Heritage Education in India

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Heritage Alerts
February 2018

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Hry-Indian Archaeological Society start excavations at Kunal

The Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department (HAMD), Indian Archaeological Society and the National Museums today started excavations at Kunal in Fatehabad district, the earliest Harappan site in the state. The Director General, National Museums, B R Mani and Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department, Deputy Director Banani Bhattacharyya started the digging process with a spade. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to this effect was signed between the HAMD and the New Delhi-based society in the presence of the Haryana Archaeology and Museums, last year, an official release here said. Kunal being one of the earliest sites in Haryana had a great contribution in the early Harappan studies in the Indian sub-continent which would open new prospects for the future researches. The archeological excavations at this pre-Harappan site of 5,000 years old were started in the year 1986 and are continuing till date with a few field-seasons gap, the release said.

Three successive phases of occupation from pit-dwelling to that of square and rectangular mud brick houses have come to light and are supposed to be the earliest remains of the pre-Harappan culture in India. In earlier excavations, a hoard of regalia item, including six gold beads of a necklace, an armlet and a few bangle pieces and 12,445 beads of semi-precious stones first- of-its kind were found. That makes the whole gamut of the luxury items as richest when seen in the context of rural nature of settlement of 3,000 BC, it said. One of the important contributions of this site is the discovery of steatite and shell seals, which are the earliest example of seal manufacturing in India, so far. PTI CHS KJ

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vadodara/kirti-mandir-paintings-to-regain-glory/articleshow/62701294.cms, Feb 4, 2018

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Walk the Historical Paths

For the first time, heritage trails across the country are being revived as part of a singular event. Historian Sohail Hashmi says these educative tours done the right way will help us see our culture in a new light. By Kritika Dua Walking, they say, is the best way to feel a city and get a sense of its being. It is the best multi-sensorial experience that is. Something that heritage experts around the world are trying to use to develop a sense of connectedness to our civilisational past and thread our legacy forward knowing where we come from. Globally, heritage walks are now part of a tourist experience and India, too, is waking up to them. From textile trails in Ahmedabad to stories of the Partition in Amritsar and from exploring the making of Lutyens’ Delhi to tracing the history of theatres in Mumbai, a first-of-its-kind pan-India heritage-themed festival promises to offer diverse experiences to people this month.

The India Heritage Walk Festival began on Saturday with walks in the Ahmedabad, Delhi’s Mehrauli Archaeological Park and a nature walk in Hyderabad, its organisers said. The festival spans across 20 cities, including Agra, Bengaluru, Varanasi, Chennai, Kolkata, Srinagar and Itanagar. “This is the first time we are holding a walk festival to celebrate the heritage of India. Besides walks, there will be baithaks for history enthusiasts and instameets for Instagram users,” said a representative of Sahapedia, an open online resource on the arts, cultures, and heritage of India, which is a co-organiser with YES Bank. All the walks by Sahapedia are hosted by scholars and academicians who are particular and sensitively aware of the walks that they are taking and space they are introducing to people. Priya Poddar, who is the curator, said, “There is a personal relationship to all the walks we embark on.

It prompts the participants towards conservation, mentally stimulating them for intangible and tangible heritage.” She feels that the walks should be an all-inclusive event, especially for children and locals to understand their ancestors and the legacy they left behind. “We cannot make our culture an elitist concept. By this, we are not undermining our walk leaders who are well read but people should have the chance to voice their opinion and understand the forgotten ruins spread across our country.” The idea behind these walks is to encourage people to get out and capture the rich heritage that is lying undiscovered in India. All of us are interested to go abroad to visit monuments but seldom care for our own. What we fail to realise is that the citizens need to be responsible enough to value and keep our own sites clean rather than using them as graffiti spaces and an undeclared neighbourhood dump site or a free-for-all assemblage.

“The textile trail walk will be held in Ahmedabad on February 10. In Delhi, we got noted historian Sohail Hashmi to lead a walk in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. This will be followed by an event in Nizamuddin Basti on Sufi culture too,” the representative added. Hashmi revealed that he zeroed down on Mehrauli Archaeological Park as it is one of his preferred locations owing to the richness of architecture. When he started undertaking heritage walks, there were around four people doing the same but over the years the number has seen a rapid increase with which emerged new aspects of walks such as cycle heritage tour, walks around craft, food, gardens, forests, birds et al.

Along with development of interesting concepts, the number of people engaged in it are also rising. Said Hashmi, “I have seen progress in the form of heritage clubs in schools and colleges where youngsters are opening up to questions of conservation.” In Vadodara, heritage aficionados can explore the Indo-Saracenic architecture at MSU, Baroda on February 17 and in Bikaner, a Holi walk would be held on February 25. Mumbai residents can explore the bylanes of Bandra on February 4 with a walk leader while on February 11 they can trace the history of old single-screen theatres of the tinsel town through The Talkies Walk. In Delhi, besides exploration of history of making of New Delhi on February 25, several other walks beckon visitors ranging from heritage of Hauz Khas to public art in Lodhi Colony area. In Srinagar, a walk will be held on February 26 around the Jhelum River and in Varanasi, a tour of the city is slated for February 24. Hashmi began undertaking heritage walks around 15 years ago. He recalled, “I started the walks with school children who used to come to a creative activity centre that I looked after. And the initiation of the idea happened when I realised that the kids growing up in the city didn’t know anything about it.

Thus, Discover Delhi walks happened and it has continued to grow since then. As a result of heritage walks, I realised that there are numerous people who are interested in heritage but are unsure if they can visit a structure and understand the intricacies of its history on their own. There is a little amount of diffidence. So, when they find out that someone is conducting a heritage walk, they are more than willing to take out time.” He has reached a certain stature, so he just has to announce a walk and the number of people he can accommodate in that space and the entries pour in. He divulged details about the stories behind the lesser-known monuments that he explored in his journey. “The ruins behind Qutub are one of my favourites. They were built between the 13th and 18th century and some old buildings were modified in the 19th century.

The rare finds are 13th century stepwells and 16th century mausoleums. Also, one can gaze at the buildings and look at the tomb evolving or the arch that is transiting from the corbel to a true arch.” On close observation, one can also notice the change in material and building techniques. Hashmi shed light over how people, as well as the government, are neglecting the city’s architectural heritage. He said, “A lot of heritage walks can now be seen taking place in the city which is creating awareness but it’s not happening in the rest of the country. A large part of the Delhi population doesn’t pay heed to heritage. We have an imagined glorious past and are only interested in that and not towards the heritage that is next door to us.” He also talked about the lack of sanitation facilities in some of the monuments. Added he, “Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and some other cities have conserved their heritage to some extent but in most parts of the country there is total neglect. People don’t care and do not bother to find out if the money allocated for maintenance of our heritage sites is materialising or not. India hasn’t woken up to heritage.”

- http://www.dailypioneer.com/vivacity/walk-the-historical-paths.html, Feb 5, 2018

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With rare collection of fossils, Ariyalur museum in Tamil Nadu nearing completion

Fossils play a vital role in learning pre-historic archaeology, palaeontology and evolution. With its rich depository of fossils, Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu is a treasure trove and hunting ground for researchers, archaeologists and geologists, besides attracting nature buffs. The backward district is going to be a hub for nature buffs soon with the fossil museum, a project by the Department of Museum, nearing completion. Implemented at a cost of ` 2 crore, the fossil museum is located at Keelapazhur village off the Thanjavur-Manamadurai highway. It is being constructed at a sprawling area of 54 acres and will have display galleries featuring fossils, minerals, rocks, general geology, river geo-morphology and the solar system.

“The project of constructing the on-site fossil museum has almost been completed. We are waiting for an appointment from the Chief Minister to open the museum,” Minister for Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture K Pandiarajan told Express. The richness of Ariyalur’s antiquity could be known from the fact that 65-year-old fossilised dinosaur eggs were found on the Cauvery river-bed in Ariyalur years ago. According to Kavitha Ramu, Director of Museums, “In view of the large depository of fossils found in Ariyalur, the government decided to set up the on-site museum at Keelapazhur to preserve and conserve fossils.” Not only will the fossil museum help preserve fossils, it will also help in teaching the younger generations the pre-historic archaeology and evolution.

Several fossils were stumbled upon at many places in Ariyalur during mining works carried out by the cement factories, in large numbers, operating in the district. Ammonites were found widely in Ariyalur district. The Department of Museums has written to various government departments, agencies and private entities for donating fossils so that the treasures can be displayed at the museum. A local man known as ‘Fossil’ Subramanian, who had died, had collected a large number of fossils and handed them over to a college in Tiruchi. The Department of Museums has approached the college to provide the fossils to it, another official said.

Moreover, the Geological Survey of India (GSI), Tamil Nadu Minerals Limited and Tamil Nadu Department of Geology and Mines were also requested to share fossils in their possession in order to display them at the upcoming museum, he added. Pandiarajan informed that steps were being taken to set up site museums at four other archaeological sites — Adichanallur, Korkai, Alagankulam and Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu — as well. The State government has approached the Centre for funds to construct museums at these places. “We have already submitted a memorandum seeking Central funds for these projects. We hope we will be provided financial assistance from the funds allocated for the Ministry of Culture in the Budget.” In Keezhadi, the Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology is going to conduct excavations to dig deep further to find out more evidence to undoubtedly prove the existence of an urban culture in the ancient Tamil Nadu, he said.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2018/feb/05/with-rare-collection-of-fossils-ariyalur-museum-in-tamil-nadu-nearing-completion-1768475.html, Feb 5, 2018

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Meet on college restoration

A discussion on restoration and renovation of Dr John Berry White Medical School Building in Dibrugarh was organised by the Policy Group for People's Rights (PGPR), Dibrugarh, and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), Dibrugarh chapter, here on Thursday. PGPR president and convener of Intach, Dibrugarh chapter, Aradhana Kataki, welcomed the guests and spoke of the approval of chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal besides initiatives of Dibrugarh deputy commissioner Laya Madduri to clear the Berry White Project.

Kataki lauded Oil India Ltd for making it possible to go ahead with the project and thanked their management on behalf of the PGPR. Eminent writer and former Rajya Sabha member Nagen Saikia, who was present as the guest of honour, was felicitated. Principal of Assam Medical College H. Goswami was among the participants. Members of AMC faculty, eminent doctors and prominent citizens also participated in the meeting.

- https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/north-east/meet-on-college-restoration-206093 Feb 5, 2018

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Building A Future, Inspired By The Past

Indian cities boast of a rich and diverse heritage. However, due to pressures of urbanisation and population, we are fast losing our heritage assets. We have a very small window of opportunity to act and save them. Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is one such organisation that is working towards conservation and revival of India’s heritage. They recently launched an integrated urban initiative called SEHER (Sustainable Cities Through Heritage Revival), which seeks to tap into the potential of heritage as a valuable social, economic and environmental asset that contributes to building sustainable and liveable Indian cities.

We had the chance to speak to Olga Chepelianskaia, who leads the SEHER programme within INTACH. She is an international sustainability expert, specialising in sustainable and climate-resilient urban development in Asian cities. Over 13 years of professional engagement, she has managed five major international programmes, covered over 20 cities and 40 countries, and worked with seven international institutions including Asian Development Bank (ADB) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Chepelianskaia talked to us about threats to urban heritage, the importance of heritage conservation, and about the programme she is spearheading. Excerpts from the interview:

1. You have worked as an environment and urban development consultant with a number of international organisations including the UN and the Rockefeller Foundation. What sparked your interest in urban heritage?
Since school, I’ve been fascinated with ancient architecture. I spent hours watching the Saint Sernin basilica – the biggest European church on the Roman art period, located in Toulouse, France – from my high-school windows. Impressively, over the three years I spent there, I constantly noticed new details, new light shades, new perspectives, and they inspired new thoughts in me. A critical difference between today’s architecture and most of heritage architecture is that the latter keeps talking to you, surprising you, inspiring you. Because it is unique, it has a personality. This is precisely what drew me to heritage revival as an urban development specialist. I’ve been working on sustainable urban development in Asia since 2010 and I’m seeing how, gradually, Asian cities are becoming uniform and losing their uniqueness. The process of heritage demolition and large-scale construction work go hand in hand in Asia.

