Heritage Education in India

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage

Youngintach Forum

Heritage Alerts
February 2019


Qutab Road: An Old Delhi route that took many to second homes

According to INTACH convenor Dr Swapna Liddle, before the creation of New Delhi in the 20th Century, this was part of a long and frequently plied road extending to Mehrauli. Around 15 km from the Qutub Complex in Mehrauli is a road in Old Delhi’s Sadar Bazar popularly known as Qutab Road, which was part of a stretch that once connected Shahjahanabad to Mehrauli. The old city of Shahjahanabad — the 17th Century Mughal capital under Emperor Shah Jahan — lies to the west of the present day Qutab Road. According to INTACH convenor Dr Swapna Liddle, before the creation of New Delhi in the 20th Century, this was part of a long and frequently plied road extending to Mehrauli, which was the rst capital of the Delhi Sultanate under the 13th Century Mamluk dynasty’s founder Qutb-ud-din Aibak. “After New Delhi came up, there was a slight change in the alignment of the road with the addition of Connaught Place. As it exists today, the road moves southwards and becomes Chelmsford Road. It meets at Connaught Place and moves down to Janpath and later Aurobindo Marg before eventually leading to the Qutub Complex,” said Dr Liddle. Historian Sohail Hashmi said that he remembers a time when Aurobindo Marg was also known as Qutab Marg. “When I was in college, some deep sewer work was carried out in central Delhi’s Shahjahan Road, which led to the discovery of a medieval road running parallel to it,” Hashmi said. He added that close to this medieval road, there probably owed a perennial stream — a tributary of the Yamuna — which owed through Lodhi Garden to where Dyal Singh College is currently located. According to Dr Liddle, while the route of the old road took on more modern names over the years like Chelmsford Road, Janpath and Aurobindo Marg, the section in Old Delhi continues to be popularly known as Qutab Road — even though its name too has ocially been changed to Babu Ram Solanki Marg. “This road would have seen a lot of trac until the 18th and 19th Centuries. A lot of people living in Old Delhi had second homes in Mehrauli, and they would move there during monsoon and when diseases would break out in the city,” she said.

- https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/qutab-road-an-old-delhi-route-that-took-many-to-second-homes-5563694, Feb 1, 2019

Flora Fountain to reopen soon as water leakages fixed

The iconic Flora Fountain in South Mumbai, which was shut down soon after it was unveiled last week due to water leakages, will reopen soon as the problem has been fixed, a civic official said Thursday. The heritage structure was unveiled last Thursday after completion of the restoration work. The senior official from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who supervised restoration work of the Grade-I heritage structure, said the site was closed after leakages were found in its water troughs. "Our team immediately undertook the repair work. Now, the leakages have been fixed. The water supply system was very old and the valve was not properly fit into the system. But we have now installed a new plate, so there would be no leakages," he said. "The structure can be reopened soon, maybe by today evening or tomorrow morning," he said. The Flora Fountain currently receives water through a 200-mm pipeline that is quite old, the official noted. After its first phase of restoration work was completed, this 150-year-old structure was inaugurated on January 24 by Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar. Civic officials said the second phase of the restoration work will take another few months to complete. 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 BMC in September 2016. However, the organisation had stopped the work towards the end of 2017 due to paucity of funds. The restoration work had resumed in March 2018. Flora Fountain is an ornamentally and exquisitely sculpted architectural heritage monument located in the Fort business district in South Mumbai. Built in 1864, the decorated structure is a fusion of water, architecture and sculpture depicting the Roman goddess Flora.

- https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/flora-fountain-to-reopen-soon-as-water-leakages-fixed-119013100993_1.html, Feb 1, 2019

A rundown Kumbakonam college, where Ramanujan studied briefly, will get a makeover

Sunlight peeps through the latticed walls along the dark corridors of the chemistry lab. Bats flit about beneath the high ceiling of the physics lab. The plaster has peeled off the classroom walls, wooden beams are decaying, and the musty smell is overpowering. Wild vegetation grows all over the narrow corridors that connect rooms on either side of open courtyards. And I spot a large snake coiled on the debris of a partially collapsed roof. The eeriness of the abandoned building can’t stop me visualising what must have been among the most scenic college campuses in the mid-1800s, and one of the most reputed academic institutions of the Madras Presidency during the Raj. History and art are still infused in every corner of the ruins of the government college on the banks of the Cauvery in the temple town of Kumbakonam. There are old photographs and paintings that show students punting down from the other bank to attend classes. By 1943 they could cycle or walk across the narrow Aranmanai Rama Iyer wooden bridge. The bridge was pulled down in 2006 and replaced with a modern 75-metre long pedestrian bridge, but you can get a glimpse of the old bridge in the Tamil film Sethu.

