Technology and the tombs
Check out the technological marvel of hydraulics that the Qutb Shahis mastered in the 15th century.
PHOTO: K. RAMESH BABU
THE END: The mortuary bath was a self-contained unit
Prime on the tourist itinerary in Hyderabad is the Qutb Shahi tombs complex abutting the Golconda fort. This is the place where most of the Qutb Shahi kings as well as some of the nobles are buried.
The tombs are obvious draws as are the small mosques with ponds in front of them. Aurangazeb got a small austere mosque built for his prayers during the long siege of Golconda fort.
But beyond the architectural wonder of the tombs is the technological marvel of hydraulics that the Qutb Shahis mastered in the 15th century.
While all the tourists who throng the complex gaze at the huge tombs and find the faded glory of blue and green tiles, most of them give a miss to the mortuary bath.
But once you see the morbid curio you wonder at the technological detailing that went into the ritual bath before the burial. The bodies would be taken out of the snaking Banjara Darwaza (so shaped to prevent elephants from charging and breaking the doors) of the Golconda Fort and taken in state to the tombs complex (ironically, most of the kings supervised their own tombs like the Pharaohs of Egypt).
The last bath
On a raised ramp near a huge square well are four rows of granite pillars on which perhaps moved the pulleys and wheels to draw the water from the well and canalise it to all the small mosques that are there in the complex.
PHOTO: K. RAMESH BABU
WELL LIT: Light filters into the bath from all sides
But the water for the ghusalkhana or mortuary bath was drawn from the adjoining well and canalised into earthen heating cisterns.
In the middle of the domed subterranean quadrangle is the shrouding platform where the royal ghusaldar used to give the ritual bath with the streaming warm water as well as perfumed cold water before being taken to the earmarked tomb.
The platform has 12 curved spokes that keep the awareness about the 24-hour cycle and the march of time and death.
But what if the well dries up? The Qutb Shahis planned for this exigency also and had a facility to tap the water that was transported from Durgam Cheruvu to the Golconda fort, a distance of 12 km, through an ingenious system of pipes that exploited gravity and the natural hills and valleys of the Deccan plateau.
All this is in the past. Now, the well is inaccessibly covered with weeds.
The information about the bath is limited to a marker that tells the date of its construction: 1550 A.D.
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