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Heritage Education in India

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage
 


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April 2011 Back
 
What a change

Italian photographer Antonio Martinelli showcases mirror image of 73 aqua-tints of historical structures and landscapes in India that were clicked by the Daniells’ in the 18th century. He tells Divya Kaushik how he wanted to capture the damages and changes that have occurred over time here

When the uncle-nephew artist duo Thomas Daniell and William Daniell started off their journey from Calcutta (now Kolkata) in a small boat on September 3, 1788, little did they know that they were about to document a few Indian monuments and landscapes that would be on the verge of destruction and neglect years later. After 200 years, famous photographer Antonio Martinelli took up the project to shoot mirror images of these aqua-tints (an etching made by a process that makes it resemble a water colour) and highlight changes these monuments, cities and landscapes have witnessed.

The Samrat Yantra is one of the series of observatories at Jantar Mantar built by Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur to make astronomical calculations and confirm readings on the scale that sweeps up at either side. While the 200-year-old aqua-tint done by the Daniells’ in 18th century showcases the brilliantly constructed curve at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the photo that hangs next to it, clicked a few years ago displays how renovation work done by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) interrupts the curving plane of the scale. Likewise, an aqua-tint of Elephanta Caves shows streams of water running through the interiors of the cave but recent photos show how nothing of the same sort exists now.

These aqua-tints and photos are a part of a unique exhibition, Oriental Scenery Yesterday and Today, at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA). These 73 aqua-tints by the Daniells are accompanied with mirror image photos clicked by Antonio Martinelli, both in possession of the Victoria Memorial Hall of Kolkata.

The Daniells’ followed the Ganges route and reached Srinagar (in Garhwal district of Uttarakhand) in May 1789. They arrived in Calcutta (now Kolkata) two years later. During this period, they captured the temples, mosques, streets and monuments in various cities and locations. “The aqua-tints I possessed were taken over four years and it took me two years (1995-96) to click the same locations with the same angles. I wanted to present the change, manmade or natural, at these places,” informs the Italian photographer who now lives in France and first came to India in 1972.

Intrigued by the beauty of India, its old buildings and structures, the lensman has compiled six books so far on India with Oriental scenery being one of his most ambitious and challenging projects till date. “It wasn’t easy to spot these places at first and then one had to research, get the same angles, same light and most importantly, the same charm in these photos,” he says. The Daniells’ used Obscura, an optical camera while I used a high precision Nikon to click these photographs. I had to visit some locations in different seasons to get the same light effect. Though the Daniells’ took little liberty with their aqua-tints, as in, they changed the textures a bit to make pictures look better as they intended to prepare these for commercial purpose. But my purpose of clicking them was different so I couldn’t have made a lot of changes. A few of these changes that can be spotted as one looks at the aqua-tints and photos simultaneously are manmade and these images act as the warning bell for the conservators,” says Martinelli.

Talking about the problems he faced while clicking these photos, he says, “As I have been travelling to India for long, I know my way out. But this project would have taken 70 per cent lesser time if there would not have been so many formalities and I wouldn’t have been a foreigner. I’d to take special permission to get into Allahabad Fort as it isn’t open for public and believe me, it took me around a month for the same.”

Ask him on what motivated him to take up the project and he says, “Princess Naheed Mazharuddin Khan of Surat showed me Mildred Archer’s book Early Views of India dedicated to aqua-tints produced by these two artists around 200 years ago. Sometime later, I’d the chance to look at the original 144 aqua-tints in London. The impact these hand-coloured prints had on me was profound and I decided to dedicate a significant part of my life in producing these aqua-tints as photographs.”

The photographer further adds he often wonders how courageous these two artists would have been in those days. “If you look at each photograph and aqua-tint, you will realise they were able to reach monuments that still aren’t on a tourist’s map,” he says.

Besides Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Jantar Mantar and other popular monuments, there are a few unknown monuments and picturesque landscapes from places like Rotas Ghur in Bahar, Garhwal and Varanasi. “Rotas Ghur is a wonderful place and there are many neglected monuments there. However, at some places I noticed the works have been done fantastically. For example, interiors of Madurai Palace was used as stables when the Daniells made their sketches. The hall was renovated on the orders of RF Chisholm in the last decade of the 19th century and exuberant plaster decoration was added at that time. I was surprised to note that at some places the conservation work was overdone. The damage to the shafts as recorded by the Danielles’ at Elephanta Cave Temple has been repaired with cement. The clearing of the collapsed rock that appears on the left side of the aqua-tint revealed a naturally-lit side entrance. The renovation has somewhere cleared the age-old signs in the cave,” says Martinelli.

More than people, Martinelli says, it was the beauty of India the Danielles wanted to showcase. Being foreigners they were mersmerised by the religious beliefs here and therefore, most of the aqua-tints focus on temples and mosques. “I think we should get inspired and take the note of damage that has already been done. If proper steps are not taken now, I think there would be nothing left for photographers to shoot in India after another 200 years. And the authorities who are taking up the charge of conservation of these monuments should also take care of the surroundings. No point in making the monument shine when the 100 m area around it is all a story of ruin and neglect,” concludes Martinelli.
 

The Pioneer, 1st April 2011
New voices

Meet Pratik Prabhakar and Shanti Bai Maravi, now participating in the Devi Art Foundation's show, “Vernacular, in the Contemporary Part II”, in New Delhi.

Pratik Prabhakar breaks every stereotypical notion of a ‘traditional folk artist' as harboured by some of those who are on the other side. Dressed in a pair of low-waist jeans and shirt, a trendy scarf and sporting a stylish hairdo, the young guy represents today's generation of visual artists working in the folk idiom. Pratik portrays an image, both through his work and personally, far different from the one believed to be of an artist attired in a traditional outfit working in a remote corner of the world oblivious to the developments taking place around him.

He or she, like Pratik, is attuned to the happenings and assimilates it into the visual grammar that has either been inherited from the forefathers or like in Pratik's case, has come through formal training. Pratik lives in Madhubani and works in the realm of the century-old art form of the region. Somebody with no prior familial links with the style of painting, Pratik makes it a curious case anyway. His highly individualistic approach goes a step ahead. The four part assemblage ‘My pictures, others' dreams' displayed at “Vernacular, in the Contemporary Part II”, depicting various phases in a woman's life, indeed has a strong narrative presented in a figurative manner. It conforms allegiance to Madhubani but the idea itself, and its presentation, in particular the element of fantasy, illustrates the artist's intent and style of using the vernacular form to express a concern, a issue of today's times.

But even then, Pratik doesn't mind the tag of ‘folk artist'. “I would like to be viewed as an artist but how can we expect all this to change so soon. It has spent only around 46 years on paper and it is still viewed as folk art and craft,” says Pratik, who had initially planned fine arts studies from M.S. University of Baroda but enamoured with the form, he gave up the thought. “Because I found it to be so complete in itself. Even in the assignment where we are given a traditional theme to interpret, I just took the basic idea of kohbar - (paintings symbolising fertility and life painted on the wedding chamber of the newly weds) but gave it a complete new twist. I paint with pen nibs, the physical attributes are similar but the subject is different.” He then trained in the style from Mithila Art Institute of Ethnic Arts Foundation in Madhubani, which has been behind some very bright sparks like him.

Shanti Bai Maravi – Godhana artist, Madhya Pradesh

While Madhubani in its journey spent some time travelling from the mud walls of huts to grace the modern means of paper and canvas, Godhna or the tattoo art's arrival onto new material is relatively a new development and lesser known. In Devi Art Foundation's ongoing show, among many others steeped in the contemporary, one belongs to an amazing woman Shanti Bai Maravi. The godhana or the permanent tattoos she creates on women's bodies in her tiny hamlet, Lalpur, in Madhya Pradesh, have been recreated on a newer platform, that of a canvas. Shanti Devi and others engaged in the art practice must be hailed for being part of a movement wherein a new tradition of painting has been born.

Shanti Devi, a master tattoo maker, belongs to Badi community. The traditional skill, handed down over decades, was taught to her by her aunt in order to take forward the family profession and earn livelihood. “Women from Baiga tribal community attach great importance to godhana because they see it like ‘amar gehna' (ornaments for posterity). We recite mantras before we start the process and every design created on a particular part of the body has a specific name — ‘dhandani' on legs, ‘pichadi' on the back, ‘pukda', ‘pori' etc…” She was a pure godhana artist creating geometric patterns on the bodies of Baiga women, until she was approached and encouraged by a local cultural agency to pick up paper some 18 years ago. Shanti Devi recreates beautiful patterns on the canvas as and when demand arises which she says is not much. “I haven't showcased much…Manav Sanghralaya has commissioned me to do works. I have showcased works at Bharat Bhawan (Bhopal). But such a large canvas in Delhi is exhibited for the first time,” says Shanti pointing at her two works, a young girl sporting godhana on her body.
 

The Hindu, 1st April 2011
NGO says it has evidence against Reddy brothers

The Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya (SPS), which along with other NGOs has been fighting against illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh borders, will submit one more set of documents to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in support of their contention that the Reddy brothers owned mines in the State and are directly involved in illegal mining.

Samudaya president S R Hiremath told reporters that he had recently come into possession of some crucial documents that would clearly disprove the Reddy brothers’ claim that they neither owned mines nor were involved in illegal mining.

The new documents included a report on illegal mining submitted by Gulbarga Circle Conservator of Forests, a police complaint filed by the Department of Mines and Geology on illegal mining in Ramgad in Bellary district, and the registration certificate of Associated Mining, an iron ore firm owned by G Janardhana Reddy and his wife G Lakshmi Aruna.

Hiremath, who has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court and on whose petition the
SC has set up the CEC to look into the illegal mining in Karnataka, has said that the SPS and others had already submitted two sets of documents to the CEC explaining how the forest and mineral resources were being looted by greedy politicians and industrialists. But the third set to be submitted to the CEC in a day or two would conclusively prove Reddy brothers’ involvement in illegal mining.

New documents
The first of the three documents is a report on illegal mining submitted to the government by Gulbarga Circle Conservator of Forests in 2005. In his report, he had said that the Black Gold (iron ore) Mines and Minerals had looted lakhs of metric tonnes of ore by extracting and transporting from Vannahalli village area in Bellary district illegally.

Some corrupt officials had also colluded with the illegal miners in creating forged documents and transporting of precious minerals.
Another document pertains to a police complaint by the Department of Mines and Geology. On the instruction of Conservator of Forests U V Singh, the Department of Mines and Geology has filed a police complaint on illegal mining at Ramgadh village on October 12, 2009.

Dr Singh, during his visit to the Ramgadh village had noticed rampant illegal mining being carried out with the support of some powerful politicians. Dr Singh instructed the Department of Mines and Geology to look into the issue.

Acting on his instruction, Deputy Director of the Department of Mines and Geology (Hospet circle) Ramalingayya visited the Ramgad and filed a police complaint. In his complaint, the Deputy Director has said that the illegal mining was being carried by MLA Somashekhar Reddy’s personal assistant and Corporator Diwakar.

Crucial document
Another crucial document the SPS possesses is retirement and admission deed of Associated Mining Company, an iron ore mining company. The firm was earlier owned by one K M Parvathamma and her son K M Vishwanath.

But through a deed signed before the Registrar of Firms in Bangalore on August 1, 2009, K M Parvathamma and her son retired from the firm and G Janardhan Reddy and his wife G Lakshmi Aruna admitted into the firm as the partners the very next day.
 

Deccan Herald, 1st April 2011
Kangra miniatures

The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the emergence of Pahari paintings, especially the Kangra School of Art.

So robust is this art form that artists in Chamba, Nurpur, Kulu, Mandi and Kangra in Himachal Pradesh are working to keep it alive by creating replicas of the originals. Art observers have taken note of this novel and interesting trend in terms of its artistic and commercial value.

Contemporary Kangra miniatures, executed by artists in the hilly towns, are available at the network of state emporia and leading art stores. They reflect the inspiration, themes and subject matter that had flourished during the era gone by. Critics call the freshly done miniatures as “the revived version of heritage art”. Like the originals, they do not have the artists’ signature. However, their close resemblance to the Mughal and later period miniatures is not difficult to discern.

Radha and Krishna, and the motifs of man and woman, are popular portrayals in the present day Kangra paintings. Women in them are perfection personified — lotus eyes, flowing tresses, slender waists, delicate hands and fingers and arresting grace. Slight variations in themes in some executions notwithstanding, they hold the same powerful appeal.

Early miniatures were produced with great enthusiasm, each school having its own distinct stamp of individuality. Like the lyrical Kangra pieces, the colourful Basohli could add clipped butterfly wings to impart brilliance to its texture; and the Kishengarh paintings had the distinction of curved and longish eyes.

The themes centred on seasons, landscapes, festivals, sports of Krishna, and episodes from the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita. Animals, birds, trees, plants and flowers have also been stunningly rendered and lovingly represented.

Heritage preservation measures, acting as a catalyst, have resulted in the extensive renovation of havelis and mini-palaces built by noblemen. Some of these have been transformed into heritage hotels and museums, standing out as grand examples of hill architecture. Local artists and painters have contributed their talent through Kangra and Mughal style paintings to decorate these palaces. Large halls, baithaks and wide corridors display these brilliant masterpieces. Intricate carvings and paintings don the doors, windows, galleries, verandas and walls. With the passage of time, the paintings on doors and windows have faded. However, restoration work on some of these paintings have brought them alive, reviving their original appeal. Perforated jalis, jharokas and motifs impart exclusivity to each palace, fort and haveli, the credit for which should go to artists from the aforementioned hilly towns.
 

Deccan Herald, 3rd April 2011
Indian School students visit Qutub Minar

Beautifully landscaped gardens, lush green lawns and a majestic tower in the centre, the Qutub Minar welcomed us as we walked into its premises. Made of red and buff sandstone, it is one of the highest stone towers in the world and certainly a sight to see. The architecture, splendour and craftsmanship — everything looked alive. The iron pillar in the premises —which had stood the test of time without rusting — was certainly a wonder.

The big feature of the trip was the 75-metre stone column, but there is much more to see too. The mosque, tomb and the iron pillar — everything there was visually captivating.

Considering its strategic status in Indian history, UNESCO has declared the Qutub Minar as a world heritage monument. Arguably one of the most pivotal monuments, it symbolises the continuity of invading powers in India, and the Minar is inevitably associated with Mughal rule in India. It was constructed to overwhelm and subdue the native populace. As a visible and potent symbol of power, it continues to play an axis role in the Indian political psyche. We spent over three hours adoring the well-maintained historical site.

*Mithu Ghosh Paul, Teacher

The Qutub Minar is the world's tallest brick minaret with a height of 72.5 metres. It is one of the earliest and most prominent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. Surrounded by several ancient and medieval structures, it is collectively known as Qutub Complex. It is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Qutub Minar is made of red and buff sandstone. The minaret is made of red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Quran. The iron pillar in the courtyard bears inscriptions in Sanskrit and Brahmi script. Standing in the Qutub complex, it is one of the world's foremost metallurgical curiosities. Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, to the northeast of the Minar, was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in AD 1198. It is the earliest mosque built by Delhi sultans. This trip to Qutub Minar was a good learning experience, and I hope to go for such walks again.

*Meghlayana Banerjee, VIII-A

We. the students of The Indian School, got an opportunity to explore the Qutub Minar — India’s tallest historical monument. On the morning of February 22, we all set off on a journey to the famous UNESCO world heritage site. Work on the structure was initiated by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, who won Delhi from Prithviraj under Muhammad of Ghor as his commander in chief, and finished by Iltutmish. The whole area around the Qutub Minar is called the Qutub Complex. It is one of the notable and most prominent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. It is a “Nayab Namuna” as quoted by many. The beautiful monument is built with Delhi quartzit stones (red and buff sandstone) found in the Aravali ranges. The stones are bound together with dal, gur, lime, etc. The monument portrays the history of Delhi as it displays intricate carving and verses from the Quran, honeycomb patterns reminiscent of Rajputana architecture, and the marble top, which stands as evidence of the more modern turn that Delhi took. Overall, it was a unique experience.

*Devanshi Saini, X-A

“Overwhelming” is the only word by which I can describe my trip to the incredible Qutub Minar on February 22, 2011. The Qutub complex is an array of monuments and buildings at Mehrauli, Delhi. We were taken there to observe our rich heritage, and think about how it should be preserved. In a way , it was also a great learning experience for my friends and me, as we got to know more about the history behind the monument. A great visit, which made me realise how important our heritage is.

*Priyam Wadhwa, IX-BB

I had been informed along with a few schoolmates that we had been selected to go somewhere. However, the catch was that we were not informed where. On February 22, the day we were to leave, we were told that we had been selected as the lucky few to explore the epitome of Mughal architecture in our city — The Qutub Minar. The minaret, constructed with sandstone, stands as the world’s tallest brick minaret, at a height of 72.5 metres. Though construction work on the UNESCO heritage site was first initiated by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, it is believed that after his tragic death, it was completed by his descendant, Iltutmish. This is the very earliest example of Indo-Islamic architecture, which means that it is influenced of both Islamic and the Hindu styles of building. It has been said that it houses India’s first mosque, which is a factor that enhances the legend’s charm. All considered, the sight of the Qutub Minar will make your jaw drop in awe and search for words in vain. It will leave you speechless, literally.

*Anirudh Kapoor, IX-A

It was on February 22 that we, the students of The Indian School, got to visit Qutub Minar in Mehrauli, Delhi. Though I had passed by this monument on many occasions, I did not find the prospect of visiting it particularly exciting. Of course, I was wrong. The complex around the Qutub Minar reminds you of conglomeration of various art forms. No wonder, then, that the Qutub Minar has been included in the coveted list of World Heritage Sites. It is the tallest brick minaret in India made of red and buff sandstone and an important example of early Afghan architecture, which later evolved into Indo-Islamic Architecture known as 'Nayab Namuna’. It is very unfortunate that after 1981, access to the interiors of this beautiful monument was closed to visitors. The iron pillar in the complex remains one of the most talked about and curious structures. It took us around two hours to see the whole of the structure. I was happy to have visited the monument, and whole-heartedly recommend it whoever reads this piece.

*Akshi Nitin, XA

On the morning of February 22, we — the students of The Indian School — were taken on an excursion to the famous world heritage site of the Qutub Minar. Our guide, Vipin Pundeer, helped enlighten us before the visit. The Qutub complex, conceived by Qutbud-din-Aibak in the early 13th Century, was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is attached to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. The magnificent tower depicts many different architectural styles including Indo-Islamic architecture, Temple architecture, Mughal architecture, Rajput and Hindu architecture. It is the tallest stone tower of India, rising to a height of 238 feet and having a total of 279 steps. As many as 1,600 years old, it is made of pure wrought iron, weighs six tonnes, is about 7 metres high and has been standing bare for all these years in the scorching climate of Delhi. However, there is no sign of rust or corrosion on its body, or even on the inscriptions made on it during the Gupta period. The pillar literally stands tall as a wonder for the modern man to witness, and understand the greatness of his ancestors. The pillar also holds an inverted lotus on top, representing the goddess Laxmi. Besides having a great time during the excursion, the students learnt a lot about Indian heritage and clicked many photographs. It was indeed an enriching experience.

*Radhika Sehra, X-A

On February 22, we were taken for a heritage walk to one of Delhi’s most famous monuments, the Qutub Minar. It is the tallest brick minaret in the world, with a height of 72.5 metres. We were told by our guide that it was a product of Indo-Islamic architecture. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1993. We witnessed the Qutub Minar, and were told about its rich cultural history. After that, we went to see the great iron pillar. We had lots of fun, and would like to go on such walks more often.

*Nakul Chodha, IX

We, the students of class VIII, IX and X, went for a heritage walk on February 22. We left from school at 9.00 am and returned by 12.30 p.m. Our medium of transport was bus. The heritage site we went to see was the Qutub Minar. It was huge, with a height of 72.5 metres, thus being the highest minaret in the world. Qutub Minar is located in the Qutub Complex. The complex has a few old temples and the famous iron pillar. We were accompanied by a tour guide who helped us learn more about the monument. We were astonished to see Qutub Minar so closely, and will cherish the memory for the rest of our lives. It was fun being with our friends, and at the same time, it was an educational experience. Our knowledge was enhanced .We got to learn many things about the monument that we were not aware of and, for this, I would like to thank our school. We had a memorable time.

*Sahil Bhasin, X-A

Feeling privileged to be among the few chosen for the heritage walk organised by The Indian Express and of course my school management, I eagerly boarded the bus at around 9.30 am to reach our destination, Qutab Minar, a monument of architectural splendor that needs no introduction. After a curious and long journey (or at least it seemed long to me, perhaps because of sheer eagerness) of about an hour, we reached the famous world heritage site. The first to greet us were a huge number of pigeons that flew overhead as we alighted from the bus. As we entered the complex, we stood there breathlessly staring at the beautifully landscaped gardens and the majestic tower in the middle. Qutab Minar’s grandeur certainly justifies the prominence it holds in Indian history. At 72.5 meters, this structure is a must-see for everyone. The nearby iron pillar, the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities, is also a strong statement of our ancient culture and achievements. It is notable for being one of the earliest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. With many unknown facts being introduced to us by the resource guide, we took a tour around the monument, noting the different styles of dynastic architectural influences evident in the monument. After touring the area for an hour, we boarded the bus again with a heavy heart. For me, this was a day well-spent. A big thank you to The Indian Express and to my school.

*Anubha Saggar, IX-B

On 22nd of February ‘11, the students of class VIII to X along with Mithu and Charu Ma’am went for a heritagewalk to the Qutub Complex. We left the school at 10.20 a.m and our bus journey was a lot of fun.After we reached , there was a guide who told us many things about the monument which were unknown to us. Qutub Minar is one of the three world heritage sites of Delhi as declared by UNESCO. It is made of Delhi quartzite stone, lime and buffstone.The brilliant fusion of architecture makes it unique. We saw the very famous iron pillar, the Quwat-ul Mosque and many other magnificent pillars and structures. It was a memorable experience, and we gained a lot of knowledge from this trip. We thank our school for giving us such a great opportunity to witness history.

*Smriti Mehra, VIII - C

Qutub Minar is undoubtedly the most remarkable heritage site of India with an enormous tourist attraction. Built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, this is the world’s tallest brick minaret with a height of 72.5 metres (237.8 ft). Qutub Minar is notable for being the earliest and most prominent example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The minaret is made of fluted red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur’an. Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, to the northeast of Minar, was built by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak in AD 1198. It is the earliest mosque built by the Delhi sultans. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with carved columns and architectural members of 27 Hindu and Jain temples, which were demolished by Qutbu’d-din Aibak as recorded in his inscription on the main eastern entrance. The nearby Iron Pillar is one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities, also known as the ‘Garun Dwaj’, and is remarkable for its non-rusting quality.

*Deepshikha Sinha,VIII-A

A heritage walk was organized by The Indian Express to Qutub Minar on February 22, 2011, to make us aware about one of the most popular heritage sites of Delhi. The Qutub Minar, a part of the Qutub Complex, is the world’s tallest brick minaret with 379 steps and a height of 72.5 metres. Its construction was started by Qutbuddin Aibak in 1193 and was finished by Iltutmish, as we see it today, in 1368.

*Arsh Aggarwal, IX-A
 

Indian Express, 4th April 2011
20 Indian classics to go under the hammer

An early work of M.F. Hussain, that too a portrait dating back to the 1950s, is surely any art aficionado’s delight. Apart from Hussain, a rural folklore from Jamini Roy and a reflective Bikash Bhattacharjee can surely leave Indian art lovers asking for more. Working on that tangent, the Pundole Art Gallery, one of the earliest art galleries in India will be hosting an art auction with some of the greatest works from the collection of the National Centre for Performing Art (NCPA) on April 20.

A collection of 20 artworks, the list comprises some of the most illustrious and legendary names in the Indian art fraternity. From Roy to S.H. Raza, from Ara to Gaitonde, the collection is something every art lovers wait for.

Dadiba Pundole, director of Pundole Art Gallery says, “It is a historic collection and this is the first time that an institution like the NCPA has brought out their collection for sale.” He adds that this whole idea came about when NCPA cited the need for raising funds. “An auction would be the best and most transparent way to bring it to the public,” Pundole says.

Although the paintings are estimated anywhere between `3 lakhs to `180 lakhs, Robin Dean, consultant to the Pundole Art Gallery says, “It allows the public to own an important piece of artwork that has a story to tell at a reasonable price, considering the value of these works otherwise. It would be quite a rare opportunity for the art lovers.”

The auction has published a detailed catalogue that will give a detailed description of the works and the story behind it. “The research has been extensive and we gathered information by not only talking to the artists, but also their contemporaries and reading up a lot on the works through art journals and magazines, especially the Lalit Kala Academy magazine, which was one of the more important ones during those days,” says Mallika Advani, the auctioneer.

The artwork for the collection is one by Dr Homi Bhabha, the pioneer nuclear physicist, which reveals a rare side of the great scientist. “It’s a 1945 canvas. Dr Bhabha was an avid painter and it shows in his works,” says Pundole.

There is a portrait by Hussain, which dates back to 1958. Pundole shares an interesting story, which had Hussain painting nearly 100 portraits in a year’s span. “In 1957 Hussain painted a portrait of the dancer Indrani Rehman, which an art critic in those days didn’t appreciate. Hussain took it upon himself to paint as many portraits as he could in the next one year, and this is when Hussain was offering his services to people to practice the art of painting portraits,” says Pundole. What’s even more interesting is that a year later, the critic took back his words.

Pundole says that each of these works has something unique about them and hence picking a favourite would be very difficult. There is an unusual Bikash painting, which has two headless figures, one of a corrupt policeman, and the other of a criminal walking down alongside a bylane.

Roy, known for his folk art and depiction of development of India also has two interesting works in this list. “One is a landscape in summery colours like yellow with a lot of vibrancy, while the other is of a village which has earthy tones and melancholic hues. They are two extremely different images, giving a contrasting effect,” says Pundole. There are also artworks by Krishen Khanna, N.S. Bendre and V.S. Gaitonde.

He adds that since it is difficult for institutions to maintain these paintings, they are now foraying into auctioning their artworks. “A lot of effort goes into the maintenance of these paintings which is why the institutions prefer auctioning their works,” says Pundole. Although the list of the 20 paintings going to be auctioned comprise some of the biggest names in Indian art scene, Pundole feels that there’s room for everyone in an auction, even if at the end of the day, the classics get an edge over the others. “I’ve always believed that an artist is few steps ahead of his viewers and considering the resistance to change, it takes time for any artist to be accepted. Art always reflects the state of the society and it doesn’t have to be logical all the time. Collecting art is more about believing in it rather than understanding it. Certain things are just the way they are,” concludes Pundole.
 

The Asian Age, 4th April 2011
City of tombs and domes

GULBARGA Besides the massive fort, it has the grand Jama Masjid, dargahs and tombs to hold a visitor's interest, write Sandhya Rao and N. Shiva Kumar

I n Persian language ‘Gul' means flower and ‘burg' means leaf thus making Gulbarga once a land of lavish living. Driving into the town we reached our accommodation located close to the massive Gulbarga fort and gazed at the 14 {+t} {+h} Century fort which remained almost unscathed for over many decades. It is all set to regain its lost glory as the Archaeological Survey of India and the State Government are working for its renovation and restoration.

Gulbarga fort was just round the corner, so we were symbolically walking the lanes of history to explore the city of tombs and domes. The story of Gulbarga goes back to 13 {+t} {+h} and 14t {+h} Century and the Bahamani Sultans were the first Muslim rulers to dominate the Deccan region although it was earlier under Hindu Kings. Bahamani's decked this arid place with beautiful palaces, fortifications and stately structures. Today Gulbarga is left with its old forts, mosques, horse stables, dilapidated tombs, large courtyards and ancient temples.

Sprawling over an area of 75 acres the fortification has 15 tall watch towers with 26 massive metallic cannon guns strategically mounted. We managed to see only three majestic cannons located atop the three storied structure called ‘Ranamandal' in middle of the fort. A 40-feet moat in a rundown condition separates the double boundary wall of the fort, which was once filled with water to the brim having man-eating crocodiles to keep enemies at bay.

The compact Jama Masjid inside the fort wall is a unique mosque with a huge dome and smaller ones as embellishments. It was built in 1367 by an architect from Spain with arched doorways on the same lines as that of the Great Mosque of Cardova in Spain. The serenity and solitude when we visited was overpowering.

Haft Gumbaz
In the morning we started the search for more monuments of Gulbarga with our first stop at a quaint complex housing seven royal tombs popularly known as Haft Gumbaz. It is interesting to wander in the spacious interiors with latticed windows, cusped arches and ornamental remnants. The seven tombs are of admired rulers and the most elaborate one being that of Feroz Shah Bahamani's. It was conspicuously cool inside the tombs while it was scorching outside.

