The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has begun conservation and restoration work on the Lahori Gate of Nurmahal Serai, the famous 17th century Mughal structure.
The gateway has been breached at several places by encroachers. Two red-stone pillars in the arch have moved from their original position due to damaged joints. This arch is the main support on which the gateway's front roof rests.
Loss of stones is also visible. The ASI has allotted work to a private contractor who has put 16 skilled workers on the job.
Supervisor Jagdish Verma said they were replacing the damaged stones with new pieces. Stone petrolyphs and stonecutters are making ornamental designs on stones. Sharma said he had been doing conservation and restoration work of national monuments for the past 40 years. The work would be completed in a couple of months. ASI sources said about Rs 22 lakh were being spent on the conservation and restoration of the Lahori Gate.
The serai has two gateways in the middle of the eastern and western wings.
Of the two gateways, the eastern one is a simple structure that was partly damaged during the Anglo-Sikh War.
The Lahori Gate or the western gateway comprises guardrooms on either side of the façade. The gateway is divided into panels and is decorated with sculptures in bas-relief and foliated scrollwork depicting birds sitting on branches.
The serai has been included in the list of integrated monuments of Punjab by the union ministry of culture. It was built during the period 1618-1622 when Nawab Zakaria Khan was the governor of Doab.
In this gateway, the arched open-domed balconies get their support from four pillars topped with carved brackets.
Local residents, while appreciating the work being carried out by ASI at the serai, are for getting the approach road vacated.
Sodhi Ram, a tailor, says, "The serai is a structure of national importance. We want the approach road to the historical monuments cleared of encroachment at the earliest."
Jaswinder Lamba, a journalist, said, "The ASI is doing well in maintaining its original structure. Removing encroachments from the approach road is important. Tourists face difficulties in reaching the serai due to encroachments on the approach road, which has become a parking place for vehicles."
Residents have brought this issue to the notice of the ASI director general and union cultural minister besides state officials time and again, but to no avail.