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May 2017

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Tourism promotion at the cost of heritage decried

Tourism promotion should not be at the expense of our cultural heritage. Heritage is a fragile resource and once destroyed it cannot be recovered, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) member Rani Sarma has said. Delivering the keynote address at a meeting organised by INTACH in connection with the presentation of awards to various people who had worked for the conservation of heritage at a hotel here on Sunday, she expressed concern over ‘commoditisation’ of heritage to promote tourism by the government departments. Swami Vivekananda had said over 100 years ago that “Indian youth have forgotten their heritage. ”

“Today, after so many years, how far have we succeeded in preserving our heritage,” she wondered. She explained about the Buddhist heritage sites in and around Visakhapatnam and lack of conservation efforts by the departments concerned. While admitting that tourism was a money spinner and job provider, Ms. Rani Sarma called for involvement and training of the local people to promote tourism without destroying the sanctity of the heritage sites. She gave examples of how local people cherish the sites in their vicinity and were keen on their conservation. District Collector Pravin Kumar was present. Later, awards were presented to the winners in various categories.

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/tourism-promotion-at-the-cost-of-heritage-decried/article18346452.ece, May 1, 2017

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A temple with a tale

Ammapalli Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam is a rare Rama temple without Hanuman. Veda Vyas, the author of Mahabharata, is supposed to have meditated near Basar, Shakuntala, the mother of Bharat — after whom India is named — is supposed to have bathed in the waterfall at Adilabad (hence the waterfall is called Kuntala) and many other spots in the state claim a mythical-historial link to India’s past.

But Hyderabad? About five km from the RGIA airport is the ancient Ammapalli Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam. A Rama temple without Hanuman. And thereby hangs a tale. “There are no inscriptions of this temple but legend has it that it was built during the time of Kalyani Chalukyas,” says Anvesh Sharma, the temple priest. The Eastern Kalyani Chalukyas did rule the region sometime between seventh and 12th century AD. The gali gopuram is a magnificient work of art that rises some 80 feet into the air. Though it is similar to other gali gopurams in South India like Hampi and Tirupati, the one at Ammapalli is leaner and is a combination of limestone plaster, baked bricks and stucco giving it a more dramatic appearance.

Surprisingly, the multi-storied gopuram also incorporates elements of Rajasthani architecture such as the flared chajjas that curve upwards. “The gali gopuram and the walking path around the temple are later day additions. They were built in the 17th century while the inner sanctum sanctorum is the earliest structure,” says the priest. It is the sanctum sanctorum with the three idols of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana that the story of the temple unravels. “This is carved out of a single stone. Even the deities of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana have makarathorana (the arch above the idol) carved out of the single piece of rock.

The unique aspect of this Rama’s idol is that the makarathorana has small idols which are representative of Dasavataram,” informs the priest. The gopuram over the idols is a smaller structure but with greater detailing of the temple iconography which is intact despite its age. While most villages have Rama temples with Hanuman kneeling in front in an act of prayer, the Ammapalli temple has an idol of Kodandarama where Rama holds the arrow in his right hand and a bow in the left. “There are very few Kodandarama temples as they are built only in places where Sri Rama travelled or stayed during his 14 years of exile. That is also the reason the temple doesn’t have Hanuman sitting near the three as he didn’t join them till the end of exile,” says Sharma. Spread over nine acres, the temple and its ancillary structures hark back to a time when land was not at a premium. It has a step well that sprawls over an acre of land and has a walkway around it. Unfortunately, the well is dry as a rock.

“Earlier the well used to be full of water through the year. But now due to a lot of construction activity, the natural pathways of water have been disturbed and the well dries up on a regular basis,” says Anuradha Reddy of Intach who has a family ties to the trustees of the temple belonging to Rajapet Samasthan. No shootings here A part of the temple’s outer structure was damaged during a Telugu film shooting where an exploding car in a fight sequence crashed on the left side of gali gopuram. Since then, the temple is out of bounds for film shootings.

- http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/a-temple-with-a-tale/article18345975.ece, May 1, 2017

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Delhi watches silently as its contemporary heritage disappears

The Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries at Pragati Maidan was demolished last week and except for a group of city historians, artists and architects, no one raised their voices as the city lost one of its architectural marvels. Last week, Delhi lost a part of its identity. The Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries at Pragati Maidan that had for four decades hosted the International Trade and Book Fairs, the national capital’s most popular public dos, were razed to make way for a “world class” convention centre. Except for a group of city historians, artists and architects, the otherwise protest-ready Delhi showed no outrage at losing an architectural marvel of modern India. The demolition became fait accompli when the high court ruled that the two buildings did not qualify as “heritage” because they were not 60 years or older. The Indian Trade Promotion Organisation will now spend Rs 2,254 crore to build a complex complete with a hotel, a mall, a multilevel food court, exhibition halls, parking and helipads to showcase “the technological, scientific, economic, and intellectual prowess of a resurgent India”.

In the bargain, Delhi lost a symbol of architectural ingenuity and enterprise demonstrated so brilliantly 45 years ago, when India was still struggling to make its mark as a new nation. In 1972, the 25th year of our Independence, India was to host the ‘Asia 72’ Trade Fair. The country needed a modern convention centre but was low on money, resources, and even building material. But architect Raj Rewal and engineer Mahendra Raj, who built the two exhibition halls, were not short of ideas. They used reinforced concrete, which was less expensive than steel and iron, for construction. To save on power consumption, they introduced ‘jali’ or latticed screens, inspired by the Mughal architecture, in a way that they blocked the heat but not the light while allowing ample ventilation. The demolition of these two structures is not just a one-off blow. Delhi’s many iconic buildings with rich architectural and aesthetic value will not qualify as heritage under the “60 years or older” clause applied by the court to the two Pragati Maidan marvels.

The tearing down of the two buildings has set a precedent that makes Delhi’s contemporary heritage vulnerable. In 2013, the Delhi chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage prepared and submitted to the Delhi Urban Art Commission a list of 62 buildings built from 1955 onwards to be designated as heritage structures and protected legally. The authorities sat on the proposal even as the Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries, which were on the list, were torn down.

- http://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/delhi-watches-silently-as-its-contemporary-heritage-disappears/story-CSuBlUUvtZBdMjP27SSzgN.html, May 1, 2017

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The bone collector of Kutch

It was a hot April afternoon, and I was driving through Gujarat’s semi-arid Kutch district when I happened to meet, entirely by chance, the 82-year-old Mohansingh Sodha, probably India’s biggest private collector of fossils. I had taken a wrong turn when a signboard announcing ‘Kutch Fossil Park’ lured me to make a detour. And I discovered the fascinating story of a man—a Shaurya Chakra awardee—who even has a fossil specimen named after him. Sodha’s collection of more than 10,000 specimens make up the Kutch Fossil Park. “The fossil park is a private endeavour to showcase what I have collected over 41 years and to give people—especially youngsters—an opportunity to learn more about evolution,” he says. Restricted in his movement now because of an amputated leg and poor vision, Sodha is an ex-serviceman who was born in Pakistan’s Sindh province and served as a food inspector in the country from 1962 to 1969. In 1971, he left everything behind and migrated to India, became an Indian citizen, and served in the Army during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. He was the platoon commander of the Home Guards unit in Bhuj, and for his valour, he was awarded the military honour, the Shaurya Chakra. Accidental starfish. His journey into the world of fossils began quite by accident. “It was in 1972,” Sodha recalls.

“I was sitting on a sand dune, on duty, when I noticed the fossilised remains of a starfish. At that time I did not know what it was, but I knew I had chanced upon something of great significance.” He began collecting fossils, but his interest was truly fuelled only when a friend in the State archaeology department gave him a book on the subject. A number of photographs bore similarities to specimens in his modest collection. Sodha began reading voraciously about fossils; he says he is ‘self-taught’. “But the fact remains that I am a collector, and the identification and classification of the fossils had to be done by experts, the palaeontologists. So I sought help.” Growing collection. As his collection grew—Kutch is a goldmine of fossilised remains—he formed a trust in 2002 and began displaying some of the fossils in exhibitions and fairs across Gujarat. The exhibitions attracted a lot of attention, “and soon dignitaries, including (the then Chief Minister) Narendra Modi and the top brass of the Indian military, the police and the paramilitary” visited. Sodha pulls out a loosely bound collection of photographs to show off the galaxy of important people who have seen his collection. Soon, Sodha began to feel the need for a space where he could display his entire collection, collected over four decades from 1972 to 2013. He set up the Kutch Fossil Park in a place called Vitron, and then shifted it to Godhiar.

Visitors queued up to see fossilised dinosaur eggs, dinosaur teeth, and the vertebrae of sea animals. But it was a seven-feet-long, 65 million years old sea cow that attracted the most attention. “I sent the sea cow specimen to IIT-Roorkee for identification and after a year, in 2006, they wrote back to me saying that after studying its details, they concluded that it was a new species. It is an important species scientifically, and they decided to name it Domningia sodhae, after me,” he says, showing the letter—enlarged and framed—standing on a desk in the verandah of his office. Jostling for space on the overcrowded desk are several boxes with fossils in them—kept as samples for curious visitors—each labelled by name. “Kutch is full of fossils, dating back to more than 200 million years. Every now and then you hear news of a find from around this area,” Sodha says. Sodha and his family have also developed the fossil park’s environs into a resort with tents and modern facilities to accommodate tourists. They organise tours to nearby forts, ports, temples, and other places, besides allowing visitors a peek into prehistoric times. “I sold all my land and used all my resources to set up the fossil park. Now, the park and the resort feeds us,” Sodha says. His son Vikram Singh manages the park now.

“I am India’s biggest private fossil collector,” says Sodha with pride, before adding, “But now my body has given up.” Maintaining the park is no mean task. Sodha has requested the State and Central governments to take responsibility of the natural heritage. “I have been in correspondence with the government since 2002, when one of its officers had visited the park. I have also written to the Ministry of Culture to adopt the fossil park under the Museum Grant Scheme.” While the State government has agreed to allot land for the park, the district administration has been less than responsive, says Sodha. “I am getting older and my only concern now is that the fossils are treated as a national treasure. People from all walks of life, from across boundaries should know about them and be able to see them.” The writer is an independent journalist based in Gujarat. When not researching her stories, she is busy spinning tales for her toddler. Visitors queued up to see fossilised dinosaur eggs, dinosaur teeth, and the vertebrae of sea animals

-http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/the-bone-collector-of-kutch/article18320991.ece, May 1, 2017

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The Invisible Conservation Workers

What May Day narratives don’t tell us about the role of the working class in conservation. May Day was not always International Workers’ Day. Before it became International Workers’ Day during the Second Communist International Congress in the 19th century, May Day was a traditional, temperate-region celebration of spring. The onset of spring has conservationist connotations. Phenology, a conservation science branch that studies plant life-cycle events (like flowering and elevation) and climate influences, is closely linked to spring. In India, spring, referred to popularly as basant or vasantham, is also marked by festivities. Conservation biology texts or forest conservation debates will not mention workers and labour, neither do the entries on May Day mention conservation. Conservation science and practice has not acknowledged the foundational and facilitative roles of the working classes. Labour scholarship, policy and politics have neglected the invisible and unorganised labour involved in conservation science and official forest protection. The biologically and culturally diverse eastern Himalayas are an apt geography to locate this labour-conservation conundrum. Mountain labour. Visual and narrative accounts of Himalayan labour are available from photographs, travelogues and descriptions of the social life of the British. In colonial narratives and visual representations of Darjeeling, for instance, the English portray themselves as an integral and indispensable part of the landscape, while local folk become the prominent ‘other’. Working classes, including indigenous Lepcha and Bhutia and migrant Nepali, served as porters for the British sahebs. They guarded forests against fires, especially the monoculture plantations of Cryptomeria, a Japanese coniferous tree. In colonial and contemporary Darjeeling, tea workers form the dominant labour imagery.

Such construction of labour misses its multifarious roles, then and now. Working classes have broken their backs not just for planters in tea gardens, but also for scientists and tourists in forests. Consider Singalila. The ridge between Sandakphu and Phalut in Darjeeling’s Singalila National Park is a popular trekking and motor route. On a clear spring day, the views of rhododendron and magnolia flowers in full bloom, and the distant sight of Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga are breathtaking (breathtaking also literally – at 3,500 msl, even the slightest exercise will leave you short of breath). The altitude, combined with the steep and undulating terrain, means that people visiting require the services of porters and local working-class people. Singalila’s subalpine and temperate elevations, and its diverse flora and fauna, attracted both colonial natural historians and today’s conservation biologists. Tourists also visit Singalila in large numbers, whether trekkers, photographers or amateur ornithologists.

Both the scientist and the tourist need the services of full-time porters for transporting luggage, ranging from scientific paraphernalia, food and water, camera lenses, tents and the like. A 2015 field visit to Gorkhey, a pretty hamlet bordering Sikkim, which is usually the initiation or culmination point of the Singalila trek, is a revelation. Post fieldwork, we hired Chao, a poor 50-something porter. He carried almost 30 kg of team luggage in a large bamboo basket for about 33 km through rough terrain, from Gorkhey to our destination point. Collecting a paltry sum of around Rs 2,000, he quickly ran back as we watched exhausted. Usually from marginalised classes and castes, porters like Chao in Singalila suffer due to the lack of resting and staying facilities. Caste and class relations, when combined with non-existent labour protection and the seasonal nature of tourism-related employment, pose material issues as well as larger quandaries relating to freedom and choice for porters. Sensitive tourists, including conservationists, trekkers or photographers, will remember people like Chao. But porters whose labour was crucial for colonial natural history are a faceless detail, like the ‘local assistants’ of J.D Hooker, known to be Charles Darwin’s close friend and one of the greatest Himalayan botanists. Between 1848 and 1850, Hooker is said to have undertaken botanical treks to Singalila, Sikkim and Bhutan. His Himalayan Journals and Flora of British India are standard books and backpacking companions for conservation biologists today. Many a species were named after him. But plants have never borne a porter’s name. Mutual indifference. Darjeeling’s labouring classes, including forest porters, LPG cylinder carriers and tourist luggage porters in Darjeeling town, constitute an unorganised labour force. Porters in Himalayan forests and towns are mostly not unionised and not covered by labour laws. While labour policy debates around unorganised labour concentrate on the domestic seasonal migration of workers, the seasonal nature of work for forest and urban porters in India’s mountains remain uncared for.

The NDA government proposes to reduce nearly 100 ‘archaic’ labour laws in four codes of wages, industrial relations, social security and welfare, and safety and working conditions. Labour unions and scholars have protested these business- and investor-friendly reforms. But the well being of mountain porters and other forest protection ‘subordinates’ will neither figure in the state’s labour codes nor in the agitations and institutional negotiations of unions. Compared to farm, fishery and factory work, Himalayan porterage is rarely the subject of labour scholarship. For that matter, the forest protection and conservation labour of Adivasis and Dalits in the rest of India rarely occupies the labour scholar’s interest as does farm and factory labour. Consider the International Labor and Working Class History Journal or the Economic and Political Weekly, two journals whose pages otherwise include the best of labour scholarship. Historical and contemporary Himalayan porterage is not discussed. There are no dedicated and exclusive research papers on Adivasi and Dalit labour in both conservation science and official forest protection in India. The rare EPW research paper on subordinate forest personnel will never use the concepts of labour studies. Conservation, now an interdisciplinary field involving ecology and social sciences, has also failed to explicitly engage with the fact that the working classes sell physical effort and services to eco-tourists, conservation biologists and the forest department in and around India’s national parks. Adivasi and Dalit limbs in the Himalayas and Western Ghats have since the colonial times remained crucial to forestry operations, whether as fire watchers, guides or mahouts.

For conservation science operations, they have worked as field station drivers, graduate student forest ‘guides’, scientific equipment carriers and ecological ‘plot’ and ‘transect’ layers and monitors. Political ecology, a genre that investigates power relations in conservation, has paid some attention to whether the labour of dispossessed indigenes is useful in eco-tourism or climate change mitigation in national parks. But generally, conservation discourse obfuscates labour and working class realities by engaging with local community under the routine rubric of ‘traditional knowledge’. Further obfuscation of labour occurs under the rubric of ecosystems services. Forests are to service humans by provisioning fuel and fodder, regulating floods and disease, and culturally servicing them with aesthetic and recreational opportunities. But concealed is the role of labour in converting water, soil, fuel wood and landscapes into ostensible services. For instance, Gorkhey’s ‘manicured’ appearance – a medley of streams, terraced farms, pine forests and home stays – involves the physical exertions of Sherpa and Kirati families. This May Day, let us hope that conservation and recreation labour is afforded the policy and intellectual coverage it deserves.

-Siddhartha Krishnan and Rinzi Lama are sociologists with ATREE, Bengaluru.https://thewire.in/130755/conservation-workers-may-day/, May 1, 2017

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Haryana: Kunal village excavation points to possibly oldest Harappan site

A TWO-MONTH-LONG excavation at Kunal village in Haryana, billed as the biggest archaeological site in the state, has yielded substantive finds, including a kitchen hearth that may confirm the site to be among the oldest Harappan sites, officials associated with the dig said. The dig was wrapped up Sunday and the findings are being scientifically examined. The excavation is a joint project of the Haryana Archaeology department, Indian Archaelogical Society, a private organisation and National Musuem. The finds could be from the ‘pre-Harappan era’, officials and arcaheologists here said, referring to the term used to describe the earliest stages of the Harappan/Indus Valley civilisation. Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department Principal Secretary Sumita Mishra told The Indian Express on Monday that the latest excavation had brought out the earliest material culture of the civilisation. “The findings at the excavation may push the history of civilisation back by at least 1,000 years,” said Mishra. At Kunal, archaeologists have found a dwelling pit, hearths and a pot. Other finds include beads, including a gold bead too, a few copper rings, terracotta bangles and mud pots.

Organic material, including charcoal samples, bones and soil from the hearth and pot have been collected for a detailed scientific examination. The dwelling pit was found at a depth of 2.9 metres from the surface. Two hearths have been found at two different levels. Banani Bhattacharya, deputy director of Haryana’s archaeology department, said the excavation at Kumal and the finds were completely different from the one at Rakhigarhi. “This is older, and looks to be pre-Harappan,” she said. The other finds, especially of the gold bead, point towards trade with other centres. “The gold bead is an indication of trade because there was no gold mining in these parts. The testing of the gold will reveal which mining area it belongs to,” Bhattacharya said. The other types of beads, including unfinished, polished, and micro beads, also pointed to trade links with other settlements, she said.