Our next stop was Khwaja Banda Nawaz Dargah, the tomb of the Sufi Syed Mohammed Gesu Daraz, standing in a large complex comprising lesser tombs and mosques. The interiors are richly decorated with frescos on glazed tiles with blue green geometric designs, free flowing tendrils and flowers portraying the influence of Indo-Islamic art. The mirror work set inside the dome of this dargah makes it a spiritual tour de force of the Islamic world and is surely a delicacy to the eyes.

No women please
Unfortunately women are not allowed inside the shrine where this exquisite mirror work is inlaid. They can only have a glimpse through a small window from the outer wall. Hundreds of devotees, both Muslims and Hindus, pay homage to the Sufi on the occasion of the annual Urs. After a random view of the tombs and domes we ventured to the wish-fulfilling chamber where we dropped few coins, for the lady luck to smile upon us.

Later we set out 22 kms south of Gulbarga in search of the lost ruins of Firozabad, a city founded by Firoz Shah Bahamani. On reaching a tiny hamlet we took the trail that runs along the village fields next to the fort. Huge arches, crumbling palaces, once stately and strong but now in a dilapidated condition were the only remains of Firozabad. We climbed over the dainty unused steps and walked the alleyway atop one such fortress to enjoy the rustic surroundings. These forlorn ruins, overgrown with weeds and reeds, urgently need restoration and conservation by the authorities.

Close to the town, located on a lonely hillock is the Chor Gumbaz. A huge hemispherical dome, akin to the famous Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, it has multiple arches on each side.

It also has decorative domes on all four corners. Watching the sunset with its slanting rays spread on this tomb was a sheer delight. On the way back to our hotel we passed by Aiwan-e-Shahi, the rest house of Nizam built in two shades of stone. Also we espied a large lake next to the 19th Century Basaveshwara temple now undergoing repair work.

We travelled from Hyderabad by a car on a comfortable road covering 220 kms. Gulbarga has its own railhead and many trains to Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi pass through. But be warned as accommodation in Gulbarga does not have any luxury hotels but the ones available are good enough for a comfortable stay.
 

The Hindu, 4th April 2011
Chirping away into oblivion

You don’t hear the chirps of a sparrow as much as you did once upon a time, do you? The reasons for their decline are yet to be understood, but we do have some pointers. Mosquito coils, cellphone radiation and automobile exhaust of vehicles running on lead-free petrol could be major factors. The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is certainly another cause related to their decline as for the first 15 days of their lives, their nestlings live exclusively on a diet of worms.

It is true that we can neither wish away unleaded petrol, the cellphone or the mosquito coil. So is the fate of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) sealed? Not really.

No other bird has taken to living with the humans as the house sparrow. It originated in West Asia, reached Eurasia and North Africa with agriculture and eventually spread across the world. Today, it’s the most widely distributed species on our planet. In fact, the only places where it is not found are dense forests and in the tundra region.

The sparrow remained an integral part of human life for millennia, but today they are disappearing from the cities all over the world. In Britain, they’re now in the red list as a species of ‘high conservation concern’. In Sri Lanka, they are a protected species and in the Netherlands, they are an ‘endangered species’. If a bird that so easily adapted to human habitation and is a prolific multiplier whose range runs from the costal areas to the Himalayas can start disappearing from our cities and towns, there is something seriously wrong with our urban landscape as they can still be seen in smaller towns and villages.

Think of a little change in our urban gardens. Manicured lawns that need precious ground water, chemical fertilisers and pesticides need to be replaced with forest-like green areas with indigenous grass, fruit-bearing trees like jamun, ber and shehtoot along with some thorny ones like babool as they are the ideal nesting grounds for the small birds.

To water these garden forests we need to create waste water wetlands, where water purifying plants like bulrushes and wild canna will remove toxins and pass on the water for irrigating these green areas. In these mini eco-systems there would always be small fish, frogs, dragonflies and spiders to ensure that the mosquitoes don’t breed there. They will also be the green zones where our children could learn how eco-systems work.

Our match-box like apartment architecture has driven the house sparrow away. I do hope our new forest-gardens will lure them back.
 

Hindustan Times, 4th April 2011
HC asks ministry to end Bhatti mines deadlock

The Union environment and forest ministry will now take a call if a part of the Bhatti mines is fit to be developed as a garbage dump.

The ministry has been asked to step in by the Delhi high court after the Delhi government objected to MCD's decision to identify pits in the mines as proposed landfill sites. Saying the capital was under threat of turning into one large "garbage dump" the civic agency had sought land on the city's outskirts to manage garbage.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw asked the centre to find out if there is any possibility of the Bhatti mines area being used as a landfill site without it posing an environment threat to the wildlife sanctuary ‚€” as claimed by the state government. For this purpose, the ministry has been directed to come up with its stand even as the HC wondered how mining was permitted earlier in the same area when it was a wildlife sanctuary, if now this ground is being invoked to stop a garbage dump from coming up.

Opposing any plans by MCD to use the pits in the abandoned mines as dumping sites, the state government in an affidavit claimed such a move would seriously imperil the adjoining forest and its remaining wildlife. It advised the corporation to survey and identify an area outside the sanctuary for the purpose of a landfill site. The affidavit informed HC that the proposal to use abandoned mining pits in Bhatti as landfill was discussed in 2002.

Though an in-principal approval was granted by the Ridge Management Board in 2005 to the civic agency to use four pits for dumping waste, a recent survey of the area and a site inspection led by the state government found that the site is part of the Bhatti wildlife sanctuary, reserved forest and southern Ridge

On its part, the MCD cried foul. It pointed out before HC that the state government had suddenly shifted its stand. While earlier before the Supreme Court, the government had given its nod to the MCD proposal, it was opposing the same before HC. The MCD claims it identified the sites after carrying out all the required tests and has obtained all clearances.
 

The Hindu, 4th April 2011
The Jain connection

HERITAGE Temples at Thirumalai mirror the legacy of Jainism in Tamil Nadu

We don't normally associate the Cholas with the Jains. But an inscription at a Jain temple in Thirumalai indicates that Kundavi, sister of Raja Raja Chola, had given grant to this 1,000-year-old shrine. Even today, locals refer to it as Kundavi Jainalaya.

It was a rather hot afternoon, and we were a small group walking around the rocky terrains of Thirumalai in Thiruvannamalai. Our guide was R. Venkatraman (retired professor of Art History, Madurai Kamaraja University), who, at the age of 77, seemed to be the youngest in the group, as he beamed with energy and enthusiasm and explained to us the legacy of Jainism in Tamil Nadu.
The sun was rather merciless as we climbed up a hillock to see an 18-ft monolith of Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara.

“Born a prince, he is believed to be the cousin of Krishna. You'll always see a conch or a chakra with him,” explained the professor. “Krishna had arranged for his wedding, but Neminatha could not accept the fact that his wedding feast would lead to the slaughter of goats, and he renounced the world.”

HISTORY AND MYTH
A circular rock stood precariously on the hillock as we went around it and climbed further. We saw another temple; one dedicated to Parshvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara. “Mahaveera and Parshvanatha were considered historic, while the rest of the 22 Tirthankaras, mythical.” A lone flowering tree emerged from the rocks, as if blooming for the deities.

Looking at the boulders and rocks strewn around with patches of fields, we realised there was more to Thirumalai than just Kundavi's Jainalaya.

The ancient Jain heritage site was filled with cave temples, paintings, monoliths, temples on hillocks and carvings — all probably dating between 10th and 15th Centuries, patronised by various dynasties and rulers. The caves had been the haven for several monks, and it is believed that Kunda Kunda Acharya, a revered Jain seer had visited the place as well.

As we stood atop the hill, we could see what are said to be the impressions of the feet of several monks, engraved on the rocks.

Walking down the hill, we went to a shrine dedicated to Mahaveera, the 24th Tirthankara. There were several shrines close by with more carvings. We entered a narrow dusty cell that opened into a flight of steps leading to a cave. This was probably where the Jain monks had lived. The walls were painted in rich colours, depicting deities, symbols, their ideologies through flowers, animals and human forms.

EPICS BY JAINS
Jainism in Tamil Nadu dates back many centuries, so much so some of the epics in Tamil are believed to have been penned by Jains. Jains settled in and around Madurai, Kanchipuram and Thiruvannamalai, and are an indigenous community.

“The literature, art, paintings, temples, carvings — they have left behind a rich legacy for us here, waiting to be discovered,” summed up the professor, as we reached the Jain mutt for a simple meal.
 

The Hindu, 4th April 2011
Plugging the Pandemic Plunder

UNESCO estimates nearly 50,000 objects have been smuggled out of India between 1979 and 1989 alone, with figures multiplying significantly in the last two decades. Yet, India has so far not been able to put a national database of standardised systematic inventory in place to track the stolen art

In 1997, one third of the priceless historic collections of the museum used by former Viceroys and Presidents of India (already termite ridden, damp and in a state of neglect) at the Rashtrapati Bhavan estate were looted. The museum was last opened in 1992, and was closed a week after for security concerns. By the time the law enforcement finally traced the culprit - a poor rag-picker who had scaled the walls of the Presidential estate, he had already sold off 116 of the 131 stolen items. While a UK- based curator Timothy Wilcox was engaged to prepare a detailed list of recommendations for security and maintenance, the recovered 15 artefacts made their way back to the dank, ill-kept storage of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

There is no dearth of references to an all pervasive pandemic plunder of our heritage that is plagued with lack of awareness, initiative and apathy for our national treasure. The dramatic journey of the priceless 500 kg world's tallest bronze Buddha that began in 1861, from Sultanpur, Bihar to Birmingham, UK, still continues. While laying down railway tracks at Sultangunj, an English engineer, E B Harris, chanced upon giant legs of Buddha protruding out of the excavated land. He took only £200 to sell the priceless Buddha to a Midlands industrialist. The statue later landed in Birmingham City Museum, from where it never returned to its place of origin. Then, it was the Koh-i-noor and the Amaravati sculptures to the daring robbery of twenty seven 17th century bronzes from a government museum in Tamil Nadu in 2009. There is a staggering phenomenon of gross national pillage that defies comprehension for a nation that prides itself on its sanskriti.

While the 'Birmingham Buddha' gave birth to the famous Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in 1864, countless statues of the Buddha continue to be vandalized and smuggled across our borders to eager antique dealers and collectors. The November 1978 General Conference of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), meeting in Paris, at its twentieth session adopted a revised Act for the Protection of Moveable Cultural Property in conjunction with the existing International Exchange of Cultural Property in 1976. UNESCO estimates nearly 50,000 objects have been smuggled out of India between 1979 and 1989 alone, with figures multiplying significantly in the last two decades. Out of the reported 11,000 thefts in the same period, a dismal 10-15 objects were eventually traced and recovered. Unfortunately, UNESCO Conventions have no enforcement capability, though endorsed by 120 countries.

Interpol database lists 40,000 stolen hi-value burglaries and an added 1.5 million artefacts in stolen objects. Most reputable auction houses check the Art Loss Register (the world's largest private database of lost art) for authenticity and questionable titles before bringing art and antiquities under the gavel. The prowess of Art Loss Register is demonstrated by the recovery of $320 million worth of stolen works of art. Pegged upwards of a whopping $6 billion annually, the illegal trafficking in Art and Cultural Properties is third only to the narcotics and arms trade. Statues of gods and goddesses, antiquities, works of art and heritage fixtures are regularly smuggled abroad as replicas from villages in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and other states.

If the percentage of theft and plunder were but a fraction of the treasures we hold in our museums and private collections, one cannot even begin to fathom an insurance premium on the billions in cultural assets that India, as a civilisation holds within its repositories and heritage sites. This is still an enviable position to be in, compared to most African countries that have lost over 95% of their antiquities or Columbia which loses over 10,000 objects each year with a recovery rate of under 1% in the last five decades, according to UNESCO.

Increasing number of museums, foundations, private and corporate collectors are enhancing a growing appreciation for cultural heritage, leading to an increased concern in dangers of easy access, inadequate protection, the risks inherent in transport, clandestine excavation, daring and casual thefts, illicit traffic, inadvertent acts of vandalism and illegal colonial acquisition often referred to as "elginism" coined after the famous Elgin marbles removed from the Parthenon in Athens some 200 years ago. As early as 1832 when Greece gained independence from Turkey, it requested the return of its cultural property from the British Museum as a matter of national priority.

The increase in market value of cultural items has escalated risks and in-turn the cost of comprehensive insurance in countries like India. Inversely, where the Ministry of Culture's total budget for museums is currently under Rs.135 crore for this fiscal year, inclusive of payroll and overheads; both the financial and human resources remain inadequate. There is no dedicated system of governmental guarantees and rapid mobilization of recovery of lost, stolen or damaged artefacts in place to deal with specialised crimes and sometimes delicate handling of available clues and content in question. The FBI has a dedicated Art Crime Team with trained cultural property investigation special agents supported by Special Trial Attorneys for art crimes with a track record of recovering $135 million in stolen art objects. A pre- requisite for tracking stolen art objects is to create a national database of standardised systematic inventory, condition report and cataloguing of cultural property. India could also benefit from publishing a comprehensive catalogue of lost and stolen items dating back to documented colonial times and post-independence, akin to the 1988 publication from Nepal on Stolen Images by late L.S. Bangdel.

The Indian Antiquities and Art Treasures Act- 1972, when tabled was flawed at many levels requiring enforcement agencies to take permission from the 28 or so authorised designated officers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) before inspection and seizure of antiquities. Arguably, the Act severely dampened legitimate domestic trade of art and antiquities and created cumbersome procedures for registration of objects over 75 years that kept genuine collectors and sellers away fearing prosecution. It prevented new scholarship, deterred collections from developing and spurred underground trade. The two international auction houses Sotheby's (1992) and Bowring's (2004) who sought to revive domestic antiquities market, were literally choked by the twin forces of the CBI and ASI forcing them to shut their operations and resort to even more sluggish court systems for reprieve. With nearly 50% of our museums (including the National Museum) remaining headless without qualified leadership, one wonders who will lead the charge to re-draft some of these much needed provisions, amendments and measures of efficacy, that could position India with its vast antiquities treasure trove, as a vanguard nation with foresight and vision.

Movable Cultural Property is sometimes confronted with an ethical dilemma that seldom features in discussions or legal draft frameworks for amendments. It is associated with taking a ceremonial, religious or otherwise significant objects of reverence from its existing context and bringing it within the confines of a museum to display, void of its spiritual or ambient premise. In a land steeped with rich living traditions and omniscient divinity, this becomes particularly significant. There exists no protocol while dealing with such objects that prevents a government institution from such acquisition, storage, transportation and display, let alone a framework for meting out compensatory damages to those impacted by an inadvertent or deliberate act.

It is time a comprehensive Art Policy is put in place within an over-arching 2020 Master Plan for our museums and cultural heritage. A strategic thrust that addresses the current and growing needs of curbing cultural theft, both in the tangible and intangible realms of a 5000 year civilization in continuum that defines India, is a necessity. The talent and expertise of professionals passionate about this initiative needs to be harnessed with astute political will that rises above debatable differences towards generating a stellar edifice for our collective future.

Author of several books on the future of museums, George Jacob's works span across 11 countries
 

The Tribune, 5th April 2011
Plan for new bridge over Yamuna hits ASI roadblock

For almost a decade now, the Railways have been waiting for a green signal from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to build a bridge parallel to the 140-year-old rail-cum-road bridge over the Yamuna.

The old bridge, the Railways have cautioned, needs immediate replacement. Since the bridge runs through the 16th Century Salimgarh Fort and the new bridge has to be constructed within the prohibited area — 100-m of the monument — the ASI has refused permission.

The bridge, a vital link connecting the Delhi Main Station to eastern parts of the country, is used daily by over 100 passenger trains and an almost equal number of goods trains. The railway line crosses the wall of Salimgarh Fort. Since the new bridge is required to be rebuilt 30 m away from the existing bridge, the location where the rail line crosses the fort wall will have to be shifted.
The new crossing will require a 15m wide and 1.6 m deep opening from the top of the wall. Another 1,000 sq m of ASI land will be required by the Railways near the edge of Salimgarh Fort to lay tracks for the new alignment. In lieu of this, the Railways promise to give ASI land occupied by a railway colony inside the fort.

The issue was first taken up with ASI in 2002. In 2004, the Minister of Tourism and Culture agreed to the proposal. Work was initiated and the foundation of the new bridge laid. But when the matter was forwarded to ASI, it turned down the proposal.

In 2006, Director General, ASI, pointed out that the project involved dismantling of a portion of the historic fort wall which would cause irreversible damage to the Centrally protected monument — permission for laying tracks in the protected area was denied. The DG called for a Cultural Impact Assessment including archaeological excavations and ground penetrating radar studies in the fort. The INTACH was asked to conduct the study in May 2010.

But ASI officials later told the Railways that permission for construction of the New Yamuna Bridge would not be possible after the enactment of the amended Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 2010 even if the cultural impact assessment was carried out.

In July 2010, the matter was then forwarded to the Railway Board to be taken up with the Ministry of Culture but it is still pending. Officials said the assessment report by INTACH is expected to be submitted to the Railways this month.
 

Indian Express, 5th April 2011
Delhi lashes museum report but learns, not Calcutta

A scathing Unesco report on the state of India’s top museums has been trashed by the government but seems to have had a salutary effect, at least in Delhi and Mumbai if not in Calcutta.
Sources said the National Museum in Delhi and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai had revamped themselves since the report was handed to the culture ministry last July.

Calcutta’s Indian Museum, though, has shown no sense of urgency despite the Unesco report and the recommendations of a panel of historians, they added.

The Unesco report, based on a survey of eight museums, said these were badly maintained, poorly lit and had incorrect signs. Its authors saw garbage in front of the Calcutta museum.

The findings wouldn’t startle regular visitors, but culture minister Kumari Selja found them inaccurate.

In a written reply to Parliament on March 8, Selja said the number of surveyors was inadequate. “The report contained 47 graphs analysing the data collected by 23 surveyors, leading to skewed analysis,” she alleged.

All the surveyors were drawn from Delhi institutions ---- the School of Planning and Architecture, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia and the Association of Delhi Tour Guides.

Selja also claimed the report made errors in totting up the museum’s scores — a charge that could not be checked because the report has not been made public —and objected to the surveyors clicking pictures of the museums.

Selja insisted that the government was committed to its 14-point reforms agenda for museums, which it has been implementing since April 2009. Despite queries, the culture ministry wouldn’t explain its criticism of the Unesco report.

However, three months after the report was submitted, the National Museum in Delhi took a forward step by appointing C.V. Ananda Bose, a Malayali IAS officer named after Netaji Bose, as its first administrator. Bose is known for his battle against corruption at the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation last year.

On October 15, the museum launched a 100-day programme under which it spruced up the foyer and corridors, improved lighting, replaced artefacts and put up new signs, including Braille signs. It reopened the Sharan Rani Backliwal Gallery of musical instruments.

Other galleries, closed for years, are being renovated. Antiquity consultant Abha Narain Lambah, who restored the Chhatrapati Sangrahalaya in Mumbai, has been hired to design the bronze gallery.

The Unesco report had noted the absence of humidity control, especially in Calcutta. The National Museum in Delhi has begun civil construction for centralised air-conditioning, hiring agencies other than the central public works department to avoid delay, Bose said. This includes “big players for merchandising through open tenders”.

Unesco had cited the lack of public opinion surveys to develop marketing strategy. Although such surveys haven’t started yet, museum buffs, architects and connoisseurs have volunteered to help with improving the bronze gallery at the National Museum.

The museum, under its People’s Museum Movement and other initiatives, is taking its activities beyond its walls with special programmes for women, children and panchayats.

One problem it faces is a staff shortage. A third of the posts — that is, 109 in all — are vacant. Recruitment can be done only through the UPSC and Staff Selection Commission.

The culture ministry has spent almost Rs 50 crore on upgrading museums in the last three years.

Heritage conservationist Rajeev Sethi acknowledged the “soul-searching” in the ministry but added: “Our museums are understaffed and some of their buildings are collapsing. There are extremely serious issues, but there is no sense of urgency.”

This is truest of the Indian Museum, Calcutta. “A committee was set up early last year to revamp the display as the Indian Museum celebrates its bicentenary in 2014. Nothing has happened since,” said Gour M. Kapur, Bengal convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.

“The committee, comprising historians Barun De, Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Jyotindra Jain, myself and some others, are extremely upset that our work has been in vain. There’s a need for a thorough revamp, but right now there is only an acting director.”

The recruitment notice for a director was published in February 2008.

“The Planning Commission had sanctioned huge amounts for the Indian Museum, but they didn’t come up with any proposal to avail of it,” Kapur said.

Parul Dave Mukherji, dean of JNU’s School of Arts and Aesthetics, said: “Museums in India remain the last sites (in need) of decolonisation. They remind us that we have not come into our own and still seek western tutelage.”
 

The Telegraph, 5th April 2011
Multitude of species face climate threat

Over the past 540 million years, life on Earth has passed through five great mass extinctions. In each of those catastrophes, an estimated 75 percent or more of all species disappeared in a few million years or less.

For decades, scientists have warned that humans may be ushering in a sixth mass extinction, and recently a group of scientists at UC Berkeley, tested the hypothesis. They applied new statistical methods to a new generation of fossil databases. As they reported last month in the journal Nature, the current rate of extinctions is far above normal. If endangered species continue to disappear, we will indeed experience a sixth extinction, over just the next few centuries or millennia.

The Berkeley scientists warn that their new study actually may grossly underestimate how many species could disappear. So far, humans have pushed species toward extinctions through means like hunting, overfishing and deforestation. Global warming, on the other hand, is only starting to make itself felt in the natural world. Many scientists expect that as the planet’s temperature rises, global warming could add even more devastation.

“The current rate and magnitude of climate change are faster and more severe than many species have experienced in their evolutionary history,” said Anthony Barnosky, the lead author of the Nature study.

But equally as strong as the conclusion that global warming can push extinctions is the difficulty in linking the fate of any single species to climate. Policy makers would like to get a better idea of exactly what to expect — how many species will risk extinction, and which ones are most likely to wink out of existence.

But scientists who study the impact of global warming on biodiversity are pushing back against the pressure for detailed forecasts. While it’s clear that global warming’s impact could potentially be huge, scientists are warning that it’s still impossible to provide fine-grained predictions.

“We need to stand firm about the real complexity of biological systems and not let policy makers push us into simplistic answers,” said Camille Parmesan, a biologist at the University of Texas. She and others studying climate’s effects on biodiversity are calling for conservation measures that don’t rely on impossible precision.

Parmesan herself has gathered some of the most compelling evidence that global warming is already leaving its mark on nature. In 2003, she and Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University, analyzed records of the geographical ranges of more than 1,700 species of plants and animals. They found that their ranges were moving, on average, 3.8 miles per decade toward the poles. Animals and plants were also moving up mountain slopes.

These were the sorts of changes you’d expect from global warming. The warmer edges of a range might become too hot for a species to survive, while the cooler edge becomes more suitable. What’s more, only worldwide climate change could explain the entire pattern.

“Because it’s happening consistently on a global scale, we can link it to greenhouse gases changes,” Parmesan said.

Parmesan and her colleagues have continued to expand their database since then. But other researchers have been moving in the opposite direction, seeking to attribute changes in individual species to climate change. Last year, for example, Michael Kearney of the University of Melbourne and his colleagues published a study on the common brown butterfly of Australia. From 1941 to 2005, adult butterflies had been emerging from their pupae 1.5 days earlier per decade around Melbourne.

To see if the brown butterfly is actually responding to climate change, Kearney and his colleagues first analyzed historical temperature records in Melbourne. Temperatures have gradually risen over the past 60 years. Computer models indicate that natural climate cycles can explain only a small part of the change.

The scientists then observed how temperature affects how brown butterflies develop. The warmer the temperature, the faster the butterflies emerged from their pupae. Kearney and his colleagues used those results to build a mathematical model to predict how long the butterflies would develop at any given temperature. They determined that Melbourne’s local warming should have led to the butterflies emerging 1.5 days earlier per decade — exactly what the butterflies are, in fact, doing.

In the journal Nature Climate Change, Parmesan and her colleagues argue that trying to attribute specific biological changes to global warming is the wrong way to go. While the global fingerprint of climate change may be clear, the picture can get blurry in individual species.

“When you go to the local level, the outcome of climate change on one particular species is not dependent just on what climate change is doing,” Parmesan said.

In Europe, for example, the map butterfly has expanded its range at both its northern and its southern edge. Global warming probably has something to do with its northern expansion. But the butterflies are also benefiting from the mowing of roadsides, which allows more nettle plants to grow. Because map butterflies feed on nettles, they’re able to survive across a broader range of Europe.

A number of experts applaud the commentary from Parmesan and her colleagues.

“I think they really hit the nail on the head,” said Richard Pearson, the director of biodiversity informatics research at the American Museum of Natural History. “Biologists shouldn’t get drawn heavily into the attribution debate.”

But some researchers counter that such studies can be worthwhile cases where global warming’s impact on an individual species is clear. “The fact that the task may simply be too challenging in most cases does not mean that it will be impossible or a waste of effort in some particular cases,” said DŠithŪ Stone, a climate scientist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Tracking the effects of climate change on species today can help show how nature may respond to it in decades to come. And many scientists think that the future looks grim. As temperatures rise, many species may not be able to shift their ranges to stay in a comfortable environment. Instead, their ranges may shrink, pushing them toward extinction.

Over the past decade, Pearson and other researchers have developed models to predict these future range shifts. They typically calculate the “climate envelope” in which species live today, and then use global warming projections to find where their climate envelopes will be in the future.

These models first came to prominence in 2004, when an international team of scientists published a study of more than a thousand species. They estimated that 15 percent to 37 percent of all species could become “committed to extinction” by 2050, thanks to climate change.

“It was a big splash for the field,” Pearson recalled. But in his new book, “Driven to Extinction,” Pearson recounts how he cringed to see the research boiled down to simple, stark headlines that said a million species were doomed.

“Biodiversity is under severe threat from climate change, but we need to be careful that we don’t give a false impression of what our confidence is,” said Pearson. “We have to give a nuanced sense of what we do know and what we can say with confidence.”

Seven years after the million-species headlines, Pearson says that extinction models still have a long way to go. “We’ve made some incremental improvements, but I don’t think they’re hugely better,” he said.

“It’s been a very powerful tool, but my concern is that it’s very weak on biology,” said Georgina Mace of Imperial College London. In the latest issue of Science, she and her colleagues use the fossil record to demonstrate how seemingly similar species can respond in different ways to climate change.

When the planet warmed at the end of the ice age 11,000 years ago, for example, the change was too much for Irish elk, which became extinct. Moose, on the other hand, have survived. Some moose populations stayed put; other populations shifted to more suitable places.

Mace and her colleagues call for new models that can assess the sensitivity of species to climate, as well as their ability to adapt. In some cases, that adaptation may be evolution. Species may become better able to tolerate warmer temperatures or a change in rainfall. In other cases, animals may adapt by changing their behavior.

Polar bears, for example, are having a harder time hunting seals because of melting sea ice. “They don’t say, we can’t eat seals anymore, so we’re just going to starve,” Pearson said. Instead, some bears are getting more food on land, raiding goose nests for their eggs.

While this switch may slow the decline of polar bears, it’s not great news for the geese. Pearson notes that all the influences that species have on one another will also determine how climate change affects them. “Predicting how communities will respond is really tricky,” he said.

Mace argues that a fuller accounting of how species cope with climate could let scientists revise their estimate for how many species could become extinct. “I think it could be a lot worse for some groups of species, and not as bad for others,” she said.

Humans add even more complexity to the forecast. Cities and farms now block the path for many species that might otherwise be able to spread to more suitable habitats, for example. Parmesan thinks much more research should go into the interactions of global warming and other human impacts. Scientists in Australia have found that coral reefs are more resilient against global warming, for example, if they’re protected from overfishing. The warming oceans stimulate the growth of deadly algae on the reefs. But grazing fish can keep the algae in check.

Such research will become the basis for decisions about which species to help, and how. Mace believes that some especially vulnerable species may need to be moved to new habitats in order to survive.

Parmesan thinks that reducing other pressures, like overfishing, will make species more resilient to climate change. “We know that climate change wouldn’t be such a big problem if systems weren’t already stressed,” she said. “We really need to focus on reducing these other stressors.”

Pearson, on the other hand, argues for setting aside more land in parks and reserves. More space will help keep species ranges large even if those ranges shift.

