Nearly four centuries after it was built, the Mecca Masjid near Charminar in Hyderabad is undergoing one of the most significant restorations. Two sections of the masjid have been sealed to allow workers to carry on the work in an unfettered manner.

The roof is the size of three Olympic swimming pools with a width of 220 feet and a length of 180 feet. Work has already been completed on the mausoleum complex of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. “We are working on one bay of the masjid, and we have been asked to finish it before the commencement of the month of Ramzan. We are also working to restore the ceiling of the madrassa in the rear portion that was almost crumbling down,” said an official of the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Telangana.

The ceiling soars to a height of 70 feet making it difficult for workers to restore it. “We are chipping away loose pieces of plastering and will restore it to its original state,” said the official. To give a hint about the difficulty of the task, the ceiling has 196 windows that open inside the masjid at the height of about 50 feet. “Many of them have been damaged due to water seepage. We have to remake some of them, while the others need to be smoothened and painted,” said Qadeer Siddiqui, superintendent of Mecca Masjid.

Like almost all the old buildings in Hyderabad which have been subjected to unscientific restoration efforts over the years, the Department of Archaeology and Museums had to remove multiple layers of the ceiling. “The ceiling had a layer that was nearly 1.5 feet which we had to remove. Dozens of trucks were used to remove the debris from the terrace. It even had a layer with clay tiles,” said Dilip Yadav, one of the workers on the site. The archaeological department is using limestone mortar and old curing techniques to ensure that the issue of seepage does not arise.

While the work on one of the bays at the masjid is in progress, daily prayers have not been disturbed because of that. According to historians, work on Mecca Masjid went on for nearly 70 years and was completed only in 1694 during the reign of Aurangzeb. It remains one of the biggest congregation masjids in the country.

“We are working towards retaining the original façade. There will be no hanging wires. One of the difficulties with heritage buildings is that we cannot do internal wiring. We are working out a solution where the wiring will be as unobtrusive as possible, and even the electrical fixtures will not stand out like anomalies,” said A.K. Khan, Telangana Government Advisor on Minority Affairs.