For a hundred years, the people of Jaipur had no clue about what lay right beneath their homes. Until last year the Rajasthan government launched its Rs. 3,149 crore Phase I of the Jaipur Metro. As the government made preparations to dismantle two roundabouts in the heart of the city, Choti and Badi Chaupar on the Chandpole-Surajpole stretch, ground surveys indicated that underneath lay buried two nearly 250-year-old bavdis or kunds (tanks) that once brought water to the city centre from the surrounding Aravalli Hills.
The kunds were right in the path of the 12.06 km Mansarovar to Badi Chaupar metro line. The rail portion between Chandpole and Badi Chaupar had been planned as an underground section to protect several heritage monuments in the area. As debates raged about how to proceed after the discovery of the kunds, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia asked the Jaipur Metro Rail and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation officials to alter the design, if required, but to protect the heritage structures at any cost.
The Rajasthan government engaged the services of leading Mumbai-based conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah to map the heritage structures and old buildings. “We convinced people that proven technology, which has been used in fragile areas the world over, would be used and no harm would come to any of the monuments,” says Nihal Chand Goel, CMD, Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation.
“Mr. Goel has a strong connection with Jaipur, and he said there are old photographs of Jaipur taken around this area. We began researching, and found pictures shot by Lala Deen Dayal in the 1890s, which showed the two chaupars,” says Lambah.
To preserve the tanks, the Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation has altered its design. “We lowered the railway tracks by about one metre and make incidental design changes to accommodate the tanks above the metro stations at Choti and Badi Chaupar,” says Goel. He talks of how people often see development and heritage as two opposing things. “There is no dichotomy; both can co-exist and work with each other. The metro rail rejuvenates the city, and we can also restore a lost chapter of history which becomes a tourist attraction.”