One of the most unique architectural marvels of Bhopal - the 180-year-old Shaukat Mahal - is literally crumbling.
A ceiling in the front portion of the structure with distinctive Indo-French design collapsed few days ago and has wide cracks on its once majestic façade and interiors.
As the palace is situated bang by the side of a busy road leading into the core of old city and still houses 21 families, the bad condition of the structure is posing constant threat to several people, according to experts and residents.
However, the attempts of the residents as well as some heritage enthusiasts of attracting attention of the authorities towards the perilous condition have drawn a naught till now.
Sikander Malik, a heritage enthusiast who conducts the famous Bhopal Heritage Walk, told HT that he brought the condition of the structure to the notice of different authorities from time to time.
When the ceiling collapsed last week, Malik wrote to the chief secretary, the Bhopal collector and other authorities seeking their attention. “There has been no response yet,” Malik told HT.
Imranullah Khan, whose family resides in the affected part, said it was pure luck that his parents who use the area where the ceiling collapsed were not present when the accident occurred.
“I wrote to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation and the archaeology department seeking intervention for conservation of the building. Nothing has happened. We live in constant fear,” Khan said.
According to rules, even if a heritage structure is in a private possession, the government can intervene for conservation and protection. Khan said they do not have the resources for proper conservation of the huge structure and thus need government’s help.
Renowned architect and heritage conservationist SM Husain said the Shaukat Mahal - unique because of the Church like inputs in the typical Indo-French design - should be immediately taken up for conservation.
“And the main thing is to ensure that this conservation is technically and aesthetically proper so that the heritage value is not hampered,” Husain said.
Chief secretary Anthony de Sa said he had visited the structures in royal quadrangle some time ago and is aware of the importance. “I would get the matter checked soon,” he said.
Ajatshatru, the commissioner of archaeology, archives and museums, accepted that the government could intervene to conserve such heritage structure. “I am out of station. But I will get it immediately checked when I get back on Wednesday,” the officer said.
Shaukat Mahal was constructed in 1830s as a wedding gift for Sikander Jehan Begum — the first full-fledged female ruler of Bhopal
The mahal’s design is attributed to Bourbons of Bhopal — considered descendent of renowned French kings
The Church like inputs and the crown on the façade makes it an architectural marvel that is prominently mentioned in all Bhopal guide books. It is an integral part of the famous royal quadrangle of Bhopal around the Iqbal Maidan (earlier Khirniwala Maidan).