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Blinkered eye in the sky

A century on, the Nizamiah Observatory is just twin domes. Balaji Vittalfinds out



Just history The Nizamiah Observatory remains an unsung landmark

The cacophony that customarily accompanies peak hour traffic at Ameerpet Crossroads fades out as one turns the corner past Lal Bungalow. Inside the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) campus further down the lane, nestled in the 25-acre lan d punctuated by rocky hillocks and unruly outgrowths of yellowish green vegetation, quietly stand the twin domes of the Nizamiah Observatory.

The observatory was established circa 1908 by Nawab Zafar Jung, a wealthy nobleman. He donated a 15 inch refractor and an 8 inch astrograph.

Each observatory is about 20-feet in diameter at the base. An iron grill separates the bright lawns of the CESS from the two-storey tower that houses the instruments.

“We have spent the money ourselves to get a fresh coat of paint done on these grills,” says Padmanabha Rao, Registrar or CESS. The reconstruction of the observatory is estimated to cost Rs. 25 lakhs, he says. HUDA has already sent a proposal to Government of India but...

Ferns and creepers peep out from the recesses of the square granite mosaics. The wooden staircase, having battled many a monsoon has finally slumped like dead wood. It wobbles dangerously as one tries to take a few hesitant steps up. A few missing sections of the first floor balcony provide ironic comfort as they masquerade as sun roofs. The second floor balcony is less lucky. It’s completely ripped out.

“The observatory once had huge astronomical pendulum clocks, a busy workshop and a seismograph,” says Masood Humayun, whose father served as a Senior Observer. “I remember him collecting astronomical data, setting the time zones of different countries, taking printouts of earthquake recordings, measuring epicentre and the magnitude and sending the same to news agencies,” he recollects.

Gardener Chandramouli’s soiled shirt hangs there today to keep company to the thick cobwebs even as he waters the slender, purple Nargis, fresh pink Bougainville and the white Tabarnamenta on the lawns that are well manicured. The light golden Durantas stacked in perfect symmetry in 4 in x 3 in polythene casings would soon find their way to the gentle, grassy slope adjacent to the entry gate.

While the basement of the observatory serves as a storeroom for dumping, among other things, broken water closets, fractured chairs and bug feasted carpets. .

The instruments were decommissioned and retired to Rangapur in the early ’80s. The twin domes, now under the supervision of Department of Astronomy, Osmania University resemble aged parents confined to an outhouse of their wealthy son’s mansion.

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