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January 2019

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With 506 monuments, Karnataka leads South India in ASI list

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recently declared that it has added six structures to the list of monuments of national importance, taking the total number to 3,693. With 506 monuments under its belt, Karnataka continues to top the list in South India, followed by Tamil Nadu (413). Nationally too, Karnataka is in the second place after Uttar Pradesh, which has 745 such monuments. However, two proposals from the state — the over 200-year-old Tipu armoury in Bengaluru and Nagareshwara Temple in Halebidu, Hassan, dating back to the Hoysala era — haven’t been added to the national list as the Centre wants ASI, Bangalore Circle to make some changes to the proposal. Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The list was presented in the Lok Sabha last week by the ministry of culture. K Moortheshwari, superintending archaeologist, ASI, Bengaluru Circle, told TOI that the state has been proposing Tipu armoury in Bengaluru for the national list since 2014. “For a monument to make it to the national list requires a lot of groundwork and we have been making necessary changes to the proposal every year. It will take time,” said an official from the Bengaluru office. Tipu Sultan, who was the king of Mysuru between 1782 and 1799, is believed to have built 10 armouries to assist him in his fight against the British. Eight such structures are in Srirangapatna, while one is in Pandavapura and another in Bengaluru. An official with the ASI said they can’t take up protection work of the armoury in Bengaluru unless it is declared a monument. The structure continues to be in a sorry state due to lack of maintenance. Another monument, the Nagareshwara Temple, also has a glorious legacy. According to archaeologists, the temple premises, which has a set of five separate structures dating back to the Hoysala dynasty, was excavated during 1987-88. The dynasty ruled this part of the region between 10th and 14th century. According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, any structure, sculpture, inscription, etc., which is in existence for not less than 100 years is termed ancient. Though Tamil Nadu finds itself in the third spot in total number of monuments of national importance, it has been topping the country in overall tourist traffic. The state has many spectacular temples like the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai and some of them are over 1,400 years old. While Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh follow TN in tourist footfall, Karnataka finds itself in the sixth spot. As per the tourist traffic statistics released in 2017, over 34 crore tourists from within the country visited various parts of TN. The numbers for UP was about 22 crore.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/with-506-monuments-karnataka-leads-south-india-in-asi-list/articleshow/67355800.cms, Jan 1-2, 2019

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On the Vegetation of Kashmir through Past Archaeobotany

Archaeobotany is the complementary discipline of archaeology; it provides aids to understand man-land relationships of prehistoric times. The archaeobotanist identifies wild and domesticated plants, investigates origins of domestication of plants and traces the progress made in ancient agricultural practices. Archaeobotany deals with the origins of plant domestication based on the recovery of plant remains from archaeological contexts, their identification in the laboratory followed by processual interpretation of culture change as well as morphological changes in cultivated plants. Morphological changes in plants are attributed to adaptations to system of cultivation and human harvesting. It combines botanical knowledge with archaeological materials. Botanical remains include two broad categories of evidence Macroscopic and Microscopic, seeds, woods, parenchyme tissue, and plant impression; these are macroscopic. The microscopic remains are pollens, phytoliths and diatoms and palaofaces (coprolits). Archaeobotanists analyze and interpret the plant remains that come out of archaeological site from both the reproductive parts and the wood charcoal. It tells a story about human plant interactions in the past (paleoethnobotany). We can learn different things from the archaeological plant record, for example, if a group was intensively farming and relying very heavily on corn beans and squash or whether, they had a nice mixed diet. We can learn things about wood use such as common woods that people were bringing in for fires to cook their food and keep warm. We can track whether they were using those and resources up over time. The archaeobotanical study can also be employed in depicting the origin and history of agriculture. Human efforts to animate for a comfortable life and evolution from food gathering to food producing is also depicted through the study of ancient plant remains. The plant remains and archaeological sites are primarily acquired through a process called flotation, so archaeobotanists take flotation samples( basically dirt samples) and they are put in water and the plant parts in the samples float on the surface of the water, then they are skimmed off and saved which is what archaeobotanists look under the microscope. The samples with the best information are the result of accidental burning in prehistory. The events of the earliest cultivation by man could be depicted through pollen analysis of lake and swamp by taking core samples. Such studies in Kashmir at Haigam Lake and Anchar Lake trace the beginnings of agriculture in the valley to 4000 years BP. The earliest evidence of agriculture in India dates back to 7000-8000 years BP. Kashmir valley is unique in respect of changes that have taken place in vegetation and climate in the late Cenozoic times. The record of past vegetation of Kashmir has been obtained through palaeobotanic and palynological studies of the Karewa sediments. The evidence of the vegetation of Kashmir during pliocene has come from the investigation at Dubjan and Hirpur localities in the Karewa series (Agrawal 1985).The records of Pleistocene vegetative of Kashmir have come from sites like Laredura, Liddarmarg, Pakharpura, Khaigam and so on There were so many agricultural crop remains recovered from occupation at Burzahom in various phases. Cereals, a pulse, some horticultural crops, weed seeds have been recovered from Burzahom (Neolithic I) are extremely interesting. The megalithic period at Burzahom is characterized by the introduction of rice. At Semthan(3500-2600YBP), the main plant assemblages recovered above natural soil are rice, barley, and wheat. During the Neolithic I era, the inhabitants of Burzahom practiced single cropping system of agriculture( that is, they were growing winter crops only). The introduction of rice both at Burzahom and Semthan indicates a change in food habits and suggests that the inhabitants were advanced in terms of agriculture because rice requires a good amount of water for optimal growth. So we can say that people were very smart and astute observers of their environment and they had a broad-based diet of both plants they grew in their fields and wild plants that they utilized. They brought nutrition and vitamins and minerals to the table. They also brought enough calories for their people to have children and be able to stay on the landscape. In a nutshell, Archaeobotany focuses on the study of preserved plant evidence from archaeological sites and the reconstruction and interpretation of past human-plant relationships. More excavations and pollen analysis are needed in order to know the human-plant interactions.

- https://kashmirreader.com/2019/01/04/on-the-vegetation-of-kashmir-through-past-archaeobotany/, Jan 3, 2019

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Jamshedpur: Discover The City Within The Steel City

