After 38 yrs, Begum Akhtar’s grave gets due attention

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In an overcast afternoon, in the narrow lanes of old Lucknow's Thakurganj area, locals — brandishing brooms and assisted by a few persons from a trust — were seen frantically washing a two-grave cemetery, ensuring the place is spotless.

The epitaph on the larger grave reads Begum Akhtar and, it is after 38 years that people have turned towards her once again, restoring her resting place which lay in utter neglect till now. True to the richness of her voice, the renovation work has been undertaken along the lines of Mughal architecture.

"The inlay work at the graves (of Akhtar and her mother Mushtari Sahiba) is in Pietra Dure style — first employed by Romans and then by Mughal architects; the same work seen in Taj Mahal and the Red Fort," says Mumbai-based designer Parag Pradhan, who gifted the marble inlay for the graves. "We have used red and yellow Jasper, Mother of Pearl and Black Belgium marble for the work," says Parag, an avowed admirer of Akhtar, who has been "listening to her works since childhood."

He was helped by another architect, Delhi-based Ashish Thapar, who drew up the plans and supervised the restoration work voluntarily. Floor around the grave has been covered with tiles while the renovated walls constitute of red bricks.

Begum, aged 60, passed away during her performance at a concert in Ahmedabad in 1974 and, since her burial, the grave lay ignored.

"A long time ago, it used to be a huge garden. But gradually, the family sold plots around the mazaar (grave) and now all that is left is a small enclosure open only on one side," said Shanti Hiranand, Begum's disciple, who had expressed her concern at the condition of her ustad's grave to Sadbhava Trust in 2010, during an event.

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