Heritage in ruins

Heritage in ruins

Monumental neglect

Heritage in ruins

Tucked between the world heritage site Qutub Minar complex and the upcoming SoHo of Delhi Lado Sarai market, Mehrauli Archaeological park is neither short on magnificence nor heritage value, but do the architectural marvels of Mehrauli get the treatment they deserve?

Mehrauli Archaeological Park has signboards that read: It is an archaeological site; but when Metrolife visited the site on a casual Saturday morning, it observed that the park, comprising a multitude of historical monuments, was converted into a makeshift cricket pitch on one end and a football ground on another. If that wasn’t enough, there are cowherds grazing their cattle on the unkempt and neglected wild grass that grows in abundance.

In collaboration with Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) worked extensively for the conservation of Mehrauli Archaeological Park by introducing signages, heritage trails and heritage walks inside the park. According to INTACH, they have funded the conservation of 42 monuments, which have been conserved in six phases. In no small measure, this initiative resulted in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park being designated an ‘archaeological park’ in the Delhi Master Plan 2021. Several encroachments had to be removed and the park boundary was fenced during these six phases.

Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, a photographer cum heritage activist, who carries out heritage walks in this park says, “The expanse of the park doesn’t allow you to cover more than 20-25 monuments spread over two days of a group walk. It’s a matter of security as well.

For instance, the jheel behind Jamali Kamali is littered with garbage and doesn’t have any water in it. If you venture deep inside, you might not even find mobile network. One needs to be cautious about the security of the group under such conditions.” While he maintains that security and cleanliness is a concern, he cannot stop marvelling at the magnificent monuments that the park treasures.

Adding to it, he tosses around an idea, “Delhi Transport Corporation’s HoHo bus service connects tourists to the neighbouring Qutub Minar. It would be so much better if the same could be extended to the adjacent park which has been designated as an archaeological site.”

The residents around this archaeological garden have their own set of concerns. Sandeep Bali, the president of Mehrauli Resident Welfare Association says, “The park is infested with illegal encroachments such as the one’s at Kala Mahal and Maa ki Masjid.

We got together and started a ‘Save the Park’ campaign recently to protest the huge stockpiles of garbage that MCD dumps around Balban’s tomb.” On behalf of the residents, he complains about the lack of lighting and proper walking passages that deter strolls in the area and also mar the possibility to increase tourism.