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Heavy storm knocks finial off Humayun’s Tomb

Pheroze L. Vincent
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ASI puts in place four-week schedule for restoration of the monument

The dome of Humayun’s Tomb without the finial on Saturday.— Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The dome of Humayun’s Tomb without the finial on Saturday.— Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The finial above the dome of Humayun's Tomb — a vertical pole of Sal wood encased in nine copper utensils with a brass finish — was knocked down in the storm that struck the capital on the evening of May 30.

A lightning conductor that was attached to the finial, which holds the auspicious inverted heart-shaped kalash (pitcher), was dislodged by winds that blew at 92 kilometres per hour. This was replaced on Saturday. The structure is more than 45 metres above the ground.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Director General Rakesh Tewari visited the world heritage monument on Friday night and put in place a four-week restoration schedule.

He told The Hindu: “The wooden support holding the kalash and other motifs is broken. There is no structural damage to the dome or the monument and the finial has been secured. The restoration will be documented. It will be decided as to which parts may be retained and which parts replaced. The wooden shaft will be replaced.”

The work would be done by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), which completed the tomb’s restoration last year and has a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding with the ASI until 2017 for restoration of more than 30 monuments in the Nizamuddin area.

AKTC project director Ratish Nanda told this paper that the wooden pole, around five metres tall and 0.2 metres thick, was replaced more than a century ago and had since rotted under the impact of water and chemical action from metallic installations.

“The wooden core dates from 1912 when the British replaced the original with a thinner section, which has now snapped. Matching wooden support is being sought and will be fixed in a manner to prevent water ingress... Since the finial was determined to be stable when repairs of the dome were carried out by the AKTC in 2009, it was not dismantled to inspect the wooden core,” he said.

Mr. Nanda explained that the finial, at its height, is susceptible to significant wind load and damage. “Modern materials and technology will be used in the repairs now to ensure survival for another five centuries at least,” he added.

An official attached to the Culture Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The finial is both decorative and auspicious. There should be control over the amount of renovation work by private agencies and there is a need for the ASI to review their functioning.”

Superintending Archaeologist (Delhi circle) Vasant Swarnkar said trees fell around Red Fort and power supply was disrupted after the storm.


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