Started as a school

The 22-acre campus was undoubtedly stunning in 1854 when it was established as a provincial school, with the river as picturesque backdrop. There is a quaint simplicity to the single-storey flat-roofed structures that go on for almost a kilometre along the river. An 1880 bell from C.S. Bell & Co, Hillsboro, Ohio, still rings every hour to beckon students to class in the new buildings constructed in 1975. Until the 1970s, the college had a canoe club that conducted the annual regatta. “The inter-college Thiruvaiyaru boat race competition was revived briefly in 1999 for three years. We still have six of the old canoes,” says A. Gunasekaran, controller of examinations. Tagore, Raman et al Through the sepia photos, old letters, journals and souvenirs, memoirs and stories handed down over generations orally, or penned by alumni, you get a sense of the institution’s history: Rabindranath Tagore visited in 1918, C.V. Raman in 1940; you learn that Srinivasa Ramanujan was offered a scholarship to study here after his headmaster introduced him as an outstanding student who deserved scores higher than the maximum. Ramanujan studied for a year between 1904 and 1905, but intent on mathematics, he failed in most other subjects, and lost the scholarship. “I tell every batch of students that I am a privileged junior of Ramanujan and so are they,” says the head of the maths department, K. Gunasekaran. The college has a list of prominent alumni, including the statesman Srinivasa Sastri, and the scholars Thyagaraja Chettiar and U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer. With visible pride, Gunasekaran opens the lock to the classroom where Ramanujan attended maths classes more than a century ago. “You will find here stories that wow generations of students,” he says, as we remove our sandals and enter the dust-laden room. Long wooden benches with attached desks are propped up by elaborately carved iron legs. Sunlight pours in through a broken glass pane in the high ceiling. An explosion of weeds knocks against two large, locked windows. In fact, uncontrolled vegetation has colonised most empty spaces and even burst through the roof and ceilings dislodging frames and creating cracks in columns and walls.

River view

“You can imagine how the students sitting in these classrooms would have had a magnificent view of the river through these windows,” says R. S. Sundararajan, the head of physics department and the man who played Ramanujan’s father in a Tamil biopic on the genius. “This institution has produced great scholars and it will be a tribute to all of them if we are able to restore the college to its old glory,” he says. Founded by Dewan Bahadur R. Raghunatha Rao in a mansion donated by the senior Rani of Tanjore of the time, the school first taught English to the children of the rich. Nicknamed ‘Cambridge of South India’, it introduced undergraduate courses in physics, chemistry, maths, geography in 1864. At that time, there were only four other colleges in South India: Madras Christian College, St. Joseph’s College, Trichinopoly; Presidency College, Madras, and Noble College Masulipatnam. More than a hundred years later, new buildings were added to make room for more departments. The entire college shifted to the new campus. In 2016 the renovation project was set rolling when INTACH (Kodaikanal) member Girija Viraraghavan visited. “My grandfather D.S. Sarma taught here in the early 1900s. Three years ago I visited the place with my brother and found it in a shambles,” she says. A team of heritage restoration architects joined Sakthi Murugan of Intach (Tanjore) to study the extent of damage and submitted a preliminary report in December 2017 based on which the State government sanctioned ?16 crore. Last December a detailed project report was finalised, paving the way for the Public Works Department to invite quotations for the restoration work. Says Chennai INTACH co-convener Tara Murali: “People need to understand that restoration does not mean just breaking and rebuilding. It means understanding the building, the purpose it served during a different time period, retrieving the artisanal work, and traditional building materials. We hope the PWD upholds this spirit and restores it for adaptive use.” It is not easy to patch up a building that’s more than 100 years old. There’s still a long way to go, but a piece of history has for the moment been saved from being lost for ever.

- https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/a-rundown-kumbakonam-college-where-ramanujan-studied-briefly-will-get-a-makeover/article26151560.ece, Feb 4, 2019

