The Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs, Charminar

Date of Submission: 10/09/2010
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
Ref.: 5573

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Golconda Fort N17 23 07.37 E78 24 14.87

Qutb Shahi Tombs N17 23 43.73 E78 23 47.79

Charminar N17 21 41.13 E78 28 28.00

Located in the city of Hyderabad, capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar are the landmarks that symbolize the Qutb Shahi Dynasty. Golconda Fort lies 11 km to the west of city of Hyderabad, while the Qutb Shahi tombs are a further kilometre north-west of the Fort. Charminar is located in the heart of the old city of Hyderabad.

Even though not located within the same complex, these three monuments together represent the earliest Qutb Shahi layer of Hyderabad's history and belong to the Qutb Shahi dynasty that ruled the region from 1518 A.D. to 1687 A.D. Qutb Shahi Islamic Sultanate was one of the five prominent dynasties that emerged in the Deccan following the downfall of the Bahmani Dynasty in 1518 A.D. Seven rulers of the Dynasty ruled for 170 years and successfully resisted the Mughal attack till 1687 A.D. It was the last kingdom to be absorbed in the expanding Mughal Empire.

The monuments of the Qutb Shahi period represent different building typologies; Golconda is a fortified citadel and an early capital city of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. It is an ensemble of military structures, ramparts, gates, bastions, armoury; religious structures such as mosques, temples; residential structures such as palaces; water systems such as canals, fountains and landscaped gardens. The tombs of Qutb Shahis are a mausoleum complex, a royal necropolis which comprises the tombs of the Royal family and the officials who faithfully served them and also mortuary bath and mosques. Charminar on the other hand, is a ceremonial Gateway built to celebrate the foundation of Hyderabad, a new Millennial City, in 1591 A.D. The monuments are masterpieces of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, and stand as testimony to the past glory of the Qutb Shahi dynasty and its creative achievements.

Within its stone fortifications that traverse a length of over seven kilometres, the Golconda Fort envelopes a medieval Islamic settlement. The historic structures range from military and defensive structures, mortuary baths, silos, mosques, gardens, residential quarters, pavilions and royal courts, showcasing the entire range of structures that catered to life in a medieval fortified town in India. Within the citadel or Bala Hisar are the Silah Khana, Nagina bagh, Ambar Khana, Akkanna-Madanna Offices, Ramdas Jail, Darbar hall, Baradari, Hammams, Mahals, royal courts that served the capital of the Qutb Shahis.

The Qutb Shahi tombs complex consists of 30 tombs, mosques and a mortuary bath. The tombs belong to the rulers of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, their queens and children and the nobles who faithfully served them. It contains the epigraphically documented tombs of five of the dynasty's seven sultans, as well as those of another four members of the royal family, spanning the 130-year period from 1543 to 1672. The Qutb Shahi tombs collectively constitute an outstanding example of an Indo-Muslim dynastic necropolis and is the most extensive and best epigraphically documented in all of India.

Charminar stands at the crossing of two arterial axes in the old city of Hyderabad and forms the symbolic fulcrum of the city, with its four gateways oriented towards the cardinal directions. Contemporary historical sources date the Charminar's construction to the year 1000 AH (1591 A.D.), as the first building in Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah's new city of Hyderabad outside the Golconda fort. Of special significance is its date of construction that marks the beginning of the second Islamic millennium, an event that was widely celebrated in the Islamic world and therefore suggestive of Hyderabad being deliberately founded as a "Millennial" city.1

Together, these monuments are a product of the same period; technology, skills and innovations, which developed during the rule of Qutb Shahi Dynasty. They are great markers of the grandeur of the Qutb Shahi Period (1518-1687 A.D.) and even today continue to dominate the cityscape of modern day Hyderabad.

