are revisited and a feast is served,” says 60-year-old caretaker, Mohammed Masood, who has spent all his life around the mosque. Though the mosque continues to be a place of worship, it is frequented by several tourists any given day.
Hayat Bakshi Begum is considered to be the tallest Qutb Shahi royalty of all times. She was the only child of Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah, who built the city. She married Shah’s nephew Sultan Mohammad Qutb Shah who became the next emperor. And, after he passed away, she was considered the de facto ruler of the region with her 14-year-old son Abdullah Qutb Shah as the crowned emperor.
“All her life, she was in the lime light. She was the only child of a king, became the queen and then was the Maa Sahiba and de facto ruler,” says noted city-based historian Mohammed Safiullah of the Deccan Heritage Trust referring to her life story. Taking forward the tradition of naming places after the rulers, it is believed that, Hayat Bakshi Begum too developed a township away from Golconda city for travellers and traders and thus the name Hayatnagar.
The mosque built in typical Qutb Shahi architecture in lime and mortar, on a raised platform, is surrounded by a Caravan Sarai consisting of 133 rooms for the travellers. Four gateways lead into the five-acre Mosque-Sarai compound. The imposing mosque has a five arched facade with two minarets. Another important aspect of the mosque, is the existence of a large well at the boundary wall of the compound. Called ‘Hathi Bowli’, meaning well of elephant, this well is an architectural marvel craving for restoration as well.
The state department of Archaeology and Museums, which completed restoration of the interiors, flooring and the raised platform of the mosque in 2010 had started further restoration works earlier this year at a cost of `1 crore. “Both minars look brand new as it would have been in 16th century. The roof, parapet walls, and even roof of the sarai is done with lime mortar. Only a bit of stucco work in the interiors of sarai is left,” said an official with the department wishing anonymity. Further, he also pointed out that restoration of hathi bowli could be done in the future. “There are no plans as of now,” he said adding that works would be completed in a couple of months.
Once the mosque and the adjoining caravan sarai is fully restored, it can become a must-visit tourist spot in the city. “The mosque falls on the way from city to Ramoji film city. Many tourists do visit the place. With a bit of advertisement, we can claim the much deserved respect for the monument and heritage of Qutb Shahi dynasty,” points out Masood sitting near the eastern gateway. Safiullah, on the other hand, adds, “We have to first respect our built up heritage in order to get them recognition. And by respect, I mean proper take care of them.”
Hayat Bakshi Begum remained in prominence for almost three hundred years till the 1920s, thanks to Langar Procession every year on the fifth day of Moharrum when the army and civilians took out a massive rally. This was done by her as thanksgiving to the deliverance of her son, Abdulla Qutb Shah from an episode where an enraged elephant that he was seated on went rogue and carried him away. In the 1920’s, the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan disbanded the procession considering it a waste of money.