The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has found rare Mughal-era wall paintings at Chhata Bazaar, set up by emperor Shah Jahan, inside the Red Fort, during lime plaster removal. India’s apex conservation body is now working on scientific treatment of the paintings.”The bazaar has been in use since the 17th century. There have been several coatings of lime plaster. After the removal of six layers, we started to see colourful patterns, well preserved in the seventh layer,” said ASI’s Dr DN Dimri.These are intrinsic floral geometric patterns in red, yellow, green and black — common during the Mughal era.Chhata Bazaar (roofed market) was earlier known as Bazaar-i-Musaqaf — ‘safaq’ means roof — as markets in those times were mainly open. This was one of its kind that led people directly from Lahori Gate to Naubat Khana and Diwan-i-Am, crossing through a fine exhibition of carpets, zari, velvets and even gold and ivories.The market still attracts crowds visiting the fort, but silk shops now mostly sell handicraft.The ASI’s work will take at least a year to complete as it is taking the layers off the entire ceilings and walls and applying chemicals to preserve the findings.There might be plans to copy the paintings on canvas for exhibition. “I had no idea that the walls are so pretty. Though they are all covered up with scaffoldings, I climbed up to see the work that and was amazed,” said Dharampal Nagar, a third-generation shopkeeper.

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ASI finds Mughal-era paintings inside Red Fort’s Chhata Bazaar