The Architecture of Procession: Political and Spiritual Pathways between the Qutb Shahi Necropolis and Golconda Fortress in the 16th Century

SMARchS Thesis, AKPIA, Spring 2015

This thesis is an exploration of two processional pathways that connected the Golconda Fortress to the Qutb Shahi necropolis in southern India at the beginning of the Qutb Shahi dynasty (mid-16th Century). The pathways were significant because of the jointly political and spiritual qualities held by each. The thesis sheds light on their changing relative importance in shaping the Qutb Shahi necropolis during the early history of the dynasty. The pathways extended northward toward a Sufi shrine and water complex and beyond that to the antecedent capital of Bidar 135 kilometers to the northwest. Later, these paths would be important in connecting Golconda and the necropolis with the city of Hyderabad founded in 1592.

Methods used to examine these pathways are a mix of historical, topographical, visual, and spatial investigations as they relate to the wider political and spiritual patronages of the sultanate. The first part of each chapter provides context of the wider patronage of each sultan. The second part explores the landscape of procession by moving through the pathways as they were laid out. The third part shows how the series of architectural structures take advantage of the natural topography by framing key “views” of the processional ways and thereby connect Golconda to the necropolis. The final section of each chapter shows how these larger perspectives help to interpret the spatial layout of tombs on the necropolis.

Through this analysis of four spatial relationships, the thesis shows how the tomb complex was defined by an initial pair of orientations to the East and South, which shifted to a primary emphasis to the South during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah (1550-1580), and back to the East during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (1580-1611.) As the Sultanate evolved, the pathways became as important as the critical monuments of spiritual and political significance that they connected.

Image: Qutb Shahi Necropolis from Golconda Fortress. Photo c. 1902.