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India: Mughal gateway collapses in North Delhi
Rapid urbanization and authorities' neglect seem to have caused irreparable damage to some of Delhi's heritage structures. An early 18th century gateway built by Maldhar Khan, Nazir during the reign of Mohammed Shah, collapsed in north Delhi on Sunday morning. It was one of the two gateways leading to the garden of Maldhar Khan, which has also disappeared over the years. The surviving structure is in a dilapidated state having seen no conservation work over decades.

Mughal gateway collapses in North Delhi
The structure was one of two gateways leading to the garden of Maldhar Khan 
[Credit: Sanjeev Rastogi]

Both the gateways are located on GT Road, close to ASI-protected Tripolia gateways. Nobody was hurt when the structure collapsed on Sunday. One could only see rubble, debris and remains of the monument on Monday, with only some portions left standing. "It's fortunate no one was hurt when the building came tumbling down. We have never seen the authorities showing any interest to preserve this building, even though it dates back to 1710,'' said Vinod Bansal, who owns a shop adjacent to the collapsed gateway.

It is not clear which agency has jurisdiction over the monument. But encroachment is rampant in the area with many heritage structures being damaged by vandals and squatters. "I have been living here for many years. I used to pay rent for running my shop in the building to its owner. We knew the building was going to collapse as we saw small pieces of debris falling and noticed an unusual tilt to the monument early on Sunday. My shop has been closed as the whole building is declared dangerous now,'' said Niranjan Sharma, who had a telecommunications shop right next to the gateway entrance.

According to Intach Heritage listing, the double-height gateway was originally faced with red sandstone. The upper floor was taken over as a residence years ago, which is the only portion still standing.

Mughal gateway collapses in North Delhi
The second gate has been likewise neglected for years
[Credit: Sanjeev Rastogi]

The surviving gateway to the garden of Maldhar Khan, meanwhile, is also falling to pieces.

Sources said both the gateways were surveyed and identified by the department of archaeology for conservation and protection under the Delhi Archaeology Act. While it is unclear whether the department had identified both gateways for protection or just one,

Experts said the delay in implementing conservation measures had caused more damage to them. Officials from the department of archaeology did not respond to calls made by TOI.

Both structures also figure in the municipal corporation's list of notified heritage buildings. North Corporation commissioner P K Gupta said: "We'll have to look into the reasons of the collapse and determine the building's ownership. Action will be taken accordingly.'' The Maharana Pratap Bagh RWA has also written to the Delhi government over the collapse, accusing them of negligence.

"This historic building was heavily encroached upon. The department of archaeology failed to take action, which led to this,'' said Saurabh Gandhi, RWA president. On Monday, a team from ASI visited the site to assess whether the collapse had any effect on the Tripolia gateways.

While much is not known about the history of the gateways, experts say there were older than the ASI-protected Tripolia gateways. While Tripolia was built in 1728, these two gateways were built in 1710. History has it that they were built by Maldhar Khan, Nazir during the reign of Mohammed Shah Rangila. The two gateways used to lead to a beautiful garden also built by Khan. The garden vanished many years ago, and only can only see a clutter of shops and crowded houses there now. Not much is known about Maldhar Khan but it is assumed he was an influential noble and gifted architect.

Author: Richi Verma | Source: Times of India [July 07, 2015]