The 396-year-old Dewan-e-Khaas in the historic Shalimar garden has been restored to its old glory. Thanks to German Embassy, the ancient Dewan-e-Khaas was formally opened for public viewing on Monday. From providing the technical expertise to financial support, the German ambassador to India Dr Martin Ney pulled out all stops to help in restoring the Mughal monument.This came three years after Zubin Mehta-led Bavarian State Orchestra held Ehsaas-e-Kashmir (feeling of Kashmir) concert in the Shalimar garden sparking off massive protests. Four people were killed when CRPF fired at bikers at Gargran-Shopian on September 7, 2013.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Organised and sponsored by the then German ambassador to New Delhi Michael Steiner, the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir show had generated a lot of heat on the political front with separatists and civil society urging him not to “legitimize occupation via a musical concert”.Fast forward to 2016, Germany’s new ambassador to India Dr Martin Ney inaugurated the first phase of the restoration of Dewan-e-Khaas at Shalimar garden on Monday.”Since 1981 Germany has spent more than Rs400 crore on 2,650 projects aimed to preserve cultural heritage in 144 countries. In India alone more than 50 such projects have been undertaken and Rs 22 lakh Dewan-e-Khaas project has now been added to the renowned list of such heritage sites in India,” Dr Ney said.Built by Emperor Jahangir (1605-27 AD), the magnificent Shalimar garden was opened in 1620 AD. The 31 acre garden, which is on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage site since 2010, also houses Deewan-e-Aam and Deewan-e-Khaas that was used by Mughal royals to meet the people and their spouses.Located on the fourth terrace in the erstwhile zennana (women) quarter of the garden, the Dewan-e-Khaas is positioned in the middle of the terrace amidst a pool of water replete with an array of as many as 120 fountains. The pavilion is single storey, square in plan and has four large openings or vistas, one each on all sides.”The ceilings and naqashi (design) work in both Dewan-e-Aam and Dewan-e-Khaas, had over a period of years deteriorated. The wall naqashi has been periodically redone, most of the time inappropriately, resulting in interventions that have impacted the authenticity of the forms, materials and colors. Further, significant damage has taken place due to seepage of rain water from the roof of Dewan-e-Khaas due to damage to wooden roof”, said Saleem Beg, convenor Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), J&K chapter.Alarmed by the damage, the INTACH Kashmir Chapter had submitted a proposal to German Embassy to help and support a restoration project for Dewan-e-Khaas in 2014. The proposal comprised mainly of restoring the papier mache ceiling and to the extent possible, the wall mouldings, which consequently led to the funding of the papier mache ceiling work in the Dewan-e-Khaas.After receiving approval, the restoration work was started and completed in December 2015. “Prior to taking up onsite conservation of the panels, the conservators were trained in the Art Conservation Centre of INTACH Delhi initially and then at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts,(IGNCA) Delhi”, Beg said.INTACH, Kashmir Chapter undertook the conservation of the ceiling panels in March 2015 and a specialised conservation lab was established on site. “The panels were suffering from a host of conservation issues like material decay, wood rot, loosening up of supports, deterioration of fabric, insect and fungal damages and previous inappropriate repairs,” he said.On tentative list of UNESCO world heritage siteBuilt by Emperor Jahangir (1605-27 AD), the magnificent Shalimar garden was opened in 1620 AD. The 31 acre garden, which is on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage site since 2010, also houses Deewan-e-Aam and Deewan-e-Khaas that was used by Mughal royals to meet the people and their spouses. Located on the fourth terrace in the erstwhile zennana (women) quarter of the garden, the Dewan-e-Khaas is positioned in the middle of the terrace amidst a pool of water replete with an array of as many as 120 fountains. The pavilion is single storey, square in plan and has four large openings or vistas, one each on all sides.

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396-year-old Mughal Dewan-e-Khaas comes alive in a new avatar