As everyone is busy adding places to their 2019 travel bucket list, how about getting a head start with a trip to ‘Jampot’ Jamshedpur? Popularly known as the Steel City of India, if offers a pleasant weekend getaway from Kolkata and Ranchi, especially in winter. From de rigueur sightseeing to food tripping to adventure sports to visit to a wildlife sanctuary, this prime city in Jharkhand offers a slew of attractions to suit all age groups. Often referred to as a city envisioned by a Parsi, planned by an American, named by a British Viceroy and landscaped by a German botanist, Jamshedpur has come a long way since the foundation laid on February 28, 1908. To get a grip on its over a century old history, begin with a Heritage Walk titled ‘Kalimati to Jamshedpur’ organised on Sundays (8am to 10am from October to March; contact: 0657-2320109) by INTACH – Jharkhand chapter, in collaboration with a private enterprise Kalamandir. It is the parks and lakes that have made Jamshedpur one of the greenest cities of India. Start with the sprawling Jubilee Park where tree-lined pathways will take you past gardens full of seasonal flowers by day and illuminated musical fountains by night. If you have kids in tow, you may. At one end of the park is the Tata Steel Zoological Park (open 10am to 4pm; ticketed entry). Jayanti Sarovar, adjacent to the zoo, is home to migratory birds in winter. Off the main entrance to Jubilee Park is the Centre for Excellence (open Tuesday and Saturday, 9.30am to 4pm) designed by globally renowned Hafeez Contractor. A series of pillars rising from waterbodies line the way to the main building. In keeping with the architectural legacy, there are many installation arts on display by students and aspiring artists. A tour (available on request) of the Founders Gallery and the Tata Steel Archives throw up a lot of interesting nuggets of information, such as the company supplying the steel for the construction of the iconic Howrah Bridge, the indigenously built armoured vehicles supplied during World War II where considered extremely safe and called Tatanagar, that Tisco was the first steel plant in the world to install (in 1914) an Ice and Soda Machine to supply cool refreshments to its workers labouring in extreme temperatures, etc. If you are an art lover, do not miss the display of original MF Hussain works or the works of Anjolie Ela Menon, Jatin Das and others in the Art Gallery. The Tribal Culture Centre is the city’s acknowledgement of its rise from the tribal heartland of eastern India. Apart from being an activity centre for the tribal people, it also showcases the lifestyle of four of the leading tribes of the region through artefacts ranging from items of daily use to handicraft and handloom. Being a multi-cultural city from its birth, Jamshedpur is dotted with many religious institutions such as the Bhubaneswari Temple, Parsi Fire Temple, Sakchi Masjid, St Georges Church, Sakchi Gurudwara, etc. No visit to Jamshedpur can be complete without visiting the Dalma hills and the Dimna Lake along the foothill. Known for its sunrise and sunset views, Dimna Lake is also a popular picnic spot. Food tripping in Jamshedpur could itself be an excuse to visit the steel city. From roadside stalls to musically inclined cafes to heritage restaurants, the city has something for every taste. Take your pick from Fakira’s chanachur (a spicy snack mix), Bhatia’s milkshake, or dosas from Madrasi Hotel (dating back to 1935), or kulfi at Navajivan. And if you are keen to sample some local cuisine, try litti –chokha at Kewat’s eatery in Sakchi area. Catch up with the city’s young brigade at the first floor café of Brubeck Bakery, run by the Boulevard Hotel. An institution by itself, the hotel, dating back to the 1940s, also runs the Chopsticks restaurant known for its dishes ranging from Goa to Thailand, from Parsee to Continental. The tea lounge La Gravitea (which employs differently abled serviced staff) and the newly opened Social 75 restaurant are popular with the young executives of Jamshedpur. Café Regal, housed in the iconic Bharucha building, smacks of nostalgia. Apart from its regular fare of hot and cold beverages, sandwiches and pasta, etc., it also serves a special Parsee lunch on Sundays (advance order recommended). If you are looking for a lively nightlife, drop in at Double Down, the city’s first discotheque and pub, where the city’s musicians and bands will regale you with a mix of retro and latest hits. An early morning or a late afternoon can be devoted to cycling along a 25km trail extending from Marine Drive (along the Subarnarekha River) to the zoo via Adityapur Bridge, Outer Circle Road, Inner Circle Road, and Uliyan Loop Road. See the rivers Subarnarekha river (lying to the north of Jamshedpur) meets the Kharkai river (lying to the east of the city) at a point called Do Mohani. The water sports centre at Dimna Lake has a variety of options – from regular motor boats to canoes to water surfing. Go hiking in the depths of Dalma hills lying to the north of the city. Or take an early morning drive through Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary (obtain prior permission from Range Forest Office, Mango, Jamshedpur). And before you say goodbye to the Steel City, do not forget to shop for tribal handloom and handicraft. Dhokra (Dokra) artefacts, utility products made from ‘sabai’ grass, folk paintings, and masks are some of the widely available items. Karigar Okhai and Biponi in Bistupur area stock a variety of tribal artefacts. Getting There: Birsa Munda Airport in Jharkhand’s capital city Ranchi is the nearest airport (150km by road) for Jamshedpur. Tatanagar (as the city’s railway station is named) is connected to Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities. Best time to visit – October to March.

- https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/explore/story/69297/jamshedpur-discover-the-city-within-the-steel-city, Jan 4, 2019

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Najafgarh lake to be dammed? Alarm bells ring for wetland, flooding-prone city

The Haryana government may be backtracking from its commitment to declare the Najafgarh lake and its influence area a wetland. Last week, state forest minister Rao Narbir Singh rolled out a proposal to build a bund on a portion of the marshes to reclaim land belonging to local farmers submerged under spillage from the eponymous lake and drain. In 2016, the government had submitted a brief in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change, committing to notify Najafgarh lake and the surrounding marshes — which lie on the Haryana-Delhi border, giving both states jurisdiction — as a wetland. The document (a copy of which is with TOI) requests the Union ministry to notify 300 acres in Kherki Majra and Dhankot near the lake as a wetland. A 5sqkm area remains underwater perennially, turning the surroundings of the lake into a wetland that is now known for a rich avian ecosystem. The 7km-long Najafgarh lake and the drain are the only outlets for floodwater from Gurugran, which is already battling a flooding problem hugely disproportionate with the rainfall it receives. The lake and surrounding marshes are also an important habitat for many plant species and over 280 bird species, including greater flamingos, sarus cranes and greater white pelicans. According to local farmers, around 5,500 acres of land in eight villages — Dharampur, Momdheri, Daultabad, Kherki Majra, Dhankot, Chandu, Budhera and Makrola — remain flooded most of the year, preventing them from farming on it. Last week, the minister said if farmers sell 94 acres of their land to the government at market price, a bund could be built on it to prevent the area from flooding. “For the last 20 years, over 10,000 farmers from eight villages have not been able to use their land for agriculture due to waterlogging caused by contaminated industrial waste and sewage flowing from Najafgarh drain,” said Rakesh Daultabad, a local resident who runs an NGO. “Over 5,500 acres of land will be saved if the bund is built. I don’t think it will impact Najafgarh lake as it’s 12-13km from the proposed bund site. The bund will also prevent overflow of contaminated water into surrounding fields,” he added. “The bund will help us carry out agriculture in the land. Delhi constructed a bund long back, which benefited the farmers in Delhi. However, the Haryana government has not taken any step. We are glad that the minister took up the issue and is ready to help us,” said a landowner from Dhankot, requesting anonymity. But environmentalists and birders say once water is contained in a bund, it will sound the death knell for the wetland, which is a major groundwater recharge zone for both Delhi and Gurugram. “The Haryana government committed in a court of law, and submitted in writing, that it would notify Najafgarh lake as a wetland. If there is no wetland, there won’t be any birds. It will become a sewage drain, as it has already become in Delhi. Blindly replicating Delhi’s destructive model will lead to loss of one of NCR’s biggest wetlands,” said Pankaj Gupta of Delhi Bird Foundation. Describing the bund proposal as “hydrologically destructive” for Gurugram, Manu Bhatnagar of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) said, “The Najafgarh drain and bund will destroy the lake without even solving the problem of waterlogging. We don’t need to save land, we need to some more land under water. We’re absolutely against the bund. These are only money-making projects for engineers, contractors and politicians. It’s hydrologically destructive for a city like Gurgaon, which will soon run out of groundwater.” INTACH, a non-profit organisation, filed a petition in NGT four years ago, demanding wetland status for Najafgarh lake. Bhatnagar’s proposed solution is, “Najafgarh lake can become a Ramsar site. By declaring it a wetland, authorities can generate various revenue streams from tourism, which can bring in money. Right now, authorities are looking at it solely through the lens of real estate. They’re not thinking of what will sustain that real estate project.” A Ramsar site is a designated wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/najafgarh-lake-to-be-dammed-alarm-bells-ring-for-wetland-flooding-prone-city/articleshow/67373464.cms, Jan 4, 2019

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7 ways to become environmentally friendly!

Wendell Berry quotes “The Earth is what we all have in common”. We not only inherit it from our ancestors we also have to pass it on to our next generation. We therefore have a responsibility to fulfill towards the condition of the Earth. We need to make constant efforts towards making the environment; we live in, a pure, healthy, safe and green abode for all! Healing the environment means healing oneself. The key lies in becoming environmentally friendly and treating the environment as precious. Of the many steps that humankind has taken towards protecting the environment, one is the taking the help of environmental testing labs. NABL accredited labs in India have been offering a variety of environment safety services. Testing labs in Delhi particularly are well equipped to provide such high-end services like testing and inspection of the environment along with environment consulting services. Environmental testing labs help in Environmental Impact Assessment, noise pollution surveys, waste management strategies, green audits, monitoring indoor air quality, environment monitoring, occupational safety etc. With these NABL accredited labs already working towards conserving the environment, let us see how we as responsible humans can contribute towards creating a more sustainable environment.

1:- Awareness of the precious resources:

Our cars which run on petrol is a type of non renewable resource and hence should not be wasted. Natural gases which are most commonly used in heating applications are also a non-renewable resource and must be utilized efficiently. First know the precious resources around you! Be alert, aware and watchful when you utilise water, heat foods or other stuff, use electricity, drive a car, eat or drink and even when you waste. Pay greater attention to these minute details of the basic resources you use in your daily life. Being aware is your first step towards making environment friendly decisions and choices.

2:- Choose to conserve:

Now that you are aware of your essential resources, it is time to act responsibly towards them and practice the art of conservation. Begin to conserve your resources by simple acts like switching off the lights and fans in a room that doesn’t need them to be on or not keeping the water running from the tap while you brush your teeth. Your skills of conservation can then expand to even creating an entire environment friendly house! Like having zero plastic accessories or equipments in your house.

