The Asafia High School: An Architectural Masterpiece
Madrasa e Asafia wa Masjid e Mahboobia
On our weekly heritage walks, we come across wonders that leave us in awe long after we leave. During the Moosarambagh Heritage Walk on 27 of February, we stumbled upon a forgotten gem. The walk began at the Tomb of Monsieur Raymond, the surrounds of which have been recently developed into a tourist spot with manicured gardens and paved walkways. “The pandemic changed our monuments as well” we mused.
After paying our respects to the Hyderabadi Frenchman we moved westwards through the beautifully laid out Andhra Colony, which looks like a ghost town, to the Mumtaz College grounds. A very peculiar structure came into sight, which was to be our last destination for the walk, the Asafia High School building. The building is presently under the Mumtaz College Board under the Nawab Shah Alam Educational Trust. The group tried to enter through several gates of the compound, each of which was locked or jammed. A long detour to the main gate of the Mumtaz College took us inside the grounds after a kilometre long detour. Once inside the college grounds, it's a long walk to the oldest part of the college - the Asafia High School buildings.
The first time I observed these buildings was from the Moosarambagh Station on the Red Line of the Hyderabad Metro Rail back in 2019. It appeared to be a dilapidated palace with minarets that resembled a mosque. Three years and a global pandemic later, I was finally there leading a group of very curious people to an obscure institution, or what remains as a mere shadow of its former glory. Of the two buildings, the older and larger one is the Masjid, built in Neo Qutb Shahi architectural style with borrowed elements from the Saracens. The smaller and newer one is called the Verandah and is built in the Osmanian Style.
Block 1 - The Verandah: The smaller linear structure is built in the Osmanian Style with an elevated platform for an entrance that is reached by staircases on either end. A stone tablet on the base of the central arch, that was covered under several layers of beige paint was cleaned by our curious walkers and deciphered, dates the block to be built in 1327 Fasli (1917 CE) by Nawab Lutf ud Daulah Bahadur, who was the grandson of Amir e Kabir Sir Khurshid Jah of the Paigah nobility. The pediment of the Verandah building has Asaf Jah’s Dastaar crowning it. The entrance leads to a central hallway flanked by two wings on either side of the hallway connected by an external corridor. These wings were used as classrooms for the Asafia High School until the late 1960s when the school moved out to newer buildings that were built to accommodate a growing population.
To the south of the Verandah is the Masjid building which is a four storeyed structure, the first of which was formerly used as an assembly hall. We waited in the cool shade of the building until the school management opened the gates and let us in. Since that very moment, each space was progressively more breathtaking than the previous. Of the four storeys, the first one is the double height assembly hall which is overlooked by a gallery on the second floor that resembles the one in Khilwat e Mubarak. The ground floor also has classrooms with large cupboards, which store equipment of the electronic lab. Between the Verandah and the Masjid building is an open-to-sky courtyard that connects to the staircase of the Masjid building where another stone tablet under the entrance arch dates the Masjid e Mahboobia to 1330 Fasli (1920 CE). A delicate Burma teak stairwell that takes you to the floors above. We approach the gallery on the first floor that has an arched gallery with ornate column capitals and pointed arches. On the other end of the arcade are large windows that flood the hall with natural light and ventilation. The third floor is the Masjid which hardly resembles any mosque in Hyderabad or even the subcontinent. Just like the ground floor, the Masjid too has a high ceiling, with another arched gallery overlooking the prayer hall. The western wall, which is also known as the Qibla, has a rectangular Mihrab that is flanked by rooms on either side. These rooms were the chambers of the Imam in its heyday. The ornamentation on the Masjid is European in style with triangular pediments on top of niches, all of them built in stucco. According to the caretakers of the Masjid building, the Mosque was functional until a few years ago, when incessant rains brought pieces of the ceiling crashing to the ground. The Mosque floor also has balconies, which once poured in the cool breeze from the Saroornagar tank. The eastern facade is adorned by two lofty Qutb Shahi style minarets on both edges while windows and doors are fitted in cusped arch projections. Conclusively, the Masjid building has one of the finest proportions and gracious volumes, a fitting tribute to the much remembered and romanticized man, Nizam VI Mir Mahboob Ali Khan.
According to a 1936 Rules and Regulations booklet of Asafia High School, the school was established by a firman of Nizam VI Mir Mahboob Ali Khan on 5th of Mehir 1305 Fasli (1895 Fasli) and the land for the campus was donated by Sir Asman Jah Bahadur Paigah.
I started Madrasai Asafia on the 5th of Mehir 1505 F, on residential lines for the welfare of the general public of these Dominions. My main object is to give secular and religious education to youths of these Dominions. The Madrasa, Mahboobia Mosque, Boarding House and play grounds are all situated on a plot of land which was granted for these public purposes by the late Sir Asman Jah Bahadur during his lifetime. It was a happy augury for the school that its name “Asafia" was not only suggested by His late Highness the Nizam (Mahboob Ali Khan) but also a munificent
grant of three hundred rupees per month was generously
sanctioned in the year 1316 Hijri by a Farman-e-Mubarak
written by His late Highness the Nizam in his own hand
which will ever be preserved in the records of the School.
COPY OF FARMAN E MUBARAK:
Nawab Madarul Maham Saheb: —
Your Arzdasht dated the 4th Zilhaj 1316 Hijri regarding the sanction of monthly donation for Madrasai Asafia has been perused. From the beginning of the current Fasli month a grant of three hundred rupees Hali per month be given.
S/d- GUFRAN-MAKAN (Late Highness)
11th Zilhaj 1316 Hijri.
The grand four-storied Mahboobia Mosque has been built in memory of Gufran Makan, His late Highness. Our august master H.E.H. the Nizam, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur granted a lump sum of Rs. 25,000 for its construction ; and by a verbal Ferman-e-Mubarak bestowed on it the designation of ‘‘Mahboobia Mosque*’ after the name of his great and illustrious father of happy memory. Apart from this, the public, and the various departments of our State have helped in the past and are still helping this Educational Institution. In view of these circumstances I thought it advisable to get the whole of the property registered in the Register of Awqaf (endowment) maintained by the Ecclesiastical Department on the 2nd of Mehir 1343 Fasli. This Madrasa has advanced through several progressive stages during the last forty one years, reaching the status of a High School. In the sole interest of the good of our State and its people I have entirely entrusted the management of the Madrasa under the rules and regulations attached herewith to a Board of Trustees which consists of sympathetic and distinguished men of our country.
In the end I pray for the future advancement of the Madrasa. May God give it every success and may the Madrasa prosper forever.
Founder and Honorary Secretary,