NEW DELHI: The next time you visit Red Fort, you could see how the might have originally looked. work here is nearing completion, and hidden artworks on the ceiling are now fully exposed.

The has 47 shops. Its owners, at their own initiative and expense, are doing away with heavy shutters and replacing them with wooden-frame doorways topped with Mughal-style arches. This will bring the bazaar a step closer to its 17th-century look.

Each of the shops specialises in handicrafts, gems, garments, scarves, silk brocade, silverware, etc. The shops are managed by descendants of the original allottees from the Mughal times. As part of an understanding with the the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the shop owners agreed to take up conservation of the front facade of their shops to give the bazaar a more authentic look. Work on some shops has been completed. ASI officials said the wooden frames were designed based on archival images of the bazaar.

“In the centre of the arch, the shop number and name will be printed in identical fonts so there is complete uniformity. Once the work is completed in all the shops, it will give visitors an authentic Mughal feel as they walk past the bazaar through Lahori Gate to see the monuments inside,” said N K Pathak, superintending archaeologist, ASI Delhi circle.

According to ASI officials, getting every shop owner to agree to the task was challenging as many had to close their shops for a certain duration to allow construction work. Each shop-owner has paid about Rs 80,000- Rs 1 lakh for the exterior work while maintenance and structural stability will be managed by ASI. “Ever since we got the work done for my shop, I have got more customers. Visitors are very happy with the new look of the bazaar and are impressed with the uniformity in design with the historical touch,” said Pradeep Kumar Gupta of shop number 1 in the bazaar. Gupta’s Indian Arts shop was the first to change its external facade.

O P Agarwal from Art Corner said the effort on the part of the shop-owners was worth it. “Ever since the new museums have opened at Red Fort, we are getting more visitors. Everyone has to pass through Chhatta Bazaar to get inside Red Fort and all visitors appreciate the work in the bazaar,” he said.

The newly revealed paintings on the Chhatta Bazaar roof are also a huge draw. Work on exposing the hidden artwork took almost a year and was completed recently. The geometric and floral patterns had been hidden below several layers of plasterwork through the years.

“We traced impressions of the paintings wherever we could see or detect them, and then slowly worked to remove the layers of lime to expose the paintings. And the plaster was slowly peeled away,” said an official. In some places, the paintings were so delicate that only small portions could be exposed and ASI did not expose the whole painting fearing damage. The work started in October, 2017 and was completed by 2018-end.


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