Badshahi Ashoorkhana

Badshahi Ashurkhana or Asurkhana or Ashoorkhana is located near Charminar in Hyderabad, Telangana State, India. 

An asoorkhana is a public space for Shia Muslims to gather on Muharram and mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammed, in the battle of Karbala.

1591: This ashoorkhana, used to be hospital called Dar-ul-Shifa built by Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah in 1591, constructed at the same time as the Charminar and Macca Masjid. For many years, the elaborate and imposing building that originally overlooked the Musi River was used as a hospital. However, the Nizam later moved the building for expansion purposes, and this location became Alawa -E-Sartouq.

In Arabic, and derived from it in Urdu, Turkish and Persian, dar al-shifa means "house of health", i.e. "hospital".

In 1594, Quli Qutb Shah later ordered that the relic (tauq) be incorporated into an Alam and install it at the old Darulshifa Hospital, now Ashoorkhana-E-Alawa-E- Sartouq Mubarak. Hundreds of devout Muslims visit the ashoorkhana. "The faithful come here in the hope that the water they drink would be beneficial for their health. Thursdays are particularly busy," according to Mir Yaver Ali, the ashoorkhana's caretaker. 

1611: The brilliantly coloured tile-mosaic decoration was completed under Abdullah Qutb Shah in 1611.

About 1,500 devotees visit the Ashoorkhana every Thursday. It is kept open round the clock during Muharram, and about 10,000 people visit it each of the first 10 days of the month of mourning.

The architecture with stone columns is unique in many aspects. The structure is built to minute details, special care has been given to proportions. Its high ceiling, gives the building a magnificent look. The vibrant enamel tiles and intricate hexagon designs have been maintained over four centuries.

The building consists of a Kaman, Naqqar Khana (where ceremonial drums are beaten), Niyaz Khana (where visitors are fed), Sarai Khana (place to rest), Abdar Khana (drinking water is stored), the chabutra (platform) and a guard room. The front aisle is made entirely of wood, as are the panelling of the flanking walls and the fa├žade. All of these structures are now in various stages of dilapidation, neglect and disuse.

From a distance, the inside of the ashoorkhana seemed to be a decrepit, unassuming structure with what looked like crumbling coloured wallpaper. But a closer look revealed that the crumbling wallpaper was, in fact, enamelled mosaic tiles inlaid in ingenious Islamic-style patterns, which have covered the ashoorkhana’s interior walls since 1611. Created in haft-rang(seven colours) mainly with lapis blue and white tiles, the mosaic is exquisitely lain with Indian tones of mustard yellow, warm terracotta and vibrant green, forming incredible patterns that depict Shia Muslim symbology and are linked to the battle of Karbala. As art historians George Michell and Mark Zebrowski point out in their book Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates, this is one of the most original decorative schemes of its kind anywhere in the Muslim world and has survived in stellar condition for over four centuries. The Qutb Shahis of Golconda were said to be the ultimate Deccani patrons of tilework and like their Turkish ancestors, were fervent Shias.

The tiles, arranged in large panels almost 3 metres high and over a metre wide had us craning our necks to decode the intricate artistry of the medieval Islamic civilisation of the Deccan. One of these represents a large calligraphic alam a religious metal standard (akin to a banner) that symbolises those carried by Hussain and his followers in battle which features bold, exquisite Arabic script, both right side round and mirror-reversed.

Along the adjacent walls lie staggered mosaic hexagons connected by arabesque swirls, and a panel showcasing what’s referred to as the ‘pot of plenty’ with flowers and vegetation emanating from a vase. To my eyes, it also seems to visually represent the overarching theme of the alam and the ashoorkhana being enduring symbols of remembrance.

The royal chronicles of the Qutb Shahi era mention tangible gold alams studded with jewels, but these no longer exist. Nevertheless, impressive brass alams decorated with fine Thuluth script, which post-date the Qutb Shahi period, are now brought out and installed only during the holy month of Muharram.

After the fall of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, in 1178 Hijri (about 1764 AD), the Ashoorkhana was converted into a bandikhana. For 80 years, it was used as a stable where horses were kept, before it was restored as a place of worship by the then mutawalli Mir Nawazish Ali Khan.

In 1908, the Ashoorkhana was badly affected by the Musi floods. The ashoorkhana was in six feet of water, and the tiles were completely submerged. These were later repaired and repainted.

The eight wooden pillars were reconstructed and the alams were reinstalled. During this time, the main entrance, Bab-e-Faiz-e-Imam-e-Alamiyan, was also constructed.

As per news reports, the caretaker of the ashoorkhana, Mir Abbas Ali Moosavi has been struggling with renovations to the premises due to political interference. But perhaps what is most crucial to preserving the cultural fabric of cities like Hyderabad is an awareness often supported by the research of historians like Lasania and his community of brimming academics of the narratives, art history and architecture that is all around us, coaxing us to seek beauty in structures long-forgotten.

In 2011, the High Court pulled up the then state government and ordered removal of the encroachments inside the premises. A year later, the Central government gave Rs 80 lakh as grant to restore and repair the building. 

Sep 20, 2015 : Portion of Badshahi Ashoorkhana collapses

July 15, 2021 : Acting on directives of the High Court over a PIL regarding encroachments at the Baadshahi Ashoorkhana, KS Sreenivasa Raju, in-charge Director of Heritage Telangana, GHMC Commissioner Lokesh Kumar and representatives of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, visited the monument near the Madina Circle in Old City on Wednesday. The Department of Heritage secured the monument for its protection and to prevent any encroachment. It now plans to undertake repairs to restore the originality of the historic structure

May 20, 2023 : The Telangana State government signed another memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) to restore Saidanima’s tomb, Badhshahi Ashurkhana and Shaikpet Sarai. Of the three monuments, two are currently inaccessible to the public.