3:- Plant more and more trees:

A simple deed with big benefits. Trees-always have, still do and shall always be of only advantage to the humans. Providing us with food, oxygen, shelter, pure air, protection from soil erosion and landslides- the blessings from a tree are innumerable. Tree plantation will only make the Earth’s environment a purer, healthier, safer, greener and fabulous place to live in.

4:- Increase the conservation of water:

Water, the elixir of life. Yes! This priceless elixir demands zero wastage. It is time to take shorter showers, no brushing with taps running, fix all those leaking taps and pipes, recycle and reuse the water in your home. Using water saving appliances is a great idea. Conserve and use the rainwater too. Fill it in a rain barrel and you can use this water for multiple purposes in your own house.

5:- Modify your travel practices:

Constructively alter the way you travel and you will end up saving so much of fuel along with cutting down on pollution levels. Opt for travel options that are fuel efficient, choose shorter and direct routines, try walking it out or cycling away to your destination, pool in others and travel together. 5 cars, carrying one person each, on the roads would lead to much higher levels of air and noise pollution than 5 people in just one car. Make your choices smartly.

6:- Bid adieu to hazardous chemicals:

Innumerable harmful chemicals that are released into the environment can destruct the purity of air and water and the poisonous ingredients even seep underground at times. Ammonia, paints, pesticides, bleach, oils, printer chemicals etc can have extremely dangerous consequences on the nature and human health. Their usage must be reduced to the minimal and they require safe disposal at toxic waste sites.

7:- Encourage the use of recycled products.

Apart from recycling and reusing products at home, also indulge in using recycled products commercially. Buy products where the usage of plastics, chemicals, polystyrene etc has been minimal in the production process. Encourage the trend of buying environment-friendly items that have been produced from recyclable material. With such small yet imperative measures, each one of us can create a wholesome and nourishing environment. Each person and each effort counts. Let us come together and make our environment a greener and happier place!

- https://www.environmental-expert.com/news/7-ways-to-become-environmentally-friendly-785985, Jan 4, 2019

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Conservationists push for Unesco heritage tag for terra cotta temples

Lack of renovation and neglect at the local level: these are the two biggest threats to hundreds of terra cotta temples in Gangetic Bengal. At some of the temples, the arched entrances had been damaged and the detailed carvings of terra cotta panels “plained” or given a fresh coat of paint by local masons during repairs, resulting in the loss of the tangible heritage forever, rued Amit Guha and Sourav Niyogi of Bengal Heritage Foundation who conserved the tomb of Dwarkanath Tagore and unveiled his bust at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. "These temples are not only architecturally rich but also represent the region’s culture, closely associated with contemporary movements in religion, literature and art as well as political, social and economic development of those times. They must be recognized as a Unescolisted World Heritage Site. Terra cotta cluster tourism should be conceptualized and promoted because local people tend to become more aware of the heritage when outsiders start visiting the place,” said Guha, who has been visiting Bankura, Birbhum, Murshidabad and Burdwan for his research on these temples. Guha and Niyogi spoke at a session on Bengal’s heritage at Indian Museum on Friday afternoon. Terra cotta is a type of unglazed and brownish-red fire clay, which is used to create anything, from sculptures to temples. Numerous temples of different shapes and sizes were built with intricate terra cotta carvings between 15th and 19th century. They were commissioned by local rulers, zamindars and landlords. The sutradhars (architects) would move from one place to another and settle for years till the construction of a temple was complete. “These sutradhars were artisans with great expertise. Before leaving, they would hand over a document to the patron on how to maintain it. With time, those documents were lost, leading to lack of renovation in future,” Guha said. Indian Statistical Institute has also built a Bishnupur Heritage Database, which has images of different temples of Bishnupur, one of the well-known heritage sites in the country. The database is developed to support research on the digital preservation of the historical sites. “All of us want to do something for Kolkata and Bengal, which are rich in tangible and intangible heritage. It is our constant effort to collaborate with various organisations, communities and individuals to come up with ideas to protect our heritage monuments and culture,” said Rajesh Purohit, director of Indian Museum.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/conservationists-push-for-unesco-heritage-tag-for-terra-cotta-temples/articleshow/67391622.cms, Jan 4, 2019

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‘State-sponsored vandalism’: Heritage experts are unhappy with Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan

These days, motor vehicles, rickshaws and pedestrians have a tough time navigating the 1.5-km stretch from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Mosque in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. Workers have been digging trenches along the road since December 6 as part of the Aam Aadmi Party government’s Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan. The project, scheduled to be completed by January 2020 at an estimated cost of Rs 65 crore, mostly involves decongesting the area’s skyline, an unwieldy clutter of electric and telephone wires. “We are going to lay all electrical wiring in these trenches,” said Pankaj Kumar, a project supervisor. Historians say a canal ran the length of this road when Chandni Chowk was laid out by the 17th century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It’s clear water reflected moonlight, lending the place a stunning air and its name, Moonlight Square. The redevelopment plan does not aim to revive the old canal. Instead, the trenches will form a 3.5-metre wide central verge housing electric transformers, police booths and toilets. But conservation experts are not impressed. “Today, Chandni Chowk is a mess,” said AGK Menon, former convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage who drafted the aborted proposal to nominate Delhi for UNESCO’s World Heritage City tag. “But when we say redevelopment, we mean what exists should be upgraded and the area should not lose its character. This does not mean that we are anti-development as conservation is also development.” He pointed out that the proposed central verge will split Chandni Chowk into two parts. “With the transformers, police booths, toilets you will not be able to see the other side of the street,” Menon explained. “It will act as a wall.” The project has also run into trouble with the Delhi Urban Art Commission, which is required to have approved it. But a senior official at the commission claimed they did not receive any proposal about redeveloping Chandni Chowk from the government. “We have no idea what is happening,” the official said. “We saw news reports about this and we sent a letter to the chief secretary a week ago. We are yet to receive any response.” The authority is empowered by the Delhi Urban Art Commission Act, 1973 to approve, reject or modify any proposal for redevelopment of “historically sensitive areas” such as those around Jama Masjid, Red Fort and Qutub Minar. “We have to check if the aesthetic of the plan matches that of the area,” the official explained. “We can’t allow them to dig up a road like this till we have checked the colours, textures and materials being used.” Scroll.in tried contacting Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also heads the tourism ministry, Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation chairman Satyendar Jain, Chandni Chowk’s MP Harsh Vardhan and legislator Alka Lamba for comment, but none of them responded to calls or text messages.

‘No motor vehicles during day’

Pradeep Sachdeva, the architect who designed the plan, said the central verge will have enough space to park 28 handcarts and house 23 transformers, six toilet units, three urinals, two water ATMs, three CCTV control rooms, and four police posts. Once the work is completed, the street will be open only to pedestrians from 9 am to 9 pm and non-motorised vehicles such as cycle rickshaws. “This is the most crucial aspect of the plan,” Sachdeva said. Since reviving the Mughal canal is unfeasible, Sachdeva said, they have “symbolised it in the design by placing water-like patterns in the centre”. “We can’t look after water bodies,” he added. “In our previous projects such as Dilli Haat at INA and Emporium Complex in Connaught Place, we found that canals tend to get full of waste.” The architect said they have already received permission to carry out the work from the Delhi Development Authority’s Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure Planning and Engineering Centre. However, they have also received a letter from the Archaeological Survey of India saying “we needed their permission”. “But it does not appear so because we are not building anything,” Sachdeva said. “We may also have received a letter from the Delhi Urban Art Commission about this, but I am not sure about the details.”

‘Chandni Chowk’s image will change’

The historian Sohail Hashmi, who conducts heritage walks in Old Delhi, disapproves of the plan because it does not involve the local people. “This is only being done keeping in mind the tourist experience,” he said. “What about the old shops and havelis? The plan does not include restoring those elements.” Chandni Chowk was built as a residential enclave for up to three lakh people, Hashmi pointed out. “Today, it has become a space for wholesale trade,” he added. “When this city was designed, there were no trams. It was designed for people to walk or for palanquins to pass. Now it has become a market for eight states selling hardware, spices and grains.” Kanchi Kohli, who studies environment regulation at the Centre for Policy Research, argued that the plan “raises larger questions about what implications it could have”. “If the road is only for pedestrians, how is it linked to larger public transport plans?” she asked. “There is need for more transparency and public participation. AAP has held up these aspects as the hallmarks of their government, so they should have a systematic approach to having a public discourse.” From a heritage perspective, the proposed central verge will be detrimental to Chandni Chowk’s aesthetic appeal, said Swapna Liddle, convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Delhi. “It is definitely important to have underground wiring but it will be difficult to reimagine what Chandni Chowk looked like earlier,” she explained. “The canal cannot be revived because, surely, water bodies are difficult to maintain. But how do we design this to delineate where it was?” In any case, Liddle argued, Chandni Chowk needs regulation more than a redesign. “It is more commercial today,” she said. “The character of the place has completely changed. We need to see how redevelopment can create a balance. For instance, what will the regulation be to stop encroachments on the pedestrian space? It is a matter of control.” Menon agreed with Liddle that the central verge is the “least desirable aspect” of the plan. “It will completely change the image of Chandni Chowk,” he said. “It’s an iconic, historic area. This is state-sponsored vandalism. In my opinion, doing nothing is a better alternative than desecration.”

