The idea of a day set aside to commemorate the world’s heritage – a day on which to highlight the efforts required to protect and conserve heritage and to underscore its vulnerability – was first mooted by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). It was adopted by UNESCO in 1983 and ever since, April 18th has been observed as World Heritage Day the world over.
This year, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Bangalore is celebrating the day with a couple of different events. In association with NGMA, we have a set of talks on art and architectural restoration to be held at NGMA on 16th April. On the 17th, INTACH together with Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), has a Heritage Walk at Gavipuram. Also with NBF, watch out for a heritage quiz on FM radio on the 18th.
A citizen’s guide to heritage
What can citizens do to contribute to heritage protection? First and foremost: Get to know your city. As with most things, the more you know and understand your city, the more you grow to love it and appreciate its heritage. You may think you know Bangalore but have you ever walked the lanes off Avenue Road? Or seen Begur with its ancient temple and fort? Or Hebbal Lake? Explore the city to understand its many layers. A corollary: Share your interest with others. Instead of a mall visit, how about a visit to an ancient tamarind grove? Or a spot of rock-climbing at Turahalli? Or an exploration of the fort at Devanahalli? If you have children, take them on a heritage walk. Take them bird-watching. Devise heritage-related projects for them at home. A trip to the Bangalore museum (admiteedly not very exciting) can be followed by endless fun-filled hours at home making seals with imaginary languages and animals a la Indus Valley, for example.
If you own a heritage property but find maintaining it a financial burden, you could consider several economically viable reuse options for the building such as converting it into an art gallery, a boutique, a café, office space, a hotel, a doctor’s clinic and so on.
And finally, if you know of anything that you think might be of historical importance, inform INTACH. In India, both the Archaeological Survey of India and the state departments of archaeology are tasked with the care of historic monuments. But there are hundreds of historic structures outside their purview which need protection. These could range from hero-stones or memorials, to old city markers, wells, lamp-posts or other relics, to buildings which may not be very old but which are important for their association with an important personality who lived or worked there.
Remember that heritage does not refer only to buildings but also includes objects, festivals, art, crafts, and any other aspects of our culture. You can even contribute to the documentation of the city’s heritage story by sharing any old photographs of your family or relatives that were taken in the city. Such information provided by citizens can be invaluable towards getting Bangalore’s heritage documented, researched and protected.
Excellent article, Meera. Recently, some friends pulled down a 90-year-old house in Malleswaram as they could not afford to maintain it. Out of the proceeds from developing it as a set of flats, they got a large flat to themselves and a lot of money too. So economics is one reason why our heritage often vanishes.