Charminar provided a point of origin and reference point for the planning grid that determined the layout of the city of Hyderabad. The city of Hyderabad served as the capital of the Qutb Shahis, the Asaf Jahi Nizams and is now the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad continues to thrive even today and is the fifth largest city in India, with Charminar as the visual symbol of the city.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Qutb Shahi monuments of Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar are the oldest and most significant monuments of the sister cities of Golconda and Hyderabad, successive capitals of the Qutb Shahi Islamic Sultanate (1518-1687). The legendary centre of diamond trade, Golconda was a medieval fortified city complete with residential, military and courtly functions. The Qutb Shahi tomb complex was a grand royal necropolis in the distinctive Qutb Shahi architectural style. As the court grew beyond the confines of the Golconda fort, the urban metropolis of Hyderabad was founded with the monumental Charminar in the centre as a grand millennium marker. Unique in its architectural typology, the Charminar remains an acknowledged masterpiece of Islamic architecture.155. With its unique form, architectural typology and location, it is among the most recognizable icons of Indian architecture.156

The monuments of the Qutb Shahi period provide vivid testimony of the creative synthesis of Persianate and Indic cultural traditions with a unique Deccani identity. Qutb Shahi architecture began with Bahmani moorings and evolved a sophisticated architectural aesthetic within the Deccani paradigm, symbolising the zenith of Islamic architecture in SouthIndia.

Criterion (i):

The Charminar is an acknowledged masterpiece of world architecture on account of its grand conception, design and execution. Charminar's most compelling quality is the originality of its unprecedented design that was to stylistically exercise a profound impact on the subsequent development of Deccani architecture. 157 Based on a system of interlocking voids and solids is seen in the alternating rhythms between its lofty arches and towering minarets, it became the archetype for later Islamic buildings in India.

Functionally, it does not conform to any of the familiar building types from the Indo-Islamic world, but serves as a monumental marker for the central node in Hyderabad's four-quartered design. Charminar is the archetype of the chaubara or "four-fold house" marking the intersection of four cardinal avenues, affording a series of impressive vistas. It is a singular monument as it embodies a singular design and ideas not seen in earlier structures.

The urban ensemble of Charminar and the Char Kaman resonates deeply with symbolic and ceremonial meaning to commemorate the beginning of the second Islamic Millennium and is a remarkable example of Shia city planning. This symbol envisioned the universe as a domed quadrangular structure of immense proportions, carried on four arches and illuminated at its apex by the sun as the light of heaven and earth. The Charminar's ground storey is indeed capped by a low compressed dome adorned with a solar lotus at its apex.

Criteria (ii):

Together, these Qutb Shahi monuments provide a unique testimony to the vibrant cosmopolitanism that characterized the medieval period in India and in the Deccan region in particular. Other Deccani sultanates were similarly multi-ethnic and multi-lingual, but the Qutb Shahi Sultanate appears to have been at the forefront of this cosmopolitanism. The founder of the dynasty and many influential nobles were immigrants from Iran. The success of the Qutb Shahi state depended critically on the ability of these "westerners" (gharbian) to form alliances both with members of the deeply rooted class of Deccani Muslims, and the local Telugu-speaking Hindu elite. In a manner that is more striking than at any other site, the Qutb Shahi monuments reveal the innovative and inspired blending of Persianate and Indic cultures that flowed from the successful integration of this multi-ethnic society.

In Golconda fort, the medieval diamond trade drew travelers from the world and the blending of cultures is manifest in a succession of constructional phases. The uppermost circuit of 14th century walls represents a local Indic architectural tradition. The Qutb Shahis introduced the Persianate style of elevated citadel (bala hisar) and fortified lower city (pa'in shahr). The Iranian urban traditions are best seen in the axial alignments of defensive gates, commercial streets, ceremonial portals and audience halls158. The accurate acoustical system and water system at the fort are the most innovative advances in the defence technology at Golconda.

It was with Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah's founding of Hyderabad in 1591 (AH 1000) to commemorate the beginning of the second Islamic millennium159 that the full synthesis of Indic and Persianate cultural strains was achieved. Although this was a Persianate impetus, the planners were drawing on ancient Hindu cosmological traditions of the central ritual node (chaubara) from which the four-quartered capital would unfold. In its formal expression however, the Charminar was inspired by a venerable Persian image of the cosmos, known as the chahar taq or "four arches".

The monument provided inspiration for the design of another Charminar, constructed in 1807 in the city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan160 and now included as part of the World Heritage Site "Historic Centre of Bukhara". Although the Bukhara Charminar functions as a gateway rather than as part of the larger urban armature, it nonetheless follows its design quite closely.

Criteria (iii):

The monuments of the Qutb Shahi period provide a unique testimony to the social, economic, cultural, political and technological landscape of the period of the Deccani Islamic Sultanate in medieval India. The Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar epitomise the flourishing of Deccani art and architecture and are unique expressions of the religious and artistic flowering of the Islamic Sultanate in Southern India.

