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When Dehradun’s clock struck ten after a decade

Dehradun’s iconic clock tower, silent for over 10 years, starts chiming again.

 clock tower, clock tower in dehradun, Ghanta Ghar, dehradun Ghanta Ghar, sunday eye Time Keeper: The clock tower in Dehradun is back on track after a decade. (Photo: Lalmani Verma; Designed by Rajan Sharma)

IT was an usual evening in the busy Clock Tower area in Dehradun. Shopkeepers were winding up, many had pulled down their shutters, when an unusual sound got them curious. It was a sound they hadn’t heard in the last 10 years.

On August 29, the six clocks of the clock tower chimed again at 10 pm.

Ever since it came up some 70 years ago, the Clock Tower, or Ghanta Ghar, as it’s most popularly known, has been a landmark in the city, the centre from which all distances are measured and an image that graces all calendars and tourist brochures. Standing on the city’s famous Rajpur Road and overlooking the busy Paltan Bazaar where soldiers once shopped in the days of the Raj, it has seen the town transform from a retiree’s paradise to a bustling, chaotic capital.

Built to commemorate India’s independence, its foundation stone was laid just a year after independence in July 1948 by then Uttar Pradesh governor Sarojini Naidu. It was inaugurated five years later by then railway minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The tower was built in the memory of Balbir Singh Raees who was a honorary magistrate in the municipality and was, in fact, originally called the Balbir Tower.

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Ghanta Ghar, says Balbir Singh’s grandson Pradeep, is the only hexagon-shaped clock tower in Asia and one which is slightly inclined towards one side. The clocks are hosted on top on the six sides of the 55ft tower, which also bears twin plaques with the preamble of the Constitution engraved on one side and names of freedom fighters and martyrs engraved on the other. “The last time the structure underwent repair and its premises renovated was in 2002-03, when ND Tiwari was the chief minister of Uttarakhand,” says Pradeep.

An official of the Dehradun Municipal Corporation (DMC) says though the clocks had stopped chiming nearly 10 years ago, they would still show time, but four years ago they stopped working altogether. Now, the DMC says, all six clocks have been replaced with new ones.

“There were technical snags in the old clocks and searching for their parts was a tedious task. These old clocks were meant to be wound using a pulley every morning. The new clocks bought from Chennai for Rs 9 lakh are electronic. A separate power connection has been taken for this clock tower and an inverter, too, has been installed. These six clocks strike every hour — they can be heard from far,” said the official.

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Over the years, there have been much talk of restoring the clock tower to its former glory. “Ghanta Ghar is the heart of Dehradun and there were demands from all sections of people to make it functional. The clocks have been replaced and many other beautification works have also been sanctioned for its premises,” says Dehradun mayor Sunil Uniyal Gama.

But not all are happy with the way the restoration has been carried out. “The antique value of the Clock Tower could have been maintained in a better manner if the old clocks had been repaired and used. The restoration of the Clock Tower, too, has not been taken appropriately,” says Lokesh Ohri, a noted historian and Uttarakhand state co-convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.

This article appeared in the print edition with the headline ‘When the Clock Struck Ten’

First published on: 15-09-2019 at 06:01:50 am
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