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I-Day celebrations to bring focus back on Golconda Fort

By Ians

Hyderabad, Aug 4: The decision of the Telangana government to celebrate the Independence Day at Golconda has put the spotlight back on the historic fort, which today lies in ruins due to decades of neglect and encroachments.

This will be the first Independence Day after Telangana came into existence as the 29th state on June 2 and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has decided to unfurl the national flag at the fort, a major symbol of Telangana's rich heritage.

KCR, as the chief minister is popularly known, chose to depart from the decades-old tradition of celebrating the Independence Day at the Parade Ground in Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad.

Eminent citizens and conservationists have welcomed the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government's decision and hoped that it will go beyond the symbolic gesture to protect and conserve the old fort and initiate efforts to get Unesco's world heritage tag for the magnificent monument.

"It is the celebration of new identity, which is nothing but an ancient identity. While the celebration at the fort is not unknown as Independence Day in Delhi is celebrated at Red Fort, the selection of Golconda Fort is important," P. Anuradha Reddy, an eminent conservation activist, told IANS.

She believes it will further acknowledge the role of historical monuments in the identity of Telangana. She also feels that it will underscore the importance of the fort from the tourism point of view.

"We hope that it is the first step towards recognition of many undiscovered monuments in Telangana. Let us hope that the government will translate this symbolic move into action," said Anuradha, who is convenor of Greater Hyderabad chapter of The Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

"The new government wants to recognize value of heritage. We welcome and support it. We also want the government to support conservation and preservation in the right way," she said.

Located on 400-foot high granite hill some 10 km west of the heart of Hyderabad, it was built as a mud fort by Kakatiya rulers as part of southern defences. It was expanded and developed into granite fort during the Qutub Shahi kingdom. Golconda served as the capital of Qutub Shahi kingdom till 1590, when the capital was shifted to Hyderabad.

Surrounded by massive crenelated ramparts, the fort has a 10-km long outer wall with 87 semi-circular bastions fashioned out of granite blocks with mighty canons still mounted on some, eight gateways, and four drawbridges, with a number of royal halls, temples, mosques, magazines and stables inside.

The encroachments, poor upkeep and decades of neglect have threatened the cultural heritage, which was ruled by the Qutub Shahi kings for almost 170 years.

The once impregnable fort was also famous for diamond trade. According to historians, Golconda was the global gateway for diamonds through which world famous diamonds reached their global destinations.

Golconda was also the birth place of Koh-i-Noor. In 1323, when Ghiyasuddin defeated Kakatiyas, he carried away the diamond and later this diamond changed many hands until it landed in Britain in 1850.

Historians and heritage conversation activists have long been demanding Unesco World Heritage status for Golconda Fort.

A committee of the union ministry of culture and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the advisory body to the Unesco visited the fort in 2012.

Anuradha Reddy, who was present during the inspection, said the governments never took any action to fulfill the conditions set by the Unesco. She hoped that the new government will take initiatives in this regard.

The encroachments are a major stumbling block in getting the world heritage tag.

The activists are vehemently opposing 18-hole golf course coming up close to the fort on the ground that it poses a threat to the fort's foundations.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

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