Golconda Fort lay on an important trade route from the port town of Masulipatam to hinterlands and thus grew as a great trade centre and an international market place for textile, printed cloth and the famous Golconda diamonds and one of the leading cities of the East. Given the vicinity of diamond mines, it flourished as a diamond trading centre and thus played a significant role in the economics of the region.

The Qutb Shahi rulers were patrons of a culture which is sometimes dubbed the Deccani culture, a result of the synthesis of cultures from the indigenous dakhani culture of southern India to the mingling of the cultural nuances and ideas brought by the afaqi settlers from other parts of the Islamic world and the many travellers that swarmed to the diamond trade centre of Golconda. The twin capital cities of Golconda and Hyderabad were witness to a unique flowering of art, architecture, language, literature, music, cuisine and costume reflected subtly but perceptibly in the miniature paintings architecture and the Shi'a culture of the period.

Criteria (iv):

The group of Qutb Shahi tombs constitutes an outstanding example of an Indo-Muslim dynastic necropolis. Although many other Indo-Muslim dynasties also produced such necropolises, that of the Qutb Shahis is unique on three counts. First, it is a more complete dynastic complex than any other in India, as it unites in one location the tombs of five of the dynasty's seven rulers as well as four other identified members of the royal family. Second, its chronological span of 130 years is longer than that of any other documented necropolis in India. Third, because of these first two factors, the necropolis provides unique testimony not only for the stylistic development of Qutb Shahi architecture, but also for the dynastic politics within the family.

Because the Qutb Shahi necropolis includes nine tombs of members of the royal family, all firmly datable by means of their epitaph inscriptions, the complex affords the best controlled means of understanding the developing Qutb Shahi architectural style and its chronology. The earliest tomb-that of the dynasty's founder Sultan Quli (d.1543)-reveals its dependence on late Bahmani traditions of tomb design, while the tomb of the next to last ruler, Abdullah (d.1672) exhibits all of the distinctive qualities of the fully formed Qutb Shahi style. In between, every intermediate stage is represented, and several unusual variants as well, including the tomb of Muhammad Quli (d.1612) with its Iranian-inspired post and beam porticoes (talar), and the so-called tomb of Jamsheed (d.1550) with its unusual two-storeyed octagonal plan.

The complex also provides invaluable evidence shedding light on the nature of dynastic politics within the Qutb Shahi family. Tombs were built not only for the ruling sultans, but also for their wives and consorts, and for sons who were excluded from the succession. The spatial relationships between these various tombs are often highly instructive. Thus, until the 1620s, the original necropolis was confined to the southwestern block of the present enclosure and contained the monumental tombs of Sultan Quli (d.1543), Ibrahim (d. 1580), and Muhammad Quli (d.1612). Additionally, there was the small tomb of Ibrahim's son, Mirza Muhammad Amin (d.1596), which occupied the same terrace as his father's tomb, and numerous smaller tombs lacking inscriptions and most likely belonging to various members of the Qutb Shahi elite. Although this area also contains two structures that are popularly identified as the tombs of the Sultans Jamsheed (d. 1550) and Subhan (d.1550) -with whom Ibrahim fought a succession dispute-neither contains epitaphs confirming this identification, and moreover, they are built in the fully developed style of the mid-seventeenth century, making it impossible that they should belong to these two rulers. At least during the sixteenth century, it would appear that Jamsheed and his son Subhan were excluded from the royal necropolis, as if to deny that their reigns had ever occurred.

Golconda Fort is an outstanding example of military architecture, with its impregnable defence mechanism, unique water supply and distribution system, as well as the unique sewage disposal mechanisms and extraordinary acoustical system unparalleled in the architectural history of the Deccan and perhaps the military architecture of India. Golconda is one of the biggest fortresses in south India and has commanded the geo-politics of the region as well as the coveted diamond trade over seven centuries and governed the trade and destiny of South India.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Golconda Fort, Charminar and the Qutb Shahi tombs are the oldest layers of the original Qutb Shahi city of Hyderabad. All three structures are protected under National and State protection and possess a high degree of authenticity. While Charminar and Qutb Shahi tombs are intact and have a high degree of integrity, Golconda possesses the haunting quality of ruins set within the old fortified city. Apart from a number of minor structural repairs and regular maintenance that has been documented since the early nineteenth century, the buildings still exhibit their original structural fabric and design. The greatest management challenges that face the monuments today are those of urban developmental pressures and striking a balance between Hyderabad's past, present and future.

