NEW DELHI: Conservation of Subz Burj, one of the unique double-domed architectural gems in the national capital located on a traffic island close to Nizamuddin Police Station, has been completed after three years of concentrated efforts carried out by Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).
Sandstone lattice screens (Jaalis) have been restored at arched doorways where unsightly iron frames were installed. Rare gold and lapis lazuli paintings and incised plaster patterns on the ceiling have also been exposed after a careful cleaning process done under the watchful supervision of the experts.
Intricate artwork on the ceiling, which was buried under layers of chemicals used during its restoration in the 1920s, is now visible almost after 100 years.
The dome and elongated neck of the structure, which was originally a tomb, is adorned once again with green, yellow and blue glazed quartz tiles.
In 1986, ordinary terracotta tiles were placed with cement mortar by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) during restoration undertaken causally, which had led to water seepage. The leakage, in turn, started damaging the ceiling paintings.
According to Ratish Nanda, chief executive officer (CEO) of the trust, no information about its date of construction and the person who was laid to rest here is available.
“Its architecture features such as incredible artwork, tiles, and jaalis, especially the painting on its ceiling makes it rare. The opulent gold artwork and proximity to the shrine of the 13th century Sufi-Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya suggest that the sepulchre must have been of a powerful and close noble of the ruler. Another fascinating feature is the irregular pattern of façade of this octagonal building, which is not common on Islamic monuments,” said Nanda.
Originally, the structure dome was decorated with glazed green tiles thus deriving the name — Subz Burj, which means ‘green tower’. As per the historical references, the grave was visible in the foyer till 1919, which was probably removed when the structure was converted into a police station by the British.
The conservation was made possible with funds under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from Havells India Limited, which has also helped in the illumination of the 500- year-old mausoleum built in the Timurid style of architecture from Central Asia sometimes after the defeat of the Lodi Afghan dynasty at the hand of Mughals in AD 1526.