Sunday , May 23, 2004

Char bagh is dry

Prarthna Gahilote

New Delhi, May 22: Only a month-and-a-half after the Aga Khan Trust for Culture handed over the 16th century Humayun’s Tomb to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for maintainence, the tomb is back to its original neglected state.

The sandstone water channels that had been restored for the first time after 40 years, running through the 30-acre Char Bagh, are dry. There are only patches of stagnant water in this 4-km stretch and mostly nothing at all. The caretakers at the site say it has been like this since April. They also point to the unruly grass that is now covering the sandstone pavements.

Except two, none of the fountains is functioning. Technical experts from the Aga Khan Trust said the ASI, ignoring the manual they had given them, raised the height of the fountains from four feet to 20 feet ‘‘which has caused the maximum trouble.’’

What’s worse is that all the seven pumps installed for the running of the channels and the fountains are out of order! A senior ASI official, who didn’t wish to be quoted, said, ‘‘a number of things need to be changed. We are in the process of deciding what needs to be done now. Our experts are working on the plans.’’

ASI attendant at the site Loku said: ‘‘The pumps and the water channels have not been working for a long time. We complained to the senior officials at the head office long back but nothing has been done.’’

The Aga Khan Trust had prepared a plan for managing the site for long-term sustainability after working on revitalising the garden tomb for three years. Work had begun in 2000 and it made Delhi’s second World Heritage Site the first privately-funded restoration project in the country. The Trust spent $ 650,000 for revitalising the garden.

The Humayun’s Tomb was built over a decade, between 1562 and 1571. It had cost Rs 15 lakh then. The tomb is the earliest example of the Mughal garden tomb in India and is said to have inspired the garden tomb structure of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Built by a Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, the tomb is an ASI-protected monument.