After toiling for over a period of six years,the workers entrusted with the restoration of the Humayuns Tomb Complex,a World Heritage site,can now be proud of the result. The complex is almost spanking new. The refurbished 16th century garden tomb will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Wednesday in the presence of Union Minister for Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch,The Aga Khan,chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network,and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust chairman Ratan Tata. This is the first restoration and conservation project assigned by the Centre to a non-government agency.
The Aga Khan had pledged to help in the restoration of the Humayuns Tomb Complex in 1997. Since 2007,the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC),Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and other co-funding partners,in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India,have undertaken the Urban Renewal Initiative and worked towards the restoration and conservation of over 30 monuments inside the tombs complex which sprawls over 170 acres.
Apart from the red sandstone mausoleum of the second Mughal emperor Humayun,the complex comprises Neela Gumbad,Chausath Khambha,Hazrat Nizamuddin Baoli,Sunder Nursery,Batashewala,Bu Halima,Arab ki Serai and Isa Khans tomb,amongst other structures.
This project also claims to have made significant improvement to the quality of life of the residents of Hazrat Nizamuddin basti,where its urban renewal programme has provided employment to the residents of the basti. Men from the basti worked in the tile kilns where trained tile artists from Uzbekistan brought back to life the lost art of glazed tile-making. Even though this project has come to an end,the skills imparted to the residents will help ensure that they are self-reliant.
The painstaking work meant doing away with the damage that had been inflicted on the World Heritage site over the years.
Stone joints in the dome had to be restored with lime to make it watertight; the collapsed arcade of the garden enclosure wall had to be reconstructed; the tilework of the eight chhatris (canopies) on the roof of Humayuns Tomb had to be pieced together tile-by-tile; 21,000 sqm of lime plaster had to be applied; 5,400 sqm of sandstone on the terrace had to be reset according to the original plan; and 3,700 sqm of stone plinth which was buried under 20th century cement had to be lifted.
The project was headed by conservation architect Ratish Nanda. The conservation work included archival research and documentation. State-of-the-art 3D laser scanning was done to inspect the existing structures for damage and then compared with archival evidence to match the present with the past so that the result survives the future.