NEW DELHI: Work on the restoration of the Sher Shah Darwaza will now be taken up by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) itself after it failed to find a contractor for the project.
The Mini Circle, sub-division of ASI’s Delhi unit, has urged the ASI headquarters to rope in in-house experts and conservators for restoring one of the few surviving entrances of the erstwhile city of Shergarh.
Built in the 16th century, the Sher Shah Darwaza — a fine example of Ashlar and rubble masonry work — was partially damaged due to heavy rain in 2012. Ashlar is finely dressed stone in the shape of bricks with smooth edges. They are used as tiles to decorate structure façades. In rubble masonry, random uncut stones are fixed with mortar.
In 2016, the ASI had started a project to restore the gateway and it was to be completed within a year. Around 50 per cent of the work, including repair of the southern portion which had collapsed, is done.
“Due to its complex construction, no contractors showed interest in the work. A tender was floated twice, but failed to get a single bid. As the project is stuck for more than a year, the Circle has suggested initiating the work with the help of ASI’s conservators and engineers. It has also written a letter to the head office,” said an official of the ASI.
The nature of the structure’s construction was a major issue. “The replacement of Ashlar is a taxing task as the weight of a few façade stones is around 2,000 kg. The stones have to be brought down and re-fixed after examination. If damaged, they are replaced with the stone of the same size. The removal and re-fixing of heavy stones is done with a chain pulley. It is a Herculean task.”
Standing tall next to the Delhi High Court on Mathura Road, the structure was the western gate to the city of Shergarh. It was constructed by Sher Shah Suri after he defeated Humayun. The erstwhile city, including the fort complex of the Purana Quila, spreads across 35 acres from Feroz Shah Kotla to Nizamuddin’s Tomb.