Delhi's cultural legacy gets a facelift for Games

Restoration work under way at Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. Photo: V. V. Krishnan  

Even as the capital gears up for the Commonwealth Games with the latest in technology and infrastructure to reach the benchmark of a “world class city,” a chunk of history is being revived for the discerning tourist.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Ministry of Culture and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) working with the Department of Archaeology, Government of Delhi, are the two main agencies involved in conservation, restoration and preservation of monuments in the city for the upcoming Games.

“We identified 46 sites for restoration for the Commonwealth Games,” said ASI Director General Dr. Gautam Sengupta. The list, released by the ASI in 2006, includes Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Old Fort, Tughlakabad Fort, Jantar Mantar, Siri Fort Wall and many such monuments in famous parts of the city. Special attention is being given to monuments near the Games stadia.

The Department of Archaeology and INTACH signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2008 for the conservation of 92 monuments which did not fall within the ambit of the ASI. “In consultation with the Delhi government it was decided that monuments near stadiums or on the route of the Commonwealth Games would be considered for conservation,” said a senior INTACH official.

Fifteen such monuments were recognised, including Mutiny Memorial, Turkman Gate, Gol Gumbad, Bara Lao Ka Gumbad, Phutta Gumbad and Maqbara Paik.

Even as most of the Games-related projects reel under deadline pressures, both the agencies seem confident about completing work well before the international sporting event. “We began work in March, and most of these buildings were unprotected, in very bad shape. Had it not been for the rain, work would have been completed by now,” said an INTACH official. Most of the restoration, he said, was complete and work would conclude by September 15. The ASI, too, seemed confident that work would be completed by 15-20 September.

The Tourism Ministry will provide lighting for all 15 heritage buildings restored by INTACH. According to Dr. Sengupta, 13 monuments have been identified by ASI for illumination. Of these, eight would be illuminated by the Tourism Ministry and five by India Tourist Development Corporation.

Even though the initial proposal for complete conservation of the 46 monuments was estimated at Rs. 2,573 crore by the ASI, the working budget for the Games was Rs. 25 crore from ASI's own funds, of which Rs. 20 crore have been spent so far, according to Dr. Sengupta. All of INTACH's funds — around Rs. 6.5 crore — according to the INTACH official, were provided by Department of Archaeology in collaboration with the Tourism Ministry.

The working methods of the two agencies have been a cause for debate. ASI believes “reconstruction and restoration of damage [to monuments] should occur only if required” since that “is the internationally accepted norm.” INTACH concentrates on overall “geometry, finishing” and conservation of the monument for the future. Calling reconstruction of monuments, as done by INTACH, a “subjective matter, based on experience” an ASI official said there may be “chances” that reconstructed portions blend in with the original, since it was difficult to procure material closely resembling the kind used in these centuries old monuments. Both agencies engaged skilled craftsmen from various parts of the country to work on the monuments.

Security would also be stepped up at most ASI sites, especially at the “sensitive” ones such as the Red Fort, where the Central Industrial Security Force personnel would be engaged in addition to ASI's own guards and private security guards.

INTACH dealt with buildings that were “completely unprotected.” In addition to restoration and conservation, “vandalism, loss of reference and encroachments” were major areas of concern.

An important aspect of the conservation work was engaging with other agencies for approvals and co-ordination at most sites. In spite of the delays caused by permissions and other legalities, the ASI official seemed optimistic. “In spite of the constraints, we are doing our bit to ensure that the Games are a success.”

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 6:33:42 AM |

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