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Not knowing history, recreating it at Red Fort

Monday May 09, 2011 05:32:49 PM, Rajeev Kumar, IANS

New Delhi: For over 60 artisans employed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to restore the monuments inside the Red Fort in the national capital to their original form, history is just a source of their livelihood.

"We don't know much about Delhi, then how can we know about the history of this fort?" wondered Kashiram, an artisan from Agra who is in Delhi for the job along with his group of eight workers.

In his 50s now, Kashiram has worked at many Mughal and British era monuments in Agra after learning the techniques in Jaipur in Rajasthan since 1988.

All these years of being in close contact with the past have not enhanced his sense of history. But it has been the only source of livelihood for him and his family.

"We get Rs.300 for a day and this helps me support my family," Kashiram told IANS, adding that all the others in his group, including two 20-year-olds, have learnt the art from him.

Other workers at different sites inside the Red Fort too admitted that they were unaware about the aura of history that this fort still reflects in its own silent ways.

It was in 1639 when architects Hamid and Ahmed started the construction of the Red Fort following an order from emperor Shah Jehan, history says.

It has since then witnessed the rise and fall of many emperors, earthquakes, attacks by foreign invaders and cruelties.

Also, over the centuries, many structures inside the fort have changed substantially.

For instance, Naubat Khana (Musical House), which lies east of the Chhata Chowk inside the fort, was white in its original appearance but later faded and was painted pink during the British era.

"Originally it was white which was plastered into pink during the British period," said K.K. Mohammed, a superintendent at the ASI.

"The plasters on the wall disappeared causing water seepage. It was making the monument weak. Now we are removing the old pulverised plasters and putting a new layer of lamp plaster which was used originally by the Mughals," Mohammed told IANS.

But, even though unaware about the history, many artisans explained in detail about the kind of materials that were used originally.

"This is how it was done during the time of Badshah," said Ashok Kumar pointing towards the bucket full of lamp plaster while with his deft hand he kept making the walls of the now pink Naubat Khana white.

"It is prepared by mixing many substances like lime, gum water, belpatra and marble dust," he said.

After years of legal hiccups, the ASI embarked on the plan to give the 17th century monument a makeover in February this year.

"We will repair all the Mughal-era structures and colonial-era barracks to their originality so that museums inside the fort can be shifted to these barracks," said Mohammed.

Also, intrinsic Mughal inlay works in the two Sawan Bhadon pavilions will be recreated with the help of specially trained craftsmen, he added.

(Rajeev Kumar can be contacted at





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