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More history to see at Mehrauli Park as key structures get a fresh lease of life

NEW DELHI: This winter, tourists will have another reason to visit Mehrauli Archaeological Park in south Delhi, known for historic sites like the Jamali Kamali mosque and the popular Qutub Minar that lies adjacent.
At least four major structures in the 200-acre complex — the 13th-century Balban Tomb, Metcalfe’s Folly built in the 1850s by British government official Charles Metcalfe, Quli Khan’s Tomb built in 1575 AD, and Chaumukha Darwaza, part of Lal Kot fort — are being given a fresh lease of life.


Following the directions of lieutenant governor V K Saxena and his repeated visits to the place, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Delhi government’s department of archaeology and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began a joint project to conserve and restore the historical monuments about six months ago, according to an official in the LG Secretariat.
The agencies were also tasked with the responsibility to carry out necessary repairs and maintenance work, beautification, landscaping and desilting in and around the sites.
While most of the project has been completed, the deadline for completing the remaining restoration work at Balban’s Tomb and Chamukha Darwaza has been set as October 31.
Meanwhile, restoration of Metcalfe’s Boathouse and a water body nearby has been completed. This includes installation of fountains and lights as well as development of manicured lawns and an interpretation centre at Metcalfe guesthouse.
“When the LG visited the place in February, May and July, he found the monuments crumbling and covered with unwanted vegetation. He held several coordination meetings to resolve inter-departmental issues and helped secure approvals from statutory bodies. The restoration task started, but it was challenging for the agencies as the sites were damaged and inaccessible. However, the teams carried out the tasks in a time bound manner,” said the official.
The walls of some structures were covered with algae, the lawn had garbage and all viewpoints of Qutub Minar were blocked. Reaching the sites was a challenge too, as the pathways were broken in many places. While Metcalfe’s Boathouse was filled with sludge, the sewer line was filled with silt.
The monuments were surrounded with broken rocks, bricks and garbage. Moreover, poor lighting and several dark spots had made the park difficult to navigate and unsafe for visitors in the evening. There was also no proper provision for benches and dustbins, said the official.
“The LG emphasised on proper coordination to simplify the tasks. Rejuvenation of a water body, repair of monuments and landscaping required permissions for transplantation, pruning and removal of fallen trees. These permissions were obtained in a timebound manner due to his intervention. The departments also took the help of Delhi Jal Board and Municipal Corporation of Delhi for removing garbage and cleaning drains,” added the official.
The damaged arches inside Metcalfe’s boathouse have been restored while the canopy of Metcalfe’s Folly has been cleaned. Chaumukha Darwaza, earlier hiding behind overgrown wild vegetation, bushes and trees, now faces a manicured lawn.
The official said the “lush green corridor and proper lighting” have transformed the park. “While the repair of Balban’s Tomb, restoration of calligraphy on the gravestone and signage is being done, beautification works are completed,” he said, adding that the walkways have been repaired and a cafeteria has been developed in the vicinity.

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