After Shahi Imam request, ASI takes up conservation work of Jama Masjid

NEW DELHI:  Government of India said the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) of India has taken up the conservation work of the iconic 362-year-old mosque Jama Masjid in Delhi accepting the request of Shahi Imam Abdullah Bukhari.

The 17th-century mosque, originally named Masjid-i Jahan Numa, is one of the largest in India, built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan. Its construction was started in 1648 after the completion of Shahjahanabad. It took six years and cost Rs 10 lakh at the time.

“Jama Masjid at Delhi is not a protected monument of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). However, on receipt of request from the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, ASI has taken up essential conservation work of the Masjid”, Minister of State (IC) for Culture and Minister of State for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Dr. Mahesh Sharma said in Rajya Sabha.

“Jama Masjid at Delhi is not a protected monument of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). However, on receipt of request from the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, ASI has taken up essential conservation work of the Masjid,” he said.

Last year, Shahi Imamhad written a letter last year to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking help for the urgent repair of the structure, and made several appeals to the ASI telling them that the situation is fast becoming dire.

Forty one years ago, during late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure, a delegation of Muslims led by then Shahi Imam Late Maulana Syed Hamid Bukhari had requested Government of India to intervene and undertake repairs, following which Nehru had given special orders to ASI to undertake extensive preservation work.

In 2013, the Shahi Imam had written to the ASI, requesting help for the blackened white marble walls of the main covered. The white marble had soiled over the years and had never been chemically washed. But sources had said that not much work was done. The last full-scale restoration work took place in Jama Masjid 10 years ago.

The reason the ASI is not responsible for the permanent upkeep of Jama Masjid is because it is not a protected monument that comes under direct supervision of the ASI. The official guardians of the Jama Masjid are the Delhi Wakf Board (DWB) and day-to-day operations are undertaken by a special committee controlled by the advisory council of the mosque. Since DWB lacks funds and the expertise in restoration, ASI has always been requested to do the repairs and related work.