Union Minister of Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma on Tuesday said the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) must “associate itself” and replicate its restoration work at the Humayun’s Tomb in “another, very important” monument — the Taj Mahal. He was speaking at the foundation-laying ceremony of the Humayun’s Tomb Site Museum here.
Responding, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV said, “We, at AKTC, try to be very humble to historic buildings. I am not sure we would dare touch the Taj Mahal. But if there’s anything we can do, we will do,” and the audience burst into applause.
The construction of the museum has now begun. Located at the entrance of the World Heritage Site, the museum is being built at a cost of Rs 49 crore funded by the Union Ministry of Tourism and will reportedly take 30 months to be completed. AKTC officials said the museum expects an estimated 2 million visitors annually.
Inspired by the baolis of northern India, the Humayun’s Tomb Site Museum is the first “sunken” museum of its kind in the country and will serve as a bridge between the presently segregated sites of Hazrat Nizamuddin, Sundar Nursery and Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. The underground museum, with a built-up area of 9,000 square metres, will ensure that visuals to 16th century monuments such as the Sabz Burz, Isa Khan’s tomb etc., are not disturbed.
According to AKTC officials, gallery spaces inside the museum will be arranged as intersecting squares and will be illuminated by natural light filtering in through skylights and open courtyards. The main structure where galleries are being located is at a depth of six meters below ground level.
The restored copper finial, which had broken down in a storm in May last year, will be put up for display at the Finial Gallery here. AKTC had recently installed a new replica of the finial at the tomb.
Multiple ticket counters, public amenities and a café, as well as a souvenir shop, an auditorium, a library, crafts gallery and seminar rooms are other features.
Asserting that Humayun’s Tomb still represents the ideals of universal tolerance that Humayun and his son emperor Akbar represented, Prince Aga Khan said the tomb “staggers imagination to think what was created here in Mughal times” in terms of scale and grandeur. The monument had continued to inspire future generations, he added.
He also emphasised on the importance of green public spaces — one of the targets of AKTC’s Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative. Expressing satisfaction at the socio-economic changes in the area, Prince Aga Khan said “jobs have been created; new skills acquired and commercial opportunities created”.
“This place will serve as a model for other cultural sites in the world,” he said.
Secretary (Tourism) Lalit Pawar said the main beneficiary of the effort is the Ministry of Tourism while Secretary (Culture) Ravindra Singh said the public-private partnership model such as the one between Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and AKTC in Humayun’s Tomb restoration needed to be emulated at other World Heritage Sites in the country.