Rabindranath Tagore's summer retreat 'Shyamoli' is set to be restored.
Last month, a team of experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) visited and inspected the unique roof of the building and took a final call on its restoration. It has decided to start the restoration work on the building will start in January.
Threat to a great heritage
'Shyamoli' is one of the five buildings that Tagore had built as part of his Uttarayan complex. These were set up between 1919 and 1941 and Tagore named the others, Udayan, Konarak, Udichi and Punashcha. Shyamoli - set up in 1935 - was the most unique because it was built with mud all over. Tagore had avoided using a thatched roof because he felt that it was fire-prone and also believed that such roofs did not help in keeping buildings cool. So, he used a unique technique where he got a wooden frame built and caked it all over with mud and cow dung.
Surendranath Kar prepared the architectural plan and Nandalal Bose prepared the visual perspective based on the 'Borobudur' style. The entire outside wall was decorated with beautiful relief work by the students of Kala Bhavana students under the guidance of Nandalal Bose. The 'Santhals' on either side of the main door and the eastern corner were by Ramkinkar Baiz. Gandhiji and Kasturba stayed in this house as guests.
Hopes abound for a bright future
Visva Bharati University had requested the ASI to help restore the Uttarayan complex This started in 2007. However, despite the best efforts by the ASI, Shyamoli's restoration ailments could not be done. The reason, main cause for this is the leaking mud roof of the building. Opinions were divided among experts as to whether the roof should be re-done with mud and cow dung or some unique material should be introduced that will take care of the leak and hold on better. ASI was a little wary about using new material since that goes against the principle of restoration.
"We have decided to involve faculty from IIT-Kharagpur's civil engineering department to help out with the restoration. We are checking the original material used on the roof to find out if any natural water-proofing was done. In that case, we will reinforce the roof with those material," said regional director of ASI (east) P K Mishra.