A heritage walk through the Madras High Court

Its tree-lined squares and red-brick buildings have witnessed many important moments in Indian legal history. Yet, the 127-year-old Madras High Court complex remains a relatively unexplored part of the city. Designed by JW Brassington, then consulting architect to the Government, its grand Indo-Saracenic structure was completed by Henry Irwin in 1892. Home to two of the city’s early lighthouses, one a Doric column of Pallavaram granite, the other atop a dome on the main building fuelled by kerosene and visible 32 miles out at sea, the complex’s turreted magnificence was what many first saw of Madras when they came in by masula boats from the bay. The sturdy gates that guard the complex were opened to a group of nearly 200 heritage enthusiasts who were part of a walk led by Sujatha Shankar, convenor, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), Chennai chapter, and NL Rajah, senior advocate and author of books on Law and the history of the Madras High Court. The talk began at the High Court Museum, a first floor of a modern building chock-a-block with colonial exhibits and handwritten oaths of allegiance. Rajah’s hour-long talk, laced with humour, wove its way through the founding of the Madras High Court by a Victorian charter in 1862, move from a decentralised to a centralised justice system under the British, contributions of Sir Thomas Strange, first Chief Justice of the Madras Presidency, and how no plaque but only a grainy black-and-white photograph of legal luminaries, a bishop, and bureaucrats marked the inauguration of the High Court, whose jurisdiction then extended to what is now Odisha. Rajah said that in its 157-year history the Court has seen more years under the British than it has under independent India and how this continues to influence its traditions. He highlighted interesting cases such as the Lakshmikanthan murder case which led to celluloid heroes NS Krishnan and MK Thyagaraja Bhagvathar spending time in prison, work of legal luminaries such as T Muthuswami Iyer and PV Rajamannar, and the contribution of lawyers-turned-freedom fighters — VL Ethiraj, VO Chidambaram and C Rajagopalachari. The visiting group included was a curious mix of students of architecture, furiously sketching the cusps and domes, law students, children and descendants of architect Irwin; T Namberumal Chetty, the contractor who executed the buildings; and Raja T Rama Rao, the first vakil to be enrolled in the Madras High Court. Photographs of the three were unveiled in a room adjacent to the model courtroom. The talk then wound its way outdoors, past cannonball and silk cotton trees, and polite CISF staff who man the campus, to the front of the main building where Sujatha took over. Interspersed with bird calls and the whoosh of trains that run past Beach Station opposite it, Sujatha drew attention to the minarets and domes with a relief of snakes, stone brackets and exquisite stained glass, chamfered bricks, metal and stone fretwork, and floral reliefs that make it a curious amalgam of Mughal, Hindu, and Gothic traditions. The arches, some of them covered with khus khus thatties, call for a longer, closer look at their sheer variety. The corridors of the three-storeyed building stand beyond the Sheriff’s gate, beautifully hinged into the stone and once opened to showcase pageantry. The Madras High Court also has the distinction of surviving two World Wars — during the First, it was bombed by the German ship SS Emden (a plaque on the compound wall commemorates this) and escaped unscathed, and during the Second, the bombs dropped by the Japanese did no damage. Past the statue of Bashyam Iyengar “who died in his robes as he wished”, the group then visited the office of the Bar Association with its glass cabinets of leather-bound books. It moved on past beautiful Minton tiles and the portrait gallery to a court room with its engraved cardboard ceiling and intriguing trap door set in the floor through which the accused made his appearance. Finally, the group climbed the spiral staircase, arriving breathless at the dome that overlooks the campus. The copper finials with their patina lance into a cloudless sky. Across the road stands Chennai Port, its cranes and steel framework dotting the skyline. Further, the Bay of Bengal glints in the sun; from its foam-peaked waves, the Madras High Court would’ve once seemed like a scene from the Arabian Nights.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-heritage-walk-through-the-madras-high-court/article26174840.ece, Feb 5, 2019

Another pre-Harappan site ruins found in Kutch

After two weeks of excavation, archaeologists have found remains of another pre-Harappan site that strongly indicates a thriving human settlement in Kutch. A team of archaeologists from Kutch University and Kerala University unearthed the site near Nani Khatia village in Lakhpat taluka, around 102 km from Bhuj. The area of excavation spans around five square km. Archaeologists say the structure found suggests a cemetery and the stones strongly indicate the presence of over 100 burial sites in the area. “This settlement existed at the same time when Dholavira, the most prominent Indus Valley Civilization site, was thriving,” said Subhash Bhandari, head of Department of Archaeology, Kutch University. “We have found pottery shards, beads and broken bangles also at this site. In Dholavira, these items were placed beside the dead bodies before burial. We believe that there are more than 100 burial sites in the area and now we will dig 10 to 15 trenches for further excavation,” said Bhandari. The possibility of a human settlement has got stronger as there is a river flowing nearby. The archaeologists have also found some bricks and some other items which are being analysed to ascertain their era. The departments of archaeology of both universities had initiated a preliminary survey of the area in 2016 using differential geographic positioning system (DGPS) and drone to get details of the geomorphology and topography of the area. “We learnt that in ancient times, round stones were placed around the burial site. Since we found such stones, it lends further credence to the possibility of finding a burial site here,” Bhandari added..

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/archaeologists-find-remains-of-another-pre-harappan-site-in-kutch/articleshow/67858503.cms, Feb 6, 2019

Who is Backward? NagaTribe’s 100% Biodegradable Festival Has Lessons For All of Us by Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk

