Cracks found in Jama Masjid dome, shahi imam seeks PM’s help for urgent repair
The iconic Jama Masjid is in urgent need of repair, with parts of its external facade and internal structure crumbling, according to the custodians of the grand 361-year-old mosque in old Delhi.
The centrepiece of the heritage city of Shahjahanabad, the Masjid is being threatened by rampant water seepage, which has eroded the structural integrity of the main dome and peeled off layers of sandstone and plaster from its walls and intricate parapet carvings.
The Shahi Imam of the Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, says he had written a letter last year to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking help for the urgent repair of the structure, and made several appeals to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) telling them that the situation is fast becoming dire.
“I specifically told both the PM’s office and the ASI that lack of maintenance was resulting in permanent damage. In particular, the main prayer chamber and three domes require instant restoration,” Bukhari told Hindustan Times.
Comments from the PMO were not immediately available.
ASI spokesperson DM Dimri said the relaying of the mosque floor and a few other maintenance works were in the pipeline. However, he said the ASI was not aware of serious damage to domes and parapets.
“An estimate has been prepared for restoration of its flooring. The tendering process is going on, the ASI will soon start work at Jama Masjid. As the mosque is not an ASI-protected monument, the responsibility of its regular monitoring and maintenance is not with us,” Dimri said.
The responsibility of the management and protection of the mosque lies with the Delhi Wakf Board. “We don’t have enough funds to restore the mosque and always need external assistance for this project,” said an official of the board who asked not to be named.
Bukhari said the last major renovation was carried out by the ASI around 10 years ago, when he had sent a similar request to the body.
“This process of taking the ASI’s help goes back to 1956. Back then, the structure had started decaying and lightning has caused serious damage to one of minarets . Since the Wakf Board has no adequate funds and expertise, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had roped in the ASI, which has been doing repair work from time to time since then,” Bukhari said.
According to the mosque’s custodians, the central dome of the principal prayer hall is now the worst affected, with white seepage marks clearly visible. In addition, the wall joints, minarets, and smaller onion-shaped domes have developed cracks, causing rain water to seep in and weaken the structure.
Portions of the eaves of all four chhattris (dome-shaped pavilions) have started chipping. Several marble finials on the smaller domes on the northern and southern gates have fallen and the large pinnacle on the central dome of the prayer hall has tilted.
The 17th-century mosque, originally named Masjid-i Jahan Numa, is one of the largest in India, built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan. Its construction was started in 1648 after the completion of Shahjahanabad. It took six years and cost Rs 10 lakh at the time.
It is visited by an average of 5,000 tourists and 1,000 worshippers every day.