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

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES CITY - Richi.Verma@ times­ Photo: Yo­gesh Ku­mar

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,”

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