The Mon district, which lies in the northernmost reaches of Nagaland bordering Myanmar, is home to the Konyak Nagas. This is a tribe whose members once adorned distinctive facial tattoos and were feared for their practice of headhunting—decapitating members of rival tribes. “The Konyak belief was that the skull of a person has all the soul force of that being. This soul force is strongly affiliated with prosperity and fertility and is used for the benefit of the village, personal life, and crops,” explains Phejin Konyak, in a book titled ‘The Konyaks: Last of the Tattooed Headhunters.’ All that began to change in the 1870s with the arrival of British missionaries. By 1935, the British banned headhunting and began actively discouraging their ancient customs and traditions. Eventually, by the 1960s, even their distinctive tattooing practices began to fade away. Today, Mon is considered to be one of the most “backward” districts in India with infrastructure in a pitiable state and connectivity concerns galore. If the Konyaks can serve a sumptuous feast to hundreds without generating any non-biodegradable waste, then why can’t we? Yes, in the conventional sense of the word, the district is “backward”—poor infrastructure, connectivity and literacy levels below 60%. However, Vrinda Shukla, the Sub-Divisional Police Officer, stationed in Mon district for the past year, has a rather distinctive story to tell about the Konyak Nagas after witnessing ‘Lao-ong Mo,’ a significant festival celebrated after the completion of harvest. It is traditionally observed by every Konyak household around late September. In a recent column for The Indian Express, the IPS officer articulated why the Konyak Nagas have questioned her ideas of ‘modernity’ and ‘progress.’ Typically, all societies, tribal or otherwise, have two festivals a year pertaining to the sowing of the crops and harvesting. For the Konyak Nagas, Aoling (Aoleang Monyu) is a festival held in the first week of April, when the rice crop is planted. The festival celebrates the arrival of spring, and the people pray for a good outcome of the upcoming harvest. ‘Lao-ong Mo’ is celebrated after the completion of harvest. “Every family celebrates it on their own scale, but the festival I attended was conducted at the district headquarters by the Women’s Union and Konyak Students’ Union. This was a massive district-wide celebration of the festival,” says Vrinda, in a conversation with The Better India. “At this particular feast, I got to see and taste things I had never seen before. There were at least ten different forms of rice—all of them different in colour and texture. Similarly, I had the chance to partake in various kinds of millets in different shades— red, yellow and greenish,” she adds. Mon is very famous for its yams. It produces the best yams in all of Nagaland, according to her. “The organisers there made this absolutely delicious yam curry with an array of different meats in it. This is the speciality that goes with rice and millets. All sorts of fresh leaves are steamed and eaten. You will also nd vegetables like pumpkin, squash, and other meat-related items made of beef. It’s a very colourful cuisine,” she says. Remarkably, Vrinda describes the festivities she partook as 100% biodegradable. Even the extensive decorations set up were 100% plastic free. They only use bamboo and fresh produce for the decoration. “It was stunning and breathtaking. We eat with the hands there, so there is very little question of cutlery, but they did have these trays that were made of bamboo. So, they were just like shallow plates. They use fresh green leaves extensively for packing and lining the plates. They were beautifully lined. You barely had to upturn the tray into a large waste bin made of bamboo. The waste fell into the bin as a neat little packet with all the waste food secured inside, without any of it dirtying the tray, and without the cleaner having to touch any leftovers. The trays were being collected for sunning and reuse,” said Vrinda. She also mentioned that the plates were made of bamboo, and the cups were carved out of bamboo stems. Barely any tissue paper was used because fresh water is freely available. “Moreover, they have a wonderful mechanism of setting up piped water supply. They create various outlets for washing hands. That entire piped system is also made of bamboo,” she adds. Speaking to the members of the Women’s Union, Vrinda found out that the attempt is to make their harvest festivals 100% biodegradable in memory of their ancestors who lived off the earth. With the conclusion of the feast, Vrinda scanned the entire premises, and found that there wasn’t a single trace of any refuse, leaving her to reconfigure her notions of what constituted ‘backwardness.’ What she did witness was a real sensitivity among the Konyaks to their environment marked by a pattern of consumption that generates very little waste. As per Konyak tradition, an anti-oxidant healthy black tea called Phiku is served after the feast concludes. “There is some version of this tea served by every tribe, but the difference lies in their intensity. In Western Nagaland, a milder version is consumed, whereas the Konyaks drink a very stiff version of this tea which is quite bitter. The Konyaks call it ‘Phika’ while in some parts it’s called ‘Lalcha.’ There is no concept of dessert among these tribes. Drinking Phika is a huge part of the culture, and they have it after nearly every meal. It is an acquired taste for outsiders. I have come to love it very much. In fact, in my office, I serve Phika to everyone,” chuckles Vrinda. So, what are the fundamental lessons learnt from witnessing the Konyaks celebrating Lao-ong Mo? “Formal education and an abundance of resources are not necessary to have the right kind of sensitivity towards the environment. People from mainland India ought to internalise the attitude. If these people have the kind of access to resources, infrastructure and connectivity that the rest of the country does possess, there’s no saying where they would be. Shortage of resources and the lack of connectivity don’t stand in the way of that sensitivity,” she says. The Konyak Nagas certainly have a thing or two to teach urban communities in India, who are having trouble managing the unnecessary and excess nonbiodegradable waste they generate Abiding by their traditional practices, the members of this tribal community have shown that festivals can be celebrated without generating any non-biodegradable waste. Thus, in some ways, they have subverted the notion of “backwardness” often attached to them. So, the next time you host a party or get together, remember the costs you’re inflicting on the environment and figure out a way to make it a more sustainable affair. If the Konyaks can do it, why can’t you?

- https://www.thebetterindia.com/171698/nagaland-zero-waste-konyak-mon-ips-festival/, Feb 6, 2019

