Mah Laqa Bai stepwell restoration begins

HYDERABAD: An 18th century stepwell on the Osmania University campus, rooted in Hyderabad's illustrious history and built by Mah Laqa Bai, an acclaimed Urdu poetess, dancer, and courtesan during the Nizam era, will finally get a facelift with restoration work beginning on Monday.

The historical stepwell at the College of Education was built as a source of water during the arid season as well as a meeting place for artists and scholars, but it was neglected for several years by the successive governments.

As part of the repair work, the authorities will focus on removing extraneous vegetation and garbage from the stepwell's vicinity, desilt it apart from structural restoration and beautification.

The work will be overseen by Osmania University Vice Chancellor Prof D. Ravinder, University College of Education dean Prof. Satyanarayana, and Kalpana Ramesh of Rainwater Project. It may be noted that Kalpana Ramesh was involved in the endeavour to restore the 17th century Bansilalpet stepwell.

Prof. Ravinder expressed his delight at working with multiple organisations on the restoration project and stated that it is yet another milestone in the history of Osmania University.

"Restoration would have a two-pronged effect on mitigating the issue of urban flooding and meeting sustainability goals of meeting water needs," Kalpana Ramesh told Deccan Chronicle. She asked students from history, archeology, geology, engineering, and other departments to document the restoration process.

"We have asked all the students to take active part in the restoration as well as document the restoration process,” said Prof. Satyanarayana, dean of UCE. Meena Ravindran, an OU alumna and retired ECIL manager, expressed her excitement at being a part of the project. “As the work progresses, this stepwell will reveal more historical details," she said.

The restoration of the stepwell began after a student took its condition to the notice of minister K.T. Rama Rao who forwarded it to the HMDA.

According to historians, Mah Laqa Bai rose to fame for her attractive appearance and poetic as well as warrior abilities, which captivated the Nizam, who awarded her vast tracts of land extending from Maula Ali all the way up to Vidya Nagar.

She was a poet, dancer, singer, warrior, political adviser, and philanthropist. Her anthology was published in 1798. Historians claim that she had 500 foot soldiers and drummers at the peak of her glory, and that she gave away all of her wealth—including a portion of Osmania University—to the homeless girls.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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