At Humayun's Tomb, the 'king' gets its 'crown' back

The historic Humayun's Tomb in the capital city has finally got its finial back, after a storm dislodged its iconic 'crown' last May.

At Humayun's Tomb, the 'king' gets its 'crown' back

New Delhi: The historic Humayun's Tomb in the capital city has finally got its finial back, after a storm dislodged its iconic 'crown' last May.

"The new finial was installed sometime last week," ASI Delhi Circle Superintendent Archaeologist Atul Kumar Bharagawa said.

Almost a replica of the previous one, the new finial is made of 99.5 per cent pure copper and traditional craftsmen worked on it to match the perfection of the original art piece.

On May 30, the ornamental and "auspicious" finial installed atop the dome of the 16th century tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was damaged by a massive thunderstorm that hit the city and its neighbouring region, after being dislodged from its apex position.

The 18-foot-long finial had 11 copper vessels covered with a gold finish and a brass crown. It had a wooden beam inside made of Sal wood.

After an initial study carried out jointly by a team of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and AKTC (Aga Khan Trust for Culture), AKTC was asked to prepare the report in June.

After AKTC submitted its report on July 16, the ASI sent samples from the broken finial to IIT-Kanpur and ASI's own chemical laboratory in Uttarakhand to corroborate the findings of AKTC. And, AKTC was finally given permission on December 31 to carry out repair work.

The total length of the finial is 24-ft, with some part going inside of the dome. A makeshift lightning conductor was also installed by the ASI soon after the storm had rendered the monument vulnerable.

"After months of hard work, we have finally brought the finial back on top of the dome. To carry out the installation, we had to put up 140-ft-high scaffolding," Project Director, AKTC, Ratish Nanda, said.

He said though efforts have been made to bring out an exact match, the gold leaves on it are just a plating, but idea is to get it done in all gold eventually.

"We are looking for a corporate sponsorship to get the leaves done completely in gold. Once we get it, we will redo the finial with all gold work," Nanda said.

According to ASI archives, the finial was last dismantled and repaired by the British in 1912, who also did a documentation of the object, which helped the team in its reconstruction.

"The 11 copper vessels, covered with a gold finish, were

in a friable state and had been repaired several times over the last five centuries. Each of the vessel was weighed and studied separately to allow comparisons with the original profile and carefully map the damage," Nanda said.

He said, the sal wood had pulverised due to water retention following late 20th century repairs using cement that had blocked water outlet.

He added that in keeping with the conservation philosophy of the Humayun's Tomb conservation, traditional craftsmen were engaged to prepare the vessels just as they were prepared five centuries ago.

"We got some of these craftsmen in Chawri Bazar here, but it was not easy, putting this together. But, we did not want to compromise on the heritage value of the finial.

"I am glad the crown is finally back on the king's head," a senior ASI official said.

Nanda said, "The old finial will be kept in the new, onsite museum coming up at the Tomb. It will be its centre-piece." 

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