Is this what we want for a region that we see as the richest in cultural diversity globally? I want Asian cities to flourish and this is hardly possible without love and connection to the place they belong to. I’m delighted that INTACH offered me an association and gave me the opportunity to explore the connection between heritage and sustainable urban development in Indian cities.

2. What do you see as the biggest threat to Indian urban heritage today?
I see two major threats. Heritage legislation in India is weak. As per INTACH’s estimates, only 0.7 per cent of heritage buildings in India are protected. This makes it exactly 7,781 buildings – about half under the national protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the other half by different Indian states. Which means that the overwhelming majority of heritage buildings in India can be demolished at any point in time. Is this an acceptable state of affairs for a nation with such an ancient diversity of cultures as India? Before I started visiting India, I kept hearing stories of how you see the country change when you travel from one state to another. Now, I feel immense pain and disappointment each time I see the same concrete boxes along the roads from Uttarakhand to Tamil Nadu, from Odisha to Gujarat. I hear the economic argument to justify this, but I don’t buy it. It does not cost much to use local materials more often, to bring basic decorative motives related to the place.

On the contrary, it creates jobs and spreads skills. The Indian nation has the responsibility to preserve unique cultural assets. This needs to urgently reflect in our heritage legislation. An equally important threat is the disconnect that has come about in India between people and their built heritage. I traveled to a number of historic cities under SEHER and talked to people (luckily, I speak Hindi and can directly listen to them). Most of them dream of a concrete box flat.

Why? I’m yet to understand this. There are reasons, such as people’s association of a higher social status with modern amenities, or the colonial period which may have disrupted the connection to local arts and crafts to an extent, or religious politicisation of heritage assets that makes one disregard a monument if it is not of one’s religion. Without the roots, a tree, no matter how strong it is, fades. There is a lot to be done to shift the perception. Through SEHER, we are planning interactive campaigns in select cities to raise awareness about the importance of built heritage assets. We want to create short films on how people in Europe perceive heritage; we want to share successful Indian examples widely.

3. Indian historic city cores, instead of being assets, have become a concentration of poverty and vulnerability. What is the reason for this?
Yes. And more that that, historic cores have often taken the status of slums in India as per the Indian definition of a slum. This means the area lacks basic infrastructure and concentrates poverty and vulnerability. Now, I want to attract your attention to an important point: this is not specific to India. A number of historic European cities have been in this situation. A couple of years ago, I had the chance to look closely at the case of Monopoli, a small town in the south of Italy. Its magnificent historic core used to be the poorest area of the city. The situation turned 180 degrees when some citizens convinced the local government to take action. Several measures were introduced – the historic core was pedestrianised, inactive historic churches benefited from adaptive reuse, incentives were provided to businesses to settle in the historic town. Simultaneously, restoration took place and inhabitants received guidance on how to preserve the character of the facades, accompanied by financial incentives. Today, the historic core is the most vibrant part of the town, popular both among locals and tourists.

So, yes, we can change the situation in India. For this, we need to realise the value these areas hold and unlock it. 4. How do you see the relationship between heritage conservation and “modern” urban development? This relationship is vital for cities to be sustainable, inclusive, economically attractive and vibrant. What we see now is a near-complete disconnect between the two. Heritage practitioners work on conservation whereas the city develops in a sporadic and uncontrolled manner with a design disconnected from heritage aesthetics, or no design at all – just standard buildings we see all across Asia.

Where does it take the city? It loses its uniqueness and identity. It loses human scale, human touch, diversity and aesthetics. One could say it doesn’t matter as long as we provide housing and facilities for all, but with this view we fail to see one critical point – qualified work is becoming extremely mobile with the advent of information and communication technology; so, the qualified workforce is now more in a position to choose its location. Currently, Asia faces significant migration from rural to urban areas, in the search for better incomes. However, we already observe a shift – people prefer to live in the outskirts of medium-sized cities for a better quality of life. They strive for space, greenery, air quality. The city will increasingly need to provide a competitive environment to attract talent and innovation.

So, to be sustainable and competitive, a city wants to generate urban design, creatively taking root in the city’s historic core, which is a unique asset. This is a fascinating field – how to create an urban environment with inspiration from the past rather than in visually and spatially incompatible parts. Cities such as Paris and Berlin have showcased exemplary creativity in this regard. Now, think about the economic aspect. Typical uniform, contemporary buildings are built from materials that age poorly. They require high-level maintenance and lose their aesthetic attraction quickly, in contrast to heritage buildings. This means we are being very short-sighted and building for the next 30-50 years. What can be more unsustainable than rebuilding every 30-50 years from scratch? What do we leave as heritage legacy to future generations with such an approach? This is why it is critical to connect heritage and urban development. This is precisely the mandate of SEHER INTACH.

5. Activities to do with heritage are generally considered to be in the elite realm. How do you think heritage can be made relevant to the common folk? What role can the local community play in heritage conservation?
This is a critical and complex aspect. We are conducting dedicated research on this to understand how we can increase the connect between people of all social classes with their built heritage environment. As of now, what I can say is that people need to own their spaces. And this ownership comes in a whole variety of dimensions. For example, it is a common scenario that heritage buildings have been for generations inhabited by tenants who pay a nominal amount to the owners in relation to the post-independence Rent Control laws . As a result, no one feels ownership with the place. Second, heritage areas lack basic infrastructure services. Third, as per the regulations, one cannot alter any part of the building in the vicinity of a protected monument without official approval.

At first glance, it is an intelligent measure, but when you give it a closer look, you realise that the approval procedures are ineffective, that there is no collaboration between heritage conservation professionals and communities. This state of affairs dispossesses people from their built environment, which is no longer a living, evolving environment. Connection, care, attachment, love for a place are everything. When this connection is missing, we can enforce certain matters through regulations, but enforcement rarely works in India and it is never as effective as people standing up for their heritage assets. 6. What role can tourism play? Is there a need for sustainable tourism given how more tourism over the years has caused damage to heritage in some cases? Tourism is both a strong driver of heritage revival and related economic benefits, and poses a threat of gentrification and gradual displacement of the local population. Paris, for example, is now losing 35,000 inhabitants a year despite being a major French economic hub. This is due to the fact that the land value of the historic city core increased beyond what the middle class could afford. Barcelona historic core’s citizens suffer from the overwhelming surge of tourism. The municipality had to sue Airbnb to ensure there is rental accommodation for the local population. Noise pollution is also the city’s major challenge. These are possible outcomes of more tourism. At the same time, in the early stages, tourism potential can attract attention and investment into a heritage area, generate employment, directly connect local crafts with buyers, bypassing the middleman. And yes, as much as with anything related to infrastructure, sustainability is key.

7. How did the idea of SEHER programme come into being?
SEHER INTACH is a full-fledged cooperation between INTACH, the most influential Indian institution for unprotected heritage advocacy and conservation, and me, with my expertise in sustainable climate-resilient urban development, gained in over 40 countries over the past 13 years. I would like to acknowledge the critical role of K T Ravindran and Divay Gupta in making the programme come into being. Over the course of numerous discussions and brainstorming, we understood that it is time INTACH leads its heritage work in this critical direction. We are currently enlarging both our outreach and capacity by reaching out to various international institutions, think tanks and prominent professionals to strengthen our work and widely raise awareness about the need for a new approach to heritage in Asian cities before it is too late.

8. The pilot cities chosen by the programme are relatively unknown and are small urban heritage centres. How has the experience of working on ground with them been?
We are still in the process of finalising our pilot cities. Our major criterion is having full commitment and support from municipal and state authorities. We aim to work holistically at the city level, not just parts of the heritage area. We are focusing on linkages; we look at how revived heritage assets play for the whole city at all levels: economic, social, environmental. Upon UNESCO’s request, we, for example, initiated work with Chanderi. This tier-three town of Madhya Pradesh is an example of a holistic heritage experience, which has already been damaged by large-scale uniform development across areas.

In fact, tier-three cities in India may be the future of sustainable urban development. Because there is still scope to approach development in a holistic and creative manner, building on the existing cultural and natural aesthetics of the city. With urbanisation, making sure future cities develop in a sustainable way is important. Success will also demonstrate to tier-two and tier-three cities the advantages of holistic development over sporadic one. Ekta is a staff writer at Swarajya. https://swarajyamag.com/culture/building-a-future-inspired-by-the-past 87 students take part in poster contest
Eighty seven students participated in a poster drawing competition conducted by INTACH district chapter in Kurnool on Monday. Students of Chinmaya Mission Vidyalaya, V.K.M.S Leaders school, Sri Sai high school, Sri Meghana high school, Bhavana high school, Santhi Vidya Mandir, BVR, KVR, GSSR and SVS high school participated in the contest, said District Tourism Officer and INTACH convenor B. Venkateswarlu.

- http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/87-students-take-part-in-poster-contest/article22664626.ece Feb 6, 2018

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87 students take part in poster contest

Eighty seven students participated in a poster drawing competition conducted by INTACH district chapter in Kurnool on Monday. Students of Chinmaya Mission Vidyalaya, V.K.M.S Leaders school, Sri Sai high school, Sri Meghana high school, Bhavana high school, Santhi Vidya Mandir, BVR, KVR, GSSR and SVS high school participated in the contest, said District Tourism Officer and INTACH convenor B. Venkateswarlu.

- http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/87-students-take-part-in-poster-contest/article22664626.ece Feb 6, 2018

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Flora Fountain renovation work set to resume soon

The renovation work of Flora Fountain, South Mumbai’s most famous heritage landmark, is set to resume soon as the body tasked with the facelift has been allotted necessary fund for the purpose, a BMC official said today. The work to renovate the 153-year-old Gothic Revival architecture was given to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) by the civic body in September 2016. However, the heritage organisation stopped the work last year after it faced some financial hurdles. The renovation work is set to resume soon as the BMC has allotted the funds to INTACH as per the bills raised by the body, according to a civic official. “There were few issues that we have resolved as of today and we expect that the work would resume as soon as possible. We have disbursed almost Rs 84 lakh to the body as per the provision and as per the bills raised by it,” senior BMC officer Sudarshan Shirsath, who is looking after the execution of the project, told PTI.

However, the decision on the interest waiver, demanded by the INTACH, would be taken by the civic commissioner. “The body had also sought an interest waiver on the payment made by us as the mobilisation advances. Since they have sought a special concession, this mater will be forwarded to the BMC commissioner who will take the final decision,” Shirsath added. The INTACH had stopped the renovation work for the want of funds before completing nearly half of the total work in the first phase for the Rs 1.50 crore project.

With the INTACH and the BMC having sorted out the issues, it is now hoped that the work would be completed soon. Noted architect Vikas Dilawari, who is overseeing the restoration project on behalf of the BMC, said they are hopeful that the project would be completed within two months after the work is restarted. “There were some glitches which have almost been resolved and we hope to complete the project in two months after resumption of the renovation work. The Flora Fountain, a monument that has stood testimony to the city’s history for over 150 years, will get refurbished soon,” he told PTI. Dilawari, along with officials from the BMC’s conservation cell and INTACH, had used a latest technique to remove the coat of dust and paint of the monument in the fag-end of 2016 as part of the renovation work. Another BMC official, attached with the renovation of the project said, “We have applied latest technology to restore the pride of this historical piece. We have applied high-density steam to remove the coat of murk.