Indian Archaeological Society Chairman K N Dikshit said, “The scientific examination of material found during excavation will bring more clarity about the exact period of the civilisation.” Earlier, an agreement was signed for excavation at Kumal between Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department and Indian Archaeological Society, National Museum, New Delhi at Kunal. The core area of the settlement is about three acres but the site expands to nine acres. The excavation at this site was first conducted by late J S Khatri and M Acharya under Haryana State Archaeology Department in 1985-86.

-http://indianexpress.com/article/india/haryana-kunal-village-excavation-points-to-possibly-oldest-harappan-site-4636429/, May 2, 2017

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Asiatic Society starts digitisation of manuscripts, books

A TWO-MONTH-LONG excavation at Kunal village in Haryana, billed as the biggest archaeological site in the state, has yielded substantive finds, including a kitchen hearth that may confirm the site to be among the oldest Harappan sites, officials associated with the dig said. The dig was wrapped up Sunday and the findings are being scientifically examined. The excavation is a joint project of the Haryana Archaeology department, Indian Archaelogical Society, a private organisation and National Musuem. The finds could be from the ‘pre-Harappan era’, officials and arcaheologists here said, referring to the term used to describe the earliest stages of the Harappan/Indus Valley civilisation. Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department Principal Secretary Sumita Mishra told The Indian Express on Monday that the latest excavation had brought out the earliest material culture of the civilisation. “The findings at the excavation may push the history of civilisation back by at least 1,000 years,” said Mishra. At Kunal, archaeologists have found a dwelling pit, hearths and a pot. Other finds include beads, including a gold bead too, a few copper rings, terracotta bangles and mud pots.

Organic material, including charcoal samples, bones and soil from the hearth and pot have been collected for a detailed scientific examination. The dwelling pit was found at a depth of 2.9 metres from the surface. Two hearths have been found at two different levels. Banani Bhattacharya, deputy director of Haryana’s archaeology department, said the excavation at Kumal and the finds were completely different from the one at Rakhigarhi. “This is older, and looks to be pre-Harappan,” she said. The other finds, especially of the gold bead, point towards trade with other centres. “The gold bead is an indication of trade because there was no gold mining in these parts. The testing of the gold will reveal which mining area it belongs to,” Bhattacharya said. The other types of beads, including unfinished, polished, and micro beads, also pointed to trade links with other settlements, she said.

Indian Archaeological Society Chairman K N Dikshit said, “The scientific examination of material found during excavation will bring more clarity about the exact period of the civilisation.” Earlier, an agreement was signed for excavation at Kumal between Haryana Archaeology and Museums Department and Indian Archaeological Society, National Museum, New Delhi at Kunal. The core area of the settlement is about three acres but the site expands to nine acres. The excavation at this site was first conducted by late J S Khatri and M Acharya under Haryana State Archaeology Department in 1985-86.

-http://indianexpress.com/article/india/haryana-kunal-village-excavation-points-to-possibly-oldest-harappan-site-4636429/, May 2, 2017

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Reddy: Loss of intangible cultural heritage 'a grave concern'

Luke Rawalai
WHILE children around the country are enjoying their school break, a group of youngsters in Labasa are spending their holidays learning about their culture. In a workshop organised by the Ministry of Education and the Labasa Multi-cultural Centre, participants are learning about mat weaving and traditional Indian dances and cooking. Officiating at the workshop yesterday, Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Dr Mahendra Reddy said the slow disappearance of intangible cultural heritage in this age was of grave concern. "A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation report on intangible cultural heritage projects stated that the art, oral traditions, cultural and historical proponents of constructing traditional houses by indigenous people of Fiji are gradually disappearing," he said. "The protocols associated with births and deaths, among Indians have changed radically as there are less people with full knowledge of the exact procedures practised by the ancestors. "The oral tradition that was so intact in our largely communal societies has started to disappear due to globalisation and modernisation."

Dr Reddy said traditional dances, songs and functions were rarely showcased nowadays. "The most vital importance of intangible cultural heritage and why it should be protected is because we need to protect the past for the future. "We need to keep our rich traditions and cultural aspects alive in our communities so that the future generation can understand them in their original forms and pass them on because individuals can associate their identity through intangible cultural heritage. "Protecting and knowledge of intangible cultural heritage is important in this era as 'culture tourism' is one of the fasted growing industries in this era," Dr Reddy said.

-http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=398944, May 2, 2017

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Landlords then and now: Inscriptions at Keerapakkam tell a story

Remember encroachment on water bodies was blamed for the floods that wreaked havoc in Chennai a couple of years ago? Centuries ago the situation was different, as local people sought to donate land for building and conserving water bodies. Two of the three inscriptions found on boulders at Keerapakkam on the stretch between Vandalur and Tiruporur near Chennai stand testimony to the practice of local landlords gifting land for the water body, in stark contrast to the present day land sharks who only grab land to sell for profit. Recently, a team of experts -- archaeologist J Bhaskar and epigraphist PG Loganathan -- deciphered the inscriptions after learning about it from a heritage-loving local resident. The first inscription, found on a boulder lying under a neem tree in a paddy field at Kannimarcoilmedu, showed that a local, named Sankan, had donated land of 20 kuli for conserving the Keerapathur lake. “The inscription about Sankan gifting land for the conservation of the water body dates back to the 7th century, the period of Pallava King Kamba Varman,” Bhaskar told Express. The second inscription that belongs to the period of Chola King Raja Raja-I shows that a woman, Kandigai, wife of Kumaranthai Aravanan, of Gnayiru village, had given her inherited land for improving the ‘Thigiri’ lake. The third one, belonging to the Pallava period, inscribed on a stone slab shows the construction of a Jain temple north of Keerapakkam dating back to the ninth century.

Relief panels were chiseled on the top of the slab, which had auspicious symbols. According to Bhaskar, the inscription also mentioned that a group of taxmen provided food for a congregation of followers of Jainism. Although these inscriptions were published in 1934 in the Annual Reports of Indian Epigraphy (ARIE), they remained buried and the local residents too could not decipher the contents until the team of experts from the State archaeology department visited the spot in March last. AIADMK-PT Amma to appoint district office-b Setting eyes on strengthening the organisational base at the grass root level, AIADMK-PT Amma has been handpicking names for heading the party units in the districts. With the civic polls likely to be held in a couple of months, the party’s top brass is looking to appoint heads to the party units at various levels, sources said. To begin with, the rebel faction would appoint district heads ahead of choosing lower rung functionaries at the town, bloc and village levels. The appointments would be made once former chief minister and party head O Panneerselvam completes his tour in the districts to elicit the views of party men regarding future course of action in the wake of the much trumpeted merger talks remaining a non-starter.

“The agenda of appointing district heads of the party is under discussion. We will finalise it soon after our leader completes the district-wise tour,” a top leader of AIADMK-PT Amma said. Panneerselvam, who staged a revolt against VK Sasikala on February 7 two days after he was deprived of the post of chief minister, is commencing the tour on May 5 in Kacheepuram and would complete the exercise by the month end. Meanwhile, in an event held at the Hayagriva Vidyashram School in Sriperumbudur on Tuesday, he released a mobile app and a book on the teachings of spiritual leader Sri Ramanuja.

-http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/may/03/landlords-then-and-now-inscriptions-at-keerapakkam-tell-a-story-1600360.html, May 3, 2017

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Attend a heritage exhibition

Learn more about the city at this three-day heritage exhibition, which will include heritage story telling sessions, traditional game workshops and other fun activities. Organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (ITACH), the exhibition will begin in Pune and travel across the state. Entry is open and free for all. WHERE: Raja Ravi Verma Art Gallery, Ghole Road
WHEN: May 4 - 7, 11 am – 6 pm
Check out a gig

Two bands from Mumbai and one from Pune will take stage tonight. The three young groups are Corner Café Chronicles, a three-member pop rock band, which has released a couple of singles since 2016, punk rock band Insignia, also from Mumbai and What Plough?, a four-member alt rock band, which was formed in 2012. WHERE: Hard Rock Café, Koregaon Park Extension

WHEN: May 4, 8.30 pm
ENTRY: Rs 250, Rs 500 (cover) Chug beer Cool off on some beer all night long as the two-member band Folk Story perform in the city tonight. There are also some great summer special deals at this venue. WHERE: Playboy Beer Garden, Balewadi WHEN: May 4, 8 pm onwards Learn DJing and music production at this four-hour workshop Where: Bass Race Studio, Koregaon Park Annexe When: May 6 and May 14, 1 pm – 5 pm Call: 9960710662

-http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/entertainment/unwind/attend-a-heritage-exhibition/articleshow/58500514.cms, May 4, 2017

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As water crisis grips city, step-wells cry for attention

City of lakes and bawdis (step-wells) is facing a severe crisis of potable water, especially during onset of summers in the last few years. Thanks to Bhopal Municipal Corporation's lackadaisical attitude towards these traditional sources of water. Summers brings with it water crisis in several localities that depends on underground water sources. The 14th century traditional Bawdis (step-wells) that were a significant ground water source and improved the water table in the city are in a state of neglect. There are around 15 bawdis of different sizes, across the city. "These bawdis were developed to improve water catchment area around palaces and other monuments," said Ritu Sharma of Sanidhya, an NGO working towards restoration of these step-wells.

Cleaning of seven Bawdis are completed so far, while the others would be taken up soon. She expected the civic body to come forward for the restoration process. Ritu said, "Efforts are being taken to create awareness about bawdis among people of Bhopal." Historical evidences suggest most bawdis were constructed during the time of Sultan Gyas Shah Khilji. These step-wells, which were functional till the British time, have now been turned into dumping grounds. The 15 bawdis in the city were identified by the research scholars under guidance of assistant professor Vishakha Kawathekar, head, Centre for Cultural Knowledge Systems, & Programme Coordinator, M. Arch (Conservation) School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal. Kawathekar's research found most of the bawdis are situated in old Bhopal areas including Sindhi Colony, Badabagh, Model School, Moti Talab, Naveen Colony, Navbahar Colony to name a few.

-http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/as-water-crisis-grips-city-step-wells-cry-for-attention/articleshow/58504710.cms, May 4, 2017

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Turtle conservation project in K’shetra awaits CM’s nod

An ambitious project to conserve a natural habitat of endangered species of turtles at Thana village in the district has got stuck in bureaucratic hurdles. Sources say the state Wildlife Department had proposed the project pertaining to protecting a biodiversity heritage site, but the case is pending in the Chief Minister’s Office for the final approval. Once endorsed by the state government, residents of the village, located about 50 km from here on the Ambala-Kaithal road, will be roped in to develop a ‘community reserve’. A scientific study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had confirmed the ancient pond as a natural habitat of flapshell and shoftshell turtles. However, officials say there is also need to identify and document other aquatic animals, including a large number of fish, in and around the large water body. “The Brahmasar pond is a rare site that wildlife officials discovered by chance during a routine survey of wetlands. Local residents say turtles were there in the pond for decades, but they had no official record,” say an official of the Wildlife Department. Thana sarpanch Sharda Sharma says the panchayat has passed a resolution to hand over the pond spread on 104 acres to the Wildlife Department.

But there is no progress in the case, she adds. According to the proposal, while the land will remain the property of the panchayat, joint teams of villagers and the Wildlife Department will protect the natural habitat of turtles. Called ‘bhatal’ in the local parlance, officials say conservation of turtles will boost wildlife tourism in the area. Dr Chetna Sharma, a birdwatcher from Kaithal, claims to have sited over 100 species of migratory and resident migratory birds at Brahmasar. Villagers do not exploit the pond for commercial activities due to religious sentiments associated with it.

-http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/haryana/turtle-conservation-project-in-k-shetra-awaits-cm-s-nod/401742.html, May 4, 2017

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Shikha Shah from Varanasi is beautifying garbage to decorate her city

With many across the country striving for sustainability and combating wastage, yet another brilliantly creative use of garbage has been found by Varanasi’s Shikha Shah. She has founded a startup, Scrapshala, in an effort to clear garbage and waste from the city and transform it into something completely new. Her unique company draws inspiration from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and ‘Startup India’ initiatives. Shikha says, After completing her graduation in Environmental Science from Delhi, nature-loving Shikha began working. Through her job, Shikha was given an opportunity to work on various projects, where she realised that many people do not care about the environment. It seemed to her that people had forgotten its importance. This motivated her to quit her well-paying job to start a business that could spread the message of cleanliness in society as well as help the unemployed. Shikha says that she used the garbage from her house in the first phase.

Her next step was to go to the municipal corporation and use the waste there to design beautiful things. These crafts are so visually stunning that it is unbelievable that they have been created from everyday garbage dumped in the dustbin. Her knack for turning clutter into useful, gorgeous things has made her business grow. The knickknacks made by Scrapshala are sold across the world through sites like Facebook and Snapdeal. She is now on a quest to find a perfect location for her workshop. In order to fulfil her desire to help the unemployed, Shikha will open outlets all over Varanasi and teach people the necessary skills to convert trash to market-worthy items. The people being trained will also receive a salary to learn the skill. When it comes to realising her own dreams and propagating her message in society, Shikha has been quite successful. She started her journey alone two years ago. However, she is followed by a train of people today, one that is only growing bigger with time. Through her talent, determination, and hard work, she has helped more than half a dozen unwaged people get back on their feet. The number of people Shikha is training is only increasing with time.

These trainees are paid over Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 as salary. The workers employed by her are content and happy as they are able to support their families with ease with this new opportunity. Scrapshala has left many amazed, as they find it hard to believe that the useless garbage they sell or throw away has given birth to such a successful business. There is a dire need for more young people like Shikha who endeavour to gain success through the betterment of society.

-https://yourstory.com/2017/05/shikha-shah/, May 5, 2017

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India’s first ‘village of books’ opens

Terming it a “historic occasion”, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday inaugurated India’s first ‘village of books’ in the picturesque mountain village of Bhilar in Satara district, 110 km from here. ‘A pivotal moment’ Mr. Fadnavis said, “With this concept, the residents of Bhilar have carved a niche for themselves in the country’s social scene. Henceforth, Bhilar will be the definitive destination for bibliophiles and I urge litterateurs and publishers to freely host events here for the promotion and preservation of literature and literary ideas.” The Chief Minister said the opening of the ‘village of books’ was a pivotal moment in the country’s socio-cultural milieu. Geographically modelled on the similarly idyllic market town of Hay-on-Wye — the Welsh mecca for bibliophiles — Bhilar, with its robust collection of literature in Marathi, aims to be the one-stop destination for lovers of vernacular literature. The idea of a book village sited close to the hill-station town of Mahabaleshwar was to transform Bhilar into a haven where bibliophiles can devour books. With a population of 5,000, an overwhelming majority of whom are engaged in strawberry farming, the village, nestled in the Sahyadri hills, is a major producing-hub of strawberries, which draws a lot of tourists. Education Minister Vinod Tawde, for whom the project has been a labour of love, said, “With this novel venture, tourism and the preservation and promotion of Marathi language and culture can go hand in hand. The government will use the village as a unique platform to promote literature.” It is with the aim of preserving and documenting the Marathi language’s rich heritage that this concept first took root, Mr. Tawde said.

About 75 artists have striven hard to give the village a literary veneer. Their paintings on the temple, houses and walls in the village evoke images of words and literature and are expected to draw in book lovers. The walls of schools and community halls in Bhilar have been adorned with paintings of saints like Tukaram and national leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak in a bid to resonate with the literary fervour of the place. Officials said around 15,000 rare books and old magazines in Marathi, including copies of old Diwali issues, have been stocked and kept on display. The collection of English and Hindi literature will be steadily updated. According to authorities, a nominal deposit fee would be charged from readers to ensure proper maintenance of books. They said as the area is prone to heavy rainfall, special provisions would be made to preserve books from damp weather.

-http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/indias-first-village-of-books-opens/article18385850.ece, May 5, 2017

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A 111-year-old building gets a makeover for a hip new tenant named Zara

You may not have noticed the 111-year-old Ismail Building in Mumbai’s iconic Flora Fountain area. But it‘s hard to miss in its new avatar. The five-storey Edwardian Neo-Classical building once owned by the Ismail Yusuf Trust formerly housed banks and offices. But finance and commerce have made way for retail. The building now houses a Zara store. The move marks several milestones. It’s the famous Spanish fash-fashion brand’s first street location in India - as opposed to the stores it has had in malls for seven years. It’s also the company’s largest store in India, covering five floors and a total of 51,300 sq ft. And in a market that’s increasingly moving online, it’s a rare instance of investment in large-scale restoration and south Mumbai real-estate for retail. Take a look at how ‘So yesterday’ blends with ‘So right now’. Architects from Zara’s parent group, Inditex, collaborated with local architects Kirtida Unwalla and Mona Sanghvi to restore Ismail Building’s facade and modernise the interiors.

The two-year process uncovered several surprises, says Sanghvi. Cast-iron pillars were revealed in boarded up corners, boxed-in windows were broken down to reveal the building’s original balcony grilles. Take the escalator to the second floor to see the building’s original brickwork. Restoration called for moulding experts, limestone workers and an international team of stone masons. But creating the setting for a modern store also called for picture windows that let in light without turning the merchandise into silhouettes. Concealed lighting on the shelves illuminates the right spots. Glass, gloss and neutral accents make up the store’s interiors. The building claims it uses 30% less energy and 50%?less water than a conventional store of its size and has applied for Gold LEED?green building certification. The store is Zara’s 20th in India and sixth in Mumbai. With luxury brand Hermes operating out of another restored building nearby, this marks a change in the neighbourhood. Smaller tenants and older businesses are making way for large-format stores that capitalise on the area’s architecture and tourism circuit.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/fashion-and-trends/a-111-year-old-building-gets-a-makeover-for-a-hip-new-tenant-named-zara/story-SRmQ7tgXB9c9yUePnjRM8N.html, May 5, 2017

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Conference on 'Silk Route Tourism' concludes at CUJ

National Conference on ‘Silk Route Tourism: The Revival of Tributaries of Cultural and Archeological Heritage’ concluded at Central University Jammu, here today. The three day long conference, sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, was an endeavor of the School of Business Studies, CUJ, towards assessing opportunities and challenges of Silk Route region and further taking a collaborative approach to develop Silk Route Tourism vis-à-vis Trans-Himalayan region. Farooq Shah, Secretary Tourism, Education and Floriculture, was chief guest on the occasion of valedictory function while Saleem Beg, Member Secretary, National Monument Authority of India, was the guest of honour. They lauded the CUJ for initiating various critical scholarly pursuits.

