New Delhi: The pieces of the iconic finial of the main dome of the Mughal-era Jama Masjid here, which had fallen off on its terrace below in a storm, have been brought down using a skylift and safely stored.
A scientist who was involved in the process also said on Sunday that trials have been conducted and assessments made and there will be attempts on Tuesday or Wednesday to dismount the heavy pieces precariously hanging from the dome.
”On Saturday, using a skylift brought from the fire department, the pieces of the finial that had got dislodged and fallen off on the terrace below the dome were brought down and safely stored,” scientist and innovator Mirza M Arif told PTI.
Arif has been engaged by the Jama Masjid, along with heritage experts from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), to plan the removal of the dangling part of the finial of the main dome of the 17th-century mosque, which was damaged in a fierce thunderstorm recently.
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Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari had earlier said as part of the plan, aerial photographs of the mosque, with closer shots of the main dome, were taken to aid the experts. The finial originally stood about 12-15 feet from the top of the dome and the dangling part would weigh around 350 kg, he had said.
”We first carried out a preliminary assessment as to how the pieces can be dismounted safely and on Saturday, I was able to get close to the pieces dangling on the top of the dome and take pictures and even safely touch it, riding in a skylift. We have made a drawing plan and accordingly, jigs and fixtures shall be made that will be used in the rescue plan,” said Arif, who is a mechanical engineering expert.
”We will attempt it on Tuesday or Wednesday, using a crane, depending on its availability from the Delhi Fire Services. But we are hopeful that this plan shall work,” he added.
The finial has 12 components, including a rod in its core that had got broken in the storm, which had uprooted hundreds of trees across Delhi and caused damage to other properties too, Arif said.
”Eight components plus a long piece of broken rod had fallen on the terrace, while the three remaining pieces hanging precariously from the base of the broken rod in the core are still up there. The top of the dome stands 35 feet high from the terrace level, which itself stands about 60 feet above the floor surface of the mosque’s courtyard,” he added.
The Shahi Imam of the mosque had said on Thursday that the dangling part is posing a threat to the wall and the minarets near it, and to the people on the ground too as there is a risk that if it rolls off the dome, it may hit the wall and pieces of stone may fall on the ground. ”So we are chalking out a plan to first safely bring down the dangling part of the damaged finial,” he had said.
On May 31, a day after the storm hit Delhi, Bukhari had written to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), requesting the removal of the dangling part of the crown and the repairing of the ornamental structure that has topped the grand mosque since its construction.
”We have not received any response from the ASI, so we are planning on our own,” the Shahi Imam had said.
On May 31, Delhi Waqf Board Chairman Amanatullah Khan and a team of experts from the INTACH had visited the Jama Masjid, located in the heart of the Walled City, and inspected the damage caused to the finial. Khan had also gone up on the terrace to see the damaged parts lying there, accompanied by other officials.
A senior INTACH official had on Thursday said, ”This is an emergency scenario and we as a heritage institution have decided to help in this process for the safety of people and the monument.” ”Our team visited the Jama Masjid premises after the storm. Even a couple of months ago, a team from the INTACH had visited the Jama Masjid as the mosque authorities have been contemplating a conservation project,” the official told PTI.
Asked if the finial, which is as old as the mosque, can be repaired, the INTACH official said it is repair-worthy.
”It is also a piece of heritage and it has just got broken, which needs to be fixed and the ensemble reinstalled,” she said, adding that only a metallurgical examination can tell the exact composition of the material used in the making of the finial.
”The part which is still hanging from the main dome would weigh around 350 kg and the entire ensemble weight would have been about 500 kg. So it is essential to remove that portion from the dome,” Bukhari had said earlier.
An architectural jewel and a very popular tourist attraction, Jama Masjid is a 17th-century monument. Originally named as the Masjid-e-Jehan Numah, it was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan.
Shahjahan himself had laid the foundation stone on the strong basements of a hillock on October 6, 1650, which was a Friday. The grand mosque was completed in 1656, according to information shared by the Shahi Imam’s Office.
Bukhari had described the rampaging storm as something he had ”never seen” in his entire life.