A Mughal-era sarai, contested history and murmurs of a curse

A small detour from the main road between Naurangpur and Tauru road leads to a nondescript village called Sarai, which derives its name from a Mughal-era resthouse or sarai; its antiquity can be traced back through an inscription on the gateway. As the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway cuts through Naurangpur, some 20 kilometres from the heart of Gurugram, one lands at a maze of under-construction buildings that are fast sprouting across the skyline of South Haryana. Products of rampant construction, these buildings punctuate the roads on both sides — some frozen with partially completed structures, some waiting to be sold, and others with their absentee flat owners. Cranes dangle in the air even as dust bellows from the mounds of construction material dumped on the ground floors of these buildings. Skirting the northern foothills of the Aravalli mountain range, these buildings make way for the sun-kissed mustard fields as one heads toward Tauru in Nuh (erstwhile Mewat). The landscape changes and animal herders can be seen leading their cattle into the fields that flank both sides of the road from Naurangpur to Tauru road. The trail is largely innocuous and is unlikely to attract any spectacular attention. However, it’s from here that a small detour off the main road leads one to a nondescript village called Sarai — which is imbued in history but whose past has largely been forgotten. The village Sarai derives its name from a Mughal-era Sarai Mirza that has existed here for the past 323 years. The village, in fact, seems to have grown around the sarai. Centuries ago, sarais used to serve as temporary halting stations for civilians as well as the troops. “A sarai is a historic wayside inn or halting station where travellers would rest at the end of a day’s journey. They can be found all across the country, along major movement corridors. Sarais were used both by common people as well as transiting army troops. Emperors and rich landlords got them constructed,” said Swapna Liddle, author-historian and convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Delhi.

Sarai Mirza

A vortex of streets - interspersed with hookah-smoking men at every few metres - leads to the Sarai Mirza, the presence of which is signalled by a towering arched gateway, which casts its shadow over the houses in the vicinity. The antiquity of the Sarai Mirza can be traced back through a valuable inscription - surprisingly in a fairly good condition - that has managed to survive all these years. The inscription is placed on the grand entrance gateway of the Sarai Mirza whose alcoves are now a busy hideout for pigeons. The survival of the inscription for over three centuries is enough to indicate the prowess of the constructor and the structure. The inscription — penned in classical Persian on a marble slate — mentions its year of construction as 1696 CE, according to experts. Siddique Ahmed Meo, community historian and author of books on Mewat’s history, visited Sarai Mirza a few years ago, took a picture of the inscription and got it translated with the help of a renowned Persian expert. “The inscription reads: During the reign of Badshah Alamgir Ghazi Mahiuddin, Mohammad Lashkari son of Khan Feroz (may his legacy survive in Mewat) acting out of generosity, wisdom, and justice laid the foundation of the sarai Lashakarbad in the year 1107 (hijri) (sic),” Meo maintained. “The title of Alamgir was bestowed on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. His army would pass through the region while going to Jaipur. It is likely that Sarai Mirza came up as a place of halt for the army. Later, as time progressed and population multiplied, more humans must have started settling around the Sarai Mirza. In a way, the village came up gradually in the vicinity of the sarai,” he said. A careful exploration of the area reveals that the portion of the village that has newer houses was once a part of the Sarai Mirza premises and reeks of Mughal architecture. A mosque from the same time period can also be located opposite. The mosque, which shows traces of red and blue, is now used as living quarters and a shelter house for buffaloes. “This mosque is as old as the Sarai Mirza but we don’t know who got it made. Some say that a king by the name of Alamgir got it constructed,” said an old woman, who lives next to the mosque. Today, Sarai Mirza, too, can easily pass off as a large storehouse of cow dung cakes, or even an animal shelter house. A cursory glance across Sarai Mirza, in all possible directions, reveals only one thing — mounds and mounds of cow dung cakes. Plastered on the ground, the walls, and within the alcoves and arches, they are to be found everywhere. One could wander within Sarai Mirza, get lost, and yet come back to find a wall of cow dung cakes in the vicinity. Occasionally, one can also spot women within Sarai Mirza, at different corners, dumping cow dung cakes or leading cows back into their shelters. They negotiate their ways amid these mounds of cow dung cakes that spill over every nook and corner. “Many Muslims used to reside here before the Partition of the country. However, only Meo Muslims continued to live here after the Partition,” said Rajindar Bhadana, as she collected cow dung cakes from her family’s portion of the Sarai Mirza. “The entire expanse is used like a collective village area where different families use the area for keeping their cattle, and storing cow dung cakes,” she said.

‘A curse’

