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US aid to restore 16th century mausoleum

Friday August 12, 2011 08:11:05 PM, IANS

The Sundarwala Burj which was restored by the Aga Khan Trust and the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

(Photo: IANS)

New Delhi: The Sunderwala Burj, a 16th century mausoleum here, has been given a makeover by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture with financial support from the US ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation.

It was restored at a cost of $50,000 and a matching grant by the Aga Khan Trust, conservation architect Ratish Nanda, who heads the trust's projects in India, said Friday.

The mausoleum is located in the midst of the lush Sundar nursery adjacent to Mughal emperor Humayun's tomb. It is a part of the Humayun's tomb complex.

Nanda visited the restored tomb Friday with United States Charge d'Affaires Peter Burleigh to assess the restoration work.

The trust is also spending more than $10 million to landscape the Sunder nursery as part of its Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative, which aims to benefit communities living in and around the complex, Nanda said.

"Though protected, the Sunderwala Burj had lost its original architectural and historic character due to inappropriate repairs using modern materials such as cement," Nanda told IANS.

"The actual conservation was preceded by an exhaustive documentation, including a 3D laser scan that revealed the striking patterns on the ceiling, original polychromy (colours) layers and the original extent of the building plinth," Nanda said.

The white and red contrast, one of the favourite colour palettes of the Mughal builders, has been restored with "white lime mortar mixed with marble dust and egg white ground by hand for months."

The tomb is unique for its ornamental ceiling inscribed with floral motifs and scripts seen in Kashmiri and Persian wooden ceilings, he said.

"The ceiling had suffered extensive damage because of water seepage," Nanda said.

A band of Quranic inscription circling the inner wall surfaces of the mausoleum just over the doorway has been carefully recorded and is being restored by calligraphers from the adjoining Nizamuddin 'basti' or slums, the architect said.

More than 100 master craftsmen were engaged for nine months to restore missing portions of the ornamentation and replace cement plaster layers with lime mortar, he said.

"Local youth from the adjoining community at Nizamuddin were trained in building craft traditions to help restore the tomb," Nanda said.

Nanda said some of them were more than 75 years old.

"They had been working on the mausoleum for nine years," Nanda added.

Conservation work should aim to restore the intention of the original builders by engaging master craftsmen, and thus create employment and help keep craft skills alive, he said.





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