“We need to give nature the opportunity to respond,” he said.
 

Asian Age, 6th April 2011
Jahangir portrait to go under hammer

The largest known Mughal painting, a portrait of Emperor Jahangir, is estimated to sell for between £1 million and £1.5 million at an auction on Tuesday afternoon at Bonhams in London. The painting is in the style of a European portrait of the early 17th Century. The portrait is attributed to Mughal artist Abul Hasan, Nadir al-Zaman or “Wonder of the Age.”

The portrait shows Jahangir seated on a gold-decorated throne holding a globe, wearing elaborate robes and jewellery. The Persian inscription states that the portrait was painted at Mandu in 1617.

“This is one of the rarest and most desirable 17th Century paintings ever to come to auction. There is no other work of its kind known and its importance cannot be underestimated. The extraordinary detail and complexity of the painting both fascinate and bewitch the viewer,” Alice Bailey, head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams, said.

The other highlight of the auctions is an Ottoman gilt bridle, breast-plate and crupper, which was taken from the residential quarters of Tipu Sultan, Sultan of Mysore, by a British officer. The bridle, which was personal property of Mysore’s Tipu Sultan, is estimated to sell for between £60,000 and £90,000.

Field Marshall Sir Stapleton Cotton, 1st Viscount Combermere, had brought the bridle to England.

The bridle was part of a booty taken from Tipu’s palace after the siege of Seringapatam by Lt. Col. Cotton, and together with a breast-plate, was specifically recorded as being Tipu’s personal property.

The bridle, it is speculated, must have been part of a princely or ambassadorial gift to Tipu Sultan from the Ottoman Sultan Selim III.

The third important item at the auction is an inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle and bearing the name of Major Alexander Hannay, an East India Company officer under William Hastings.
 

Asian Age, 6th April 2011
Nizamuddin Baoli gets a facelift

The 14th Century Nizamuddin Baoli has been at the centre of feverish conservation efforts, involving extensive technical expertise and community support aimed at bringing alive the heritage site.

Built by Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the baoli is being conserved as part of the ‘Humayun’s Tomb-Sunder Nursery-Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal project’ by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), in partnership with the Central Public Works Department, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Aga Khan Foundation.

In July 2008, portions of the baoli collapsed, following which extensive repair work had to be carried out. Conservation work on the collapsed portion on the baoli continued through 2010 especially after the relocation of the 19 families who were inhabiting the roof of the baoli, which required urgent repairs.

The families, meanwhile, have been provided alternative plots and houses built by the AKTC.

With heavy building activity being carried out abutting the baoli, which is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the conservation works on the collapsed portion could commence only following the dismantling of a single structure built directly above the collapsed portion.

The arcade on the south side of the baoli was carefully repaired, including the relaying of the lime concrete roof, replacing unsightly iron grills with sandstone lattice screens and removing cement plaster both from the internal and external faces and replacement with lime plaster.

“Conservation works on the vaulted passages meant that the main access (from the baoli) to the dargah had to be closed to public use for three months, during which significant support from the Dargah Committee and the local community was forthcoming,” said Ratish Nanda, project director, AKTC. “Conservation works will continue through 2011 when faÁade improvements of houses and conservation of the abutting Chini Ka Burj will take place, as will conservation works of the Baoli gate itself.”

The access has now been opened to the public.

Officials said the water level of the baoli increased significantly following the removal of several tonnes of rubble that had accumulated here over seven centuries. Over 8,000 days of work were required only to clean the accumulated garbage.

Among future plans is the installation of an aeration system to keep the water of the baoli clean; houses around the structure block sunlight, affecting the natural cleansing process. The water of the baoli is said to have healing properties.

“The conservation works on the baoli required a high degree of technical expertise as well as a humane approach. The works could not have been carried out without the involvement of a multi-disciplinary team, significant interest and support from the local community,” Nanda said. “The Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the ASI ensured constant government support that was much required in view of the complexities of the work.”
 

Indian Express, 7th April 2011
Bid to preserve classical dance forms

To give a platform to dedicated young danseuses from India and abroad to come into the national mainstream, Utsav: Ranjana's Academy of Dance is hosting a two-day international dance festival at India Habitat Centre here beginning April 27.

Titled “Unbound Beats of India”, the festival is the fourth in a series. It is the brainchild of Ranjana Gauhar, Odissi exponent and documentary film-maker.

She has enriched the classical dance form for three decades with dedication, hard work and perseverance.

“The festival is one of the innovative manifestations to popularise and preserve our classical dance forms. True to its name, the festival transcends geographical divisions to propagate the ancient cultural traditions of the country. It reinforces the spiritual strength and essence of Indian culture and art which has a philosophy that is unique and relevant to life and people in general,” says Ms. Gauhar.

Noting that the festival has been conceptualised with the intention to provide upcoming young danseuses with an opportunity to present their artistic creativity, Ms. Gauhar says as torchbearers of India's traditional and classical arts the continuity of our ancient heritage rests on their shoulders. They certainly deserve motivation and encouragement from proficient dancers who have great expertise in this specialised field, she adds.

Initially Ms. Gauhar roped in musicians also for her annual festival but could not continue with them because they were no longer serving the purpose that she had envisaged. “Since I wanted to concentrate only on our Hindustani classical dance forms – Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Odissi, I decided not to continue solo or group performances by musicians. Musicians now perform only as accompaniment to dancers. This year we have classical dance Sattriya from Assam.” The action on first day will include performances by America's Amanda Geroy (Odissi), Chennai's Jyotsna Jagannathan (Bharatanatyam), Guwahati's Jatin Goswami and group (Sattriya). The second day will include dance performances by Kazakhstan's Kassiyet Adilkhankyzy (Bharatanatyam); America's Pallavi Das (Odissi) and Bhubaneswar's Aruna Mohanty and group (Odissi).
 

The Hindu, 7th April 2011
Centre okays plan for water conservation

The Union Cabinet today approved the Comprehensive Mission Document of the National Water Mission aimed at conservation of water, minimising wastage and ensuring its equitable distribution both across and within states through integrated water resources’ development and management.

The Cabinet, at its meeting chaired by PM Manmohan Singh, also approved the opening of Consulate General in Perth, which will benefit the growing Indian community in Western Australia. There are about 40,000 to 45,000 Indians living there.

The Water Mission is one of the eight National Missions, which form the core of the National Action Plan for Climate Change. The Mission Document for National Water Mission was drafted by the Ministry of Water Resources through consultative process with full involvement of state governments, Central ministries concerned, non-governmental organisations, academicians and other stakeholders.

The five goals identified in the mission are comprehensive water data base in public domain and assessment of the impact of climate change on water resources; promotion of citizen and state actions for water conservation, augmentation and preservation; focused attention to vulnerable areas; increasing water use efficiency by 20 per cent and promotion of basin level integrated water resources management.
 

The Tribune, 7th April 2011
Jahangir portrait sold for Rs. 10 crore at London auction

“One of the rarest 17th century paintings ever to go under hammer”

A six-foot high, life-size portrait of Mughal emperor Jahangir, billed as one of the rarest and most desirable 17th century paintings ever to go under the hammer, sold for a whopping £ 1.42 million (Rs. 10 crore) at an auction here.

The portrait, attributed to Abu'l Hasan, Nadir al-Zaman and dated 1617 AD, was one of the top lots at the Indian and Islamic Art Sale at Bonhams on Tuesday. It went to a Middle Eastern museum. The sale total was £ 2.7 million, which included an inscribed 18th century Mughal emerald seal, owned by an officer of the East India Company, that fetched £ 90,000.

European-style throne

The Jahangir portrait in gouache heightened with gold leaf on a fine woven cotton canvas shows the emperor, who reigned from 1605 to 1627, seated on a European-style throne.

His head is surrounded by a radiating nimbus and he is wearing an embroidered floral tunic h33 over a patka and striped pyjama, with applied plaster jewellery. There is a circular pendant around the emperor's neck set with mica, with jade and glass vessels at his side and a carpet under his feet. The border has 26 cartouches of fine nasta'liq inscription.

Previously displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in an exhibition on the Indian Portrait in 2010, the emperor is shown seated on a gold-decorated throne, holding a globe and wearing elaborate robes and jewellery.

Extraordinary detail

“This is one of the rarest and most desirable 17th century paintings ever to come to auction. There is no other work of its kind known and its importance cannot be underestimated. The extraordinary detail and complexity of the painting both fascinate and bewitch the viewer. We are honoured to have sold it,” said Alice Bailey, head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams.

The inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal was set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle and bore the name of Major Alexander Hannay, who was in the service of the East India Company under William Hastings. It sold for well above its pre-sale estimate of £ 40,000-60,000.

The rectangular, 18th century emerald is table-cut and was mounted in an enamelled gold bangle in the early 19th century.

The inscription on the emerald may possibly be the work of Muhammad Salah Khan, a known seal-engraver, working in Faizabad. He engraved emeralds for other East India Company officers during the later part of the 18th century.

Inscribed Mughal gem

“This is a particularly fine example of an inscribed Mughal gem whose history and known provenance adds to its interest. The glorious Victorian setting is particularly appropriate and sympathetic to the long-standing Mughal tradition of combining gems and enamelling,” Ms. Bailey said.

The rulers of Mughal India often ordered their names and titles inscribed on rubies, emeralds and diamonds, a practice which originated in Iran under the Timurids (1370—1507).
 

The Hindu, 7th April 2011
13 more monuments may be ticketed

Alarmed by the recent incidents of vandalism and misuse of protected monuments, particularly those located in remote areas, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has moved a proposal to make 13 monuments ticketed. At present, there are ten ticketed monuments in Delhi, including world heritage sites Qutub Minar, Humayun's Tomb and Red Fort.

Senior officials said the main reason for making more monuments ticketed was to keep anti-social elements and youngsters who defaced or misused monuments at bay. The monuments that have been identified include Hauz Khas group of monuments; tomb of Adham Khan; tomb of Jamali-Kamali; Wazirabad bridge, mosque and tomb; Khirki masjid; tomb of Sheikh Kabiruddin also known as Rakabwala Gumbad (Lal Gumbad in Malviya Nagar); Asokan Rock Edict in Srinivaspuri; Begumpuri Masjid; Bijai Mandal; and tomb of Wadde Khan, Chhote Khan and Bhure Khan in South Extension.

ASI officials said a paltry fee of Rs 5 for Indian nationals and Rs 10 for foreign nationals would not act as a deterrent for those who really wanted to visit the sites. "The move does not aim at increasing the revenue. The basic idea is to secure the monuments and prevent misuse. It has been seen that if you have to pay for entering a site, incidents of misuse or of children playing cricket on the grounds become infrequent," said a senior official. Officials said as lakhs of rupees were being spent on conservation of these sites ‚€” through landscaping, structural conservation, etc ‚€” it was important to make monuments ticketed to secure them.

Defacement and misuse of monuments in remote areas is the most common problem and has prompted the move. Prime examples for this are Zafar Mahal, tomb of Adham Khan and Begumpuri Masjid. Zafar Mahal and Adham Khan's tomb have been defaced with locals dumping garbage inside the grounds. The tomb of Jamali Kamali was recently in the news for being targeted by a group of locals who insisted on performing namaaz there in violation of the ASI Act of 1992. Monuments like the ones in Lodi Garden and Bijai Mandal are also a site of neglect.
 

Times of India, 7th April 2011
Cheetah revival stuck for want of suitable home

The Environment Ministry’s ambitious plan to re-introduce the now extinct cheetah from South Africa, Namibia and Tanzania is mired in controversies. The fate of Shahgarh Bulge near Jaisalmer — the original site for reintroduction in Rajasthan — is uncertain in the face of ground problems. The other proposed site of Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, according to experts, is not the right choice due to its proximity to tigers and panthers in the nearby Ranthambore reserve.

Yet another site at grasslands near Rawatbhata in Hadauti region has been identified for fresh survey for the re-introduction of the mammal. The Ministry had identified four sites —one each in Gujarat and MP and two in Rajasthan — for its cheetah re-introduction programme, which will take another two years to start.

A section of wildlife experts have, however, questioned the feasibility of the project, considering that cheetahs are predators of grasslands and due to the dramatic rise in human population all the grasslands of the country have been transformed into agricultural land. Only rocky and hilly terrains, suitable for tigers and leopards, have actually survived.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had recently met Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in this regard. Ramesh said that he had been assured by Gehlot that he would talk to the local leaders at Shahgarh Bulge in Jaisalmer so that the cheetah can be brought there.

According to Ramesh, Shahgarh was the best site for re-introduction of the fastest animal but the Rajasthan Government is in a fix due to protest by local people. A company called Focus Energy Ltd — which is engaged in oil and gas exploration — has tried to whip up local sentiments, he alleged.

Ramesh had tried to explain to Gehlot that oil and gas exploration can continue even with the cheetah introduced there and that the area would not be declared a national park or sanctuary.

While the fate of Jaisalmer hangs fire, the potential of grass fields near Rawatbhata in Rajasthan’s Hadauti region is also being discussed. In the face of uncertainty in Rajasthan over re-introduction of the cheetah, yet another site — Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh — was identified.

According to Ramesh, “It looked easy to start with Madhya Pradesh,” though he claimed not to have given up hopes for Rajasthan.

However, RN Mehrotra, PCCF Rajasthan, pointed out, “Kuno-Palpur on the eastern bank of Chambal landscape is just about 60-65 km from Ranthambore Tiger reserve. Both tigers and panthers are known to foray in there very often.”

Quoting international expert George Shaller, who visited the country recently, Mehrotra said it would be very difficult for the cheetah to co-exist with tigers and panthers in Kuno”. He was, however, hopeful of Rawatbhata grasslands, saying that though it is smaller than Shahgarh, it is more suitable.

Wildlife expert MK Ranjitsinh, who pioneered the survey of habitats in the cheetah reintroduction programme, pointed out that “it is essential to bring back the animal for the conservation of dry deciduous forests in the country”.

According to him, Kuno-Palpur in MP is a feasible area where this can be done. “Nearly 24 villages have already been relocated from there,” he said. Nauradehi in the Sagar district in MP is a yet another habitat where reintroduction can be done, he added. “The area is almost readymade and with some ground work as fencing, etc, the habitat can be prepared,” he observed.

A section of wildlife experts contended that Kuno and Nuradehi areas are actually woodlands and are not suitable for cheetahs. In fact, when cheetah experts from Africa had visited Kuno sometime back, they had dismissed the idea. So, why does the Indian Government still want to reintroduce the cheetah in the woodlands, on the plea that it will help save the grassland ecosystem,? they questioned.

Some open patches in Kuno give an impression of being grasslands. But in reality, these were woodlands and were emptied due to village relocations, the experts felt. Similarly, Nuradehi is a wooded area and the height of the grass is high. So, the cheetah would not be able to see its prey, they added.
 

The Tribune, 8th April 2011
Veterans' vignettes

The recent two-day Gandharva Mahavidyalaya event featured two acclaimed artistes — Bharatanatyam expert Leela Samson and Odissi exponent Madhavi Mudgal. Beginning on a nostalgic note, Madhavi's mangalacharan paying homage to Vinayaka (based on verses chosen by Mukul Lath with music by father Vinayachandra Maudgalya in Bhupali), was specially composed for her by late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. The dancer's laya perfection delighted in the Khamaj pallavi in Ardha Jhampa (five beats), the music by Bhuvaneswar Misra with dance visualisation by Guru Kelucharan created in 1979.

In the interpretative part based on Amaru Shatakam Muktakas, for which the soulful music was Mukul Shivaputra's creation, the first part portraying the unrelenting nayika, (even as the nayaka pleads for forgiveness and she recollects their past closeness when the faintest of signs made sufficient communication) was more convincing than the “Gate preme Bandhe” Muktaka. Here the depths of what the lovers had shared in the past came through, but without enough punch, one felt, in conveying the emptiness of total unconcern now for a dead past — which is the main message of the verses chosen. The ashtapadi finale with the finely orchestrated effort with singers Manikuntala Bhowmik and Poornachandra Maji, saw the sakhi urging Radha not to condemn herself to such loneliness while Krishna awaits her “Mugdhe madhumathanamanugathamanusara” was sung and danced with feeling..

Amazing performance

Leela Samson's fine dancing form is nothing short of amazing. She began strongly with a Shiva homage based on Adi Shankara's Kala Bhairavashtakam set to Hamsadhwani, choreographed in an aesthetically structured movement/rhythm mix, the highly internalised rendition full of a spiritual power along with controlled physicality — Srikant's singing aiding the total impact. Leela's dance has a respect for silences and holding and savouring each moment in reposeful stillness, apart from the honed technical perfection, not to speak of the individualised treatment of poetry — making her recitals unique. The abhinaya part over the years has greater depth — the padam in Mukhari by Muttu Natesan portraying the nayaka in a vipralabdha state, setting off for an ascetic life in Kashi, after being disillusioned in life, thanks to his besotted love for a deceitful woman, being the best of the interpretative numbers. The Shiva Panchakshara in ragamalika followed by Muttuswami Dikshitar's Ardhanarishwar in Kumudakriya was a quiet delight portraying Shiva's integrated persona with contrasts complementing each other. The swadheenapatika nayika in the fast paced javali “Smarasundaranguni” in Paras, Dharmapuri Subbarayar's composition, showing the jaunty pride of a woman boasting of her beloved's complete surrender to her, “never crossing the boundaries she draws for him”, became in Leela's approach the quietly confident nayika reflecting happily on the total faithfulness of her beloved, the slow paced singing more like a padam, different from the conventional practice. Clean lines without smudgy cluttering in the Revati tillana by Lalgudi Jayaraman showed Leela's choreographic clarity amidst space/time concerns, with movement echoing the musical attitudes. Apart from Srikant Gopalakrishnan's clearly enunciated, mood evoking melodious singing, it is mridangam by G. Vijayaraghavan and the veena interventions by Anantanarayanan which stood out.

Odisha Day

Odisha Day (the new official spelling) celebrations on the first of April have been an occasion over the years for bringing together Delhi's Odiya residents. This year's event at Sathya Sai auditorium offered a mixed classical/folk cultural presentation. Kavita Dwibedi's Odissi group beginning with Jagannath ashtakam with Ramahari's voice on tape, had the drawback of focusing more on group formations on stage, with the interpretative aspects of the Odiya words not having sufficient space. The solo Odiya item based on Godabarish Misra's verses singing the glories of Odisha by Kavita did better. We have come to expect much from this dancer's professionalism which such last-minute mela type of events offer little scope for.

The Nupur group folk dances were too arty-crafty despite excellent drummers, with the leader's actions having a put-on ecstasy, and the very tailored look somehow taking away from the spontaneity of folk presentations. But this is a common problem today, with what involves informal participation becoming sophisticated stage fare.

The other folk item with the Shanka dhwani with all its acrobatic formations was more authentic. Actually with such lusty drums in action, the open air stage would have been ideal.
 

The Hindu, 8th April 2011
Heritage status move for Himalayan National Park

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) pleading for the UNESCO’s world heritage site for the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) has come as a shot in the arm for local villagers and NGOs who have launched a mass movement to protect the trout-rich Tirthan river and its tributaries.

The protesters asserted that they would never allow any review of the hydel project on the Tirthan and its tributaries, the Plachan, the Jhibhi, the Ghiagi, the Hidag nullah, the Sheel and the Kalvari khud as being contemplated in the corridor of power under the influence of some vested political interest.

The villagers and NGOs opposing projects on the Tirthan river hail the MOEF’s decision to declare the GHNP as UNESCO’s world heritage site. This will save the GHNP and the Tirthan from the onslaught of builders, project companies and other real estate sharks. The 20-km-long valley forms the ecozone of the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) and it is being protected as the Tirthan Wild Life Sanctuary.

A former Banjar MLA, Dile Ram Shabab, hailed the GHNP as world heritage site. The trout in the Tirthan was introduced in the early 20th centuries and the government did not bother to consult the notification of 1925 and 1976 about the fish life in the Tirthan before contemplating projects here, he resented.

Shabab said the state government had banned projects in the Thirthan valley in 2004 as locals opposed it. “The high court upheld it. But we suspect that the present government may review the decision, which we will oppose tooth and nail”, he asserted.

He added that the Trithan valley was an exclusive hub for eco-tourism, camping and angling. Over a dozen small home stay eco-tourism units have come up here. The GHNP world heritage site will boost eco-tourism and the trout that will provide sources of employment to the youth, who so far have been ignored by the successive governments”, he added.

Rajiv Bharti, member, Indian Fish and Wildlife Conservancy (IFWC), an NGO, who runs his eco-resort here said the Plachan, the Kalvari, the Sheel and the Jhibhi nullahs fed the Tirthan river and were vital for the trout habitat in the valley. The GHNP will bring in more tourists who care for nature and scenic beauty, he added.

Director, Fisheries, Dr BD Sharma, said they were promoting fisheries in a big way in the Tirthan, the only natural habitat left in the state.
 

The Tribune, 8th April 2011
HC wants action on lake report

The High Court on Thursday came out strongly in support of lake conservation and set the ball rolling with a direction to implement the recommendations on the development of Bangalore lakes, made by the Justice N K Patil committee report submitted in February.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice A S Bopanna issued directions to take up the survey, demarcation and fencing of the lakes. Further, it issued directions to identify encroachers and take action against violators and complete this process in three months time.

The committee had prepared an action plan for saving the lakes of Bangalore, comprising steps such as demarcating and fencing the lakes, identifying unauthorised construction and removing them, removing silt and rejuvenating lakes, stopping of sewage entering the lakes and constructing tank bunds wherever necessary.

Background

Leo Saldanha of the NGO, Environment Support Group, had filed a petition raising concerns over the lack of protection and management of lakes in Bangalore and had also voiced concerns over the privatisation of lakes in Bangalore by the Lake Development Authority.

Based on the PIL, a committee was constituted by the High Court to examine the ground realities and prepare an action plan for the preservation of lakes in Bangalore.

The committee was headed by Justice N K Patil, Judge, High Court of Karnataka and involved the Chiefs of Revenue Department, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Karnataka Forest Department, Bangalore Development Authority, BBMP, Minor Irrigation Department, Lake Development Authority and Department of Town Planning.

In the report titled ‘‘Preservation of Lakes in the City of Bangalore,’ Justice N K Patil noted that the lakes, which have been put to misuse, are threatening the water security, ecology and environment of the City. With the population of Bangalore likely to reach 120 lakhs by 2020, the matter demanded a proactive regulation, planning and execution system, so as to face the challenges of water scarcity and to keep the City habitable, he said.Further, while stating that the Bangalore region under intense urbanisation (BDA planning area, including BBMP and BMICAPA areas) had about 386 lakes left. The status of 121 lakes is unknown and the report acknowledges that upto 100 lakes have disappeared as they have been converted for various urban uses including bus stations, roads, layouts, garbage dumps, truck stands, etc.

The key recommendations of the report include immediate action to remove encroachments from lake area and also the Raja Kaluves (feeder canals interconnecting lakes); lake restoration to be taken up based on lake series/sub-series and not in isolation; ensure that entry of raw sewage into lakes becomes a thing of the past, and to strictly penalise offenders.

One of the key action items is to select lakes that are relatively undisturbed and rehabilitate them into drinking water reservoirs by blocking off entry of sewage altogether.

Similarly, lakes which have very high biodiversity, especially of migratory waterfowl, will be notified for conservation under the Wetland (Conservation and Management Rules), 2010, as per the Environment Protection Act, according to the report.
 

Deccan Herald, 8th April 2011
Lady Willingdon’s love turns 75 today

Other parks in New Delhi likely to be modelled after Lodi Gardens which is home to lush lawns, heritage monuments.

In the 75 years of its existence, the sprawling Lodi Gardens has become the most favoured destination among morning-walkers, heritage enthusiasts and casual visitors across the Capital. As it celebrates its platinum jubilee on Saturday, heritage experts, environmentalists and government officials will come together to discuss how other parks and gardens in the city can also be developed along the same lines.

The day-long festivities will start at 9.30 am with a heritage walk, flagged off by Chief Secretary P K Tripathy and led by historian Biba Sobti, and a plantation drive by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Over 200 school children from NDMC environment clubs will participate in the event, and as many as 100 workers will be felicitated by The Green Circle of Delhi, a volunteer group of green activists, on the occasion.

The Green Circle of Delhi founder member Suhas Borker told Newsline, “This is an effort at looking forward, and getting out of the colonial mode of looking at monuments in isolation. It is an effort to integrate monuments with people’s lives. We have to come out of our tendency to deface monuments by scribbling on them.”

A panel discussion will be held in the evening with Dr Mahesh Buch, chairman, National Centre for Human Settlements and Environment, Bhopal; P V Jayakrishnan, chairman, Central Empowered Committee and former Secretary, MoEF, and Chief Secretary of Delhi; Subhash Chandra, Director of Horticulture, New Delhi Municipal Council; and A G K Menon, Convener Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Delhi Chapter.

“During the discussion, there will be two power point presentations by INTACH and NDMC towards explaining how public money has been used to develop the site,” Borker said.

A G K Menon, Convenor, Delhi Chapter, INTACH, told Newsline, “This English garden has turned out to be a model garden for the Capital. The flora and fauna as well as the heritage structures on this site have been successfully preserved.”

A lot has happened to the area in the last 75 years, including the changing of its name from Lady Willingdon Gardens to Lodi.

Legend has it that Lady Willingdon fell in love with the site and wished to develop the area, which was then the village of Khairpur, into a garden. However, the curse of Khairpur Sufi (whose shrine is located in the garden) fell on Willingdon, and he was recalled to Britain just nine days after it was thrown open.
 

Indian Express, 9th April 2011
City of valour and humanity

Gobinda Biswas visits Lucknow and is impressed by its many architectural wonders

‘Twenty thousand workers toiled to build by day and another five thousand laboured to demolish by night, for 11 long years …” I listened, mesmerised by the sonorous narrative of our guide. He lent me his dreamy eyes to witness the construction of the Bara Imambara in Awadh, now Lucknow, during 1773 to 1784. I could see thousands of hungry, wizened faces, and saluted Nawab Asaf’d-Dawlah who thought of this unique way to save his people from famine.

The four-storied building boasts of the world’s largest pillar-less arched hall measuring 163 x 54 feet, with 5000 arches. Its ornamented walls, ceilings and the interlocking roofs without any iron or wooden beams, speak volumes of architectural wonder.

At the end of a flight of 84 steps, the top floor well known as Bhool-bhooliah is a veritable labyrinth and its 1024 ways challenge your ability not to err. Entry and exit is possible only through a single way. Once in, you are sure get lost unless a guide comes to your rescue. Through its hollow walls, you can hear someone whisper into the wall at a distance.

We got a panoramic view of Lakshmantila, Pirmohammad Masjid and Jama Masjid from its rooftop.

To the left of Bara Imambara stands the Asaf’d-Dawlah Mosque where entry is prohibited for non-Muslims. Opposite is the five-storied Shahi Bauli, connected to the Gomti River. The bauli (well) was built in such a way that its water would reflect the image of anyone entering the area. This was an amazing device to identify enemies.

Rumi Darwaza, the 60-foot high Turkish gateway to the Bara Imambara, partly damaged by the British in 1857, stills carries its majestic grandeur.

A little distance away, lies the Chhota Imambara, built during 1837 to 1842 by king Mohd Ali Shah. I was not that impressed by its exterior that comprised the main dome capped with gold and the Taj Mahal shaped tomb of the king’s mother. However, the interior is a treasure-trove displaying rare artefacts like costly mirrors, chandeliers, paintings and tazias of wax, silver and ivory. What delighted me most was the golden mirror (18 x 14 feet) containing the entire Koran inscribed by Abdul Kayem. Here, in Yabar Hussain, our guide, I found a specimen of Lucknow-adab, which I had only heard of. His mannerisms and intonation was pleasing to us all. His parting gift to me was the information that an aerial view of the Lucknow railway station resembles a shatranj (chessboard). It was true indeed, and an Internet search confirmed this.

Next, we stopped at the Picture Gallery, which houses marvellous images of the rulers of Awadh and Ayodhya. From here, we viewed the Clock Tower. It is the biggest of its kind in India, which was once covered with gold. Adjacent to it is the Hussainabad Tank. The incomplete Watch Tower (Satkhanda) sighs nearby.

Our last spot was The Residency. Mohd. Ali Shah built it during 1780 to 1800 for the resident British officials. It is an oasis amidst the bustle of the city. As I entered the complex, I had a mixed feeling of pride and sorrow. Proud of being at the glorious site of the First War of Independence of 1857 and sorry for having to breathe the eerie air at the graveyard of thousands of British soldiers and civilians who were under siege for 87 days. The Memorial Museum has preserved the walls scarred by the firing, besides cannon balls, firearms, coins, vessels and more.
 

