Pieces of the iconic finial of the main dome of 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.
Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari on Sunday said that the mosque authorities, the Delhi Waqf Board, and “a team of heritage experts from INTACH only” will be deciding the plausible ways to dismount the heavy pieces still precariously hanging from the dome.
An engineering expert who had earlier been involved in the process, has suggested ways to remove the dangling part using a crane, but it sounds not very convincing, and “fraught with risk,” he said.
“So now we have decided to go with what INTACH will suggest. Two of their engineers have also visited the mosque premises. It’s a big engineering challenge, and we want to give responsibility to people who are experts in this,” Bukhari said.
Trials had been conducted and assessments made and attempts are planned to be made to dismount the heavy pieces precariously hanging from the dome, early next week, scientist and innovator Mirza M Arif had said earlier in the day.
However, Bukhari said, everything now will be done as par INTACH team’s direction.
“We are still brainstorming to ensure the safe removal of the dangling onion (finial piece),” a senior INTACH official said.
On Saturday, using a skylift loaned from the fire department, pieces of the finial which had got dislodged and fallen off on the terrace below the dome, had been brought down, and safely stored.
The fierce thunderstorm had hit Delhi on May 30. The finial has multiple components including a rod in its core which had got broken in the storm that had also uprooted several hundreds of trees across Delhi and caused damage to other properties too.
Jama Masjid and Delhi Waqf Board authorities have since been planning the removal of the dangling part of the finial of the main dome of the 17th century grand mosque.
Bukhari had earlier had said that as part of the plan, aerial photographs of the mosque, with closer shots of the main dome have also been taken to help the experts. The finial originally stood about 12-15 ft from the top of the dome, and the dangling part would weigh around 350 kg, he had said.
Jama Masjid Shahi Imam on Thursday had said that the dangling part is posing a threat to the wall and minarets near it, and to people on 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 ground. “So, we are chalking out a plan to first safely bring down the dangling part of the damaged finial.” On May 31, a day after the storm hit Delhi, Bukhari had written to the ASI requesting removal of the dangling part of the crown and repair of the ornamental structure that has topped the grand mosque since its construction.
“We have not received any response from ASI on our request, so we are planning on our own,” the Shahi Imam had earlier said.
The same day Delhi Waqf Board Chairman Amanatullah Khan and a team of experts from INTACH had visited 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 with other officials to see the damaged parts lying there.
A INTACH senior 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 the people and the monument”.
“Our team had recently visited the Jama Masjid premises after the storm. Even couple of months ago, a team from INTACH had visited as Jama Masjid 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, yes, 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 only metallurgical examination can tell the exact composition of the material used in making 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 earlier said.
An architectural jewel and a very popular tourist attraction, Jama Masjid, a 17th century monument, was originally named Masjid-e-Jehan Numah, and was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan.
He himself had laid the foundation of 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, on its history.
Bukhari had described the rampaging storm as something he had “never seen” in his entire life.