HYDERABAD: It took the historical-fiction book ‘White Mughals’ set in the 18th century British-occupied India to take a microscopic look at the Koti Residency, which was commissioned by James Achilles Kirkpatrick in 1805. He was the British Resident – a representative of East India Company stationed in Hyderabad. That’s where British officers would be sent to as it served as the embassy of the East India Company. James fell in love with a noble Hyderabadi Lady Khair-Un-Nissa Begum, married her, and had two children. Their tragic deaths are sealed in the facade of the opulent building. This neo-classical architecture wonder has impressive 40 feet high Corinthian pillars with two fierce lions in marble guarding both sides of the staircase which has 21 steps done in white marble. Now, part of this iconic structure is the Osmania University College for Women. It was in 1949, that the Residency was converted into Koti Women’s College (UCWK).
Now after years, the peeling walls, spiral staircases, and rusted windows are being restored. This iconic building has inspired many groups to conduct heritage walks and bring archaeological experts to deliver lectures to the attendees. It’s that time of the year again when the weather is cool and despite the pandemic threat, the department of history of the college and UCWK Heritage Club celebrated World Heritage Week, 2020 bringing in students and experts for workshops, research methodologies, lectures, and more. Says Dr. Aruna Pariti, the Head of the Department (History): “Three months ago we started our heritage club as our building doesn’t just house a college, it’s an alive and breathing piece of grand architecture and history. It’s quite important that we teach our students the significance of the history behind it and all the stories that form a trail leading to its heritage.”
In the month of October, they conducted a workshop especially on the jewelry of that era as the author William Dalrymple writes in the book ‘White Mughals’ that Begum Khair-Un-Nissa loved making bangles studded with semi-precious stones, pearls, gold wire, and glass bits. She did this with other ladies of the house during her spare time as she used to be in purdah and did not venture out much. Talking more on the jewelry part Aruna adds, “We invited our students to conduct research, find out stories, create PowerPoint slides and get some old trinket samples from their families.” They even conducted a competition for the same later rewarding the participants with first and second prizes. Volunteers also participated. Says Sarah Agrawal an architect and heritage enthusiast, “I present family heirlooms passed onto to my mother from my grandma. Those pieces of jewelry include not just a necklace which has designs of betel leaves and military shields but also a gold coin which has a warrior mounted on a horse inscribed on it.”
The building was earlier listed under local heritage, after several years it was listed as a state heritage. Says Vasanta Sobha Turaga, conservation architect who was involved with the prelim estimation and documentation of the place. She informs, “In 2007, I had appealed to the then AP High Court that it be listed as a national monument. It hasn’t been. But at least it’s among the state monuments.” She recalls, “It was a tough job repairing the rusting pipes, stairs, and walls back in those days.”