Officials blame GHMC for a chunk falling off Charminar

Janhwij Sharma, Joint Director-General of Archaeological Survey of India, inspecting the stucco that crashed to the ground, at Charminar in Hyderabad on Friday.

Janhwij Sharma, Joint Director-General of Archaeological Survey of India, inspecting the stucco that crashed to the ground, at Charminar in Hyderabad on Friday.  

ASI Joint Director-General surveys the monument

“It’s nothing serious. Nothing to worry,” quipped Janhwij Sharma, Joint Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, after spending a few hours surveying Charminar on Friday.

On Wednesday night, a large chunk of stucco decoration of the 16th-century monument’s south-west minaret crashed to the ground, breaking the paved stone flooring.

“We would prefer Charminar to have bigger radius so that we can manage the monument better. Currently, it is 15 feet. If the radius is bigger, more people will have a better viewing experience,” said Milan Kumar Chauley, Superintending Archaeologist of the ASI.

The collapsed portion’s rubble was heaped near the steps and visitors gawked while the survey team collected samples. “See this, it has become crumbly,” said Mr. Chauley as he held a lump, and with just a small pressure of his thumb, it crumbled to sand. “Limestone mortar soaks up water if there is seepage. A 30-gm limestone plaster can become twice its weight when that happens. The decorative element that crashed on Wednesday did not have any support,” informed Mr. Chauley.

Other officials blamed the continuing work by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation for the disaster. “They deployed pneumatic drills which caused a lot of vibration in the south-west area of Charminar. When pipelines were laid recently, earthmovers were also used disturbing the subsoil. I feel it is one of the reasons for this accident,” said an ASI official, unwilling to go on record.

The officials also shared how an earlier intervention had made the monument structurally safer. “Sometime in the 1930s, when concrete roads were laid in Hyderabad, the road touched Charminar. The sound of vehicular movement was transferred to the building as vibrations. The National Geophysical Research Institute suggested creating a sand barrier between the road and the building, which we did. It also exposed three additional steps which were covered by concrete. But now the sound is of a different order,” said K. Veerabhadra Rao, formerly with the ASI.

One of the reasons for the officials staying sanguine about the flaking of a stucco decoration is the structural stability of the monument. On the upper storey of Charminar above the viewers’ gallery is a small masjid that has space for 40 persons to offer namaz. When the ASI noticed these cracks in 2001, it affixed glass pieces to the cracks to learn about the stability. “It has been over 18 years and the glass pieces are intact and show that the core of the building is robust,” informed Mr. Chauley.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 2:00:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/officials-blame-ghmc-for-a-chunk-falling-off-charminar/article27028492.ece

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