Prof. Ashok Aima, Vice Chancellor, CUJ, said that the Silk Road epitomizes a civilizational construct both chronologically and thematically which has relevance not as a mere trade route but also archeological, cultural, historical and ethnic relevance. He said that the School of Business Studies, CUJ, though in initial stage is striving to develop into a centre of quality research and policy think tank with an intention to increase public participation and promote fair debate in the area. Earlier, Dr Jaya Bhasin, presented a detailed report on the events of three days. She informed that in all 70 research papers were received from across the country and around 42 scholarly presentations were made by scholars and researchers during the seven tracks spread across three days. Among the dignitaries, who were present on the occasion, S M Sahni, convener, INTACH, Jammu, V K Sehgal, Prof Manu Mittal from JNU, Prof Inayat Zaidi (JMI), Prof Ashraf Wani (University of Kashmir), Prof Sunita Zaidi (JMI), Prof Gulshan Majeed (University of Kashmir), Prof B C Sharma ( University of Jammu) and others. Dr Shahid Mushtaq, organizing secretary of the conference, coordinated the whole event. Later, Dr Neelika Arora presented a formal vote of thanks. The proceedings of the day were conducted by Dr Bharti Gupta and Bharti Sujan.

http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/conference-on-silk-route-tourism-concludes-at-cuj/, May 8, 2017

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Students continue to explore ancient world through Ekamra Walks

Proving its growing popularity among students community, city’s heritage walk, the Ekamra Walks today got several engineering students from the KIIT University as they heard about the event from the social media and made it their day on the 21st edition of the unique tour. It can be mentioned here that among all cities in the country Bhubaneswar has got the highest concentration of temples and monuments as it has 361 listed monuments either on the conservation list of ASI, State Archaeology or documented by INTACH. Today more than 25 people participated in the walk, braving the sun. It can be mentioned here that the social media has come as a real helping hand for the popularization of Ekamra Walks and especially attracting the young mass towards exploring the heritage sites in Bhubaneswar’s Old Town area, which traditionally is known as Ekamra Kshetra in the religious texts.

Gurudev Mumase, an elderly person and ex-Indian Air Force personnel from Chennai said “this is my second visit to Ekamra Walks and I am really fascinated by the temples of Bhubaneswar. I am doing a research work on their various socio-religious and technical aspects and would love to visit the city more often.’’ The heritage walkers today started from Mukteswar and touched Parsurameswar, Sampoorna Jaleswar, Kotitirtheswar, Bindusagar, Ananta Vasudev, Old Dharnasala, Lingaraj, Sari Temple, Parikrama of Bindusagar, Mohini Temple, Vaitaal Temple, Ekamra Van the medicinal plant garden and Art Vision for Odissi recital.

As a joint venture of the Bhubasneswar Development Authority, Odisha Tourism and Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, the Ekamra Walks has come a long way in attracting nearly 1,000 persons so far as all are niche segment visitors with special and specific interest on temples, heritage and Odia culture. De Tour is the agency, managing the show.

-http://pragativadi.com/students-continue-explore-ancient-world-ekamra-walks/, May 8, 2017

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How temples tell stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana

In the ancient Indian context, narrative architectures have been widely adopted as a medium of storytelling. With grand movies like Baahubali and the one planned on Bheema creating a lot of buzz on how they help to recreate the past, preserve culture in modern times and communicate the glorious past for global consumption, it would be interesting and relevant to explore the means that ancient Indians adopted to preserve the rich cultural heritage for generations to come. With stone architecture being a static medium withstanding the test of time, visual arts, theatre and music formed the dynamic means of preserving and propagating the rich cultural heritage of the land. In the ancient Indian context, narrative architectures have been widely adopted as a medium of storytelling. Every panel in an ancient temple had a story to tell. The story could be a simple anecdote or an entire epic represented as intricate carvings. It is amazing to note how stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana are even now etched in the collective memory of Indians through their depictions in various temples in India and abroad, not forgetting the contribution of oral traditions, though. The level of detail captured by these sculptures intrigues visitors in these temples.

Here are a few stone carvings from temples in India and abroad depicting episodes from the Mahabharata. These carvings are a testimonial to how stories from the Mahabharata have travelled across India and overseas, connecting people from diverse backgrounds, and serve as a medium of communicating the rich cultural heritage of India to a global audience. This sculpture of the Pandavas and Draupadi can be found at the Dashavatara Temple in Deogarh, Rajasthan. The temple was built around 500 CE in the Gupta period and serves as a place to study the Gupta style of architecture. Notice the unique headgear adorned by each of the Pandavas. The main panel at Mahabalipuram shows the descent of Maa Ganga when Bhagiratha performed tapasya. Bhagaritha’s forefathers, who were sons of Sagara, were burnt to ashes by Kapila Muni because they had disturbed his penance. In order to free his ancestors from the curse, Bhagiratha undertook penance to bring the celestial river Ganga, who could wash away their sins. A closer look reveals a meditating cat whose story is narrated in the Udyoga Parva by Duryodhana, comparing its cunningness and hidden agenda to Yudhisthira’s attitude. While some historians attribute the meditating emaciated person on the left to Arjuna, some say it is Bhagiratha. This carving is found in Amba Theertha, in a place called Kalasa in Karnataka. Amba theertha is named after Goddess Parvathi and is a water spot.

When Yudhisthira lost the game of dice, the Pandavas and Draupadi had to go on exile to the forest. Unable to be separated from the Pandavas, numerous sages accompanied them into the forest. As a King, it was Yudhisthira’s responsibility to protect and feed the sages. Not knowing the means of feeding them, Yudhisthira prayed to Surya Deva. Surya Deva handed over the Akshaya Patra: the vessel that could not be emptied. He said that once filled with food, the Akshaya Patra would not be emptied until Draupadi ate her meal. Draupadi filled it with food and, to her surprise, the vessel could never be emptied. Once the sages and Pandavas had their meal, she too had hers and then the vessel became empty. The Chennakesava temple at Belur in Karnataka has one of the finest and intricate carvings of the Hoysala architecture. Built by King Vishnuvardhan, it took about 103 years to complete. Arjuna lifting his bow to shoot the matsya yantra during Draupadi’s Swayamvara can be seen at this temple. The beautiful Amriteswara Temple of the Hoysala Period in Karnataka depicts the combat between Shiva (dressed as a hunter) and Arjuna, after which Arjuna obtained his Pashupatastra. The narrative appears in the Vana Parva-Kirata Parva. In the Kirata Parva of the Mahabharata, Arjuna sets out to attain the Pashupatastra. As he was wandering, he saw a wild boar rushing towards him to slay him. Arjuna, who was known for swift response and reaction, strung his Gandiva and pointed it at the boar. At that very moment, a hunter (kirata) and his wife were present at that spot. Both Arjuna and the hunter shot an arrow at the boar and the boar fell dead. The boar revealed its true form, which was a rakshasa. An argument erupted between the hunter and Arjuna as to who shot the boar first. Arjuna showered arrows at the hunter and a fierce battle started. Arjuna kept showering arrows but the hunter accepted them with a smile. Wonderstruck by the fact that his arrows had no effect on the other person, Arjuna stood still. He soon realised that this must be none other than Rudra - Shiva himself. He surrendered to Shiva, asked for forgiveness and rendered a sloka. He won the blessings of Shiva and obtained the Pashupatastra.

The Chakravyuh that took Abhimanyu’s life in the Mahabharata war is shown in marvellous carvings at Halebid Temple, Karnataka. Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, learnt the art of entering a Chakravyuh (an army formation) when he was in the womb. During the Kurukshetra War, when Abhimanyu entered the Chakravyuh, Jayadratha prevented the other Pandavas from entering the formation. Stuck alone, Abhimanyu used various strategies to defeat great warriors but was killed by Dushasana’s son. The Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora, Maharashtra, is one of the largest and most beautiful rock-cut temples. Built in the 8th century by Rashtrakuta kings, the temple complex has numerous caves decked with carvings depicting the Itihasas and Puranas. The Mahabharata war can be found in Cave 16 of the temple complex.

Pattadakal in Karnataka is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ruled by the Badami Chalukya kings, one can find 7th and 8th century Saiva and Jaina temples there. Bhishma lying on a bed of arrows can be seen at the temple. The panel shows Arjuna on the chariot with a bow. On the tenth day of the Kurukshetra War, Shikandin stood in front of Arjuna. Due to Bhishma’s vow that he would not fight with someone not qualified for fighting, he dropped his bow and arrow upon seeing Shikandin in the front. Arjuna shot numerous arrows and Bhishma fell down with these arrows piercing his body. Since Bhishma had a boon of choosing his day of departure, he waited until Uttarayana to leave his body. The fame of the Mahabharata not only spread throughout India but to other parts of the world, especially Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand. Their dance forms have various scenes from the Mahabharata.

The Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia is a vast site measuring more than 160 hectares. Built in the first half of the 12th century by Suryavarman, the temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Mahabharata war and Bhishma lying on the bed of arrows is depicted in panels at Angkor Wat. These intricate stone carvings on the Mahabharata present a multidimensional aspect of the various stories. They do just narrate a story but recreate the scene by presenting the various facets of the scene, including the attire, hairstyle, multiple worlds and beings and army composition and formations. With knowledge and a little bit of imagination, these carvings can bring out grand stories, live, to the onlooker.

-http://www.dailyo.in/arts/hinduism-temples-storytelling-ramayana-mahabharata-ellora-ajanta/story/1/17060.html, May 8, 2017

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Ajanta, where art, nature, faith coalesced

The wellsprings of our sustenance, both physical and cultural, draw deeply from the monsoons. It is not only our staple crops, fruits, and vegetables that rely principally on the monsoons, but a large body of our cultural expression also hinges centrally on the celebration of the monsoon or the lament of its playing truant. The Raga Malhaar, with more than 30 variations from our classical music and hundreds of strains from our folk tradition like the Kajri and Sawani, live and breathe because of the monsoons. Countless texts like the Maghdootam from across the length and breadth of the subcontinent resonate with the monsoons, and yet one sees little effort to foreground the monsoons as the leitmotif and to build an exploration of our natural and cultural heritage around this recurrent theme. Take Ajanta for example.

It is a UNESCO world heritage site and our promotional material about the site says that the monsoon is the best time to visit Ajanta, and yet one does not see any special effort to draw tourists and travellers to Ajanta during the rains. The 30 man-made caves nestle across 500 metres on a sharp rocky scarp of the Sahyadris, overlooking a 76-metre gorge, through which flows the River Waghora. The Sahyadris are not a pretty site during the summer months, the streams and waterfalls dry up, and the rocks radiate heat through the day, there is hardly any green, and little shade. Come the Monsoons, and the landscape becomes magical. This is the time to visit the caves, excavated, carved, and painted across 800 years between the 3rd century BCE and the 5th century CE. Ajanta was designed essentially as a rainy season shelter and retreat for Buddhist monks. The rains provided an opportunity to the monks to take a break from their daily routine of preaching and begging for Alms, to meditate, study, debate, and to learn from senior monks.

Each cave was originally connected to the river below through a flight of steps, now mostly missing and replaced with a wide promenade connecting all the caves Whoever chose the site had an eye for beauty and must have known how absolutely charming the place becomes during the Monsoons. Dense forests, draped in thousands of shades of green, sheltered and concealed the caves and ensured peace and privacy for quiet contemplation and meditation. Round the curve of the gorge are several waterfalls, big and small, one can hear them splashing on the hard rocks from outside the caves at the peak of the rainy season. Where else would you find nature at its verdant best in complete harmony with the fruit of human labour — carvings, sculpture, and painting, inspired by the beauty of nature, human form, and the quest of the spiritual? The caves, though known to the local population, had been forgotten and taken over by the Jungle.

Credit goes to a shepherd boy who led John Smith, an officer of the British army, out hunting tigers in the area to one of the caves on April 28, 1819. That cave is now known as cave number 10. John Smith went to a nearby village, mobilised the villagers to cut the undergrowth and cleared a passage to the caves. John promptly scratched his name and the date on the image of a Boddhisatva. The rediscovery of the caves and their exquisite craftsmanship took the world of art and archaeology by storm. The delicate lines of the human figures, their lifelike proportions, the ability of these sensuous works to bring to life the attires, the drapes, the jewellery, the rhythm of daily life, and the depiction of courts, homes, busy markets, birds and animals, real and mythical, and other aspects of daily life, were commented upon and documented extensively. Of the 30 caves, eight are incomplete; you can miss them if you are in a hurry, but do not at any cost miss caves numbered 1, 2, 9, 10, 16, 17, and 26. April 28, 2019, is the 200th year of the rediscovery of the caves. Find time after Mid-June 2019, go visit the 2,000-year-old caves in the third century of their rediscovery.

Spend at least half a day wondering at the skill of those who conceptualised and created these masterpieces — the oldest surviving examples of mural art in India — the inspiration behind the revival of mural painting in India in the early 20th century and one of the major influences on the painting techniques of modern Indian masters nurtured by Shantiniketan, Gurudev, and his disciples. And don’t miss the waterfalls, the Sahyadris, and the Monsoon. The author is a historian and organises the Delhi Heritage Walks for children and adults.

-http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-ajanta-where-art-nature-faith-coalesced-2429696, May 8, 2017

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Soon, Archaeological Survey of India to start conservation work of Sundarnarayan temple

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will soon start the conservation work for the 17th century Sundarnarayan temple.Earlier, chemical conservation work had been done before the Kumbh Mela but as the vegetation weakened the structure, conservation of it has become crucial. The work will be done in phases. Constructed in 1756 (BC 1678) by Sardar of Peshwas, Gangadhar Yashwant Chandrachud, Sundarnarayan temple is one of the most frequented temples by tourists and locals. In July 2015, the Aurangabad unit of ASI had started chemical conservation work but halted it soon due to the cracks in the stones of the temple.

The ASI's chemology branch in Aurangabad then sought permission for structural conservation. The stones have cracks in them and may loosen or give away in a couple of years. Removing the vegetation and chemically conserving the temple was not sufficient as there were cracks in the stones. In September 2015, the state archaeology department wrote to its head office for structural conservation," an official said. Currently, administrative approval of Rs 4.51 crore and financial approval of Rs 2.50 crore has been given for the conservation. "We will soon start with the first phase of the conservation. The superstructure (dome) will be dismantled step by step," said assistant director of the department of archaeology, Maharashtra, Shrikant Gharpure. The superstructure is around 50-55 feet in height and needs immediate attention. "There will be no difference in the size," Gharpure said. The decoration, art work, floral parts, carvings of gods and goddesses will be prepared in the same manner like the original one. "The conservation work will take about two years to finish. The raw material and stone will be brought from Degluler, Nanded and the lime from Gujarat. We are using the same basalt stone which was originally used," Gharpure said.

-http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nashik/soon-asi-to-start-conservation-work-of-sundarnarayan-temple/articleshow/58554358.cms, May 8, 2017

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France within India: architectural ties to a common heritage

Chandannagar, a former French colony situated in north Bengal, reminds us of our shared heritage. Caught between its deteriorating architectural heritage and the aspirations of modernity in new India, the region has seen various conservation attempts since the 1980s. India’s relationship with France can be traced back to the 17th century when François Bernier, a french traveller and physician, became the personal physician to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. As the British occupation of India expanded its influence on the architectural fabric of the country, French architectural themes and motifs found its own flowering in the port towns along the seaboard. Établissements français dans l’Inde or French Establishments in India became the formal name of French colonies in India that spread along the coast lines; Pondichéry, Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast, Mahé on the Malabar Coast and Chandannagar in Bengal, just outside of what is now Kolkata. Chandernagore, now known as Chandannagar, had its first brush with the French when the Nawab of Bengal gave a consortium permission to set up a trading post on the Hooghly river and the little village transformed into a permanent French settlement by the end of the century.

Joseph François Dupleix’s appointment as Governor General of India in 1742 saw a complete overhaul in the architecture and urban planning of the town as more than two thousand brick houses were built in addition to other infrastructure that enhanced maritime trade; Chandannagar became an epicentre for French trade in the region. Dupleix also built himself a prodigious compound, housing himself in what is now locally referred to as the ‘Dupleix Palace’. With churches and basilicas scattered across its urban strategy, the town was divided between the French Quarter, referred to as ‘Villa Blanche’, and the Indian Quarter, referred to as ‘Villa Noire’.

The distinction between the two is as evident today as it might have been pre-Independence, not simply in the style of the homes themselves, but a shift in the urban planning reveals itself in smaller plot sizes and roads narrowing into lanes as you move from the French sector to the Indian. While following the traditional grid iron pattern, unlike other military establishments of the French, erstwhile Chandernagore was built as a trading town to settle down in for both, French and Indian merchants. Broad, tree-lined avenues ran parallel to the River Hooghly with modest ground plus one-storeyed buildings aligned along the street. The town’s architecture testifies to the French Colonial Empire in its construction and style albeit in contrast to the British, French Colonial architecture was not simply the model of a European building on Indian soil. Even though buildings bore resemblance to the settler’s homes staying true to certain classic geometries, construction details and ornamentations, most buildings in the French establishments reflected the use of local resources and materials and Bengali influence in its planning. The town’s geographic location factored in high ceilings for natural ventilation and the buildings were elevated by a deep plinth to rise above the soft and wet soil.

Most homes from the era aligned themselves along the roads showcasing an elevation of carved archways and colonnades adorned with French shutter windows but with extremely narrow street frontage. As you step into one of these houses, presumably through a grand archway, you can’t help but admire how the home wraps itself around multiple courtyards and grows organically into a backyard garden reminiscent of a traditional Bengali floor plan. Girdled with high walls, the architectural plan of these homes was evidently drawn to increase the sense of privacy as you stepped deeper into the building. Chandannagar, caught between its deteriorating architectural heritage and the aspirations of modernity in new India, has seen various conservation attempts by architects, government agencies and NGOs such as INTACH since the 1980s, despite an active lobby of builders trying to tear it all down. This French colonial cousin, that is trademarked by its French masonry and the Strand Boulevard saw a passionate effort by award winning conservation architect Aishwarya Tipnis through a heritage conservation and community engagement project that is still ongoing. Aishwarya Tipnis graduated from the School of Planning & Architecture New Delhi and received a master’s degree in European Urban Conservation with distinction from the University of Dundee, Scotland in 2007. A recipient of the Commonwealth Professional Fellowship 2011, Bonjour India Embassy of France Travel Fellowship 2010, Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland Award 2007, she has authored Vernacular Traditions: Contemporary Architecture. “Heritage plays an important role in the identity of a place, it reflects its image and reveals stories of its past epitomising its sense of character. If understood and managed properly it has the power to effectively contribute to the overall quality of urban environment as well as serve as the starting point of sustainable urban development.” she says.

