The Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s attempt to pull down the crown of 180-year-old Shaukat Mahal on Saturday send a wave of disapproval among citizens and experts across Bhopal.
The structure had recently developed cracks and a part of the ceiling had collapsed in April.
Several people gathered at the site as an anti-encroachment team of the BMC reached the old city in the afternoon and put up ropes on the 45-feet high crown of the palace in a bid to pull it down.
Faced with protests by the 21 families, which live in the palatial complex, and other citizens, the BMC officials decided to withdraw and call in experts to inspect the structure before arriving at a decision.
By evening, the BMC officials and experts came out with conflicting statements and the decision to pull down part of the damaged structure was put off to Sunday. A meeting of experts has been called for the purpose, city engineer AK Nanda told HT later in the day.
Meanwhile, traffic was held up on the busy old city road passing before the structure for quite some time, causing lot of problems to the citizens.
Nanda told HT that the archaeological experts were of the view that since the crown-like structure at the top of the building had separated from its base it was “difficult to conserve or restore it.”
“The structure is too high for attempting any such restoration work. Any attempt might cause the structure to collapse and since it is situated on a busy road this could be very risky. However, the experts are of opinion that the damaged part should be pulled down and a replica should be erected in its place,” Nanda said.
Conservation archaeologist Pooja Saxena, who is advisor to the heritage cell of BMC, however, said that the crown of the heritage building could still be repaired. “Though it would be long and painstaking process the Shaukat Mahal crown can still be restored,” she said.
“During the rains the damaged part could be strengthened using scaffolding. There is certainly no question about pulling down such a unique heritage structure that has distinctive Indo-French architectural components,” she said.
Constructed in 1830s as a wedding gift for Sikander Jehan Begum—the first full-fledged female ruler of Bhopal—the design of the Shaukat Mahal is attributed to Bourbons of Bhopal, considered to be the descendent of renowned French kings.