Emergency conservation repair work being carried out ahead of monsoon at Paigah Tombs complex by Aga Khan Trust for Culture in the city. (Right) The lime mortar latticework that is damaged due to lack of maintenance, recently #KhabarLive run the story in these columns and the concern authorities reacted and strictly ordered to complete the work.

Conservation architects, workers and officials are racing against time to complete the emergency conservation repairs at the Paigah tombs complex at Phisalbanda area in Hyderabad before the onset of monsoon. The walled complex where the soldiers of the officer class of Nizam’s army are buried is an exemplar of intricate lime mortar work, some of which dates back to the late 18th century.

“A similar work in stucco in terms of the delicate touch and craftsmanship would be in Granada, Spain. But it doesn’t have the latticework that is so exquisite here,” says Ratish Nanda, CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture, making a case for urgent work to safeguard the site for posterity.

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“There are dozens of structural cracks and plant growth within them. We are working on the eaves and ceiling to ensure there is no water stagnation and ingress,” says Prashant Banerjee of AKTC supervising the work on Ghasi Miyan’s funerary enclosure, which is open to sky.

The AKTC has been entrusted with the task of carrying out the conservation work by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Telangana.

Currently spread over nearly two acres, the necropolis contains tombs of the first Paigah nobleman Abul Fateh Khan titled Nawab Taig Jung Bahadur as well as his descendants who served as officers for the Nizam’s army.

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Visitors to the site are surprised by the fine quality and craftsmanship of the lime mortar latticework. “To an extent, we have been able to demystify the lime mortar jali work. The craftsmen have used 1 mm thick terracotta tiles for the inner core and covered it with another thin layer of lime plaster. The outer layer is as fine as a layer of paint,” says Mr. Banerjee.

While some of the latticework frames are intact, many have suffered damage due to lack of maintenance from the time when about 28 families used to live in the complex. The collapsed lattice frames have been given a temporary support before the work begins to restore them with thin terracotta tiles and lime plaster.

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“The first phase of the work will take about six to seven months, which includes stabilising the site. We are also carrying out landscape work as part of the Swadesh Darshan grant. It may take us about three years to complete the work on the whole site,” says Nanda, who is known for restoring the Qutb Shahi Heritage Park at the foothills of the Golconda Fort.

Some of the tombs have pairs of pillars with the inner core of stone exposed. “This is least of our worries. The pillars are structurally safe and are carrying the load. Only the limestone has flaked off due to capillary action in which lime mortar slowly disintegrates,” say the conservation architects at the site. #KhabarLive