NEW DELHI: Structural repair and strengthening of the 16th century Sher Shah Darwaza, also known as Lal Darwaza, and one of the surviving entrances to the sixth city of Delhi, has been completed. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had been struggling to finish the task for years due to different reasons. Built by Pashtun ruler Sher Shah Suri, the structure a fine example of Ashlar and rubble masonry work was severely damaged because of heavy rains in 2012.
“Finally, we have managed to protect the gateway after years of concentrated efforts. The work had to be stopped abruptly on occasions due to technical issues. At one point, we weren’t able to find the suitable contractor. Damaged Ashlar, red sandstone and buff stones on the façade have been replaced. We have also restored façade design and random rubble masonry in the southern side,” said an ASI official.
Ashlar masonry is made of large square-cut stones, used as a facing on walls of brick or stone rubble. In 2016, the ASI started its reinstatement, which was to be completed within a year. The work had come to an abrupt halt in 2017 following an issue with the contractor engaged for the project, after which it remained suspended as no suitable labour contractor could be found. Later, rules for hiring contractors changed, which further delayed the conservation.
The ASI floated the tender for the project twice but no one had come forward. The officials said that one of the main reasons for the cold response of the contractors was the structure’s complexity — use of heavy Ashlars. The project resumed around August in 2019. The official said as the structure had been stabilised, the agency would turn its focus on conservation of its architectural features Kangoorey (crenels) on the top.
“Now, Kangoorey are to be restored for which a new estimate will be proposed. We may also take up another portion of damaged fortification, which had fallen in rains last year,” said the official. The officials said as the gateway had been conserved, the higher authority might take a decision to remove bricked support, which was raised to support the structure.