Arpana Caur lost some rare art works from her private museum in New Delhi to the rains, and also because of the civic authorities’ callousness

Rain wrecked havoc on priceless Indian art as 100 paintings in the Miniature and Folk Art Museum in Arpana Caur’s Academy of Fine Arts and Literature at New Delhi’s Siri Fort Institutional Area got damaged due to flooding. The private museum is house to several 150 to 200 year-old paintings which remain submerged in eight feet of water for 16 hours after water broke into the museum following a heavy downpour in the Capital this past Saturday. It happened due to the huge backflow of the August Kranti Road drain which was partly covered for the Commonwealth Games. “The Siri Fort auditorium parking lot which used to absorb a lot of water was tiled for VIP cars. The overflowing nullah (drain) has not been cleaned for years despite our several requests…As a result, over a hundred priceless national treasure paintings, 200 rare folk paintings and 200 rare folk sculptures are totally destroyed due to the carelessness of the Municipal Corp[oration of Delhi (MCD). For four hours we kept begging MCD for a pump and at 9 p.m. we bought our own pump, but the electricity went off at 4 a.m. which hampered our work. The MCD van and pump finally came at 6 a.m. the next day,” says Arpana Caur.

Details of some paintings damaged in the incident.

Surya and Narsimha Avatar are two 19th Century Rajasthani miniatures, whose colours got washed away.

Ink in the 200-year-old three folios of Guru Granth Sahib has washed away making it illegible.

Godna artist Satnam Pandey’s work, a tree, has got badly discoloured just like Rajasthani Tantric artist’s work. “The artists have died so we can’t even get the artist to touch up the work.”

In the case of 18th Century Deccan painting ‘Snake charmers’, its paper has got torn and spoilt.

Arpana Caur’s museum is also house to some rare Sikh school paintings and even rare Guru Nanak paintings. “Fifty per cent colours of as many as 10 Nanak paintings have got washed away. In fact, Victoria and Albert Museum have no Nanak painting in their collection and I wanted to donate one so I wrote to the ASI seeking permission but I was refused. So rare and priceless are these paintings. Now, two restorers, Parminder Kaur and Deepshikha Kalsi, have begun working on them. If only we had got help in time, we could have saved them from extensive damaged.” Each miniature is priced at approximately Rs.15 lakh.