The Statesman, 10th April 2011
Heritage walk marks 75th anniversary of Lodhi Garden

The 75th anniversary celebrations of Lodhi Garden, on Saturday, saw several morning walkers gain a 'new insight' about the area as they joined the heritage walk organized as part of the event.

Lodi Garden contains the tomb of Sikandar Lodiand Muhammad Shah Sayyid besides bara gumbad, sheesh gumbad, athpula, turret (a tower) among other remains of Mughal monuments (15th and 16{+t}{+h} century). "We come to Lodi Garden on every opportunity we get but after we went for the heritage walk, it provided my husband and me a new perspective it and was a very interesting experience which will stay with us every time we walk here,' said Pippa Nair. The heritage walk was flagged-off by chief secretary Praveen Tripathi.

Meanwhile, chief minister Shiela Dikshit, launched the diamond jubilee celebrations and inaugurated a fragrant trees corner created in Lodi Garden by involving 200 students of Eco-Club of NDMC schools. This corner contains 2,000 plants of 21 species. Dikshit also planted a sapling in this corner.

Spread over 100 acres, Lodi Garden has around 7000 trees of 200 species, according to NDMC. Some of the best known trees are Amaltaas, Jhinjheri, Bistendu, Chamror, Pilkhan, Peelu--which are becoming rare --Jhand, Roheda, Arjun.

"In April, 1996 a National Bonsai Park was developed at a corner of Lodi Garden. It also has a butterfly conservatory, a herbal garden, bamboo shetum, lily pond and a rose garden with more than 25 varieties of roses,'' said an official.

It also attracts more than 50 species of birds, several of which have made their homes here. You can spot blackrumped flameback which is a myna-sized woodpecker, with a bottlebrush crest, gold-and-black back and streaked grayish white breast, brownheaded barbet, a grass-green bird with an oversized yellow ochre bill and a brown face, neck and upper back, common hoopoe-zebra, a striped bird with a slim curving needle-like bill, whitethroated kingfisher, which is a turquoise, chocolate brown bird and the white kingfisher.

In order to create awareness about the garden, the civic body is planning to extend the heritage walks among other activities in the park for a week. "We might continue with the plantation drive and heritage walks for an entire week,'' added an official. Pamphlets giving information on the buildings, trees and birds of Lodi Garden have also been published by INTACH, Delhi chapter, with support from NDMC and Delhi Tourism.

The Lodi Garden was designed in 1936 as a setting for a group of five-hundred years old. In the 1930s, the Lodi Tombs stood in the village of Khairpur, on the outskirts of New Delhi. In 1936 the villagers were moved from Khairpur and the garden was laid out with native and exotic trees and plants around the monuments. The foundation of Lady Willingdon Park was laid on April 9, 1936. It was at first called Lady Willingdon Park, after the wife of the then British Viceroy. After Independence, it was named Lodi Garden.
 

The Times of India, 10th April 2011
Mount Carmel visits Safdarjung’s Tomb

It was a truly marvellous day when we went on a heritage walk to Safdarjung's Tomb, organised by The Indian Express. Upon entering the tomb, we were welcomed by a placard that related the history of the monument to us. Built in 1753-54 by Shuja-ud-Daulah in the memory of his father, Mirza Mauqim Abul Mansur Khan, the structure stands in the middle of a garden divided by four water channels. The tomb's height is about 18.29 metres, and it rises from a high platform. An epitome of Indo-Islamic architecture , this protected monument is made in such a manner that one can hardly make the front portion from the rear. In other words, the symmetry, dimensions and designs on all the four sides of the tomb are same. Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Badshah Pasand and Jangli

Mahal (Sylvan Palace) are the three pavilions surrounding the tomb. The beautiful weather coupled with an excellent guide made this tour a truly memorable experience.
*Nivita

Our class was fortunate to be chosen for the heritage tour to Safdarjung's Tomb. We got this opportunity as our class was of the humanities section. Once we reached there, our group was joined by two teachers who guided us through the monument. I had heard a lot about this site, but hadn’t gone there before. We were told about the history of the tomb, which was quite an interesting account. Safdarjung’s Tomb was built in 1753-54 by Nawab Shujau’d as a tribute to his father, Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan. Also, I cannot forget the architectural beauty and landscape of the tomb. We entered the monument through an ornamental painted gateway on the east. In the interior of the tomb were four octagonal towers. It had multi-chambered pavilions — namely Moti Mahal, Badshah Pasand and Jangli Mahal. The tomb was build of red and buff sandstones. The garden in the interior is divided into four squares by side pathways and tanks. The visit to the gardens was quite a peaceful experience, and it made us think how much more glorious they may have been 254 years ago, when kings and queens reigned over the land. By the end of this trip, we got to know how rich our monuments are. We learnt a lot and were rejuvenated.
*Romil Surav Baa

“Experience the glorious past of your country.” This was the call 'The Indian Express' issued to the students, and we all paid heed to it. During our heritage walk, we visited Safdarjung's Tomb, built by Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula to commemorate his father, Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan. Situated on Lodi Road, the venue chosen for us to visit during a heritage walk on February 14. Luckily, the visit took place on a beautiful winter morning.The red stone monument is enclosed by tall walls, and upon entering through a gateway, one could see how cleverly the water courses were used to divide the garden into squares, known as Charbagh.

The two hours I spent in the tomb gave me a tiny glimpse of the opulence and architectural skills of the Mughals. Ours is an “Incredible India”, after all!
*Shrishti Shah

On February 14, I got an opportunity to visit Safdarjung's Tomb for a heritage walk. I was extremely curious to see how it would turn out to be. The visit turned out to be two hours long. The last of the Mughal buildings, Safdarjung's Tomb is a garden tomb that was built way back in 1754. The tomb, built on a plate form, is placed in the centre of Charbagh and adorned by two rectangular water bodies. The central chamber has one cenotaph of Safdarjung, and the underground chamber has two graves — one each for him and his wife. The purpose of the walk was to make the future generation aware about their heritage, and teach them how to conserve it.
*Deldan Angmo

The students of Mount Carmel Class XI-A (Humanities) went to Safdarjung's Tomb as part of a study tour. The monument was built in 1753-54 as a tribute to Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, the governor of Awadh province under the reign of Muhammad Shah (1719-48), and later, his Prime Minister. The main gate of Safdarjung tomb is decorated with floral paintings and geometrical figures. Though religion forbade the architects from making any human or animal figures, the carving of a fish could be seen on the structure. The garden is divided into four squares. While the double-storey building is made of red and buff sandstone, the dome is made of marble. It was the last tomb made during the Mughal era. It is situated in the middle of the garden with flowers and trees, which bear fruit and give shade. The tomb was symmetrical in shape, and appeared the same from all sides. The grave of Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan is located in the middle of the tomb. The central chamber is surrounded by eight apartments, while the corner of the tomb is occupied by a polygonal tower. The tomb, surrounded by four walls, was also used as a rest house at one time. The four corners of the walls are octagonal, with a 'shatari' overhead. The study tour was supposed to make students aware of important historical places and rulers.
*Rezeena Yaikhom

It was all about turning back time for a day when we visited the famous Safdarjung's Tomb, organised by The Indian Express, which has now earned its name as "the last flicker in the dying lamp of Mughal architecture in Delhi". Built in 1753-54 by Shuja-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh, the tomb was a tribute to his father, Mirza Mauqim Abul Mansur Khan, who later came to be known as Safdarjung. The Governor of Awadh under the reign of Muhammad Shah (1719-48), he had later became his Prime Minister. The Mughal dynasty, famous for its architecture, has ordained itself with this splendid mausoleum. We were welcomed by the beautiful ornamental paintings through a double-storeyed gateway on the east housing several apartments, a courtyard and a mosque. There are four water channels that carry water to different pavilions, namely Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Badshah Pasand and Jangli Mahal on the north, south and west respectively. This tomb, built of red and buff sandstones, stands in the centre of the garden and rises from a platform measuring about 18.29 square metres. Octagonal towers or ‘chattris’ are located on the four corners of the tomb. The garden tomb is built in a manner that makes it look alike from all four sides. The beauty of Indian historical architecture can never be forgotten. Our day, which was characterised by pleasant weather and an excellent guide (Anuradha Sinha), was a memorable experience!
*Merryn Chingthiandim

Described as the last flicker in the dying lamp of Mughal architecture is none other than our very own Safdarjung's Tomb.It was built by Shuja-Ud-Daula of Awadh in the memory of his father Muhammad Muqim in 1754 AD. It is very similar to the Humayun’s Tomb. Safdarjung, who was a viceroy, later went on to become the prime minister. Safdarjung’s tomb is built on a platform with two similar thick staircase leading towards the tomb. The huge structure is surrounded by a beautiful well-maintained garden. The garden is further divided into four parts with water canals and pathways, built in typical mughal style. It is enclosed within a wall, which has resting houses and a mosque.

The water canal faces the gateway. The gateway is also beautifully carved in true Islamic style, with floral paintings, etc. Along the gateway are three pavilions — named Jangli Mahal, Moti Mahal and Badshah Pasand. People usually come here with their families to pay their respects and enjoy the view. The tomb, built with brownish-red sandstone, is surrounded by polygon column-like structures, octanal-shaped structures called “chatris: on all four corners, and eight compartments — all of them decorated with beautiful plasterwork. The best thing about Safdarjung’s Tomb is that it looks the same from every corner. Overall, the tour was a great experience. If you haven't visited it till now, you are missing something.
Sheena Moses

 

Indian Express, 11th April 2011
Saving the monuments of Tughlaq era

If you're visiting the historic Hauz Khas Village, a visit to the 14th-century Tughlaq-era monuments is a must. A makeover of the Hauz Khas group of monuments is under way and is expected to add lustre to the historic site. With designer boutiques and restaurants at Hauz Khas Village hogging all the attention, the monuments have not drawn many visitors. But using the makeover, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) plans to change all that.

There are at least three important structures located at the site: the tomb of Ferozeshah Tughlaq, madrassa of Ferozeshah and a mosque. Furthermore , one can also see an ancient gateway and enclosure wall. The Hauz Khas monuments were built by Ferozeshah Tughlaq on the eastern and southern sides of the royal tank called Hauz-i-Alai ‚€” an important reservoir for water supply to Siri. Siri was a fort constructed by Alauddin Khilji in 1300.

"Apart from the structural conservation and chemical cleaning of all the monuments here, we are building new pathways for visitors and putting up more information boards and signages to acquaint people with the history of the place in addition to establishing the architectural value of the hitherto neglected site," said a senior official. Restoration of the garden and revival of the Hauz Khas lake have been pending. The ASI plans to approach land-owning agency Delhi Development Authority ( DDA) for the latter.

"Though the lake had been revived by Intach a few years ago, complaints had started pouring in recently about the water of the lake producing foul smell," said an official . Garden restoration will also be taken up in due course. According to officials, this could take a few months as there was a vast area around the monuments which has a green cover and the work will only be taken up once the structural conservation of the main monuments is over.

The ASI is also mooting a proposal to make the Hauz Khas monuments ticketed. According to officials , once the illumination of the site begins, it likely to draw more visitors and by charging for entry they will be able keep locals who vandalize the monuments and children who visit the site to play cricket at bay. "We hope to curb all this by deploying guards after ticketing the site. It has been seen that ticketed monuments invite more respect than open monuments because visitors tend to feel that they are being closely watched," said officials.

The Hauz Khas monuments have been graded A by Intach in terms of archaeological value. Entry is through the cosmopolitan village comprising some of the best boutiques and eating outlets in the city. This is the same place where Timur Lane encamped in 1398 after defeating Mahmud Tughlaq. Built on an L-shaped plan, the main monument in the complex is the tomb of Ferozeshah with the entrance on the southern side. It is a domed, rubble-built plastered square tomb with high walls attached to a courtyard. Beautifully decorated with Quranic inscriptions and plasterwork, the tomb reflects the amalgamation of the styles of Indo-Islamic architecture . An inscription over the southern gateway informs visitors that the tomb was repaired during Sikander Lodi's reign.

Adjacent and to the west of the tomb is the madrassa for religious training, built in 1352. It is a doublestoreyed structure with long pillared halls and small cells and a mosque in its northern direction. There are also several staircases leading from the madrassa down to the tank, now encircled by paved pathways. Apart from these monuments, there are many structures situated in the complex but their exact use is not known and one can only appreciate their architectural beauty while relaxing in the garden of the complex.
 

Times of India, 11th April 2011
Lodi Gardens turn 75

Platinum jubilee celebration programme launched

To commemorate completion of 75 years of the establishment of Lodi Gardens, a platinum jubilee celebration programme was launched at the garden over the weekend.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit inaugurated the programme in the presence of New Delhi Municipal Council chairman Parimal Rai and council members and civic body officials.

Trees corner

To mark the occasion, a “Fragrant Trees Corner” was created at Lodi Gardens by involving 200 students of the Eco-Club of NDMC schools. This corner contains 2,000 plants of 21 species. Ms. Dikshit also planted a sapling in this corner.

Lodi Gardens contain the Tomb of Sikandar Lodi, Tomb of Muhammad Shad Sayyid, Bara Gumbad, Sheesh Gumbad, Athupula, Turret (a tower) and other monuments of the Mughal era from 15th and 16 {+t} {+h} Century, according to the NDMC.

Lodi Gardens were designed in 1936. In the 1930s the Lodi Tombs stood in the village of Khairpur on the outskirts of New Delhi and in 1936 the villagers were moved from Khairpur and the garden was laid out with native and exotic trees and plants around the monuments.

Thereafter, the foundation of “Lady Willingdon Park” was laid on April 9, 1936, after the name of the wife of the then British Viceroy. But after India's independence, it was named more appropriately as Lodi Gardens and was re-landscaped in 1968.

A 7,000 square metre long and 30 metre wide lake was also commissioned in the park. Subsequently, a glass house was constructed in 1970 and in April 1996 a national bonsai park was also developed in a corner of Lodi Gardens. It now also boasts a butterfly conservatory, herbal garden, bamboo shetum, lily pond and rose garden with over 25 varieties of roses that have enhanced the beauty of this garden.

Lodi Gardens at present have about 7,000 trees of 200 species and new species being added from time to time. The gardens also attract over 50 species of bird, several of which have made their homes here while others visit with the changing seasons.

An NDMC official said: “Today this is a place for picnickers, joggers and those looking for a quiet place amid the bustle of Delhi. Spread over 100 acres, Lodi Gardens with undulating swathes of green, grand old trees, clumps of flowering bushes, majestic old monuments and zig-zag watercourse are the most visited gardens of Delhi.”
 

The Hindu, 11th April 2011
Bhangra all the way

The contribution of classical arts to the human society lies in assisting the expansion of different areas of knowledge. Hence, evolution of art maps the growth of a society. The renaissance was a proof to it. Between the 14th and 17th century, Europe witnessed a resurgence of excellence in humanities, science, educational and social development along with unprecedented progression in fine arts. Societies that inherit classical art forms have stretched the limits of human mind, in pursuit of perfection. Perhaps excellence in one area inspires societies to excel in others. In this context, it is interesting to know how societies that lack inheritance of classical arts make up for the disadvantage. Though, there cannot be definite answers to these intangible issues, if an unprecedented growth of popular culture is an indicator, Punjab has more than filled the vacuum.

The last reference to any recorded dance performance in the history of the 19th century Punjab stops at the nautch girls. Beyond that point of time in the tumultuous history of the land, different cultural streams intermingled to give birth to a curious mix, where Sufis danced in abandonment for the love of god. And the feudal supported a whole lot of ‘tawaifs’ and ‘kanjris’, whose job it was to entertain the rich and powerful with their skills in dance and music, as the narratives of the time tell us. Though, tawaifs were women of sophistication, the first ‘liberated women’ produced by the Indian social structure, who had land and property in their own name. They were desirable for their talents by the powerful, but, when it came to social acceptability, both tawaifs and kanjris were treated as outcasts. Understandably, their profession was not something the society would promote for others to emulate.

The land had such a long chain of invaders that even the temples were not spared of their peaceful pursuit of ‘kathagayan’, which in other regions of the North like Rajputana and Central India evolved into Kathak, a narrative dance presentation of the myths and leelas of the gods. The perpetually on- the- run society did not have time to reflect upon the codes and norms to compile a shastra, essential for keeping an art form for posterity. What it did produce were entertainers, who lacked time and space to provide serious deliberations to take their skill to the height of an art. In the absence of refinement and codification, these skills were continued to be treated as a mode of light entertainment.

If we peep into the social history of Punjab, it will explain why dance, as a classical art form could not grow here. The macho warrior, who danced with the swords, would not suffice as a performer of enticing movements. And the feudal pushed their women behind purdah. Dance, as a means of entertainment was patronized by the feudal, their decay spelt doom for the dancers. Even though Maharaja Ranjit Singh is said to have married a tawaif dancer, Moran Sarkar, to the chagrin of all, Moran’s dancing skills remained confined to entertaining the Maharaja. The Maharaja had about 150 dancers in his court, but none of them could take dance from its erotic overtones to the domain of classical art. In fact, by the turn of the nineteenth century a strong sense of disgust for dancers gripped the society. Pran Nevile, who penned about half a dozen books on The British Raj, and its influence on the societal changes in India, wrote extensively about the social ostracism meted out to nautch girls, the sole professional dancers from the region. Though, dance of the masses, the folk, was not involved in this study.

Even though, music was regaining its lost pedestal by the efforts of the likes of Pt Vishnu Digambar Paluskar who opened the first Gandharwa Mahavidyalaya in Lahore, in 1901, the same could not be said of dance, which continued to be treated as a skill of the lowly. Post- independence when Indian states of the South found their Nataraja Ramakrishna and Rukmini Devi Arundale for revival of Kuchipudi and Bharat Natyam, Punjab began its claim to culture with choreographed Bhangra performances for republic day parades with a fervour that would outdo all other art forms of the region. This was its sole claim to culture, the bureaucratic way. Thanks to the over zealousness of a newly carved-out state, many precious jewels of its cultural heritage remained overshadowed by an all- pervasive folk appeal of Bhangra. Today, Bhangra is a celebratory dance popularised globally.

In later years, classical art forms have come from other states to make Punjab their home. If Pracheen Kala Kendra opened over hundred branches in the state to make Kathak a household name, Bharat Natyam dancers like Navtej Johar and Suchitra Mitra have popularised the dance from the South in the land of classic Bhangra.

“ A group of western educated Indian social reformers, influenced by western ideas and Victorian moral values, joined the missionaries and they started an anti-nautch movement at Madras, which spread to other parts of the country including Punjab. In their anti-nautch campaign, they were now joined by the Social Purity Associations, sponsored by the Purity movement in England for reform of the public and private morals. The Punjab Purity Association of Lahore launched a forceful drive against the nautch girls and published a booklet in 1884 containing the opinions of the educated Punjabis on the ‘nautch question.’ The booklet highlighted the denunciation of nautch by the eminent social reformer Keshub Chandra Sen who described the nautch girl as a “hideous woman with hell in her eyes. In her breast is a vast ocean of poison. Round her comely waist dwell the furies of hell... her blandishments are India’s ruin. Alas! her smile is India’s death.”
(The Nautch Girls of Colonial Punjab- Pran Nevile)
 

The Tribune, 12th April 2011
Gurgaon plans eco-sensitive zone around Sultanpur bird sanctuary

The district administration has initiated the process to prepare a zonal master plan for developing an eco-sensitive zone in 5-km area around the boundary of Sultanpur National Bird Sanctuary as per the guidelines of the union ministry of environment and forests.

Deputy Commissioner PC Meena today called a meeting of the officials concerned and directed them to ensure compliance with the guidelines of the Central government in this regard.

After the meeting, Meena said a monitoring committee would be constituted under his chairmanship to keep an eye on the progress made in implementing the provisions of the government notification. The 10-member committee would submit its action taken reports to the ministry every year.

He directed the senior town planner to deploy adequate enforcement wing staff to ensure that no unauthorised construction takes place in the prohibited area.

The union ministry of environment and forests has declared 5-km area around the boundary of the Sultanpur National Park in Gurgaon district as an eco-sensitive zone and the state government has been asked to prepare a zonal master plan for this area involving all departments concerned.

Meena maintained that no change of land use from green usage such as orchards, horticulture, agriculture, parks, etc. to non-green usage would be permitted in the zonal master plan, except limited conversion of the agricultural land to meet the residential needs of local residents, apart from improvement of roads and bridges, infrastructure, construction of public utilities and community buildings.

He said mining and crushing activity within a radius of 1km from the boundary would not be allowed. Similarly, no construction of any kind would be allowed up to a distance of 300 metre from the boundary except tube well chamber of dimension not more than 1,000 cubic inches.

The construction of any building having more than two storey would not be allowed in the area from 300 metre to 500 metre of the park and laying of new high-tension transmission wires would also not be allowed up to a distance of 500 metres from the park.

No new wood-based industry and any polluting unit could be established within 1 km of the boundary. The felling of trees on forest and revenue land would be subject to the approved management plan by the Central government.

The extraction of groundwater would be permitted only for bona fide agriculture and domestic consumption of the occupant of the plot and no sale of the groundwater would be permitted. Discharge of untreated industrial effluents into any water body within the eco-sensitive zone would also not be permitted.

The bird sanctuary, situated about 15 km from Gurgaon city, is known for its wide variety of aquatic avifauna.
 

The Tribune, 12th April 2011
Finally, ESZ status for Sultanpur’s bird haven

The five-kilometre area from the boundary of Sultanpur National Park in Gurgaon district was declared an eco-sensitive zone by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest on Monday. The State Government has been asked to prepare the zonal master plan for this area involving all concerned departments. A monitoring committee would be constituted under the chairmanship of PC Meena, Deputy Commissioner (Gurgaon), to monitor the compliance.

“No change of land use from green uses such as orchards, horticulture, agriculture parks and others to non-green uses would be permitted in the zonal master plan,” said PC Meena, Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner, referring the guidelines of the Central government. He said that mining and crushing activity up to one kilometre from the boundary of the protected area of Sultanpur National Park would not be allowed.

Similarly, no construction of any kind shall be allowed up to a distance of 300 metres from the boundary of the park. “Construction of any building, wood based industry, polluting unit, laying of new high tension transmission wires from 300 metres to 500 metres of the park would not be allowed. The felling of trees on forest and revenue land would be subject to the approved management plan by the Union Government.

He said that extraction of ground water would be permitted only for bonafide agriculture and domestic consumption of the occupier of the plot and no sale of the ground would be permitted. Also, no untreated or industrial affluent would be permitted to be discharged into any water body within the eco-sensitive zone.

He said that the zonal master plan would provide for restoration of denuded areas, conservation of exiting water bodies, management of catchments, watershed management, ground water management, soil and moisture conservation, needs of local community and such other aspects of the ecology and environment that need attention.

The plan would demarcate all the existing and proposed urban settlements, village settlements, types and kinds of forests, agricultural areas, fertile lands, green areas, horticultural areas, orchards, lakes and other water bodies. It would exempt all canals and drainage works.

“The Sultanpur National Bird Sanctuary situated about 15 km from Gurgaon city is important and known for aquatic avifauna where about 30 thousand birds belonging to about 250 species visit during winters,” said PC Meena. “The important birds visiting this park include pelican, cormorants, herons, egrets, storks, flamingoes, geese and ducks. A number of territorial birds of Indian origin stay here the year round. Breeding of Saras, crane and rare black necked stork have been recorded in this park.”
 

The Pioneer, 12th April 2011
Erosion threatens historic Arimora IB

The historic Arimora Forest Inspection Bunglow(IB) near the bank of the Brahmaputra deep inside the Kaziranga National Park, which happens to be very popular with dignitaries coming to enjoy the scenic beauty of Kaziranga, is on the verge of extinction due to massive erosion caused by the mighty river, thanks to the indifferent attitude of both the Union as well as State governments.

Right from the Central Ministers under various regimes to the Chief Minister of Assam, everybody visited Arimora Forest IB only to express mere words of concern towards theproblem caused by erosion which has in fact washed away a vast virgin grassland area ofKaziranga National Park (in Arimora) considered to be an ideal habitat of the wildlife including the rhino, elephant, tiger etc.

Erosion had washed away more than 30 sq km area of the National Park in Kaziranga. Arimora Forest IB which was 100 meters away earlier, is now almost on the bank with Brahmaputa flowing just 28 metres away from the inspection bunglow. On the other side of the IB there is a small Shiva temple constructed by the department for the forest guards to worship, which is now just on the edge of the bank . “Only the Shiva temple is somehow saving this IB,” said a forest guard to this correspondent while visiting Arimora.

“Arimora has already lost its past glory . So many VIPs used to come here only to give false assurances with regard to protection of Arimora,” said another forest staff. Last year the Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh too visited Arimora to note the situation.

Though the government has announced a scheme ( amounting to Rs 177 crore and 56 lakhs ) for protection against erosion in Kaziranga, practically nothing concrete can be seen on the ground in Arimora. The porcupines were erected earlier to divert the water current and thus control the erosion but more needs to be done . Sources said that though porcupines could be effective in terms of diverting the current of water thereby reducing the impact of the force created by the current, but the bank of the river Brahmaputra needs to be protected by stone barrier so that not much damage could be done on the soil surface on the bank.

The director of the Kaziranga National Park, Surajit Dutta said that something would be done soon to get rid of the problem. He said that he had already drawn the attention of the Union Government with regard to this situation in New Delhi and was quite hopeful that some measures would be adopted to solve it. Now time is simply running out. If the government is really serious about this problem, then Arimora must be given first priority in terms of sanctioning of funds and other resources.
 

The Assam Tribune, 12th April 2011
Orchha vultures take fright at Hollywood crew

Citing reports of the crew of the Hollywood production Singularity mounting a tent on top of the Cenotaphs in Orchha and filming from an unsafe distance a few feet away from the nests, of endangered vultures the Bombay Natural History Society, Deputy Director (Research), Vibhu Prakash told The Pioneer that "Vultures have the same level of protection as the tiger and vultures being disturbed during the crucial breeding season is a loss beyond repair."

This statement comes as a shot in the arm for conservationists, calling for a halt on the shooting of the film Singularity in heritage city of Orchha. The Forest Department had issued the NoC for the film production, only after Prakash had recommended that film shooting from a "safe distance" would not harm the endangered species.

Nevertheless, judging by the reaction of the forest officials, JP Rawat, Game Reserve Ranger, Orchha claimed that no harm has been done to the vultures in the Cenotaphs. Rawat acknowledged there were at least four nests of the endangered species on the top of the Cenotaphs, which have been videographed.

Rawat also said that no one from the crew was allowed to film from the top floor of the Cenotaph where the vultures make their nests. Rawat dismissed outrightly, that a tent was erected on the top of the Cenotaph as shown in the pictures published by The Pioneer.

In spite of two officers being deputed to take care for the vultures, none of the forest officials including Rawat objected to the use of a crane to lift the production equipment to the top floor of the Cenotaph, barely a few feet from the nests of the vultures as approved by Rawat himself.

Rawat and the two other officials of the Forest Department Anoop Singh and Shaheed Khan, refused to accept the fact that a crane was used by the production unit of the film to lift equipment to the top floor of the Cenotaph. DFO Padam Singh outrightly refused to accept responsibility of protecting the vultures as he said it was not his mandate, as the building was under the purview of the Department of Archeology.

The failure of the Forest Department to protect the vultures has raised eyebrows over the sincerity of the department in protecting the vultures.

Meanwhile, vulture expert Prakash said he had given consent for the shoot only after receiving assurance that it would take place from a very safe distance of at least 100 metres. The vulture expert said during the breeding season, thermoregulation of the newborn is critical for its survival. He added as reports suggest the film crew was on top of the roof of the Cenotaphs, which is a concerning development.

The Forest Department ought to be more vigilant as vultures are a very habitat specific species. When asked what impact would it have if humans are dangerously close to the nests for more than 12 hours for a week continuously, Prakash replied, "A vulture can fly only after 120 days or more and during this breeding season the survival rate of a newborn is very less." However, he said the exact number of fatalities could only be ascertained by visiting the location.

Importantly, the Forest Department had sought opinion for the permission of the film shoot in Orchha from Prakash, even though Prakash acknowledged that he had ‘not been to Orchha for over five years’.
 

The Pioneer, 13th April 2011
SGPC digitising rare manuscripts, books

The Sikh Reference Library, which suffered extensive damage during Operation Bluestar, is on its way to salvage its past glory with the SGPC modernising and digitising the library.

