Who will repair Jama Masjid: Population, new structures mar ‘unprotected’ mosque
The 17th century mosque was last repaired 10 years ago by the ASI on the Delhi High Court’s orders. The mosque’s custodian, Delhi Wakf Board, had no funds to restore it.Updated: Dec 14, 2017 17:46 IST
The crumbling structure of Delhi’s Jama Masjid is testimony to the administration’s neglect of the Capital’s heritage. The 17th century mosque built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan has started degenerating for the lack of regular maintenance.
Conservation architect Naveen Piplani had prepared a report in 2006 on behalf of the Delhi Wakf Board — the custodian of the mosque. The report explained the reasons that led to the deplorable state of the structure. The report had pointed out that increasing population pressure and new structures coming up in the neighbourhood were harming the mosque.
The last restoration of the grand structure was undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) 10 years ago on the orders of the Delhi High Court.
The ASI restored the missing inlay work and revived the internal water system. White marble surface was cleaned and the lime concrete terracing was relaid. The agency also replaced damaged columns, bases and plastered the parapets.
“As Jama Masjid is not a protected monument, its regular monitoring and repairing is not done by the agency. As and when, the ASI is requested, it does the job,” said DM Dimri, spokesperson, ASI.
He added the agency is not aware of any damage to its dome and parapet.
“We have prepared a plan to relay its floor for which the tender process has already started. We will soon start the repair work,” he said.
Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari told Hindustan Times that the disrepair of the mosque might also be attributed to its peculiar status.
“The mosque is under the jurisdiction of Delhi Wakf Board. The ASI had been doing its repair since 1956 under a special arrangement,” he said.
An wakf board official said the agency is unable to take over of its regular monitoring and restoration due to lack of funds.
“The annual budget of Delhi Wakf Board is only Rs 1.5 crore. A major portion of the fund is spent on the salary of the imam and scholarships. We also lack expertise to undertake repair of such a historical monument. For years, the ASI has been repairing Jama Masjid,” he said.
Tariq Bukhari, general secretary, Jama Masjid Advisory Council (JMAC), suggested that before initiating any plan for the mosque’s renovation, a comprehensive study should be carried out to assess the damage.
“The foundation of the mosque is supported by vast stairways on three sides—north, south, and east. In the east, there was a pushta (back support), which was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in 1975 during anti- encroachment drive. This weakened the eastern wall,” he said.
“The study would also be required to ascertain the intricate damage to the walls, domes and the structure since it is not a modern structure. The special plasters used by the engineers of Shahjahan have to be protected. For this, the immediate need is to arrest the seepage of water and then a comprehensive restoration work could be started,” Tariq Bukhari said.
The Jama Masjid, originally named ‘Masjid-i Jahan Numa’, is one of the largest mosques in India. Its construction started in 1648 after the completion of Shahjahanabad. It took six years and cost R 10 lakh. Emperor’s trusted noble Saadullah Khan and then governor of Delhi, Khalil Ullah Khan, supervised the construction of Jama Masjid.