Large scale restoration for Hazarduari palace planned

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The iconic Hazarduari, the palace of the Nawabs of Bengal at Murshidabad, will get a grand facelift. A massive restoration project, running into several crores, is in the offing for this imposing relic of pre-colonial era Bengal. The National Culture Fund, a wing of the union ministry of culture, is acting as the mediator between the Archaeological Survey of India – which will carry out the restoration project – and the State Bank of India regional head office in the city, which has agreed to fund the prestigious project. 

Hazarduari Palace, Murshidabad [Credit: Incredible India]

This and several other conservation/restoration projects for Bengal will be announced by the Fund on November 18 in the city during the first ever road show organized by the Fund here. The aim is to involve corporate houses with the centre to help restore priceless heritage, both built and intangible. Each of the projects on focus is on the public-private-partnership model (PPP) and the road show is being organized in collaboration with the Indian Chambers of Commerce. 

Apart from built heritage that will obviously be the focus of attention, the Fund has also invited groups that are working with intangible heritage like baul or Bengali tarja singing, patachitra painters and singers, manuscripts, paintings etc. “The Fund was set up in 1996 with the aim to preserve our rich cultural heritage. In Bengal, the ASI has identified several structures which are under its protection. However, there is a lot to be done because the state alone cannot fund all projects. We want private initiative in this endeavour. Our job is to provide this platform for liaison,” explained Shobita Punja, CEO of the Fund. 

The Hazarduari is under the protection of the ASI which had alerted the ministry of culture, to which it reports, about the immediate need to start restoring this building which was showing signs of age, in the form of cracks, a weak ceiling, damp on the walls, vegetation at many points on the exteriors, uneven flooring, termites on the wooden beams, windows and doors and of course, a general deterioration in the strength of the imposing structure. The first phase of the project will cost Rs 30 lakh for which funds have already been released by SBI, Kolkata. 

“It is a massive structure with extremely high ceilings, thick columns and pillars. So, work will progress very slowly because some portions of the building will be extremely difficult to access. Moreover, indigenous building materials like lime mortar and bricks will have to be used for the restoration job instead of cement and concrete. In those days, concrete was not used. Today, masons skilled at using brick and line mortar are not readily available. We have a tough job ahead of us,” said a heritage conservationist from ASI, Kolkata. 

The road show will see prominent corporate houses like ITC, Burn Standard, Jalan Carbon and Chemicals, East India Pharmaceuticals, Sanderson and Morgan and Balmer Lawrie, expressing their intent to join hands with the Fund, confirmed ICC chief in the city, Rajiv Singh. 

It is believed that the road show is being organized at the aegis of union culture secretary, Jawhar Sircar, a senior IAS officer from Bengal. 

Author: Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey | Source: The Times of India [November 09, 2011]

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