The library boasts of around 400 manuscripts of Guru Granth Sahib, over 800 other manuscripts and 21,000 books. The digitisation work is being carried out by the SGPC in collaboration with the Punjab Digital Library, Mohali, owned by the Nanakshahi Trust.

A special facility has been set up on the library premises to digitise rare manuscripts in a proper manner. Two modern cameras have been installed to digitise these manuscripts. The procedure allows the digitisation of around 1,000 pages daily or even more with each camera, depending upon the condition of a manuscript.

The library has manuscripts that are as old as 300 years while the oldest book dates back to 150 years. The library is also getting photocopies of rare books from the National Library, Kolkata, and Punjabi University, Patiala, before subjecting them to the process of digitisation. It is also digitising three English, six Punjabi and two Hindi newspapers. It has been preserving The Tribune since 1927.

Once the digitisation work is complete, scholars and researchers would simply need to switch on a computer in the library to access its entire treasure trove of knowledge. The SGPC has allotted Rs 39 lakh for the digitisation of the library in its annual budget for 2011-12. After the digitisation of the entire library, the SGPC intends to open sub-offices of the digital library at Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib in Patiala and Kalgidhar Niwas in Chandigarh to facilitate scholars and researchers.

The library has undergone expansion and modernisation in the recent past. It is now equipped with computers, scanners, printers, ACs and even a fumigation chamber to preserve books.

Interestingly, though the library is located in the Golden Temple complex, it is not an easy job for anybody to locate it, thanks to its “odd location” and lack of signboards.

SGPC Secretary Dalmegh Singh Khatra said they would soon put up maps of the Golden Temple complex on both the entrances. He said the digitisation would ensure the preservation of rare manuscripts and books for posterity even in case of any untoward incident.

Regarding the SGPC’s claim that the Army had taken away a huge number of rare manuscripts and books from the library post-Operation Bluestar, he said they had been pursuing the matter with the government for long to get those books back, but their efforts had drawn blank.

Post-Operation Bluestar, while the Army authorities claimed that the library had caught fire during an exchange of fire with militants, the SGPC accused the Army of deliberately setting the empty library afire after taking the rare and invaluable material away.
 

The Tribune, 13th April 2011
Sending the wrong ‘sign’als

The hare-brained move of the Forest Department officials to ‘protect’ the signboards by entwining them with barbed wires in the Biligirirangana Temple (BRT) Hills wildlife sanctuary could prove disastrous for the animals in the sanctuary.

Signboards line the entire stretch of the road from Gumballi up to BRT Hills, K Gudi and Vandarabalu and they have been entwined with wires to prevent elephants from harming them. Unwittingly, the forest department, which is responsible for the conservation of wildlife, is itself causing harm to the animals.

Elephants do not like any unnatural objects that they come across. They fling away any such objects or damage them. Hence, the forest department thought it fit to ‘protect’ them with barbed wires.

Risk of being injured

Animals including elephants, may scratch their bodies against the barbed wires to overcome itching due to the summer heat.

Many animals do not have sweat glands like humans and experience itching more often. Animals like elephants, deer and porcupines also scratch their bodies against trees or other objects whenever they are bothered by flies and other insects.

If the animals scratch their bodies against barbed wires there is every chance of they sustaining injuries. If the wires are rusted, it may even prove lethal for the animals, say environmentalists.

They have expressed their ire against the forest department for not considering the issue sensitively.

The environmentalists have demanded that the government should take steps to remove the barbed wires entwined to the signboards in the interests of the animals.

Use pamphlets

Instead of putting up signboards inside the forests, it would be better if pamphlets containing the information to be conveyed are distributed to visitors at the checkposts, they say.

Printing and distribution of pamphlets would cost only 10 per cent of the expenses incurred on putting up the signboards, the greens point out. Through the pamphlets, awareness can be created among the visitors about environment protection and their responsibilities, they said.
 

Deccan Herald, 13th April 2011
Vulture chick died during shooting in Orchha, alleges activist

A day after the shooting of Hollywood film Singularity was halted, controversy continues over the issue as International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) member Anil Chhangani, alleged that that a vulture chick died because of the shoot that took place in the world famous Cenotaphs of Orchha.

Speaking to The Pioneer Chhangani said vulture nest '7G at Badi Chhattri (Big Cenotaph) area' in Orchha has been impacted due to the film shoot. The researchers of Lucknow University monitoring the vulture population in Orchha during the critical breeding season observed a newborn chick in 'nest 7G' through February and March with its parents. However, after the film crew got the Cenotaphs for film shoot, the chick in 'nest 7G' was nowhere to be found.

The disappearance reported to the forest officials has gone unnoticed.

The vulture like the tiger is a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 Schedule (a). Chhangani alleged that the Forest and Archeology Departments in the State have ignored the protection of the endangered species, which has resulted in the blatant violation of norms by the film crew of the Hollywood movie. The missing chick was noticed on April 4. Despite the knowledge of the death of an endangered specie, the film production continued in the Cenotaphs of Orchha.

In the expert opinion of vulture expert and IUCN member Chhangani the disturbance caused by the film crew, who shot from the top floor of the Cenotaphs are responsible for the missing chick, and the damaged nest 7G.

The study also suggests that this may not be the only loss suffered by the vultures' population on account of the Hollywood shot in the prime-breeding season. Chhangani said according to conservative estimate at least there would be 25 to 30 per cent loss of vultures in the area due to the disturbance caused.

The research group monitors 30 nests in Orchha primarily in the Jahangir Mahal, Cenotaphs, Chattarbhuj Temple and the Laxmi Temple -all the places where vulture nests are located and observed by the research team.

While the filming of the Hollywood movie was on the researchers have observed that a vulture took less than 2-3 rounds to feed the newborn chicks, instead of a normal average of 15 to 20 rounds in a day. In the opinion of the expert Chhangani, this is enough to dehydrate and kill the newborn, in the hot weather.

Chhangani said that over the years his group's intervention led to relocation of six film productions in Rajasthan. The Government officials however did allow the shooting to take place in Orchha, which in Chhangani's opinion should not have been allowed.
 

The Pioneer, 14th April 2011
Realtors encroach 950-year-old lake

 A centuries-old lake, Rukunu Dowla Lake at Shivarampally adjoining National Highway 7, has been encroached upon by private parties and massive construction is under way on the lake bed. The local populace at Shivarampally village has made numerous representations, starting from RDO to the Chief Minister when the encroachment began in 2008, but nothing has been done so far to safeguard the old lake.

The remnants of check dam are still evident in the land where the private party has laid stones and the massive construction is being done in the lake bed itself. “We have raided many lakes to curb illegal encroachment but this particular lake hasn’t come to our notice so far. Once we find out the details we will proceed to take action,” said Mr Sunil Kumar Gupta, member environment, HMDA. The lake is situated in Survey No.s 42, 49, 50/1 and 50/7 of Bum Rukunu Dowla village, Rajendranagar mandal, Ranga Reddy district. The property belongs to the Government of AP according to the revenue documents and the adjacent property, which is occupied by the private party with Survey No.s 50/2, 50/3/A, 50/3/AA and 50/3/EE.

In the Survey of India map and in the village map, the position of the lake has been clearly demarcated, which shows the area where the private party laid stones on the lake’s land. According to the chronology of Qutub Shahi Dynasty 1922 from the Salar Jung Museum, the lake reservoir was built in 1170 AD by Nawab Mir Musa Khan Rukunu Dowla, who was the prime minister of Asafjahi II. It was called Bam of Rukunu Dowla, or the reservoir of Rukunu Dowla.

According to the local people, this land also belongs to the government and the private party manipulated the documents with the help of some revenue authorities. The public, which has been fighting for the protection of the lake, says, “The land is shikimi land, which means the land has to be kept as it is, with cultivation allowed during the dry season. Construction cannot be permitted on this particular land.”
 

Deccan Chronicle, 14th April 2011
Industry on the prowl in BRT tiger reserve

Greens cry foul over plan to set up factory in the forest

The decision of the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) to hand over agriculture land for industrial purpose in the elephant corridor of the Biligirirangana Temple (BRT) Hills tiger reserve has come under criticism by environmentalists.

An industrial area is being developed by KIADB near Modahalli in Lokkanahalli hobli of Kollegal taluk. The area is cheek by jowl in the BRT tiger reserve.

KIADB’s decision to acquire land near the Gundal reservoir for industrial purpose has led to the controversy.

As many as 410.44 acres of land has been handed over by KIADB to Bannari Amman Sugar Company. Environmentalists point out that the said land is within a radius of just one km of the tiger reserve and is part of the elephant corridor.

As per the Supreme Court order, non-forest activities cannot be taken up within a radius of 10 km of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and tiger reserves, in a bid to prevent harm to wild animals.

The greens point out that setting up industries there would amount to violating the apex court order.

It is also necessary to get a no-objection certificate from the high-level committee of the National Wildlife Board (NWB) before taking up development work within the fixed boundaries of national parks. The committee has been formed on the direction of the Supreme Court.

Local forest officials have no power to sanction permission. Moreover, it is unlikely that the high-level committee of the NWB will give its nod. Workers of the said company have already started de-weeding the place using cranes. Also, it is alleged that the sugar company is trying to acquire more land than ‘permitted’.

The move is being met with stiff resistance from farmers who are not ready to part with fertile agriculture land.

The officials of the sugar company had sought a clarification from the forest department on whether an industry could be set up near the reserve forest.

Deputy Conservator of Forests R Ravishankar told Deccan Herald that it had been made clear to the company that no work could be undertaken without the nod of the high-level committee of the NWB.
 

Deccan Herald, 14th April 2011
Draft masterplan finalised for Yamuna Expressway development

First phase will develop area up to Jevar in Gautam Budh Nagar; plan to be put up for approval next month

The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA), responsible for charting the development of the region around the Yamuna Expressway that will connect Greater Noida with Agra, has finalised a draft phase-I masterplan for the project, paving the way for major expansion.

The region is emerging as a potential destination for real estate investments, with plans for residential, industrial, institutional and commercial areas, as well as green belts and parks, recreational greens, a proposed airport and an aviation hub. According to a senior YEIDA official, most of the land that falls under the Yamuna Authority has already been registered and acquired by investors. A large part of the revenue generated by registration comes from residential areas under the authority, the official added.

According to the masterplan, the authority will develop the area up to Jevar in Gautam Budh Nagar in phase-I, which would include 584 sq km of Gautam Budh Nagar and Bulandshahr. The masterplan will be put before the board of directors for approval in May. In phase II, the masterplan will cover the area till Agra.

For residential sectors, the connecting roads will be 60-m wide, while in Greater Noida, the road’s width will be 24 m. The roads connecting YEIDA sectors with Greater Noida and Noida will be 130 metre wide, officials said. “We have taken into consideration that roads within the residential sectors should not be less than 12 metres wide. In Greater Noida, the minimum width of the road is 9 metres,” informed a senior official. To connect the sectors with adjoining regions such as Khurja of Bulandshahr and Palwal of Haryana, the authority has planned a 120-m wide road.

According to officials, approximately 334 villages of Gautam Budh Nagar, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Mahamaya Nagar (Hatras), Mathura and Agra are notified under the YEIDA.

The Yamuna Expressway lies between vital traffic corridors such as National Highway-91, which connects Delhi with Kanpur. “The Yamuna Expressway will be the lifeline in the regions adjoining it. The area will be developed as mega-cities with modern amenities,” stated the official.

The masterplan for phase-I also plans to connect the region with other regions through other expressways like the Eastern Peripheral Expressway and the Ganga Expressway. A 130-m wide railroad corridor connecting it with Khurja in Bulandshahr and Palwal in Haryana has been planned. The masterplan also proposes a new expressway connecting it with Khurja and Palwal.

An area of 10,000 hectare has been notified for proposed the airport and aviation hub. The plan also envisages 25 residential sectors for the region, all of which have been earmarked in the area near Greater Noida. “After Greater Noida gets filled, the population will migrate to the YEIDA’s residential units. After development of Greater Noida, the next sought after region will be the Yamuna Expressway sectors,” added Mohinder Singh, chairman of YEIDA.

The authority has allocated more than 20 sectors for commercial development. “Major commercial establishments have been planned in sector-14 A, 5, 12 D and 4 A. A Sports city has been planned in sector 25, whereas an inter-state bus terminus and a transport nagar have been planned in sector-23 C and 23 D,” said the official.
 

Indian Express, 15th April 2011
ASI restoration hit by stone scarcity

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is giving a makeover to a number of historical monuments in the capital, but shortage of Delhiquartzite stone has led to delays in the conservation work.

The red quartzite stone is found in the Aravalis, but after the Supreme Court imposed a blanket ban on mining a few years ago, there is practically little or no availability of this material.

"This has become a problem for us as quartzite stone is heavily used in the construction of most of the monuments in Delhi. While carrying out repair work, this stone cannot be substituted especially on the main structures even though we do so on the fortification walls,'' said officials.

Monuments like the Firoz Shah Kotla fort, Khooni Darwaaza, Qutub Minar, Humayun's Tomb, etc, have quartzite work on them. Khooni Darwaaza, for instance, is mostly made using quartzite stone.
Historians say three major stones were used in building Delhi's rich heritage ‚€” marble, quartzite and sandstone. Till Humayun's time, quartzite was used extensively and the influence can be largely seen in many of the monuments of this period. After this, Shah Jahan favoured use of sandstone while building mosques and tombs and the Red Fort is the biggest example of this architectural change. "The Delhi quartzite is unique and it is found only in the Aravalis.

Right now, we are trying to get similar stones from other places or from dismantled buildings that were made from this stone. But after some years, the quartzite stone will not be available at all,'' said sources in the ASI. The Aravalis is predominantly made of quartzite rocks and for years ancient rulers sourced the stones from here to build mausoleums and other structures. Quartzite is a decorative stone and was used as wall covering, roofing tiles, flooring and stair steps. Crushed quartzite is sometimes used in road construction.

Mining in the Aravalis ‚€” rich in a number of natural minerals like the red quartzite ‚€” was banned first in 2002 by the Supreme Court due to ecological issues. The Aravalis is a mountain system located in northwestern India and runs from northeast to southwest for approximately 800 kilometres through Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana with rocky offshoots touching south of Delhi.
 

Times of India, 15th April 2011
Erosion by climate change biggest threat to Sunderbans

While the debate on the vulnerability of Sunderbans as one of the hot spots of climate change continues — experts have predicted that at least a “dozen islands on the South-western part of the mangrove swamps are likely to lose an average of 65 per cent of their land by 2015.” These according to experts are “tangible impacts” of the climate change phenomenon being perceived here.

What adds to the concern is that of these 12 islands assessed to be the most vulnerable to accelerated erosion, five of them have human habitation. “Loss of land — an indicator of the impact of climate change is a reality here causing displacement of villagers and cannot be ignored,” pointed out Dr Sugata Hazra, director, School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

He reminded that four islands from this region have already been lost and many others greatly reduced in size by erosion. “There is a reported land loss of 97.16 sq kms from some of these most vulnerable south-western islands of the Indian Sundarbans,” he added.

Even islands with dense mangrove have not been spared and have been found to be substantially eroded. “The indications of climate change have been found to be very conspicuous for instance in Moushuni on the west — one of the five inhabited islands,” pointed out Dr A Anurag Danda, head, Sundarbans Programme & Climate Adaptation (Coastal Ecosystems) WWF-India.

As per the reports of climate change studies and adaptation conducted by the School of Oceanography in association with WWF, Moushuni had an estimated area of 33.52 sq kms as per the map of Bengal settlement Survey (1942). The present area now stands at 28.28 sq km, indicating over 15 per cent loss of land.

Baliara, one of the villages, in the island is estimated to be eroding @ 0.041 sq. km/year. The report points out that going by the current rate of erosion, at least 11 per cent families are highly vulnerable and may be forced to shift within the next five years.

A very obvious impact of the drivers of climate change is the susceptibility of the embankments. Aimed at keeping the brackish tidal water at bay, these mud banks often fail to sustain the major source of livelihood in the region based on rain-fed paddy agriculture.

Rapid onset of natural disasters like high intensity cyclones and heavy rains lead to breaching of embankments, causing damage to crops and agricultural land and raising the salinity level of the latter. As per a study report, the major portion of the Moushuni island for instance is encircled by 28.77 km length embankments, of which the maximum stretch of 23.39 km is made of locally available earthen materials, that are obviously unable to resist the tidal surge. Livelihood has thus been hit due to rising sea levels, coastal erosion, loss of mangrove cover and saltwater incursion.

“Rising sea is a menace that constantly thwarts every attempt to keep it out of fields and farmlands. Further, there is also the lingering fear amid the villagers of constant erosion of land by the sea, observed Dr Danda, who had been working with the Sunderbans during the last 15 years. While rising sea levels raise the threat of the sea inundating the agricultural land, erosion reduces landholdings physically, leading to loss of both livelihood and food security, he felt.

The reports mentioned that the frequency and intensity of extreme events as high intensity cyclones and tidal surges have not only increased in number, in the region but are known to have become much more “ferocious, and happening even outside the July to September high propensity period.”

“Extremes of weather in the Sundarbans is a reality”, said Dr Danda. One cannot overlook the changing and erratic rainfall patterns, extended and hotter summers with shorter winters. This has made conventional cultivation of crops difficult for farmers. The productivity of crops has been affected--- crops have become more disease-prone, requiring larger amounts of pesticides and fertilisers to ensure adequate harvest.

“Traditional methods of cultivation have been put at risk, and today the worst predicament for a farmer here is that he does not know what to grow when,” he regretted.

Pointing to the future Dr Hazra further predicted that the Sundarbans delta will experience a little over 2 degree Centigrade rise in temperature in keeping with the present rate of temperature increase within the year 2100. This would be coupled with 70-100 cms sea level rise along with consequent rise in high intensity events like severe cyclones and surges. The situation may further worsen in the event of anticipated sharper change in the temperature gradient, added Dr Hazra.

As per the figures from the study, a total land area of 6402.09 sq. km of the Indian Sundarbans in the year 2001 has been reduced to 6358.05 sq km by the decade end with the rate of coastal erosion being 5.50 sq km every year. This amounts to net land loss of 44.04 sq km which includes erosion of 64.16 sq. km and the accretion of 20.12 sq. km. The rise in the relative mean sea level in the current decade has been at the rate of 12.8 mm every year.

“Such slow onset disasters like coastal erosion and land loss in this ecologically sensitive zone definitely have a close relationship with the process of climate change,” claimed Dr Hazra.

However, Pradeep Vyas, director Sunderban Biosphere Reserve pointed out that the vulnerability of the impacts of climate change is being exaggerated by the experts. “Average tidal amplitude between 3.5-5 metres is a regular phenomenon here against which the villagers are battling regularly-so how does a nominal increase of sea level by few mm really make much of an impact in their lives?” he questioned. He further added that erosion is a common feature of any coastal landscape, Sunderbans is no different. Apart from erosion there has been accretion of land too, he added. 
The Pioneer, 16th April 2011
Red Fort parking charge irks visitors

Visitors to the 17th-century Red Fort are facing problems with the parking lot that was opened recently. Steep parking charges along with an extended walk to the entrance of the world heritage site in the scorching sun are proving to be a dampener for a monument, which boasts of the second highest footfall after Qutub Minar in Delhi. Plans by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to provide some relief to visitors who use the parking facilities by either transport to the entrance gate or through a second entry are yet to materaialize.

The parking lot that can accommodate up to 450 vehicles was opened for visitors during theCommonwealth Games last year. While facility was free during the Games, now Rs 40 for two hours with an additional Rs 10 for every hour after that is charged. "Considering that it takes 20-25 minutes to walk to the entry gate, almost half of the time is gone in just commuting to the entrance to Red Fort. And then with a huge structure like Red Fort, it takes two to three hours to explore it properly. All this adds up to hefty parking charges," said Vanita Khanna, a resident of Dilshad Garden who visited the fort with her two children earlier this week.

ASI officials acknowledged the problem and claimed they were trying to work out a solution to make things comfortable for tourists. "We were earlier planning to start a shuttle bus from the parking to the Lahore Gate entrance but we did not get permission from Delhi Police. We are also toying with the idea of making another visitors entrance gate at Delhi Gate which is located next to the parking lot but we need additional manpower for that," said a senior ASI official.
 

The Times of India, 16th April 2011
INTACH to Delhi students: Come, adopt a monument

“I have visited only 5-6 important heritage monuments in Delhi. I am actually surprised to know that Delhi has so much to offer," said Sripurna Banerjee, a teacher with Greenfields School (Safdarjung Enclave). She wasn't the only teacher who was surprised to know that Delhi has 174 ASI-protected monuments and scores of others under Delhi government. Teachers from 38 other city schools shared the same sentiments Banerjee during a workshop 'Adopt a Monument' organised by INTACH.

"Starting a 'Heritage Club' in my school is on top of the agenda for me," she said after the workshop.

Conservation NGO Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) organised the workshop to encourage students - through their teachers - to work hands on and increase their understanding and appreciation of Delhi's heritage.

Observed Bindu Keswani from The Pinnacle School, Panchsheel Enclave, "Apart from taking students to different heritage sites, other ways like a quiz on monuments can be tried for sensitising students." She already takes students from class 6, 7 & 8 to monuments near their school.

Charu Bhatnagar from Indian School, Sadiq Nagar in south Delhi, said, "Our school management is very encouraging and we have already been taking students to various sites. Dealing with authorities like ASI, MCD or DDA is sometimes problematic. But the workshop has helped me understand the procedure."

Purnima Datta, who heads INTACH's heritage education and communication service, said INTACH would act as a facilitator between schools and the authorities.

"We hope to get increased response as the CBSE has last year introduced 'Adopt a Heritage' in its continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) scheme," she added.

AGK Menon, INTACH Delhi's head, said, "The need is to involve people at all levels, for instance, history students, too, can be good resource persons." INTACH also released a handbook titled 'Adopt a Monument' on the occasion.
 

Hindustan Times, 16th April 2011
Tags of Heritage

Els Slots is a woman with a mission. From January, she's been on a five-month round-the-world trip that will cover about 50 World Heritage sites in Bahrain, India, Vietnam, Laos, Australia, Bolivia and Peru. Slots works in an international IT firm in Netherlands and explains her preoccupation with "ticking off the list of sites ...is an obsession I share with travellers from around the globe".

For tourists like Slots, the words 'World Heritage' suggest that a site is definitely worth seeing. The idea of a site that the whole world can regard as its heritage has had traction since 1972. A UN conference inStockholm decided that a Unesco World Heritage (WH) seal will be stamped on the world's most valuable wonders. At present, the WH list spans 151 countries and includes 911 properties. These are sites that Unesco's World Heritage Committee regards as having "outstanding universal value". The Taj Mahal is on the list; so are the pyramids of Egypt; the Great Wall of China and many other well-known landmarks.

Nearly 40 years on, it's time to think again, say conservationists. Many believe the WH tag needs to acquire a sharper focus that embraces little known wonders that urgently need attention. "There are thousands of monuments and sites out there, which need immediate attention. Being the biggest brand in conservation, Unesco's World Heritage tag can provide them support and focus," says a conservation architect in the UK. He adds that the WH list needs to be edited, possibly removing iconic, well-known sites like the Taj and the focus could move to "places that require urgent help".

It's not a bad idea, agrees Jeff Morgan of the California-based Global Heritage Fund (GHF), a non-profit organization involved in conservation. Morgan says that the WH tag has played its part by helping "bring much-needed attention" to sites like the Taj. "But today the over-use of these monuments due to their status can be problematic. Also, you cannot deny that many (non-WH) sites, especially in developing countries are vanishing even as we speak. The international community needs to seriously invest in their future," he says.

But isn't a temporary world heritage list a paradox? If a site is so important it is judged to be the shared heritage of the world, doesn't that denote permanence? Lisa Ackerman of the New York-based non-profit group, World Monuments Fund (WMF) stresses that "the designation is meant to be permanent because these sites are deemed to have contributed to world culture in broad ways." Ackerman points out that the World Heritage tag "is not so much as a benefit for famous monuments but a reminder of their cultural value across the spectrum of places around the world".
Getting on the list ‚€” a process Unesco calls "inscribing" ‚€” can be a long drawn-out one. The first step is nomination by the "state party", ie countries that adhere to the World Heritage Convention of 1972. The "state party" that nominates the site pledges responsibility for its preservation, safety and upkeep. Hyderabad-based conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah says that this underlines the importance of a permanent listing. "A rotational system would not be good as this will only create a brief interest in the site. Today, Unesco requires that a nomination dossier be accompanied by a well-formulated management plan for the site. This helps ensure that the custodian of the site has already identified the possible threats to the site and taken adequate measures to secure the site from such risks," says Lambah.

So far so good, except that it doesn't always work out that way. Jeff Morgan says that WH status does not always guarantee that a site will have the required "management or resources." He says Hampi is a good example of a site that goes on the world heritage list, sparking "a rush to drive tourism and developers to flood the site, but little corresponding enforcement and management resources are invested." Soon enough, Hampi received the dubious distinction of being put on Unesco's endangered list. Morgan says it was a classic case of celebrating a remarkable site with the WH tag, but little else. "In the first place, Hampi received the WH stamp with no management plan and ongoing mining. The bridge and road were going to allow large trucks through the site. The budget was increased only a little for site management, despite exploding visitation and associated solid waste."

So, other than the glory of being on the list, how does it help to be declared a world heritage site? Some say Unesco should be able to enforce certain provisions to safeguard a site. Threatened sites like Hampi, for instance, can be demoted to the "List of World Heritage in Danger" and eventually taken off the original list if nothing is done to protect them. But only two sites have been taken off the WH list in the 40 years the system has operated. A former archaeologist says there is a "fundamental flaw in the whole process. When state parties nominate their sites, it's like an indulgent teacher asking a student to choose the questions he'd like to answer and then looking on, as he answers them ‚€” whether correctly or incorrectly".

Is that unfair to Unesco? In its defence, many say it has done a sterling job of safeguarding the planet's heritage despite the enormous handicap of being a large committee-based organization with competing national self-interests. "Nothing today is free from pressures," agrees Gurmeet Rai, director of the New Delhi-based Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative. "There is pressure within the country for sending the nominations and then of course one hears about all the convincing that goes around about building the case for inscription. But if the site is significant and is well managed, why should there be a problem in achieving the inscription on the international platform; the challenge however is in the country itself."

On Monday, World Heritage Day, time for Unesco's member countries to rise to the challenge?
 

The Times of India, 17th April 2011
Birla Vidya Niketan’s tryst with history

On February 21, we set out for an educational trip to the Old Fort near Pragati Maidan. The lush green surroundings welcomed us to this Mughal-era monument. Our walk started with an introduction by our guide for the day, who told us the basic history of the monument starting with its different names: Indraprastha, Dina Panah and the renowned Purana Quila.

Our first stop was at the Quila-i-Kuhna, the single-domed mosque built by Sher Shah Suri in the 1540s. The Mughal architecture mixed with the Rajasthani architecture was truly captivating. Writings from the Quran were inscripted on the borders of the doorways. Marbles in shades of red, white, blue and green adorned the inside walls of the mosque. The symbolic moon and stars were carefully spread over the inside walls of the mosque. After a few photographs and questions, we moved towards the Sher Mandal, the structure built by Sher Shah Suri and used by Humayun as a private library. It is also the tragic spot where Humayun slipped and fell to his death. We then walked over to the hammam ie the bathing area and the Humayun Gate. All the gates are double-storeyed sandstone structures abutted by two huge semi-circular bastion towers. They are decorated with white and coloured-marble tiles and replete with ornate overhanging balconies, jharokas and pillared chattris. We took a leisurely walk in the gardens where vibrant flowers were blooming, eager to view other spots and structures.

At the last stop for the day, we took at least a hundred pictures, putting the memories of the entire trip into a camera roll. The whole group of students, along with two teachers, then walked back towards the Bara Darwaza, the entry gate. Before departing, we were taken to the old artifacts museum near the Bara Darwaza.

- Surabhi Bhandari

On February 21, our school organised a heritage walk to the Old Fort, also known as the Purana Qila. This magnificent fort has two enormously large gates, within which is enclosed a huge campus. Large lawns and trees, forming the dome of this landscape, add to its beauty.

The fort had been constructed for the purpose of protection against enemy attacks, but was built in a way that tactical counter-attacks were possible. Every corner of the fort is engraved with stars and moons — two of the many symbols of Muslim architecture. It also has shades of Rajasthani architecture, including some umbrella-like structures. Like the India Gate, which carries names of brave soldiers, the walls of the Old Fort have prayers inscribed on them.

