CONSERVATION OF MUGHAL SARAI, DORAHA: Tile Work

Namita Jaspal

Tile work at the gates of Mughal Sarai, Doraha, are quite unique in their make.  They seem to be made with a technique that was popularly known as Kashi work.
Kashi work consists of a layer of glass spread on a hard kind of plaster; sometimes on a material porcelaneous in structure. The glass was found to be an ordinary silicate colored by metallic oxides and the plaster composed of a mixture of lime and siliceous sand, the hardness being due to silication, which accounted for its bearing the heat required to fuse glass.

 

If we look closely into the area where tiles seem to be lost (Picture 2 and Picture 3), we find that there are just a few tiles that are lost completely. In most of the area only the glassy coloured surface (glaze) is lost.

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Let us see closer into the
structure/anatomy of the tiles used here on this site. We find that the tile work consists of three parts: 1st, the plaster is called khamir(body); 2nd the glass called kanch (glaze); and 3rd, a material called asthar (slip) put between them.

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At this site, we find that most have the tiles have lost their surface layer that is glassy and coloured. Some such areas can be confirmed in picture 5, where red arrows (without yellow outline) show the tiles where a little amount of glassy surface layer is still left.

If we closely look at the Tiled surface of the gate, we’ll find that we should not take out the thick body of the tiles (khamir) that is still there, to replace with new tiles. They are quite compact and strongly fitted in the mosaic pattern. To remove the body of the tile is neither feasible nor ethically advised.
Glaze composition and technique

The glazes are made of plant ash alkali flux with colourant (lead-tin /cobalt / copper). Cobalt oxide, used in the colouring of the dark blue glazes. Other pigments found employed are lead–tin yellow, in the yellow and green glazes, and copper oxide, in the turquoise and green glazes.
First operation in making of glaze is to make an easily fusible glass by melting powdered siliceous sandstone with carbonate of soda. Portions of the glass are pounded, mixed and fused with metallic oxides to produce glasses of various colors. The colored glasses are then pounded, suspended in a viscid fluid, made from mucilaginous plants, and painted over the asthar, and the whole is placed in the furnace till all the glass on the surface is fused.

Sum-up
Since more than 97% of the tiled area has compactly-fixed and secured tile body (most of the thickness of tile- 1.5 – 1.7 cm) in the mosaic pattern, it is advisable not to disturb them and do whatever agreed upon treatment ‘in situ’ on the surface.

Study, Research and Analysis by:

Namita Jaspal

Author: namitajaspal
Namita Jaspal, with inherited skills of art and aesthetics and passion for science, opted to pursue post- graduation in ‘Conservation of Cultural Property’ after her graduation in Science from Delhi University in 1992. Four year intense training at National Museum Institute provided the right foundation to start a career in Conservation. She is currently practicing conservation consultancy for Heritage property including monuments and collections. She has been doing independent research in conservation techniques and procedures in Indian context. She is currently working on the conservation of wall-paintings of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden temple at Amritsar. The project is nearing completion and getting a lot of appreciation for the organized and ethical treatment it is providing. It is for the first time in the history of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden Temple) that wall painting conservation and preservation is being done in a scientific manner, keeping the codes of Ethics into consideration while decision making. Another project just completed is of the Conservation of Krishna Temple at Kishankot, Gurdaspur, Punjab. In her private Conservation Laboratory, she is not only providing onservation services, but also mentoring young aspiring conservators and archaeologists by the way of training and paid internships. She has been a guest lecturer at DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management). With all the updated knowledge database and innovative practical approaches relevant to the Indian conditions, she could successfully do curative and preservative treatment of very old textiles like a nine feet long flag from nineteenth century that is regarded as priceless memorabilia of second Dogra regiment at Chandi Mandir, and four hundred years old (seventeenth century) Chola Sahib Ji of Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Sri Hargobind Sahib Ji. Apart from this she has done conservation of Photograph collections, archival records, numerous paintings, manuscripts and other cultural objects. She is also involved in preparation of up-gradation proposals for museums and such organizations. Her expertise includes Conservation and preservation technologies and procedures for conservation of varied material like wall paintings, paper, photographs, textile, ceramics, stone, metal and archaeological objects.

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