- https://scroll.in/article/907426/state-sponsored-vandalism-why-heritage-experts-are-unhappy-with-chandni-chowk-redevelopment-plan, Jan 5-7, 2019

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Agra’s footwear industries: A heritage that contributes to India’s economy

The hub of footwear manufacture in India since mughal era, Agra is slowly losing in edge to more business-friendly ecosystems in neighbouring states, not very effective implementation of the central Government's MSME policies, the Taj trapezium, and exports from China. With its army of highly skilled leather processing and footwear manufacturing workers and artisans, Agra still accounts for 65 per cent and 28 per cent of all domestic consumption and export of footwear, respectively, but the city's ease of business doing ranking has slipped to the current 14, from 10 in 2015. “Shoe making started (in Agra) in the Mughal era with leather mushaks which were used to carry hing, converting it into shoes,” we were informed by Puran Dawar, Chairman, Dawar Footwear Industries, and President, Agra Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Chamber (AFMEC). He also told us that it was from the 1960s and 1980s that the city’s footwear industries flourished the most, thanks primarily to footwear exports to the erstwhile Soviet Union. According to conservative estimates, 13 per cent of all shoe trade in Agra in 1963 was with Russia and its satellite countries. Shoe exports to the Soviet Union in the early 1980s was worth ?1,200 crores from the 150 odd shoe exporters in Agra. It was after the fall of the Soviet Union that the decline started and other factors that followed, such as the Taj Trapezium, added to the worrisome slowing down of the industry’s growth. Currently, industry watchers say that Agra’s leather and footwear industries need help more sooner than later. According to our sources in the industry, Agra is still one of the biggest clusters in the footwear sector in India among Kolkata, Kanpur and Chennai. “There are around 10,000 micro-size units; 150 small-scale industry units; around 30 medium-scale units; and, around 15 large-scale units in the city,” says Dawar. He also added that, currently, more than 2 lakh pairs are manufactured in the city everyday day and there are over 3.5 lakh people employed in the footwear segment in Agra. Agra’s huge potential to impact the global footwear market has been recognized by the government, which released a special package of ?2600 crore last year for implementing its Indian Footwear, Leather & Accessories Development Programme. In tandem, MSME Development Institutes are working on imparting business and technical knowledge of the sector to already-existing entrepreneurs as well as those who want to work in this sector. Though these, and other similar efforts, have started making a difference, it is not much. Government statistics show a dip over the past few years in the numbers of students that enroll for entrepreneurship and skill-development programmes. The 2017 Central Footwear Training Institute, Agra, annual report shows that the number of students in the institute in 2014–15, 2015–16 and 2016–17 was 9,210, 4,573 and 2,697, respectively. The only reason that comes to mind here is that the average daily earnings of a skilled footwear worker is a pittance compared to the earnings of even an unskilled daily labourer in nearby New Delhi, and this situation will change only once the sector regains its old glory and becomes as profitable as it once was. An skilled worker I spoke with in Agra said his daily earnings were in the range ?200–?250, compared to the minimum wage of ?485 of his New Delhi counterpart. Another red flag is India’s declining footwear export, which is negatively impacting revenues in even the Agra footwear sector. World footwear data states that in year 2016, India exported 236 million pairs out of 2.26 billion pairs manufactured i.e. 1.7 per cent share in worldwide exports. While in 2017 first semester, Indian exports went down again by 2.8 per cent reaching only 97 per cent of the amount registered in similar period last year. India exports mainly leather footwear, representing a 73 per cent share in total, and these have declined 8.2 per cent in the first six months of 2017, driving the overall fall in exports value. Although we could not come across specific data on how much Agra is losing in terms of revenue as a result of the decline in exports, the exporters and manufacturers we spoke with confirmed that they are facing problems in exporting the finished goods. Ajay Pratap Singh, one such exporter, told us that “There are number of reasons which can be accountable for decline in export orders such as competitive prices from other countries like Bangladesh, importers have been migrating there. Diminishing manufacturing units is also a reason; even government policies are not giving us much relief.” A 2016 ICRA report on the Indian footwear sector confirms the trend. The report says that appreciation in Rupee value against major currencies; regulations and restrictions on slaughter houses and tanneries that impacted availability of raw material; and reforms such as demonetisation and GST have had adverse effects on the sector. The report also stated current consumer trends shifting away from traditionally made shoes to global brands. ICRA figures show a decline for two consecutive years by ~9 per cent in FY16 and ~5 per cent in FY17. Further in April–June 2017–2018, the overall export in leather footwear and leather goods dipped by 4.89 per cent when compared to April–June 16–17 cycle. Despite many government initiatives and budget notifications for the sector, footwear manufacturers and exporters think that a lot still remains to be done. Dawar underscored the importance of putting a single-window system in place. He says that the sector in Uttar Pradesh is not getting much benefits from the much-touted initiatives. “The initiatives for the sector are totally on paper. Single window system is not effective at all for us,” according to him. Footwear manufacturers are also questioning the ambitious target of $10 billion in export revenues by 2024–25 at the time when government has shut down many (unauthorised) tanneries and the many footwear factories in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) have been sealed. “Tanneries are banned in TTZ and manufacturers are facing issues in procuring raw hides. Due to this, manufacturing is suffering and resulting in the decreasing trend in the exports,” Singh told us. Another challenge which manufacturers are facing is rising capital costs, which small manufacturers cannot easily bear on account of the high interest rates on commercial loans which are in the range 9%–14%. “Capital cost is really high in India. Other countries in spite of the best of the infrastructure compare to us are funded at 2%–3%. But here interest rates are quite high which is sometimes unaffordable for small manufacturers” says Singh. “We can’t compete fairly even in in-house clusters when there is a gap of supply on the raw material front. That’s why small manufacturers are moving rapidly towards synthetic leather manufacturing,” says one shoe manufacturers in Agra, on conditions of anonymity. For countering the issue of raw material unavailability, Dawar say the two measures that will be effective are: (i) An effective single-window system; (ii) Independent compliance audits. Other major roadblocks for small shoe vendors and manufacturers are competition from e-commerce and premiumization drives by global and national brands that are resulting in a shift in consumer trends. With rise in in incomes of middle-class households and those in younger age brackets, demand for premium brands have eaten up a major chunk of traditional footwear’s share. According to Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industries of India (ASSOCHAM) data, domestic footwear sales registered around ?4.5 billion in 2017, of which 26 per cent was sales of global and national brands and this number, the data says, is expected to rise to 29 per cent by end of fiscal 2020. E-commerce platforms are also giving brick-and-mortar retailers stiff competition. Due to predatory pricing, low-tech knowledge and lack of digital presence, small businesses are lagging much behind online marketplaces. Buyers are also gravitating towards online shopping because of the convenience and heavy discounts on offer. The footwear sector in Agra needs to establish an online presence in order to compete with e-commerce and needs government help to do so. Despite the many challenges, Agra’s footwear sector is slowly but surely transforming into a more technology and innovation driven sector, thanks to the collective efforts of Agra Footwear Association and the MSME Development Institute. Moreover, players in the sector have also started enhancing their channel strategies by participating in footwear expos both in India and abroad. “Agra is definitely growing, thanks to international expos we have now expanded our presence from Central Europe to the US, through New Zealand and Caribbean countries,” Dawar told us. He also informed us about the annual Meet At Agra event which has now become an effective platform for networking. Reviving Agra’s footwear industry and raising it up to the level it was at just a couple of decades ago is not an easy task. But no matter how tough the job is or how long it takes, the government should focus on it very hard and work along with entrepreneurs and workers not only because it is a heritage worth preserving but also because it is an industry that has the potential to contribute significantly to the nations GDP, along with providing livelihood and employment to many.

