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Restoring a monument, stone by stone

Work on restoring the grand facade of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus has entered a crucial phase with skilled artisans, specially brought from Madhya Pradesh, starting work and recreating worn-out parts of the world heritage site.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2009 01:55 IST
Rajendra Aklekar

Work on restoring the grand facade of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus has entered a crucial phase with skilled artisans, specially brought from Madhya Pradesh, starting work and recreating worn-out parts of the world heritage site.

Huge blocks of the unique Porbandar stone that went into the construction of the original building in 1888 have been brought from select quarries in Gujarat. The stones are being used after several rounds of tests and examination.

“The Central Railway (CR) has worked out a two-phase conservation plan estimated to cost a total of almost Rs 17 crore,” said CR’s chief spokesperson S.C. Mudgerikar.

A team of more than 15 craftsmen is working diligently in one corner of the city’s busiest railway station.
These artisans from Mauria in Madhya Pradesh are part of the team that will replace the original ornamental structures which are slowly falling part.

“The work has now entered a very crucial phase. We have samples of the original balustrades and railings with intricate carvings on them,” said 50-year-old Rajendra Prasad, one of the artists. “We have a few samples of each of them and are
replicating the carvings on the Porbandar stone blocks. The job requires precision and perfection.”

A team led by British architect Fredrick William Stevens had painstakingly designed details of this imposing building in the 1880’s. They too had employed a team of artisans from all parts of the country so that the structure would become an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures. British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural traditions in the design.

“We have been camping here since the past few weeks, but now the most important part of the project has begun. It involves replacing all worn-out parts of the more than century-old station,” said Mahendra Sharma, another craftsman. “We have to do careful carving work to fit the original size and it has to stand there for another 100 years.”

Several of these parts have been already prepared and lined up in the site office of these artisans.

“There are no moulds or readymade parts. It requires patience and an eye for detail to make these,” said Madan Mohan, another artist.