Conserving the royal heritage

The department is presently engaged in laying a concrete floor on half of the open space in between the inner and outer gates of Quila Mubarak. This area was earlier covered by a tar coating.

The work, however, has invited criticism from various quarters as it is not a conservation exercise. Around Rs 3 lakh is being spent on the concrete flooring, according to officials.

One does not have to go far to see where conservation work needs to be done. The inside part of the massive gate of Quila Androon has developed huge cracks which are increasing with time and could endanger the gate itself, which houses the ‘gaddi’ of Baba Ala Singh, the founder of the Patiala dynasty. A little further away, cracks have developed above the painted jharokas in the main structure. The jharokas themselves are a unique blend of Mughal and Rajasthani architecture. Though the entire structure was painted at one time, the paint is visible only on part of it now with the jharokas and its surrounding wall still retaining the painted motifs of flowers and other designs. If nothing is done to arrest the cracks, extensive repair later would ruin the painted motifs, besides endangering the jharokas.

This is not all. On the upper floors, another structure which needs urgent attention before the onset of the monsoon season is the only European ‘mahal’ built for Florence, the English wife of Maharaja Rajinder Singh. The roof of the structure’s verandah has already caved in and its columns are also in danger of falling apart. Besides this, its roof needs strengthening at places.{pagebreak}

Among the other major conservation works which need to be taken up is relaying of the roof above the ‘dhuni’ (smoke fire) which has been burning since more than 200 years. In other parts of the complex, the Sard Khana (cool house) and the Jalau Khana (exhibition house) are still waiting for restoration work to be conducted on them with repeated estimates not passing muster with the department. The situation in the Sard Khana is precarious with makeshift brick pillars being erected to support the roof of its verandah whose columns had collapsed some months back.

Department Assistant Conservator Balwant Singh said the department had started work on laying the concrete floor as part of the building material was available with it. When questioned that conservation work could also be carried out with the same material, he said the conservation exercise would need scaffolding and extensive preparation due to which it had been decided to go ahead with the floor laying. He said the department would now take up conservation work in Quila Androon in the next phase. (To be concluded)

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