NEW DELHI: History never dies, it keeps unravelling new stories and ideas. One such example of its dynamic nature is the 16th century Humayun’s Tomb. Buried underneath the layers of cement and paint for decades, intricate hexagonal and star-shaped ornamental patterns have emerged in the alcoves of this world heritage site.
“Evidence and documents revealed that highly ornamental plasterwork with star patterns was carried out in the 64 alcoves 16 one each side and 4 in the four corners. But over the years, these patters got lost during subsequent renovation work during the 20th century. It was only after careful cleaning and removal of cement and paint layers that the original Mughal-era plasterwork surfaced,” said an ASI official. He added that only faint traces of the design were visible in some alcoves while in others these had almost disappeared.
It took weeks of skilled labour to trace the star and hexagon patterns inside the alcoves. “It appears that the plaster deteriorated rapidly due to water seepage from the terrace,” said an official. Since the job required deft handling, the agencies roped in the best craftsmen to restore the ornamental plasterwork. Following the removal of the cement plaster from the alcove’s interiors, three layers of lime plaster need to be applied. In the final layer, only lime and marble dust will be used for lending the structure a smooth and marble-like appearance. It will also restore the red-white contrast used to stunning effect by the original builders of Humayun’s Tomb.
Dr B R Mani, joint-director general of ASI, said: “The conservation work is being carried out under the supervision of an ASI committee. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is also partnering us. Highly-skilled craftsmen are working on the project to ensure that the spirit of the architecture is revived.” The project is co-funded by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.