Seepage destroys Sheesh Mahal chamber

t tourists seeing the wall paintings from outside marvel at the still sparkling colours used by artisans of yore as well as the themes chosen by them. Seeing t of the paintings they do not realise that the very existence of the painted chamber is threatened and that part of it has been destroyed beyond redemption.

Water seeping in from the roof of the painted chamber over the past few years has taken its toll resulting in destruction of its upper portion at two places. At both places paintings in an area of around two metres each have been destroyed with even the plaster peeling off. Constant seepage is also playing havoc with an entire portion of the wall with cracks being noticed in it. Paintings along the crack are also threatened.

The Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museums Department is apparently not perturbed at the developments as it is still to give a small grant to do repairs on the roof of the painted chamber. Various officials of the department posted at Sheesh Mahal as Assistant Conservators have stressed the need to repair the roof of the chamber but all their efforts have come to nought.

On January 16, the department asked whether the leakage persisted. The Assistant Conservator replied on February 1 that water was still seeping in from the roof of the painted chambers along the wall and that the paintings in an area of around three square metres had been affected.

The Assistant Conservator wrote that such a situation had arisen as bitumen had been laid unevenly on the roof of the chambers. As the expansion of the bitumen and the floor differed during summers, the former expanded resulting in cavities and bubbles at the surface. Due to this, the report said, the bitumen contracted along the sides of the walls resulting in cracks and gaps. It said during the monsoon, water penetrated through these cracks and damaged the chamber walls below. Rain water seeped through these cracks and damaged parts of the painted chamber every year. If this seepage persisted, one of the two longitudinal walls of the painted chamber would be completely destroyed.

A visit to the site revealed that the bitumen had been laid in such a fashion that water stagnated over the roof. Moreover the flooring along the sides of the ventilators in the buildings was unfinished besides being laid unevenly. Sources said the bitumen needed to be discarded and proper plastering done according to the slant of the roof to set things right.

The department wrote back asking the local Assistant Conservator to start work on the roof of the chamber. The Conservator replied in mid February later that he needed an experienced mason and labour besides Rs 4,000 to carry out repairs. Both his demands were denied to him. His last communication to the department has been ‘it is a matter of concern that I am waiting for your benevolence for even a single paisa.

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