Management and Protection

Charminar and Golconda Fort have been declared monuments of National importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. Thus Charminar and Golconda Fort come under the jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India which is custodian of the monuments and is also responsible for their protection and management. Further, according to a Government Notification of the Government of India, a special 100 metre and further 200 metre boundary has been delineated beyond the core zone of the monument, declared as the 'prohibited' and 'regulated' areas respectively for the purpose of various operations such as mining and construction (Order No. S.O. 1764 dated 16 June 1992, published in the Gazette of India, Part II, Section 3, sub-section (ii) dated 4 July 1992). The Qutb Shahi tombs are managed by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Further, special Heritage Precincts have been created under Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (Now HMDA) Zoning Regulations, 1981 (Regulation 13). These include Charminar area, which comprises the historic core of the historic city and includes many historic localities, street facades, structures and buildings around Charminar. Golconda Fort Area includes the complete area of the fort within the outer walls, Qutb Shahi tombs and the Shekhpet Sarai.


In terms of their physical structure, the buildings in these three zones utilize the traditional materials of mortared stone and carved stucco. Not only in their materials and fabric, but also in their style and conception, they are immediately recognizable as authentic monuments of the Qutb Shahi era, an identification which is confirmed in many cases by the existence of dated Persian foundation inscriptions contemporary with their construction. These foundation inscriptions are present in the case of the most important of the Qutb Shahi tombs (dating from 1543 to 1672), and on some of the key gateways and bastions in the Golconda fort (e.g. Makka Darwaza, 1559; Musa Burj 1666), as well as on various other structures within the fort, including the congregational mosque founded by Sultan Quli in 1518 and the Ambar Khana storeroom constructed in 1642 (Yazdani 1917, 1919). The authenticity of the design of these buildings is further confirmed by descriptions included in early and mid-seventeenth century Persian and European texts, and the identification and dating of many of them is secured by dated Persian inscriptions contemporary with their founding.

Although the Charminar lacks a foundation inscription, the date of its construction (1591) is recorded in contemporary Persian historical texts. Additionally, the design and appearance of the monument are described in these texts, and these descriptions are in close accord with the monument's actual appearance. In the mid-seventeenth century, these indigenous descriptions are complemented by those written by visiting Europeans, such as Jean de Thevenot (Sen 1949, p. 133).

Apart from a number of minor structural repairs and regular programs of maintenance that have been documented since the early nineteenth century, the buildings still exhibit their original structural fabric and design. In the case of the Charminar, for example, it was reported in the early twentieth century that the southwestern minaret had collapsed and fallen due to a lightning strike in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, but that it had been replaced by the Mughal governor Bahadur Dil Khan at a cost of 60,000 rupees (Bilgrami 1927, pp. 18-19). This replacement was evidently done with a scrupulous eye for matching the structure and proportions of the other three minars. Some of the carved stucco work seen today has been restored in the past, as stucco is a less permanent material that needs regular repair and periodic replacement, but this has been carried out in accordance with traditional craft technique and in a manner that appears to follow closely the original design.161 Since the 1953 inauguration of the annual Indian Archaeology-A Review, the Archaeological Survey of India has regularly published brief notices of all conservation work it has performed (or which has been carried out by the various States' archaeological departments). A search through these volumes reveals that conservation work of one form or another has been carried out at Golconda Fort and at the Charminar almost every year since 1953. This work has included such activities as clearing vegetation and debris, consolidating compromised structures, leveling and resetting pavers and steps, repointing masonry joints, repairing stucco ornament, providing spouts for water drainage from rooftops, maintaining pathways for visitors, and so on. These reports suggest that interventions have been made only in the name of preservation and with the goal of arresting further decay of damaged buildings. Moreover, care has been taken to carry out work "in the original style" and it has often been done by "specially trained artisans." Especially where stucco repair has been concerned, "before and after" photographs have been published which persuasively document the high quality and accuracy of the repairs.


The conservation works for the monuments have been going on for over 100 years and thus they are in good state of preservation and maintain high level of integrity. While Charminar and Qutb Shahi tombs are intact, Golconda's character is that of fortified walls enclosing various structures, both intact and as ruins. This character has been scrupulously maintained by the custodian of the site, the Archaeological Survey of India.