- https://www.smefutures.com/agras-footwear-industries-heritage-contributes-indias-economy/, Jan 8, 2019

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Decks cleared for opening of Netaji museum in Puri

Decks have been cleared for the Odisha government to throw open to public the museum dedicated to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at the freedom fighter’s ancestral house in the beach town of Puri with the Orissa high court vacating a status quo order issued by it on the property five years ago. The building was in a dilapidated condition when it was taken over by the Puri district administration in 2013. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), which was entrusted with the restoration work, has repaired it by using traditional techniques in lime plaster to retain the original architecture of the house. As part of the museum project, old furniture in the house had been conserved and the entire premise landscaped. An open-air pandal had also been constructed with the aim of holding cultural programmes for the entertainment of visitors. Efforts had also been made to display rare pictures, documents, journals and magazines related to Netaji at the museum to attract tourists. But the state government had sought the permission of the high court to open it for public as the HC had issued a status quo order on the property. “There is no legal hurdle now for the state government to open the museum as a division bench of Justices Sanju Panda and S K Sahoo vacated the status quo order on January 3,” additional government advocate (AGA) Kishore Kumar Mishra told TOI on Monday. According to official records, the house situated at Mati Mandap Sahi in the temple town was built by Netaji’s father Janakinath Bose on 0.434 acres of land allotted on lease to him for residential purpose in 1916 by the then Puri collector. The lease was to be renewed every 30 years. After Janakinath passed away in 1938, the land and the building were recorded in the name of Netaji and other members of his family. Later, the lease was updated several times. In 1997, the family’s descendants demanded a permanent patta for the bungalow. This sparked off a legal dispute between the Puri collector’s office and the heirs of the Bose family before the court of revenue divisional commissioner (central). Later, Netaji’s family members urged the RDC to exclude the name of the leader from the owners’ list. The matter was pending for years till February 2013, when the then RDC Aravind Padhee rejected the plea and directed the Puri district administration to acquire the land and the building. Accordingly, the district administration took control of the land on March 3, 2013. Subsequently, Netaji’s grandnephew Supriyo Bose (the grandson of Netaji’s eldest brother Satish) and other descendants of Netaji’s family challenged in the high court the takeover of the property by the state government and managed to get status quo order in the same year. The case had then languished till the state government sought permission for opening the museum in August 2017. Acting on it, the high court called for records. The state government informed the HC that it had already spent around Rs 4 crore in transforming the centuries-old house into a museum dedicated to Netaji. “While vacating the status quo order, the division bench further quashed the order of the RDC that had directed the Puri district administration to acquire the land and the building and order of collector taking control of the land on the grounds of jurisdiction,” Mishra said. “The bench directed both parties — the state government and the petitioners (descendants of Netaji’s family) — to work out a settlement in accordance with law,” the AGA said.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/cuttack/decks-cleared-for-opening-of-netaji-museum-in-puri/articleshow/67425558.cms, Jan 9, 2019

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In a first, ancient couple found in Harappan grave

Archaeologists from the Deccan College Deemed University in Pune have discovered two skeletons, a young male and a female, buried at the same time in the same grave with the man’s face turned toward the woman. It is the first anthropologically confirmed joint burial of a couple in a Harappan cemetery. The 'couple's grave' was found in the Harappan settlements excavated at Rakhigarhi in Harayana, some 150km northwest of Delhi. Archaeologists said evidence points at the couple being buried simultaneously or about the same time. They could not find clear evidence if one was buried after the other. Although many settlements and cemeteries have been discovered and investigated, no couple's burials at Harappan cemeteries have been reported till date. Archaeologists who excavated this site found the two bodies placed in the supine position (face up) with arms and legs extended. The discovery of couple's burial sites has often sparked interest among archaeologists. The recent findings by the Deccan College Deemed University team have been published in the peer-reviewed international journal ACB journal of Anatomy and Cell Biology. The excavation and analysis were undertaken by the department of archaeology of the Deccan College Deemed University and the Institute of Forensic Science, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. Vasant Shinde, corresponding author of the research, and vice chancellor of Deccan College Deemed University, told TOI that archaeologists in India have often debated about the historical meaning of joint burials. He said the Harappans believed in life after death which explains the pottery and bowls found in the graves. “The pots may have contained food and water for the dead, a custom probably fuelled by the belief that the dead may need them after death. Hence, the contemporary view of life after death may actually be as old as 5,000 years,” Shinde added. In the past, a Harappan joint burial discovered at Lothal was regarded as a ‘probable’ instance of a widow's self-sacrifice as an expression of the grief over her husband's death, he said. “Other archaeologists claimed it was difficult to estimate the sexes of the individuals, and they may not have been a couple. Other than the contentious Lothal case, none of the joint burials reported from Harappan cemeteries till date have been anthropologically confirmed to be a couple’s grave,” he said. The manner in which the individuals had been buried—with the male’s face towards the female—could commemorate lasting affection even after death. “We can only infer, but those who buried the two individuals may have wanted to imply that the love between the two would continue even after death,” he said Shinde said rarer types of joint graves have been found in Harappan cemeteries, but there has not been one instance of a couple's grave reported till date. “A couple’s joint grave is not so rare in other ancient civilizations. Yet, it is strange that they were not discovered in Harappan cemeteries till now,” he said. The grave had burial pottery and a banded agate bead, probably part of a necklace. It was found near the right collar bone of the woman’s skeleton.

Both skeletons were brought to the laboratory of the Deccan College for analysis after the field surveys were completed. Each skeleton’s sex was determined after studying the pelvic region. “A narrow greater sciatic notch and the absence of a preauricular sulcus is indicative of the male anatomy and a wider greater sciatic notch and the presence of a preauricular sulcus is that of a female. More such features during the analysis helped us determine the sex of each skeleton,” Shinde added. Their ages at the time of death have been estimated to be between 21 and 35 years and the man’s approximate height as 5 feet 6 inches and the woman’s as 5 feet 2 inches. Researchers could not find any evidence of trauma or lesions in the skeletons. “We also did not find any evidence that such a grave could have been a result of any ‘sati-like’ custom. Among the 62 graves in the Rakhigarhi cemetery, only this one grave was identified as a couple's burial. It was not an outcome of any specific funeral custom commonly performed then. It is more plausible that two individuals died at the same time or almost the same time, and were buried together in the same grave,” Shinde said.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/in-first-such-finding-couples-grave-excavated-at-harappan-site/articleshow/67445140.cms, Jan 9, 2019

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The bridge of many stories

Even as time takes its toll on Tripunithura’s Irumbupalam, which is more than a 100 years old, the debate rages on how to save it. "This bridge has many stories to tell," says R Rajasekharan, a history enthusiast from Tripunthura, about the Irumbupalam or Iron Bridge, now in the eye of a debate. One of the most important landmarks of the heritage suburb of Kochi, in Tripunithura, it was commissioned by the Cochin Royal Family and built in 1890 by London-based Westwood and Baillie &Co. Built for horse driven carts to cross the Poorna river the construction of the bridge was the turning point in the destiny of the temple town. The bridge that has stood the test of time is now in dire need of conservation. The changing modes of transportation have caused it much damage and deterioration to its condition. Vijay Kumar, a resident of Tripunithura, raised his concerns aboutthe condition of the bridge by suggesting at a Local Council meeting that the bridge be dismantled and displayed at the Hill Palace Museum, with all the other artefacts of royal heritage. Even as time takes its toll on Tripunithura’s Irumbupalam, which is more than a 100 years old, the debate rages on how to save it. “This bridge has many stories to tell,” says R Rajasekharan, a history enthusiast from Tripunthura, about the Irumbupalam or Iron Bridge, now in the eye of a debate. One of the most important landmarks of the heritage suburb of Kochi, in Tripunithura, it was commissioned by the Cochin Royal Family and built in 1890 by London-based Westwood and Baillie &Co. Built for horse driven carts to cross the Poorna river the construction of the bridge was the turning point in the destiny of the temple town. The bridge that has stood the test of time is now in dire need of conservation. The changing modes of transportation have caused it much damage and deterioration to its condition. Vijay Kumar, a resident of Tripunithura, raised his concerns aboutthe condition of the bridge by suggesting at a Local Council meeting that the bridge be dismantled and displayed at the Hill Palace Museum, with all the other artefacts of royal heritage. “There is no point in trying to preserve the bridge in its spot, since it is continuously weakening. There is no space to build a new bridge near it either, so the Iron Bridge has to be removed,” he says.