Work began on the town in 2010. The first part of the project was about identifying the heritage of Chandannagar and preparing an appraisal of the urban area and the buildings therein. It identified the area’s special features and changing needs through a process which included researching its historical development, carrying out a detailed townscape analysis and finally preparing a character assessment. The second phase of the project known as the “Heritage & People of Chandernagore” was a community engagement and digital humanities project where the youth of the town were appointed ‘Citizen Historians’ to help collect oral histories while at the same time creating a global inventory of all the heritage buildings by crowdsourcing memories of Chandannagar from across the world. Phase 3 of the Project, which is called “Maison de la Lune” or “House of the Moon”, which has been chosen for an intervention in Bonjour India 2017 – to be held starting November for four months travelling across India, involves one building, the French Registry, where students of design from India and France would be co-creating and collaborating to develop an intervention in Chandannagar. A conversation towards preserving historic settlements can prove beneficial to more than just our culture. Taking a hint from cities across the globe and even the states of Goa, Rajasthan and Pondicherry, preserved heritage is advantageous to local economics. Not only do conservation practices involve less resources than new construction but they recycle past energy investments and provide us with with an opportunity to interact with and adapt to our heritage.

-https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/statement-furniture-thatll-give-home-style-upgrade/, May 9, 2017

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Defining aesthetics of city space through art

When Dilbir Foundation, a non-profit organisation working towards eco-conservation, invited artists to create colourful graffiti and wall paintings at the Kichlu chowk flyover two years back, the project was considered as a unique one, as it introduced Amritsaris to the concept of the open public art space. Encouraged by the appreciation, another such art work was done by artist Nita Mohindra at a pillar opposite the local bus stand. Although the two art works soon fell prey to MC’s advertising hoardings, it gave rise to awareness among citizens towards aesthetic conservation. Last year, when the city was undergoing a big makeover in the name of heritage, a few more colourful spaces came up at Bhandari Bridge and intersection towards Hall Gate. The walls of Company Bagh, too, were painted with tribal art and many were relieved that they spared a thought for aesthetics, avoiding a thorough white wash of the walls instead. While these graffitis are not new to the city as NGOs have been using them to create awareness for their cause, saving them from defacement has been a task. “A city-based NGO had created a graffiti at a corner of the Garden colony, which was being used as an open dump. It was a refreshing change and motivated people to respect open spaces and keep them clean.

Soon, it was defaced repeatedly by advertising posters, destroying the very purpose it was created for,” says Sandeep Arora, a resident of the colony. Even Gunbir Singh, president, Dilbir Foundation, and Nita Mohindra had expressed their displeasure over the defacement of their respective art works by MC putting up advertising hoardings. He said art was a better replacement for advertising posters on city walls. Adding to city’s aesthetic character. Dr Balvinder Singh, conservation planner, who had been associated with a number of heritage projects, says in the name of heritage, wall paintings or graffittis are made but not conserved. “These wall paintings at Bhandari Bridge and other places were promoted as heritage but they do not have a heritage character.

Instead, if they are promoted for their aesthetic elements, giving a character to the otherwise congested city scapes, it would definitely encourage more such spaces to be exploited creatively. Worldwide graffitis are used to connect people, to spread a message or make a statement. We can do the same, given we also preserve them.” The best example in this case could be the long stretch of wall paintings outside the Sadar police station and the cantonment created to spread awareness regarding drunken driving, traffic rules and environment by school students.

-http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/amritsar/defining-aesthetics-of-city-space-through-art/404242.html, May 9, 2017

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Jharkhand set to become paradise for bird watchers

If you are a bird lover, Jharkhand is the place to visit. The state’s bird sites are now getting recognition worldwide and opening new avenues for bird tourism. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a pan-India wildlife research organisation promoting the cause of nature conservation, has recently declared four more sites as Important Bird Area (IBA). IBA is an area, which is globally important for conservation of bird populations, identified on an internationally set of criteria. The new IBAs are Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, North Karanpura Valley, Tilaiya Dam and Topchanchi Dam. Earlier, BNHS had recognised only three sites, including Hazaribag Wildlife Sanctuary, Palamu Tiger Reserve and Udhwa Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, as IBAs in 2004. Seven Important Bird Areas of Jharkhand (HT Graphics) “The four sites have qualified in two IBA criteria that is A1 and A3 out of the four fixed criteria,” said Satya Prakash, state coordinator of BNHS’ India Bird Conservation Network (IBCN). The A1 criteria suggests presence of globally threatened species in a particular area while A3 indicates of having large numbers of migratory birds and biome restricted species. He said names of the new IBAs for Jharkhand were disclosed recently during the release of second edition of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in India. “Jharkhand has been one of the least studied states in terms of birds. Information on birds is limited and a bird checklist of the state is also not available,” he said. “In a bid to understand the state’s bird potentiality, we have started bird census since 2008-09. After proper study for last couple of years, we pushed for inclusion of four more sites under the IBA category,” Prakash said, adding, with the inclusion, the four sites would now get international recognition and state government would focus more on conservation and protection of the areas. Jharkhand principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) LR Singh said inclusion of four sanctuaries under IBAs was an indication of improved habitat for birds in Jharkhand. “To protect the birds and other animals, we are drafting sanctuary management plan.

-https://www.nyoooz.com/news/ranchi/805759/jharkhand-set-to-become-paradise-for-bird-watchers/, May 9, 2017

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INTACH takes up survey of old markets in Hyderabad

The Hyderabad chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has started a survey of the old (heritage) markets in the city on Wednesday to find out the state of the structures. “We covered Monda market and a few other markets in Secunderabad area and wish to complete the other areas soon,” said P Anuradha Reddy, Convenor, INTACH. Soon after the announcement of GHMC of its intention to demolish old markets in the city, heritage lovers decided to visit the markets themselves to check the strengths of the buildings. Ravi Kiran, a participant at the heritage walks said, “The old markets are inseparable part of the history of the city and if they could be repaired, then they should not be demolished.” The Moazzam Jahi market spread over 1.7 acre is known for fruit stalls and ice-cream parlours. Built in granite in 1935 and named after the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan’s second son, Nawab Moazzam Jah Bahadur, only needs minor repairs as it is still strong, says Anuradha Reddy.The market needs anti-corrosive paint in certain parts, water-proofing at some points and a chemical wash should be enough. A senior GHMC official too said that though the market was named in the list, it would not be demolished.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Hyderabad/2017-05-11/INTACH-takes-up-survey-of-old-markets-in-Hyderabad/299138, May 11, 2017

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Buddha Purnima: The mystery behind unexplored Buddhist treasure trove in Kashmir

In the Harwan area on the heels of Zabarwan range in Srinagar, there is an abandoned site that houses the remains of over 2000-year-old monastery belonging to the era when Buddhism was flourishing in Kashmir. The site was excavated by the archaeologists somewhere between 1919 and 1929 AD. Among the excavated remains is the three-tiered base of a Stupa, a set of rooms in diaper pebble style of masonry and the decorated terracotta tiles surrounding it. The properly shaped terracotta tiles, presently showcased in a museum, depict the images of people looking similar to those hailing from Yarkand and Kashgar while some are seen wearing Turkish caps and trousers. But what remains hidden is believed to be the treasure related to one of the biggest ever Buddhist conclaves held here in those days. Many historians believe that the fourth Buddhist Council was convened by the Kushan emperor and devout Buddhist Kanishka (127-151 BC) at the Harwan monastery.

It is believed that as many as 500 Buddhist monks from across the Indian subcontinent led by their revered colleague Naga Arjun attended the conference. Historians say the conference gave new shape to Buddhism and the proceedings of the historic event were engraved on copper plates. After the conclusion of the conference, the monks are believed to have unanimously buried the plates in the Valley before leaving for their respective destinations.Muhammad Saleem Beg, a prominent expert on heritage, who has worked extensively for the National Monument Authority, says that the “Harwan base of the monastery is an unexplored mystery” and that there is every possibility that the testaments in copper plates could be lying buried there. “The basic point is that some of the most authentic Buddhist sources, mainly from China, including the accounts of iconic traveller Hiuen Tsang, have acknowledged that the fourth Buddhist conference was held in Kashmir and that the copper plates related to the event were also buried here only. So this is beyond any reasonable doubt that the area does have a Buddhist treasure or to say the biggest unexplored treasure of this world,” he told InUth.com. Interestingly, Beg says it was because of Harwan that neighbouring China has “huge regards for Kashmir.” “Chinese hold high esteem for Buddhism and believe that Buddhism reached them from Harwan, so one can understand the emotional bond,” he added.

Beg, who presently heads the J&K chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH),—a globally renowned group into heritage conservation—regretted that the Archeological Survey of India and other concerned agencies have failed to properly excavate the Harwan site. “What we were told is that not even five percent of excavation has been done, so it’s huge Buddhist treasure that lies unexplored,” he insists. As per the folklore, Harwan, where the Buddhist conference was held, was known as ‘Shadarahadwan’ in ancient times, meaning ‘woods of six saints’. But then, if the experts are so sure about the hidden treasure, what prevents the concerned agencies from undertaking excavation? “Well, that’s a mystery,” says Beg.

- http://www.inuth.com/india/jammu-and-kashmir/buddha-purnima-the-mystery-behind-unexplored-buddhist-treasure-trove-in-kashmir/, May 11, 2017

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Exhibition on wheels: Science Express to cover around 70 stations across India

The Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS II), an innovative mobile science exhibition on a 16-coach AC train, will stop at 68 stations across the country in its current phase tour till September. "The Science Express 9th Phase is covering around 70 stations for science popularisation in nearby areas," the Secretary Department of Science and Technology, Prof Ashutosh Sharma told PTI at a recent DST programme in the city. "The exhibition is a good opportunity to generate dialogue and discussion on science-related issues," Sharma said. The current ninth phase of the Science Express (SECAS II), flagged off on February 17 this year will be completed on September 8, this year, covering 19,000 km, a Central government press statement said on Wednesday. The SECAS is a unique collaborative initiative of DST, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Railways, Wildlife Institute of India and Vikram A sarabhai Community Science Centre. Science Express Phase I to IV had showcased cutting edge research in science and technology being carried worldwide, Phase V to VII was based on the theme of biodiversity and as 'Science Express Biodiversity Special' it showcased the rich biodiversity of India. Phase VIII as 'Science Express Climate Action Special' highlighted the global challenge of climate change, the release said.

Climate change is an important environmental issue with many short term and long term impacts, from shifting weather patterns that threaten food production to rising sea level that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impact of climate change are not just global in scope but more severely affect the poor. Since its launch in October 2007, over 1.61 crore people had visited Science Express.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/exhibition-on-wheels-science-express-to-cover-around-70-stations-across-india/articleshow/58616005.cms, May 11, 2017

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Guided tour in Purani Haveli

Commemorating the 100-year fete of Osmania University and remembering the contribution of seventh Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan for the development of Hyderabad State, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) conducted a guided tour of Purani Haveli here on Saturday. “Guided tours or heritage walks organised by the INTACH are aimed at helping heritage lovers understand and appreciate the rich cultural, historical heritage and importance of our city, which has a history of more than 420 years,” said Anuradha Reddy, Convener of INTACH, Hyderabad. During the tour, participants were informed about the history and importance of the place, architectural history of the building and the significance of the fascinating collection of articles presented to the seventh Nizam in 1927 on his silver jubilee, which are displayed in the Nizam Museum. Participants were also taken through the 240-foot-long wardrobe of sixth Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan and various artefacts of the seventh Nizam.

- https://telanganatoday.com/guided-tour-in-purani-haveli, May 15, 2017

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Rare Yoga Narasimha idol found in Penpahad village

Archaeologists have discovered an early historic site in Penpahad village in Suryapet district. A rare Yoga Narasimha idol and several other idols were found at the site, which date to between the 1st century and the 3rd century. The ruins of a Shiva temple was also found, which had idols of Maisasuramardhini, Nandi, Naga, Naga Devatha and Bhairava. Some red ware items, a black ware hookah, terracotta beads and three ratna symbols of Buddhists were also discovered during excavations. P. Nagaraju, assistant director of the department of archaeology and museums, is undertaking excavation at the site under the supervision of director N.R. Visalatchy. He said the Shiva temple dates to 13th and 14th century. “We found a rare Yoga Narasimha idol at the site. Lord Narasimha is in a yoga posture,” he explained. Meanwhile, archaeologists, who struck gold in Neremetta and Palamakula pre-historic megalithic burial sites in Siddipet district of the state, have stopped further evacuations and are looking for new sites. Considered one of the most successful excavations in recent times, the experts found a six-feet tall human skeleton, red/black pottery, iron implements, knife, sickle, hook and rare bone ornaments in Palamukula. All these dated to 1,000 BC and 200 AD. “Excavations at both these sites are the most successful in recent times. We found several priceless objects that throw light on pre-historic civilisation. We found a rare bone ornament from 1,000 BC, which will throw more light on the life those days. In the past we found a bone comb,” Mr. Nagaraju disclosed. Similarly, they lifted a 40 ton capstone, the biggest so far found in South India, at the pre-historic Menhir burial site in Neremetta village of Naganur Mandal, Siddipet district. The capstone, with a length of 6.70 metres, width of 4 metres and 65 cm thick, was moved with heavy cranes. There are 50-odd megalithic burial sites in the area and are classified into three types: Menhir, Cairns and Dolmens. Arm bones, three red ware pots, two mixes of black and red ware broken pots and an iron tool were found by archaeologists below a smaller Menhir nearby. The bones and other findings will be sent for DNA testing to CCMB to study the life of pre-historic people, their lifestyle, food habits and culture.

- http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/140517/rare-yoga-narasimha-idol-found-in-penpahad-village.html, May 15, 2017

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Village near Bihar’s Bodh Gaya worships Buddha as Durga

In the Puranic texts, Buddha is mentioned as one of the ten avatars (incarnation) of Vishnu and his statues of Pala and Sunga era have often been seen to be worshipped in Hindu temples in villages, where they were originally discovered. But at Bhuraha village in Bihar’s Gaya district, 140 km south of Patna, idols, which archaeologists claim to be of Buddha, have been placed in Hindu temples and are being worshipped as Durga and Hanuman. Village women even apply vermillion ritually on some of the idols each day, treating them to be variation of goddess Durga and Kali. Bihar archaeology department director Atul Verma, however, sees nothing wrong in it. “You cannot but commend the villagers. They have installed these idols, unearthed during unconventional digging, in temples and helped preserve it,” he said. Archaeologists say Bhuraha is a protected area where a treasure-trove of archaeological remains are still buried and require permission for excavation and proper preservation. They also claim that Buddha is believed to have spent some days in the village on way to Sarnath, where he delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. The site was in the news in May 2013 when chief minister Nitish Kumar visited Bhuraha during his Seva Yatra and held a detailed discussions with the villagers, along with a high-level team of the state archaeology department. Sensing the significance of the site, Kumar also announced plans for integrated development of the village and protection of the mounds. On his return to Patna, the chief minister directed all the departments concerned to chalk out a plan for Bhuraha village,” said Rajeev Ranjan, associated with the village development committee. “We have been struggling to protect the mounds for more than a decade. Although we have been able to protect the idols and other remains like pillars, stones in our temples, it requires serious exercise to showcase the remains to tourists,” said Rajdev Prasad, president of the committee that organised the first Bhuraha Mahotsav in 2016. The Bhuraha Zirnodhar Samiti, a committee formed to spearhead a campaign to promote the village as a tourist spot, has, however, its own grounds for worshipping Buddha as Hindu goddess. “The idols are well preserved in Hindu temples. What is the harm if women worship Buddha as their goddess? The precious idols are at least safe here,” said Bhuraha Zirnodhar Samiti president Suryadev Prasad. “The chief minister is well aware of the site and the hopes of Bhuraha rest on his initiative,” the Bihar archaeology department director said, adding that Kumar had sanctioned Rs 50 lakh to set up a museum for preservation of the idols and other artifacts recovered at the village.

- http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/village-near-bihar-s-bodh-gaya-worships-buddha-as-durga/story-rvamrhI8xvu8gJJmTuTmDK.html, May 15, 2017

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Spring-cleaning India's most magnificent tent

Rajasthan's Royal Red Tent is as tall as a double-decker bus, made from silk, velvet and gold - and it's getting its first proper clean in more than three centuries, says Melissa Van Der Klugt.

High up on the ramparts of Mehrangarh, in one of Rajasthan's most famous forts - one of the most visited in India - a small team is dusting down a large tent.

Each section is so big that the three conservationists - dressed in neat white overalls and equipped with pocketfuls of soft brushes - must clamber around on tables and chairs. "The priority is the object," says one, pointing to the elaborate design of lotus flowers stitched in solid gold thread.

For this is no ordinary tent - but one that excites huge interest and controversy in India. It was once thought to have been the home of Shah Jahan, the great 17th-Century Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal. His nomadic ancestors rode down from Central Asia and Afghanistan to conquer swathes of India - and this was his "travelling palace".

Made in imperial workshops from exquisite red silk velvet and gold, it stands when unfurled at 4m (13ft) - as high as a London double-decker bus. It's known as the Lal Dera, or the Shahi Lal Dera - the Royal Red Tent.

And it's being given its first proper spring clean in 350 years.

"There is no surviving piece like it in India or anywhere," says Karni Singh Jasol, the director of the fort's archive in Jodhpur. "The idea was that it had to have all the luxury of a painted stone palace."

Shah Jahan was nicknamed "the Builder of the Marvels" - he ordered up some of Delhi and Agra's finest monuments - but spent most of his three decades in power on military campaigns. One hundred elephants, 500 camels, 400 carts and teams of bearers were once needed to carry the emperor's camping equipment as he roved across plains and jungles with tens of thousands of horsemen.

"In his tent," says Jasol, "there would be cushions and bolsters and a bed, and objects like hookahs or wine flasks and jewellery cases."

Porters carried porcelain for the emperor's table. He was said to travel at a leisurely 10 to 12 miles (15 to 18km) a day, pausing to hunt cheetah or deer. The Mughals were used to erecting these temporary cities, says Jasol. Shah Jahan's great-great grandfather, the first emperor, Babur, who arrived in India from Afghanistan, once boasted he had never spent any two Ramadans in the same place.

