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Issue 28
August , 2010
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INTACH Experts: Makeover a monumental flaw

Source: N/A, Date: August , 2010

With monuments getting a facelift before the Commonwealth Games, heritage enthusiasts and conservationists are questioning the process adopted to make the ruins appear new. As part of the makeover, the monuments are being coated in lime plaster.

Heritage enthusiasts have regularly raised the issue with conservation bodies like the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the Department of Archaeology and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), complaining the monuments are losing their charm.

Earlier this year, British High Commissioner Richard Stagg’s wife had reportedly raised the issue in social circles when monuments in Lodhi Gardens were getting a facelift. Following that, senior INTACH officials and conservationists had conducted a tour for Lady Stagg, explaining to her the technicalities of conservation in India.
Recently, residents and enthusiasts near Gulmohar Park have been in talks with the INTACH and other officials over the conservation of Darvesh Shah’s Mosque, a Lodhi-period monument. The monument, according to INTACH officials, was in ruins and needed intensive intervention to reconstruct portions that had collapsed.

Artist Arpana Caur and architect Gautam Bhatia, who go for regular morning walkers in the park, took note of the changing look and colour of the monument and raised the issue with INTACH and the state department of archaeology. Along with structural reinforcement, retaining the look of the monument during conservation is also important. The colour of the monument is so white that it has completely different look from what it earlier used to be. We have voiced our concerns but officials working on the project have refused to see reason. Conservationists, however, maintain lime plaster is essential as it works like a protective water-proof layer. “After being exposed to a few seasons of rain and sunlight, the monument will develop a patina (a layer) on its exterior giving it an antiquarian look,” said an INTACH official.

A G K Menon, Convenor, Delhi Chapter, INTACH  said that there has been a debate over the authenticity of ruins across the world. While the West believes in leaving their monuments untouched and do not reconstruct or restore their heritage structures with heavy intervention, there has been an alternate view on conservation in countries like India and a few others. Here, the monuments can be restored and reconstructed as there are still traditionally skilled artisans who have retained the old techniques of construction.

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