School kids visit Isa Khan’s restored tomb in Delhi

New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) Over 1,500 children from 25 schools in the national capital Thursday took a walk through the pages of history as they were taken on a guided tour of Isa Khan’s Garden Tomb in the Humayun’s Tomb complex during the unveiling of the restored monument.

The 16th century monument was undergoing major conservation for the past 27 months by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the World Monument Foundation with the help of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to bring it back to its pristine glory.

The children went around the pillared mausoleum which is topped by an inverted flower-shaped dome with smaller supporting domes. A sunken garden, freshly landscaped, is the natural backdrop of the tomb built during the lifetime of Isa Khan Niyazi around 1547-48 AD.

Isa Khan Niyazi was an Afghan noble in emperor Sher Shah Suri’s court.

The sunken garden around the tomb found during the first stages of conservation in 2011 is believed to be one of the earliest examples of sunken gardens used as models for the landscapes around Emperor Akbar’s mausoleum in Sikandra near Agra and the Taj Mahal.

The young visitors were told about the tomb’s history and a urban heritage renewal project in the Nizamuddin area under which the tomb was restored.

The restored tomb was unveiled by secretary of culture Sangeeta Gairola, president and CEO of World’s Monument Fund Bonnie Burnham and ASI director-general Praveen Shrivastava. Burnham flew in from New York to be present on the occasion. The opening co-incided with the World Haritage Day celebrations in the capital.

Since 2010, both these gardens, part of the Humayun Tomb World Heritage Site, have undergone “painstaking conservation and landscaped restoration carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and ASI with co-funding from the World Monuments Fund,” said Ratish Nanda, project director of the Humayun’s Tomb-Sunder Nursery-Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Initiative.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture said the restoration was preceded by a yearlong programme of documentation, structural condition, assessment and archival research on the basis of which a conservation plan was prepared. The plan was reviewed by a group of national and international experts before the restoration work began.

Work was in progress simultaneously at the Isa Khan’s Garden Tomb and Bu Halima’s garden tomb in the same complex. Bu Halima was a noble woman who held an important position in the Mughal empire during the reign of Babur, the first Mughal emperor.

In Isa Khan’s tomb, the restoration of the ornamentation was the priority while the reconstruction of the collapsed portions of the garden enclosure using traditional material, tools and crafts was important, a spokesperson for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture said.

Stone carvers, masons, plasterers, tile-makers, carpenters, and gardeners have worked along with engineers, and landscape and conservation architects to reproduce the intricate skills of the 16th century builders, the spokesperson said.

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