One encampment contained so many scribes, harems, court officials and workshops churning out leather goods and artwork that an astounded British ambassador wrote that it must be the same size as Elizabethan London.

The Rent Tent was believed to have been looted during a battle, whose victors, the rulers of Jodhpur, took it back to their fort, Mehrangarh, in the sun-baked Thar desert. And there it has remained.

Immaculately dressed in a Nehru waistcoat and cravat, Jasol now presides over the vaulted archives within Mehrangarh's thick stone walls. They house thousands of precious artefacts and documents, often requested for exhibition abroad. Art historians now argue over whether the Red Tent belonged to Shah Jahan or his ruthless son, Aurangzeb - who put his own father under house arrest.

"But it is still our rarest and most prized object," says Jasol. All other Mughal tents of the same size have been dismantled and the pieces scattered. It began to show its age. "It was on display in one of the galleries here," says Jasol. "But every morning the staff would see a sort of gold dust… There was a lot of stress on the velvet and the brocade so we put it into storage to rest."

Its conservation is part of a bigger project to revamp the museum to appeal to India's booming domestic tourist market. When Mehrangarh opened as a museum in 1974, most visitors were British or American. "All the rooms had been locked up and only the temples had been active," recalls Jasol. "I remember the first director describing how it was full of bats and bat droppings."

Now Indian visitors - curious about their history - have overtaken foreigners. The Red Tent's big clean is being carried out by team of three conservators. "The effort that went into making it shows the dedication to the emperor," says one, Shakshi Gupta, peering at the fabric through a magnifying glass.

"Velvet these days might last just 20 years if you are lucky. This kind of labour and intricate weaving by hand would be too expensive."

The women are living in rooms at the fort for the next year. "It was a little spooky at first sleeping here," Shakshi says. "If the walls of this tent could talk, they must have seen so much."

- http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39890722, May 15, 2017

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Three-day event to save dying regional art forms

Apathy towards conservation of regional folk arts has been pushing many of these art forms on the verge of extinction. Due to absence of patronage by government, custodians of these art forms are barely struggling to keep them alive with younger generations expressing disinterest in carrying this legacy forward. Keeping that in mind, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and Mehrangarh Museum Trust (MMT) have jointly come forward for conservation and promotion of two significant art forms of Marwar — 'Kuchamani Khayal' and 'Pabuji ki Fad' by organizing a three-day long event called 'Marwar Lok Natya Mohotsav' that began from Monday as an extended Jodhpur Foundation Day celebration. MMT director Karni Singh Jasol said though, to certain extent, these art forms are still in practice in rural areas of Marwar but, are fast nearing extinction due to absence of measures of conservation and promotion of these art forms and their artists. "Keeping that in mind, we have conceptualised this three-day event with a sheer objective of saving these two ancient art forms from vanishing and motivating the artist, true guardians of these fading art forms," Jasol said. "The characteristics of valour and spirituality woven across the landscape and legends of Marwar region, though, have been well depicted in various ballads, poems, verses and books but various art forms emerged foremost medium for their depiction in most significant and interesting way and 'Khayal' and 'Fad' are two such prolific art forms," INTACH Jodhpur convener Mahendra Singh Tanwar said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jodhpur/three-day-event-to-save-dying-regional-art-forms/articleshow/58689545.cms?, May 16, 2017

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Mumbai Airport celebrates International Museum Day

To commemorate the diversities of India’s cultural industries, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport that hosts India’s largest public art programme – Jaya He, will organise weeklong passenger engagement activities at the Terminal 2, starting today, to mark the World International Museum Day. Organised annually on May 18 by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), this initiative is a collective effort by museum communities across the globe to raise awareness about the role that museums have played in the shaping and development of societies. Drawing inspiration from this year’s theme of “Museums and contested Histories: Saying the unspeakable in Museums”, MIAL has planned a host of activities for travellers which will include workshops, tours, and folk/traditional musical performances. Through this initiative, the airport aims to apprise passengers about India’s unheard legacies, narratives, historical background and facilitate cultural exchanges amongst travellers transiting through the city. In addition to this, with the objective of fostering an interest in India’s multicultural legacy through artistic expression, well-known artists and architects from the city will engage with students to enlighten them about the fusion of art and architecture in the context of India’s rich culture and history. The Jaya He Museum previously conducted an educational outreach programme by hosting 200 school students, in the 12-14 year age group, from across the city. During the week, the airport has also arranged a museum safari for travellers and passengers. The programme entails a brief 15-minute tour of the various artifacts and installations across four levels at the airport. This initiative will give travellers a chance to get a glimpse of the country’s cultural heritage, by giving them an opportunity to view over 7000 artworks, created by over 100 artists and artisans from across India. Travellers will also get an opportunity to indulge in some regional delicacies from Kerala and Kashmir at select locations, offered free of cost while they get a visual treat of the artworks. Under the patronage of the Jaya He art initiative, The Jaya He Museum Store at T2 will provide a platform to Indian artist, craft persons and designers to showcase their creativity and proficiency. On this occasion, the store is bringing to the forefront artists to exhibit their work. These include names such as Trilok Soni, Rabindra Behera, Dr Ismail Khatri, Kalyan Joshi, Kapil Jangid, Kamini Kaushal, D Vaikuntam, Sukhnandi Vyam and Rajesh Vangad who have been conferred with national / state award for Pichwai, Pattachitra, Ajrakh printing, Phad painting, Sandal wood carving, Madhubani on Papermache, Cherial scroll painting, wood carving and Warli respectively, to name a few. The Jaya He Museum was conceptualised as an extension of the Indian aesthetic of the Terminal 2, where modern technologies fuse seamlessly with traditional knowledge. The many-layered narrative is a multi-disciplinary exhibition of the various facets of Indian arts and crafts, showcasing the techniques of artisans from different regions of the country. In 2016, more than 35,000 museums in close to 145 countries participated in ICOM’s International Museum Day.

- http://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/travel-tourism/mumbai-airport-celebrates-international-museum-day/669185/, May 16, 2017

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Harappan civilisation: NASA, ISRO to come together to inspect ‘oldest civilisation’ site in Haryana

US space agency NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will soon be coming together to inspect the excavation that is being carried out at an archaeological site in Haryana’s Fatehabad district. The archaeologists have recovered artefacts from the site which is located in village Kunal and it is believed that these artefacts are from the date back to a period before the Harappan Civilisation. However, as per the reports by Zee News, if the information turns out to be true, then these artefacts could establish evidence of the existence of the oldest civilisation in the world. Haryana Archaeology and Museums Minister Ram Bilas Sharma on Monday said that both the agencies, NASA and ISRO, are likely to start the inspection from October this year. He was further quoted by IANS as saying, “The recovery of artefacts, estimated to be 6,000 years old, strongly indicated that the civilisation that had flourished in Kunal was, in fact, the oldest civilisation in the world. The Harappan Civilisation, considered so far to be the oldest civilisation, flourished about 3,500 years ago.” The artefacts recovered included ornaments and pots, apart from spherical structures. Meanwhile, the Haryana government is considering to establish international-level museums at Kunal and Rakhigarhi. Earlier this month, Indian Express reported that an excavation was carried out by the Haryana Archaeology department, Indian Archaelogical Society, a private organisation and National Musuem, as a joint project for two months at Kunal village in Haryana,which was billed as the biggest archaeological site in the state. It yielded substantive finds, including a kitchen hearth that may confirm the site to be among the oldest Harappan sites, as per what officials associated with the dig said. The dig was wrapped up on March 30 and the findings were being scientifically examined.

- http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/harappan-civilisation-nasa-isro-to-come-together-to-inspect-oldest-civilisation-site-in-haryana/670010/, May 16, 2017

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A novel venture to boost culture of museum watching

Pune’s prominent museums have decided to exhibit their artefacts and antiquities under one roof to mark International Museum Day on May 18 and revive the sagging culture of museum watching in the city. The three-day exhibition will be held at the Symbiosis Society’s Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Museum and Memorial. Twelve of the 36 museums in the city, including the renowned Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, will take part in the exhibition. “It is unfortunate that in a culturally vibrant hub like Pune many locals aren’t aware that the city is home to many museums of diverse intellectual hues. Many foreigners wanting to soak a whiff of the city’s much-hallowed heritage and history are at a loss owing to the lack of awareness,” said Sanjivani Mujumdar, director, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Museum and Memorial. The International Museum Day is an initiative of the International Council of Museums, the apex body of museums across the world, and is celebrated to raise awareness of the importance of museums. The city’s Mahatma Phule Museum with its impressive display of engineering tools, geology, natural history and armoury will participate along with the two museums of the Deccan College: The Maratha History Museum and the Archaeology Museum. Established in 1939, the Archaeology Museum hosts the finest collection of stone tools from prehistoric period and from different parts of peninsular India – some of which will be on display during the exhibition. But the exhibition boasts other treats like Joshi’s Museum of Miniature Railways, which charts the history of railways through painstaking miniature models, and Blades of Glory, which boasts the world’s largest collection of cricketing memorabilia. “Today, museums have to compete and cope with distractions and entertainments like malls and multiplexes,” says Sudhanva Ranade, member secretary, Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum. “Despite the affordable entry prices in India, it is unfortunately not an experience treasured or preferred by audiences and the museum visit, instead of being a source of pride, is usually slashed in favour of a mall outing,” says Mr. Ranade. The eminent Raja Dinkar Kelkar museum, which hosts 21,000 artefacts, sees an average footfall of 1.3 lakh visitors a year. Yet, despite being one of the most anticipated and prominent tourist to-do’s in Pune, lack of funds has hampered conservation efforts and upgradation, with the museum lacking basic audio guides to navigate its byzantine collection. “By this initiative, through posters, DVDs and other media, we hope to effect a dramatic change in the psyche of museum experience in Pune and Maharashtra,” says Mr. Ranade. The museum boom in Europe where each city thrives on a unique cultural structure or collection, is not matched in India, says Mr. Ranade, observing trenchantly that the prohibitive costs to The Louvre in France or The Metropolitan Museum in New York has not impaired the passion of visitors thronging to see these places. “In the West, passionate individuals retain their hobby throughout their lifetime. Yet in India, for most, the hobby stops once formal schooling ends,” says Dr. Ravi Joshi of ‘Joshi’s Museum of Miniature Railways’ noting that the average age of most visitors to train museums in the West was 35. To this end, the museums in Pune eventually hope to register with the ICOM, not only for the purposes of funding, but as a vehicle for disseminating information. Museums offer children an education antithetical to the one encountered by rote learning from textbooks at school, says Rohan Pate, who set up ‘Blades of Glory’ in the city’s Sahakarnagar area. “In a country where cricketing is a religion, most would jump at the chance at seeing Tendulkar’s shirt or Geoffrey Boycott’s boot. So these are the inspired moments which make a visit to the museum moments to be savoured. And we hope to communicate this through this novel venture,” says Mr. Pate. The exhibition is open from May 18 to 20 between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Entry is free

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/a-novel-venture-to-boost-culture-of-museum-watching/article18459884.ece, May 16, 2017

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This app helps people get info at museums without guides

Historical details about that bronze statue of the reclining Buddha will soon be the click of a smartphone away. To make museum artefacts easily accessible to visitors at museums and monuments across the country, the ministry of culture and tourism has decided to roll out 'eguides' at historical sites across the country. The e-guide, which is available free of cost to visitors once they download the museum app on their android mobile phones, will allow them to take guided tours without needing someone to chaperon them around. At present, while the e-guide has already been launched for about 55 artefacts of the 1000 stored in the National Museum in the national capital, e-content is also being readied for the other historical products and artefacts at museums and in monuments across the country. Sources in the ministry of culture said the content creation, which contains contextual audios and videos, is a time-taking process, but is being readied keeping in mind the need to improve a visitor's experience when she visits. The audio-video content will be made available through intranet — museum areas are being made wifi zones — and will allow visitors to hook on to the intranet and scan the QR code placed beside each artefact for a detailed information about it. "Visitors can get all the information they need by scanning the QR code on their phone," a ministry official said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/this-app-helps-people-get-info-at-museums-without-guides/articleshow/58690261.cms, May 16, 2017

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The hill of the 'dwarves'

Sometime in the early 1800s, Rev G Keiss, a German missionary stationed at a mission in Betageri near Gadag, crossed River Tungabhadra from Beejanugger (Vijayanagara) near Anegundi and went on to Mallapur, where he enquired about the ‘dwarf houses of Yemmi Gudda’ that were rumoured to exist in the hills nearby. With some help from the headman of the village, he was able to locate them on the saddle of a hill north-west of Mallapur, scattered among enormous boulders that dotted the hills. In great excitement, he wrote to his friend Colonel Philip Meadows Taylor, the political superintendent at Surpur, who had shown him similar structures at Rajan Koluru, near Lingsugur. He described the various structures he saw there. Most eye-catching were what they called ‘cromlechs’ and ‘kistvaens’ - box-like structures made of tall, square stone slabs set on end; roofed over with large horizontal capstones. There were hundreds of them scattered among the boulders and Keiss made a rough plan of the site and sent it off to Meadows Taylor. Keiss urged the latter to abandon his notion that these structures were graves of ancient inhabitants of the land. He proposed the idea that the site, which he said was halfway between Mallapur and Yemmi Gudda (the Hill of the Buffaloes), was an abandoned settlement and that the stone structures were houses. But Meadows Taylor, who had recovered ash and pieces of human bone from similar structures at Rajan Koluru, stuck to his hypothesis that these were indeed graves, in his paper published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1852, though he did record Keiss’s suggestion too. Whatever these early antiquarians might have made of these remains, the local residents of villages in the Benakal Forest had their own version to account for these strange structures. Benakal Forest was how the land north of Hampi across River Tungabhadra, with its landscape of low, boulder-strewn granitic hills rising above the extensive plains, was referred to in early accounts. The natives believed that these stone huts were made by an extinct race of dwarves, called Moriyas, endowed with supernatural strength, who could heft around the heavy stone slabs with ease.

Not just dolmens
The large group of these Moriyara Mane (Moriya houses) that Keiss encountered is near the modern village of Hire Benakal, which is approached via a road leading to the south off the highway connecting Gangavati to Koppal. Any of the villagers can guide a visitor to Moriyara Gudda (the hill of the Moriyas), which is a moderate trek of about an hour from the village through starkly beautiful landscapes of tumbled boulders and low hills. No place called Yemmi Gudda exists today, but a small hillock called Hema Gudda exists roughly in the location indicated by Keiss. One sees the Nagaari Gund before one sees the stone huts. This is a kettle drum hewn out of stone that sits poised on a high boulder like a sentinel watching over the site. Then one sees them, haphazardly scattered around – the various stone structures that inspired the tales of mighty dwarves. Most prominent among these are large structures called dolmens — squarish arrangements of stone slabs that are more than two metres high. Wandering among these structures, one gets the feeling of walking through an abandoned town and it is easy to understand why Keiss and the local residents favoured the idea that these were houses. Several of the dolmens have circular or semi-circular portholes in one of the erect slabs. In spite of the large size of the dolmens, the portholes are less than 40 cm across, probably the rationale behind the legend of the dwarves! Modern archaeologists dispel the romantic vision by attributing these structures to the Iron Age inhabitants of this land and propose a wide age bracket of roughly 3200-2500 years ago for them. They are believed to be sepulchral and memorial structures commemorating unknown ancestors of ours. But dolmens are not the only structures found at this site. In the western part of the site, other smaller structures are more numerous. There is a smaller, lower version of the port-holed dolmen, partially buried in the soil, and termed as ‘dolmenoid cist’ by archaeologists. There are also similar structures, much smaller, and totally sunk into the soil, called ‘cists’, which are believed to be burials. Another type is a low, squat structure consisting of just a horizontal flat slab raised on a few small rocks, with the gaps between the rocks plugged using flat stone cobbles stacked one upon the other. Professor A Sundara, who studied this site in the 1970s, terms them as “irregular polygonal chambers.” The simplest of the structures at the site are what he called “rock-shelter chambers,” consisting of natural rock overhangs, with their sides plugged using cobbles to create a chamber within. All these structures are called ‘megaliths’ by archaeologists, common throughout (but not confined to) peninsular India and believed to be burial and memorial monuments from the Iron Age. All these structures seem to be conceived with an aim to create a chamber — either a regular one employing quarried slabs trimmed into shape, like the dolmens, dolmenoid cists and cists or by means of improvisation to create simpler monuments like the irregular polygonal chambers or the rock-shelter chambers.

Enigmatic structures
Did these chambers once hold urns containing the remains of the dead, or were they merely structures dedicated to the memory of the departed? The large dolmens at Moriyara Gudda are devoid of interred human remains and may be commemorative in nature. These dwarf houses of Yemmi Gudda seem to have been empty even when Keiss visited in the 1800s, but we cannot rule out looting and pilferage even prior to that. Every single monument at Hire Benakal stands disturbed by the attentions of treasure seekers and looters and the desecration continues even today, despite the site enjoying protected status. Systematic excavations will reveal if there are human remains interred in the cists and dolmenoid cists. A natural water reservoir south of the cluster of dolmens, bearing signs of being deliberately enlarged by the megalith builders and the imposing Nagaari Gund overlooking the megaliths hint that water and sound must have played prominent roles in the rituals that this long-abandoned site must have seen. This remote hilltop with its enigmatic structures that have survived millennia must have once been a bustling ritual centre where stonecutters and masons rubbed shoulders with shamans and priests and the bereaved, but the stone structures of Moriyara Gudda remain stoically silent about those ancient human dramas that would have played out in this windswept amphitheatre of rock and sky. The author is with National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru

- http://www.deccanherald.com/content/611704/hill-dwarves.html, May 16, 2017

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INTACH gives students a guided tour of Hyderabad’s history

To document and understand the process involved in restoring 334 years old Goshamal Baradari structure which dates back to the Qutub Shahi era, INTACH Hyderabad chapter organised a guided tour on Tuesday. Conservation Architect Nitin Sinha accompanied by INTACH’s co-convener P. Anuradha Reddy, guided the students of Aurora’s Design Institute in understanding the process of restoration and adaptive reuse of the historic building. “The baradari is at one end of the palace complex and is the only intact magnificent structure with lime mortar walls and soaring ceiling that helps it stay cool even during the scorching Hyderabad summers. The temperature inside this building is 5 degree Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius less compared to outside,” Nitin Sinha said. Folklore has it that when Aurangzeb attacked Golconda in the year 1687, his army camped out on the grounds of the palace and his son Shah Alam lived in the palace. “The baradari was an open structure at the head of a lake. The wooden doorway and the tracery inside the arches were done after it was handed over to Freemasons,” Anuradha Reddy said. Sinha pointed out that the Nizam of Hyderabad, himself a Freemason, donated a building and where even today several lodges function. “As you walk around admiring the beauty of the building, the portraits of some prominent Freemasons and an equally lavish banquet hall are all awe-inspiring,” he said. Freemasonry, one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies has a member list in Hyderabad that boasts of several nawabs of the Nizam’s era. “The restoration of the building was done after the Baradari was handed over to the Freemasons in 1931 and after that only minor repair works are being done whenever necessary,” Anuradha Reddy informed. After the guided tour of the heritage building, INTACH also organised a curated walk to Mozzam Jahi Market, constructed in 1935 during the reign of the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan and named after his second son, Moazzam Jah.

