Express India
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Restoration complete, Humayun’s Tomb blooms again

Express News Service

New Delhi, April 15: FOR the first time in 400 years, water channels in the 16th Century Humayun’s Tomb were today reactivated to facilitate the water harvesting system in the tomb, making it the largest heritage site in India to have such a system.

The Tomb is also the only site to have a water harvesting system that covers two acres of constructed area and 30 acres of the entire site.

The project, on a cost of Rs 2.5 crore for garden restoration alone, began in April 2000 after the complex was nominated a World Heritage Site in 1992. The nomination document said though the tomb was in good shape, it’s gardens were in a ‘‘dismal state and needed restoration’’.

At this, the Aga Khan Trust decided to adopt the gardens in 1997.

The project began only two years ago under the aegis of the National Culture Fund of the department of culture.

The objective of the project was to revitalise the gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the chahar-bagh — the four-part paradise gardens surrounding the Tomb.

It involved removal of 3,000 truckloads of earth, laying 12 hectare of lawn, resetting over 3000 km of kerbstones and creating 128 ground water rechrage pits, among others. The project also includes planting over 2,500 saplings.

The team working on the project also unearthed a raised platform that was traced down to the space used by the Emperor as his throne.

‘Heritage under threat in Iraq, Afghanistan’ Disappearance of physical traces of the past deprives us of more than memories. Spaces embody historic realities and remind us of the lessons of the past, said Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

Khan was referring to the recent plunder of museums in Iraq and the demolition of heritage sites in Afghanistan. He was speaking today at the inauguration of the restored gardens that surround the Humayun’s Tomb. The garden restoration project is the first privately funded restoration of a World Heritage Site in India.

‘‘As we saw, most poignantly across Afghanistan and now in Iraq, the survival of this heritage is at risk,’’ Khan said. On the Humayun’s Tomb project, he said: ‘‘Investing in cultural initiatives represents an opportunity to improve the quality of life for the people who live under these remarkable inheritance of past great civilisations.’’

He added that the restoration of the Tomb gardens will enhance leisure space and bring in more tourists. ‘‘It will help the local economy.’’

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India, had undertaken the restoration of the gardens after they were declared a World Heritage Site. In its nomination document, the UNESCO had mentioned that though the Tomb was in good shape, the gardens ‘‘needed revitalisation’’.

The Trust adopted the gardens as a ‘‘gift to India on its 50th year of Independence’’. The project cost $ 6.5 lakh. The Union Ministry for Tourism and Culture invested an additional Rs 2 crore for the restoration of the Tomb and other structures in the complex.

As a result, for the first time in 400 years, water is running in the sandstone channels in the gardens surrounding the first chahar bagh. The project also had water harvesting and replanting of over 2,500 trees.

Tourism Minister Jagmohan said: ‘‘As our contribution, the Union Ministry has decided to develop and restore the entire Humayun’s Tomb complex. Rs 14 crore has been allocated to restore the areas from Neela Gumbad to the railway station, the Khane Khan Road to Nizamuddin Basti and Bara Khulla nullah in the vicinity.’’