Restoration work on the dome of Khan-i-Khanan Tomb at Nizamuddin is finally complete after three years of labour, said the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) which, along with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), is working on giving the entire monument a facelift since 2014.
“Stone carvers have worked for almost three years to hand chisel the heavy stone blocks that were brought from Rajasthan. Restoring the stone blocks to the base of the dome will provide additional structural stability to the monument,” said Ratish Nanda, CEO of AKTC.
The tomb is the final resting place of Abdur Rahim Khan, a prominent noble in the court of Mughal emperor Akbar, who died in 1627 AD. But it was stripped of the entire marble cladding on the dome 200 years later, when the neighbouring Safdarjung’s Tomb was being built. The marble and red sandstone from Rahim Khan-i-Khanan was used to build the Safdarjung tomb. Only some part of the marble was left behind, which gradually withered away over time.
Nanda said that even though they wanted to cover the entire dome with marble and restore it to its original glory, the ASI has allowed only 10% marble cladding, which was completed last week.
Since the monument is under the ASI’s purview, at the time of approval of the said project in September 2014, the 11-member ASI core committee, chaired by then Additional Director General, BR Mani, had mandated that only 10 per cent of the dome of the tomb could be covered with marble, while the rest of it has to be left as it is.
Mani, who is currently the Secretary General of Indian Archaeological Society (Delhi), said, “Historically, the marble from Rahim Khan’s tomb was used to build the Safdarjung tomb. So, if the entire dome is covered with marble now, it may amount to retouching the history.”
An official at the ASI said they, in fact, wanted the dome to be left the way it was — without any marble — since the heritage body is against restoration in principle, and advocates only preservation. Nanda added, “Every major conservation project includes aspects of preservation and will necessarily include the entire spectrum of interventions, including restoration. The marble block patterns can still be seen on the dome, so there was in-situ evidence for the stones.”
The project is set to be completed by the end of 2019.