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Fresh face for Meena Bazaar

An impressive and grand facelift awaits Red Fort's 400-year-old Meena Bazaar or Chhatta Chowk Bazaar. The revitalisation plan for the country's first covered market, in fact, is inching closer to the implementation stage. Ritika Chopra tells more...

delhi Updated: Feb 02, 2009 13:33 IST
Ritika Chopra

An impressive and grand facelift awaits Red Fort's 400-year-old Meena Bazaar or Chhatta Chowk Bazaar. The revitalisation plan for the country's first covered market, in fact, is inching closer to the implementation stage.

The makeover draft—which is part of the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) ordered by the Supreme Court—cleared the scrutiny of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the panel of experts appointed by the SC last year. It now awaits the SC's nod.

“It may take another month or two for the CCMP to be presented before the Court for its approval. The restoration work for the bazaar and also the rest of the fort should begin in this year," said K.K. Mohammad, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Delhi Circle.

The revitalisation plan is aimed at aimed at resurrecting the market's historic fabric. This, as a result, entails the removal of all additions and correction of all alterations made by the Indian Army, which left the fort in 2003.

Three hundred years ago, the market specialised in luxury goods, such as exquisite carpets, pashmina shawls, precious stones and jewellery. Now, Meena Bazaar still bubbles with life but with fewer jewellery shops and more Indian Handicraft shops.

“The Chhatta Chowk Bazaar has more than 40 shops and some of them are as old as 100 years. This place has, however, lost its original glory as several incompatible additions, such as false ceilings for the shops, have been made by the shopkeepers over the years," said Rachana Viswanathan, who was hired by the Red Fort Bazaar Shopkeepers Association to conceive the revitalisation plan in 2005 and was engaged in measurement drawing and condition mapping for the bazaar while CCMP work was on in 2006.

The revitalisation plan prepared by Viswanathan's company will, in all probability, serve as an effective blueprint for actual restoration.

Removal of signboards and encroachment in front of the shops, freeing the walls and roof of the several coats of lime paint, felling walls of the upper arcade that look into the central space, lowering the level of the road so shoppers can have easier access, are some of the proposed changes. All costs will be borne by the shopkeepers association.

“Of all the Mughal structures in the fort premises, Meena Bazaar is the only one which has been allowed to continue as a market as it is in the spirit of its original use. Places such as Naubat Khana, which has the ASI office on the ground floor and a museum upstairs, will be restored to their original appearance and glory," said Architect Gurmeet Rai, who was in-charge for the CCMP work of the entire fort, of which Meena Bazaar is a part.