GULMARG HERITAGE PALACE IN RUINS
Indecision Mars Conservation Of Architectural Marvel
Gulmarg, Nov 12: An ‘architectural marvel’ in this famous tourist destination is in a shambles. Courtesy: the Jammu and Kashmir government.
A look at the historical Gulmarg Palace, situated amid lush green pine trees, reflects how negligence has taken away its sheen over the years. Its dilapidated condition raises a question on the state government’s oft repeated claim that it meant to conserve the heritage sites across Jammu and Kashmir to promote ‘heritage tourism’.
What is shocking to observe is that the state has allowed the Gulmarg Palace to deteriorate despite the alarm bells from its heritage conservationists.
The first thing you experience as you visit this marvel is the locked gate, surrounded by a concertina wire from inside. “We don’t know why it is locked,” said Shafiq, a resident of Gulmarg. “Many tourists visit this place, but return back without having a look at it. The gate has been closed long back. The building is in a shambles.”
This reporter somehow managed entry inside the premises of the Palace, where stray cattle greet you.
The front wooden porch of the Palace has completely collapsed. This, according to locals, happened following the 2005 earthquake. The exterior tree bark cladding is also damaged. Gables in the roof no longer exist at certain places. The window shutters are broken. The octagonal tower at the rear of the building stands damaged and detached from the main building. Most of the damage, locals said, has been done at places where rooms have been converted into bathrooms. This has damaged both the floor and the walls.
The Palace is understood to have been constructed by Maharaja Hari Singh in early 20th century. The building shows a synthesis of colonial architectural elements and local detailing, especially in the decorative woodwork. The palace had been generally used for ‘Royal Functions’ and gatherings on the eve of Christmas and New Year by the Europeans.
According to official data, the Palace covers an area of around 8700 SFT and comprises about 15 rooms of varying sizes. It also has a large hall, with a carpet area of around 1327 SFT which can accommodate upto hundred people.
In 2008 the then state government decided to conserve the Palace and reuse it as a “Heritage Convention Centre.” “It happened in 2008 during the Governor’s rule that it was decided to turn the Palace into a state-of-the-art Convention Centre, without compromising on its historical and architectural significance. It was thought that the corporate giants would hold conventions in the Palace which would in turn ensure huge revenue for the state,” said an official, who has been closely associated with the plan. “The proposal went to the Administrative Council of the Governor. It was approved and the funds were also released. It was also decided that the Jammu and Kashmir Chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) would give a conservation plan for the palace.” The matter is stuck there. Three years down the line, the state government is yet to make any progress.
INTACH says it has submitted a detailed conservation plan of Rs 1.60 crores in 2008 itself. “We did it the same year. But there has been no progress for the past three years with regard to conservation of the Palace,” said the INTACH chairman, Saleem Beg. “This has caused further deterioration of the historic structure, which is an ideal place for holding conventions. We have projected it as the historic convention centre keeping in view its significance. Its conservation will not only ensure the survival of the historic building but also make it sure that the building will generate its own finances for further expansion and upkeep. It would be a wonderful place to hold international conventions. In Europe, a number of historic places have been converted into convention centres.”
According to INTACH, the Palace can be easily conserved. “Fortunately the building does not suffer from any major structural problem. The craftsmanship for repairing and restoring its various damaged parts is available locally,” Beg said.
Though the state government recently claimed to have approved Rs 2 crores for conservation of the Palace, sources said they have been doing it every year. “It is a tragedy that the state government has been earmarking money for the Palace every year, but at the end that funds are diverted to some other project,” they said.
The delay its in conservation is, of late, raising some serious apprehensions among the observers. Reports have already started pouring in that the state government allegedly intends to turn the Palace into “resting place” for the ministers, a charge refuted by the latter.
“The funds for the project have been earmarked. We are at it. I am sure the relevant tenders also must have been issued,” said a Tourism Department official, insisting not to be named.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 12 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 12 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 13 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST
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