Sheesh Mahal dome cries for repair

It is the small part of the building under the Punjab Government’s control which is not being maintained properly. The reaction time of the government can be gauged from the communications of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museums which is finding it difficult to release Rs 2,000 to repair a dome, a portion of which was damaged recently.

The department was informed on January 6 that a part of the dome in the Sheesh Mahal had been damaged when its plaster fell off. This had affected an area of around one and a half square metres. It was urged to repair the dome immediately failing which it would be endangered if there was any rain leading to its caving in.

Sources said if the dome caved in it might be difficult to reconstruct it and that other parts of the building might also be irreversibly damaged. It was necessary to do restoration work whenever the need arose immediately, said art lover Ishu Singla.

The department was informed that Rs 2,000 was needed for the job along with hiring of an experienced mason and labourers. It was also informed that another dome in the complex had weakened with the passage of time and needed repair. The department has still to release the money due to which even maintenance work cannot be done.

Sources said while the dome may need immediate attention, it was not the only area demanding the attention of the Archaeology Department. Various ‘jharokas’ in Sheesh Mahal had become weak and needed to be reinforced. Similarly, the tank at the complex also needed repair. The department had been requested for Rs 20,000 for this work, including restoration of a pathway, but it was still to receive any amount.

{pagebreak}In addition to money not being provided for repair of the dome or the water tank the department in another communication on February 13 directed the local office provide drinking water facilities at the complex. Sources however, said even this directive could not be enforced as no funds had been provided.

The manner in which the sandstone railing of the two minarets situated in the tank in the Sheesh Mahal complex are falling is symptomatic of the importance given to the maintenance of cultural heritage in Punjab.

The situation has become such that now a sudden gust is sometimes enough to make part of the failing fall and crumble to the ground. The railing is being religiously stored in the complex although nothing is being done to tackle the problem for which little money is required.

The sandstone railing is the life of three-storeyed minarets which was used to enable royalty to get fresh air when going up as well as view the tank below. The borders of the railing on all three-floors enhance the architectural beauty of the minarets. It has been noticed that wherever a portion of the railing falls it leads to a cascading effect with the other part of the railing also giving way slowly.

The Assistant Conservators have over the years sent various estimates to carry out repair as well as install a new railing where needed. The first estimate was sent on January 18, 1997, the second six months later the third last May and the latest one on January 28. According to the last estimate, Rs 53,000 was needed but the department is yet to release funds.

The situation has turned precarious now. Assistant Conservator Yog Raj disclosed that a part of the railing constituting three ‘jaalis’ had fallen down after being weakened a few days back. Holding a private painting competition in the compound of the complex by the North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC) in which a few thousand children participated has not helped matters. Even on that day in mid-February a portion of the sandstone railing had come crashing down when children was on the first floor of the minaret. The railing, which fell recently, is on the same floor.{pagebreak}

Assistant Conservator Yog Raj said he had written a letter to the NZCC stating that Sheesh Mahal was a protected monument and such private functions should not be held in the portion occupied by the NZCC. He pointed out in the letter that the NZCC did not take permission to hold the function from either the officer in charge or senior officers of the department at the headquarters. He said the minarets and ‘jhula’ installed over the water tank could be endangered by movement of people in hundreds, if not thousands.

Mr Yog Raj said only a small portion of the railing which had fallen over several years could be used again and that the joints had been accumulated in a store in complex. t of the railing would have to be installed again He said the foundations of the railing which were still standing in the minarets needed to be strengthened to ensure they did not fall off easily. For this only plaster work needed to be done.

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