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The forgotten Paigah Tombs of Hyderabad

Go back in time to Hyderabad’s past with a visit to the Paigah Tombs, the last resting place of five generations of the Paigah family, the city’s foremost nobles.

Most residents of Hyderabad haven’t even heard of the Paigah Tombs, let alone seen them, tucked away as they are in the by-lanes of Santoshnagar in the Old City. But they’re still some of the most stunning remnants of the city’s past that you can find, and (according to me) are among my top places to visit in Hyderabad.

Visit these small but beautiful tombs, and you’re transported back to a time to when Hyderabad was the center of a powerful kingdom that held its own against the British Empire.

The Paigah Tombs are some of the most stunning remnants of the city’s past that you can find.

Aside: The Paigah Tombs are very different from the much older and more popular Qutb Shahi Tombs—the tombs of the founding kings of Hyderabad. The Qutb Shahi Tombs are much bigger, but the Paigah Tombs are more intricately decorated.

Also read: Things to do on the weekend in Hyderabad: The ancient rockscape of Fakhruddingutta

Paigah Tombs - An enclosure
An enclosure with multiple graves shows rain damage, being open to the sky

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The Paigahs: Among the most powerful of India’s noble families

The Paigah dynasty was founded in the late 1700s by Abul Fateh Khan (also called ‘Shams ul Umra’); his son Fakhruddin Khan’s tomb is one of the most ornate ones you’ll see in their necropolis.

Aside: This Fakhruddin is very different from the Islamic saint Hazrat Baba Fakhruddin Aulia who lived 300 years earlier, and whose tomb is located on the magnificent granite hilltop of Fakhruddingutta.

Supposedly descended from the second Caliph of Islam, the Paigahs were among the most powerful Indian noble families of the time, and often intermarried with Hyderabad’s rulers, the Nizams. In fact, the Paigahs were said to be richer than most Indian maharajas!

The intricate architecture of the Paigah Tombs

When you enter the crumbling gateway, you quickly leave the bustle and crowds of the city behind. The peaceful landscaped grounds shut out the noise and the dust. Isolated, they invite you to think about the past instead of the present. The short stone-paved pathway leads you through the landscaped grounds, past separate tombs and structures, to the main mausoleum. There, you finally see the tombs of the most prominent members of the Paigah family.

The architecture brings together so many styles that you’ll probably not see something like this again.

Once you’re there, sit down on one of the intricate vintage wrought-iron benches. From there, admire the architecture for a few minutes before doing anything else. Because it brings together so many styles – Persian, Rajasthani, Mughal, local Deccani and even Greek—you’ll probably not see something like this again, so enjoy the view. As you relax, take in the rows of scalloped arches, the branching minarets, and the little mosque with its now-defunct fountain surrounded by wrought-iron chairs.

The crumbling entrance gate, seen from inside
Row of arches
An open gallery
Paigah Tombs - Walkway
The stone-paved walkway
Paigah Tombs - Walkway minarets
Branching minarets
Paigah Tombs - Mosque
The mosque, with the fountain in front
Leaky tap
Leaky tap at the mosque’s fountain

Memorials fit for kings

When you’ve seen your fill, move on to the tombs themselves—rows of separate enclosures with one or more graves, decorated with beautiful stucco plaster work, marble inlay and lattices, and open to the sky. You’ll notice that none of them are the same. The patterns on the lattices are different, and the graves are different from each other, too.

The most impressive ones are those of Fakhruddin Khan, the son of the Paigah dynasty’s founder; and that of Hussain Unnissa, daughter of the fifth Nizam and wife of Khursheed Jah. They say that Hussain Unnissa’s grave is a replica of Empress Mumtaz Mahal’s in the famous Taj Mahal, made of the same marble and with the same inlay of semi-precious stones. You also can’t miss all the incredibly carved stone and wooden screens, and the complex plaster work that decorate their enclosures.

They say that Hussain Unnissa’s grave is a replica of that of Mumtaz Mahal in the Taj Mahal.

Each tomb is more impressive than the last, but you can decide for yourself which tomb you like best. Wander along the tombs as long as you like while you make up your mind, and soak in the peace and quiet. If you feel like, you can even do what the locals do and leave flowers in respect.

