The collapse of the famous Mississippi Hangar in Hyderabad has brought into focus the city’s heritage structures facing decades of neglect.

Monumental apathy Heritage structures in Hyderabad beg for immediate overhaul
news Heritage Wednesday, July 18, 2018 - 14:22

The Mississippi Hangar, dating back to the princely state of Hyderabad, was the only aircraft hangar in Hyderabad that served as a bus depot and later as a bus station for millions of commuters across both the Telugu states. The huge aircraft hangar was brought by sea, transported to Hyderabad and reassembled at Gowliguda.

The hangar collapsed last week. All it took was torrential rainfall and the decade-long neglect from the bureaucracy, who seemed to be in a great hurry to perform the last rites of the heritage structure.

Mississippi Hangar is not the only structure in the city that is begging for an immediate overhaul. Despite appeals from INTACH and other conservationists, most of these structures are standing on their last legs.

From Mozaam Jahi Market near Abids to the Nampally Sarai house, the state of Telangana seems to be making no efforts to revive these dilapidated buildings.

Caught in a legal limbo where the archaeology department is not involved but a number of heirs and neighbours in the area are eyeing the land, Hyderabad is losing landmarks that once symbolised the pinnacle of the city’s glory.

Nampally Sarai house

The condition of the Sarai house in Nampally paints a rather gloomy picture. This century-old structure, which served as a guest house for the united state of Andhra Pradesh, was built by the sixth Nizam, Mahboob Ali Badshah, in 1919 in memory of the First World War Treaty. 

The building, originally known as Sulah Sarai (a peaceful resting place), is spread across an area of 5,828 square yards near Nampally. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the railway station. 

The Sarai house is now only a shadow of its former self. This architectural marvel has been neglected to the extent that auto and taxi drivers exchange puzzled glances if one asks them directions to the Sarai house.

Completely shadowed by the tall metallic metro structures around it, the entrance to the Sarai is inundated with rainwater and the dense foliage on both sides of the structure adds to further gloom. A faint shade of red paint still remains on some corners of the building where huge moss-filled crevices threaten to bring down the tall structure.

This dilapidated building, however, still houses the Nampally registrar office, which has around 5-6 employees working in one of the buildings that were constructed years after the Sarai was converted into a rest house by the government.

“During all major events at the LB stadium, government and foreign officials used to stay at the Sarai. The government took special care to maintain the building. It was painted twice a year and filled with visitors throughout. But in 2004, the government passed an order to shut the Sarai house and since then it has been lying in shambles,” says Ravi, a sanitation worker with the Nampally municipal corporation.

Once the sun sets, it is also home to drunkards and anti-social elements in the locality, Ravi adds. 

If one is to look closely, the Hyderabad Metro Rail, its current owner, has painted its name in bold on most of the doors of the building. But who really owns Sarai is still a matter of contention, as a couple of political parties have sought re-possession of the land.

Talking to TNM, an MIM spokesperson said that the party would not allow the HMR to take over or demolish the building since it is a part of the Nizam’s heritage.

The Sarai is now being used for parking taxis and other vehicles. 

The Mozaam Jahi market 

It is difficult to glance away from this impressive granite structure along the roads at Abids. Built more than 80 years ago by the city improvement board, the Mozaam Jahi market is home to around 100 shops. The traders in the market sell fruits, vegetables, kirana, chicken and mutton retail. The market is also famous for its ice-cream and chaat vendors, who occupy the front portion of the dome.

However, up close, these sights of ecstasy soon turn into anguish, seeing the pitiable condition of the structure, considered a Grade II heritage building. No concrete roads to walk, seeping drainage water inundating most of the parts of the market and a strong stench emanating from the dumped decaying vegetables paint a dismal picture.

Unauthorised sheds have caused more damage to the structure by digging holes in the granite structure to support the kiosks.

The M.J. market was named after the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan’s second son, Nawab Moazzam Jah Bhadur. It bears the same architectural style as that of the High Court, Osmania General Hospital and City College.

A survey, carried out by an architect for the GHMC in 2012, had found the inner structure comprising shops to be ‘weak’. The architect had suggested several measures – applying an anti-corrosive paint to the steel joists in the jack arch roof, water-proofing of brackets, scrapping of the dome to remove the loose particles and the repainting the joints.

A facelift, which was planned over six years ago, is still underway, vendors at MJ market say.

Gangaraj, a vegetable vendor in the market, says that nothing much has changed in the past 20 years.

“Six years ago, the GHMC promised to sanction Rs 3 crore to renovate the market. But no work was taken up. There are rumours that the state has now sanctioned funds to clean the structure and plaster the walls with lime concrete. We do not have proper lights in the market which makes trade difficult at night and the leaking pipes are a matter of worry. With all this, we still pay a sum of Rs 1,000 to the GHMC every month as rent,” Gangaraj says.

Mahboob mansion

Boxed in by a housing colony built by the AP housing board, lie the remains of Mahboob Palace in Malakpet. Built in the 19th century, it was the temporary residence of Asaf Jha VI, the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad.

The mansion and its precincts, now owned by the state agricultural department, is listed as a heritage monument under the HMDA. The women in the housing colony use the strong-wired fences of the palace to hang their clothes to dry. 

Rumours of the palace being haunted are also rife. With garbage strewn around and the encroached surroundings, it is difficult to see this structure restored.

But all does not seem lost. If one is to closely observe the structure, the front portions of the palace still reflect grandeur in spite of the neglect and filth. 

Locals say that until a few years ago, people used to enter the premises with a pot of water and soon the first floor of the palace would become inaccessible due to human waste. This stopped after the authorities built a strong fence but never bothered to make any repairs.

Sources in HMDA say that the development authority is cash-strapped to take forward any development works. 

“There were plans to reuse the palace as the Hyderabad’s race course. But the plan still remains on paper due to a cash crunch. Also, the authorities are not willing to pursue such matters of architectural importance as they do not benefit much from its conservation and restoration,” a source from HMDA said.