This is the least invasive technique with long-term benefits, as there is no use of chemicals”. Flora Fountain, at the Hutatma Chowk, is an ornamentally and exquisitely sculpted architectural heritage monument located in the Fort business district in the heart of South Mumbai. Built in 1864, the Fountain is a fusion of water, architecture and sculpture and depicts the Roman goddess Flora. Hutatma Chowk square that hosts Flora Fountain was officially renamed in 1960 in memory of the members of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, who lost their lives when police fired upon their peaceful demonstration. A statue of a “Martyr with a Flame” stands next to Flora Fountain.

- http://www.india.com/news/agencies/flora-fountain-renovation-work-set-to-resume-soon-2880865/ Feb 6, 2018

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Excavation begins at 5000-year-old pre-Harappan site

The Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department (HAMD), Indian Archaeological Society and the National Museum on Sunday started excavations at Kunal in Fatehabad district, the earliest Harappan site in the state. B R Mani, Director-General, National Museums, and Banani Bhattacharyya, Deputy Director, Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department, started the digging process with a spade. Kunal being one of the earliest sites in Haryana had a great contribution in the early Harappan studies in the Indian subcontinent which would open new prospects for future researches.

The archaeological excavations at this 5,000-year-old pre-Harappan site were started in 1986 and are continuing till date with a few field-season gaps, the release said. Three successive phases of occupation from pit-dwelling to that of square and rectangular mud brick houses have come to light and are supposed to be the earliest remains of the pre-Harappan culture in India. In earlier excavations, a hoard of regalia item, including six gold beads of a necklace, an armlet and a few bangle pieces and 12,445 beads of semi-precious stones were found. That makes the whole gamut of the luxury items as ‘richest’ when seen in the context of rural nature of settlement of 3,000 BC, it said. One of the important contributions of this site is the discovery of steatite and shell seals, which are the earliest example of seal manufacturing in India, so far.PTI

- http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-in-school/excavation-begins-at-5000-year-old-pre-harappan-site/article22663240.ece Feb 6, 2018

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Heritage sites in Kochi to welcome disabled people

Two of the city's heritage troves-the Mattancherry Dutch Palace and the St Francis Church- will soon be accessible to people with disabilities with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) deciding to step in to modify the two monuments in two phases. "The plan is to place signages and braille signs inside the building in the first three months. In the next six months, ramps and pathways will be set up inside the structures. We are still working on the designs and its costs so that we can present an estimate to the department for funds," said Smitha Sumathy, superintending archaeologist in-charge, ASI Kerala.

Due to space constrictions at the St Francis Church, building of ramps will be in a limited format, enabling those on wheelchair to move around the church through a separate pathway. "At the Dutch Palace, the stairs leading to the museum is quite steep and thus the construction of a ramp beside it would deem futile. So, we are planning a suspended lift, which will be designed to carry a person with a wheelchair and help them enter through a window. It can be used for the elderly also, if needed. However, for the construction of the lift an MoU needs to be signed between the ASI and the Cochin Devaswom Board, as the ASI owns only the first floor of the palace whereas the land is owned by the board. Discussions are on," Sumathy said. Construction of toilets accessible to disabled people will also be included in the modification plans.

"At the St Francis Church, however, again due to space constriction, the existing toilet blocks will have to be modified to make them disabled-friendly. In other places, a separate one can be constructed exclusively for them. All the works are expected to be completed in a year at the maximum," Sumathy added. The new schemes are being worked for the structures listed under 'Adarsh Monuments', which includes four structures in Kerala.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/heritage-sites-in-kochi-to-welcome-disabled-people/articleshow/62813871.cms, Feb 6, 2018

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Pottery kiln as old as Kadamba dynasty unearthed

A pottery kiln said to be that of the age of Kadamba dynasty has been unearthed near the historical Pranavalingeshwara temple in Talagunda village in Shikaripur taluk recently. The kiln is 8 ft high. The diameter of its base is 3 ft while that of the upper portion is 6 ft. The kiln was unearthed in a field owned by one Sumatindra Rao at survey number 255 in the village. When the work of levelling of the agriculture field was undertaken here for cultivation of ginger, the workers stumbled upon a brick structure. After the mud around the structure was cleared, the kiln emerged. Few broken bricks, pots and earthen utensils have also been found near it. Following the incident, a team of archaeologists from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Department of Archeology, Museums and Heritage visited the village.

Ramesh Hirejambur, historian from Shikaripur, said the bund for the Pranavalingeshwara pond near the temple in Talagunda was constructed during the rule of Kadamba king Kakutsavarama in 5th century A.D. The bricks used for the construction of the bund resemble those found near the kiln. It may be mentioned here that, in 2012 and 2013, a trial excavation was conducted by ASI near the Pranavalingeshwara temple, said to be constructed by Satavahana kings and renovated by Kadamba rulers.

During the excavation, two sets of copper plate charters (dated 12 century C.E.) belonging to Kakatiya dynasty and eight gold coins issued by Ganga ruler Sivamara-1(regnal year 679 CE to 726 C.E.) were found here. Near the north side of the balustrade of the mahamantap near the temple, a stone inscription datable to 370 CE to 450 CE was also found. It is a dual inscription that has both Kannada and Sanskrit words. The seven lines of the inscription are written in Brahmi script. The second inscription found in southern side balustrade is a copy of the first inscription. The main deity of Pranavalingeshwara temple is referred as Mahadeva in the inscription. The findings have been recorded in ASI’s Indian Archeology Review of the year 2013-14.

Speaking to The Hindu, M. Naveen Kumar, president, Kannada Samshodhane Abhivrudhi Pratishthana, an organisation striving for preservation of monuments in Talagunda said, the findings during the excavation undertaken by ASI, the unearthing of the inscriptions belonging to the age of Vijayanagara and Keladi kingdoms here last year and the unearthing of the kiln recently testify that, Talagunda was an important administrative centre during the rule of Satavahana, Kadamba, Kakatiya, Hoysala, Vijayanagara and Keladi dynasties. As Talagunda is a place of historical importance, further excavations should be undertaken here, he said.

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/pottery-kiln-as-old-as-kadamba-dynasty-unearthed/article22662706.ece, Feb 6, 2018

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Hyderabad – cradle of astronomy in India

The city of Hyderabad is famous for its historical monuments like Charminar and cuisine like biryani, but few would know that it has been the cradle of modern astronomy in India. The city was the location of one of the earliest modern astronomical observatories established in India in early twentieth century. The city-based Osmania University was the first educational institution in the country to start teaching astronomy and astrophysics at post graduate and research levels. The first generation of Indian astronomers cut their teeth into the subject in Hyderabad, which was also the birthplace of the Astronomical Society of India (ASI) in 1972. The Nizamiah Observatory was established in 1908 by the Nizam’s government with instruments donated by one of the leading nobles, Nawab Jafar Jung who was also an amateur astronomer.

The instruments included an eight-inch astrograph and 15-inch refractor. One of the landmark contributions of the observatory has been the publication of 13 volumes of the Astrographic Catalogue of the Hyderabad zones of the sky. After the establishment of Osmania University in 1917, the observatory became a part of the university. This laid the foundation of astronomy education in India. The formal teaching of astronomy at Osmania University began with the setting up of the Department of Astronomy in 1959, while astronomy teaching at post-graduate level was introduced in 1960 -61. The department was recognized as the Centre of Advanced Study in Astronomy by the University Grants Commission in 1964. The department has produced more than 500 M.Sc. students and produced close to 50 doctorates. Many of them have become astronomers in India and abroad.

“I was among the first batch of post graduates in astronomy from this department, and soon after I passed out I was offered the job of a lecturer. I joined here though I had job offers from the two other two Indian observatories – Kodaikanal and Nanital – too,” recalled Sarma Modali, who later shifted to America for PhD and worked with NASA and NOAA there, while speaking to India Science Wire. The university telescope at Rangapur has been used for the study of binary stars, black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, active galactic nuclei, peculiar stars, pulsating stars, galactic clusters. In addition, a 10 - feet radio telescope was installed at Japal-Rangapur Observatory in 1980 for conducting research on the sun. The ASI, which is holding its annual meeting in Osmania University this week, has a special connection with the city. Prof Vainu Bappu, the famous astronomer from Hyderabad, was the President of the society, Prof U. R. Rao, who later became the Chairperson of ISRO, was the Vice-President, and Prof. KD Abhyankar, who was the first head of the department and director of the university observatory, was the secretary of ASI.

- http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/science/hyderabad-cradle-of-astronomy-in-india/article22669247.ece, Feb 7, 2018

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Guntur: Students thronge INTACH poster making competition

A good number of school children participated in the state-level painting as part of national level poster making competition organised by Indian National Trust for Art, Culture and Heritage (INTACH) here on Wednesday. The drawing competition was held on 'Route to Roots' concept. School students between 6-10 classes were allowed to take part in the competition. Interestingly, the turnout for the competition was so overwhelming that the organisers had to accommodate the children in different rooms in Baudhasree archaeological museum in the city. "The concept line-Route to Roots has been given to the children to make them learn, study and involve in the country's history, heritage and culture," said Intach district coordinator SVS Lakshminarayana.

He said that they were making attempt to keep the children aware of the rich culture and heritage of India through different competitions. He said that 10 of the participants would be taken to national level competition. Senior Intach member Dr Seetha Ramesh said that the all the winners would be given 10-trip to the richest cultural spots of the country. Lakshminarayana said that Intach would take the cost of the children's tour. Professor Abbaraju Rajasekhar said that they were really enthused with the response from the students and promised to conduct similar competitions in the future. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan society secretary Penmatsa Ramachandra Raju said that they have decided to organise the competition in Baudhasree archaeological museum to make it popularise among the children. He observed that many of the school children were not aware of the presence of historical museum in the city.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/guntur-students-thronged-intach-poster-making-competition/articleshow/62825797.cms, Feb 8, 2018

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ASI takes up conservation work of Jama Masjid Delhi

The Union Government on Wednesady said the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) of India has taken up the conservation work of the iconic Jama Masjid in Delhi accepting the request of Shahi Imam Abdullah Bukhari. "Jama Masjid at Delhi is not a protected monument of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). However, on receipt of request from the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, ASI has taken up essential conservation work of the Masjid", Minister of State (IC) for Culture and Minister of State for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Dr. Mahesh Sharma said in Rajya Sabha. Shahi Imam Jama Masjid Abdullah Bukhari had few months back warned that part of the Delhi's Jama Masjid, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1650 and 1656., is at serious risk, and a repair and restoration work is urgently needed. Teams comprising members of the District Diaster Management Authority (DDMA), Delhi circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Delhi Wakf Board (DWB) visited after the report of damages to more than 360-year-old mosque was highlighted in the media. “Observations and suggestions for Jama Masjid restoration have been compiled.

The findings say the damage is evident and it should be taken seriously. According to the survey report, the mosque receives 10-20, 000 tourists and worshippers every day and the damaged portions pose a threat to them,” a Delhi government official said in a report published in December last year. Earlier in October 2012, the Delhi circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had submitted a report to then government on the damage caused to one of the minarets of the 17th century masjid, initiating the process for carrying out the much-needed repairs on the heritage structure. Some six years before this in August 2006, Delhi High Court Bench had ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to start the restoration work at the dilapitated Jama Masjid and restore its “pristine glory’’. The conservation report prepared by Delhi Wakf Board had been submitted to the High Court for perusal. The report had taken into account the state of the building’s deterioration, the nature and extent of human intervention on this masterpiece. The Delhi Wakf Board in its report had given the details of the broken arches, domes and entrance steps; finials over prayer hall domes showing layers of dust, dirt and pollution; defaced walls; seeping verandahs; sandstone surface walls and decorated ceilings painted with synthetic paint besides others.

