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Humayun’s Tomb gets its finial back

Last May, the 18-foot tall ornamental object, weighing 225 kg, collapsed in a severe storm.

Written by Sumegha Gulati | New Delhi |
March 18, 2015 2:40:06 am
Humayun's tomb, delhi archeology, archeological survey of india The new finial on the dome of Humayun’s Tomb. (Source: Express Photo by Oinam Anand)

Humayun’s Tomb has got back its finial finally, almost nine months after it broke down in a storm last year.

The new finial, which is an exact replica of the original, is made of 99.5 per cent pure copper and has been installed atop the main dome. Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) will, in the meanwhile, begin repairing the original finial and keep it at the proposed museum at the World Heritage Site.

“The finial is an exact replica and was made after conducting several tests, analysis and studies. The only difference is that the original finial was gold-plated. We are looking for sponsors for this as we require at least 5 kg of pure gold for the task. Since the height of the monument is 150 feet, we had to put up a scaffolding 170 feet high to carry out the work. The original finial will be repaired and, given its historical value, it will be displayed for the the public at the Site Interpretation Centre proposed at Humayun’s Tomb,” AKTC Projects Director Ratish Nanda told Newsline.


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On May 30 last year, the 18-foot tall finial, weighing 225 kg, collapsed in a severe storm that had hit Delhi. The finial had 11 copper vessels covered plated in gold and a brass crown. A study was carried out jointly by a team of archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and AKTC officials, following which AKTC was asked to prepare the report in June.

After AKTC submitted its report, the ASI sent samples from the broken finial to IIT-Kanpur and ASI’s own chemical laboratory in Uttarakhand to corroborate the findings of AKTC. Finally, ASI gave AKTC the permission to carry out repairs on December 31.

According to the archival research that was part of the AKTC’s report, the finial had been dismantled and repaired in 1912. Visual inspection of each of the vessels was carried out for inscriptions and the artwork. Researchers also conducted a structural analysis of the copper vessels as well as the octagonal – made of Sal wood – that forms the core of the finial. They then sent the materials to various laboratories for scientific analysis. The cavity of the dome was cleaned and 20th century cement was removed.

The report had brought to light that the 11 vessels were in a friable state and had been repaired several times over the last five centuries. “Each of the vessel was weighed and studied separately to allow comparisons with the original profile and we carefully mapped the damage. The Sal wood had pulverised due to water retention following the late 20th century repairs using cement that had blocked a water outlet. The finial elements contained inscriptions and art work – such as depictions of a praying man – that were considered to be of immense historical interest,” the ASI approved report read.

Senior officials said the damage assessment as well as charting the road map for restoring the finial could only be possible since AKTC had carried out a high definition survey using laser scanners – a technology invented to detect leaks in nuclear plants – in 2009.

“The images and documentation helped in understanding the structure. A multi-disciplinary team of engineers, conservation architects, craftsmen, designers and historians together prepared the report in consultation with the Director Conservation and Superintending archaeologist (Delhi Circle) of the ASI,” the officer said.

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