Restoration Photos

Here are a few examples of monument restoration from Agra and Ajmer, all of Mughal-era structures from the 16th and 17th c AD. The usual impression we get when we visit historic monuments is that we are looking at structures that have come down over the centuries in the state we see them in presently, but in reality many of these structures have been restored and rebuilt, some multiple times. While there are a lot of arguments and positions regarding the whys and hows of restoration among the conservation/preservation community, from an architectural history viewpoint what’s important is how we can interpret historic monuments when the monument is not all as historic as made out to be. At a general level it entails analyzing the structure keeping in mind and “seeing around” the restoration. Here are the examples of what I’m referring to:

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Jahanara’s Sarai, Agra

I visited this 17th c sarai in 2009 while it was in the middle of restoration. We can see what the original (or past) condition of the structure was like on the left, and what it will look like after restoration on the right. This isn’t just a cosmetic touch-up, it’s an almost complete rebuild of the structure. What visitors will see is not the 17th c structure, but a 21st century remake of it.

I’m curious to know if they left the reconstruction at the stage indicated in this photo, thus showing an “original” side and a “reconstructed” side of the structure, or if they’re going to reconstruct the whole thing.

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Jahanara’s Sarai reconstruction

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Akbar’s Tomb Gateways, Sikandra

Akbar’s tomb complex, built in the early 17th c, consists of an enclosing wall with four gateways that surround vast gardens, at the center of which is the large mausoleum itself. What I’m interested in here is comparing the gateways. Three of these gateways seem to have been maintained or restored over the years, and the fourth (the northern gateway) seems to have been neglected. I’m comparing the northern and eastern gateways here.

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Northern Gateway to Akbar’s Tomb

Eastern Gateway to Akbar’s Tomb

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I don’t know why there is such a difference in upkeep/restoration between the two gateways. The northern gateway has either been neglected because it is furthermost from the main (southern) gate and so is in the most secluded part of the vast gardens, or it has been purposefully left unrestored to show the “original” state of the gateways. In either case, the difference between them is striking.

Note: The southern gateway to Akbar’s tomb is the most famous one, being the primary and most grand gateway, but that is the reason I did not want to use it in this comparison, even though in size the northern gateway is probably similar to the southern gateway (for reasons of symmetry, not importance). Even though the northern gateway is bigger than the eastern one, they were probably decorated to similar extents.

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Decorative details on the northern gateway

Decorative details on the (presumably restored) eastern gateway

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Akbar’s Palace, Ajmer

Just a quick look at the outer walls of Akbar’s 16th c palace, which were getting a fresh coat of paint and touch-up plaster when I visited in 2011. I wonder how many times in their existence these walls have been touched up like this. Northern India’s acute summer-rains-winter cycle means that the newly painted structure will start looking like the walls on the left again after just a few monsoons!

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One thought on “Restoration Photos

  1. amazing did you take both the before and after picture… very impressive man you apatite for this kind of active’s i wish i had some of it …..

    Like

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