- http://www.ummid.com/news/2018/February/07.02.2018/asi-takes-up-conservation-work-of-jama-masjid-delhi.html, Feb 8, 2018

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Textile exhibition: Remembering the life and times of Martand Singh

When Martand Singh visited drought-hit Rajasthan in the ’70s on his mentor, Pupul Jayakar’s suggestion, he tried to find ways to re-employ and re-energise the artisans and weavers who had been struck the hardest. That visit changed him. This change would, in effect, shape the journey of Indian textiles in the decades to come. Singh is widely considered as the extraordinary man behind the revival of Indian textiles. To many though, he was more than just the function of his work – brilliant yet humble, modern yet spiritual. A year on from his death, an exhibition titled A Search in Five Directions pays homage to the legacy of ‘Mapu’, as he was affectionately known. Five Directions refers to Singh’s own personal journeys along the different arms of the Indian textile industry. “It was a challenge, what to do, and what direction to take the industry in. Direction here technically means one of pigment-painting, hand-painting, resist-dyeing, block-printing and weaving, each of which Mapu tried to steer in his own way and through his exhibitions,” says Rakesh Thakore, one of the curators of the exhibition and co-founder of the design label Abraham&Thakore. Singh was born in royalty, son of Sita Devi, the Maharani of Kapurthala. His education at Doon School in Dehradun and in St Stephen’s in Delhi reflected that privilege. But as many close to him know, he applied his knowledge of the finer things to momentous effect. “Mapu’s experience of living around the finest only helped create some of it at the weaver centres,” says Rta Kapur Chishti, textile historian and co-curator of the exhibition. After he left college, Singh opened a boutique in the Oberoi hotel in Delhi, designing couture like leather pants and capes. But he soon left the establishment (amusingly called Psychadelhi) to join leading cultural activist Jayakar, who was cultural adviser to two Prime Ministers – Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He briefly headed the Calico Museum in Ahmedabad before coming to Delhi.

“Ms Jayakar had set up the Weavers Service Centres through the ’50s. What Mapu did was to travel extensively, discover and talk to every person he met. That was one of his most stunning qualities, the ability to feel at home at every place and with everyone. He could sit at the big-boy table and blend equally well with weavers,” Chishti says. Singh’s moment and that of the textile industry, came with the Vishwakarma exhibitions that were held as part of the Festivals of India between 1981 and 1992. They carried India’s textile heritage and history to the world. Thakore, who worked with Singh on the seven exhibitions, considers them a turning point in the history of textiles. “I think a lot of people within India and outside had never quite seen anything like it. It gave the world an idea of the heritage our country had,” he says. But perhaps the more crucial impact the exhibitions had was on the weavers and artisans back home. “The festivals brought in work for the weavers and the centres. Mapu always wanted them to prosper, to be recognised. And the exhibitions achieved that,” he adds. As if confirming the faith that Singh put in India’s weavers, Thakore’s own label has continued to work with the weaver families the two had come in contact with during the exhibitions. A Search in Five Directions has been drawn from the Vishwakarma exhibitions and is an eloquent expression of the sheer range and beauty of India’s textiles. Whether it is the Pethapur fabric of Gujarat or Gyasar from Varanasi, the impossible detailing and a sensationally seductive palette makes one realise – textiles are art. It is incredible that a tradition so rich was struggling and needed a revivalist in the form of Singh. “Trade routes to Africa and Central Asia had collapsed during colonial rule.

A large part of what Mapu did was to decolonise the working and thinking of the Indian market. His knowledge of textiles and aesthetic helped in producing what had not been produced for years because mill-made fabrics had completely taken over the work of the weavers. Heritage was restricted to the museums. Mapu found a way of working with heritage outside the museums, right at the weaver’s doorstep,” says Chishti. Apart from envisioning and guiding the production of textiles across India, Singh was also a staunch conservationist. His documentation of textiles and their history is remarkable. He, along with Jayakar, founded the Indian National Trust for Art and Heritage (INTACH) which continues to champion the conservation of art and heritage in India. But what made ‘Mapu’ such a rarity? “He was one of the finest people anyone could work with. His ability to encourage people and share his knowledge, whether it was a student or a friend, was an extraordinary gift,” says Thakore. Now that he is gone, how can Indian textiles continue on the path set by him? “There’s been a revival of interest in the last few years because the fashion industry itself has got tired of producing western-styled clothes. But we can’t save textiles as long as weavers and artisans don’t get work or aren’t given the value they deserve,” says Chisti.WHAT: Textile exhibition A Search in Five Directions WHEN: Between 10am- 5pm (Monday closed), till March 31, 2018
WHERE: Crafts Museum, Pragati Maidan, Bhairon Marg.
NEAREST METRO STATION: Pragati Maidan.
CALL: 011- 2337 1887

- https://www.hindustantimes.com/art-and-culture/textile-exhibition-remembering-the-life-and-times-of-martand-singh/story-zPSCobLkjdhHSMRoq0YahJ.html, Feb 9, 2018

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'India Heritage Walk Festival 2018': Six Walks in Delhi

Sahapedia, an encyclopedia of Indian arts and culture, and YES Culture, the cultural division of YES Global Institute, have teamed up to host the India Heritage Walk Festival, taking place in New Delhi on February 10, 2018. Listed below are some of the highlights of the festival: Meandering through Hauz Khas: From Tughluq to Tahiliani

Hauz Khas, along with its urbanized village, Hauz Khas Village, is a hub of chic boutiques and latest fashion trends. Led by Riya Sarkar, this walk will touch upon the past and the present of Hauz Khas — tales of the Khiljis and architectural elements, Feroz Shah’s enquiring mind, and his love for all things historical in Delhi. Exploring Street Art at Delhi’s First Public Art Colony —Lodhi Art District Street art has often been used as a medium to express social and political messages. Led by Gaurav Raturi, this walk will take its participants through the Lodhi Art District (Lodhi Colony, Meher Chand Market, and Khanna Market area), India’s first art district, home to more than 15 street art installations done by various artists as part of the festival organized by St+Art India Foundation, which aims at making public art accessible to a wider audience.

The World Next Door — A Walk Through Khirkee Flanked by luxury malls and super specialty hospitals on one side and a 13th century monument on the other, the one square mile in and around the Khirkee area is in many ways a microcosm of urban India. Led by Radha Mahendru, this walk will unpack the neighborhood through the lenses of food, public art, urban development, history, and migrant cultures. Platform at India Art Fair Platform is a springboard for emerging art practices and art collectives from South Asia. At this year’s India Art Fair, Platform will have a particular focus on vernacular arts with the aim to explore the cultural history of the region through previously underrepresented art forms and aesthetic traditions. Led by Meenakshi Thirukode, this walk will illuminate the fair’s renewed commitment to showcasing the subcontinent’s rich diversity of cultural practices.

Time Travel to Northern Shahjahanabad of the 19th Century Led by Priya Chauhan, this walk will delve into 19th century India step-by-step by exploring what once used to be the Northern Shahjahanabad. The walk begins from Kashmere Gate through the inner lanes and buildings of importance such as the Bengal Club, a mosque and a church built by James Skinner, and the building that housed St. Stephens, one of the premier educational institutes of Delhi.

Art Projects at India Art Fair Art Projects will showcase large-scale installations by Indian and international artists at the India Art Fair that will be unveiled for the first time. Tanya Singhal will lead participants through this exciting selection of 18 artworks presented by exhibiting galleries and institutions across the fair.

- http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/2841272/india-heritage-walk-festival-2018-six-walks-in-delhi, Feb 9, 2018

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Arunachal Pradesh seeks UNESCO world heritage tag for two sites

The Arunachal Pradesh government has raised the pitch for inclusion of two of its sites in UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The Apatani cultural landscape in Ziro Valley under Lower Subansiri district of the state and Thembang Dzong, a fortified village in West Kameng district, have made it to the tentative list of UNESCO and is now vying for a place in the final list of world heritage sites, an official of the state’s research department said. The government has taken extensive repair and conservation works in the two sites to ensure that they meet all criteria for inclusion in the final list, the official said. The fortified village of Thembang Dzong in West Kameng district is spread across 3.2 acres and has two gates at the north and the south. The dzong (fort), surrounding ancient and historical structures, is a traditional settlement of the Monpa tribe. None of the settlers individually own any property inside the village, run by a panchayat system. Ornamental features, including traditional wood carvings, paintings and manuscripts, have been etched on the walls of the dzong, the research department report said. The Apatani cultural landscape has also made it to the tentative list for the unique agricultural techniques practiced within the community. The farmers here rear fish in paddy fields and grow millet on the bunds (partitions) between the rice plots. “There is efficient conservation of crucial watersheds, ensuring perennial streams flowing into the valley to meet the needs of the people,” the report said. The tribe has elected a village council, called bulyan, for maintenance of law and order. In April 2014, 22 sites in the country, including the ones in Arunachal, were included in the tentative list of UNESCO. The properties made it to the list after extensive competition among the states. The final list, however, is pending an approval from the UN agency. As per standards, every decade, the UN member nations are supposed to suggest revisions for the heritage list. Research director Batem Pertin said the department had been preparing dossiers for the two sites. “The dossiers are almost complete and we are taking utmost care to make them error free so that the proposal does not get rejected,” Pertin said.

Former research director Tage Tada, who was also a consultant in the project, said the dossiers are nearing completion and mapping of the sites is underway. “The state government had in 2011 declared Thembang Dzong as a living archaeological site in the state,” Tada said, adding that the state assembly also enacted an act last year for protection and preservation of all the archaeological sites and monuments in the state. The assistant director of the research department, Bulton Dutta, said the UNESCO has prescribed 10 criteria for inclusion in its list. Of that, a site has to meet at least two norms. Thembang fulfills three criteria. It exhibits unique cultural integration, bears an exceptional testimony to the living cultural traditions of the Monpa tribe and follows ancient rites, rituals and a vernacular knowledge building system, the nodal officer of the site, Pura Koji, said. Thembang is also an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement in the mighty Himalayas, where the Monpa tribe has been preserving their natural and cultural resources for posterity, Koji added. “The department has repaired the dilapidated exit gate and the staircases,” Koji said. The Apatani landscape also fulfills two criteria out of ten prescribed by the UNESCO. “The Apatani cultural landscape has made it to the tentative list for its unique settlement system and man-nature relationship,” nodal officer Radhe Yampi said.

- http://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/arunachal-pradesh/arunachal-pradesh-seeks-unesco-world-heritage-tag-for-two-sites-5057073/, Feb 9, 2018

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ancestral home sits over rich heritage

Not just close to his heart. It turns out now that rich heritage lay right under the Prime Minister's ancestral home in Vadnagar. Excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have unearthed rich heritage from the Sultanate era just a stone's throw from the house in the Brahman Sheri locality of this historic town. The Excavation Branch V of ASI, currently sequencing the ancient town, has found a lane made in brick-on-edge fashion dating back to 15th century. Further excavation points at the possibility of a wider street, on the basis of the artefacts found from the spot that dates back to Solanki era (13th century). Dr Abhijit Ambekar, deputy superintending archaeologist, Excavation Branch V, said that they had selected four locations in Vadnagar for cultural sequencing and one of the locations was Brahman Sheri, a stone's throw from the PM's ancestral house. "The excavation at the spot has reached a depth of eight metres. At the depth of 6.3 meters, we have found a lane made of bricks. Further digging could unearth a wider street but there is no space for digging in adjoining areas. It is possible that construction during 15th century reduced the road to a lane," said Ambekar. Digging below the brick structure has yielded fragments of multi-colour glass bangles of the Sultanate period and terracotta polished beads, semiprecious stone beads, glass beads and shell bangles of the Solanki period. It is said heritage is an essential part of the present that we live in and of the future we will build. Ever since my childhood days, growing up in the ancient town of Vadnagar in north Gujarat, heritage has been a subject close to my heart. HERITAGE UNEARTHED: A continuously inhabited town since 6th century BC. Vadnagar attracted attention of archaeologists in 1950s when a team from MSU of Baroda undertook the excavation and found 2000-year-old cultural remains. The state archaeology department started excavations in 2006 which continued till 2012. It unearthed a 14x14m structure with 12 cells, identified as a Buddhist monastery. Since 2014-15, ASI excavated multiple spots to establish the town's historic sequence. So far the excavations pointed at the town's past as an important trade centre having links to Europe due to the presence of Roman bulla and other artefacts including a stash of coins dated back to 2nd to 9th century AD. Researchers have also found shell bangles from different era, terracotta sealings, Buddhist artefacts such as pendent of human face with 'Tri-ratna' symbol on forehead and so on. For archaeologists, the place poses big challenge as there is little scope for excavation. The reason is residential and commercial areas located directly above the possible remains The discovery matches with the overall understanding of the ancient town's known history and also gives a peek into change in town planning over the centuries. For example, we can ascertain that the town will have been prosperous, having spent on making the pucca streets," said Ambekar. Dr Sudhir Joshi, Modi's close friend and schoolmate, said that Brahman Sheri is located just behind Ghanchi Ol, where Modi's ancestral home is located. "Narendrabhai's childhood was spent in these lanes. We used to play here as the spot which is being excavated is located just opposite our school," he said. The Modi family sold off the ancestral home even before Modi became the chief minister," said Sunil Mehta, ex-president of the Vadnagar municipality.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/prime-minister-narendra-modis-ancestral-home-sits-over-rich-heritage/articleshow/62844611.cms, Feb 9, 2018

