Relics of a rich past

Often referred to as the “Taj of the South”, the Paigah tombs are a symbol of architectural excellence. The tombs located in the Santosh Nagar area of Hyderabad are a hidden gem.

Relics of a rich past

Dust unto dust: Tomb of Nawab Bashir-ud-Daulah, a Paigah noble Photos by the writer

Rashmi gopal rao

Often referred to as the “Taj of the South”, the Paigah tombs are a symbol of architectural excellence. The tombs located in the Santosh Nagar area of Hyderabad are a hidden gem. While the city is synonymous with the iconic Charminar, Golconda Fort and the more famous Qutub Shahi tombs, a visit to Paigah tombs will give you deeper insights into the history, culture and heritage of Hyderabad. 

Located just about 4 km from Charminar, the Paigah tomb complex has a total of 27 tombs, which served as the resting place of Paigah family members. A stunning combination of architectural styles that include Persian, Deccan, Mughal, Rajputana, Asaf Jahi as the Indo-Islamic styles, the tombs  in lime and mortar house a rich history that dates back to 200 years. The Paigah family, ranked only second to the Nizams, exercised great influence and power in the princely state of Hyderabad during the 18th century. Great patrons of art and literature, they were related to the Nizams through matrimony and were staunch supporters of Asaf Jah. The term “paigah” means pomp and rank in Persian. The Paigah nobles were aristocratic and held important positions during the rule of the Nizams. They built several palaces, including the famous Faluknama Palace in the city.

A world inside

As you first enter the seemingly unceremonious complex, a landscaped garden and several arches welcome you. What comes next is the main area of the tomb, ornate with intricate craftsmanship, exquisite carvings and delicate patterns. The 27 tombs are built adjacent to each other from west to the east. Built on a raised platform, the beautiful structure of the mosque is an evidence of the aesthetic taste of erstwhile makers. Overlooking an artificial water body, the main structure has three arches, above which is an ornate wall supporting the minarets, adorned by detailed patterns.

The first tomb is that of Nawab Taig Jung Bahadur who was known as Abul Fateh Khan. A valiant soldier, he was conferred with several titles and was popularly known as the “Sun of the Nobles”. The next tomb is that of his only son Abul Fakhr Muhammed, also popular as Fakhruddin Khan, who was the first member of the Paigah family to be related to the Nizams through matrimony. 

Likewise, there are tombs of several important members of the Paigah clan, each built uniquely with exquisite inlay work and elaborate wooden doors. Some tombs are embellished with pietra dura mosaic work in precious stones, which were known to change colour according to the season. The tombs of Asman Jah and Begum Khurshid Jah are the most popular due to the striking lattice work and perfectly crafted, symmetrical geometric patterns.

The intricacy of stucco work

This, by far, is the most differentiating feature of this heritage complex. The ornamented pillars, jaalis, screens, carved panels and roundels on the tomb facades are elaborate and symmetrical in equal measure. The magnificence of the canopies, beauty of the pineapple, flower and vase motifs and the variety of the geometrical and floral patterns of trellises are awe-inspiring. The patterns of stucco on the walls and the bulbous minarets are a picture of grace and elegance. Extensive restoration and repair work has now been undertaken by the Union Tourism Ministry to revive this architectural marvel of Hyderabad.  

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