- https://telanganatoday.com/intach-hyderabad-tour, May 17, 2017

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Google Arts and Culture project to soon let you take virtual tour of Victoria Memorial Hall

Come International Museum Day on May 18, one can virtually explore the galleries of Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH) at the click of a button, courtesy the Google Arts and Culture project, an official said. The project, which spans diverse locations such as the Paris Opera, Smithsonian National Museum of History and Gateway of India, offers viewers a 360-degree walkthrough traversing the galleries, in Google Street View mode. There are so far 354 museum views from India, including those of the Indian Museum in Kolkata, National Museum and National Gallery of Modern Art from New Delhi. Going live on the same day are three curated exhibitions: The Art of Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore: Painter and Personality and The Magnificent Heritage of India as seen by the Daniells. “Over 200 paintings by Bengal School of Art exponents Abanindranath Tagore and Gaganendranath Tagore will be featured in total, in the first two virtual exhibitions. They have been curated by the leading art historian Ratan Parimoo, the author of ‘Art of Three Tagores: From Revival to Modernity’,” said Jayanta Sengupta, Secretary and Curator, Victoria Memorial Hall. ALOS READ: Indian Railways to soon launch a pan-India virtual museum. This exposition includes Abanindranath’s famous water colour ‘Bharatmata’ (Mother India) dating back to 1905. It depicts a four-armed saffron clad woman, holding a book, sheaves of paddy, a piece of white cloth and a garland in her four hands. In the ‘Magnificent Heritage of India’ assemblage, artworks by 18th-century English artists Thomas and William Daniell will be showcased. They include a mix of aquatints and oil paintings. English landscape painter Thomas and nephew William spent around nine years in India from 1785 and made extensive studies, sketches and drawings of the scenery, architecture and antiquities in both oil and aquatints. ALSO READ: The Modern Museum of Modern Art will display original set of 176 emojis. “The exhibition on the paintings of Thomas and William Daniell has been curated in-house over a long time, and showcases their finest work,” Sengupta added. The Victoria Memorial Hall has the largest collection of the Daniells’ works in India (144 hand-coloured aquatint plates). The VMH was opened in 1921. It was conceived by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, as a tribute to Queen Victoria.

- http://www.bgr.in/news/google-arts-and-culture-project-to-soon-let-you-take-virtual-tour-of-victoria-memorial-hall/, May 17, 2017

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1400-year-old Buddha idol unearthed in Odisha

In a major breakthrough in field of research by Utkal University, the students have discovered an ancient idol of Lord Buddha with seven-head snake from Govindapur area near Banapur in Khurda district of Odisha. While 80 percent of the five-foot statue was buried in soil, the face of Lord Buddha with seven-head snake was found outside the ground. The varsity researchers have sought assistance from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and State Museum for more research on the statue. The 1400-year-old idol was first found by Utkal University student Dakhineswar Jena of Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology beneath a banyan tree. After Jena discussed with his Assistant Professor Anam Behera, a team of researchers led by Prof Behera and comprising of students Minaketan Sundar Ray and Ramakant Pradhan along with Jena started digging near the tree in Govindapur area. After digging around 3 ft, they first found seven-head snake and later the Buddha statue was unearthed. “The statue of Lord Buddha is around 1400-year-old. It has similarities with the statues discovered earlier from Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri in Jajpur district. The recent discovery shows that the Buddhists were residing in Banapur area in Khurda district earlier,” said the department professor. According to locals’ belief, there was rain for seven days when Lord Buddha was meditating for knowledge in the area. During the period, the seven-head snake had protected him against hindrance. Such rare idol of Buddha is also found in few other places in Odisha. Twenty years ago, a farmer had found the statue when the upper portion of the snake’s hood was hit by his bullock cart while ploughing the fields. Without digging it further, he ignored thinking it as a rock. Subsequently, people forgot the incident after a banyan tree was grown on the statue, the locals said.

- http://odishasuntimes.com/2017/05/17/1400-year-old-buddha-idol-unearthed-in-odisha/, May 17, 2017

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The art of Kalamezhuthu from Kerala

Expressing beliefs through rituals
The air is light, crisp and fragrant. There are incense sticks placed next to the idols and the thin smoke that is curling up from them is adding to the meditative ambience. The whites of the jasmine flowers, the orange of the priest’s attire, the red from the embellishments on the walls, are making for a colourful treat inside this South Indian temple. It’s all very simple and soothing to the soul. The only thing that is standing out boldly and adding drama in the quiets of this place is the Kalamezhuthu art done on the entrance floor. Intricately crafted and reciting temple stories through big and vivid drawings of gods and goddesses, it is the ritual art of Kalamezhuthu that decorates the floors of most temples in South India, particularly the temples of goddess Bhagavathy or Bhadrakali. Similar to the floor arts of rangoli or kolam from other parts of the country, Kalamezhuthu too is made using powdered colours. A temple art, the patterns of Kalamezhuthu are either depictions of the deities expressing powerful emotions or are inspired by various festivities. All of the representations and emotions depicted are a reflection of the rituals and rarely an artist’s choice. The patterns, the order in which the art is to be constructed, every step is laid down beforehand and follows the religious rites. The colours are pre-decided as well. White, green, yellow and charcoal, the colours are all naturally made from rice, leaves, turmeric and paddy husk and are the only substance used to make the illustrations of the gods. Depicting deities like goddess Kali or god Ayyappa from the religious sagas that are heard of in this part of the country, Kalamezhuthu rather vividly adds to the mysticism of a temple. Kalam, which literally translates to a picture in Malayalam and ezhuthu, which means the act of drawing, speaks for the believes of the people from Kerala. Building art around faith The ritual of Kalamezhuthu develops through three stages that revolve around the religious, aesthetic and social aspects. Firstly, the drawing or the Kalamezhuthu is made followed by Kalam Pattu, which involves the rendering of the myth related to the deity; and finally the Kalam Thullal, the stage in which the kalam is erased while the artists perform to the traditional drum beats. The drawing starts at appointed time and is erased immediately after the rituals related to the Kalam are over. Kalamezhuthu artists are generally members of communities like the Kurups, Theyyampadi Nambiars, Theeyadi Nambiars and Theeyadi Unnis; and the kalams drawn by these people differ in only certain characteristics; nevertheless the rituals that revolve around the practice of this art are all the same. Kalamezhuthu is conducted as part of the general festivities in the temple, or as part of other rituals like Nagapuja (prayer of the serpentine god). The ceremonies are performed by the artists themselves, usually traditional drummers. Rice and other grains that are offered are heaped close to the Kalamezhuthu. As part of the celebrations, the scared space is decorated with flowers, leaves and garlands that add to the subtlety of the ambience, which is dimly lit by the oil lamps. Singing of hymns is another rite and it fills the temple air. The type of song varies considerably, from folk to classical depending on the deity being worshipped. Ritual songs that are sung in worship of the deity on completion of the kalam, are to the tunes of instruments like ilathalam, veekkan chenda, kuzhal, kombu and chenda and are part of an oral tradition performed by the artists themselves.

- http://mediaindia.eu/art-culture/the-art-of-kalamezhuthu-from-kerala/, May 17, 2017

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A walk into the past

As yet another International Museum Day falls today, one is reminded of the neglected state of museums in the city. The government recently floated a few initiatives to revive and restore the existing museums but there seems to be no sustained effort to keep these spaces alive and interactive for the public, especially the youngsters. While a trip abroad is never complete without a visit to a museum, those in Bengaluru don’t even figure in the list of must-see places of long-time residents of the city. The State Museum, Wood Museum, Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum and HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum are mines of information but not many people visit them or even know about them. There are many like Rajeev A, a software developer, who have never visited a museum in Bengaluru. “I don’t know where the museums here are located because there’s not much awareness about their existence or the activities they offer. The government must do more to get people to visit these centres,” he says. He also points out that tapping into the IT crowd in the city would be a good way to draw people to visit museums. “The city has a floating population and popularising the culture of museums among them is a good way of getting them to feel one with the city,” he adds. Youngsters like Sahana Charan, a student of design, recollects that she has visited a museum from school but hasn’t had the interest to go back since. “It’s our heritage but there’s no driving force to revisit museums. There’s must be more interactive spaces within the museums here, and I feel that information must be presented in a crisp and attractive format. There’s not much trending on social media as well,” Sahana points out. There are a few groups like ‘Rereeti’ which believe that museums are holders of tradition and must be preserved for posterity. “Imparting education and creating more awareness is important for getting more people to visit the museums in our city,” says Tejshvi Jain, founder-director of ‘Rereeti’. She points out that museums here aren’t as user-friendly and interactive as they should be. “Museums here must strive to develop spaces that are attractive and visually appealing. Visual communication is a powerful tool and museums must cash in on that,” she adds. There are several organisations like the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) which have chalked out several proposals that the government could implement to refurbish the existing museums. The interest among people for visiting museums has not diminished but museums here are not catering to keeping that interest alive, feels Meera of INTACH. “Museums are always highly recommended to travellers, tourists and people of a city. Every city is proud to showcase its museums, but sadly none of the museums in Bengaluru are highly rated. Museum establishments here have to update themselves and package information in a more interactive way,” says Meera. Drawing a comparison, she says, “For instance, Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum always has children and tourists milling around, but the State Museum looks deserted most of the time. It is high time museums do everything they can to reinvent themselves.”

- http://www.deccanherald.com/content/612106/a-walk-past.html, May 18, 2017

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A day at the Museum

By Janaki Viswanathan

Kelkar Museum hosts a tour of their collection with conservation architect Chetan Sahasrabuddhe. On the ground floor, right near the exit of Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum is a beautifully carved horse in midgallop with a mesmerising set of eyes, which, Sudhanva Ranade claims, make it seem like the horse is watching you no matter where in the room you stand. “It’s the one artefact I find most fascinating,” says the grandson of Dr DG Kelkar and the owner of the nearly century-old museum at Shukravar Peth. This week, conservation architect Chetan Sahasrabuddhe will conduct a heritage walk and talk around the Kelkar museum. Sahasrabuddhe, who is also a member of INTACH — a non-profit organisation that aims to keep art and culture traditions alive — feels that while there are books available to contextualise artefacts at Kelkar Museum, there aren’t any audio visual guides to help appreciate what is on display. So the walk is a step in this direction, hopes Sahasrabuddhe. “We will be talking not just of the objects on display, but also the geography of the area it came from and who made them, so we can appreciate the art within its context,” he explains. Sahasrabuddhe believes that it is essential to be informed about culture and art “because we all exist as a continuum of our pasts”. “The past has no relevance is a statement that only holds rhetoric value. In day to day life, the past has a huge role to play, and not just romantic but practical as well,” says Sahasrabuddhe. He cites the example of earthquake home rehabilitation. “If one pays attention to vernacular literature about historical architecture, we would be able to find more practical solutions to natural disasters like materials used being climate-friendly, low cost, easy-maintenance and so on.” What Sahasrabuddhe finds most interesting is that, in earlier times, even items of daily use like a foot-scrubber or a spittoon for example, had aesthetic value, unlike the present factory-product times we live in. He speaks of a growing interest in not only uncovering these relics, but also keeping them alive via new creations. “Rashmi Ranade, another INTACH member, has brought out a range of salt-and-pepper shakers inspired by old designs.” As of now, the Kelkar Museum is able to house barely 10 per cent of the artefacts that were curated by Dr Kelkar, an optician by profession and a poet in his spare time.

WHERE: Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Bajirao Road, Shukravar Peth
WHEN: May 20, 9.30 am to 11.45 am at
ENTRY: free for Heritage Club members, non-members have to pay the Museum entry fee.

- http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/entertainment/unwind/a-day-at-the-museum/articleshow/58720475.cms, May 18, 2017

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Govt to amend law to allow projects near protected heritage sites

The government approved on Wednesday amendments to a law that will allow construction of public infrastructure such as highways, bridges and airports within 100 metres of protected monuments. The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958 prohibits any construction around 100 metres of a historical building or place accorded protection under the law. The restriction has stalled over the years projects such as flyovers, underpasses, subways, metro stations and bus terminals to be constructed on land within the “prohibited area”. And engineers had to redesign their projects to go around a monument’s restricted periphery. The India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) realigned its 1.1km Mathura Road-Ring Road underpass cutting through Pragati Maidan as the project was too close to Purana Quila and Sher Shah Suri’s fort. The original layout failed to evade the 100-metre cap. The amended law will do away with such stumbling blocks, but only for projects approved and sanctioned by the Union government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet cleared on Monday a proposal to amend the law in Parliament, following reports that the restriction is affecting the government’s development projects. The Archaeological Survey of India’s joint director general (archaeology), RS Fonia, said the amended law will allow important public projects. But the country’s watchdog for heritage monuments cautioned that the government must ensure adequate safeguards before allowing constructions. “A heritage impact assessment study must be conducted before allowing a project near a protected monument. The study must ensure no harm will come to the monument,” said Major General (retired) LK Gupta, chairman of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Amend the law “carefully”, and consider projects on a case-by-case basis, he suggested. “No blanket approval.”

- http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-to-amend-law-to-allow-projects-near-protected-heritage-sites/story-JTBDBF9GZAyX4OqA7NCOFM.html, May 18, 2017

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An encylopedia of Indian museums is now just a click away

In a first-of-its kind initiative, Sahapedia aims to map 1,000 museums across India to create a comprehensive web resource for those keen on exploring the cultural wealth of the country. A lovely assortment of museums awaits you on the website, MuseumsofIndia.org—from iconic institutions such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru to quaint ones such as the Ever Living Museum, Shillong and the Manjushree Museum of Packaging and Design. For years, lack of information—about the objects within, tickets, visiting hours, whether the space is disabled-friendly or not, basic facilities, and more—has deterred people from visiting museums across the country. Sometimes, people are not even aware of the existence of a particular museum in a city. For instance, when I spoke with a couple of friends from Guwahati, they didn’t know of the Ethnographic Museum in Jawahar Nagar, which was established in 1977 and houses around 620 artefacts related to the socio-cultural aspects of different communities of Assam. It is to create awareness about such museums—some established and some little-known—that Sahapedia, an online encyclopaedic body, launched MuseumsofIndia.org, a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind web museum mapping resource in the country. I test the website, just before it’s about to go live on International Museum Day. The project is still in its first phase, as part of which the team has mapped nearly 140 museums in 10 cities, including Baroda, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Shillong, Guwahati, and Jodhpur. The home page carries a list of the featured museums, while also allowing you to search for them by the city. The neat design of the website and the ease of use are among its many attractions, as is the plethora of details on offer. Once you click on a museum name, say the Vintage Camera Museum and Foundation in Delhi NCR, the page offers a detailed blurb about the history of the museum, and a list of information such as location, the key objects, who is it managed by, person incharge, the website, type of museum, opening and closing hours, entry fee, nearest public transport stop, recommended duration for a walk around, information on other shows and activities, and more. It also lists the kind of facilities on offer: whether it allows photography and videography or not, does it have restrooms, drinking water, parking, a museum shop, cafe, Wi-Fi, locker room, library, IT facilities, is it wheelchair friendly, does it have information in Braille and rentable spaces, etc. The website is quite addictive, prompting you to open one page after another. My search takes me to the Conflictorium in Ahmedabad, a participatory museum that addresses the theme of conflict. According to the website, there are six key spaces here—some interesting ones being the Empathy Alley, where one can hear famous speeches by political figures in their original voices, the Moral Compass that invites visitors to see, read and touch the constitution and the Memory Lab, which allows visitors to let out their deepest thoughts by adding notes to empty jars placed in shelves. The site is also a great resource for planning your travel itinerary for a particular city. For instance, I now know that when I visit Bengaluru next, I need to reserve two hours, between 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm on a weekday, for a visit to the NIMHANS Brain Museum. And that I need to look up Dr Anita Mahadevan or Suresh Parmar, when there, who will act as guides through the space. Collected over a period of 35 years, there are 400 human brains on display in see-through plastic jars—some affected by head injuries, cerebrovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders. Those, who don’t turn squeamish at the sight of slimy, tangled stuff, can request the museum to allow them to touch and feel a real human brain. What has taken the team by surprise is the sheer diversity of museums that exist across India—from the Heritage Transport Museum and Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in Delhi NCR to the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in Jaipur and the Mother’s Wax Museum in Kolkata. “Through this website, we are also trying to acknowledge the immense personal and individual efforts in collecting and maintaining some of these artefacts,” concludes Chauhan. It has taken months of research to put the resource together, with the team reaching out to museums and collecting data. Several members then travelled across the country, visiting these museums to verify the information and document some of the key objects. “We had done a mobile app on museums of Delhi and got a great response for it. So, we thought why not do a pan-India web resource,” says Vaibhav Chauhan, founding member, Sahapedia. Planned across three phases, the project seeks to cover 1,000 museums and aims at becoming a resource for museum professionals as well. “In the second phase, we will add multimedia modules composed of articles, interviews, photos, videos, maps, and bibliographies on various subjects. In the third phase, we will offer some transactional value to the consumer such as the option to book tickets or to buy something from the museum shop,” he says. This is, as of now, an open resource, available for free to those keen on discovering the cultural and historical wealth of the country.

