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Heritage conservation efforts in Shekhawati region bearing fruit

Conservation architect Urvashi Srivastava at Dangayach Haveli in Nawalgarh.

Conservation architect Urvashi Srivastava at Dangayach Haveli in Nawalgarh.  

Built by a trader’s family in 1892, the iconic Dangayach Haveli in the heart of Nawalgarh town in Rajasthan’s Shekhawati region has emerged as a new destination of a unique participatory heritage conservation initiative, which has generated the potential for protecting hundreds of heritage mansions and facilitating their “adaptive reuse”.

Through the Shekhawati Virasat Abhiyan, a group of conservation architects has extended technical and financial assistance to the owners of havelis, which are famous for their colourful murals and intricate frescos. Their repair, restoration and maintenance involve methods used during the construction of havelis between the 18th and early 20th century.

Open-air art gallery

The initiative taken by a not-for-profit organisation, the Centre for Advancement of Traditional Building Technology & Skills (CATTS), has started bearing fruit in the “open-air art gallery” — the title often given to Shekhawati which has the largest collection of painted buildings anywhere in the world. The campaign has brought together stakeholders to save the rich heritage.

The conservation of Dangayach Haveli and establishment of the Shekhawati Heritage Hub within the mansion has given an impetus to participatory heritage conservation. CATTS secretary Urvashi Srivastava told The Hindu that the new model, besides safeguarding and infusing life in the built heritage, would be replicated across the region.

The Dangayach Haveli, lying in disuse for several years and infested with bats, was restored with the help of local masons who used lime mortar for repairing the plaster and removed whitewash and plastic to stop the damage to frescos. The damaged doors, windows and lime lattices were extensively repaired.

Old washrooms in the Haveli, which were in a shambles, were also redesigned to make the building usable. The heritage hub set up in the Haveli, inaugurated by Jhunjhunu Collector Ravi Jain on December 30, 2019, has started functioning as an interpretation and cultural resource centre. Here the visitors get a glimpse of architectural beauty and get to know history and culture of Shekhawati through an audio-visual presentation.

Adaptive reuse

Ms. Srivastava said this adaptive reuse of the Haveli would ensure that it did not fall into disuse again and its conservation works were funded by the revenue generated from the activities of the hub. “The beauty of the Haveli lies in the planning of space... Our initiative, far from being an investment project, is aimed at restoration of the built heritage,” she said.

Ashutosh Mishra, living in a nearby haveli, said he would be willing to participate in the CATTS project as the old frescos in his mansion had been damaged by the continuous repairs with cement.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 3:01:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/heritage-conservation-efforts-in-shekhawati-region-bearing-fruit/article30655261.ece

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