NEW DELHI: Efforts to secure the patch of land on which the Nila Gumbad stands have finally borne fruit, with the Northern Railway handing over the plot to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). Conservation work on this earliest Mughal-era structure began this week after years of wait. The work is expected to take a year, and Nila Gumbad might become accessible to visitors of Humayun’s Tomb with the reopening of the blocked gateway. “A significant portion of the land has been secured, though the railways is still to clear up several truckloads of concrete sleepers,” said an ASI official. Conservation efforts by AKTC will be supported by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. Officials said they will focus on the tiles covering the dome and the intricate plasterwork as well as the wall paintings that adorn the ceiling of the dome. The damage caused by vibrations of rail and vehicular traffic will be curtailed to prevent any further cracks or chipping of tiles.
“The work will include stone repairs, restoring of stone jaalies, removal of cement plaster as well as landscaping,” said Rajpal Singh, AKTC chief engineer. Like its famous neighbouring world heritage site Humayun’s Tomb, Nila Gumbad was a garden-tomb portions of which were destroyed in the building of the railways. In the 1970’s, a road was built bifurcating Humayun’s Tomb and Nila Gumbad and cement has been profusely used in past repair works. “We are as such trying to undo over a century of neglect, vandalism and misuse of this most spectacular of Delhi,” said an AKTC official. The work expected to take up to two years will allow the millions of annual visitors to Humayun’s Tomb to also visit Nila Gumbad.
Senior officials from ASI meanwhile said that they planned to approach UNESCO to request that the world heritage site boundaries be extended to include Nila Gumbad. Heritage conservationists said that Nila Gumbad is the earliest Mughal-era structure in Delhi and originally stood in the riverbed and was accessible only through the Humayun’s Tomb complex. ASI had relocated 400 squatters from this area in 2002 and since 2007, AKTC and ASI have been requesting for permission to shift a road segregating the site from Humayun’s Tomb. Due to the remote location of nila gumbad, hardly any visitor comes across it which conservationists say is shame because the monument is one of the more significant and striking monuments in the capital. The gumbad is considered the earliest Mughal era structure in Delhi and was built on a river island.