At least as important as the integrity of the individual monuments is the spatial integrity of the three component sites. Golconda is unique in having most of its Qutb Shahi-period urban armature largely intact, including its successive lines of fortifications and its gateways and thoroughfares. Additionally, much of its Qutb Shahi architectural fabric is also still present, affording the visitor with an excellent sense of the sixteenth century city and how it interacted both with the earlier architectural heritage of the Kakatiya period and with its larger physical setting. Even much of the original hydraulic system of the fort is well preserved and visible. The one area of the site that has suffered a significant loss of integrity is the palace area that lies at the foot of the eastern flank of the citadel. Most of these palace buildings are in a very poor state of preservation, having lost their superstructures and even major portions of their walls. Although this lack of integrity makes it difficult to comprehend the nature and functions of the various buildings in this key zone of the city, it is in fact part of the historical and archaeological record of the site, since the palace zone appears to have been burned following the fall of the fort to the Mughal forces in 1687.

The Charminar itself is almost perfectly intact, but the integrity of its site has been partially compromised over the years. Absolutely essential to maintaining the site's integrity is the continued preservation of the four wide avenues that radiate out from the Charminar, as the monument's entire raison d'etre is to define the central point from which these avenues unfold. Equally important is the continued preservation of the four symbolic gateways to its north-the Char Kaman-which originally defined a large, open plaza (jilau khana) before the Qutb Shahi palace which adjoined this space on the west. Even though the palace complex itself is no longer preserved, and even though the four corners of the jilau khana have been filled in with commercial buildings since at least 1772 (Shorey 1993), the Charminar zone still affords an excellent sense of the city's original layout and significance.

Since its founding in 1591, Hyderabad has been subject to continued growth and development and is now India's sixth largest urban agglomeration, with a combined population of 7.5 million. Accordingly, the city's Qutb Shahi monuments face constant threats from the pressures of further development and urban expansion, and many of these monuments have vanished or have been irreparably transformed. At the same time, however, many monuments remain well preserved and almost completely intact, thanks to their continued use and to a long-standing awareness that they are key parts of the local cultural heritage. The three zones of this nomination-Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi tombs, and Charminar area-have been chosen not only for their outstanding universal value, but also because they are among the Qutb Shahi monuments that possess the highest degree of integrity and authenticity.

The monuments are part of the complex, dense urban landscape and there is a pressure of urban development, tourist pressure, environmental pressure, etc. which poses threat to the monuments. The Management Plan is being prepared to ensure that development is controlled and the authenticity and integrity of the monuments is maintained.

Comparison with other similar properties

Royal necropolises were produced by some, although not all, Indo-Muslim dynasties, but that of the Qutb Shahis is the most extensive and best documented in all of India. The practice appears to have made a very tentative beginning in Sultanate Delhi; thus, two adjacent tombs in the Lodi Gardens are identified as belonging to the first two Lodi sultans (Digby 1975; Parihar 1997). The Mughals, in contrast, did not construct a dynastic necropolis; their mausolea are widely dispersed, with the first six rulers each entombed in a different location (Kabul, Delhi, Sikandra, Lahore, Agra, and Khuldabad). In the Deccan before the Qutb Shahis, the Bahmanis had built three different necropolises, including two separate groupings of tombs at Gulbarga, and a third just outside Bidar. Contemporaneously with the Qutb Shahis, the first four 'Adil Shahi sultans of Bijapur had their tombs constructed in a necropolis at Gogi, while the next four each had his tomb constructed in a different neighborhood of Bijapur itself. Most of the Nizam Shahis of Ahmadnagar had their remains taken to the Shi'i holy site of Kerbala to be lain at rest. The Qutb Shahi necropolis thus presents a striking contrast to all these examples, in that it contains the epigraphically documented tombs of five of the dynasty's seven sultans, as well as those of another four members of the royal family, spanning the 130-year period from 1543 to 1672.

The Qutb Shahi monuments of Golconda and Hyderabad may be instructively compared with several other sites both in India and in other countries in the broader region of South Asia, Central Asia, and West Asia. These other sites include several properties that have already been inscribed on the World Heritage List (from India, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan and ), one that is on the Tentative List of Iran, and one in India that is neither on the World Heritage List nor on India's tentative list.