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Archaeology dept begins restoring Gurgaon stepwell

Archaelogy department officials at the site on Thursday. (Express Photo/Manoj Kumar) Archaelogy department officials at the site on Thursday. (Express Photo/Manoj Kumar) Days after the Haryana Department of Archaeology decided to restore all monuments of importance in Gurgaon that date back to at least a 100 years, work has started on one such structure — a stepwell in the district’s Dhumaspur village. According to officials from the department, the stepwell could be 800 years old. “It is anywhere between 200 and 800 years old, because these structures keep getting built and re-built, so it is a little difficult to figure out the exact time,” said Dr Praveen Kumar, Director, archaeology department. Located on the Badshahpur-Dhumaspur road next to a private school, officials say, the stepwell is “almost five-storey high” and is composed of “over 100 pillars”. It stands on 1,220 square yards of land. “The focus today was on the practical nitty gritties, such as taking measurements and deciding how best to undertake the restoration without affecting the working of the school next door,” said Dr Kumar.

“There were a lot of plants that had grown on the roof of the stepwell, so our aim today was to uproot those in a safe and meticulous way without adversely affecting either them or the stepwell,” he said. Work on the structure, which commenced on Thursday afternoon, is expected to take “between six months and one year” to complete. The stepwell is located 1.5 kilometres away from another of its kind, which lies in Badhshahpur village, and had become a focus of attention last month when it was found to stand in the path of a sector road being constructed in the area by HUDA — hence, being in danger of extinction. The route of the road, however, after a visit by officials, was realigned so that the stepwell can continue to remain where it stands. The archaeology department had decided to take over all historically significant structures in the district and its adjoining areas to restore and conserve them, and develop them as tourist spots.

- https://www.nyoooz.com/news/delhi/1029534/archaeology-dept-begins-restoring-gurgaon-stepwell/, Feb 9, 2018

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INTACH walks down memory lane

Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) conducted a national-level poster making competition ‘Route to Roots’ for school children of class VI to IX standard. The event was planned to enlighten the children about the rich cultural heritage of India and to promote the spirit of appreciation, exploration and cultural education. Convener of Doaba region Maj Gen Balwinder Singh VSM(Retd) advised the children about the necessity to remain connected to their roots. While talking to the participants and invitees, he mentioned that it was necessary to pass traditional and cultural values to the next generation. He emphasised the need for the young generation to contribute selflessly. INTACH was formed to sensitise the public about the pluralistic cultural legacy of India.

It also instills a sense of social responsibility towards preserving India’s common heritage. The NGO protects and preserves India’s living, built and natural heritage by undertaking necessary action and measures. It also documents unprotected buildings of archaeological, architectural, historical and aesthetic significance, as well as the cultural resources, as this is the first step towards formulating conservation plans. — TNS

- http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/jalandhar/intach-walks-down-memory-lane/544676.html, Feb 15, 2018

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Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal: Once lost, 14th Century hunting lodge conserved

Away from the chaotic traffic and behind the towering Hanuman statue in Jhandewalan lies the forgotten Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal. An uphill walk leads one to the 14th Century hunting lodge, recently conserved by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Delhi. “We began work here in May-June last year and finished it in eight months. The area was covered in dense undergrowth. When we removed it, we realised that the monument was quite damaged. The stones were displaced… so we had to retrieve the monument,” said Ajay Kumar, director (projects), INTACH. It’s one of the many hunting lodges built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled Delhi between 1351 and 1388. INTACH (Delhi) convener Swapna Liddle said, “He built hunting lodges at several places — Peer Ghaib near Hindu Rao Hospital, Malcha Mahal, one near Mahipalpur, one near Teen Murti grounds, and Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal." A metal gate, recently installed at the entrance, opens into a square courtyard, with enclosures on either side; and up a flight of stairs is a small courtyard. “The walls were a mess, we had to use mild ammonia to clean them… there were also creepers that had completely taken over the main boundary wall. Also, missing portions of the floor had to be fixed," said Kumar. The word “haunted” finds itself on a board that names the monument. According to Kumar, the "haunted” label is attached to certain monuments to “discourage anti-social elements from visiting, encroaching or vandalising”. Inside the monument, its walls are covered with distasteful graffiti — mostly names of lovers and friends engraved. There is some ambiguity about how the hunting lodge came to be known as Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal. Sair-ul Manazil by Sangin Beg mentions that “…in various history books this has been described as the palace of Deval Rani, whose tale is famous." A list of monuments compiled by Maulvi Zafar Hasan in the early 1900s states that “…the palace is known to have been occupied by one Bu Ali Bhatti, after whom it was called Bu Ali Bhatti ka Mahal."

- http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/bhuli-bhatiyari-ka-mahal-once-lost-14th-century-hunting-lodge-conserved/, Feb 15, 2018

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Palace gate a crowd-puller

The entrance to the Nilgiri king's palace, a lions' gate, has become a place of tourist attraction following its makeover with the help of the tourism and culture department in technical assistance with the Indian National Trust or Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach). The gate building having a prominent clock-tower had been built in the palace in 1895 by the then ruler of Nilgiri princely state Shyam Chandra Mardaraj. With the financial support of the tourism and culture department and technical support from Intach, the repair was undertaken. The roof beams of the first and second floors of the clock-tower were replaced as well as the ceilings and entry gates were repaired with the fund. Now with completion of the renovation, the heritage structure has started drawing attention of tourists with its new look. "With support from the state government and Intach, the gate has been renovated," said the hereditary trustee and board president Manoja Manjari." The state tourism department has sanctioned Rs 20 lakh for renovation of the gate," she said. Tourists, who would visit the Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary, often make a trip to the Nilgiri royal palace. Royal descendant Jayant Mardaraj said: "The lions' gate's upper portion was known as clock-tower. The tower had four clocks that were imported from London by the then ruler, Shyam Chandra Mardaraj. All these clocks have become defunct and are removed now. There is a plan to install at least a clock in the tower."

- https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/odisha/palace-gate-a-crowd-puller-208931, Feb 15, 2018

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6-centuries-old stepwell ‘found’ in ruins by college

In 1998, the pursuit for a picturesque landscape took a fine-arts student to Wela Harichandra village — around 12 kilometres from Nagpur. There, in the middle of nowhere, he stumbled upon a ruin and spent hours sketching it. Manoj Bhanuse, then, didn’t know that he had stepped into an over 600-year-old stepwell built by the Bhonsalas. In Vidarbha, step wells are known as ‘bavadis’, ‘bahuli’ or ‘’pairyachi vihir’. The ancient structure didn’t catch the eye of heritage conservationists but it did excite a group of college students and lecturers who began to document it in 2010. That year students of the Institute of Design Education and Architecture Studies (IDEAS) were discussing locations for the documentation of sites having prominent architectural elements. Bhanuse, who is now working as an assistant professor in the college, thought back on the ancient structure. “I suggested the stepwell was an ideal subject,” he told TOI on Thursday.

The research on the step well started soon according to associate professor Kirti Bhonsle who is also one of the authors of the documentation. “We found that despite being a unique contribution to architectural heritage, the stepwell hardly has a recorded history,” she says. In April 2016, British scientist Philip Earis, who was mapping ‘India’s forgotten stepwells’, read the documentation and came all the way to Nagpur to visit this site, adds Bhonsle. Since almost eight years, the college is documenting the structure which is completely in a shambles. Bhanuse claims his sketch showed two-three arches and sculptures. But a recent visit by the students and faculty revealed that many elements have gone missing. “A large part of the structure has collapsed. Such stepwells are well preserved in Gujarat but it is disheartening to see such a beautiful piece of architecture with intricate carvings in this pitiable condition,” says assistant professor Stuti Vij Pincha, who took a group of students to the site on Wednesday for the latest documentation. On Thursday, TOI visited the site and found it to be littered with plastic and other waste. Though locals don’t know its exact history, they narrated some folklores passed down from generations.

To ensure that the villagers do not cause damage to the structure, the college keeps organizing awareness programmes. “Students also worked out the plan and section of the structure and tried to reconstruct certain portions that may have existed at that time,” says Bhonsle. The stepwells of Vidarbha find a mention in K Girhe’s book ‘Architecture of Bhoslas of Nagpur’. “In ancient times, digging of wells was the easiest method for obtaining water. Idea and architecture of a stepwell is solely influenced by the Mughal architecture,” reads a paragraph from the book. Girhe calls stepwells ‘India’s contribution to the architectural wealth of the world’. “In medieval times, stepwells were a major source of water and people then would protect them. At the time of invasions, they would fill up the wells to prevent the enemy from destroying them,” says Milind Gujarkar, head of department, Ideas.

Though well-protected centuries ago, the stepwell is getting step-motherly treatment from the agencies. An official from the Archaeological Survey of India says that such structures are usually not preserved by the ASI. Confirming that it is not mentioned in the heritage list, architect Ashok Mokha, who is also a member of the Heritage Conservation Committee says, “It is a fantastic and first of its kind discovery for our city. The structure probably missed the heritage list as it is located in the outskirts. But we will now take it up with the Nagpur Metropolitan Region Development Authority (NMRDA) and make sure it is preserved.” As stepwells are famous worldwide, Mokha adds that the site can be developed for tourism.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/6-centuries-old-stepwell-found-in-ruins-by-college/articleshow/62937689.cms, Feb 15, 2018

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Army Public School Bolarum Students visit Flag Staff House

Fifty students from Army Public School Bolarum visited the gardens of Flag Staff House Bolarum with two teachers on Thursday. Mrs Anuradha Rao, wife of GOC TASA welcomed them and showed the wide variety of flowers in full bloom. The children also enjoyed seeing the rich European architecture of the Heritage House ‘KENILWORTH’ built for British Army officers of the Secunderabad contingent in 1875. This colonial architecture building was conferred HUDA-INTACH Heritage award in 2001.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Telangana/2018-02-15/Army-Public-School-Bolarum-Students-visit--Flag-Staff-House/359359, Feb 16, 2018

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The Ruins of Hampi: A song of hope and a story of treachery, then and now

The Central government has declared that Hampi will be developed as an ‘Iconic Tourism Site’. It is one of 10 tourist sites that will be developed by the Central government in a bid to boost tourism across the country. During the presentation of the 2018 budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, “The government proposes to develop ten prominent tourist sites as Iconic Tourism destinations through holistic infrastructure and skill development. In addition, tourist amenities will be upgraded at 100 Adarsh Monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).” In a twisted sense of irony perhaps and as a reflection of the malaise that afflicts our country today that the Karnataka government, on the other hand, will celebrate the Bahamani Sultanate which committed massacres of hundreds and thousands of Hindus. Of course, as the Chief Minister says he is unaware, Kalaburgi district in-charge minister Sharan Prakash Patil maintained it will be a one-day celebration.