Every stone and every path in this complex have their own stories and tales to relate, some known and others waiting to be discovered. The fort area now encompasses a museum that displays a beautiful collection of artifacts from ancient times. The two-hour-long walk through the old paths and old hideouts of the Old Fort was indeed very enjoyable and enriching.

- Shikha Chandra

Our School, Birla Vidya Niketan, organised an educational trip to The Old Fort for all commerce students of Class XI. As soon as I got to know that we would be visiting the Old Fort, visuals of Pandavas and Mughals started coming to my mind. The visuals became clearer when the day of the visit approached.

As soon as we entered the Old Fort through the Western Gate, also known as Bada Darwaza, we were greeted with a gentle breeze and lush green vegetation.The fruit trees and flowers appeared to bring the ground alive.We could see the ruins scattered all over the place from a distance. After taking a quick glance at the breath-taking beauty of the ambience of the fort our guide arrived.He lead us further inside, and told us that the Old Fort is situated where once the city of Indraprastha — founded by the Pandavas — existed.The Old Fort was built by the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun.Though he called it Din Panah, it later came to be known as Purana Qila.

As we approached the mosque Qila-e- Kunha, the guide told us that it is made of red sandstone and marble. It is a single-aisled mosque with five entrances and horseshoe arches.It gave us a glimpse of the Chajja pattern, which is reminiscent of Rajputana architecture.It is extensively decorated with intricate designs and calligraphy.

- Ritika Sharma

On February 21, The Indian Express organised a heritage walk to the Old Fort for the students of our school. The purpose of the walk was to acquaint the students with the rich historical legacy of the city and to sensitise them on conservating historical monuments. With a balmy breeze and crisp sunshine running through the place, it was the perfect day for a rendezvous with Mughal history, and all of us had high expectations from the trip.

The Purana Qila or Old Fort was built by the second Mughal emperor, Humayun, but it was later captured by Sher Shah Suri. Upon entering, you are immediately engulfed by the mystery and intrigue of the place which has survived for almost five centuries. Most of the older structures have been destroyed over time, but the mosque, Qila- e-Kunha, built by Sher Shah Suri in 1540, is among the few structures that have survived the ravages of time. The intricate detailing on the mosque walls is tangible proof of the magnificence of the Mughal era. The stars and moon design quintessential to Persian architecture can also be seen here. The fort could be called a unique amalgamation of Anglo-Islamic architecture with classical Rajputana designs. Apart from the mosque, the only other surviving structure is the Sher Mandal, Humayun’s library. An ominous silence surrounds this place as it silently reminds the visitors of the great emperor, who met his death by tripping off this very structure.

- Ankita

Purana Qila or the Old Fort is an ASI-protected structure which was constructed by the Mughal Emperor Humayun. It is said to guard the ruins of Indraprastha (from the Mahabharata era). An architectural masterpiece, the Old Fort is a perfect blend of Muslim and Hindu architecture. It is also proof of the glory of Mughal art and architecture. The site, which attracts hundreds of local and foreign tourists everyday, is also used for commercial purposes such as sound-and light-shows. The beautification and restoration of the Old Fort is still going on. The main aim behind taking us for the heritage walk was to improve our knowledge about the monument. And, admittedly, it did that — and more.

- Anmol Makkar

Old Fort or Purana Qila is the inner citadel of the city of Dina Panah, founded by Humayun. The entrance is through the Bada Darwaza with its main bastion. The Qila-e-Kuhna mosque and Sher Mandal can be seen from there. The Archaeological Survey Of India had even carried out excavations in 1954-55, most of which are located in the museum built inside the Fort. Even though many monuments today are preserved by the ASI, we find that the beauty of these monuments do not find ample recognition in the public. They carve graffiti on the structures, making them look ugly. Care must be taken, so as to preserve these monuments and make them look like a proper heritage site. All in all, the heritage walk was a great success, with students getting to know many facts about the Old Fort. It has awakened a new respect for past glory and grandeur. This grand tradition must be preserved and following, keeping the strictest standards in view. We need to create awareness among the youth of the country.

- Siddharth Saxena

As one enters the architectural wonder that is the Old Fort, one can’t help being instantly enchanted by its old-world charm and majestic beauty.And this is precisely what Class XI students of Birla Vidya Niketan experienced on their educational trip to Purana Qila on February 21 . On the outside, it might just look like typically opulent Mughal fort, but when you look closely, you notice that it is an amalgamation of Hindu and Muslim architecture — complete with Rajputana jharokas, Islamic crescent motifs and magnificent minarets. Among the main attractions are the Qila-e-Kuhna, a mosque made of quartzite, red sandstone and makrana, built by Sher Shah Suri in 1540. The delicately carved patterns on its walls are excerpts from the Quran.The Sher Mandal,used by Humayun as a library was the place where Humayun died after slipping from the stairs on January 20, 1556. After spending a day visualising the opulence of the Mughal era and appreciating the beauty of Purana Qila,the students left with a renewed respect for Indian culture and heritage,along with an insight into its rich history.

- Ishmeet Kaur
 

Indian Express, 18th April 2011
Call playback turns into bird of prey for rare species

With Northeast fast emerging as the hot spot for bird tourism, tourist guides are resorting to frequent playback of bird calls — using tapes and I-pods which often have microphones attached for increasing sound effect — to bring out the rare birds for sighting. This is particularly being done to promote high-end foreign tourism.

Experts caution such practices may have impact on the life patterns of birds, and should be strictly prohibited in protected areas. However, this also has a positive side with bird hunting instances declining as the locals realise their livelihood will be affected if they kill them.

Such ploy is being largely used in certain lesser known destinations of Northeast, emerging hot spots for bird destinations. Wildlife Sanctuaries as Eaglenest, Mehao, Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh, Mishmi Hills in Nagaland, Dibru Saikhowa in Assam among others, figure prominently. Northeast is after all one of the hottest spots of bio-diversity flaunting the widest range of birds and their diverse habitats.

Pointing to Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary located in the forested hills of Arunachal between Bhutan, China and Myanmar is today the hottest new birding destination.

The sanctuary shot into international fame following the discovery of a new species — “Bugun Liocichla”, by Ramanna Athreya, astrophysicist and naturalist there. “The bird named after the Bugun Tribe, was the first new bird species to be discovered in India in more than 50 years, bird tourism picked up in the area with the help of local community”, experts pointed out.

Talking to The Pioneer, Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury, eminent naturalist and author of Birds of Assam, conceded that such practices referred to as “tape lure” of birds are being used to bring out rarely sighted species as Black breasted Parrotbill, Jerdon’s Babbler, Mishmi Wren Babbler among others from dense vegetation.

Explaining the modus operandi of the ploy, “playback works best on territorial avian species during their nesting season, when the real bird thinks the recording is a rival threatening to encroach on either its territory or its mate. The territorial male is then likely to come out to confront the intruder by patrolling the edge of its territory and singing, or it may stay silent and close to its mate to guard her.

Playback can definitely affect a species at any time of the year, but the response is most dramatic during the breeding season. This is also the peak tourist season and such activity is likely to affect the breeding pattern or activities of the bird, he felt.

Dr Asad Rahmani, bird expert and Director of Bombay Natural History Society on the other hand pointed out that if this is used sparingly and not rampantly, it is not particularly harmful.

Promoting bird tourism is undoubtedly a sustainable source of livelihood amongst the local communities as it would desist them from trapping or killing them. Further, if done frequently, birds too would also recognise these artificial calls and stop responding.

“Though in BNHS we do not allow playback calls, it should be used with conservation in mind and not squarely to promote tourism”, he added. He also added that sometimes this enables the researchers to ensure that a particular rare species continues to exist or become extinct.

“There is no doubt that playback of bird’s call is one of the most useful tools in a birder’s struggle to see birds in the wild”, felt Piran Elavia, running “Responsible Tourism” Ventures in Northeast. He pointed out that the use of playback is prohibited in certain parks and sanctuaries. It is, however, being widely used by researchers, ornithologists, tourist guides and bird watchers are resorting to this practice. Further, exotic tourists who come to these areas for bird sighting undertake very expensive tours — thus it becomes imperative for tourist guides to make such birds visible to them.
 
The Pioneer, 18th April 2011
Wah Taj! The Dal gets a sprawling crowning glory

The Taj group of hotels today announced their foray into Jammu and Kashmir with the formal opening of the ‘Vivanta by Taj’. The “no smoking, no polythene” luxury hotel was inaugurated by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Located on Kralsangri Hill overlooking the Dal Lake and Asia’s largest Tulip garden, the resort, spread over six acres, has 89 rooms and is designed to deliver a vibrant and contemporary experience to its customers.

Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces have entered into a management contract with SAIFCO Hill Crest Hotels, expanding its footprint in the state with the launch of the property in Kashmir.

“The establishment of Hotel Taj at picturesque site shall set example for other premier chain group of international hotels to follow the line as situation in the valley is gradually improving and consequently providing opportunities to the tourist industry to fill the tourism-oriented space quickly,” Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said at the inaugural function.

Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah, besides other state ministers and officials of the state government, were also present on the occasion.

The Chief Minister said the inauguration of the hotel under the umbrella of Vivanta has proved that serious efforts were being made to strengthen the tourist infrastructure in the Valley by private sectors as well.
 

The Tribune, 18th April 2011
Begum Hazrat Mahal’s tomb in Kathmandu lies in ruins

Nainital-based environmentalist Ranjit Bhargava, who belongs to Lucknow and spends his time between Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, has made a strong plea on the occasion of World Heritage Day (April 18) to the Government to set up a suitable and respectable monument at the site of the dilapidated tomb of Begum Hazrat Mahal who played an important role in the first war of independence in 1857.

Talking to The Pioneer here on Sunday, Dr.Bhargava said, “It was a matter of deep shame that India’s political leadership has no interest in developing and protecting India’s heritage sites abroad including the Indian National Army Memorial in Singapore, Begum Hazrat Mahal’s tomb in Nepal and Jim Corbett’s tomb in Nyeri in Kenya. But in the case of the Begum’s tomb, we have lost a diplomatic initiative to Pakistan .

Earlier this year, my friend, S.Ahmad, a heritage worker and educationist of Lucknow, visited the site and observed that some spade work was in progress by the Pakistan embassy in I took up the issue with the media and pointed out Pakistan’s interest in making a monument there,” added Dr.Bhargava.

“Do our diplomatic missions abroad have no concern for our national pride? The Ministry of External Affairs should direct all our diplomatic missions abroad to locate Indian heritage sites in their countries of posting and ensure that they take up the issues relating to preservation of these sites with the host Government and do the needful thereafter and report back,” said the well-known environmentalist who has been working on this issue and writing to the Uttar Pradesh Government about it frequently. He has urged the Uttar Pradesh Governor and Chief Minister to take up the issue urgently with the Central Government.

Says a shocked Dr.Bhargava, “The tomb is now in a broken down condition, encroached on the north by a photocopier, on the south by a stationery shop and a water lifting pump has been placed in the east. Near the tomb, garbage is littered all over” Begum Hazrat Mahal was the wife of the last Tajdaar-e-Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah.

The British had annexed Oudh in 1856 and Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta. But a year later when the ‘mutiny’ began, the Begum who had been divorced by the Nawab long ago and was living in Lucknow, led the rebel soldiers against the East India Company. Begum Hazrat Mahal placed her 14-year-old son Birjees Qadr on the throne of Awadh and she fought to regain the territory lost to the British. For six months she defended Lucknow from the British army.

The people of Oudh supported her and she proclaimed independence from the British rule. She fought bravely and had urged the rural folk to take part in the war. Alongside Nana Sahib, Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope, Bakht Khan and Maulvi Ahmadullah, she played a unique role in the 1857 struggle.The Begum was not only a strategist but also fought in the battlefield. She had rejected the offer to accept a pension of Rs 12 lakh by British. When her forces lost ground, she fled Oudh and tried to organise soldiers again in other places. She spent some time in Terai also and ultimately had to leave for Nepal where despite demands of British Government asking for her handover to face trial, she was allowed to live in the Himalayan kingdom. The grave is in an Imambara in Kathmandu. Rana Jang Bahadur who had given refuge to the Begum and her companions had ordered the construction of the grave.

Having been granted asylum by the then-Prime Minister, Jung Bahadur Rana, by all accounts in exchange for her jewellery and treasures, she is said to have arrived in the valley sometime in 1858, with a small band of faithful supporters. Some narratives state that the Rana rulers gave her a palace to live, and also provided a military commission for her son. 
The Pioneer, 18th April 2011
Events lined up for heritage day

As Delhi gears up to celebrate World Heritage Day on Monday, a series of lectures and seminars being organized across the capital are aiming to bring people together to appreciate their city's rich heritage and understand Delhi's roots.

With over 1,200 heritage buildings in the city out of which 173 are under central protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and about 50 more with the state government, Delhi is one of the most historically rich cities in the world and now even the state government is seriously contemplating sending a proposal to Unesco for getting Delhi a world heritage city tag. New laws to protect this rich heritage has seen its ups and downs, new bodies that are to be formed to look after Delhi's heritage are still in the pipeline but all heritage experts agree on one thing ‚€“ Delhi's historical links can no longer be ignored and every citizen must take pride in preserving it for future generations.

Conservation of India's millennia-old cultural and architectural heritage will be the focus of the third Pupul Jayakar Memorial Lecture organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) here on Monday where heritage expert Prof. Deepak Nayyar, a professor of economics, will talk about 'Rethinking Heritage and Restoration: Discovering a Small Inheritance'.

The National Museum, meanwhile, is celebrating World Heritage Day with a lecture by Prof K V Thomas, Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture has chosen World Heritage Day to celebrate the life of Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib with an exhibition on poets of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, a film show, a play on the life of the Ghalib by Sair-e-Nizamuddin, a youth group of heritage volunteers from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, and Ghazal recital by the renowned Begum Muneer Khatoon at the the India International Centre.

"Mirza Ghalib's contribution to Hindustani culture and to the world's intangible heritage is phenomenal and we want to celebrate the sprit of World Heritage by celebrating the life of a cultural icon," said an official.

Plans are afoot by both ASI and the state archaeology department to give a facelift to the city's many monuments and work is in progress at sites like Hauz Khas, Adilabad Fort, Lodi Gardens, etc. At the same time, residents who live in close proximity to protected monuments are struggling with the recently passed Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 wherein they are not allowed to undergo even minor constructions in their homes unless they get permission from a proposed body called National Monuments Authority. Delays in the setting up of this body have led to rising complaints of unauthorised constructions in the city. A conservation expert said the law has led to a virtual citizens' unrest in several areas of Delhi where residential neighbourhoods have sprung up within 100 metres.
 

The Times of India, 18th April 2011
ASI-Intach row hits Lodhi Garden structures' facelift

It was touted as the biggest public-private collaboration in Delhi between the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the heritage conservation body, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), but an agreement between these two bodies to restore five protected monuments in Lodi Garden has hit rough waters.

After Intach and the ASI fell out over the quality of conservation work on the monuments, the work remained stalled for several months, and sources indicate that Intach has threatened to pull out of the agreement.

In 2009, Intach signed an MoU with ASI to conserve five monuments in phases with the funding of Rs 1 crore coming from Steel Authority of India (SAIL). In the first phase, Bara Gumbad, Shish Gumbad and Mohammed Shah's tomb were to be conserved and phase II consisted of Sikander Lodi's tomb and Athpula. However, while the project was meant to be completed in a year's time, it appears to be nowhere close to it. According to sources, ASI has held back on releasing funds through the national culture fund (NCF) as they were 'unsatisfied' with the quality of work undertaken on the monuments of phase I and found it to be 'sub-standard'.

Sources said ASI had released just Rs 25 lakh from the total budget and were reluctant in releasing more money. Meetings between ASI and Intach are yet to yield results. "We are following the ASI's policy of conservation to keep the monument as it is as far as possible, but unless more funds are released, we will be unable to continue with the project. We have successfully restored five monuments under the state archaeology department also in Lodi Garden so we fail to see what the problem here is. If ASI is not happy with something, we need to know what it is to resolve the problem and finish the project,'' said A G K Menon, convener of Intach Delhi Chapter.

ASI officials, on their part, continued to insist everything was normal and delays were procedural. "Yes, we have found some shortcomings in the Lodi Garden conservation project and this has been pointed out to Intach but they are committed to rectifying the problem and finishing the project. The craftsmanship was not upto the mark and there was no finesse in the work. It appears that proper precautions were not taken and there was lack of supervision. This has been communicated to Intach. They have asked for more funds to be released so they can start phase II and this should happen shortly,'' said A K Sinha, director (monuments) ASI.

Interestingly, this is not the first time a public-private partnership with ASI has had problems. Barring Humayun's Tomb, other NCF projects in Delhi like Jantar Mantar and Qutub Minar have also failed to take off as ASI could not see eye-to-eye with sponsoring bodies like Park Hotel or Indian Oil Corporation. "ASI doesn't exactly encourage public-private partnerships as they are reluctant to let go of any control of the monument and feel sponsoring corporates should not interfere where funds should be utilized in the monument and how. Monetary disputes led to a falling out when IOC wanted to adopt Qutub Minar,'' said a source. The ASI-Intach collaboration for Lodi Garden monuments was a first where Intach had been more involved in conservation of unprotected sites like Mehrauli Archaeological Park in the past and lately working alongside the state archaeology department for upkeep of over 90 monuments.
 

The Times of India, 18th April 2011
Adopting monuments help connect to roots

Authorities hope that familiarising schoolgoers with the monuments around could augur well for the edifices "MAGNIFICENT MON UMENTS SET THE CITY APART FROM OTHER METROS."

While one is busy strut ting in the swanky malls, who spares a thought for the city's rich heritage and its splendid monuments? These glorious tombs hold a testimony of the magnificent bygone era and youth need to be told about the same.

Now Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is hoping to bring the youth closer to their rich historical past. With the just launched initiative, "Adopt a Monument", they aim at helping students relate to the city monuments more "personally". "This is more of an awareness and conservation campaign for which we are joining hands with all the major schools in the city. These schools will organise trips for students to the nearby monuments. The students will spend some quality time there, and know more about the related history. With the help of the archaeology department, they will also take up tasks like cleaning or educating others about the monument. So, they surely will develop an attachment with the structure," explains A.G.K. Menon, Convenor, Delhi chapter, INTACH.

Kanika Singh of Delhi Heritage Walks agrees that with new modes of entertainment, heritage fails to catch fancy of the youth.

"Still, many school and college students join us for walks. We tell them that history is not only a way of looking at the past with pride, but also a way to visualise future," she says.

"I want to roam about, and know more about the his tory of the city where I was born. So, I hope this program makes for a fitting start for me," says Ayesha Bhatt, a student, who has grown up watching the ruins in her locality, Hauz Khas Village.

Niti Prashad, a Delhi-based teacher, has been working in the city for past eight years, and confesses that she is yet to see all the monuments here. "It's the presence of a these magnificent monuments that sets the city apart from other metros, but we don't have time to go and enrich ourselves," she says. "Tying up with schools is a good idea as both teachers and students will benefit from it," she adds.

Around 40 students from the city registered their participation in this just-launched program, informs Menon and adds, "Interestingly, not only the well off school, but also MCD students, have been made a part of this program, so art of this program, so that they get a feel of the culture."

Kanika, who is a histo ry research scholar adds that if love for heritage becomes a passion, and they choose to pursue their passion, it can also become a good career opportunity for the youth.
 

The Asian Age, 18th April 2011
Plans afoot for revival of qawwali tradition in Nizamuddin

The Nizamuddin Basti, the centre of Hindustani culture for centuries, will soon come alive with qawwali performances in its authentic settings. In an effort to revive qawwali traditions and bring alive its roots in the Nizammudin Basti, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is documenting and archiving qawwali traditions, and now also handpicking children from traditional qawwal families to train them to carry the tradition forward.

While preserving the dying qawwali tradition, the Trust hopes to simultaneously create spaces in the Nizamuddin Basti, like the Chaunsath Khamba, the Central Park opposite the MCD school and the Dargah, where regular performances can take place. As part of a cultural revival initiative called the ‘Aalam-e-Khusrau’, co-funded by the Ford Foundation, the Trust is facilitating public performances, discussions, research, archiving and documenting, research fellowships, scholarship programmes and multimedia exhibitions on Khusrau.

Since its beginning in the 13th-14th Century by the Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Ghiyaspur, qawwali is said to have been adapted in many situations and variations, but all of them display the distinct musical style and structure of the present-day qawwali. Amir Khusrau, the most beloved disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, supposedly created this style of music as a form of veneration.

Scholars, however, say the tradition is now dying out. Children in qawwal families are found to carry the tradition forward, but without any formal knowledge of music. To train them, AKTC is now in the process of hand-picking children from these families from the Nizamuddin Basti, Chitli Qabar in Old Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri. They will be sent to maestros in classical music for formal training.

Last year, the ‘Jashn-e-Khusrau’ programme included khanaqahi qawwali performances, poetry-reading, lectures and discussions on qawwali and Amir Khusrau, exhibitions depicting the world of Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin and the Basti area urban renewal projects, as well as heritage walks through the settlement of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.

A similar programme is being planned for 2012, when a travelling exhibition-cum-workshop will also travel to UP, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Jammu-Kashmir, where the AKTC is documenting and archiving the existing qawwali traditions.

The AKTC has also put forth a suggestion to the Ministry of Culture to set up an Amir Khusrau Resource Centre that can house books, manuscripts, illustrations, recordings and artifacts pertaining to Khusrau’s legacy.

The AKTC has proposed that the centre be located in the Nizamuddin area, while regular events can be organised at central locations like the India International Centre and monuments such as Chaunsath Khamba that will create an interface between performers and scholars to ensure that Khusrau’s legacy is carried on.

“Qawwali traditions initiated by Hazrat Amir Khusrau here in the Nizamuddin area in the 14th Century are as much our contribution to the world’s heritage as Humayun’s Tomb. Hopefully this programme will lead to the revival of the pure art and generate greater interest amongst the younger generation while giving the qawwals new performance venues and greater recognition,” Ratish Nanda, project director, AKTC, told Newsline.

“Nizamuddin Basti has been the cradle of Hindustani culture for 700 years and we hope to revive it through these programmes.”
 

Indian Express, 21st April 2011
Persian patterns emerge in Burj revival

16th century tomb in Sundar Nursery nursed back to its old grandeur by

It was history lost in the vagaries of nature. But now it’s being revived to its old grandeur. This 16th century tomb inside Sundar Nursery near the Humayun’s Tomb complex may resemble just another monument, but once inside you will hold your breath in awe.

The ornamental ceiling laden with exquisite floral patterns is awe-inspiring and gives you a glimpse of the exquisite architecture of the Persians. Heritage experts say this is comparable to a wall painting or reminiscent of Persian wooden ceilings and one of the most unique patterns found in the country.

The Mughal-period Sundarwala Burj is one of the nearly dozen monuments dotting the Sundar Nursery, which has been taken up for conservation by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India and the central public works department (CPWD).

But its interiors laced with incised platter and bands of Quranic inscriptions is what sets this early 16th century monument apart. Skilled craftsmen took over eight months to reveal these patterns in floral and star-shaped designs on the ceiling and walls in the interiors of the burj. AKTC officials said while about 20% of the patterns had to be recreated by the craftsmen, the rest involved a massive cleaning job. This included removing centuries of soot deposits and dirt.

The project, which has been co-funded by the American Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, commenced last September and is expected to take another few months. Officials said decades of water seepage from the dome and ceiling had led to some of the ornamentation being lost and remaining portions covered with deposits that require to be carefully cleaned to restore its glory.

“The architectural homogeneity, disfigured by successive coats of 20th century cement plaster and modern paints, had to be restored with a traditional lime plaster mixed with traditional ingredients such as marble dust, egg white, molasses, lentil, fruit pulp and brick dust. The conservation works were preceded by several scientific studies over a year, including a 3D laser scan documentation, to record the detailed patterns and an analysis of mortar samples” said Sangeeta Bais, conservation architect, Aga Khan Trust.

Added AKTC chief engineer Rajpal Singh: “It was important for us to save the ornamental ceiling from deterioration, the lime plaster on the dome forms a long lasting protective layer and since traditional materials such as gur and belgiri have been used, the patina will return with the monsoon.’’

Besides the interior work, the exterior faÁade of the structure has also been given a makeover with the usage of lime plaster which, conservationists said. This will prevent further decay by limiting damage caused by water seepage. AKTC and CPWD are also working towards implementing a sensitive landscaping of the setting of the tomb and are planning to connect it via pathways with Sundrwala Mahal, located just a few feet away. Historians say these two monuments originally stood within an enclosure and entry was through a lofty gateway.

RESTORING THE PAST
The 16th century Sundarwala Burj is among the earliest buildings built during the Mughal period in Delhi. It is located in Sunder Nursery opposite Humayun’s Tomb. It is known for its ornamental ceiling with star patterns and plant motifs. Reminiscent of Persian wooden ceilings. Seepage on dome disfigured ornamentation and some portions are covered with deposits that need to be carefully cleaned. Architectural homogeneity, disfigured by successive coats of cement plaster and modern paints, needed to be restored with traditional lime plaster mixed with traditional ingredients such as marble dust, egg white, molasses, lentil, fruit pulp and brick dust. Conservation work commenced in September and is expected to be completed before the arrival of monsoon.
 

Times of India, 22nd April 2011
National Green Tribunal raring to go after SC nod

With the Supreme Court on Friday lifting a stay imposed by Madras High Court on rules of appointment of its members, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), judicial body to deal with environmental issues, is expected to start functioning from May.

The apex court stayed the high court’s order and directed the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) to “keep all rules and regulations in place by May 6” and inform the Bench about its status, so the body may start functioning.

A Bench — comprising Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly — also indicated that even if some deficiencies remain in the rules, the court would pass orders to the effect that petitions may be filed and interim orders may be sought from the green tribunal with immediate effect after May 7.

The Bench passed the orders on a petition by MoEF seeking transfer of the case, challenging rules for appointment of members of National Green Tribunal, from Madras High Court to the apex court.

The apex court had, on December 16 last year, directed the Centre to appoint expert and judicial members for the tribunal and make NGT functional in a month. However, even as the appointment process was on, the Madras High Court stayed the rules for appointment of judicial members of NGT on a plea by a law student, M Naveen Kumar. Centre then sought transfer of the case from the high court to the Supreme Court.
 
The Pioneer, 23rd April 2011
Neglected Neela Hauz is choking on filth

With its restoration plan yet to be implemented,this water body and another one close to it are experiencing environmental abuse

Plans for its restoration were drawn up amid much fanfare, but without their implementation, south Delhis Neela Hauz has got filled with weeds and the adjoining Sanjay Van jheel has become a haven for mosquitoes. Ironically, Sanjay Van was the site chosen by DDA to celebrate Earth Day this year.Schoolchildren, who were taken on nature trails, immediately asked why the water in the lake was so filthy and frothy, a question that officials hurried to dodge. However, the presence of pollutants in the water is hard to miss.

Sources say that untreated sewage from nearby colonies is carried to the Yamuna through Sanjay Van and nearby Deer Park. The sight of mosquito breeding in this area was scary. It is already quite hot and while the government will soon launch a drive against mosquito-related diseases, nobody will even think of Sanjay Van. Fish that could have eaten the mosquito larvae are not even present in the water due to its high toxic levels. The entire water body is full of sewage, said a resident of Vasant Kunj, who attended the Earth Day celebrations on Friday morning. Professor C R Babu, professor emeritus Delhi University, who had drawn up the plans for restoration of Neela Hauz,said : Both Sanjay Van lakes and Neela Hauz are in a terrible condition. At Sanjay Van, the raw sewage has ensured that there is no wetland community left there that can kill off the mosquito larvae. Neela Hauz is populated with not just water hyacinth but a new weed of the Alternanth era family that indicates eutrothication conversion of the site into a terrestrial eco-system. Neela Hauz restoration should be taken up before the monsoon season and it will take at least one year before any signs of improvement can be seen.

hose who visit the area regularly say that Sanjay Vans condition can be improved much sooner if only the government directs the raw sewage to a sewage treatment plant. An STP exists and all the government has to do is to ensure that sewage is treated before it is allowed to enter Sanjay Van. This will show immediate results and one need not wait for the restoration of Neela Hauz, said Dr Surya Prakash, a bird watcher.

He added: The poor quality of water and plastic and polythene waste that dots the water body is not just odious but also detrimental for birds.Barely any migratory birds come here since there is no food for them. The reed bed provides an ideal nesting ground for weaver birds but they also dont come here as there is no food for them. Black-Headed Ibises, again very rare, can be seen here but the habitat is not favourable for them and they could be lost too. While DDA gets the plan cleared, Delhiites have taken matters in their own hands. Retd Air Vice Marshal Vinod Rawat who has been campaigning for Sanjay Van for several years, has involved children in a drive to reintroduce native Aravali tree species in the area. Over three months we have planted 3,000 saplings. On Friday, we specially arranged for a native variety called Khejri and planted about 50 of those. We are trying to sensitize people to the issue now and create awareness about the problems that plague it at present, he said.
 

