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Reclaiming a lost serai

Azimganj Serai will soon be inducted into Humayun’s Tomb heritage precinct

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
July 21, 2013 1:04:24 am

The Delhi government has cleared the decks for another heritage conservation project,which could expand the area of a UNESCO World Heritage site and,perhaps,also imitate the crafts bazaars of Iran and Turkey.

Azimganj Serai,a dilapidated 16th century Mughal building,hidden behind years of neglect,moss and thick foliage inside the Delhi zoo,will be brought back to life by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) on behalf of the Delhi government. An MoU was signed between them last week.

Azimganj Serai is actually an inn on the GT Road,now the Mathura Road. One of the largest inns of the Mughal period,it has a central courtyard surrounded by 108 two-bay deep,arched rooms and has a fort-like wall around it. Its walls also have kangoora battlements,an architectural style typical of the Mughal school of architecture. Its enclosing wall abuts Sundar Nursery,which further opens up into Humayun’s Tomb.

Once restored to its old glory,Azimganj Serai will be combined into one larger heritage precinct. The Delhi government notified it as a heritage monument in 2010 and,despite its high historical,architectural and archaeological value,it took them almost three years to arrive at the decision to refurbish it.

“We intend to demolish the wall which separates it from Sundar Nursery and integrate it with the larger Humayun’s Tomb heritage precinct,” says Ratish Nanda,Project Director of AKTC,which intends to put in 1.5 lakh man-days and use master craftsmen to restore the complex using traditional building material such as lime and plaster.

According to an officer of the Delhi Department of Archaeology,consolidating the remains of the Serai and the revival will take 30 months of work and more than Rs 3.5 crore,of which the government will provide a little under Rs 3 crore. The rest will be borne by AKTC.

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