LAHORE, Sept 3: A huge Mughal era mural at Lahore Fort has been left to decay along with its mosaic tiles and rare fresco paintings as authorities concerned had failed to arrange funds for the restoration of a rare artwork, Punjab archaeology department officials told Dawn.

The making of the mural, etched on the exterior of the Fort’s northern wall, started in Emperor Jehangir’s reign and was completed in 1631-32 AD.

Officials said for over a decade the department had been looking for international sponsorship for conservation of the mural wall but in vain. The mural wall, which is about 450 meters in length and 17 meters in height, is one of the most beautiful and unique monuments in the world. It consists of a series of mosaic tile panels which are simply exquisite. The fresco paintings on the wall show fighting animals and various sports of the era, besides people attired in dresses of the times.

They said a meeting attended by representatives of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and Punjab and Norwegian governments was held in Lahore in 2006 that decided initiation of repairs of the mural.

The meeting was apprised of a Punjab government plan to conserve Lahore Fort monuments, including the mural, at an estimated cost of about Rs300 million.

A mosaic tile workshop was also organised to make sample tiles to be used in the mural’s conservation as a follow-up to the meeting. However, the tiles made during the workshop were later used in Shalamar Gardens renovation.

Officials said the main reasons for mural’s decay were rain, pollution, dust and wind, causing many of the fresco paintings panel to fall and eroding the surface material of many others. They said rainwater saturation in the wall and the surface of the mosaic tiles had been damaging the mural in many ways. The water steaming down vertically seeped into cracks in the wall or the tiles’ material itself, causing severe damage to the mural, they added.

They said the unchecked organic growth was another threat to mural which might cover it someday if allowed to spread. Small plants had grown on top of the wall and in its openings, they said. The wall had developed cracks at several places and the cement used to keep the mosaic tiles intact had weakened. About 60 per cent of the wall needed conservation and restoration, officials added.

They said water tightening, repair of damaged and decaying mosaic tiles and replacement of the missing ones according to the original pattern, re-plastering of the affected lime plaster and restoring the fresco paintings according to original design were some measures which could help protect the mural wall against weather vagaries.

An official said that after failing to lure international donors, the archeology department had revised its 300 million Lahore Fort conservation plan, cutting it down to restoration of only the mural wall and some parts of royal kitchen through its own resources.

He said some conservational measures, including water tightening and removal of plants and bushes from the wall had already been taken to protect the mural.

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