From being the tomb of an unidentified person dating back to the Tughlaq dynasty to becoming Shiv Bhola temple two months ago, Gumti — a small, domed tomb in Safdarjung Enclave’s Humayunpur village — is facing an identity crisis. The state-notified monument built on a mound, amid buildings and a park, was painted white and saffron in March, and idols placed inside it.
It is learnt that the work has been done in complete violation of the Citizen Charter of the Department of Archaeology, which states that one “cannot paint, draw or whitewash any wall in and around the monument” and “cannot hamper or spoil the originality of the monument”.
While the Delhi government’s Department of Archaeology could not be reached for a comment, a source called it a “major faux pas”. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, “I have no information about this, I will ask the department concerned to conduct an inquiry and send me the report.”
The Delhi Chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was supposed to take up restoration work of the 15th-century monument, in collaboration with the Archaeology department, last year. Ajay Kumar, projects director, INTACH-Delhi, “This was a locked monument and we were unable to start work there due to resistance from residents… we went with police but it didn’t work out. Now it’s become a temple and we’ve lost the monument.”
Meanwhile, two saffron-coloured benches placed in the complex bear the name of BJP councillor from Safdarjung Enclave, Radhika Abrol Phogat.
However, Phogat told The Indian Express, “The structure was turned into a temple without my knowledge, consent or support. It was done with the connivance of the previous BJP councillor. I objected too, but it’s a sensitive issue. With whatever that is going on in the country, one can’t touch a temple. The benches with my name were initially in the park.”
Swapna Liddle, convener, INTACH Delhi chapter, said, “Turning a monument into a religious structure is a land grab issue… the easiest thing to do is to turn it into a mandir or a mazar. We are not gatekeepers of the monument, we restore them. The protection has to be done by the state and then it should be handed over to us.”
According to a 2010 notification by the state’s Urban Development department, Gumti was notified as one of the 767 heritage sites, and received a grade-I listing. In 2014, the Archaeology department notified it again as a heritage site.
Little is known about who was buried here or who built Gumti. But the architecture – pointed tip of the dome and absence of mihrab (a semi-circular niche in the wall) — points at either late-Tughlaq or early-Lodi period.
Kanika (19), a resident, said, “It was always a monument… in a bad state. I grew up thinking it was a tomb but then a few months ago, it became a temple.”