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Germany grants ?150,000 for conservation of Chausath Khambha in Nizamuddin

April 13, 2011 - New Delhi

To support the conservation and restoration of a 16th century Mughal-era tomb in New Delhi, Germany has signed an agreement with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) today.

The Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs is providing a grant of ?150,000 over the next two years for the restoration and urban renewal of Chausath Khambha in New Delhi's Nizamuddin area.

German Ambassador to India Mr. Thomas Matussek and Project Director for the AKTC Mr. Ratish Nanda, signed the agreement. Also present was Mr. ichael Siebert, Deputy Commissioner of the German Year in India.

"The German government is proud and honoured that we can give our humble contribution to the wonderful work that the Aga Khan Foundation is doing o preserve the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of this holy place," said Ambassador Matussek during the signing ceremony.

During his visit in October 2010, German Foreign Minister Mr. Guido Westerwelle had pledged his ministry's support to the AKTC in conserving the Chausath Khambha complex. The aim is not only to preserve an important cultural heritage site, but also to provide the local community with a space to hold large-scale events.

This year, Germany and India celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Beginning in September 2011, a Year of Germany in India titled 'Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities' is being organised throughout India. The focus of the Year is 'CitySpaces' and will deal with all aspects of urban life and development. The Chausath Khambha is an important city space and will be featured prominently.

Ambassador Matussek added, "The German contribution is a not just a financial contribution, but also a very symbolic political contribution. When we start the Year of Germany in India this summer we hope some of the cultural activities can take place here to underline the importance of what we do together."

Chausath Khambha is the tomb of Mirza Aziz Kokaltash, the great Mughal Emperor Akbar's foster brother. The tomb was built in the year 1623-24 A.D.

Conservation of Chausath Khambha will be undertaken as part of the Humayun's Tomb - Sunder Nursery - Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal initiative, a not-for-profit Public Private Partnership project of the Aga Khan Development Network in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Central Public Works Department. The project is the first of its kind to combine conservation with environmental and socio-economic development while working with local communities and stakeholders.

Chausath Khambha is so called on account of the 64 columns (Sixty four = Chausath) of the tomb structure. It is a unique structure built entirely of marble and, together with the adjacent tomb of Mirza Ghalib, comprises the largest open space in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.

The monument has suffered severe decay due to excessive water seepage and inappropriate repairs works using modern materials, in the 20th century. The water seepage has resulted in the rusting of the clamps, which in turn have severely damaged the marble. Past repairs in nearly every one of the 25 domed cells have included cementing the broken portions, thereby causing further damage and deterioration of the marble.

Also, in the 20th century, layers of concrete have been added to the roof in an inappropriate attempt to prevent water seepage. These layers will need to be carefully removed to relieve the building of additional dead weight and restore the original roof levels to ensure quick water drainage.

Conservation works by AKTC will require partial dismantling of the tomb structure and will take 18 months to complete. Conservation of the tomb will be coupled with facade and housing improvement of the surrounding residences.


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