At the heart of the ancient city of Nagaur, one of the first Muslim strongholds in northern India is the fort of Ahhichatragarh, built in the early 12th century and repeatedly altered over subsequent centuries. The project for its rehabilitation, involving the training of many artisanal craftsmen, adhered to principles of minimum intervention.

Arial View Nagaur Fort
Arial View Nagaur Fort: The primary objective was not to focus on conserving single buildings but to restore, revitalise and protect the whole Fort complex to arrest further damage and to plan for full public access. To achieve this, the conservation works had to be in sympathy with the surviving architecture and the historicity of the site in order to enhance visitor experience. © AKAA / Minakshi Jain

Materials and construction methods of an earlier era were rediscovered, paintings and architectural features conserved, and the historic pattern of access through seven successive gates re-created. The finding and restoration of the intricate water system was a highlight: 90 fountains are now running in the gardens and buildings, where none were functional at the project’s outset. The fort’s buildings and spaces, both external and internal, serve as a venue, stage and home to the Sufi Music Festival.

Abha Mahal after conservation
Abha Mahal after conservation: After an appraisal of the complex, the buildings and fortifications were then documented in detail, showing the site condition and allowing conservation measures to be drawn up. Vegetation on the roofs and courts was cleared to prevent further damage by the penetration of roots into the structure. Inappropriate additions such as partition walls were removed in order to restore the original layout and ambience.  © AKAA / Minakshi Jain
Bakht Singh Mahal Court and Fountains
Bakht Singh Mahal Court and Fountains: Water is very important in an arid area. Those who planned the palaces took great care not to waste water. Rainwater is very precious and has always been conserved and collected, explaining why so many water bodies were constructed. Water management is, in fact, one of the underlying concepts, the linking agent behind the overall planning. There was a unique and extensive system of redistribution, of running water through aqueducts, channels, basins, fountains and tanks before it was finally used for gardening purposes. © AKAA / Minakshi Jain
Main Court, Square Pavillion and Fountains
Main Court, Square Pavillion and Fountains: Since the buildings in the Fort were built at different times, each one has its own set of unique features. The architecture of these buildings has been thoughtfully merged. Today the complex reads as one. Most interestingly, some buildings are built on top of older ones. Buildings are a good combination of enclosed and semi-open spaces. © AKAA / Minakshi Jain

The capacity for transformation of architectural heritage is embodied in the Ahhichatragarh Fort. Although the built environment has been restored to what it was, now it comes into the public realm rather than being a private edifice. Its cultural significance can be a part of a museum. A link between the historic past and the probable future is established here. Conservation implies that the monument is fit for use in the future, hopefully for generations to come. The past is assigned a new function, not only as a tourist attraction but also a live research site. The scope for interpretation is extensive in such work, where accurate history is missing. The site's conserved conditions will have a latent power to "plug into" the history.