The repair and restoration of Sher Shah Gate or Lal Darwaza has finally taken off. A substantial portion of the centuries-old monument located on Mathura Road had collapsed due to heavy rain in 2012 and a brick wall was raised to support the structure for the time being.
But for almost two-and-a-half years, the Archaoelogical Survey of India (ASI) was unable to start conservation work. Experts warned that the delay in conserving the gateway had led to new cracks on the facade. Inspections revealed that stone blocks in the lower portion of the monument were also displaced due to the rain.
Located opposite Purana Qila, the gate was constructed by Sher Shah Suri, who conquered Delhi after defeating Humayun in 1540. ASI approved an estimated budget of Rs 50 lakh for the project and began the documentation work last week. “A stone-by-stone documentation is being done,” Daljit Singh, an archaeologist with the ASI Delhi unit, who is overseeing the project, said. “Once the documentation is complete in two weeks, the stones on the facade will be numbered and removed one by one to assess the internal damage to the gate,” he said.
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The entire process of restoration is going to take a year and the monument will be closed to visitors until then “in the interest of public safety”.
In a statement in Parliament this March, the Ministry of Culture had said that the work will be completed within the 2015-16 financial year. The ASI is trying to keep to that deadline, but Singh said, “We can be sure only when the veneering stones are removed and we are able to see the condition of the structure inside.”
He said the ASI doesn’t want to do mere cosmetic work on the monument.