Crumbling Heritage

To a certain extent, there has been some movement, insofar as there are efforts to conserve the Gole Kothi, which served as a palace for three maharajas of Kapurthala. The move to convert it into a museum is also laudable. It must be stressed that the government alone cannot and should not be held responsible for such upkeep. Dual use, or even multipurpose use, of such heritage buildings is absolutely necessary, since buildings have to be under use to remain alive. An unused building decays with a frightening speed. Using such a building as a canteen, which has been the fate of a sarai presented to Fakir Hussain by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Bharowal village, near Amritsar, is certainly not proper. The common perception is to treat such buildings as ruins, rather than heritage in ruins.

Many heritage buildings have beautiful frescoes that are not only invaluable examples of the region’s art but also a lively depiction of cultural and religious imagery. Be it the wall paintings at Baba Atal in Amritsar, at the samadhi of Kaladhari at Una, Pothimala at Guru Harsahai, the Krishna temple in Kishankot, or the one at Mansa Devi. It would not be an exaggeration to say the region abounds in such art. Unfortunately, t of them are either in a state of decay or have been “lovingly painted over with whitewash.” As if this were not horror enough, we have examples, especially in religious places, where “modernisation,” which essentially involves “marblisation,” has destroyed the originality and the beauty of many heritage sites. The wrong use of materials also contributes to decay and causes problems. There is an urgent need for increasing the awareness about such sites and involving NGOs and local people in maintaining them. These places must also generate revenue, and proper rules must be worked out to help the general public enjoy the experience of being in touch with rich past. Heritage tourism is also an answer, though not the only one. The need is to look conclusively at the various options available, study the working of foreign heritage bodies, like the National Trust in Great Britain and its counterparts in Europe and the USA, and benefit from their experience. While various efforts being undertaken now are laudable, a holistic approach is required to save the region’s heritage from crumbling.

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Crumbling Heritage

Because of the Punjab Chief Minister’s long association with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) it was expected that the focus would be on conserving the heritage sites of the state. To a certain extent, there has been some movement, insofar as there are efforts to conserve the Gole Kothi, which served as a palace for three maharajas of Kapurthala. The move to convert it into a museum is also laudable. It must be stressed that the government alone cannot and should not be held responsible for such upkeep.

Dual use, or even multipurpose use, of such heritage buildings is absolutely necessary, since buildings have to be under use to remain alive. An unused building decays with a frightening speed. Using such a building as a canteen, which has been the fate of a sarai presented to Fakir Hussain by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Bharowal village, near Amritsar, is certainly not proper. The common perception is to treat such buildings as ruins, rather than heritage in ruins.

Many heritage buildings have beautiful frescoes that are not only invaluable examples of the region’s art but also a lively depiction of cultural and religious imagery. Be it the wall paintings at Baba Atal in Amritsar, at the samadhi of Kaladhari at Una, Pothimala at Guru Harsahai, the Krishna temple in Kishankot, or the one at Mansa Devi. It would not be an exaggeration to say the region abounds in such art. Unfortunately, t of them are either in a state of decay or have been ‘lovingly painted over with whitewash.’ As if this were not horror enough, we have examples, especially in religious places, where ‘modernisation,’ which essentially involves ‘marblisation,’ has destroyed the originality and the beauty of many heritage sites. The wrong use of materials also contributes to decay and causes problems. There is an urgent need for increasing the awareness about such sites and involving NGOs and local people in maintaining them. These places must also generate revenue, and proper rules must be worked out to help the general public enjoy the experience of being in touch with rich past. Heritage tourism is also an answer, though not the only one. The need is to look conclusively at the various options available, study the working of foreign heritage bodies, like the National Trust in Great Britain and its counterparts in Europe and the USA, and benefit from their experience. While various efforts being undertaken now are laudable, a holistic approach is required to save the region’s heritage from crumbling.

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Crumbling heritage

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