Some locals occasionally call it by the name of qila (fort), a usage that possibly stems from the vast expanse. One can also spot a handful of houses within the premises of Sarai Mirza. However, none of them are inhabited by humans — a fact best explained by a belief that gained strong currency in the region over the past few years. Locals believe that if humans start using the space within Sarai Mirza as a residential property, they would be cursed. “Anyone who dares to live within Sarai Mirza invites a curse and misfortune. Our ancestors had started living here, but soon after moving in, there were a series of deaths in our family. In another case, a person fell off the terrace of his house and died. No one lives here at night. The few houses that have been constructed are used for storing cattle fodder,” said Deshraj Bhadana, a resident. Some people also believe the famous Dilli gate at Farrukhnagar was once a part of Sarai Mirza, and was dislodged by the warring king of Farrukhnagar who took away the gate as a souvenir. “We have heard from our ancestors that the huge wooden gate in Farrukhnagar was originally a part of Sarai Mirza in our village. The king of Farrukhnagar and Badshah Alamgir had locked horns in a battle and, Alamgir had to bite the dust. The king of Farrukhnagar got the gate removed and took it away as a prized memento of his victory,” added Bhadana. This information could not be verified since there is no mention of the monument in the Haryana State Gazetteer, and historians had little information about it. Spread over more than 10 acres of area, Sarai Mirza demonstrates Mughal architecture with Rajput influence. “It has traditional cusped arches which are often called Shahjahani arches.this style was prevalent in northern region in areas like Rajasthan and Haryana during the Mughal period. The Shahjahani arches, especially, came around towards the 17th century,” said Shikha Jain, convener, INTACH, Haryana chapter. Sarai Mirza, which, at one point, was the halting point for Mughal armies, now stands desolate. While the outer façade of the haveli is intact, the structure is in desperate need of repairs. Locals said that there was potential that the structure could be developed as a tourist area. “It would be good if the place is converted into a playground or a place for people to visit. Right now, it looks like an animal shelter and is a complete mess. There is potential for the area to be developed into a good tourist spot. We also have two hotels in close proximity,” said Deshraj Bhadana. However, with multiple stakeholders of the property, many were sceptical about any such plan becoming a reality. “If the department of archaeology or any other agency puts pressure on the villagers to vacate the premises of Sarai Mirza or remove their animal shelters, they’ll approach politicians. Eventually, nothing will come out of the whole exercise. Sarai Mirza will continue to stand as it stands today—an animal shelter and storehouse of cow dung cakes. However, it will be better for all if one makes efforts towards repairing the monument. It is a part of our history, after all,” said Budhran Bhadana, 65, a former sarpanch of the village. Officials from the state Department of Archaeology and Museums said that the monument was not listed but the department was aware about its presence. “The structure is spread over a large area — roughly 10 acres — but it is completely encroached. There are some major and minor cracks in the structure. The structure is among those monuments which were discovered during a survey in 2017. The department is aware about its presence but there are no immediate plans of taking it under protection. It’s on the list of unlisted monuments,” said Banani Bhattacharyya, deputy director of the Department of Archaeology & Museums.

- https://www.hindustantimes.com/gurugram/a-mughal-era-sarai-contested-history-and-murmurs-of-a-curse/story-OcHDyq13LFNCDvMf1AcczO.html, Feb 7, 2019

Archaeologists discover pre-Harappan site ruins in Kutch

The archaeologists in Kutch have found remains of another pre-Harappan site that is evident of a flourishing human settlement in the region. The archaeologists believe that the structure they unearthed resembles a cemetery belonging to the Harappan times indicating the presence of human settlement in the area. The ruins were discovered by a team of archaeologists from Kutch University and Kerala University after two weeks of excavation at the site near Nani Khatia village in Lakhpat taluka, about 102 KM away from Bhuj. The area of excavation stretches around five square km. The stones found from the site strongly suggest a presence of over 100 burial sites in the area. The head of the Department of Archaeology of Kutch University, Subash Bhandari believes that this settlement at Dholavira existed at the same time when the most distinguished Indus Valley Civilization site, was blossoming. Bhandari further added that his team has founded pottery shards, beads and broken bangles from the site. Similar shards and beads were excavated from the burial sites at the Harappa as well. Bhandari mentioned that the finding of similar stones from this site lends greater credence to a presence of more burial sites in the environs. Bhandari says that there are more than 100 burial sites in the area and now they will dig 10 to 15 trenches for further excavation. Bricks and some other items excavated are examined to determine the era to which they belong. A preliminary survey of the area was started by both the universities in 2016 using differential geographic positioning system (DGPS) and drones to get details of the geomorphology and topography of the landscape. A few days back, archaeologists discovered a couple’s skeleton in the same grave in Haryana, which according to them is the first anthropologically confirmed joint burial of a couple in any Harappan cemetery. The grave was excavated from the Harappan settlements at Rakhigarhi in Haryana, 150km northwest of Delhi. Even with this grave, pottery and bowls were found buttressing the claim that the Harappans believed in life after death.

- https://www.opindia.com/2019/02/archaeologists-discover-pre-harappan-site-ruins-in-kutch/, Feb 7, 2019

New committee sought to decide fate of heritage buildings in Mysuru

Even as it looks like the buck stops with Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on the fate of Devaraja Market and Lansdowne Building, two important heritage properties in Mysuru identified for demolition, civil society groups have called for the constitution of a new committee comprising experts in the field of civil engineering and heritage conservation, including those from INTACH and IHCNF, to decide on the future course of action. Mysuru Grahakara Parishat (MGP), which has been opposing demolition of the two buildings, on Thursday urged district in-charge Minister G.T. Deve Gowda to request the Chief Minister to constitute the committee and have it give its recommendation within a short time. “An approach based on technical factors rather than political considerations should guide us in shaping the future course of action. If we delay the decision, as we have been doing for years, the two heritage gems will be lost forever,” said Bhamy V. Shenoy of the MGP. “If we continue to demolish our heritage buildings and sites, all in the name of modernisation, we will end up altering the basic character of the city. Why will any tourist be interested in visiting Mysuru to see modern gleaming buildings? Agraharas or crowded back streets of Devaraj Urs Road are far more attractive to tourists,” he said. Dr. Shenoy said that Mysuru City Corporation wants to demolish the two heritage structures ignoring the advice of heritage experts. “If we analyse the findings of these supposedly conflicting reports, it is possible to find a solution to convert the current zero-sum game into a win-win situation,” he said. The consumer activist said all experts with competence in preserving heritage buildings have fully supported restoration of the two heritage sites. A task force, mostly consisting of Mysuru engineers with expertise in civil engineering, have submitted a report that looks like it is recommending “total demolition” of the buildings. The task force has found that while the foundation and walls are sound, the roofs require major work. The task force was also critical of shop owners who have done repair work without taking expert advice, Dr. Shenoy said in a release. He said the MGP had suggested that the collapse of some portions of Devaraja Market a few years ago was because of inadequate engineering maintenance. “This view was supported subsequently by experts. The MGP had recommended immediate restoration work,” he recalled.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/new-committee-sought-to-decide-fate-of-heritage-buildings-in-mysuru/article26207511.ece, Feb 8, 2019