- https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/encylopedia-indian-museums-now-just-click-away/, May 18, 2017

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Engaging with the past

If you can’t go to the museum, the museum will come to you. Today on International Museum Day, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS)’s mobile interactive initiative ‘Museum on Wheels’ (MoW) will make its presence felt in parts of South Mumbai. The mobile museum, a customised AC bus is currently showcasing the exhibition, ‘As it happened: historical sources and how to read them’. The name of the current show is a clever play on the Sanskrit word ‘itihas’ meaning history. ‘Museum on Wheels’, an initiative by CSMVS and Citi India was launched in 2015. Ajay Salukhe and Krutika Choudhari, Education Facilitators, MoW say, “The bus is like a teaser of what you [can] see when you visit the museum.” Today, the bus will make its first stop at High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel by 10:30 a.m. where participants can partake in activities block printing and seal making. The bus will then make its way to Marine Drive (the Chowpatty end) at around 3 p.m., eventually making its final stop for the day near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) from 6 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. Salukhe states, “The purpose of this exhibition is to educate people about sources of history. When you see history it is not only about [a] maharaja and warfare but there is a science behind it.” MoW’s current exhibition has panels dedicated to different times in India’s cultural past like the Stone Age and the Ashokan era. The facilitators will provide guided tours to visitors, making it interactive by conducting activities like storytelling, watching documentary films and making crafts. Back at CSMVS, there will be a slew of in-house activities around the theme ‘Arts of the World’. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Fort; craft activities are expected to begin by 11 a.m.; Call 22844484/4519.

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/engaging-with-the-past/article18478119.ece, May 18, 2017

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The craft connect

Marumalarchi speaks of the need to keep dying traditions alive in a changing world. Woven mats as fine as silk, hand-painted cotton saris that speak of a hoary craft tradition, fine embroidery created high in the hills of the Nilgiris, terracotta artefacts, bric-a-brac and utensils in stone, temple jewellery that is contemporary while speaking of the tradition it springs from — the Crafts Council of India’s Marumalarchi project is not just about reviving these once-popular crafts, but also keeping them relevant in a changing world. The ongoing exhibition at Kamala, the CCI’s store in Egmore, is also a great way to be aware of the stories behind the creations, and why it is vital to ensure they continue to find a place in the hearts of future generations.

Hand-painted saris
Sikkalnayakanpet

For centuries now, the calcium-rich waters of the Kollidam have lent the artistic creations from Sikkalnayakanpet their unique sheen. A branch of the Kalamkari tradition, the painted murals, bed linen and hand-painted saris of this village have wowed connoisseurs for long. The village was a pet project of craft revivalist the late Martand Singh, and it hosted him more than five times, as he helped craftspersons come up with new ways to keep alive their art form. And now, Visalakshi Ramaswamy, known for her work with the M Rm Rm Cultural Foundation, has done the same for CCI. “It takes effort to keep pushing them to try something new. But, it is necessary to keep this craft from fading,” she says, opening out a sari to show you why it’s a treasure. E Rajmohan, a trained artist, who also took time off to study at a film institute, is now back keeping alive the family craft story. He remembers routinely helping his parents as a child. “Soon after Martand Singh sir came, we flourished. He nudged us out of our comfort zone and backed us. Till about 1995, we exported majorly to The Netherlands; they loved our bed linen.” About 70 saris crafted by Rajmohan and others in the Karupur Kalamkari Art Foundation, have been displayed at Kamala. “This is a craft form that’s not taught but picked up,” he says. The saris bear jewel tones in mustard, black and red. “What we’ve achieved is about 10% of my father, the late Emperumal’s, mastery.” The art calls for great skill sets. “We have to be fast, yet do a thorough job so that the colour depth is constant,” says Rajmohan, who is also working to get people to work on small murals and interiors. “Who has the time or space for huge murals?” But what gratifies Rajmohan is the ability that college students from Mayilaaduthurai display. “They hail from a different background, yet do this so well. Local women have been trained in the craft,” he adds. He hopes that, someday, Sikkalnayakanpet will not be looked at as a rarity, but a commonly seen art form.

Artistic mats
Pattamadai

For 30 of her 55 years, Zeenat Sulehal Bibi (in photo) has been weaving gossamer-fine Pattamadai mats. She remembers how, as a child, the family tradition introduced itself to her. She began helping by slicing the reed that lends the Pattamadai mats a distinct look. “We began by slicing it into two, then four, then eight, till we managed to produce fine strands,” she says. Some years later, she dabbled in creating the dyes that coloured the reeds in brilliant hues. All this, by watching her family work on the reeds. “We weave mats in different counts. We do a 53-count mat in about four days, a 120-count mat in about 15 days… luckily, we’ve never fallen out of the public gaze. The demand has always been there,” says Bibi. She continues: “I would keep watching my father and other relatives work on the reed (korai) to render it pliable. Today, my daughters and grandchildren are invested in what we do.” The teaching, of course, continues unabated. So does carrying forward the family’s artistry.

Terracotta figurines
Malaiyur, Pudukkotai

As a child, R Meyyar had an important task at hand other than studying and playing. He would help his father, a terracotta artisan, collect wet earth from two places — the local tank and a field. After piling the mud into two chattis, he would carry them on his head back home. His father would mix them with paddy husk and create beautiful figurines out of them. Of late, Meyyar has been specialising in Ayyanar temple horses, Garuda fugurines, and more. “My father even travelled to countries such as Japan, Australia, Greece and Taiwan to popularise his craft.” Every day, Meyyar works from dawn to nearly dusk to create terracotta figurines and statues that go on to decorate local temples. “In the village, we work as a collective unit, and are busiest during village festivals. What we have learnt is that our skills can be adapted to create anything new. The method is the same, it’s just the form that is different. And, if the method has to survive, we must absorb new influences and forms.”

Cast in stone
Namakkal

Inside Kamala is a line of traditional stone cutlery and stone carvings from near Namakkal. Jayasri Samyukta, executive committee member, CCI, who coordinated this revival, says, “These artisans have been making kitchen equipment in stone for years. We encouraged them to create something contemporary. It took effort, but the result is stunning.” Which is how you have earthy granite bowls that are perfect to serve a colourful salad, or plates that will showcase cheese well. “We worked to see what kind of stoneware people were using. We wanted to create a line, including Tagines, that is useful for modern-day table settings,” she says. Since it’s been a while since stone was the predominant material in the kitchen, queries do arise regarding maintenance. To tackle these, pick up an instruction sheet that tells you how to temper stoneware and maintain them.

- http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/reviving-the-crafts-of-tamil-nadu/article18473818.ece, May 18, 2017

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International Museum Day: 10 must visit quirky museums in India

Our country has a glorious past that keeps us fascinated. A peek into the history gives us an insight on how we became the nation we are today. If you are among the curious souls to know about the existential and philosophical questions, then museum is a place that works as a snacking option. Apart from the historical museums there are several quirky ones that will keep your curiosity aroused at least for a long time. On International Museum Day, we have compiled a list of 10 quirky museums in India that you should visit once in a lifetime.

Mayong Black Magic and Witchcraft Museum, Guwahati
Mayong, a village located in Assam’s Marigaon district, is historically been known as ‘the land of black magic’, the origin of black magic in the place is not documented though. The name Mayong or Mayang has been originated from the word ‘Maya’ meaning illusion. The Mayong Black Magic Museum and Emporium has also preserved ancient manuscript of Black Magic, swords that are assumed to be used for making human sacrifices, handmade dolls, skulls and tools. Visitors are also given live demonstration of magic show where ancient rituals are being performed to cast healing spells.

National Rail Museum, New Delhi
Located in Chanakyapuri and spread over 10 acres of land, the National Rail Museum was first opened for visitors on February 1, 1977. It is considered as one of the biggest museums in India. The one-of-a-kind museum displays a great collection of railway masterpieces, carriages and antique steam locomotives. The main exhibits of the museum are Patiala State Monorail Trainways, Fairy Queen, Fire Engine, Saloon of Prince of Wales, Electric Locomotive Sir Roger Lumley Matheran Rail Car No 8899, Betty Tramways and Fireless Steam Locomotives, among others. When here don’t forget to enjoy the toy train ride, it may cost you just Rs 20.

Naval Aviation Museum, Goa
Goa is not just about beaches and suntans. The military museum displays the evolution of the Indian Naval Air Arm over decades. Inaugurated in October 1998, the museum comprises of two-storey indoor gallery and an outdoor exhibit. The indoor section displays several rare and vintage photographs and documents that India’s Naval Aviation History since 1959. It also houses a variety of Indian Navy’s bombs, sensors and cannons. While the outer section has around 13 aircraft on display that includes Short Sealand Mk 2, Fairey Firefly TT Mk1, HAL HT-2, de Havilland Vampire T-55, Hawker Sea Hawk FGA Mk 100, Breguet Alizé, HAL Chetak and Hughes Hu-300, among others.

Fossil Park Museum, Sirmaur
Also known as the Suketi Fossil Park, the museum showcases a collection of vertebrate fossils and skeletons. It also houses an open-air exhibition of six life-sized fiberglass models of extinct mammals – Huge land tortoise, sabre toothed cat, large tusked elephant, four-horned giraffe, gharial and hippopotamus. The place is considered to be Asia’s biggest fossil park and is maintained by Geological Survey of India.

Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Delhi
The one-of-a-kind exhibition is managed by Sulabh International, a social service organisation dedicated to human rights and environmental sanitation. The museum was established in 1992 by social activist Dr Bindeshwar Pathak to highlight the need to address India’s sanitation issue. Today it educates visitors about the development of toilets and importance of sanitation. The displays dates back to 3000 BC, on displays are ancient chamber pots, toilets made of gold, Victorian toilet seats, sewerage system during Harappan Civilisation and also display boards with poetries, jokes and cartoons.

Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad
Managed by Sarabhai Foundation, Calico Museum of Textiles was established in 1949 by industrialist Gautam Sarabhai and his sister Gira Sarabhai. Initially the museum was located at the Calico Mills but with the introduction of several collection it was shifted to the Sarabhai House in Shahibaug in 1983. The collection on display are court textiles used by Mughals, 19th century regional embroideries, miniature paintings, temple hangings and miniature paintings. The museum is ranked as one of the finest museums in India.

Brooms Museum, Jodhpur
Also known as Arna Jharna, the museum is a tribute to folklorist and Padma Bhushan recipient Komal Kothari. It showcases around 160 hand-made brooms sourced from different parts of Rajasthan produced by different rural communities. The purpose is to understand society and environment as it gives us the idea of grasses and plants that are grown in particular region. In addition, it also conducts interactive workshops related to folk culture and traditional knowledge.

Human Brain Museum, Bengaluru
Housed in the basement of Bengaluru’s national Institute of Mental health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) was established in 1995 to promote research in neurobiology. The museum has over 300 brain specimens preserved in jar and is a result of 30 years of collection. The place helps visitors see brains, understand its functioning and also get an insight of the different types of diseases that affect brain. Each brain on display has its own story. At the end of the tour visitors also get to hold an actual brain.

Shankar’s International Dolls Museum, New Delhi
Set up by K Shankar Pillai, political cartoonist, in 1965 the museum has a huge collection of dolls from across the globe. Started with a thousand dolls today the museum has over 6,500 dolls from 85 countries. The museum is divided in to section, the one section exhibits dolls from Europe, the US, New Zealand and Australia and other section has dolls from Asian countries. Using dolls as a medium the place depicts arts, culture and folklore of different countries.

RBI Monetary Museum, Mumbai
The RBI Monetary Museum was inaugurated by the then President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on November 18, 2004. The museum is an attempt to document, preserve and preserve India’s currency system to public. The place has been divided into different sections that offers a wide collection of coins, notes and financial instruments. On display are the first form of currency i.e. beads and shells to engraved coins from different historical periods.

- http://www.freepressjournal.in/webspecial/international-museum-day-10-must-visit-quirky-museums-in-india/1068337, May 18, 2017

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International Museum Day observed

International Museum Day was observed today by various Departments and institutions across Jammu and Kashmir.

Department of Culture observed International Museum Day by organizing a special exhibition of various artifacts at SPS Museum, Srinagar. The exhibition was inaugurated by Secretary Department of Culture Dilshada Khan. Artifacts including Kushan Gold Coins, Satanaite Coins, Mughal Coins, Kashmir Bronze, Manuscripts, Astro Lobe, Tiles of ancient period etc were showcased with detailed information and history of the objects during the exhibition. Eminent dignitaries including Professor Museology University of Baroda Dr Ambika Patail, Historian Zareef Ahmad Zareef, famous poet Ayoub Sabir, Ex-Director Archives Archaeology and Museums Prof Ghulam Mahi-ud-din, and cultural activist Abdal Mehjoor also spoke at the event and explained the importance of museums as sources of education, in respect of various aspects of life. During the event, a special book titled ‘J&K Museums speak: History, Culture and Ethos’, authored and edited by Director of the Department, Mohammad Shafi Zahid, was also released. The International Museum Day was also observed today by the Centre for Studies in Museology, University of Jammu. The programme observed at Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani Museum of Heritage, was organized by Centre for Studies in Museology under the supervision of Director of the Centre, Prof Poonam Chaudhary. A demonstration- cum- exhibition on the theme ‘Heritage for Peace’ was inaugurated by Prof. R D Sharma, Vice Chancellor, JU, in presence of IGP Jammu Dr S D Singh, who was the guest of honor. The founding Head of the Department, Museology, Prof. Poonam Chaudhary underscored the importance of this day for promoting and protecting the rich cultural heritage of the borderland villages of Suchetgarh Tehsil of Jammu district which constitutes villages like Kapoorpur, Gharani, Chakroi and Gulabgarh. She informed that the Centre took initiative to document the local living heritage of these villages. Several interactive events with students of different schools also took place on this day. Thakur Sindoor Singh from Samba showed the traditional way of tying a Dogri Pagri (turban). A photographic exhibition of the borderland life, its folk heritage and folk culture of villages were exhibited. After this the monograph ‘Heritage for Peace’, which was designed by Tushita Pandey, was released by the Vice Chancellor and Guest of Honor Dr SD Singh. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in collaboration with Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Mubarak Mandi, Shaswat Art Gallery, Himalayan Museum, Ved Pal Gupta Memorial Educational and Cultural Trust, Amar Santosh Musuem, Yogeshwar Verma (Sketch artist) and Aswhini Sawhney (Private collector) jointly celebrated World Museum Day at GGHSS Mubarak Mandi, which itself is a heritage school in the city of temples. INTACH organized this programme as a part of Heritage awareness in which more than 500 school children and all the faculty members participated. Impressive lectures, presentations and display of artifacts and various other items were main attraction for the students. The welcome address was given by S M Sahni, convenor Jammu chapter INTACH. Tashi (Dy Director Archives, Archaeology & Museums), Sangeeta (Asstt Director Archives, Archaeology & Museums) also were present in the function. The Principal of the School, Neelam Gandotra presented vote of thanks. Other prominent members of INTACH Jammu, present during this function, included Kuldip Wahi (co convener Jammu chapter), Professor Sudhir, Satwant Singh Rissam, Abhimanyu Billawaria and Dr Suresh Abrol.

- http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/international-museum-day-observed/, May 19, 2017

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Philadelphia Museum of Art showcases the history of Punjab’s rich embroidery craft through ‘Phulkari’

Phulkaris, which literally translates into ‘flower work’, is a unique style or technique of embroidery peculiar to Punjab, and today constitute the lavishly embroidered head scarves and shawls crafted in the region. ‘Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab’ presents phulkaris from the collection of Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz alongside the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s permanent collection, focusing mostly on embroideries from a pre-partitioned Punjab. The threads of phulkari have since endured much: partition, industrial reforms, changing economic and fashion trends, and the exhibition aptly helps you develop a perspective around all these.

GEOGRAPHICAL INDEXING

Curators Dr. Cristin McKnight Sethi and Dr. Darielle Mason position the craft as art, presenting phulkaris through the historical and cultural lens, thus offering a renewed contact with the old way of life; ceasing to be a commodity of high commercial value but more as a window into the lives of people. In a brief issued by the Museum, Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said: “This exhibition, which examines the artistic, cultural, and political significance of phulkari, is long overdue and will certainly delight visitors who may be unfamiliar with this remarkable art form”. I couldn’t agree more, and here’s why:

CULTURAL LENS

Phulkari’s history dates back to the time when shared cultural practices were common and women from all religions crafted and wore these embroidered textiles. Just as gold is handed down generations, phulkaris in the early 19th century signified a woman’s material wealth and were deemed an important part of her wardrobe. They were typically worn as shawls draped over the head on special occasions such as marriages, births, and other rituals. In addition to being worn on the body as an odhini (head cloth), phulkaris were also placed on (charpoy) woven cots as seat covers for special guests, draped on dowry chests or hung in the home as decoration during religious festivals, and presented to temples or gurudwaras (a Sikh house of worship) to present to a deity or to cover the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book). The exhibition comprises almost all types of phulkaris—ranging from the baghs (all-over embroidered phulkaris, almost like a floral garden), darshan dwars (which were replete with architectural motifs and meant to be presented at gurdwaras), sainchis (narrative embroideries which depicted scenes of routine village life and included human motifs), and the thirmas (which were embroidered on plain white khaddars for elderly women and widows) to the chopes (which were presented to a girl by her maternal grandmother on her wedding day)—from the mid 19th century to 1947. Motifs were crafted simply from imagination and largely borrowed from the immediate environment. Therefore, names such as belan (rolling pin), kakri (cucumber) or even chandrama (moon), and satranga (7 colours) are common motifs recognized in the phulkari parlance even today. Animals, flowers, trees, and folklore depicted in the embroideries are all resonant of a shared culture. Phulkari motifs and designs passed from generation to generation by word of mouth and example. Thus each family had its own characteristic style and, with practice and experience, each woman was able to develop her own repertoire. And so, phulkari became an expression of the embroiderer’s feelings, hopes and dreams. Using simple tweaks on motifs, women could express their emotions. For instance, through a pair of peacocks, the women of the Punjab described their personal life and relationship with their spouses. A drooping plumage signified a sad relationship or distance; a blooming one revealed the bliss of married life. Phulkari motifs often made it to poetry and conveyed bits of wisdom. HISTORIC LENS According to Flora Annie Steel (as published in the Journal of Asian Art, 1888): Phulkari was a home-craft, a leisure time activity, crafted with passion for personal use or to gift it to near and dear ones and was never meant for sale. During colonial rule, these became part of gift basket locally described as “dali” that were presented to the British and other high officials on Christmas and also as a gesture of gratification. Colonial rule also introduced modifications to the art and as referenced by S.S Hitkari, the local craft of embroidered phulkaris were also shaped into women’s coats to be worn over saris during winter in the cities. An example of such a coat is on view at the Partition Museum in Amritsar. POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE The display of phulkaris in the exhibition also indicates the erstwhile trade route and materials that underwent a change at the turn of the 20th century. Cotton was a readily available local resource that was used to spin cloth that would be embroidered. Soft, untwisted silk floss thread called as “pat” came from various places like Kashmir, Bengal and even from Afghanistan, and Turkistan, but were dyed locally in Amritsar and Jammu, and women could obtain this from nomadic merchants. The politics of 1947 changed all of this. The events of Partition led to the death and displacement of millions of people across what today comprise Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the northern half of India. This schism left in its wake fractured communities and enormous loss of heritage. Some phulkaris were abandoned during the mutual flight across the new borders; many others were destroyed. There were no nomadic merchants to buy from anymore; neighbours who sat together to celebrate over a phulkari had been displaced and the global context for this craft was also to undergo a change. What I find unique about this exhibition is that it pays attention to, and encompasses the evolution of phulkaris—tracing the personal histories attached to these pieces, the production of crafted objects from textiles—strongly connected with the virtues of gainful employment, skills-based learning and exhibition culture. In doing so, phulkari is presented as an embodiment of its practitioners and those who held it dear. In phases, it evokes happy memories; indicates the change and loss albeit highlighting the importance of facing a shared past. It also raises questions about the emotional effects of producing, gathering, gifting, and using phulkaris, and about the politics and effects of Partition on these textiles.