The lust for votes has consumed certain political parties to such an extent that they shall not hesitate to spit on the sacrifices of their ancestors to win elections. Over 70 years have passed since our independence and it is symbolic of the misguided priorities of the Secular State of India that Hampi has not received the attention that it deserves and the story of the great Vijayanagara Empire has been largely forgotten by the people of our nation. We stand at a critical juncture in the glorious history of our civilization today and if we are to secure a future where our Gods are worshipped and our ancestors are given their due, it is imperative that our children are taught the heart-rending melody that one can still hear if he visits the ruins of Hampi. History repeats itself, so goes the saying, but what people fail to comprehend that history repeats itself not because it has to but for the reason that people either fail to learn from the events of the past or they conveniently forget them entirely. The story of the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire is a crude reminder that our nation has once already tread the path we are currently on and should we fail to learn the lessons from the past, then we are destined to suffer the same fate that befell the once great Hampi. It is hardly surprising that certain sections of the political spectrum are not comfortable with the Ruins of Hampi being given its deserved attention. The ruins shall shatter their fairy tale notion of secularism and reduce it to dust.

The story of Hampi is one of betrayal and treachery and of fatal naivete. In the Battle of Talikota, when the Vijayanagar Empire was besieged by the Deccan Sultanates, it was not the armies of the enemy that struck the fatal blow; it came from the enemy within. The Vijayanagara Army was winning the battle but then, two Muslim generals switched sides at a critical moment during the battle and captured and beheaded Rama Raya, the king. The Army then fell into confusion and was routed by the Sultanates. Then, with the zeal that monotheists throughout the ages have exhibited towards Pagans, the army of the Sultanates plundered the glorious city and reduced it to ruins. In his book, ‘The Forgotten Empire’, Robert Sewell writes: “With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their work of destruction. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought so suddenly, on so splendid a city; teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description.” To the careful listener, the ruins of Hampi do not only sing a morose tale. It also sings of hope and resilience and undying defiance in the face of immense adversity. It is also a melancholic reminder that despite the million attempts at obliteration, our civilization has not gone the way of the ancient Greeks and the Romans and the Persians. We are still right here and we are still a billion strong. That, centuries after its destruction, Hampi still has people who cherish the great empire that built it and sing odes to their valour is a testament to the remarkable persistence of the Hindu civilization. The flame of Dharma that inspired the people of the Vijayanagara empire to scale new heights of prosperity is still alive and thriving and it still burns in the hearts of a billion Hindus. Decades of neglect and the defilement of everything sacred by the rampant secularization of our society has eroded the soul of our nation. For years, as Arun Shourie in his book ‘Eminent Historians’ has pointed, our historians have deliberately distorted the history of our nation and governments have decreed that the atrocities committed by Muslim rulers not be mentioned in school textbooks lest the ‘secular fabric’ our nation be disturbed. Indeed, peaceful existence between the two communities is desirable but lasting harmony cannot be built on a foundation of lies. For harmony to prosper, it is of paramount importance that both communities confront the demons from the past with honesty and integrity and then approach each other in good faith. Secularism cannot and will not prosper on an edifice built of the desecration of the legacy of our ancestors and the tragedies of our past.

If secularism is to prevail, it has to prevail upon the foundations of truth. And if the truth is too much to bear for the secular fabric of our nation, then perhaps the cause of secularism was doomed from the very beginning. The Karnataka government’s decision to celebrate the Bahamani dynasty is a grim reminder of the reality that the Republic of India could very well suffer the same treachery that sealed the fate of the Vijayanagara empire. Certain political parties are perfectly willing to destroy the unity of the Indian union if they could rule over the pieces. We are living in an age of chaos and it is of paramount importance that we remember the story behind the ruins of Hampi if we are to catapult ourselves into a new era of prosperity. Before the Marathas fulfilled the dream of Hindavi Swaraj, there was the Vijayanagara Empire that served as a bulwark against the destruction of our polytheistic faith by the followers of the one true God. The restoration of Hampi to its former glory would be a strong statement of intent towards ensuring the continued existence of our civilization. The decision of the central government to develop Hampi may have come late but as they say, better late than never. It may only be a punitive step towards the revival of Hampi but should Hampi indeed be revived as a glorious city in the future, then it would be a great leap for the Hindu civilization. The story of the fall of the Vijayanagara empire should never ever be forgotten. The ruins of Hampi should always serve to warn our people of the dangers of extreme naivete. And as long as our children remember the treachery that befell the great empire, our nation shall continue to exist and prosper.

- http://www.opindia.com/2018/02/the-ruins-of-hampi-a-song-of-hope-and-a-story-of-treachery-then-and-now/, Feb 16, 2018

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Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal: Once lost, 14th Century hunting lodge conserved

At Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal in Jhandewalan. Ojaswa Thapliyal At Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal in Jhandewalan. Ojaswa Thapliyal. Away from the chaotic traffic and behind the towering Hanuman statue in Jhandewalan lies the forgotten Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal. An uphill walk leads one to the 14th Century hunting lodge, recently conserved by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Delhi. “We began work here in May-June last year and finished it in eight months. The area was covered in dense undergrowth. When we removed it, we realised that the monument was quite damaged.

The stones were displaced… so we had to retrieve the monument,” said Ajay Kumar, director (projects), INTACH. It’s one of the many hunting lodges built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled Delhi between 1351 and 1388. INTACH (Delhi) convener Swapna Liddle said, “He built hunting lodges at several places — Peer Ghaib near Hindu Rao Hospital, Malcha Mahal, one near Mahipalpur, one near Teen Murti grounds, and Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal.” A metal gate, recently installed at the entrance, opens into a square courtyard, with enclosures on either side; and up a flight of stairs is a small courtyard. “The walls were a mess, we had to use mild ammonia to clean them… there were also creepers that had completely taken over the main boundary wall. Also, missing portions of the floor had to be fixed,” said Kumar. The word “haunted” finds itself on a board that names the monument. According to Kumar, the “haunted” label is attached to certain monuments to “discourage anti-social elements from visiting, encroaching or vandalising”. Inside the monument, its walls are covered with distasteful graffiti — mostly names of lovers and friends engraved. There is some ambiguity about how the hunting lodge came to be known as Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal. Sair-ul Manazil by Sangin Beg mentions that “…in various history books this has been described as the palace of Deval Rani, whose tale is famous.” A list of monuments compiled by Maulvi Zafar Hasan in the early 1900s states that “…the palace is known to have been occupied by one Bu Ali Bhatti, after whom it was called Bu Ali Bhatti ka Mahal.”

- https://www.nyoooz.com/news/delhi/1035166/bhuli-bhatiyari-ka-mahal-once-lost-14th-century-hunting-lodge-conserved/, Feb 16, 2018

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Salem art festival highlights importance of traditional arts

The day-long 'Salem Kalai Vizha' (Salem Art Festival) organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in the city on Friday brought out the hidden talents of students and women. The INTACH had organised the festival to highlight the importance of conserving traditional art forms such as kolam and garland making. Heritage clubs of schools help students learn the very aspects of our tradition and culture. A series of events were organised to demonstrate the richness and importance of our culture.

Events Students from classes VI to IX took part in a poster competition titled “Route to Roots”. A large number of women and young girls participated in a kolam competition. Experts in floral decorations organised a training programme in garland-making. As many as 250 women, students participated in the programme and were trained to tie flowers and make beautiful garlands. A panel of judges appreciated the kolam and prizes were distributed to the winners.

- http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/salem-art-festival-highlights-importance-of-traditional-arts/article22793176.ece, Feb 19, 2018

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A school dropout of Rajasthan’s Bundi is no less than an archaeologist

A school dropout, 63-year-old Om Prakash Kukki is nothing less than an archaeologist despite lacking a formal degree. Kukki, who has studied till Class 8 and runs a small grocery store in Bundi, has a knack for making archaeological discoveries in Rajasthan. In the last three decades, Kukki has discovered almost 102 rock painting sites, including long rock painting of early man, ostrich eggshells estimated to be 25,000 years old, earthen dices of Kushan period and copper tools and scraper belonging to the pre-Harappan period in Bundi, Bhilwara and Tonk districts. Kukki, who is a father of two daughters and a son, has also discovered numerous stone tools of different periods, shards of pottery, utensils, ancient dice, coins and evidence of previously unknown civilizations in these districts. “After Kukki discovered the rock painting sites in Bundi, a research team from the Indira Gandhi Open University surveyed the sites and discovered that they belong to Mesoproterozoic period. It means that the paintings date back to 1 crore BC,” said former history professor, Government College Kota, Dr Arvind Saxena.

Dr Saxena said that researchers, scholars and tourists from all over the country are visiting the rock paintings. For this, the state archaeology and museum department of Rajasthan and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have felicitated Kukki. He has also been felicitated at the district and state level and by several social organisations. “My passion for archaeology started at the age of 9 when I discovered ancient coins in Bundi town,” said Kukki. For years, he has been wandering amidst ruins looking for artefacts and antiques. This has led him to discover weapons made of stone, terracotta pottery and utensils and coins belonging to various periods. One coin dates back to 6 BC. “The Rock paintings discovered by me are from the Mesolithic, Chalcolithic, historic and Neolithic periods,” Kukki said. Well known rock painting expert Ervin Neumayer from Austria has verified the sites in Bundi, which were discovered by Kukki. Principal of Government Commerce College, Kota, and former coordinator of the archaeology department of University of Kota, Dr Sushma Ahuja, recognising Kukki’s contribution said the discoveries have been documented by Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, Indian Rock Art and Research Centre, Nasik, and by the state archaeological department.

“I am barely literate and I gained knowledge on rock paintings and archaeological artefacts from experts and scholars who visit the sites after I discover them,” said Kukki. Three decades of his life have been spent exploring the hills and river banks around Bundi. Without any governmental support or external funding, he has found evidence of unknown civilizations. Now, Janardan Rai Nagar Rajasthan Vidyapeeth University in Udaipur, a private university, has decided to name a gallery of archaeological artefacts in Kukki’s name. The artefacts have been gifted by Kukki to the university. Professor of archaeology department, Janardan Rai Nagar Rajasthan Vidyapeeth University, Professor Jeevan Singh Khadgawat said, “Prehistoric rock paintings, weapons of stones, shards of pottery, utensils made from terracotta and coins from various dynasties which ruled in India, constitute his vast wealth of findings.” “The kind of work and contribution rendered by Kukki should have been done by the state archaeology department or Archaeological Survey of India,” he said.

“A student, Nalini Pradhan, has done research on archaeological discoveries from the pre-historic period in Bundi and it comprises Kukki’s works,” said Dr Arvind Saxena. Along with managing his store, Kukki now works as a tourist guide. “Although Kukki has not done any research work on the archaeological discoveries made by him following his limited educational qualification, he certainly has brought the rock paintings and archaeology of Bundi and nearby areas into limelight,” superintendent of the government museum of the state archaeology and Museum department of Rajasthan in Kota, Umrao Singh said.

“For the first time I was honoured on August, 15, 1995, at the district level for my 1993 discovery of the Stone and Copper Age at Namana, Gagosh, Rajgarh, Chatras, Bijnawar and Khatkar-all in the vicinity of Bundi,” he said. In 2007, he was awarded by the then Governor of Rajasthan, Pratibha Devi Singh Patil. He has also been recognised by National Center for the Arts, New Delhi and World Rock Art Society from France. Department of archaeology and museums, Rajasthan (India) awarded him with a certificate in 2008 for having a wide knowledge of cave paintings and archaeological sites located in Bundi and Bhilwara districts of Rajasthan. Earlier, Kukki had set up a museum of his discoveries at his house. However, he later donated over 200 archaeological tools to the government Bundi museum and several such tools to the government museums in Kota, Jaipur and other parts of the state. He now has only one desire —receiving the Padma Shri.

