ASI to paint over its faux pas | delhi | Hindustan Times
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ASI to paint over its faux pas

The change in the walls of this 18th century monument was hidden well by moss and lichen till very recently. Until chemical cleaning revealed a jarring juxtaposition: the wall's original ochre-coloured Mughal lime plaster clashing with an almost pink layer, plastered earlier in the name of conservation. Nivedita Khandekar reports.

delhi Updated: Mar 30, 2009 01:24 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

The change in the walls of this 18th century monument was hidden well by moss and lichen till very recently. Until chemical cleaning revealed a jarring juxtaposition: the wall's original ochre-coloured Mughal lime plaster clashing with an almost pink layer, plastered earlier in the name of conservation.

This tomb called Sakri Gumti-dedicated to an unidentified person—in Green Park, on the road towards Hauz Khas village is under repair again with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who are choosing to 'correct' the faulty re-plastering done around four years ago.

Almost two months of chemical treatment exposed the shoddy way the earlier conservation work was conducted, with a distinct line running on all four sides differentiating the two colours. "The pink plaster will be removed after chemical treatment. Using Mughal lime plaster, we plan to re-do the whole thing to match the original colour," sources said.

The ASI also plans to open the two arched entrances—on east and north—to the structure, which were closed some time ago. After removing the bricks, plans are afoot to add Mughal-pattern gates (made of MS Iron). The fractured kangoras (decorative portions on parapet wall) too will be repaired.

Restoration or re-construction?

But does this not tantamount to re-construction? Finding nothing wrong in the re-plastering, officials argued, "We are going ahead with plastering only where there is evidence, however small it may be. Moreover, such steps are necessary otherwise the structure will eventually crumble.

Agrees Prof AGK Menon, convener of INTACH's Delhi chapter. “There is no hard and fast rule. It is a good thing that the monument is being preserved in this way,”he said.

But purists who believe in keeping things as natural as possible while preserving a heritage structure question the very need for 'restoration'. Exposed stones, fragmented kangoras or for that matter, ruined carvings on a temple exposed to the vagaries of nature essentially give the 'heritage' look and hence need to be kept as it is for posterity, they feel.

“There are ways of 'conserving' remains in whatever state they are. Waterproof coating is available which is transparent, reversible and does not damage the building. Why then go for rebuilding in the name of restoration?" said a conservationist, who did not want to be quoted, as he is associated with many government projects.