Times of India, 23rd April 2011
The fort that breathes

You can surprise yourself by walking the lanes of Rajasthan's only inhabited fort in Jaisalmer, says Nikki Utpaul after a visit

The dust storm was blowing when I reached Jaisalmer. Stepping out of the safe confines of my car, I struggled to hold my shawl in place and keep my eyes open. I quickly moved towards a shop nearby for cover. It took all of five minutes to settle down. I brushed away tiny grains that had settled on my lashes and looked up.

It seemed like an oasis at first, the golden fort. But its magnificent solidity was overwhelmingly real. The gigantic walls that once served their purpose still stand tall and strong as ever and the domineering 99 bastions that looked out for their Maharawal (ruler) and his people continue to hold their place, adding grandeur and displaying a certain nonchalance to modernity. On closer scrutiny, I found numerous little windows with colourful curtains swaying out. Were there inmates still? Could it be for real?

It’s true, about 4,000 descendants of the fort’s original keepers still live inside. Call it continuity of tradition or a desperate bid to cling on to their living, the people here have endowed the stone with character. Perhaps, the yellow sandstone does not glow so much in the sun as it does in human warmth.

Back in time
From a tourist point of view, it’s hard to imagine that you too can stay inside one of the many hotels within the complex. Yet when you walk down the lanes of the Jaisalmer fort with a guide filling you up on its history, it’s difficult to hold your thoughts from wandering off to get a glimpse of how life must have been in the days of the Maharawals. Only here we didn’t have to be very imaginative. For life was at its glowing best with people occupying quarters, women going about their household work, children playing on streets and business functioning out of little shops and spaces that could in no way be classified as encroachment. They have been living this way for generations.

As if sensing a question, Narendra, my guide, told me that he, too, is a proud owner of one of the houses inside the fort. According to him, 4,000 families live inside the premises of the Sonar Qila, made popular by Satyajit Ray’s film of the same name. “Many people have converted their homes into small guesthouses and hotels that they let out to tourists, mostly foreigners,” he told me, settling my curiosity about the curtained windows that I saw from outside the fort.

At Akshay Pol, the first gate of the fort, my eye caught a signboard at a shop selling handicrafts and bedsheets — “Magic bedsheet, no Viagra needed.” Akshay Pol incidentally is the main shopping arcade for the locals and also served as the old square where the crowds congregated at some point or the other. The scenario got busier at Ganesh Pol. More shops, cafes and even more people, this was one crowded, throbbing knot of enterprise. For transport, there are autos that the locals use to commute within and outside the fort. Funny, how we find it hard to imagine the merger of different eras. I didn’t need a pen and paper to take notes about how I felt life must have been 800 years ago. Here it was right in front of me, like a fairytale or should I say Amar Chitra Katha?

Followers of the old order
Residents of the fort still stay in the areas that were once allotted to their communities. So, it is the Brahmins who still stay closest to the main palace near the Dussehra Chowk, the spot that hosted many celebrations and festivals in earlier days. The Jain community mostly stays around the Jain temples and take care of the same. Like preservers of a legacy the royal clan passed on to them, the people here continue to abide by the way of life that once was and live in great harmony.

They are equally conscious about preserving the beauty of the fort and do their best to keep alive traditions. In keeping with earlier diktats, they have largely left the exterior of their houses the way it was in the past. “We know we have something other forts do not and we value it greatly,” Narendra said with that unmistakable pride Rajasthan is known for.

As I walked down the street, I came across many people who shared with me the stories of their ancestors. And almost every household had a story of their own experience with the Rawals, who ruled this town for centuries. For more of preserved history, there is the heritage museum that the main palace has been converted into. I, however, chose to stay close to the living.

Living art and revival of craft
The narrow lanes are filled with small shops selling hand-made items. You can even shop for beautifully crafted and extremely colourful door knobs along with the numerous other handicrafts that are sold here. Leather skilfully crafted into bags, shoes, stools and pencil boxes and applique work on bedspreads and wall hangings are also much in demand. Only take care to put on your best bargain face or you are likely to get duped.

But if there was something that pulled me inside the houses of locals, besides the curiousity, it was the desire to capture the flavour of the era gone by. On my way, I noticed a house with Ganesh painted on its exterior wall with what appeared to be a wedding invitation. The names of the bride and the groom were written alongside the date and an open invitation to all. Narendra told me that it was customary for all families to do so and was considered auspicious.

Inside too, the decor was largely a reflection of old Rajasthani lifestyle. Even today people prefer to dress in traditional clothes and eat traditional meals, irrespective of the fusion experiments taking place in other cities. The loyal janta of the Sonar Qila will forever reprise the glory for its king. And as the canon pointed at the what is now the new Jaisalmer, I sat down and glared at the golden sandstone houses of the city staring at the setting sun, only too happy to get a taste of life back when the Maharawals called the shots.

Getting there
By Rail Direct trains are available from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur; Delhi via Jodhpur-Jaipur-Alwar; Bikaner and Jaipur.

By Road Deluxe and ordinary buses of Rajasthan Roadways ply from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bikaner, Barmer, Mount Abu, Jalore, Ahmedabad and other major Indian cities. The bus stand is located opposite the railway station in Jaisalmer.

More about the fort
Rajasthan’s second oldest fort, Jaisalmer Fort stands 250 ft high with 99 bastions out of which 92 were constructed between 1633 and 1647. Even now the wells inside the fort are a regular water source and nearly one fourth of the city’s people stay in it.

It is mainly accessed through four gates and has a number of forbidding gates at the entrance itself, leading to the courtyard. Vehicles are not allowed beyond the courtyard. The Raj Mahal, which was a living house of the royals, has now been being converted as Jaisalmer Fort Palace Museum and Heritage Centre. The main attractions are the intricately sculpted walls and balconies. The doorways connecting rooms are quite low to ensure that those who walked the corridors maintained a low stature in front of the king and his queens.
 

The Pioneer, 24th April 2011
War that shook raj

Vishnu Bhatt’s narrative of the 1857 rebellion is part autobiography and part history, say Prafull Goradia and KR Phanda

1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising
Author: Vishnu Bhatt (English translation by Mrinal Pande)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Price: Rs 250

The book, 1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising, by Vishnu Bhatt was written in Marathi and published in 1907. Later, it was independently translated into Hindi by Amritlal Nagar, a well-known Hindi writer, and Madhukar Upadhyaya, a journalist. Mrinal Pande now gives us an elegantly translated version of this volume in English.

A large number of books and articles have already been published on the 1857 uprising. Both British and Indians — Hindus and Muslims — have written about the causes that led to this revolt and shook the British Empire to its roots. While British authors regard the upheaval as the “Great Mutiny”, Indian historians call it the “Great War of Independence”. In fact, it was neither. It was a revolt.

Bhatt’s narrative is unique in more ways than one. One, it is part autobiography and part history. Two, the write up is based on what he saw and heard from those who had either participated in the event, or been witness to the actual happenings on the ground. Three, it provides details about the atrocities committed by the British on even those who didn’t participate in the uprising. Four, it tells us how fellow princely states collaborated with the British against native rulers who had challenged the authority of the East India Company. Such details are rarely available in the history books prescribed for school/college students. Pande has done an excellent job in providing the English translation of the uprising that changed the future of India. It was this event that forced the British to end the rule of the company. Henceforth, India became a colony of the British crown.

Born in 1827, Bhatt belonged to a poor Brahmin family. He decided to leave his village in Alibagh district of the then Bombay province to earn some money and repay the huge debt that his family had incurred in the course of the marriage of his brother and sisters. Bhatt commenced his journey in 1858. He was told that the dowager queen of Gwalior had decided to conduct a yagna  in Mathura for which she had earmarked a substantial amount of `7-8 lakh. Learned Brahmins in Nagpur and Poona had received invitations to participate. Bhatt also decided to go to Hindustan — this is how the country was then called beyond the Vindhyas. Little did he realise that he would unwittingly become a witness to the upheaval that struck the country. During the course of his travel, which lasted for three years, he stayed in Gwalior, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, Bundelkhand, Kalpi, etc. 

Near the Mhow military camp in Indore, Bhatt heard about the impending mutiny. He was told that the British had rejected the pleas of the Indian sepoys not to force them to load the new Enfield rifle with the new cartridges greased with cow fat and lard of the pigs. Instead, the Governor General invoked a conclave of the rulers of princely states and asked them to follow a set of 84 new and inviolable rules. These, among others, stipulated that if one brother became a Christian, he would not be denied share in the family property; he would also be free to reside in his ancestral house; a Hindu widow would be free to remarry; she and her children would not be denied share in ancestral property, etc. 

The rulers returned to their respective capitals, unhappy. The sepoys, on their part, resolved that Hindus and Muslims would never convert to another religion. “Letters have been surreptitiously circulated to the effect that, on the 10th of June, when the commanders summon us, starting with the camp at Meerut, all the soldier brothers will say thrice to their commanding officers: ‘We won’t accept the cartridges, we won’t, we won’t’. And if the White men do not relent, they shall be thrown out bodily and all their ammunition, guns and monies will be confiscated by the native soldiers and their army camps will then be set on fire,” Bhatt was told by an Indian soldier. 

While Bhatt was at Gwalior, he heard several stories about the spread of mutiny. There were speculations about which side the Maratha sardarswould be on.

Lord Dalhousie, who was Governor General between 1848 and 1956, had pursued policies that aimed at turning India into Asian Britain. With this objective in mind, he introduced railways, uniform postage and electronic telegraph. These measures, according to Dalhousie, were the three engines of social improvement. This is what had made the Western nations what they were. However, the methods Dalhousie used for acquiring further territories for the British went against the country’s traditions. He also violated the treaties entered into with the native rulers by his predecessor, Lord Wellesley. According to the Doctrine of Lapse, enunciated by Dalhousie, any princely state or territory under the direct influence of the East India Company would be annexed if the ruler was either “manifestly incompetent or died without a direct heir”. This was first applied in 1848 to Satara and thereafter to six more states, including Nagpur and Jhansi. Also, he applied the excuse of “misrule” for the annexation of Oudh in 1856. Even Nana Sahib was dispossessed of his pension.

KM Panikkar, a well-known historian, administrator and diplomat, observes in his book, A Survey of Indian History (1947): “In spite of the oppression, misrule and obvious degeneration, Oudh represented to the Mussalmans of north India the greatness of Islamic rule. With its annexation by the British, the last vestiges of Muslim authority had vanished and from Delhi to Murshidabad Muslims felt that their sun had indeed set. As for the Marathas, the great Houses of Scindia and Holkar still held vast tracts of north India in sovereignty. It was the annexation of Satara, Nagpur and Jhansi that they felt irretrievable blows to their prestige. The two great peoples (Hindus and Muslims), who had lost the empire of India, were in a sullen mood and the disaffection soon manifested itself in an open rebellion... Within 48 hours, Delhi had been occupied and Bahadur Shah proclaimed the Emperor of India. The whole of north India (except Punjab), especially the Gangetic valley, threw off the British yoke.”

The rulers of the states who had suffered at the hands of the British took part in the revolt. Bhatt tells us how the Rani of Jhansi died fighting the British. The fate of other rulers, big and small, was no different. They were either killed in battle or hanged, if caught alive. The British, however, didn’t only took their revenge on the rulers; they also reduced entire cities to vast cremation grounds, observes Bhatt..

Bhatt’s narrative gives details of more than half-a-dozen places where the British had let loose a reign of terror during 1857-58. Any such incident in Europe would have turned the entire area into a centre of pilgrimage. Not so in India. The new Indian leadership, ruling the country since its independence in 1947, has done nothing more than paying a lip service to those who had sacrificed their lives in 1857. The only explanation that can justify this behaviour is that Hindu leaders mostly suffer from slavish mentality or what Austrian psycho-analyst Chevalier Leopold von Sacher-Masoch calls “Masochism”.
 

The Pioneer, 24th April 2011
Presence of past

If the Daniells painted 18th century India realistically, Italian photographer Antonio Martinelli’s recreation of these paintings is magical, writes Poonam Goel

When the uncle-nephew team of Thomas and William Daniell travelled to the innermost parts of 18th century India in 1786 to paint monuments, landscapes and rural life, little did they know that the 144 aquatints they would produce from their nine-year-long sojourn would centuries later become the muse of a modern photographer.

Italian photographer and Indophile Antonio Martinelli has retraced their steps by visiting those exact locations to recreate Daniells’ painterly works in photographs, as closely as possible. Seventy-three of these selected aquatints with their corresponding photographs, culled from the collection of Victoria Memorial Hall of Kolkata, are now on view in an exhibition titled ‘Oriental Scenery: Yesterday & Today’, at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in New Delhi till June 30.

This is not Martinelli’s first tryst with India though. He has made as many as thirty-four trips to the country since his first in 1972 and has authored six books on India — the most recent one being an architectural overview of Lucknow, which was launched in Paris recently. But the one project that gets Martinelli most excited about is his love affair with the India that the Daniells recorded on their return to England in 1795. “I was introduced to their work in the 1980s when an Indian friend, Princess Naheed Mazharuddin Khan of Surat, showed me Mildred Archer’s book dedicated to the aquatints produced by these two artists. Some time later, I had the chance to look closely at the original 144 aquatints of their ‘Oriental Scenery’ in the India Office Library in London. The impact that these hand-coloured prints had upon me was profound. I was totally fascinated by their magical, yet startlingly realistic images of India. When I learned that the Daniells framed their landscapes and monuments with the help of an artistic device known as the camera obscura, it made their work comprehensible to me since in many respects it appeared to anticipate photography.”

It was passion alone, perhaps, that did not deter Martinelli from embarking on this ambitious project. While the Daniells had travelled with a mini entourage of nearly 50 people in a safer environment, Martinelli has had no such luxury. Aided only by a driver and an assistant from Garhwal, Martinelli made four trips during 1995-97 and managed to locate and photograph, barring only ten, all the locations visited by Daniells in their 144 aquatints.

“If I could not photograph some ten monuments, it was either because they had totally vanished, or because they had been so radically transformed that they were no longer recognisable. One by one, the aquatints divulged their secrets, but sometimes only after many days of walking along the bed of a mountain stream, carefully approaching the side of a mountain or the turn of a road. Eighteenth-century India is still partly to be discovered, like the enchanted place of a timeless land, barely masked by some 200 years of development,” says the 53-year-old Martinelli.

And what a discovery it was. From Hindu temples to majestic forts, thundering waterfalls to pristine river ghats, Martinelli saw them all, even keeping in mind the season in which the Daniells had visited each place. And the results are astonishing. Strikingly similar to the original structure, and yet different in perspective because of the passage of time, each of Martinelli’s photographs tell a story as evocative as the aquatint it is juxtaposed with.

So you have the ‘bare’ Benaras Ghats of 1780s juxtaposed with the banks now overflowing with people, the grand sweep of the Jama Masjid steps in the aquatint having been replaced by encroachments in Martinelli’s photograph and the small crowning pavilion atop the Qutub Minar that has since been demolished disappearing from the recent picture.

Besides Taj Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Qutub Minar and other popular monuments, the show is replete with lesser known Hindu temples, mosques and tombs as well. “The Daniells were interested in religious architecture,” Martinelli says. Although he had research from the British Library (London) to guide him, some of these monuments were extremely difficult to trace and misidentification by the Daniells certainly didn’t help. For instance, Martinelli discovered that the beautiful tomb of Sultanganj, labelled by the Daniells as the Tomb of Sultan Purveiz, prince Khusrao’s step-brother, was actually the tomb of his sister Nithar begum. Or, that the funeral complex of Chainpur (Bahar) was misidentified by the artist duo as an Idgah.

Amongst the landscapes, the Papanasam Waterfall of Tamil Nadu is one of Daniells’ most dramatic views and is still impressive in the modern day picture, despite the water being siphoned off upstream. “The other challenge, apart from discovering these sites which are still not on any Indian guide book, was to be as honest to the original work as possible,” says Martinelli. Not an easy feat as the Daniells had the advantage of using an optical instrument called the Camera Obscura for the original sketches. The boxy contraption was used to achieve an inverted reflection, the outlines of which had to be traced by hand for an image. “They also took several ‘artistic liberties’ like changing the scale or introducing lighting while making their aquatints, for a better composition. They planned to sell their art and make money,” laughs Martinelli, “I however didn’t have the option of changing things. I was using the modern camera.”

While Martinelli admits he was pleased to find that most of the monuments have survived the ravages of time, he is quick to add a cautionary footnote. “In some places, I was dismayed by the haphazard conservation work that has been done to restore the monuments. The Jantar Mantar observatory in Delhi is one such example,” he says, “cement that has been used has spoiled the original structure.”

In the Elephanta Caves, the damage to the shafts, as recorded by the Daniells, has been repaired with cement too. The clearing of the collapsed rock that appears on the left side of the aquatint revealed a naturally-lit side entrance. The renovation has somehow now altered that original look. Apart from the misgivings he has about “conservation that has in some places been overdone”, Martinelli is also concerned that several of these ASI protected and UNESCO heritage monuments are in the danger of facing destruction.

“If care is not taken, there will be nothing left for the photographers to shoot after 200 years,” says Martinelli. The exhibition, one hopes, will serve its dual purpose, that of a historical documentation and a warning bell!
 

Deccan Herald, 24th April 2011
History in photo pose

Treating photographs as documents, just as valuable as newspaper accounts and letters, presents both challenges and opportunities for historians, says Geraldine Forbes, as she reflects upon Indian history through photographs.

I first began to look at photographs because the women I was interviewing — participants in India’s freedom struggle — insisted I could learn something about the movement and their involvement in it by looking at images. “Look,” one woman said as she pointed to a picture of a woman picketing a cloth shop. A few policemen and a much larger crowd of onlookers surrounded the woman in the photograph. My informant was right. The photo captured something about the mood of the times that journalists had missed. This photograph suggested that the male onlookers, regardless of their political opinions, would have attacked the police if they had touched the woman picketing. Other stories women told me when they showed me their photographs were more personal and helped me understand their participation more fully than I could from reading conventional documents.

My interest is in focusing attention on photographs as historical documents. Historians rely heavily on print documents such as official records and newspaper reports and personal accounts found in memoirs and autobiographies, letters and diaries. Treating photographs as documents, just as valuable as newspaper accounts and letters, presents both challenges and opportunities for historians. Photographs are a rich source for women’s history and the importance of context for “reading” photographs cannot be stressed enough. I hope to motivate readers to treat their own collections as historical documents and preserve them for their families and the larger project of writing history.

Indians embraced photography soon after it was introduced to the sub-continent in the 1840s. By the 1850s, men in Bengal and Bombay were joining photographic societies, opening studios, and experimenting with and exhibiting photographs. Princes and rajas spent lavishly on the newest equipment, set up private studios, and developed new processes. For some of these men, photography was a status symbol, for others it was synonymous with science, while others found it an interesting hobby. However, for all of them, photography was modern and by patronising it they joined forces with those who looked to the future and not the past. By the end of the 19th century, elite and middle class families were creating family albums.

The photographs I collected were copied from the collections of families residing in Kolkata and Mumbai. The women whose photographs I examined were born between 1900 and 1910 and influenced by a wide range of social and political movements.

Their families were middle class, urban and professional, and patronised photographic studios and often took their own photos. In each case, I spent time with women from these families and listened to their recollections about their family photographs.

Most collections included women photographed at the time of marriage (1); with their children (3); in large family portraits; and sometimes in old age; In what I call “progressive families” — those interested in new roles for women — there were school and graduation photos; photos of girls with their friends; and images of women taking part in social and political activities. As contemporary authors have noted, family collections are notorious for their omission of pain, ill-health, discord, and rupture. This was certainly true of families during the colonial period. Moreover, photographs were considered so serious that one rarely finds people hamming it up or posing for fun.

Standing out among hundreds of conventional family photographs are a number that do not seem to fit. Among these are images of women engaged in a wide range of activities from riding mules (6) to rowing boats and driving cars (5). There are also photographs of women posed in unusual attire, where they literally “let their hair down.”

I am especially interested in what these unusual images signify. Do they speak to a new sense of self and women’s emerging autonomy? Or, were these women play-acting, temporarily escaping from conformity to norms and values? Or, should we see them as representative of family culture? Rather than speaking to the issue of autonomy, do these photographs record conformity to new family values and patterns of behaviour?

Space does not permit a discussion of all these unusual photos, so I will select one to analyse in terms of what I know about the photographs, the socio-political context, and the memories of individuals(2). This photograph of young women wearing flying helmets and standing in front of an airplane actually records a non-event at the 1931 Karachi Congress. The Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930-31 was significant in terms of the number of women who joined, demonstrated, picketed, and went to jail. Although women had been visible politically since 1917, when they formed a delegation to meet Lord Montagu and asked for the vote, their numbers were few until 1930. The 1928 Congress session in Calcutta, where young women as well as young men marched in uniform, was the beginning of a trend.

Young women, with more opportunities for education and a later age of marriage, threw themselves into the movement. They would prove, some of them said, that they were as brave and patriotic as young men. Significantly, many of these young women insisted on forming their own organisations and setting their own agenda for demonstrations and picketing.

The 1931 Congress was well financed and well organised with plenty of young women volunteers. One of these was Manmohini Zutshi (1909-1994), the daughter of Motilal Nehru’s nephew and his wife Lado Rani. Keenly interested in the new opportunities available for women’s education, Lado Rani in 1917 moved with her four daughters to Lahore. In Lahore, she enrolled her daughters in missionary schools and arranged for private music lessons (4) while she learned to ride a bicycle and joined a women’s club. After Motilal became president of the Indian National Congress in 1919, Lado Rani and her daughters became staunch supporters of the freedom struggle.

Manmohini and her sisters were among the first girls in their community to complete BA and MA degrees (7). Manmohini first attended Kinnaird College, and then took the unusual step of joining the Government College for Men in Lahore. A skilled debater, she took a keen interest in student affairs and joined the Lahore Student Union, becoming its first female president in 1929. Although she belonged to the Indian National Congress and called herself a Gandhian, Manmohini admired the revolutionaries and applauded their actions. Following Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, Manmohini organised protests, demonstrated, courted arrest, and was sentenced to prison on three separate occasions.

At the 1931 Congress meeting, Manmohini was a minor celebrity, beseeched by young women and men for her autograph and frequently snapped by Brownie cameras. When a young man offered to drive her and her friends to an airstrip where a small plane had landed, he soon had a car full of single women in their late teens and early 20s ready for an adventure. The young women donned helmets and prepared for a flight that never happened. However, the fact there was no flight is of little importance compared to what this photograph represents in terms of female autonomy in the early 1930s. Gandhi’s initiatives legitimated independent political action by young men and women that made possible new friendships and adventures. At the same time, these educated and self-assured young women gave the North Indian movement a youthful, self-confident and glamorous image.

My example (2) is meant as a caution against “reading” photographs without investigating all the aspects one would check if reading a personal document such as a letter, or in our time, an email note. Like emails, photographs are frequently cropped, edited, and forwarded and it is difficult to know which is the original.

When we place these unusual photographs within the context of the family collections where they were found, we find more conformity and less rebellion than a presentistic read might yield. The women who were photographed riding camels, donkeys, and bicycles; wearing shorts and jodhpurs; and letting their hair down (8), belonged to families that encouraged female autonomy within limits. The photographs were not discarded, judged too blurry or over/ under exposed to keep, but instead preserved with those of graduations, weddings, and other significant events.

These photographs belonged to a time of extraordinary experimentation in women’s roles throughout the world. India was not an exception to what was happening in other countries and the women in these photographs belonged to families which saw themselves as modern and patriotic. The two were not viewed as contradictory and the fiercely patriotic Lado Rani (riding the donkey) sought out English classes for her daughters and then argued with missionary teachers over politics. She encouraged her daughters to pursue their studies, become political activists and apply for jobs, but also wanted them to marry and have children. In many cases, the autonomous actions of these young women received family approval.

The value of these photographs is in the issues they raise, as much as the clues (not answers) they give, to questions about women’s autonomy, representation, modernity and family culture. Many historians have written about women joining the Gandhian movement in the 1930s and concluded that the nationalist movement subsumed a nascent feminist movement. But focusing solely on the dynamics of the political movement obfuscates what was going on within families. These documents add a new dimension to our understanding of subtle changes within families, changes that are not easily captured in conventional records.
 

Deccan Herald, 24th April 2011
Garden with a glorious past

When I sipped the famous Darjeeling tea at a restaurant in the Grand Hotel in Kolkata, I hardly thought that I will have to write on a heritage site which played a vital role in bringing tea cultivation to our motherland.

A few kilometres away, on the west bank of River Hooghly, lies the 200-year-old garden which was not only instrumental in introducing tea to India, but also gave India products like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cocoa, coffee, jute and varieties of hemp and flax.

Yes, we are talking about the famous Indian Botanic Garden in Shibpur, Howrah, which was renamed as Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanic Garden on June 25, 2009. British scientist Joseph Dalton Hooker once said about this Botanic Garden, “Amongst its greatest triumphs may be considered the introduction of the tea plant from China… which led to the establishment of tea trade in the Himalayas and Assam. This is almost entirely the work of the superintendents of the gardens of Calcutta and Seharunpore.”

It all happened in 1786, when Colonel Robert Kyd, an army officer with the East India Company, was permitted by the authorities to develop a garden with a nursery of exotic spices brought from South East Asia and other parts of the world. Thus, on the bank of River Hooghly, about 313 acres of land was transformed into the Botanic Garden. Though Colonel Robert Kyd had a passion for trees, he was not a botanist.

Hence, his initial venture to plant rare species failed. Most plants didn’t survive, but the seeds of his will power were sown deep inside the soil washed by the sibilant river and today the garden stands proudly flaunting its one-and-a-half lakh specimens of plants.

Kyd’s appeal to the highest authorities of the British Government was timely. The famous Royal Botanic Garden was established in 1759 at Kew near Richmond, England. So the permission for the setting up of a similar garden in Calcutta was granted by the royal authorities without much hassle. In 1973, William Roxburgh, an established botanist, took charge of the garden. Being a professional and the first full-time paid superintendent of the garden, he understood that he couldn’t preserve all the species because of the sultry weather of Gangetic Bengal. So, he established a huge herbarium to preserve the seeds or parts of plants. With Rexburgh’s appointment, the garden got a new lease of life. Under him worked another enterprising man, Christopher Smith, who was sent by Roxburgh to South East Asia to collect seeds of nutmeg and clove. Following his request, the Court of Directors of Royal Botanic Garden at Kew Garden sent seeds of mahogany plant that they acquired from the West Indies. But, Roxburgh will be remembered for his success with the Indian substitute of hemp and flax. Though jute was used for ages in India, it was extensively reproduced and propagated under the guidance of Roxburgh. This was followed by teak.

In 1823, Major Robert Bruce sent some samples of tea for preservation and reproduction to the garden from the Singpho kings of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh as earlier efforts with the Chinese variety was repeatedly found unsuccessful. By the turn of the century, Assam became the largest tea producing state in the world under the ownership of the East India Company.

After Roxburgh, who is arguably considered the father of Indian botany, Francis Buchanan became its superintendent and his efforts enriched the herbarium. He was followed by Danish surgeon Nathaniel Wallich, Huge Falconer, Thomas Thomson, Thomas Anderson, C B Clark , Capt George King… And the long list of superintendents goes on. Each of these superintendents made their own contribution to the garden. In 1950, during the tenure of Kalipada Das, the garden was renamed as the Indian Botanic Garden (IBG).

It was during the tenure of Thomas Anderson that Cinchona plant, from which quinine is made, came to India. He handed its first seeds to his able curator, Sir W J Hooker, in 1861. Later, he started the experimental trial of its cultivation at Darjeeling and also established the hills of Mongpo as a place for commercial cultivation in 1864. Wallich donated 40 acres of land to Bishop Middleton who established the famous Bengal Engineering College at Shibpur.

The story of IBG will be incomplete without the mention of the 250-year-old ‘Great Banyan Tree’. It was there much before the garden started officially in 1786. Today, it stands tall at 14428.44 sq metres and the circumference of the crown is more than one kilometre with its highest branch reaching 25 metres. The main trunk was removed in 1925, as it got decayed. With roughly 2,880 aerial roots, it looks like a mini forest from a distance.

