Favoured by Mughals, Agra sandstone attracts modern builders

September 2nd, 2008 - 12:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, Sep 2 (IANS) The smooth red sandstone used in Mughal monuments like Agra Fort, Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri had lost its popularity at one time with the increasing use of bricks and mortar, but is back in favour now with builders flocking to the stone markets in the city of the Taj.A team of archaeologists from Pakistan is planning to visit Agra later this month to explore the possibility of buying local red sandstone, according to sources in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Some of Pakistan’s red sandstone monuments are in need of extensive repairs, particularly Lahore’s Shahi Qilla, the Shalimar Bagh and the Badshahi Mosque.

The red sandstone sold in Agra is procured from quarries in neighbouring Dholpur and Fatehpur Sikri. It is considered to be of good quality and was generously used by Mughal architects. Even modern-day builders are using strips of the stone or even big slabs for lining walls.

“House owners are no longer content with simplistic or functional designs. If they have money they would like to use it to good effect. This leads to a lot of experimentation with both the designs, layouts and the materials used to draw the attention of the people. A variety of stones, including red sandstone, marble and granite, are used,” Sameer Gupta, president of the Agra Architects Association, told IANS.

“Stone not only lends a look of heritage to the building, it also proves cost effective in the long run as maintenance costs are minimum,” said civil engineer S.P. Singh.

The Sewla market on the Gwalior road here has more than 50 units specialising in the sale of sandstones of all sizes and colours. Polishing units too have come up to meet specific consumer demands. Being close to the border with Rajasthan, Agra has an advantage in supplying stones from quarries in that state.

Kishan Chand of Dareshi Patthar Mandi told IANS: “We get at least three truck loads of red sandstone from the Jagner-Tantpur belt every week. This is mainly used for making roofs. The demand had gone down because people preferred cement but now with cement prices going up there has been a spurt in demand in the past couple of months.”

Sandstones are also increasingly being used for making statues and shops in the Yamuna Kinara road, Dareshi and Jeoni Mandi areas supplying figurines made of sandstone to various parts of the country.

“These stone statues are cheaper. We have a huge demand for statues of Hanuman and B.R. Ambedkar. More than 1,000 people in Agra are engaged in this trade,” said Muni Agarwal, owner of a shop in the Dareshi area.

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