Rain ravages Badshahi Masjid
* Leaks through cracks in the dome damaging fresco work
By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE: The recent rains have deepened cracks in the domes of the Badshahi Masjid and water leaks have chipped off fresco work on the inner surface of the domes.
Rainwater has also damaged the red sand stone courtyard of the mosque, one of Lahore’s architectural icons. The mosque is owned by the Punjab Auqaf Department and is a protected monument under the Punjab Special Premises Preservation Ordinance of 1985. The Punjab Archaeology Department is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the mosque.
Archaeology Department sources told Daily Times that the tops of the three domes had developed cracks over the years. “The rains in July and August have widened the cracks. Rainwater seeping through the cracks has damaged precious fresco work,” they said.
The Archaeology Department mooted a project to restore some damaged frescoes, but the project never saw the light of day because of “the authorities’ casual approach to such repairs,” the sources said.
Archaeology experts told Daily Times that the seepage of rainwater through the cracks in the domes must be stopped before the fresco work can be restored. “The frescoes will not last long if water leaks are not sealed, they said, adding that sealers were abundantly available in the market. There is also a risk of structural damage to the building if the cracks on the domes are not sealed in the next few years, the experts warned.
The experts said the surface of the courtyard had worn out because of the way the red sandstone had been laid. “The sandstone is laid flat on top of bricks. Rainwater seeps into the pores in the stones. When the water evaporates, it chips off the stone,” an expert said. The problem does not apply if sandstone is laid vertically.
Replacing the red sandstone will not be easy. “The quality of red sandstone in the mosque’s courtyard is not available in Pakistan. Stone of that quality is found only in Rajistan in India, and India has banned exports of the stone.”
The department sources said though several complaints had been registered with the Auqaf and Archaeology departments about the damage done by the rainwater, no action had been taken.
The Auqaf Department reportedly plans to open the mosque’s minarets to the general public with an entry fee of Rs 5. However, the Archaeology Department official opposed the idea, saying this would cause a lot of wear and tear that would cost more money than could be generated by charging entry fees to the minarets.
The Badshahi Masjid was built on the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir in 1673-74 and has since become a symbol of Lahore as a city of culture and rich historical traditions.