Lovely and unattainable is the idea, to live a life full of luxury. The idea to possess massive bedrooms, and huge windows, a typical Jodha-Akbar picturesque as our livelihood, is a fantasy that must have gripped us all once in our lifetime. We all want to climb down those beautiful stairway while reigning in all authority, a place for the powerful and a place for royalty. My mind always turns to a creative la-la land, when I imagine myself running in the corridors of Red Fort, Amer Fort or Taj Mahal. Theirs’ was a life, a life to live, to cherish and most importantly, to uphold.
However, of late, we have to face the ugly façade of the monuments that consists of renowned and highly-acknowledged-in-books heritage. Monuments are to be celebrated, writing the name of your loved ones on those walls would immortalise the love, spitting near the staircases of some monuments would leave the trail of bloodshed it once endured behind. Yes, monuments are our heritage, and we do everything to protect them, but how do we protect it from us and our rampant actions?
Zafar Mahal was originally built by Akbar II and was later chosen by Bahadur Shah Zafar II as his ‘Summer Palace’. The forsaken 18th century palace where the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II wished to be royally buried, is now infamous for its illegal constructions and squatters and of course, the crumbling walls.
The imposing three-storeyed main gate of the monument made of red sandstone, with marbled relief, was built by Bahadur Shah to allow elephants to enter the palace. Known as ‘Hathi Gate’, the structure with its projected windows with curved Bengali domes, leads to arcades on the South and East of the palace. Now, since elephants cannot justify the existence of ‘Hathi Gate’, we have many cars using it as a parking spot, the owners of which live two metres away (approximately), as mentioned in The Hindu. They will not act as the conscious citizens and help in protecting the sanctity of the monument, but they will definitely act as exploiters of their own heritage.
The monument which was declared to be of national importance back in 1920, is literally crumbling. The royal rooms on the upper floors no longer exist and even as some stairs, roofs and gates have disappeared, because souvenirs. The marble ‘Sardgah’ where Bahadur Shah desired to be buried and the tombs of Akbar Shah II and Mirza Jahangir have also been vandalised.
Construction of buildings is not a naïve concept for the monument to endure. A newly built five-storey building, that is yet to be painted, gloriously stands right on the boundary wall of the crumbling palace. Construction of the foundation of another such high rise is underway, again on the same wall as the monument. With constant ASI intervention regarding the matter, no action has been taken yet. The ASI claims it has followed the entire SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and taken measures accordingly. Apparently, they lack of policing power over the matter, and hence are incapable to taking a stance against the squatters.
Celebrating the existence of Taj Mahal for being renowned worldly, while degrading the monuments that aren’t much in ‘fame’, showcases nothing but the ferocious grip bigotry has on our society.
It’s time for ASI to grip their hold and protect the monuments and the historical sites that should be protected, without any further delay, or rather, without any coming-of-being of other illegal constructions.