NEW DELHI: After conservation of the intriguing Mughal-era artwork - geometric and floral motifs - in an 80-metre-long vaulted roof aisle called Chhatta bazaar at Red Fort, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has turned its focus on their preservation.
NK Pathak, Superintending Archaeologist, Delhi Circle of ASI, said the tender for the roofed street’s repair had been issued and work will begin soon.
“Chhatta Bazaar’s vaulted roof needs repair to prevent water seepage during rain to protect wall paintings on its inner surface, which have been conserved. It requires water-proofing and replacement of weathered plaster,” he said.
Conservation of the arcade, which served as the main market-place for common people coming to the Mughal Durbar, was taken up along with several other structures around two years ago. It was a replica of a bazaar in Peshawar.
According to the book, ‘Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi’, authored by Swapna Liddle, Mughal Emperor Shahjahan ordered his minions to design a replica of a covered market he saw in Peshawar during a visit in 1646, at Red Fort. The Peshawar market was built by Governor of (undivided) Punjab Ali Mardan Khan.
There are 32-arched two-storeyed bays on either side of the arcade located next to Lahore Gate, where flag hoisting ceremony takes place every year on Independence Day. These shops date back to 1648 when the construction of Red Fort was completed.
The artwork hidden under multiple coats of whitewashing, applied casually over the years as part of the Fort’s maintenance work, was long-forgotten.
The custodian of the around 370-year-old fort —ASI — discovered murals in October 2017 when it began restoring the corridor that is lined by souvenir shops on both sides.
Pathak said illumination installation at the corridor is also complete, which enable visitors to experience a detailed view of magnificent paintings after sunset. “The fort remains open till 9 at night now. Including Chhatta Bazaar, all Mughal-era structures are lit up in the evening, giving the visitors a spectacularly different experience altogether,” he said.
The market was earlier known for clothes and jewellery. The remaining restoration and conservation work at Red Fort started almost two years ago, is likely to be completed by this December.
“Restoration at Mumtaz Mahal has already begun. It would house a museum. It has been shut temporarily. Once we complete the work, this building along with the Asad Burj will be open to the public. Both were inaccessible to visitors earlier,” archaeological engineer Munazzar Ali said.
The museum at Mumtaz Mahal was set up in 1909. This was originally part of the Imperial seraglio, apartment of royal princess, and had undergone several changes, especially after the Revolt of 1857. At one point of time, it was used as a military prison.
The ASI has also started relaying around 1.2-kilometre roads starting from the fort’s Dilli Gate to CISF’s office near Baoli (step-well). Bitumen layer is being replaced with Delhi Quartzite stone, Pathak said.
“We are planning to relay all tarred surfaces inside the fort to revive its original look. All forts abroad have traditionally built pathways. We have started with the main stretch but may remove bitumen layer from passages,” a senior ASI official said.