Hidden Secrets – Underground Architecture in India

Buildings have more in common with human beings than one might think. Like humans, buildings harbour personalities, and deep within them, there are layers. Layers of emotion, layers of thought, layers of stories. And as the layers keep adding as the years go by, the ones at the bottom remain undisturbed, lost in untold history. Perhaps that is why stories about some of India’s most prominent structures remain shrouded in mystery.

The Charminar and Golkonda Fort are the twin leitmotifs of Hyderabad that have a spectacular history of 425 years. Lore has swarmed with tales over the years about how the two could be connected. Set apart by 8.5 kilometres, there have been numerous discoveries of underground masonry that could possibly lead to a tunnel. This tunnel is thought to have been constructed by ltan Mohammed QuliQutub Shah, to provide a safe channel for the royal family from Golkonda Fort to the Charminar in the event of an emergency. It is widely believed that the royal family hid their hoard of treasures in this tunnel. In 1962, Aja Moinuddin, Assistant Director of Census Operations, conducted an exhaustive survey to validate the claims, and found that not only does the tunnel exist today; it also houses treasures at strategic locations. He fortified this evidence by gathering more information from a 1936 excavation conducted by Ayat Gunjand Ghulam Yezdani near WabSaif Nawaz Jungki-Deorhi, where huge granite slabs and a tunnel was found 10 feet underground. The tunnel was found to be 30 feet deep and 15 feet wide. Despite this revelation, the report was not followed through and today, there is very little information available about the exact location of the tunnel. 


In the seventeenth century, when the Mughals built the Red Fort, they also included an underground tunnel leading to the Yamuna River in their architectural plan. The tunnel was expertly designed, with a wide space funnelling into it, where elephant fights would be performed for royalty. The tunnel itself, was designed as an emergency escape passage for the royal family. The tunnel was closed upon the Mughal abdication, and remained hidden, forgotten and untended for several decades. Despite this, droves of visitors visited India to see the Red Fort, for the stories that tumbled out of its walls and the legends that eager guides would be waiting to tell. In 2003, the tunnel was excavated and opened to visitors.


In Maharashtra, the Ellora Caves are famous for more than one reason. Apart from the beautiful caves that house magnificent murals on their walls, Ellora’s mysterious underground tunnels have been oft-explored by researchers and archaeologists alike. Shockingly, these tunnels are too narrow for human beings, which raise many imperative questions. Who built these tunnels? If they were built by humans, how could they fit through them? What were these tunnels for? Why were they underground? So many questions, for which no answers have been validated. The tunnels are scattered across the area occupied by the caves, and seem to form a curious labyrinth under them. There are also holes drilled into some of them, possibly for ventilation. But despite the speculation over the years, there is no solid evidence to suggest that a parallel city ever existed beneath Ellora Caves.


As archaeologists continue to delve into some of the deepest mysteries surrounding India’s best monuments, they are unearthing answers and discovering stories. And as they peel back the layers of time, they allow us the opportunity to know India’s rich history just a little better. 

Image References: alldunia.com,  www.deccanchronicle.com,  www.flickr.com,  travellingmoods.com, en.wikipedia.org, whc.unesco.org, www.wondermondo.com, www.conspiracyclub.co,  www.youtube.com.


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