- https://www.hindustantimes.com/jaipur/a-school-dropout-of-rajasthan-s-bundi-is-no-less-than-an-archaeologist/story-5KHFEpeML79uFRbls57Y7M.html, Feb 19, 2018

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Language Of Unity On UNESCO Day

Language is the most powerful tool for preserving and developing cultural heritage. It is food for our minds which can bind people in the most amazing way possible. Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture, and also a way of treasuring it, for years and years to come! The Bengali Language movement was a popular ethno linguistic movement in Bangladesh, as a result of the linguistic consciousness of the Bengalis to protect the recognition of Bengali as a state language. On the day of Feburary21, 1952, five students and activists were killed in Dhaka. In 1956, Bengali was declared as the state language of Pakistan. Since 2000 UNESCO has annually observed the International Mother’s Language Day to promote the preservation and protection of all languages. Therefore, making Bengali the only language in the world, also known as language movement, and people sacrificing their lives for the love of their mother tongue, their identity, and their culture. Bengali has a rich history and immense cultural impact in India and around the world as well. From Asia’s first Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore to one of the most powerful freedom fighters of India Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Bengali has produced many personalities who are influential even today.

What can be more heart touching than seeing people, especially youths, coming together to celebrate this day as language day. Let us all relive the language and culture of Khasi, Garo, Jaintia, Bengali, Nepali and all other languages spoken in our state. Why not on this auspicious day we all pay heartiest homage to the ones who didn’t even finch before dying for this noble cause. So, let us all come together and bring back the essence of the utmost joy in relishing our mother tongue. Because in this age of guns and bloodshed all around the world if we don’t let our language contribute its bit in bringing us together, then what will? A special kind of beauty will emerge if we all come together and celebrate the different languages together in our language, of our language and for our language.

The beauty of languages spreads across a thousand miles. So we definitely ought to come together and celebrate this day to cherish our beautiful languages with utmost reverence and awe. The Shillong Bengalee Students’ Association (SBSA), would take this opportunity to wish all the people of the state on the occasion of International Mother’s Language Day. “Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue,” UNESCO.

(The authors are members of the Shillong Bengalee Students’ Association, Guwahati)

- http://www.theshillongtimes.com/2018/02/18/language-of-unity-on-unesco-day/, Feb 19, 2018

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India to host World Environment Day 2018 celebrations with 'Beat Plastic Pollution' theme

India will host World Environment Day, 2018, scheduled to be held on June 5, with a ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ theme. The announcement was made by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Erik Solheim, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Head of UN Environment, at an event held in Delhi on Monday. Beat Plastic Pollution, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, urges governments, industry, communities and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives and urgently reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastic polluting our oceans, damaging marine life and threatening human health. “India is excited to host the World Environment Day this year on June 5. Indian philosophy and lifestyle has long been rooted in the concept of co-existence with nature. We are committed towards making Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place”, said Dr Harsh Vardhan. “If each and every one of us does at least one green good deed daily towards our Green Social Responsibility, there will be billions of green good deeds daily on the planet,” he said.

The Government of India has committed to organising and promoting the World Environment Day celebrations through a series of engaging activities and events generating strong public interest and participation. From pan-Indian plastic clean-up drives in public areas, national reserves and forests, to simultaneous beach clean-up activities, India will lead the initiative by setting an example, a release said. “India will be a great global host of 2018’s World Environment Day celebrations,” said Erik Solheim. “The country has demonstrated tremendous global leadership on climate change and the need to shift to a low carbon economy, and India will now help galvanize greater action on plastics pollution. It’s a global emergency affecting every aspect of our lives. It’s in the water we drink and the food we eat. It’s destroying our beaches and oceans. India will now be leading the push to save our oceans and planet,” Solheim said.

World Environment Day is a UN Environment-led global event and is the single largest celebration of our environment each year. It takes place on June 5 and is celebrated by thousands of communities around the world. Since it began in 1972, the event has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated across the globe. Every year the world uses 500 billion plastic bags and each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute. Also, plastic constitutes up to 10 percent of all of the waste generated.

- http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/environment/india-to-host-world-environment-day-2018-with-a-beat-plastic-pollution-theme-2511131.html, Feb 19, 2018

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Meet Sandesh Gupta, who makes organic fertiliser from temple offerings

Water bodies in India fall prey to temple offerings such as flowers, coconuts, idols, etc. Devotees make tonnes of offerings at temples across the country every year, which are eventually dumped in rivers, water bodies or are strewn around the premises. Many social programmes have been held in the past to stop this growing problem, where volunteers and NGOs have educated pilgrims and devotees not to pollute rivers. The turnaround has been very few. This is when Sandesh Gupta decided to take things in his hands who thought PM Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was an opportune time to execute it. Gupta is the chief municipal officer (CMO) in Neemuch city in Madhya Pradesh and is now making the most of temple offerings and waste in the city. He gets offerings such as flowers, coconuts, dry waste, etc.

collected from temples. Then the municipal corporation’s vehicles dump these in two large pits dug at the premises of Gupta’s official bungalow in a bid to make organic fertiliser. Inspired by Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Gupta is leading by example and is making organic fertiliser in his yard. The pits were dug with the help of National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED). He adds dry neem leaves in the pits to make fertilizer, which is then being sold at a premium, thereby getting revenue for the municipal corporation too. Gupta uses nearly one quintal of flowers and coconut fibre to make the fertiliser. Now, he is trying to get the flowers and coconut fibre from surrounding towns and villages.

Neemuch produces around 60 tonnes of dry and wet garbage. Gupta advises the garbage should be disposed at the source itself. “For instance, the vegetable mandi produces around 10 quintals of garbage and now I have persuaded the 400 odd traders to put their waste in a pit and thus organic fertilizer is being produced over there. This can be replicated everywhere in localities,” Gupta told HT. Gupta’s efforts have been lauded by his department and people of Neemuch. It is time that we see such models replicating in rest of India too.

- http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/trends/features-2/meet-sandesh-gupta-who-makes-organic-fertiliser-from-temple-offerings-2510945.html, Feb 19, 2018

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More than 40 Indian languages may be heading for extinction: Officials

More than 40 languages or dialects in India are considered to be endangered and is believed to be heading towards extinction as only a few thousand people speak them, officials said. According to a report of the census directorate, there are 22 scheduled languages and 100 non-scheduled languages in the country which are spoken by a large number of people - one lakh or more. However, there are around 42 languages which are spoken by less than 10,000 people. These are considered endangered and may be heading towards extinction, a home ministry official said. A list prepared by UNESCO has also mentioned about the 42 languages or dialects in India which are endangered and they may be heading towards extinction, the official said. The languages or dialects which were considered endangered, include 11 from Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Lamongse, Luro, Muot, Onge, Pu, Sanenyo, Sentilese, Shompen and Takahanyilang), seven from Manipur (Aimol, Aka, Koiren, Lamgang, Langrong, Purum and Tarao) and four from Himachal Pradesh (Baghati, Handuri, Pangvali and Sirmaudi). The other languages in the endangered category are Manda, Parji and Pengo (Odisha), Koraga and Kuruba (Karnataka), Gadaba and Naiki (Andhra Pradesh), Kota and Toda (Tamil Nadu), Mra and Na (Arunachal Pradesh), Tai Nora and Tai Rong (Assam), Bangani (Uttarakhand), Birhor (Jharkhand), Nihali (Maharashtra), Ruga (Meghalaya) and Toto (West Bengal). The Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, has been working for the protection and preservation of endangered languages of the country, under a central scheme, another official said.

Under the programme, grammatical descriptions, monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, language primers, anthologies of folklore, encyclopedias of all languages or dialects especially those spoken by less than 10,000 people are being prepared, the official said. Apart from the 22 scheduled languages, there are 31 other languages in the country which were given the status of official language by various state governments and Union territories. According to the census data, there are 1,635 rationalised mother tongues, 234 identifiable mother tongues and 22 major languages in the country.

- https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/more-than-40-indian-languages-may-be-heading-for-extinction-officials/story-vnLM0c0DEqKVnLv6G4805O.html, Feb 19, 2018

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International Mother Language Day: A Day To Celebrate And Protect Linguistic Diversity And Multilinguism

One language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage, says UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). Keeping this in mind, the UN agency introduced International Mother Language Day in 1999, a world-wide annual observance held on February 21 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promote multilingualism. There are more than 7,000 languages in the world; India alone has about 22 officially recognised languages, 1635 rationalised mother tongues, 234 identifiable mother tongues, according to the latest data available from Census 2001. UNESCO, which is celebrating International Mother Language Day for nearly 20 years, aims at preserving it and promoting mother tongue-based multilingual education.

This year, UNESCO commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its bold statement that 'no discrimination can be made on the basis of language', and celebrates its translation into more than 500 languages. The theme of 2018's introduced International Mother Language Day is Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development. UNESCO gives suggestions on how to celebrate International Mother Language Day in schools: School teachers should encourage children to use their mother languages to introduce themselves and talk about their families and culture. They should let the students read poetry, tell a story or sing a song in their mother tongues. Paintings and drawings with captions in mother languages can also be displayed. For Students, it suggests, observe how many mother languages your fellow classmates can speak.

Make a survey of the languages by interviewing them. The UN agency also advises students to help organise cultural activities such as films, plays and music that celebrate different languages. International Mother Language Day also supports one of the key goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy."

- https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/international-mother-language-day-a-day-to-celebrate-and-protect-linguistic-diversity-and-multilingu-1815083, Feb 20, 2018

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Kendrapara village digs up antique idol

While digging atrench, a group of workers has stumbled upon an antique idol of Hindu divinities in a far-flung village at the district's Mahakalpada block. The chance-discovery of the antique idol has made the local residents jubilant with people installing the idols at the shrine in village. The idol are of immense antique value. It dates back to the Kushana era and probably it's 2,000-year-old, according to researchers. Construction workers were digging the plinth of a boundary wall at Dhyan Das Mahaprusha mutt in Baradanga village when their tools struck the structure. The antique idol is one foot high, and 100cm wide. Terracotta steps of stupa-like structure were also found in the trench. The digging work was suspended following the discovery. The idol has been preserved in the mutt.

Later, it will be shifted to the temple inside the mutt after performing puja, said villager Pratap Kumar Samantaray. Former superintendent of State Archaeology Department Bijoy Kumar Rath said the idol was antique and its structural design bears the sign of Kushan age architecture. The deities appeared to be that of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The dug out area had terracotta steps, he said. Antique idols have also been found in the area in the past. It indicates that an ancient civilisation had flourished in the area, Rath said. The finding assumes significance as the area is not far from the Buddhist sites of Udayagiri, Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri. Buddha idols have been found in the region in past and the religion had flourished in Kendrapara under the Bhaumakar dynasty, he said. We have told the State Archaeology Department to make a spot visit to the village where the chance-discovery of the antique idol has been reported, said district culture officer Dillip Kumar Nayak.

- https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/odisha/kendrapara-village-digs-up-antique-idol-210131, Feb 20, 2018

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10 years on, Sunder Nursery to debut as a heritage park

At 90 acres, Sunder Nursery is comparable in size to the famed Lodhi Garden. But it doesn’t receive many visitors as it’s understood as a place to buy plants. This week, this is set to change as a renovated Sunder Nursery opens to the public as a heritage park. For over a century, this place has been a nursery, and 20 acres are still an active nursery maintained by CPWD. The rest of the area would now be a treat for nature lovers and heritage enthusiasts. The nursery was renovated by Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), and following an agreement signed last December, AKTC would maintain the park for 10 years. For that, requisite infrastructure would be built such as a garden house to showcase flora, a cafe, toilets etc. So far, the park is open only on weekdays up to 5pm.

