Delhi: Chausath Khamba

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German touch gives new life to Mughal monument

New Delhi: TIMES NEWS NETWORK The Times of IndiaNov 17 2014

Chausath Khamba Renovation Complete After Four Years

Till a few years ago, the 16th century mausoleum Chausath Khamba was not just lying in utter neglect but was an abode of ragpickers. Now, four years after the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) started conservation work on it, one can sit in the renovated forecourt of glistening marble and catch a glimpse of the bygone era. On Sunday , the monument, which is now the largest open public space in Nizamuddin Basti, was opened to the public.

In the past four years three teams of stone craftsmen were brought in to repair the 25 domes. The project was cofunded by the German embassy .

The AKTC team described it as the most challenging project that they have undertaken in Nizamuddin Basti, where they are working on at least 50 other monuments. “Chausath Khamba is unique. It was an extremely complex and challenging job as every marble block had to be taken down during conservation,“ said project director Ratish Nanda.

Officials said the marble blocks of the 25 domes were tied to one another and embedded in the brick masonry with iron dowels. “The rainwater spouts from the inaccessible roof were blocked, resulting in water collecting on top. This led to rapid deterioration of the roof and large-scale water ingress leading to corrosion, rusting and expansion of the iron dowels. Pressure from the expanding iron dowels led to bursting of marble blocks in all parts--domes, arches, facade, pendentives and column capitals--threatening structural failure and collapse,“ explained an AKTC architect.

A study of the structure revealed over 80% stone blocks had severe cracks. In past repairs, burst portions of stone blocks were filled up with white cement, thereby masking the damage but allowing the deterioration to accelerate. Since each stone of Chausath Khamba was unique in shape and size, the original stones were retained. “However, iron dowels were replaced with non-corrosive stainless steel ones,“ said an official.Preservation was possible only if the iron dowels could be removed. That's why each of the 25 domes were dismantled.Each stone was numbered and mapped. Stone carvers took eight months to repair the first dome and established the repair methodology .

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