‘Need for long-term action plan to rejuvenate Kanagan Eri’

In a bid aimed at creating awareness among children on the need to conserve Kanagan Eri, a waterbody located in the middle of the town, a painting competition was organised by the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) and PondyCan on the banks of the waterbody on Sunday. The objective was to create widespread awareness among students and sensitise them towards protection of water resources, its augmentation, conservation and reuse.

More participation

As many as 47 children from schools located near Kanagan Eri participated in the event organised as part of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival. Frederic Landy, Director of the French Institute of Pondicherry, said that all lakes and tanks in South India were created for bringing surface water to the farmers. Now the farmers neither use groundwater or surface water and there is no agriculture. Kanagan Eri is now a fully urban tank without any agricultural field and this posed a big danger. The idea is to make people more aware of the use of Kanagan Eri. Cities need green spaces and must preserve the natural habitat in order to attract tourists and investments. Keeping such lakes alive is necessary in the whole of Puducherry, he said.

Action plan

Stressing the need for a long-term action plan to rejuvenate the Kanagan Eri, Mr. Landy said that a similar cleaning exercise was taken up last year. Though the water hyacinth was removed it has now reappeared. This lake is a unique heritage and it should be maintained, he added. A concerted long-term action plan involving the territorial administration, companies and local associations was necessary to rejuvenate the tank, he said.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/need-for-long-term-action-plan-to-rejuvenate-kanagan-eri/article26231870.ece, Feb 11, 2019

Rare coins to be displayed at exhibition

Rare coins of the ancient era with Tamil inscriptions, collection of postal stamps and currencies of more than 150 countries together offering insight into history of various countries , and ancient Tamil Nadu will be exhibited on three days exhibition organized by Numismatic & Philatelic Association of Vellore Fort here at town hall from Friday. The three-day exhibition commencing from Friday aims to attract large crowds of enthusiasts and aficionados on all three days. An invite to school and college students for their active participation by exhibiting their collections is also planned by the event organizers . C Tamilvanan 45, Secretary of Numismatic & Philatelic Association of Vellore Fort and one of the organizer said, the association was founded before a decade in 2009 with a motive to offer insight into history of our nation especially an insight to coins introduced by kings who ruled ancient Tamil Nadu and to protect the historic monuments in Vellore district which is on the verge of destruction . Rare Taxila coins dating back to 200 BC and coins introduced by tamil rulers of various dynasties including Cheras , Arcot Nawabs and Tanjore Nayaks would be kept for display. Specially the coins released by the rulers of Tamil Nadu to celebrate commemorations and those released challenging the coins introduced by the Britishers is bound to be a real crowd puller. Also stamps and currencies of more than 150 countries and a series of world' s longest stamps released by Thailand to mark the 70th anniversary of Late King Rama's accession to the throne would be exhibited in the exhibition.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/puducherry/rare-coins-to-be-displayed-at-exhibition/articleshow/67940085.cms, Feb 11, 2019

