Australian team in Chennai to pick up restoration tips - 20 Feb 2020

The Hindu, Chennai – 20 February 2020

Work on Humayun Mahal, using traditional conservation techniques, comes in for high praise. Mughal-era techniques, followed for conservation of heritage buildings in the Chepauk Palace complex, have caught the attention of Australian heritage experts.

A seven-member delegation from Australia was in the city on Wednesday to learn about the traditional techniques adopted for restoring Humayun Mahal. They were all praise for the use of traditional methods, particularly the Kangeyam bulls employed to grind lime mortar used to plaster walls.

Australian delegates visiting Kalas Mahal where the traditional renovation is being undertaken. Photo Credit: S_R_Raghunathan

The delegates, who were part of AusHeritage, a network of cultural heritage management organisations established by the Australian government, had a meeting with Building Centre and Conservation Division (BCCD), Public Works Department (PWD), and also walked around the historic Humayan Mahal that is being restored.

C. Kalyanasundaram, superintending engineer, BCCD, said that they explained the laborious process involved in conservation of heritage structures and the Mughal plastering technique.

Australian experts also made a presentation about Australian conservation techniques. Roger Beeston, deputy chairman, AusHeritage, said, “It was great to learn about revival of traditional craftsmanship and materials sourced from specific locations to ensure quality. The process of preparing lime mortar is universal. But India has some unique additives like jaggery and curd. The labour-intensive work is not possible in Australia where it is expensive.”

“There are 16 steps in Australian heritage conservation and conservation management planning is given more priority there. More balance is required between engineering and architecture in Indian style of conservation,” he said.

The delegation had earlier visited Malaysia and will visit Delhi next. AusHeritage’s chairman Vinod Daniel said a team had already visited Chepauk Palace last year. “We are exploring the possibility of long-term collaboration with the PWD. We shared conservation management and preservation of heritage collections and how to document and communicate about preservation,” he said.

K.P. Sathyamurthy, joint chief engineer, PWD, said nearly 50% of the work on Humayun Mahal is complete. The project is expected to be completed early next year.

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