Future generations may only get to hear about such a bridge, if the current situation prevails, he adds. He made the suggestion to make sure that the next generation does not miss out on the chance of seeing this structure. It is one among many other ideas about how to preserve and maintain the Iron Bridge. “It is best to hand it over to the Hill Palace Museum.” “It is one of the most important sites in the heritage walk I conduct; I think it’s over 125 years old,” informs Balagopal, a descendant of the Cochin royal family, who takes interested groups on heritage walks in Tripunithura. “Before the bridge was built, there used to be a wooden drawbridge, which no one used to cross,because the river was infested with crocodiles. There was a man called Kaalan Thampuran, who was an expert at catching these crocodiles. Kaalan is the word used to describe a kind of a trap, which was used by Kaalan Thampuran.” he explains. “Before the bridge was built the temple elephants of Poornathrayesa temple had to wade through the river from a point called Anachalkadav, to reach the temple from Poonithura,” informs Rajasekharan. During the Para festival, the idol of the deity of Poornathrayesa temple was made to cross the river on a boat, before the bridge was built, the elephants used in procession had to swim and cross the river. “Now they use two elephants! The wooden bridge was not big enough for elephants to cross,” he adds. “The bridge was also a sort of a border of the western side of the old fort area in Tripunithura,” says Balagopal. Pradeep K, a journalist and resident near the Irumbupalam says, “This cannot be done arbitrarily, all of a sudden. You'll have to have some alternative option for pedestrians to cross over, the traffic can be diverted, but what will the pedestrians do?” The Rotary Club of Tripunithura wishes to keep the bridge where it belongs, across the Poorna river, leading its residents and guests to and from the old town of Tripunithura. The former Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, Babu Rajeev believes in the old saying, that if there’s a will, there’s a way. “The problem with the Irumbupalam is that, it is not a protected monument. The ASI, takes care of monuments that are protected nationally by the government. That doesn’t mean that structures like the Irumbupalam may not be protected. The people at the State Archaeological Department should have the will to come forward with a decision and share it with the ministers, secretary, as everyone is involved.” He is also the local convener of The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Urbanisation has also led to the loss of many other important landmarks in the area, which has weakened the historical richness of the temple town. “The public also has a certain amount of responsibility,If nobody takes care of it, then naturally, since it is made of iron it will rust, you have to understand the heritage value,” says Rajeev. The Iron Bridge is one of the few landmarks of the majestic town, along with the Statue Junction, Kalikota Palace, and the Clock tower. “Bridges by nature, all over the world have a great significance. They bring people together, they bring places together. That's why it is called a ‘bridge’.” says Rajeev. It now remains in the hands of the people and the powers that be to choose between preserving Tripunithura’s regal identity or move ahead disregarding the historic significance of the old landmarks. Factoid:Ancient bridges that are still in use today can be found from all around the world, one of them, the Arkadiko bridge in Greece, dates back to the Greek bronze age.

- https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/conservation-efforts-for-tripunithuras-iron-bridge/article25958281.ece, Jan 10, 2019

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NMCG highlights efforts taken for Ganga Rejuvenation

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), in a one day workshop organised in collaboration with the National Water Mission (NWM), showcased efforts being taken for rejuvenation of the River Ganga. The workshop was conducted on the theme 'Sector Enterprises on Corporate social responsibility' at Dr Ambedkar International Centre, in the national capital on Wednesday. Namami Gange Program, which was launched in 2015, is an integrated Ganga conservation mission. It has made significant strides and achieved key milestones in 2018-19.

This is the first mission which is looking at urban as well as rural areas, dealing with a complete range of pollution abatement measures for all kinds of domestic and industrial pollution, rural sanitation, afforestation and conservation of biodiversity. The mission also monitors various aspects in connection with water quality monitoring, use of modern technology, sustainability of investment by including long term operation and maintenance as part of the project cost, public-private partnership projects and involving all stakeholders through proactive public outreach activities. During the workshop, NMCG Director General Rajiv Ranjan Mishra provided an overview of the NMCG's activities while underlining the enormous scope of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) in joining hands with the NMCG in the cause of bringing about Nirmalta and Aviralta in the entire Ganga basin. According to the Executive Director of NMCG Rozy Agarwal, the NMCG has utilised banking networks for displaying Clean Ganga messages and corporates like HCL, Indorama, Yes Bank, SCI, Indus Ind Bank are also associated with the projects.

HCL has taken up afforestation projects in Noida and Greater Noida as well as Rudraksha plantation in Uttarakhand in association with INTACH. Moreover, U.P. Singh, Secretary of Water Resources Ministry, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, has made an appeal to all PSEs, PSUs and corporates to partner with the NMCG. Almost 30-35 Navratna Companies and other PSUs were present in the workshop along with corporates such as Reliance Foundation and organisations like TERI and CII Water Institute.

- https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/nmcg-highlights-efforts-taken-for-ganga-rejuvenation-119010900816_1.html, Jan 10, 2019

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Frames that link the present times to Puhar

The long lost port town of Poompuhar comes alive in ethereal frames that will be showcased for three days at the at Nalukettu (former Alakkattu Mana) in Cherpu from January 11. Linking Lineages, the exhibition, will have photographs shot during 2017-18 by contemporary photographer and photojournalist Abul Kalam Azad. A body of the expo is named ‘Men of Puhar,’ which is an important part of Azad’s two-decade-long work on the erstwhile Sangam-era regions of south India, especially in and around the contemporary locations of ancient town of Puhar in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.

Maritime town
The maritime town was once a centre of art, literature and architecture, and was ruled by Cholas and influenced by civilizations such as Greek, Roman, Chinese and Afro Arabian. It was called Kaveripoompattinam during the Sangam/Classical period, and finds mention even in the accounts of Pliny and Ptolemy. Much of this ancient town was submerged or destroyed by repeated floods or tsunami, and what remains today of this cultural epicenter is a small fishing hamlet.

Sangam literature, especially the Tamil classic Silappathikaram scripted by Jain poet Ilango Adigal, makes several mentions about this town. Fascinated by Sangam poets’ vivid descriptions about life and landscape of that period, Mr. Azad has embarked on the project to understand the cultural fusion. His project tells the tale of Puhar through its men who had a prominent presence in the Sangam society. Through the expo, he hopes to to unravel shared lineage of several regions of the country and capture the living remnants. At a time when the issue of identity is increasingly causing bloodshed and carnage across the world, such an attempt was significant, he feels. This is also a memory project that tries to trace the lineage of the photographer himself. The expo is being organised with the support of India Arts Foundation (IFA). Azad’s works have been exhibited in prominent national and international venues.

The event is co-hosted by the Ekalokam Trust for Photography (EtP), a non-profit organisation for photograghy of which Mr. Azad is the founder-chairman; Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), and The TheatreConnekt Performing Arts. ‘An Excavator of Images,’ a short film on the life and work of Abul Kalam Azad, also the founder Editor-in-Chief of PhotoMail, a photo-art magazine, will be shown at 6.00 p.m. on January 11 at the show venue.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/frames-that-link-the-present-times-to-puhar/article25953428.ece, Jan 10, 2019

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Story of a Living City

Historian Swapna Liddle’s latest book maps the making of Connaught Place, the colonial capital of New Delhi. The iconic shopping and recreational remnant of the colonial Capital is bustling. Roadside vendors call out to prospective buyers, showrooms display discounts and people ramble about the many restaurants and bars. We are walking along with historian and author Swapna Liddle, who has a map from the 1960s. “Can you believe there was an Austro-Hungarian restaurant, La Boheme that was run by the Nirula’s here, in the 1960s? I think there’s a Haldiram’s there now,” she says. Connaught Place (CP) was a shopping complex for the elite, she says, pointing to the advertisement of Enid, which sold “charming evening frocks, afternoon frocks, suits and millinery”. She has reproduced it in her latest book, Connaught Place and the Making of New Delhi (Rs 499, Speaking Tiger). After recounting the story of Shahjahanabad in Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of New Delhi (2017), Liddle starts the story of New Delhi at the beginning, when the idea of shifting the capital from Calcutta to Delhi first struck the colonial rulers.

It examines the process of its planning and building, people who played important roles, the social life and its eventual transformation over the years. “Unlike Shahjahanabad, New Delhi is not a walk-able city, it was built in the age of motor car,” says Liddle, as we stroll around CP, basking in the winter sun. It is as a tribute to architect Edwin L Lutyens, who was instrumental in planning the area, that we call it Lutyens’ Delhi. “The making of Connaught Place was revolutionary for its time as it was built with private investment, and the blocks were sold individually. But the design was done by the government. Even if you look at the palaces of the princely states, the architecture was dictated by the board of architects so that it would gel with other buildings,” says Liddle, who has also written Delhi: 14 Historic Walks (2011) and is the conveyor of the Delhi chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). As we walk to the Central Park, she reckons how the open area within the inner circle was covered by expansive lawns, and in the centre was a bandstand, similar to those in many British colonial stations in India. “Music was played every Saturday from the middle of October to mid-April, during the Delhi season, when officials descended from their summer sojourn in Shimla,” she says. When we reach the Regal theatre, which was shut down in 2017, Liddle says that the building was also quite ahead of its time.

