LAHORE: The gems of Lahore’s cultural heritage are in grave danger, due to inadequate attention by authorities responsible for their upkeep.
The marble facade of the Hazuri Bagh Baradari, situated in the heart of the provincial capital, is beginning to show signs of damage caused by commercial activity. According to sources familiar with the matter, the 18-century pavilion, that once served as Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s court, is being rented out for private events.
Not too long ago, the pavilion, which sits at the center of the Hazuri Bagh quadrangle, was being maintained by the archeological department.
Back then, the department guarded the historical structure against the hammering of nails and any other activity that could cause damage to the site. Under the Walled City of Lahore Authority, a semi-government body, responsible for the conservation and management of the city’s historical sites, the Baradari has received significant hammering.
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Commercial activity has left the elegantly carved marble pillars that support the pavilion riddled with nails and cracks. Historians have said the delicately cusped arches and pillars that support them, were carved out of a very rare marble at the time.
On the recommendation of his attendant, Ranjit Singh, the leader of the Sikh empire, commissioned the pavilion. Dwarfed by the martial scale of the Alamgiri Gate, the Badshahi mosque, the newer Roshnai gate to the north, the pavilion was originally a three-story structure along with a basement.
While the pavilion is declining, Old City management seems to be mum about the condition of the historic site. The marble pillars that survived the test of time, and flooring upon which the leader of the Sikh empire once dispensed justice, is gradually losing its rich historical value.
Ostensibly built to celebrate the acquisition of the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond, several historic gems surround the pavilion, including the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh. Standing serenely at the center of a vast quadrangle, the Baradari is in dire need of attention, according to historians.
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In its defense, the Old City management said it was doing everything to protect the historical sites in the city.
“We plan to repair the damaged marble and restore the structure to its original glory,” the body said.
In its prime, the Baradari had two levels. A storm in 1920 destroyed the second story. It never underwent restoration. The structure features twelve internal marble pillars that surround the central chamber of the Baradari.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2019.
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