Aga Khan Trust helps restore 16th century tomb


New Delhi : The Sunderwala Burj, a 16th century mausoleum adjacent to Mughal emperor Humayun’s tomb, has been given a major facelift by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, with the US embassy funding and support of the Archaeological Survey of India.

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The mausoleum, part of the Humayun’s tomb complex, was restored at a cost of $50,000 from the American Ambassador’s Fund for Culture Preservation and a matching grant of the Aga Khan Trust, said conservation architect Ratish Nanda, who head the trust’s projects in India.

The trust is also spending in excess of $10 million to landscape the Sunder nursery surrounding the tomb as part of its Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative.

“Though protected, the Sunderwala Burj had lost its original architectural and historic character due to inappropriate repairs using modern materials such as cement,” nanda told IANS.

“The actual conservation was preceded by an exhaustive documentation, including a 3D laser scan, that revealed the striking patterns on the ceiling, original polychromy layers and the original extent of the building plinth,” Nanda said.

The white and red contrast, one of the favourite colour palettes of the Mughal builders, has been restored with “white lime mortar mixed with marble dust and egg white ground by hand for months,” he said.

The tomb is unique for its ornamental ceiling inscribed with floral motifs and scripts seen in Kashmiri and Persian wooden ceilings, he said.

“The ceiling had suffered extensive damage because of water seepage,” Nanda said.

A band of Quranic inscription circling the inner wall surfaces of the mausoleum just over the doorway has been carefully recorded and is being restored by calligraphers from the adjoining Nizamuddin ‘basti’, the architect said.

More than 100 master craftsmen were engaged for nine months to restore missing portions of the ornamentation and replace cement plaster layers with lime mortar, he said.

“Local youth from the adjoining community at Nizamuddin were trained in building craft traditions to help restore the tomb,” Nanda said.

Conservation work should aim to restore the intention of the original builders by engaging master craftsmen, and thus create employment and help keep craft skills alive, he added.