Restoring past glory of AU's Vizianagram Hall
Rajiv Mani, TNN | Apr 10, 2012, 10.55PM IST
ALLAHABAD: Broken tiles of the dome, damaged window panes and glasses, doors barely hanging on the hinges, shattered pillars and parapet, offshoots of large trees creeping on the walls, pigeon droppings dotting the floor, damaged marble statues and antique chandeliers is what the famous historical Vizianagram Hall has to offer to any visitor to the Science Faculty of the Allahabad University today. But things would soon take a U-Turn as the varsity authorities have resolved to restore the grandeur of this pristine building after a go-ahead by a specialized three-member committee.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) sanctioned an amount of Rs 10 crore to the AU in its Xth Five Year Plan along with three other oldest varsities of the country - Bombay University, Madras University and Calcutta University -- for restoration of heritage buildings of these institutions. While the UGC had allocated about Rs 3 crore in the Xth Plan for the purpose, the remaining money was to be given once this money was utilized.
In 2008-09, AU authorities asked Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to prepare a detailed report for restoring four heritage buildings at the AU including the Vizianagram Hall. But after submission of this report, the varsity remained silent and finally asked RITES to undertake the restoration of the hall. RITES has now asked MS Stumbh, a firm specializing in restoring old havelis of Rajasthan, to conduct a three-dimensional detailed survey of the hall before the restoration work is started.
Later, a three-member committee, having best of the brains in terms of conservation of heritage buildings in the country, was formed by the AU authorities. The members included INTACH convenor ( Delhi Chapter) Prof A G K Menon, conservation architect Vikas Vedprakash Dilawari of Mumbai and director of Conservation and World Heritage Janhwij Sharma of Archeological Survey of India (ASI). The committee was to give its recommendation on the viability of the ambitious projects.
This high-powered committee visited AU in the last week of March this year and submitted its recommendations to AU V-C Prof Anil Kumar Singh.
The situation seems to be favouring the AU authorities as the three-member committee has advocated going ahead with the restoration work, part of funds for which are already lying with the AU authorities. Moreover, AU authorities have been given an additional period of six months to utilize the funds allocated under the XIth Five Year Plan.
Talking of the task assigned to the committee and its report, Prof Menon told TOI, "It is a very important task. While the AU authorities are trying to restore this beautiful piece of architecture, most of the other old universities have not bothered to preserve their architectural heritage."
"The AU authorities asked us to study the viability of the project and we convinced them that it is very important and should be carried out on a priority," Prof Menon said adding, "we inspected every nook and corner of the majestic building, including the walls, window, roof, etc., and are of the opinion that first the entire building should be made weather-proof and then the upgradation task should be carried out."
He added that once the building is made weather-proof, then the actual restoration work could be undertaken wherein paintings, wood work, walls, glass work, etc., would be repaired and changed as per the requirement. "Whichever agency undertakes the restoration work, it should take things on a priority basis and weigh different options as there is no set parameter for all the buildings. Once things have been tried out and the results are encouraging, the parameter could be undertaken for the entire building," he added.
The foundation stone of the building, earlier known as the Muir Central College, was laid by Governor-General of India Lord Northbrook on December 9, 1873. The college was named after Sir William Muir, Lt Governor of United Province. The building was designed by William Emerson, the architect who also designed the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata and Crawford Market in Mumbai in a unique combination of Indo-Saracenic, Egyptian and Gothic styles. The building took 12 years to complete and formally opened on April 8, 1886.
A visit to the famous buildings, the majestic Vizianagram Hall and the colossal tower besides it which has become synonymous to AU, will give one a feel of the condition. On entering the main Vizianagram Hall, which in its glorious days not only witnessed several meetings attended by raja's and was later used as examination centre for various exams conducted at the Science faculty, a visitor would be shocked to see dust and droppings of hundreds of pigeons who have made the building their home.
The life-size marble statue of George Simonds, standing majestically at one corner of the grand hall, too narrates the sorry tale of affairs with heaps of dust and pigeon dropping lining its contours. When this reporter took a closure look, it was found that the statue of Simonds had a book in his left hand. When the dust was cleared, it showed the guide map of Muir College, as the AU was known in its initial stages.
Commenting on the issue, AU PRO Prof P K Sahoo said: "This project is high on the agenda of the university. However, the restoration work takes its own time as it is not like a new construction work. After all, it's like restoring the grandeur of the old buildings."