This would be stretched and even weekends would be open days. Security and other maintenance infrastructure would be put in place by October. Entry would be ticketed. Sunder Nursery rivals the Rashtrapati Bhavan for the huge variety of flora and fauna. Earlier, the area only housed Mughal garden tombs. At the beginning of the 20th century, the British converted the area into a nursery for the new capital city. In 2007, following an MoU between CPWD, ASI, the municipal corporation and AKTC, conservation and landscaping works started. AKTC has built similar parks in Kabul, Cairo, Chantilly (France) and Edmonton (Canada). Designed by landscape architect Late M Shaheer, Sunder Nursery has a 550m ornamental central vista that starts from the entrance zone of Humayun’s Tomb. An official said the landscape master plan derived inspiration from “traditional Indian concept of congruency between nature, garden and utility coupled with environmental conservation” for a truly urban scale work. The gardens along the central vista, inspired by Mughal traditions, have lotus-shaped marble fountains.

Water flows through geometric flowerbeds and raised sandstone pathways. A lake on the northern edge of the central vista will have walkways, seats and pavilions along the edges. An amphitheatre has also been built for cultural events. The lake would collect rainwater and also serve as a reservoir for emergency use. Officials said the nursery has over 300 tree species, some not found elsewhere in Delhi. Over 80 bird species have also been recorded. As an added attraction for children, an educational resource on Delhi’s ecology has also been set up for the 5,00,000 schoolchildren who visit the adjoining Humayun’s Tomb annually. This 20-acre micro-habitat zone showcases plants of the Ridge, and the riverine, marshy landscapes that were once found in Delhi. The heritage aspect is striking too. There are 15 Mughal monuments within the nursery, some under ASI and some unprotected. These have been conserved by AKTC over the years. In 2016, Unesco extended the world heritage designation to 12 monuments.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/10-years-on-sunder-nursery-to-debut-as-a-heritage-park/articleshow/62989353.cms, Feb 20, 2018

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Mumbai’s 200-Year-old British Era Milestones To Get a Makeover!

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to identify, locate and restore British-era milestones that were installed in the 18th century to mark distances. Road-widening work had damaged these milestones, and they had gone into oblivion. However, now, slowly and steadily, these milestones will be restored to their former glory. The BMC has taken up the initiative on a public-private partnership, following approvals from the heritage committee, and have already started restoring two milestones at Cumbala Hills in South Mumbai. These milestones are about five feet in height and were discovered at Kemp’s Corner and near Bhatia Hospital. They were buried four feet in the ground. The Kemp Corner milestone is engraved with ‘3 miles’ and is the only milestone in the city with an English number, while the one near Bhatia Hospital has ‘III Miles’ inscribed on it. Mittal Deshpande, the conservation architect, told the Times of India, “These two milestones which are being restored were almost four feet below the ground with hardly one foot visible. The milestones were helpful for Victorian horse carriageways which passed through the area.

Currently, some road work is going on and we are waiting for it to be completed after which we plan to reinstate them.” BMC plans to clean and restore them to their original colour before installing railings, and an information plaque around them. “According to old maps with the BMC, there are supposed to be 16 milestones, but only 11 have been discovered.

Only one of the 11 milestones has been restored,” Umesh Nagarkar, a civic official from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee told Hindustan Times. Most of the discovered milestones carry Roman numerals on them. They marked the distance to St Thomas Cathedral, (present-day Kala Ghoda) which used to be the city centre in those times. Vishwas Mote, the assistant commissioner of D-ward, initiated this process of restoration as he had stumbled upon a milestone with the engraving “V Miles” near KEM hospital in Parel. According to him, the two restored milestones were built between 1812 and 1835. “It is regrettable that we have put such an important part of urban Mumbai’s history in such a state. Now the restoration process is being done at the ward’s cost, with no extra funds allotted to it,” he told HT. Some other places in Mumbai where such milestones were discovered are Kalbadevi road, August Kranti Marg, Dr Ambedkar Marg, NM Joshi Marg and Veer Nariman Road.

- https://www.thebetterindia.com/131741/mumbai-british-era-milestones/, Feb 21, 2018

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Sign Up For A Walk To The Iconic Vasai Fort

As Mumbai's heritage continues to remain under threat from development and real estate in particular, it's heartening to know that organisations like the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) have been working tirelessly to create awareness of the city's historic and heritage sites through its many initiatives, including talks and walks. This weekend, the group is conducting a walk that will be helmed by Pascal Lopes, a PhD student. It covers the topic of his research — exploring 16th-century Indo-Portuguese and Maratha era using coins and forts belonging to the region from that era as markers. The walk is aimed at making the residents of Mumbai aware of the significance of the fort, which was built during the Portuguese reign back in 1536. In addition to that, the walk will touch upon the strategic importance of the fort in the context of the Portuguese-Maratha war in 1737, the Portuguese influence in the region in the form of citadels, churches, monasteries and colleges dating back to the 16th century, as well as the eventual capture by the Marathas and their influence over the fort. "The walk will look at initial Portuguese inscriptions along the fort's walls, the Maratha victory inscriptions, secret tunnels and a lot more," reveals Lopes. "It will be an interesting walk that would amalgamate history, defence and architecture of the region, which is not known to many," says Veena Choudhary, architect and programme coordinator, INTACH, Greater Mumbai Chapter.

- https://www.mid-day.com/articles/sign-up-for-a-walk-to-the-iconic-vasai-fort/19100164, Feb 22, 2018

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INTACH takes up restoration of paintings at St. Aloysius Chapel

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has taken up the restoration of old paintings at St. Aloysius Chapel in the city since a month, according to its chairman Major Gen. L.V. Gupta (retd). Addressing a gathering after inaugurating the Mangaluru chapter of the INTACH here on Thursday, he said: “We are glad that the church has invested in this work. Please do visit the chapel and see the laboratory set up for restoration work.” Stressing the need to protect and conserve heritage monuments and structures, he said that no country can be great without its heritage. Mr. Gupta said that largely people are ignorant of India’s diverse history and heritage. “Only 7,500 monuments have so far been declared as protected monuments. As per an estimate by INTACH, there are five million heritage sites in the country. Many of these monuments and structures are unprotected. They were being destroyed for lack of awareness of heritage value of these monuments,” he said. He said the INTACH was working on listing and documentation of heritage structures and monuments and asking the government and people to protect them. Subash Basu, convener of INTACH Mangaluru chapter, said that the chapter will document old Guttu houses and also visit houses of fishermen and artisans to document the way they build their houses. They will work to revive some traditional methods of building houses that includes use of mud, timber and lime for construction.

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/intach-takes-up-restoration-of-paintings-at-st-aloysius-chapel/article22829102.ece, Feb 23, 2018

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Himachali filmmaker’s work to be screened at Int’l film festivals

With the film culture, picking up pace in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, a documentary film by a filmmaker from the state has been selected for screening at the two international film festivals. The documentary film, ‘Life in a fistful of rice’ of Tashi Dorje Gyamba has been selected for competitive screening in the film festivals of Docs Without Borders Film Festival in Bahamas and Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival in Los Angeles on 16 April and 25 April respectively. The film selected has been produced for ICH Division, Delhi of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), selected for competitive screening in Tow international film festivals. Tashi Dorje Gyamba (26) who has contributed for the research and documentation of the documentary film said, “The film depicts the cultural heritage of the north-eastern states Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam that diverge in terms of statehood, yet people belonging within have been sharing cultural heritage beyond boundaries of time and demography.” Drawing continuities and parallels intermittently in these three different states, the film is a documentation of cultures fundamentally rooted in essence of rice, he added. He said, “This is my first documentary film that has been selected for screening at a global level.” Besides, a book an extended script of the documentary film “Life in a Fistful of Rice’ is on way, he added. Haling from Pooh village in the tribal belt of Kinnaur, Tashi after his basic education from Shimla shifted to Delhi for higher education. A product of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, having passed out from the institute in 2014, Tashi worked for few independent organisation and production houses across the country before the INTACH project came his way. As an independent film-maker his short documentary film, ‘Shirkin Mela’ capturing the rich cultural heritage of his native village, Pooh is amongst the 145 films to be screened at the 5th edition of International Festival of Short Films on Culture and Tourism (IFFC-V) at Jaipur, Rajasthan in the last week of March. The film festival had received as many as 2,402 films from 113 countries. The ‘Shirkin Mela’ depicts a post-harvest festival celebrated in the pocket of trans-Himalayas. “Other than copious libation, dance and songs, the festival culminates as a confluence between well-wishes for new born and remembering those who passed away in the last year, said Tashi. The short film about 10 minutes uploaded on 14 December, 2017 on YouTube has already earned appreciation with as many 3,810 views till date.

- https://www.thestatesman.com/cities/himachali-filmmakers-work-screened-intl-film-festivals-1502590223.html, Feb 23, 2018

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Elephanta Island gets electricity 70 years after independence with laying of India's longest undersea power cable

Seventy years after Independence, a 7.5-kilometre long undersea cable has finally brought electricity to the world-famous Gharapuri Isle, which houses the UNESCO World Heritage site Elephanta Caves, about 10-km from Mumbai, a top official said in Raigad on Thursday. The project to electrify the island, thronged daily by thousands of Indian and foreign tourists, has cost a total of Rs 25 crore and was completed in 15 months, said Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd Regional Director Satish Karape. "This is India's longest undersea power cable which took around three months to lay. Plus, we have installed a transformer in each of the three villages, six streetlight towers each 13-metre tall with six powerful LED bulbs and provided individual power meter connections to 200 domestic and a few commercial consumers. Intensive testing over past three days has been successful," Karape told IANS. A function will be held at the island later in the day when renowned social reformer Appasaheb Dharmadhikari will formally 'switch on' the power supply in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, his ministers Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Jaykumar Raval, Ravindra, and other dignitaries. Karape said that of the total project cost, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority gave Rs 18.50 crore while the rest had been borne from the MSEDCL's own resources. The 22-KV cable has four lines, including one exclusive standby line, to ensure 24x7 high quality power to the islanders with sufficient excess capacity to take care of future requirements for more than 30 years, he explained. An unseasonal 'Diwali' has suddenly been ushered on the island, which used to be plunged into darkness after dusk in the absence of electricity at the three villages -- Raj Bander, Mora Bander and Shet Bander -- housing around 1,200 people, mostly engaged in fishing, farming, boat-repairs and tourism-related activities. Since the past few years however, the villagers managed with just three hours electricity courtesy power generators provided by the state government, but these were expensive and unreliable. The previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime had initiated the proposal, but it fell through as the tender attracted a single bid, and later the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government revived the proposal almost two years ago. The 22-KV cable has been connected directly with the MSEDCL's Olwa sub-station, Panvel Division in Raigad on the mainland, Karape said. The official is hopeful that now, the islanders can get better educational institutions, boost tourism -- probably with overnight stay, subject to other governmental clearances -- install a lighthouse on the isle's hilltop, and even power the Elephanta Caves if the Archaelogical Survey of India permits. Since a small dam exists on this 16-sq km island, a water filtration plant can be set up to provide safe and clean drinking water to the locals and tourists, who now rely on bottled mineral water. The power connection is also expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km long ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with Elephanta Island running above the Arabian Sea, planned by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), and billed as a boon to nearly two million tourists who visit it annually. Inhabited since the 2nd Century BC, the island has seven big and small rock-cut caves temples carved between 5th-6th Centuries AD. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The island also has two large British-era canons atop the hill. Presently, the thickly-forested island abounds in monkeys and other creatures, is accessible only by an hour-long voyage by motorboats and launches from Gateway of India or Raigad, with compulsory return in the evening.

- http://www.firstpost.com/india/elephanta-island-gets-electricity-70-years-after-independence-with-laying-of-indias-longest-undersea-power-cable-4363427.html, Feb 23, 2018

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