Similar to the malls of today, Regal at that time, housed restaurants, shops and a movie theatre. “I think spaces like CP and Khan Market, maybe upmarket shopping complexes, are better than the malls for they are more inclusive. If there is a fine-dining restaurant, there is also a fruit seller with his push cart,” she says. Charting the changes in the colonial city, she says that post-independence, apart from the names of the roads being changed and statues being removed, there was an expansion of office spaces and housing complexes. “Buildings like Nirman Bhavan and Udyog Bhavan were built then and colonies like Kaka Nagar, Bapa Nagar, and Pandara Park came up. The area what has now become Pragati Maidan, was supposed to be for fuel plantation, but the Indian government wanted a space for trade fairs,” she says.

- https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/books/story-of-a-living-city-connaught-place-book-swapna-liddle-indian-heritage-5532720/, Jan 11, 2019

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CII holds cultural night in Madurai

The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) organised Madhura Geetham, an exhilarating cultural event in Madurai on Saturday. CII came up with an initiative to organize a series of music and art events across Tamil Nadu to celebrate the state’s rich heritage of arts and culture and Madhura Geethan was first such event in the series. The event was held at Gandhi Museum open auditorium from 6pm. It was held in partnership with the department of tourism, government of India, supported by Travel Club Madurai and INTACH. Music performances were given by singers including Saindhavi, Srivarshini, Santhosh, R P Shravan, a dance performance by Priya Darshini and a rocking live band performance by Venkat, Xavier and Kumar.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/cii-holds-cultural-night-in-madurai/articleshow/67507326.cms, Jan 14, 2019

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Masroor Rock Cut Temple: Incredible Heritage of Himachal

“Monuments are the grappling-iron that bind one generation to another” – Joseph Joubert As civilizations fall and rise, the ancient remains – the monuments become the souvenirs coming from the past and to be handed over to the future generations. Monuments act as a footprint of history on the pages of time. The monolithic rock cut cave temples of Masroor in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh is one such example and description of architectural gem preserved over centuries and for the future generations to come.

Also known as the Ellora of Himachal and Himalayan pyramid , it is an ideal location for the tourists, backpackers and history lovers. My quest to explore some enthralling destination brought me to this dynamic and magnificent piece of architecture steeped in history. A single rock cut into 15 temples is one of the most enigmatic yet one of rare sites to be found in northern part of India, yet at the same time it is one of the least hyped tourist places in the State of Himachal.

As the history goes:
This temple complex was excavated and discovered in the year 1875 but it was largely destroyed during the Kangra earthquake in the year 1905. In the year 1913, on insistence of a British officer this site was considered as a heritage site. The temple ruins have been revived and preserved with utmost effort and care and offers one of the most panoramic views – a government senior secondary school, an Anganwadi Kendra, a small tea shop in the close vicinity and a pond in front of the temple complex . The temple walls on outside and inside are full of floral, geometric and animal motifs, depicting the life style of those times. This astounding, mystifying and gigantic construction has been exquisitely carved on a sand stone but due to time and nature’s ruthless furry unleashing on it, it has become more of a celestial puzzle, which claims to offer an incomplete staircase to the heavens and reminding us of that mystic, unknown and unseen world.

This heritage site has many myths and legends associated with it. It appears more like a building blocks of the Gods in a state of jigsaw puzzle with floating stories and prophecies around the age of epic Mahabharata and Pandavs visiting this place during exile. As one observes the place with scrutiny, every piece of the temple walls has a story of craftsmanship and how painstakingly it was chiselled by the masons. As the Sun sets , the ruins of the temple change various hues and shades of golden, yellow and orange. It’s a visual treat for the visitors like me, to witness such delightful scenes and vouch for ‘Incredible Himachal’ but those who come looking for this monument as a secluded spot on a quaint hill and display their love on the walls, it’s a strict no for them as they will be rendered with disappointment. Please do not even think of showing your artistic skills in form of a graffiti on these temple walls. As every nook and corner of the temple oozes with the artistic excellence and genius in form of carvings on the temple walls. The main temple has the idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman ,but it strictly instructs you, that no offerings will be accepted , all that is required is reverence and respect for the sanctity of the temple in form of silent prayers ,apprection and decorum to be maintained.

The temple complex is flawless as one does not find any kind of scribbling on the walls, no eateries around , only a small tea shop outside the premises, it is a true example of clean and green Himachal. The closure of first floor of the temple has barred the entry of the visitors due to their excessive display of the selfie lover syndrome. The caretakers of this historical monument, make sure that visitors strictly adhere to the rules and it is their effort that has shielded and protected this heritage site from the brazen attitude and wanton acts of some unruly tourists. And henceforth , the Masroor monolithic cave temples becomes an apt example of Incredible Himachal, as these untouched monuments have touched my heart immensely. Monuments of our country are the reflection of our history. But preserving and restoring them is equally important.

- http://hillpost.in/2019/01/masroor-rock-cut-temple-incredible-heritage-of-himachal/111284/, Jan 14, 2019

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How India is reviving its heritage

It’s 8.30 on a slightly chilly Sunday morning and cricket matches are in progress at south Mumbai’s iconic Oval Maidan. To the east of the ground are the majestic buildings housing the Civil & Sessions Court, the High Court and the University of Mumbai. These Victorian Gothic structures, built in the second half of the 19th century, announce their grandeur, with their pointed arches, spires and gargoyles, to anyone who catches a glimpse of them, even those who have no clue about their architecture. But the buildings on the opposite side of the Oval Maidan do not evoke a strong reaction. A passerby may not even spare them a thought.

But the 17 residential buildings and one mixed-use structure (Eros Cinema), built on reclaimed land within a span of three years in the 1930s, are among the most remarkable embodiments of the art deco style of architecture in the city. From vertical bands encasing windows, which make the buildings seem taller than they are, to ship decklike rounded balconies, from wooden elevator cages to frozen fountain patterns on walls, these features are hard to miss once you become aware of them. “Nowhere in the world do you see Victorian Gothic and art deco so close to each other,” says Nityaa Lakshmi Iyer, who heads documentation and research at Art Deco Mumbai, a nonprofit, as she conducts a heritage walk for five of us. This is a key reason why the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, comprising 94 historic buildings and the Oval Maidan, were accorded the Unesco World Heritage tag in June 2018. Among the Heritage status was the result of residents’ and conservation architects’ efforts for over a decade. The Mumbai Art Deco project is one of the many around the country that combine state and civic efforts to conserve heritage.

These projects perhaps show the way forward in India, where conservation is particularly challenging because so much of it is located in highly populated cities and also because in a low-income country it’s natural for conservation efforts to slide down the ladder of national priorities. Around a third of Indians, or 461 million, live in India’s cities, according to UN estimates in 2018. This is expected to almost double to 877 million by 2050. This means the task of our city administrations — to provide a good standard of living--will only become harder and the resource crunch will worsen. In such a scenario, protecting the heritage structures in cities could become even less of a priority than it is. “As a citizen, I cannot claim heritage is more important than food or healthcare. But it is not a binary. Conservation does not mean freezing development,” says AG Krishna Menon, a Delhi-based conservation architect. Atul Kumar, founder of Art Deco Mumbai, agrees. “We have this notion that only something older than 100 years is heritage. That’s why the World Heritage inscription for Mumbai is special.” Kumar, who runs a financial services firm, says he is lucky to live in one of the 35 art deco buildings on Marine Drive.

Around 1,500 buildings were photographed before the nomination was filed. Art Deco Mumbai is in the process of cataloguing the city’s art deco structures and has so far identified 374. A third of India’s 29 cultural World Heritage sites are in cities. These include the Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and Jantar Mantar in Jaipur. In 2017, Ahmedabad became the first Indian city to be accorded the World Heritage status. Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is also on the list and so are Elephanta Caves. The Centre in 2015 unexpectedly postponed the nomination of Delhi’s Shahjahanabad and Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone. In July 2018, it said Jaipur would be its next nomination.

than 10,000 sites are under the purview of Central and state archaeological departments. Besides, cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata have regulations to protect heritage buildings, which are graded according to historical and architectural significance. Menon says 2,200 historic structures in Delhi are notified by the state government. But that is not enough. “The setting of a monument is disconnected from the monument itself,” says Lambah, referring to unchecked construction around historical sites. Lambah’s firm prepared the nomination dossier and management plan for the recent World Heritage inscription for Mumbai’s buildings. Lambah is also a consultant to the Urban Affairs Ministry’s Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana for Kanchipuram.

