Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Garden Of Paradise

World Heritage Day was celebrated this year by the inauguration of the gardens
around Humayun’s tomb by The Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

The Mughals brought with them their love for gardens, fountains and water. And nowhere did they leave a more memorable legacy of this than in their beautiful tombs. The first in what was to become adistinctive style is Humayun’s tomb, in Delhi, a synthesis of Persian and Indian building styles, located close to India Gate and adjoining the shrine of the Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Built on the banks of the Yamuna, Humayun’s tomb is regarded as theTaj of Delhi, and offers an excellent view of the surrounding countryside from its terraces.

Born in 1508 in Kabul, Afghanistan, Humayun was the eldest and favourite son of Emperor Babur. He ascended the throne when he was 22 (1530), becoming the second ruler of the Mughal dynasty. In 1541, he married Hamida, and their son, Akbar,was born in Umarkot, Sindh,
in 1542. Humayun was overthrown by Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan ruler from Bengal (who built the Grand Trunk Road) in 1540 at Kannauj. He stayed in exile in Persia until 1555, when he got the opportunity to regain his empire. But he did not live long to enjoy the fruits of conquest, for he died a year later by tripping on the staircase of his two storied library, while on his way to
offer prayers. Religious and tolerant, Humayun was also a patron of arts and literature, a calligrapher and a poet.

A grand memorial
Humayun’s tomb is one of the best early examples of Mughal architecture in India. It was designed by the Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyath. The Persian Char Bagh (four-garden) plan, the massive structure and external walls, double dome and decorative inlay were to become the prototype for later structures, most notably the Taj Mahal, 70 years later.Built by Humayun’s wife Hamida Banu Begum, the tomb cost Rs 1.5 million, and the work, started in 1562, was completed only in 1571, nine years later. The entire structure and enclosure are constructed at an elevated level, and have to be entered through two double storied gateways on the west and south. The mausoleum itself sits on a podium, with a perimeter of arched openings. Entering the enclosure through the south gate, you come across a baradari(pillared hall), which occupies the eastern wall and a hamam (bath) in the centre of the northern wall.
The central octagonal chamber contains the cenotaph. It is encompassed by octagonal chambers and arched lobbies on the side, whose openings are covered with perforated screens. Three arches dominate each side, the central one being the highest. This plan is repeated on the second storey also. The whole is surmounted by a double dome (42.5 m) clad in marble, with pillared chhatris(kiosks) on four corners. The arched rooms surrounding the central room house the tombs of two of Humayun’s begums and later Mughals, including several rulers of the dynasty such as Dara Shukoh, Aurangzeb and .arruksiyar, making it the burial place for the House of Timur. Bahadurshah Zafar took refuge in the tomb with three princes during the uprising in 1857, before he surrendered to the British. Humayun’s actual grave is in the basement, entered via a passage facing south of the platform. In the northeast corner of this chamber lies Hamida Banu, or Haji Begum. On the south-western side of the mausoleum lies the Nai-ka-Gumbad, or Barber’s Tomb.

The Restoration
Efforts at restoration had begun as early as 1903–4, when the water system was restored, including its sandstone edging. A second restoration was attempted in 1931, to commemorate the inauguration of New Delhi; and a third attempt was made to introduce
water to the garden in the 1950s. The last attempt at restoration was made in 1984. Each attempt changed the level of the channels. In 2000, the illumination of the tomb was funded by the Oberoi Group and coordinated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The most recent restoration of the gardens of Humayun’s tomb was conceived in 1997 and, after two years of archival research and excavation, the implementation began in 2001 and was completed in 2003 by the Aga Removal of cement alterations from 1985 preceded traditional lime mortar repairs.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture pledged US $ 650,000 towards the restoration work, in
collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India. The trust is a non- denominational philanthropic foundation that coordinates the cultural activities of the Aga Khan Development Network. The trust is involved in the revitalisation of historic sites in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Egypt, Syria and Zanzibar, among other places. The network agencies have been working in India for several decades, addressing natural resource management, agricultural productivity, income growth, health and education in rural areas.
Khan Trust for Culture(AKTC), the first privately funded restoration of a World Heritage Site in India. Work was carried out on the gardens of the tomb complex in Delhi by a team comprising experts from many disciplines. The objective of the project was to revitalise the gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the Char Bagh, or four-part paradise garden, according to the original plans of the builders. Site works encompassed a variety of disciplines, including archaeology, conservation science and hydraulic engineering. After a detailed survey of the garden, including the channels, the civil work was begun. A total of 3.5 km of channels has been restored, and water will flow in 2.2 km of them. Water channels were re-laid to an extent where their beds drop one centimetre for every 40 m. A balancing tank and filteration plant has been constructed outside the garden to continuously recirculate the water. All the repair work was carried out using traditional techniques and methods such as lime mortar and fruit
pulp as binding material. Excess earth (around 3,000 truckloads) that had accumulated over the years was manually removed. All 32 empty garden plots were covered in grass, and 128 ground water pits were dug, while existing wells were re-excavated. A new irrigation system and rainwater harvesting method have been employed to make efficient use of the water available. Edging stones, many Humayun left a great architectural legacy in the monuments built during his reign.
Other structures built by Humayun

They include: Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb, Delhi (1528–36)
Imam Zamin’s Tomb, Delhi (1537)
Hasan Khan’s Tomb, Sasaram, Bihar (c 1535)
Sher Shah’s Tomb, Sasaram (c 1540)
Purana Qila, Delhi (c 1530–45), built over the ancient site of Indraprastha, a city associated with the Mahabharata
Qala-i-Kuhna Masjid, Delhi (1541)
Sher Mandal, Delhi (c 1541)
Gate of Sher Shah’s Wall, Delhi (1540s)
Salimgarh, Delhi (1546)
Isa Khan’s Mosque and Tomb, Delhi (1547)
Sabz Burj, Nila Gumbad, Delhi (1540–60)
Bu Halima’s Garden, Delhi. (1540–60)

Over 50 small tanks and over 3 km of channels were finally repaired.
Over 50 craftsmen worked for over 2years to prepare hand chiseled sandstone for the channels, benches, fountains etc. weighing over 800 kg, were aligned byhand, and 4,000 m of red sandstone was chiselled by hand, and used in channel repairs. Over 2,500
flowering, fruit and evergreen trees, such as mango, mogra, orange, lemon, anar, harsingar, hibiscus and neem, were planted, and 25,000 sq. m of pathways were repaired. A wheelchair access ramp at the entrance was provided, and bridges over the channels. Benches of sandstone were provided in the garden and the existing cast iron ones were repaired. The restored garden was inaugurated on April 15, 2003, by His Highness the Aga Khan, to coincide with World Heritage Day. He was joined by India’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, Shri Jagmohan. Speaking on the occasion, the Aga Khan said, “The Aga Khan Trust for Culture insists that each of its conservation and restoration projects should be able to have an important, positive impact on quality of life.”


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