Another captivating sight worth mentioning is the floating ‘water lily’ which came to the garden from Amazon River via Kew Garden in 1873. It looks like a giant plate of 1.5 metre diameter. The leaves have a water-resistant oily film and contain numerous micro tubes with air spaces to keep it afloat. These float in some of the 24 lakes inside the garden. The orchid house has a good collection of exotic orchids. The garden has 140 types of bougainvillea, giant bamboo Dendrocalamus giganteus from South East Asia and Madagascar, world famous Amherstia Nobilis or trees of heaven from Burma, Brownea coccinea or mountain rose from Venezuela, multi-branched palm Hyphaene thebaica from Nile Valley, Egypt, the biggest fruit producing plant Lodoicea Maldivica from Maldives, and thousands of other exotic plants.

But this paradisiacal garden has lost its sheen due to administrative lacunae. Theft, illegal tree felling and sale, intrusion of local political toughs for all the wrong reasons and littering have been reported in the recent past. However, timely intervention of the High Court which acted upon a PIL submitted by Subhas Datta, a green lawyer and activist, brought some order. Even then, a lot needs to be done to preserve this beautiful heritage site to posterity.
 

Deccan Herald, 24th April 2011
Summerfield School visits Qutub Minar

A lot has been said and written about how our rich and varied heritage is being ignored or is falling into disrepair. In our pursuit of glamour and material success we, as a nation, seem to have lost any connection with our past. It is imperative that the younger generation learns about the achievements of its ancestors, be it in the scientific or cultural spheres. Only thus would a brand new Indian be born — one who straddles the world of traditions and the world of change and innovation, with equal felicity.

This is where programmes such as heritage walks can be of immense help. Visiting museums, monuments and other places of historical and cultural importance might engender in the youth a sense of pride for their country, India, and make them think twice about blindly aping the West. The need of the hour is to help preserve our glorious past so it is not lost to future generations.

- Yasmin Contractor, Principal

The heritage walk on the Qutub Minar trail was a welcome treat that students could avail of. In the serene and lush green atmosphere, students were transported to ancient, historical frontiers. Qutub Minar, the tallest minaret on Earth, was enticing,enchanting, educating and truly worthy of the time we spent there. The silent tower of victory stands indomitable, with memories inscribed on its soul as clear as crystal. The debris of red sandstone was used to build the minaret with its present hues. The iron pillar is a metallurgical wonder that has neither rusted nor corroded with heat, rain and thunder. The monuments and their splendid rudiments left an everlasting impression on students’ sentiments.

The Qutub Minar is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it stands proudly at 72.5 metres .

- Shalabh Chohan, Teacher

Delhi is the nerve centre of the most vibrant cultures in the world, and its monuments are an everlasting legacy etched in stone. The heritage walk organised by The Indian Express for the students of Summer Fields School was an enriching experience. As we walked into the Qutub Complex, the aura of our history enamoured us. The tour guide from INTACH took us around, sharing his in-depth knowledge about the monument. The development of architectural styles from Aybek to Tughlaq are quite evident in the minaret. The Qutub Minar comprises cylindrical shafts separated by balconies. It is made of red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Quran. The foundations for the Qutab Minar and the Masjid adjacent to it were laid by Qutb-ud-din-Aibak. The complex was built on the remains of Lal Kot, an older Hindu city. The older civilization literally provided the material for the new one. In the courtyard of the mosque stands the famous Iron Pillar, which bears a Sanskrit inscription. The tomb of Itutmish is a plain square chamber of red sandstone, profusely carved with inscriptions and geometrical patterns. The whole of the interior with motifs, the wheel and tossels are reminiscent of Hindu designs. Some of the carvings are adopted from the Jataka Tales. As a whole, the complex is a fusion of architectural designs from different religions. The ASI (Archeological Survey of India) is responsible for the maintenance of this world heritage site. As responsible citizens of the country, it is our prime duty to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of our cultural and natural heritage. Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today and what we pass on to the future generation.

- Sunita Patney, Teacher

We the students of Summer Fields School were brimming with excitement on March 29 as we went to visit the Qutub Minar. It is a tall and attractive monument that can be seen from most parts of the city. Mughals used to build victory towers to proclaim and celebrate victories. Qutab Minar is among the tallest and most famous towers in the world.The minaret is 234 feet high and the highest tower in the world. The Qutub Minar was completed in 1200 AD, and since then, it has stayed upright and forever keeping an eye on Delhi like a sentry. The Qutub Minar is a great masterpiece of Mughal architecture. It has a number of floors that have beautiful carvings, like the ones on the tomb of Iltutmish. There are inscriptions all over the tower and they reveal the identity of the builder. The wall is made in a way that it widens from the bottom just to make the minar stronger. Our guide from INTACH told us the minutest details and, by the time we departed from the site, we felt like young history scholars.

- Shagun, VI A

I am going to give a brief account of our visit to Qutub Minar . Last week, our school arranged a heritage walk for the students of Classs VI. Since it concerned monuments and was very much connected with our studies, we were all very excited. We went to the Qutub Minar in Delhi, which looks like a pillar from outside. On it, we saw inscriptions in Hindi-Arabic Style. Our teacher told us the monument related to both Hindus and Muslims. The floral designs and images of animals engraved on the stones exhibited the architectural essence of their workmanship. The designs spoke volumes about their architectural skills. It was built by Qutub-Udin-Aibak andd completed by Iltutmish. The trip to Qutub Minar was quite informative, and it made us aware about the rich cultural heritage of ancient India.

- B Anantha, VI-C

On March 29, the Indian Express organised a heritage walk to the Qutab Minar. It was an enthralling experience. Our tour guide informed us that UNESCO has declared the Qutub Minar as a world heritage site. It is notable for being one of the earliest and most prominent examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. It is surrounded by several other ancient and medieval structures and ruins, collectively known as the Qutub Complex. The structure is made up of red and buff sandstone. Qutb-ud-din Aybak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced construction of the Qutub Minar in 1193, but could only complete its basement. His successor, Itutmish, added three more storeys and, in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlaq constructed the fifth and the last storey. The workers working on different structures were from different religions and, hence, the architecture depicts the art from different religions.

The ASI (Archeological Survey of India) looks after the monument’s maintenance. To raise funds, an annual Qutub Cultural Festival is organised. Many Bollywood films have been picturised in this complex, which has added to the funds collected. The Indian Heritage attracts a large number of foreign tourists every year. Heritage is our wealth and it is our responsibility to take care of it.

- Unnati Jain, VI-C

Recently, Indian Express organised a Heritage walk to the Qutub Minar.I was very excited.When I stepped out of bus, I saw a huge gate. There was magnificient structure in front of me, known as the Qutub Minar.There was also a guide with us. He told us that the area around the Qutab Minar is called Qutub Complex. Work on the Qutub Minar was started by Qutab-Ud-In-Aibak and completed by his son-in-law, Iltutmish. The guide told us that it made of red sandstone. It was a great opportunity for all the students to gain some knowledge about the rich heritage of our country.

- Rahil Taneja, VI-C
 

The Indian Express, 25th April 2011
Bird species count begins in Shimla hills

Ornithologists, researchers and nature lovers from the northern region assembled here today to undertake the first-ever bird species count since Independence.

The exercise was part of the Shimla Bird Race organised by the Himachal Birds, an NGO founded by serving IPS officer and bird lover Somesh Goyal. Divided into eight teams, 40 participants from Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi toiled the whole day trekking up and down the hills, looking for the winged creatures in the thickets on the forest floor and the towering trees.

“It is indeed a unique experience for them and they feel that such events will go a long way creating awareness among the people about nature conservation” said Chandrima, a bird lover from Delhi, who covered the thickly wooded Glena and Vice-Regal Lodge area.

Somesh, who was part of the team which covered the Shoghi-Kusumpti belt, was very excited to notice that they came across 12 species which had not been recorded in the past.

He said there were around 100 species, including rare pheasants, koklass, kaleej and cheer, in and around the Shimla hills. The last comprehensive bird species lists were prepared by British men Frome and Hugh Whistler sometime before Independence.

All teams will meet in the evening, exchange notes and arrive at a final bird species count which will enable to know the exact bird status of the area.

According to Somesh, bird races are held to count the maximum number of birds on a single day in a particular city or area, but no such exercise had ever been carried out in Shimla all these years.

The exercise will provide a comprehensive bird list of Shimla birds which will be provided to the Forest and Tourism Departments.

The Himachal Birds has been actively promoting bird watching and conservation. It organised a photo exhibition here on March 20 to mark World Sparrow Day.

The Himachal Birds has decided to institute two annual awards of Rs 11,000 each for outstanding contribution by an individual and a group in the field which will be presented during the Bio-Diversity Week in October. Nominations will be invited by the end of August 2011 and the final selection of the winners will be over by mid-September 2011.
 

The Tribune, 25th April 2011
‘Nod for sugar mill will destroy ecosystem’

A controversy is brewing in Karnataka over the allotment of over 400 acres of land to a private firm to set up a sugar mill in the newly declared Biligiri Ranga Temple (BRT) hills tiger reserve in Chamarajanagar district by the State Government.

In what is seen as a violation of environmental norms, the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) has allotted 410 acres of land in Modahalli in Chamarajanagar district which falls under eco sensitive zone and comes under both Tiger reserve and an elephant corridor.

A source in the Forest Department told The Pioneer that the Government has gone ahead to sanction 410 acres of land in Tiger Reserve and an elephant corridor to set up a private Sugar mill which destroys the pristine ecosystem.

He said, “The Government has sanctioned 410 acres of land in the elephant corridor and Tiger reserve to set up a sugar mill in the BRT hill Tiger reserve. The Government can’t allot land in a Tiger reserve”.

The State Government created the tiger reserve (359.1 sqkm) out of the BRT Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the Centre issued the final notification for the BRT Hills Tiger Reserve on January 24 this year. This newly-declared Biligiri Rangana Temple (BRT) Hills Tiger Reserve adjoins the Bandipur National Park in the Western Ghats.

According to norms, no commercial activity is allowed in a 10 Km radius of an eco-sensitive zone of any wildlife sanctuary or animal reserve.

Forest Department sources said the State Government should have also referred the project to the State and National wildlife Boards for clearance. The forest department has informed the Tamil Nadu-based Bannari Amman Group not to commence construction without the approval of the boards. Wildlife activists are protesting this move and want the Government to withdraw the permission to the project, as the zone is important for migration and survival of endangered animals.

According to Praveen Bhargav, member of National Wildlife Board and managing trustee of Wildlife First, a science driven conservation organisation that has been focusing its effort since 1995 to save endangered species and remnants of wildlife habitats in Karnataka, it was an “unmindful act” by the Government and would result in further destruction of the pristine eco-corridor. He told The Pioneer that this act would certainly disrupt the corridor and lead to permanent damage.

He said, “We must protect our corridors. In the absence of a scientific land use policy, we are blundering along with a myopic perspective that does not factor in the long term value of such biodiversity rich landscapes and natural resources. This is going to destroy an elephant corridor along with intruding in to the tiger reserve”.

Chamarajanagar Deputy Conservator of Forest Ravishankar told The Pioneer since the sugar factory location falls in the Tiger reserve, the operators must obtain necessary clearance from the concerned agencies.

He said, “The location of the proposed sugar factory falls in the Tiger reserve. We have asked them (sugar factory management) to take environmental clearances.” According to sources the State Government had approved the sugar mill project in 2008 and gave clearances in 2009 and 2010.
 
The Pioneer, 26th April 2011
Rs 60 crore to revamp Surajpur Bird Sanctuary

Surajpur Bird Sanctuary in Greater Noida, spread over 330 hectares, will soon have 52,000 additional plants of new varieties. Efforts are afoot to develop large green belts in the sanctuary.

All the new plants would be bird-friendly, sanctuary officials say.

The Greater Noida Authority (GNA) would spend Rs 60 crore to revamp the bird sanctuary.

A large number of existing plants have dried up so the need for replacing them with new plants of different varieties is urgent, say the officials.

The motive for this beautification of the sanctuary is to promote tourism in the area.

According to GNA officers, a new approach road has been built from Devla village to the sanctuary. About 300 notice boards and signages are being put up in the area for guiding the visitors about which birds could be viewed in which area.

In all, 11 lakes will be developed in different parts of the sanctuary.

In fact, some of the lakes have already been completed. Project co-ordinator of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), (India) Asgar Nawab said Surajpur Bird Sanctuary was being developed over an area of 330 hectares.

As per a survey conducted by the WWF (India) and the forest department, birds of 133 different varieties along with 150 typesof cattle and wild animals are found in the sanctuary.

After the completion of the project, Surajpur Bird Sanctuary would become a major attraction for the Delhi-NCR region, claimed Greater Noida Authority officials.
 

The Tribune, 26th April 2011
Just sighted: A brand new home for tigers

A hitherto little noticed Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary has crowned itself with glory in the annals of tiger conservation in the post-Project Tiger era in the country by playing host to a new tiger family. The comparatively small — just 250 sq km — sanctuary, situated south of the much more famous Ranthambhore National Park (RNP), now takes the cake for the third known breeding ground for tigers in the wild in Rajasthan after RNP and Sariska Tiger Reserve.

Tigress T 8 was sighted with two cubs this weekend at Chiri Kho along Sawai Madhopur-Bundi Road. The feline, a migrant from RNP, has been staying in Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary -- not known to be a place favoured by tigers so far– for two to three years. “It is a breakthrough. Tiger breeding is crucial indication both in terms of habitat improvement and prey base. It is the result of good management practices,” said a jubilant Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, R. N. Mehrotra, talking to The Hindu on Monday.

“Breeding takes place at very few places in India. A new area in tiger breeding is a very positive sign, especially when it happens outside the Project Tiger area,” said Rajpal Singh, Member of the Rajasthan Board for Wildlife. “Good tiger breeding is taking place in Rajasthan despite prophets of doom who had predicted some time back that Ranthambhore would not have tiger cubs as the atmosphere was not conducive for breeding,” he pointed out.

“This has come as very encouraging news as we have been busy shifting forest villages out of Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary to get it ready for the proposed Rajiv Gandhi Biosphere Reserve,” Mr. Mehrotra informed. The inhabitants of two villages, Hingdwar and Kalibhat, are in the process of moving out of the area.

“The birth of cubs in the new area is also indicative that the degraded forests hold good potential. These forests can bring back the life cycle which existed earlier,” he asserted. The areas south of Ranthambhore showing a clear indication of regeneration of flora and fauna is also a sure sign that the present experiments are in the right direction. Though the report of an expert team which conducted a survey on the proposed biosphere reserve is to be ready only by May 15, the tribe of tigers flourishing beyond Ranthambhore is opening up a lot of probabilities in conservation initiatives in the Hadauti (Kota) region.

“The Ranthambhore tigers have reached the doorstep of Lakheri forests. In a year or two we will be regenerating Bundi forests as well,” a confidant Mr. Mehrotra affirmed. “As for the Rajiv Gandhi Biosphere Reserve, it will encompass an area of 2,000-2,500 sq km from Karauli to Jhalawar,” he said.

As for the frolicking young tigers, Rajasthan will have more of them. “Rajasthan now has about 16-17 tiger cubs — the maximum number in any State. I am sure there will be more in the next three months,” Mr. Rajpal Singh said predicting a cat population explosion in the near future.
 

The Hindu, 26th April 2011
Showcasing the rich art forms of India

This book celebrates the presence of the divine even amidst the mundane and the material in our country. It showcases popular, devotional art in India and also metal icons, masks, sculptures, puppets, and ritual objects of divinities from this country as well as from Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, and Indonesia, as displayed in the Museum of Sacred Art, Radhadesh, Belgium.

REFRESHING
It is an effort to show “how contemporary artists continue to create visual representations of Hindu divinities in new and refreshing ways.” Radhadesh being “a spiritual community belonging to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON),” it is only natural that a majority of the paintings in the book should be on Lord Krishna.

A separate section is devoted to the art of the Hare Krishna movement which was also influenced by Italian art and Russian artists. The clarity of photographs, especially that of the beautiful old castle where the museum is housed, is such as to transport the reader to the museum. Also included are brief biographies of the artists.

J. Bhagawati, Ambassador of India to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the EU, in his preface, mentions how the collection “reflects the rich multiple art forms of India.” In her foreword, Chistiane De Lauwer, Curator (South Asia), MAS/ Ethnographic Museum, Antwerp, says she was struck by the lack of knowledge in Belgium about one of the world's most ancient and rich cultures. So, she went on to study Indian art, language, and religion. The museum and catalogue grew out of the need to spread awareness on Indian spiritual art.

Unlike in the West, the genre of spiritual art is still vibrant in India, says Martin Gurvich, Director, Museum of Sacred Art, in his introduction. The museum's focus is on living art forms rather than historical pieces, and so most of the pieces are from the 20th and 21st centuries.

In her essay on the “Living Traditions in Indian Art: The Divine Image,” Tryna Lyons describes how spiritual art is found everywhere in the country and goes on to speak of the art and artists in various regions. Among the beautiful photographs featured from the museum collection are the ones of Lord Krishna with Radha, with gentle-eyed cows, with the gopis on the river bank. Gold-leaf worked paintings in the Tanjore style and Mysore style; the pichhavais (cloth hangings) from Nathadwara in Rajasthan; paintings on cotton and paper by artists such as B.G. Sharma and Indra Sharma; inlay work on wood from Karnataka; beautifully proportioned bronzes of Tamil Nadu; eye- catching Madhubani paintings from Bihar; and rod puppets from Indonesia also find a place. In all, a catalogue that compresses the essence of the museum exhibits and communicates the spirit of popular and contemporary Indian spiritual art to the West.
 

The Hindu, 26th April 2011
Hope floats for Chausath Khambha

To support the conservation and restoration of a 16th century Mughal-era tomb in Delhi, Germany has signed an agreement with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

The Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs is providing a huge financial grant over the next two years for the restoration and urban renewal of Chausath Khambha in Nizamuddin area.

German Ambassador to and Project Director for the AKTC Ratish Nanda, signed the agreement. Also present was Michael Siebert, Deputy Commissioner of the German Year in India. "The German government is proud and honoured that we can give our humble contribution to the wonderful work that the Aga Khan Foundation is doing to preserve the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of this holy place," said Ambassador Matussek during the signing ceremony. During his visit in October 2010, German Foreign Minister had pledged his ministry's support to the AKTC in conserving the Chausath Khambha complex.

The aim is not only to preserve an important cultural heritage site, but also to provide the local community with a space to hold large-scale events..

This year, Germany and India celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Beginning in September 2011, a Year of Germany in India titled 'Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities' is being organised throughout India. The focus of the Year is 'CitySpaces' and will deal with all aspects of urban life and development. The Chausath Khambha is an important city space and will be featured prominently.

Ambassador Matussek added, "The German contribution is a not just a financial contribution, but also a very symbolic political contribution. When we start the Year of Germany in India this summer we hope some of the cultural activities can take place here to underline the importance of what we do together."

Chausath Khambha is the tomb of Mirza Aziz Kokaltash, the great Mughal Emperor Akbar's foster brother. The tomb was built in the year 1623-24 A.D. Conservation of Chausath Khambha will be undertaken as part of the Humayun's Tomb-Sunder Nursery-Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal initiative, a not-for-profit Public Private Partnership project of the Aga Khan Development Network in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Central Public Works Department. The project is the first of its kind to combine conservation with environmental and socio-economic development while working with local communities and stakeholders.

Chausath Khambha is so called on account of the 64 columns (Sixty four = Chausath) of the tomb structure. It is a unique structure built entirely of marble and, together with the adjacent tomb of Mirza Ghalib, comprises the largest open space in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.

The monument has suffered severe decay due to excessive water seepage. Now, the conservation works by AKTC will require partial dismantling of the tomb structure and will take 18 months to complete. Past repairs in nearly every one of the 25 domed cells have included cementing the broken portions, thereby causing further damage.
 

Times of India, 29th April 2011
Amateur archaeologist stumbles upon major find

Relics of Copper Age, Mauryan period found on Banas river bank in Rajasthan

Findings depict the phase in north-western India when early metal tools had started appearing

The barely-literate grocer with a passion for history has made many discoveries over 20 years

In a major discovery, relics of the Copper Age and numismatics and tools of the Mauryan period have been unearthed from a big mound on the banks of the Banas river at Kumharia village in Rajasthan's Bhilwara district, promising to connect several missing links in ancient history.

Bundi-based amateur archaeologist Om Prakash Sharma alias Kukki discovered broken bowls of black and red ware pottery, mica-mixed earthenware with zigzag lines, terracotta toys and pieces of conch and shell bangles during his recent exploratory visit to Bhilwara. The rare findings depict the phase of civilisation in north-western India when early metal tools had started appearing.

Missing link
The vast tract along the Banas river seems to be hiding underneath the artefacts dating back to the prehistoric period when the post-Rig Vedic civilisation was flourishing in the region during the 12th to 9th Century B.C. Bagore village in Bhilwara district has already reported the discovery of ancient archaeological objects.

Copper Age tools were earlier found in Rajasthan at places such as Kalibanga in Hanumangarh district, Ahad in Udaipur and Namana in Bundi. Mr. Sharma told The Hindu from Bundi on Thursday that the baked reddish-brown clay toys found by him were mostly in the shape of bull with horns, and also depicted other animals.

“This entire region, spread over several kilometres, has layers after layers of ancient civilisations. If the sand mounds [in the region] are excavated in a systematic manner, traces of continuous human habitation for at least 4,000 years can be found here.” He said he stumbled upon the relics while trying to find evidence of Kumharia's connectivity with Bagore.

A barely literate grocer with a passion for history and archaeology, the 54-year-old has discovered rock paintings belonging to the Mesolithic-Chalcolithic age and objects and tools of the Copper age and Mauryan and post-Gupta period in the vast hilly tracts of Bundi, Kota and Bhilwara districts over the past two decades.

Another significant finding by him at Kumharia was the punch mark copper coins issued by the Mauryan dynasty between 321 B.C. and 185 B.C. They are in different shapes and sizes and have one or more symbols punched on them. Mr. Sharma said these symbols represented either the royal insignia or the mark of the local guild which struck the coins.

According to him, the mound also has traces of huge brick walls belonging to the Kushan period of the 1st to early 2nd century A.D. and the Gupta period which existed approximately from 320 A.D. to 550 A.D., covering much of the Indian subcontinent.

Appeal
Mr. Sharma has informed the Archaeological Survey of India and the State Directorate of Archaeology here about his latest finds and requested the authorities to protect the region from vandals digging up the archaeological heritage. The expansion of Kumharia village with new constructions in the area would lead to “permanent loss of the precious legacy”, he said.

Mr. Sharma, who was honoured for his achievements in the field of archaeology on Republic Day here last year, is also working on a project sanctioned to him by the Directorate of Archaeology for documentation of ancient rock paintings in Bundi district. There are about 55 sites in Bundi where the rock art provides a glimpse of flora and fauna of the pre-historic era.
 

The Hindu, 29th April 2011
Close to heaven in Hemis

The arrival of summer is always a time of celebration in cold regions. One such celebration is the annual Hemis Festival, held at the Hemis Gompa, the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh.

Whichever way you choose to arrive in Leh, you are assured of an exciting and magical journey. Leh is the biggest city in the Ladakh area of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India’s northern reaches. Surrounded by the lofty Himalayas, accessible only by one of the highest roads in the world or flight, Leh sits at a breathtaking altitude of 3524 metres and was once a bustling centre of the Trade Route that wound along the Indus River between Tibet, India, Kashmir and China. At times during the almost 500-km road trip to Ladakh, I wondered if we were closer to heaven than to Leh! Clouds came down and met the road at points and great drifts of snow banks lined the road.

Passing over the second highest road in the world, I struggled for breath in the thin mountain air and as our jeep wound its way across the lofty Himalayas, it seemed we had entered a magical kingdom.

There the Himalayas are a riot of colour and shape.

The landscape turned the car window into a moving picture postcard view of a land with lofty mou¨ntains coloured turquoise, orange peaks striped with slashes of black and distant hills coloured with the pastel shades of spring growth, tinted by passing clouds.

While the majority of India bakes in the summer heat, the people of Ladakh have only just awakened from a long and lonely winter.

The arrival of summer there is always a time of celebration. One such celebration is the annual Hemis Festival, held at the Hemis Gompa, the largest Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh.

As the seat of Indo-Tibetan culture, Hemis monastery is home to more than 500 monks and plays host to hundreds of people during the time of the festival.

The festival is dedicated to the Guru Padmasambhava, and the festival is an extravaganza of dance on the day of his birth.

Arriving in Leh, I found it difficult to tell if I was gasping for the beauty of this remote kingdom or for the effects of altitude.

Every step seemed to take place in slow motion and climbing a flight of stairs felt like the highest mountain, it certainly takes a few days to adjust to the affects of breathing such rarified air.

The Hemis Monastery is abuzz with excited children when we arrive. As the horns of the monks ring out over the valley inside the Gompa, masked monks are dancing in precise formation.

During the two-day festival, marked by prayers and the display of an ancient thangka of Guru, traditional dances are performed by masked monks.

Accompanied by cymbals, drums and trumpets, the dances are a portrayal of triumph of good over evil. All too soon, the festival is over but it seems I had saved the best experience of Ladakh till last.

Flying from Leh to Delhi, you are above or level with the spectacular beauty of the Himalayas, it takes your breath away in quite another way!
 

Deccan Herald, 29th April 2011
Relics dug up near H’bad point to Vedic faith links

A surprise awaits all those who view Hyderabad only as a major seat of Muslim culture.

Archaeologists have uncovered a huge brick structure and a massive-sized urn at Kondapur, 25 km west of Hyderabad, which they claim indicate conclusively the existence of a prosperous brahmanic culture, more particularly of the Vedic period.

The year-long excavations by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) spread over 81 acres in this satellite town abutting the hi-tech city and the IT corridor have thrown up interesting features. They comprise some brick structures in the western extreme of the main mound, which yielded authentic evidence of a non-Buddhist sect.

It is a vast complex having a circular shrine facing south with one entrance and surrounded by rectangular chambers and fire altars – three metres in depth having 37 courses of burnt bricks of different shapes -- triangular and damaru-shaped -- behind the chambers.

G Maheswari, ASI superintending archaeologist, who led a team of 15 members including three students from JNU and Central University of Hyderabad, said “the finding represents the existence of a brahmanic culture. The fire altars yielded significant evidence of fire activities in them along with full pots - five in number (may be kalasa) with stamped impressions of a trident, purnakalasa,” she said.

The temple complex yielded plenty of animal bone fragments, perhaps indicating sacrificial rituals and pottery articles such as bowls, sprinklers, spouted vessels and iron implements like spearheads and knives.

“In the same complex in the vicinity of the circular structure, Lajja Gouri (Goddess of fertility) and a few cult objects made of iron were found,” Maheswari said.

The excavations indicate that Kondapur was not just a Buddhist site, but pointed to a religion with evidence of the performance of Vedic rites. “Till date we have recorded 2,000 relics including pottery, iron objects and also other antiquities,” the archaelogist said.

The Kondapur excavations will be closed by the end of May.
 

Deccan Herald, 29th April 2011
Hopes are slender for the slow, shy loris

Slender lorises, once aplenty in the Western Ghats, may soon become a rare sight. The reason: Bamboo groves, the natural habitat of the slim, small mammals, are drying up and dying, forcing the shy animals to find a new haven.

The loris is small primate — about six to 10 inches, with a vestigial tail. Its round head is dominated by two large, shiny, saucer-like brown eyes, close set. The eyes are surrounded by large dark-brown circles of fur, much like the pandas.

Natural to the Western Ghats, lorises live in bamboo groves and thorny bushes to escape predators, surviving on insects and ants.

The animals with strikingly large eyes are harmless, but have been victims of Nature’s vicissitudes and the depredations of poachers.

The nocturnal primates are found on the Gajanur-Agumbe stretch between Shimoga and Tirthahalli.

Lorises are locally known as ‘Chagalinwala’ as they consume Chagali, an ant species that is mostly found in bamboos. About six inches long, the loris moves slowly, gripping twigs and branches of trees with its limbs.

They continue to prefer to live in bamboo groves, spurning the large plantations of acacia developed in Malnad by the Mysore Paper Mills.

Now, bamboo is facing extinction, thanks to the forest fires and destruction of the natural forest, forcing lorises to find alternatives homes.

That endeavour is beset with dangers. Although protected against hunting as it is included under Schedule 2 of the Indian Wildlife Act, poachers are superstitious about lorises, and treat them as harbingers of a poor hunt.

As a result, most poachers kill lorises. Sadly enough, the Forest Department does not seem to be alive to the plight of this cute little animal, once a symbol of the State’s wildlife, but set to become a memory soon.
 

Deccan Herald, 30th April 2011