The restoring of splendour
Detailed, non-invasive restoration recreates not only painted ceilings and glossy woodwork – but also brings back the original atmosphere. the chomugarh palace near jaipur is a case in point.
When you look at Chomugarh Palace hotel today, you’d never imagine that it was in a fine state of dilapidation, being used as a flour mill, decades showing in the patches of repair. Today, the main Durbar Hall stands proud as an example of Rajasthani art and architecture with apparent Moghul and European influences.
The 58 suites retain the original look and feel, possible only because of non-invasive restoration. The original arches, pillars and antique woodwork have been retained and restored to its original gloss and shine.
Harimohan Dangayach, managing director of Dangayach group, appointed the Delhi-based Arcop Associates to work on its restoration and conservation based on a clear definition of historic resources and its relationship to its setting.
The restoration work at Chomu Palace, located 33km North West of Jaipur, has followed the principles and procedures of conservative repair.
The work was done with elements of restoration scrupulously derived from surviving physical evidence, supported by reference to primary documentary sources. This was done within a framework for assessing resource values, establishing management systems and preparing interpretation techniques.
Materials and associated structural systems were analysed to determine long and short-term strategies for management of change. Regular inspections, cyclic maintenance and environmental controls were instituted. Historical authenticity was established through understanding of significant phases of construction and use over centuries.
A resource audit, documentation of property through drawings and photographs, inspection of previous interventions, identification of previous use of property, studying regional construction technology, identifying materials for construction, architectural vocabulary through history and expert opinions on systems and retrofitting measures formed a part of the assessment process.
The complex is part of the historic town of Chomu, settled and developed by the people of the Nathawat clan. It was one among 12 administrative kothdies of Prithviraj Chauhan. The complex has been developed over a period of 400 years by various descendants of the Nathawat rulers.
The original site development
Thakur Karansinh, one of the Nathawat rulers, established Chomu town in 1598 AD on the advice of Pandit Benidasji. There were two main routes – one, leading from the Samode area to the villages in the west and the second from the Hadota area, leading to villages in the south.
The site was chosen for reasons of safety, since it was visible only after crossing the jungles. Thakur Karansinh developed the area behind the southern part of the later zenana. The site was then used by military chiefs during the times of war.
His eldest son, Thakur Sukhsinh, built part of the fort and palace before his demise in 1668 A D. It was during the reign of Thakur Mohansinh that many buildings were constructed in the village.
In 1714 AD, Chomu fort was built, much of it designed according to the Indian Shilp and Vastushastra. In 1720 AD, the khai (moat) was constructed. During this period, the main gate for the fortification of Chomu was towards the north; and in front of it was the Pihala-Kuan-Ka-Bazaar.
The wall of the fort is 3077ft long, with a height of 23ft and width of 7-12-15ft. The moat surrounding all sides was 80ft wide and 35ft deep, with a perimeter of 5000ft.
In 1835 AD, the then ruler, Thakur Laxmansinh ensured economic development in the village. He also built Sheesh Mahal, Moti Mahal, Mangal Pole, fort walls and Ranni, within the fortified complex.
The fort came to be known as Chomugadh with three durbars (assemblies) in a day – a puja (prayer) durbar in the morning, a political durbar in the afternoon and an assembly for family and friends in the evening.
Chomu became a significant site on the trading corridors between Ajmer and Jaipur through Sikar. The fortification along with the markets can be seen in the graphics.
The fortified palace
Chomugadh has a strong fort wall, almost 5m thick, surrounded by a moat. There are many entrances to the fort – Kiladaro-Ka-Darwaza, Shiri Deodi and Zenana Deodi, opening into various courtyards.
The main building is a three-storey structure with lots of open space in the form of chowks or open courtyards; baradaries or pavilions; charbaghs; and chandnies or semi-covered terraces. It also houses palaces –Govindniwas, Sheeshmahal, Motimahal and Deviniwas.
The other areas include Rani-nivas; quarters for maids, male attendants and guards; the Rathsal or the stables; Haathion-Ka-Thana or elephant stables.
The main building is divided into two parts: the women’s Zenana or Rawala and the men’s quarters, the Mardana. The Zenana has a separate entrance, Zenana Deodi, and was closed to all but the inhabitants and a select group of men.
The men’s living area – the Mardana — contains rooms for state affairs, private apartments of the ruler, the Diwan-e-Aam (the hall for public audience) and the Diwan-e-Khaas (the hall for private audience).
The use of pieces of mirror in decorative schemes, notably in the Sheesh Mahal (the palace of mirrors), is found in Rajasthani embroidery too. The colour schemes often favoured for the palace interiors is again that of the local embroidery and peasant costume – against a dark red ground, details are highlighted in green and gold.
Scope of work
Detailed site survey included measured drawings of the site and the buildings and elevations, along with visual surveys and inspection by endoscope/borescope. This was supported by a condition mapping of the building and its components.
The scientific investigation was done through non-destructive techniques. Samples from the site were sent for inspection and testing to the materials laboratory.
Analysis can include identification of the material type, chemical composition and properties such as porosity. Causes of decay and determination of the most appropriate materials for remedial works also can be done.
Crack monitoring undertaken on the site meant measuring the width of the cracks, in situ, with a crack-width microscope; and measuring the depth by ultrasonic techniques, or by extraction of cores. Glass tell-tales were used to determine if movement is occurring with graduated sight gauges, used to give an estimate of movement and direction.
The assessment helped with identification of construction materials, matching them to specific needs of historicity and environment. It also helped determine the effect of moisture – identification of mobilised soluble compounds and presence of hygroscopic salts.
It worked with mortar identification, analysis, making way for a detailed budget with estimates for scope of work, along with identifying phases for project implementation.
Components of site development included landscaping and restoration of the historic garden, plantation and revival of water systems, street furniture and lighting, paving, signage, access to site, basic facilities, illumination of the building and lightings in the garden and creating tourist utilities.
Waterproofing terraces and walls, cleaning of debris, lime terracing the damaged roof after removal of tar felting was also a part of the process.
The damaged and eroded flooring was redone. Wall surfaces were put through cleaning and chemical treatment. Earlier, inappropriate interventions including cement grit finish were removed. Structures were consolidated and strengthened, cracks stitched and grouted, missing elements replaced.
Civil and interior work included improvement and provision of toilets and staircases, new partitions for reuse, new furniture matching the original character, painting and polishing.
Services included electricity, plumbing, water disposal, fire-fighting, security, air-conditioning, power generators, water and sewage treatment plants.