Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fading Heritage: Changing Trends, Old Is No Longor Gold

By Falguni Reddy | Hyderabad

From its royal collection of vintage beauties to its 100-year-old Assembly building, Hyderabad's aging heritage is fast fading into oblivion.

The AP State Legislative Assembly, arguably the second most instantly recognizable structure in the city after Charminar, has turned a 100 this year. And, as a part of its centenary celebrations the government has given this pearl of architectural magnificance a pernicious present perched on piers which threatens to pry the very essence of the city's heritage from it 'The Hyderabad Metro Rail'.
Its coaches crafted with care in South Korea, at the governments behest, will soon dwarf the monuments imposing white edifice by roaring on rails around 12 meters above the ground. The worlds largest elevated metro rail project,the brainchild of a visionary governments attempt to redefine the city's transportation system, will also render the architectural relic out of sight. This vision also illustrates the severely myopic approach of the government towards the preservation of the city's heritage as it has not been factored in,in the ambitious Rs 16,000 crore project.

According to historians and records,the Mahboobia Town Hall, as it was earlier known,was built by public subscription so as to pay homage to the sixth Nizam Mir Mahboob Ali Khan on his 40th birthday. While work began in 1905, the Nizam would not live to the see its splendor as he died in 1911 aged 45.

It was the nobles in general and Diwan Bahadur Ramgopal in particular, who was the initiator of the subscription. He was an industrialist and philanthropist. All ranks including Paigahs, Umrah-e-Uzzam and general nobility who donated for the cause. There was fixed nazar (gift) for each house of nobility.

That the building, which once found itself in the well kept lawns and gardens of Bagh-e-Aam, literally Public Gardens, is not in the list of protected heritage buildings is a shame, he says. That these politicos moving in and out of the whitewashed corridors of power have done little,if anything at all, to persuade the authorities for the assembly complex preservation is a tale of apathy. However,the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen with a view to protect various structures of heritage and religious significance on metro rail corridor II, which slices a good part of the Old City, had suggested realignment.

The HCC and other activists had recommended that the metro rail go underground at all heritage precincts but all pleas fell on deaf ears.Metro and government officials said that underground tunnels would pose a security threat, laments former Heritage Conservation Committee Member Sajjad Shahid. He asks a poignant question: when metro rails in other cities such as Bengaluru have gone underground at Vidhana Soudha, the seat of power in Karnataka,then what possible threat could the AP State Assembly have .

Others such as noted conservation architect Sanjay Torvi say that the government should have thrown open the old town hall, which is now in the custody of the department of protocol, to the citizenry. It is unfortunate that there are no centenary celebrations and that the populace does not get to see the heritage relic where policies and rules which govern them are made. There are many old and new pictures of this building available which should have been put on display, he says. He too points out that several letters written to the department of Municipal Administration and Urban Development and even Hyderabad Metro Rail urging for protection of the heritage precincts have been ignored.

Apart from making many changes inside, the department of protocol made the cardinal sin of coating the exterior of the building with enamel paint which harms the structure. They should have used white lime-mortar preparation, Torvi says.

Those who treasure the city's heritage point out that there are dozens of buildings,though unlisted,should be protected. They cite Ibrahim Bagh,popularly known as Le Palais Royale, a popular wedding venue, which once served as the Secuderabad Arts and Science College as an example. The Deccan House,where the once young prices Azam Jah and Moazzam Jah received military train, in the Secuderabad Cantonment area and Seetharamachandra Swamy Devasthanam in Shamsabad and Laxman Bagh, a striking temple complex on Gachibowli road, now in the hands of prominent city based industrialists, are cases in point.
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