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Victim of summer storm,Vijay Chowk pillars to stand tall soon

On May 10,when winds upwards of 90 kilometres per hour lashed the Capital,it took two unlikely victims in its wake — two red sandstone pillars at Vijay Chowk.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | New Delhi |
July 18, 2009 1:18:05 am

On May 10,when winds upwards of 90 kilometres per hour lashed the Capital,it took two unlikely victims in its wake — two red sandstone pillars at Vijay Chowk.

The pillars,believed to be erected during the construction of Rashtrapati Bhavan on designs provided by Edwin Lutyens,are considered an important symbol of Delhi’s heritage.

Now a restoration project undertaken by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) — at an estimated cost of Rs 2 lakh — is hoping to restore the Vijay Chowk area of Lutyens’ Delhi to its former glory.

For over a month,eight craftsmen from Hindon,Rajasthan,have been laboriously sculpting red sandstone slabs weighing over 1 tonne,at the South Block parking lot.

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In June,a truck loaded with 250 cubic ft of red sandstones was specially ordered from Agra. “We have been told to make two pillars and four lampposts for the Rashtrapati Bhavan and Vijay Chowk areas. One additional lamp post is also being built in case of emergencies,” said Dinesh Kumar,one of the workers at the project.

“The approximate project cost does not factor in the Rs 300 per day labour costs of the workers,” said a CPWD spokesperson. Since the actual drawings of the designs cannot be recovered,the workers are replicating designs from other pillars and lamp posts.

Conservationists agree that this is the best approach. “We are very poor at archiving important documents. What better than to have similar looking pillars while making the new ones? They are easy to replicate,” assured AGK Menon,convenor,Delhi Chapter,Intach.

Kumar and his team of workers have worked on earlier projects at the Rashtrapati Bhawan area for over 25 years.

Recalling how he had re-constructed the water fountain at Vijay Chowk in 2000 with 50 other workers,he said the work was completed in a year. They also rebuilt two pillars over two years ago. “But the fountain was our toughest assignment,” said Kumar. “It required precision. The designs had to be carved by hand out of solid sandstone. But the pillars are easy since we can take actual measurements of existing ones,” added Kumar,who had begun his career as a youngster assisting his father.

To ensure that the pillars do not fall off in another sandstorm,the workers are inserting reinforced iron beams in the cavities of the pillars and will be embedding them three feet in the ground.

“This will hold the pillars in place in case of strong winds,” said Bhori Lal,a craftsman,while carving out a stone jaali for the lampposts.

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First published on: 18-07-2009 at 01:18:05 am

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