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Redefining Kila Sarai & Jogeshwar Mandir Precinct, Madhya Pradesh, India - A Case for Adaptive Re-use

My first encounter with the Kila Sarai & Jogeshwar Mandir Precinct intrigued me to search deeper for what really defined it. With practically no change to the adjoining small settlements of Sangwamal in the last few generations, the site is currently in a state of complete derelict apart from occasional religious rituals performed at the temple shrine. The temple belongs to Jogeshwar, a popular cult of Lord Shiva, and it is the only significant cultural element at the site to date for the local community.

A typical Mughal construct and Maratha Mandir with small shrines concentrated within an inner fortified enclosure, the site is spread over an acre with remains of outer fortification walls enclosing large fields within. Too small to be a palatial fortress, and too large to be a private residence, an extensive archaeological investigation is now needed to establish its heritage significance. The lack of connectivity does not help visitor outreach and the site will attract only very targeted visitors. The site, even if restored to its original character and form, will remain a ruin frozen in time, losing its significance again over years of neglect. Such a site can be revived only if local stakeholders are sentimental and passionate about it, but here they are completely unaware and lack any collective ownership. The adjoining school and newly expanding temple shed will soon encroach upon the entire site.

In such a scenario, it was vital for us to redefine the approach towards holistic conservation for long term survival of the site and its cultural significance. The absence of any archival records led to a process of primary investigation through community interviews, a total station survey, archaeological research, and architectural documentation to build a case. Our multidisciplinary team conducted investigations along existing fortifications and typological studies within the region. The abundance of nature and location of a minor trading route established the site as a precinct with a Sarai built for private leisure and restricted guests of an important official of the Mughal court in its times and hence a fortified Kila. With only 10% of the site occupied by built spaces, natural greens and designed landscapes form an integral part of the historic precinct. Situated on a small elevated part of the site with a perennial stream flowing along the east of it, the presence of a stepped well and aqueducts embedded within the inner fort walls remain the most significant elements of a sophisticated designed water management system.

If adapted to new uses, there are possibilities of integrating this precinct into a unique combination of a historic private leisure space with a continuing collective worship place within a regional tourism strategy involving the local and extended community to create an environment for leisure and learning.

WMF has partnered with the government of Madhya Pradesh’s Department of Culture to develop a sustainable management program for continued conservation and maintenance of the state’s heritage sites.