A day after the fierce thunderstorm dislodged and damaged the finial of the main dome of the historic Jama Masjid, its Shahi Imam on Tuesday wrote to the Archaeological Aurvey of India (ASI) requesting removal of the dangling part of the crown and repair of the ornamental structure that has topped the grand mosque since its construction.
Meanwhile, Delhi Waqf Board Chairman and AAP lawmaker Amanatullah Khan visited Jama Masjid located in the heart of the Walled City and inspected the damage caused to the finial. He also went up on the terrace to see the damaged parts lying there, accompanied by other officials and a team of experts from INTACH.
"Yesterday, the dome of Jama Masjid suffered severe damage due to the stormy weather. Today, with a team of INTACH experts and Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, inspected the mosque premises and gave directions for the repair of the finial of the main dome. God willing, the damage to the dome shall be repaired," he tweeted late night.
Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari described the rampaging storm as something he had "never seen" in his entire life. He lamented that the iconic Mughal-era mosque lost its finial in the storm on Monday evening, and said, "I personally felt very sad to see that the mosque without its crowning glory".
The finial, measuring about 12-15 ft, which got damaged is also from the same period as the mosque, he said.
"Scared people ran to shelter themselves from the stormy weather, women and children lay huddled in the cloisters, crying. It was a horrible sight in the mosque premises. The wind was swirling and howling. Two or three people also got injured at Jama Masjid as stone parts fell off from minarets and other parts of the mosque. But, it was a nature's miracle ('kudrat ka karishma) that most people came out of it safely here," he told PTI.
On Tuesday, he wrote a letter to the Archaeological Survey of India, underlining the damage caused to the precious finial and sought help of the ASI in undertaking its repair.
In the letter to ASI's Director General V Vidtavathi, Bukhari has mentioned that after being broken into multiple pieces in the storm, some parts fell on the terrace below the main dome, and one very heavy part is "still hanging precariously from the dome and it may fall any time".
Bukhari, while interacting with reporters at Jama Masjid, also said for the time being entry of general visitors to the mosque has been temporarily closed as a safety measure, and about a hundred odd people only would be allowed during the namaz as there is a risk due to the dangling piece of the finial.
At his office, the Shahi Imam showed a smaller piece of the huge finial kept in store while two large pieces are lying on the terrace below the dome.
"The part which is still hanging from the main dome, would weigh around 350 kg, and the entire ensemble weight would have been about 500 kg. So, it is essential to remove that portion from the dome," he said.
In his letter to the ASI, marked, "most urgent", Bukhari has cautioned that if it falls, it may damage the wall opposite it and the two adjacent turrets.
"Namaz prayers are not being allowed in the courtyard as of now, and the area near the dome has been cordoned off. Only about a hundred or so people would be allowed to offer namaz and that too inside the mosque," he said.
In his appeal to the ASI authorities, he has urged that "immediate removal" of the "dangerously hanging part of the finial and "reinstalling it after repairs is essentially urgent".
"I shall be grateful, if as a special case, the Archaeological Survey of India undertakes this task as expeditiously as the situation warrants," the Shahi Imam wrote.
Asked what are the plans for repair, he said, after reading media reports about the damage caused to the finial in the storm, a private firm in Agra that specialises in repair of such historical artifacts, have also reached out to him.
In June last year also, some stone pieces from the southern minaret of Jama Masjid had fallen after a storm. In 2020 too, the mosque had suffered damage due to tremors in the city.
A senior official of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) also visited and inspected the damage, the Shahi Imam said.
An architectural jewel and a very popular tourist attraction, Jama Masjid is a 17th century monument, originally named Masjid e Jehan Numah, was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan.
He himself had laid the foundation stone on the strong basements of a hillock on October 6, 1650, which was a Friday. The grand mosque was completed in 1656, according to information shared by the Shahi Imam's Office, on its history.
"We don't know the exact material used but it seems it's a mix of metals, a research analysis can only tell the exact composition of the finial," Bukhari said.
(With PTI Inputs)