Mizoram: Vangchhia’s ancient art of holding water in rock decoded

As the climate change has been termed as the ‘greatest moral crisis of our time’ and conflicts over water continue across the world, a lost civilisation in Mizoram that turned rocks into hidden reservoirs, could hold the key to water conservation in extreme conditions. In January 2016, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) announced discovery of a “living history museum” at Vangchhia village in Champhai district of Mizoram, bordering Myanmar. The site, measuring about 45 sq km and located 260 km from Aizawl, the state capital of Mizoram, has yielded pictographs etched on large stone slabs, menhirs — large standing stones — and a necropolis — a large cemetery — among other artefacts, reports The Hindu. It has been reported that the area is part of the Lower Himalayas, and has rows of steep hills largely made up of various kind of sandstone shading from light grey to blackish. The ancient villagers of Vangchhia carved terraces on these rocks for their settlement. The main excavated site consists of 15 such terraces. There’s is a water pavilion and strategically drilled holes — between one feet and one metre across — spread over several sandstone slopes in this village which drew attention of the archaeologists. The report quoted ASI researchers as saying that the grey sandstone is softer and home to the holes while the harder black rock is used for menhirs. The researchers within two years of study since the discovery of the Vangchhia site reportedly arrived at some theories behind the “seemingly simple science” of water harvesting, perfected several centuries ago, which could sustain local populations for at least a year. The report quoted Sujeet Nayan, the head of ASI’s Aizawl Circle, as saying: “It is remarkable how they trapped rainwater flowing down the slopes by making holes to let the water flow in and be stored in the fissures and veins of the rocks. When we began excavating in 2015-2016, we wondered why the people who lived in and around Vangchhia did not make water tanks which they appeared capable of.” Nayan also said most of the ethnic groups that inhabited these areas were at war, and the possibility of raiders poisoning water reservoirs or stealing water could have made locals devise this strategy to dissuade those not familiar with the topography. It seems water harvesting to be at the heart of the activity with the nearest river, the Tlau, located 12 km away. The archaeologists, however, have not been able to accurately date the Vangchhia settlement. Nayan said: “When we excavated the place three years ago, we thought the ruins were of the 15th century. However, the Birbal Sahni Institute later said the place dates back to the 6th century.” An ASI team recently discovered Neolithic caves near Vangchhia which indicates that the lost civilisation could be much older. The report quoted P. Rohmingthanga, convener of the Mizoram Chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), as saying: “These archaeological relics are not confined to Vangchhia and are found all over Champhai district. There are at least four more major sites — Farkawn, Dungtlang, Lianpui and Lunghunlian — that are yet to be excavated extensively with hundreds of menhirs and pictographs that tell stories of a forgotten past.”

- https://nenow.in/north-east-news/mizoram-vangchhias-ancient-art-of-holding-water-in-rock-decoded.html, Feb 12, 2019

Excavation to be conducted at 350 sites of Raigad Fort

The historic Raigad Fort, where the coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was held in the year 1674, initially had more than 350 structures which have been buried in the last 300 years. An excavation drive will be conducted at these 350 sites to find remains of the buried structures. Raigad Development Authority (RDA) Chairman and Rajya Sabha MP Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati said that one of the sites will be opened soon. He further said that excavation has already been carried out at this site but, it is closed for reconstruction work. The RDA has resorted to data collated from remote sensing satellites of the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA). It has also sought help from historians and architects. Varun Bhamare, the conservation architect of the Raigad Development Authority, said that the excavation at the first site has resulted in the discovery of stone pieces and remains of bones, which have been sent to archaeology experts for the purpose of dating. Chhatrapati further said that the Raigad Fort is the biggest fort spread over an area of 1,250 acre. He said, “that is the reason for the fort to be referred to as Gibraltar of the East. It had many structures as Shivaji Maharaj himself constructed it as the capital of his empire and architect Hirolji Indulkar built the structures keeping in mind the activities that were performed in those days.” Chhatrapati said that while developing the Raigad Fort as a model fort, 21 villages that fall within its seven-kilometer-radius will also be developed. He added that a tender of Rs 7 crore for construction of roads inside these 21 villages has been already floated. Bhamare said that Raigad Fort conservation and restoration will be done by using material from the local area and without disturbing the old structure.


Minister for tourism Jaikumar Rawal informed that the state government will provide employment opportunities with regard to restoration of historic forts. He informed that various types of voluntary work undertaken by NGOs can be included under the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. He brought out a government resolution (GR) and handed it over to Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati during a one-day fort conference at the Raigad Fort on Monday.

- https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-excavation-to-be-conducted-at-350-sites-of-raigad-fort-2719275, Feb 12, 2019

India’s Jogulamba temple to become new tourist hotspot

The Jogulamba Gadwal district plans to give the ancient site a complete makeover and attract more visitors With the beauty of Taj Mahal, the neverending beaches of Goa, and the vibrant energy of the Holi festival, India has many reasons to welcome millions of tourists every year. And soon, the subcontinent will provide its visitors with yet another impressive hotspot. The ancient Jogulamba temple in the Telangana state’s city of Alampur has already been a sacred site attracting pilgrims across India as well as from foreign countries. Now, the local authorities have decided to invest in its renovation as well as in the improvement of the city’s infrastructure and facilities to turn the location into a new hub. The administration of Jogulamba Gadwal district — where the temple is located — plans a huge makeover of the ancient site. To provide the visitors with comfortable conditions for their stay, the district will also set up new restaurants and parking lots, lay out new roads, and renovate bus stops. In addition, the district will build an auditorium for cultural programmes and other basic facilities allowing the tourist to spend more time there. In Sanghameshwara — a nearby city on the Srisalaim dam — new bathing ghats will be established. The proposals were prepared by the Telangana Tourism Development Corporation and have to be approved by the Union ministry of tourism. The Jogulamba temple is part of the Alampur Navabhrama Temples and it is listed by the Archaeological Survey of India under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. It is considered one of the country’s Shakti Peethas — significant shrines and pilgrimage destinations in Shaktism, the goddess-focused Hindu tradition. The uniqueness of the Alampur group of temples lies mainly in their plan and design in the northern architectural style introduced by the Chalukyas of Badami between 650 CE and 750 CE. Alampur is also easily accessible to foreign visitors. The city lies around 220 km from Hyderabad and is connected by the Hyderabad–Bangalore highway.

- https://www.kiwi.com/stories/indias-jogulamba-temple-become-new-tourist-hotspot/, Feb 13, 2019