Paigah Tombs - Receding Archways
The arched corridor that runs alongside the tombs
Two minarets close-up
A closer view of the unique branched minarets
Paigah Tombs - Lattice door 2
Carved screen doors between enclosures
Paigah Tombs - Lattice door
Another carved screen door
Lattice close-up.jpg
An eye-wateringly intricate lattice decorates one of the enclosures
Open enclosure
The enclosures are open to the sky
Paigah Tombs - Tomb of Fakhruddin Khan
The canopied grave of Fakhruddin Khan
Paigah Tombs - Tomb of Hussain unnissa
A rose left on Hussain Unnissa’s grave

How to get to the Paigah Tombs

Getting to the Paigah Tombs is a little difficult if you don’t know the way. Using the Google maps location below might be your best bet.

If you’re feeling adventurous, here are directions from Hyderabad’s iconic Charminar. This route is about four kilometers long.

  1. If you’re approaching Charminar from Gulzar Houz, turn left onto Rathkhana street; if you’re approaching from Mecca Masjid, turn right.
  2. At the T-junction, turn right onto Kotla Alijah Road
  3. At Bibi Bazar Crossing, turn left onto Talabkatta Road
  4. About two kilometers later, turn left opposite Suffah Masjid street
  5. Turn left after Rosiyana Masjid, and you’re there; if you hit what looks like a main road, you’ve gone too far.

You can visit the Paigah Tombs every day of the week, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. But getting there early, when the light is best, is a good idea. That’s when you’ll see them in all their glory. Entry is free, too, and you don’t need to worry about crowds (except maybe on Fridays, when a few locals come to pray at the mosque at noon).

Kite on minaret
A pariah kite enjoys the morning sun, perched on a minaret

A crumbling reminder of the past

In return for a tip, Rahmatullah the caretaker will give you a guided tour in his less-than-perfect English. His family has been looking after the tombs and their grounds for a few generations. And you can be sure he will have some stories to tell. You’ll notice, though, that the tombs haven’t been maintained as well as they could be. Because there’s no entrance fee, Rahmatullah does his best with whatever funds he gets from the government. There’s also pressure from the densely populated areas around. But the government tourism department has apparently decided to renovate the entire complex, so hopefully it’ll be in a better state when you visit.

The tombs are a reminder of a time when Hyderabad’s rulers were among the richest and most powerful families in the world.

And when you finally leave the Paigah Tombs, you’ll leave with memories of a piece of Hyderabad’s past, a time when the kingdom’s influence reached far past India’s borders, and when its rulers were some of the richest and most powerful families in the world.

Also read: Eight great reasons why you should visit the ‘land of kings’

Paigah Tombs - Crumbling columns.jpg
The iron core shows through the crumbling plaster of these columns

Also read: Things to do on the weekend in Hyderabad: The vast Qutb Shahi necropolis

IQ’s top tips for visiting the Paigah Tombs in Hyderabad

  • Many people, even in the Old City, haven’t heard of them, so asking for the Paigah Tombs’ address or even directions might not be very effective. Using this Google maps location is probably your best bet.
  • The tombs are open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and entry is free. The light is best in the mornings, so get there as early as you can.
  • It might be a good idea to read up a bit on the Paigah family before visiting, for a better insight. This Wikipedia article is a good place to start.
  • Give yourself enough time to wander around and appreciate the peaceful atmosphere. You might also discover a few interesting sights hidden away in the corners.
  • The caretaker can give you a guided tour of the place, in return for a tip.
  • If you’re looking to explore some places around Charminar, the Paigah Tombs would be a great addition.
  • You could combine a visit to these tombs with a bit of shopping at Charminar market and a look at the Chowmahalla palace and Mecca Masjid, all some of the most interesting places in Hyderabad.

Also read: Hyderabad itineraries, and things to do in the city

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  1. Being a Hyderabadi, I am so glad that this place is getting some visibility 🙂

    Thankfully, the place is being rescued now. Though the efforts are not optimal, at least some funds are released by the government towards the renovation now.

    1. That’s good to know! I haven’t been there in a few years, so I’m not sure what’s being done. But I suppose something is better than nothing 😊

  2. Such a wonderul article. Do you know how to visit these tombs if one does not have a vehicle of one’s own? I am assuming that many of the local taxi and auto drivers won’t know about this place.

    1. So glad you liked it! Both Uber and Ola show it as a destination on their maps, so if you take one of them, you should be fine.

    1. You can do the usual things like Salar Jung museum, Laad Bazaar and Chowmahalla Palace. But that’ll take you at least two days ☺️

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