A tomb brought to life: The mausoleum of Akbar’s courtier Abdur Rahim believed to inspire Taj Mahal restored to original glory

December 20, 2020 0 By boss


The 16th-century mausoleum of one of the nine prominent courtiers during Mughal emperor Akbar’s reign, which is believed to inspire the Taj Mahal, has been restored to its lost glory and is now open to the public.

The national capital has another renovated monument to boast of. This week, six years of conservation efforts of the majestic garden-tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khana in the Nizamuddin area, Delhi, have finally borne fruit. The 16th-century mausoleum of one of the nine prominent courtiers during Mughal emperor Akbar’s reign, which is believed to inspire the Taj Mahal, has been restored to its lost glory and is now open to the public.

With major structural problems, deep cracks in the crypt, first floor and within the dome, the tomb built in red sandstone with white marble inlay was under renovation by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) as part of its ‘Nizamuddin area Urban Renewal Initiative’ in association with Archaeological Survey of India. The project was funded by the InterGlobe Foundation.

“Conservation at Rahim’s tomb has been possible with a public-private partnership. Not only has a significant monument been conserved for posterity but dignity has been restored to the resting place of the cultural icon, Rahim. This conservation brings to life a monument with thousands of years of building craft traditions with recourse to an interdisciplinary scientific approach. The effort is a result of 175,000 craft days of work,” says Ratish Nanda, chief executive officer, AKTC.

As part of the meticulous conservation exercise, the entire structure has been restrengthened. Skilled artisans were pressed into service for cleaning of the internal surface and repair of the decorative plaster, sandstone flooring in the hall, dalans, chattris, dome and façade. The landscape around Rahim’s tomb has also been restored to the original slopes and height. The conservation of the dome has been completed with a symbolic addition of marble cladding. The central façade and its missing medallions have also been restored.

This is the largest heritage conservation project undertaken by Interglobe Foundation in recent years to focus on revival of dying art and generate economic opportunities for craftspeople. Rohini Bhatia, chairperson, InterGlobe Foundation, the CSR arm of the InterGlobe Group, says, “India is known for its cultural heritage hence the preservation of art and culture is essential. As part of the physical restoration of Rahim’s mausoleum, we have established the relevance of the site and created awareness among communities towards the need for preservation of heritage, impacting thousands of lives while preserving the historical and cultural values.”

The revival efforts will also witness compilation of Rahim’s literary works and archival research on his life and works by eminent scholars, culminating in an English publication titled Celebrating Rahim.

The mausoleum is one of the most prominently located Mughal era monuments in the national capital, standing on two major transport arteries used by over two million commuters daily. It was strategically built close to the shrine of 13th-century Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya on the banks of the river Yamuna.

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