The temple town is one of 12 cities chosen for the scheme, which aims to improve infrastructure and amenities like water supply, drainage, approach roads and landscaping around heritage sites. Other cities on the list include Amritsar, Varanasi and Warangal. Of the 70 projects worth Rs 422 crore that have been approved, 24 have been completed and Rs 319 crore has been released. Lambah says the corpus is too little and, more importantly, cannot be used for restoration. (Emails sent by ET Magazine to the World Heritage Centre and the ministries of culture and urban affairs did not yield a response.) The paucity of funds from the government means other models have to be explored for conservation of historic structures. For instance, in Delhi, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has been working in partnership with the ASI, the Central Public Works Department and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Between 1997 and 2003, the trust restored the garden of Humayun’s Tomb, and between 2007 and 2013, the tomb itself. It is now working on the monuments in the 90-acre Sunder Nursery complex and Nizamuddin Basti. The trust is also restoring 70 structures, including 40 mausoleums, in Hyderabad’s Quli Qutb Shah Archaeological Park. “We have not realised the economic potential of our heritage so we see it as a burden or responsibility,” says Ratish Nanda, chief executive, Aga Khan Trust. Finding ways other than tourism to monetise the conservation of heritage structures and roping in the private sector could be the way forward. Campaigns, along with former colleague Mohit Jayal and two others, is trying a different approach, by putting a more commercial face on heritage conservation.

heritage with hotels, cafés and retail outlets. Part of the project was the cleaning of a stepwell, after which retail outlets and cafés were set up in restored havelis around it. “We should think about how to create an ecosystem instead of just developing one property,” says Sunil. The project has attracted investments from overseas funds and individual investors, though Sunil does not discuss the figures. While renowned monuments, thanks to the interest of the general public, will attract government’s attention and money, hundreds of other heritage buildings, including residential and commercial, could fall through the cracks. Ajoy Mehta, Mumbai’s municipal commissioner, says while public heritage buildings can be maintained with taxpayers’ money, it is different for private buildings. “What happens when it’s falling apart or needs parking. Who will pay the price for it to remain the same?” The reality is that our cities will only get bigger and messier. But our storied past cannot be abandoned in the race to the future.

- https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/how-india-is-reviving-its-heritage/articleshow/67503462.cms, Jan 14, 2019

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Makar Sankranti 2019 date and time: History and importance of Makar Sankranti in India

The New Year celebrations are over and now people in the eastern belt of India are gearing up for Makar Sankranti, the first Hindu festival of the year. Observed in different parts of the country under different names, Makar Sankranti marks the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path. The festival of Makar Sankranti will be celebrated on January 15, 2019. According to Drik Panchang, “The time between Makar Sankranti and 40 Ghatis (roughly 16 hours for Indian locations if we consider 1 Ghati duration as 24 minutes) from the time of Makar Sankranti is considered good for auspicious work.

This duration of forty Ghatis is known as Punya Kaal. Sankranti activities, like taking bath, offering Naivedhya (food offered to the deity) to Lord Surya, offering charity or Dakshina, performing Shraddha rituals and breaking fast or Parana, should be done during Punya Kaal. If Makar Sankranti happens after sunset then all Punya Kaal activities are postponed till the next sunrise. Hence, all Punya Kaal activities should be done during the day time."

History of Makar Sankranti
Marking the onset of summer and the six months long auspicious period for Hindus known as Uttaarayan, this festival is observed according to the solar cycles. The festivities associated with the day is celebrated by different names in different parts of the country — Lohri in North India, Sukarat in Central India, Bihu in Assam, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Makar Sankranti in Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and the neighbouring regions, and celebrates the harvest season. On the day of Makar Sankranti, various spiritual practices are observed. It is common for people to take a holy dip in rivers and it is generally believed that doing so would absolve them of their past sins.

- https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/art-and-culture/makar-sankranti-2019-date-time-history-importance-5530172/, Jan 14, 2019

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Archaeologically significant structures unearthed in Melkote

Some archaeologically significant structures, including a step pond or Kalyani-like structure, were unearthed during cleaning works at the historical village of Melkote in Pandavapura here. Infosys Foundation had expressed willingness to clean and maintain the historical monuments in the village, where social reformer and proponent of Sri Vaishnava philosophy Ramanujacharya is believed to have lived.

Although the agreement between the foundation and the authorities is yet to be finalised, the foundation recently took up works to clean the area near the ‘Pancha Kalyani’. According to Revenue Department sources, the foundation of a mantap with beautiful carvings/embossing of idols, the basement of a building suspected to have been demolished or collapsed decades ago, and a small temple pond-like structure, all covered in huge quantities of mud, were unearthed a few days ago. Infosys Foundation chairperson Sudha Murty had inspected the place on December 2, 2018.

She instructed her foundation to take up cleaning works, a revenue officer told The Hindu. The Archaeological Survey of India or other agencies will be asked to inspect the monuments found and initiate further steps, the officer added. Melkote has over 100 archaeologically significant monuments such as ponds, Kalyanis, temples, and mantaps. The ‘Vairamudi’ utsav at Melkote is one of the famous religious events in the country.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/archaeologically-significant-structures-unearthed-in-melkote/article25981546.ece, Jan 14, 2019

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New Kakatiya inscription found in Guntur

A new Kakatiya Inscription of 13th century was found on the margin of N-11 road of New capital region area at Lingayapalem, one of the 29 villages of Amaravathi city. The explorations taken up by Dr E Sivanagireddy, historian and CEO of Cultural Centre Of Vijayawada and Amaravati (CCVA) as part of ‘Preserve Heritage for Posterity’, a scheme launched by CCVA resulted in the discovery of this new Inscription on Monday. Based on the information given by Anumolu Ganesh Prasad, Reddy rushed to the spot and examined the inscription slab which measures 1’.3” x 1’.3” square visible to a height of 2’, sunken to a depth of 5’ into the ground due to the floods of River Krishna over a period of time. He revealed that there is a bull sculpture carved on the top, followed by sun and moon sculptures on the east, Lakulisa on the west side, Mahishasura mardhini on the south side and Ganesha on the north side.

Since the inscription bears historical significance, Dr Sivanagi Reddy sensitised the villagers to protect it intact and also made an appeal to the officials of AP-CRDA and Department of Archaeology and Museums to take appreciate action to safe guard the inscription and the 16th century AD Chamundi Sculpture which is worshipped as Poleramma by the villagers. Anumolu Ganesh Prasad participated in the exploration, said Dr Reddy.

- https://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Andhra-Pradesh/2019-01-14/New-Kakatiya-inscription-found-in-Guntur/475397, Jan 15, 2019

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Netaji museum inaugurated in Puri

Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management Maheswar Mohanty inaugurated Netaji Subash Bose museum at Gopalballav Road in the pilgrim town on Tuesday. In its eight big rooms and a hall, the items used by Netaji have been kept for display to public. A committee, headed by the Collector, has been formed to manage the museum. Visitors will have to pay `10 per head for entry into the museum.

The Minister also unveiled a life-size statue of Netaji on museum premises in the presence of Tourism and Culture Minister Ashok Panda. As per reports, Netaji’s father Janakinath Bose had taken about half acre of land near Puri beach in 1916 on lease and constructed a house where he was living along with family. After demise of Janakinath, the property was recorded in favour of his sons including Netaji. Later, Netaji’s relatives had filed a petition with the Revenue Officer in 1997 to alienate his name from the land records. Since they could not produce his death certificate, the court rejected their petition.

Then, Puri Sambadik Sangha president Jagannath Bastia approached the Minister of Culture to take over the Netaji house and develop it into a museum. INTACH was then entrusted to develop the museum with an estimated cost of `three crore. Among others, Secretary of Culture department Manoranjan Panigrahi and Director of Culture Bijay Kumar Naik were present. At another function, the Revenue Minister also inaugurated the statue of famous bhajan singer Banikanth Nimai Charan Harichandan on Sanskruti Bhawan premises.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2019/jan/16/netaji-museum-inaugurated-in-puri-1925751.html, Jan 16, 2019

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