MP artisans put back missing pieces as Mughal gate gets a jumbo facelift
Hathi Gate Once Opened Into The 17th-Century Garden Of Qudsia Bagh
New Delhi: The 18th-century Qudsia Bagh offers a quick escape from the din and bustle of Kashmere Gate. Once a Mughal palace garden, today it’s a mere skeleton of its past.
The imposing gateway to enter this palace garden has been in a decrepit condition for many years, with the plaster having chipped off from the facade, floral motifs going missing, pillars at the front and kanguras on the external parapet getting lost over time. Now, the Archaeological Survey of India is trying to restore the missing portions of the gateway and repairing cracks.
The arched gateway, also called Hathi Gate, used to open up to a beautifully laid out walled garden which housed a sprawling palace built by Qudsia Begum, the wife of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah and mother of emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur, in 1748. History says the palace was destroyed by the British during the 1857 Revolt and only a mosque and the gateway were left standing. The mosque has been occupied by people who offer namaz and ASI has been fighting a
Qudsia Bagh originally housed a palace, waterfall, mosque, summer lodge and a flourishing gardencum-orchard It was built in the Persian charbagh style It was destroyed during the court case on it.
While ASI owns the mosque and gateway, the rest of the garden is owned by North Delhi Municipal Corporation. The property being divided between two agencies makes maintenance difficult.
Missing portions of the gateway are being carefully restored where evidence is available, and for this work ASI has roped in expert craftsmen from Madhya Pra- desh who specialise in this kind of work. The front side of the gateway had two imposing pillars on each side, with an open lotus flower motif at the top. While one of these pillars was only partially standing with just a few leaflets of the flower, the the lotus was missing completely on the other. “The pillar where the flower was partially available was taken up for restoration. The flower was restored because we had the detail of the original design. We will restore the one that is missing from the other pillar as well,” said an ASI official.
The craftsmen are being led by Har Charan who has done similar work at the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri in the past. “The whole length of the pillar is about 40 feet from the ground to the top where it opens as a flower. It will take about a month to restore the Charan said.
ASI’s conservation policy does not allow reconstruction where parts of a monument are missing, but where evidence is available on the original design, ASI can undertake restoration on a case to case basis. The pillars aside, the south side of the wall has a number of kanguras which are missing on the parapet wall. Of nearly 15 kanguras on the parapet, just a few are still standing and one if partially damaged. Making each kangura will take about a week and is being done on the site itself.
ASI also intends to restore the missing kanguras. “We had to be very careful in restoring the decorative elements. Where we could not find any traces, we left the surface plain but where some elements of moulding or decorative plasterwork could be seen, they were restored,” said an official.
A single cell on the upper floor of the gateway, has also been conserved and missing plasterwork repaired. Next on the agenda, said officials, is plasterwork on the external facade of the gate where one can see cracks and missing plaster. other pillar,”