PERSONAL AFFECT

Unlike any other phulkari narrative, the exhibition at Philadelphia Museum of Art takes you back to the comforting memories of an undivided Punjab and keeps you there, flowing gently into contemporary times, conveying that though change is inevitable, the past can be faced with reverence and be equally celebrated with motifs that reflect a new generation of thought and practice. In the course of my research, I realised that the readings on phulkari, though highly informed, focused mostly on gender, handicraft, technique and design. At Museums, there is understandable emphasis on provenance, though it is crafts like the phulkari that can help us explore the significance of handed-down stories—emphasising women’s tactile and emotional engagements, and exploring shared threads of feeling between people of different religious beliefs. It is a little heartbreaking that no museum in India or Pakistan where phulkari is proudly displayed bears any reference to the shared culture of love and happiness. The upcoming gallery at the Partition Museum in Amritsar seeks to change that narrative when it opens mid-August. Showcasing phulkaris from the East and West Punjab, it will not only highlight the difference in these, but hopefully also cover the young of India and Pakistan—those who have grown up imagining themselves to be inheritors of different pasts—a common ground to share experiences. Evidently, Museums such as Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Partition Museum (Amritsar), place considerable educative value in constructing encounters with the (uncomfortable) past. Until the time that other museums take cue, phulkaris will continue to remind us of a time when religious diversity was not a hindrance to cultural growth and enrichment.

- https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/philadelphia-museum-art-showcases-history-punjabs-rich-embroidery-craft-phulkari/, May 19, 2017

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New museum by SBI to showcase Bengal's art forms at Alipore

Arundhuti Bhattacharya, chairman, State Bank of India on Thursday inaugurated a museum to showcase various crafts of Bengal at the Alipore branch. This is for the first time when SBI opened a museum in any of its branches to familiarise the customers with various arts that are available in Bengal. Partha Pratim Sengupta, chief general manager, Bengal circle, was present at the function. The Alipore branch has been redesigned to house the museum. The world famous patachitra of Kalighat, dokra of Bankura, clay dolls of Krishnanagar, wood-cut craft of Shantiniketan and the masks of chau dance are on display. Attempts have been made to exhibit all folk arts that are available in the state. As SBI has its branches all over the state and gives financial assistance to the artisans in many districts, it will not be difficult to bring their products and display them. Though initially the museum will be opened during the banking hours and only for the customers, later it might be thrown open to public. State textile minister Swapan Debnath lauded the efforts of SBI and said it would help people to know about the rich traditional art forms of Bengal. Through museums, the works of the artisans can be popularised.

- http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/kolkata-242660, May 19, 2017

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12th & 15th century rock edicts discovered

A few rock edicts featuring Telugu and Kannada script dating back to 12th and 15th centuries were unearthed at Guptamaheswaram temple in the Nallamala forest area. These rock edicts belong to the periods of Badami Chalukya and Vijayanagara rulers. The temple at Gupatamaheswaram in Atmakuru wild life forest division of Kurnool district was built during the 12the century by the Badami Chalukyan rulers. The rulers made an endowment of lands and allocated huge amount of funds to sustain various rituals at the temple. The temple is located at a distance of 20 km from Indireswaram. The temple served as a place of rest for travelling public on the way to Srisailam. The etchings on the stone depict charity given by Maha Mandaleswari, daughter of Badami Chalukyan ruler. The rock edicts were located on either side of the temple main door. Archaeology department official Yesubabu (edicts department) and history researcher from Nellore SM Rasool brought these edicts to light. This apart, two rock edicts belonging to Sri Krishnadevaraya period were discovered in ponds that are on either side of the temple. Another interesting fact which came to light through the rock edicts was that the Guptas who had ruled the region during the 4th and 5th centuries got gold manufactured using herbs and dhatus and hid them at some place for the maintenance of the temples. The rock edicts stand as a testimony to the 817-year-old history of the erstwhile rulers.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Andhra-Pradesh/2017-05-18/12th--15th-century-rock-edicts-discovered/300933, May 19, 2017

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I aim to conserve wildlife of the Eastern Ghats: Kantimahanti Murthy

At a time when there's an urgent need to conserve the environment and biodiversity from becoming extinct due to undue human intervention, a young wildlife conservationist from Vizag is tirelessly working towards conservation and protection of endangered wildlife in the Eastern Ghats through a community-based approach. He has also designed wildlife interpretation centres in several sanctuaries, zoos and national parks. Born and brought up in a village near Simhachalam, Kantimahanti Murthy, a master-degree holder in zoology, is the founder-president of the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS). He is actively involved in organising various programmes to raise awareness on wildlife conservation among target groups. He works closely with local communities throughout the Eastern Ghats and educates them. He trains volunteers and employs part-time research assistants, building capacity among local communities to become empowered stakeholders in conservation of wildlife. He also conducts education workshops in schools and public awareness programmes. "My goal is to conserve wildlife of the Eastern Ghats by creating a harmonious relationship between humans and wildlife. The Eastern Ghats is close to my heart as my native place. Wildlife conservation can't happen without the involvement of people. Most of my programmes focus on community outreach and behaviour change models aimed at instilling community stewardship to conserve the precious natural resources," he said and added, "There are large tracts of habitat, rich in biodiversity that need legal protection status and conservation with community support. I wish to achieve this in the Eastern Ghats region." Apart from conserving small wild cats, he works towards conservation of snakes, native and migratory birds and mammals like the Indian Pangolin and the Smooth-Coated Otters. Recipient of Prakruti Mitra award from Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), Murthy has also made presentations about conservation work throughout India and Asia and has been a guest presenter at many zoos in the US. He undertook Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leadership Programme (www.wildlifeleaders.org) supported by the Wildlife Conservation Network, USA. Murthy designed wildlife interpretation centres across India in over 20 wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and zoos. "Wildlife interpretation centres are designed to convey the biodiversity richness of a protected area and its ecological importance to general public by using various theme-based media like photo-text panels, interactive displays, dioramas, video and sound systems. The main objective of such centres is to sensitise people about nature and give them an overview of wildlife of the area," elaborated Murthy.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/visakhapatnam/i-aim-to-conserve-wildlife-of-the-eastern-ghats-green/articleshow/58779723.cms, May 22, 2017

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Sahapedia creates digital access for numerous Indian museums

From a museum in Kerala dedicated to police uniforms and weapons, to the “Conflictorium” in Ahmedabad recording the History of Conflicts, to Delhi’s Vintage Camera Museum, more than 1,000 big and small museums in the country will soon be accessible digitally under a first-of-its-kind mapping project launched on 18 May by the online resource Sahapedia. Amitabh Kant, the CEO of Niti Aayog formally launched www.museumsofindia.org at the International Museum Day celebrations(18 May) at the National Museum in Delhi, where he called for greater public-private sector partnerships in conserving and showcasing the mammoth storehouse of India’s priceless historical artifacts as yet unseen by the public. Sahapedia’s Museum Mapping project is currently in its primary documentation phase, hosting 143 museums across 10 cities: Baroda, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi and NCR, Shillong, Guwahati, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bangalore, and Kolkata. The goal is to have more than 1,000 museums across the country covered by December this year. Vaibhav Chauhan, director (resource mobilisation), Sahapedia, who leads the project, said the portal will be developed over three phases. The first informational phase will have details intended for the public in an accessible digital format, including information such as geo-location, highlights of the collections, images, ticket prices, opening hours, parking facility, other amenities and disability friendliness and so on. In the second phase a B2B networking and knowledge-sharing platform will be built into it for the museums, allowing them to have interactions and organize discussions, meetings and events. The final phase would be a transactional phase where Sahapedia hopes to build a platform for people to book tickets to museums, take virtual tours, buy memberships and souvenirs etc. Niti Aayog, which has been mulling an overarching Museum Authority of India, has identified creative industry as an area of focus for the future, to project India’s soft power. "Museums will be critical to preserving the culture, heritage and treasures of India. The government has the tangible things but not the huge amount of knowledge, ability, manpower, and the creativity to display these artifacts,” Kant said. “It is very necessary that this area is opened up to public private partnership. We need to create a unique model to be able to bring these stored artifacts to light." Dr Sudha Gopalakrishnan, the Executive Director of the not-for-profit Sahapedia, said it was important for heritage preservation efforts to go digital. “There is a new sensitivity around the world with regard to museums; people no longer see artifacts as static pieces they realize there are stories behind each of them and the function of the museum is to bring these stories together. Digital technology can be a great story-telling tool and also be used to reach a wide audience, especially the younger generation,” she said. “Sahapedia is also happy to be showing the way in using digital platforms to document, preserve and disseminate our culture, traditions and heritage, it is a model for how public and private sector can come together for the purpose. We hope that more private entities, especially local and small ones can come forward to support conservation initiatives at the local, panchayat levels,” she added. Besides the mapping project, Sahapedia has taken up other initiatives to increase interactions with museums, for example by including museum walks into its regular heritage walks and heritage education programmes. On Thursday, Sahapedia conducted a special museum walk for underprivileged girls in collaboration with the Salaam Baalak Trust. It also partnered the Kiran Nadar Museum of Arts (KNMA) and curated a talk on “Role of Design & Technology in Museum Experience” and organized a musical walk-through of the KNMA collection. Sahapedia is using the hashtag #ILoveMuseums and #museumsofindia to generate online interest among young Indians and plans to release a series of short interviews of museum professionals and enthusiasts following the launch of the Museum Mapping Project. “Sahapedia is proud to be the first to create such a comprehensive digital map of museums; there is no such centralized database in India today,” said Chauhan.

- http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/art/9430-sahapedia-creates-digital-access-numerous-indian-museums, May 22, 2017

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A fort lost in time

When you’re in Paris, the huge Eiffel Tower is visible from any part of the city, owing mainly to its size and imposing view. The Yellur Gad (as small forts are called in the local language) in Belagavi, though not as tall, is similarly visible from all parts of the city, whether you view it from the western end on your way towards Goa, or the eastern end on your way towards Hubballi. And as it happens, there would still be many people in the city who would have never been to this unique fort. Recently, as part of the World Heritage Day programme, the members of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) arranged for a visit to the historical Yellur Fort or Yellur Gad. It is also known by its original name, Rajhunsgad. Situated at an elevation of around 2,500 feet above sea level, it offers a panoramic view of the Belagavi city from all four sides.

Interesting landscape

Dr C B Taboji, assistant professor and head of the department of History at Government First Grade college, K K Koppa, near Belagavi, a member of INTACH and also an authority on forts in Belagavi district, was part of the team that visited the fort. He said that the fort was built by the Ratta dynasty and later rebuilt or renovated in stone by Asad Khan Lari, a Persian noble of Bijapur, while the Belagavi Fort was being built. The fort mainly served as an outpost of the Belagavi fort, mainly to spot and prevent the enemies attacking from Goa and Karwar areas. The Belagavi Fort and by extension, the Yellur Fort, was controlled by many rulers. Yellur Fort mainly served as a ‘watch tower’ as it allowed one to spot enemies approaching from a great distance due to its elevation. According to Taboji, the fort has withstood three wars: the first one between the Nawabs of Savanoor and the Peshwas, the second one between the forces of Tipu Sultan and the Peshwas, and the third war between the officials of the Bhimgad Fort and the Rajhunsgad forces. During the British rule, around 100 soldiers would be posted here for the protection of the fort. Several war weapons, food and water supply were made available at the fort by the Belagavi rulers for the soldiers’ use. Legend has it that a tunnel from the Yellur Gad is directly connected to Belagavi Fort. A depression covered by thick bushes is seen at the fort and there are loose stones that cover what could have been an entrance to a tunnel. The fort stands on an interesting topography. Yellur village, for long, has been a part of the fertile plateau located amidst the tapering ends of the Western Ghats surrounding Belagavi city. Areas like Sulebhavi-Balekundri, Ambewadi and Yellur are a part of the fertile soil that produces rich yields of paddy, lentils, vegetables, pulses and many such crops. The hillock that the fort is built on has about five levels. So, the view of the fort changes as one moves towards the top of the hillock. It can be ascended by foot, which is the best way to experience the historical fort, or by road, which takes you right up to the main entrance of the fort. The soil on the hillock is shining white indicating traces of bauxite, the principal ore of aluminium. The main entrance door of the fort is grand but its design is deceptive. One has to take a turn to enter the door which means that the sentries would have seen you from at least three directions before you stepped in there. An arch flanks the door, which leads to the inside of the fort. Though not very large, the fort could accommodate the soldiers deployed there. A structure that appears to be a granary stands in a dilapidated condition. Also, a structure that looks like the foundation of another building could have been some kind of a settlement for the soldiers.

Other structures

One of the prominent structures at the fort is the well that is today fed with water from the base through pumps and pipes. It has been properly covered with an iron grill. The steps leading inside the well are sturdy and its inner walls have arches with a proper pulley facility to draw water. Another structure found here is the temple of Shiva. The temple has been renovated recently. The fort is surrounded by strong walls on all sides, with ample peepholes for the guards. At one point of the fort, you can see a binocular window, through which one guard can watch opposite ends at the same time. Interestingly, the walls have small exit routes where one has to bend and enter in pitch-dark. These routes were probably used to come out of the fort in times of emergency, without alerting enemies who may have breached the fort. Small forts like Yellur Fort may not have splendid tales to tell of battles fought and valour exemplified, but they stand testimony to the fact that such citadels served as check-posts to ensure the safety of a larger population. Awareness about such interesting structures and proper maintenance by the authorities would ensure that the structures stay intact for a long time, telling their own tales of yore.

- http://www.deccanherald.com/content/613024/a-fort-lost-time.html, May 23, 2017

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Seminar on cultural, heritage awareness held

The Indian National Heritage Education and Communication Service (HECS) of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) conducted a workshop to spread awareness for reviving the country’s tangible and intangible rich culture. INTACH launched the Heritage and Citizen programme –“JAGO” across the nation for promoting heritage awareness and conservation as good citizenship values. The principals and teachers attended the workshop with great enthusiasm and assured Maj Gen Balwinder Singh, VSM (Retd), convener of the Doaba region, that all schools would open heritage clubs and make efforts in this direction. Anjali gave a presentation on how to establish heritage clubs in the school. Lt Gen Bahia in his concluding remarks summed up the urgent requirement at all levels to participate in this movement. -TNS

- http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/jalandhar/seminar-on-cultural-heritage-awareness-held/411348.html, May 23, 2017

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Living in the past

If you did your schooling in Chennai, there is a good chance that you have already visited DakshinaChitra. The two-decade-old museum is one of the top excursion spots for kids, and quite predictably, “out of the two lakh footfalls per year, 50,000 are children” — a statistic that Deborah Thiagarajan, founder of the museum, is quite proud of. This way, Thiagarajan and her team believe, the awareness about traditional culture and architecture is being fed at the grass-root level. And unarguably so. It’s a dry class of history made interesting. Each house is a reflection of the culture of a community and geography of a region. For instance, inside a Silk Weaver’s House, that the museum uprooted from Reddy Pattai Street, Chinna Kanchipuram, to Muttukadu, one finds a large loom instead of conventional furniture. Apparently, the silk weavers did not separate their professional and personal lives, and when they had to host a function at their house, they would simply move the loom to a different room.

Drenched in history

A few feet away are the Potter’s House from Chengalpet, built using mud and reed; and a Coastal Andhra House, known as Chutillu or ‘round house’, made out of strong cob walls that keep the raging winds at bay. Walk into the Syrian Christian House from Puthuppally, Kottayam District, Kerala, and suddenly, the architecture is vastly different. There is a long verandah, steeped roof, lots of underground storage area, granary and fine wood craft. Unlike the weaver’s and potter’s abodes, this one has a separate kitchen and dining hall — a clear indicator of westernisation and lots of dough. I visited the museum in December 2016, a few days ahead of their 20th anniversary on December 14, when DakshinaChitra, which has its roots in Madras Craft Foundation (started in 1984), first opened its doors to the public in 1996. The campus, which has been designed by the late Britain-born Indian architect Laurie Baker, buzzed with activity — the shamiana was being hoisted, rows of chairs were being placed in neat rows in front of a makeshift stage. Thiagarajan clarified that it was for a wedding that was to take place the next day. I learnt that the museum is open to giving out its green pristine spaces for those who fancy a wedding amid 200-year-old houses, want to take a quick bite at their campus restaurant, or host workshops or talks in seminar/activity halls that neighbour spacious halls for contemporary art. But these are just additional revenue options. The crowd-puller, of course, is the colony of houses drenched in history. Each house, if not for the intervention of Thiagarajan and team, would long ago have been reduced to thin dust. The team has been collaborating with ‘conservators’, architects and timber merchants from certain villages, who double up as informants. Every time an owner of a house, across South India, decides to dismantle his or her old house, a team from DakshinaChitra is launched to the venue to rescue the unique piece of architecture. They have managed to curate almost 18 houses from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, within their 10-acre campus. In certain cases, such as the Tamil Nadu Merchant House, even the outside verandah has been authentically relocated and reconstructed from a 1895-built house in Ariyakudi Village, Ramanathapuram district.

Steeped in tradition

Sharath Nambiar, deputy director of DakshinaChitra, shows us the most recent one - a massive multi-room house from Chikmaglur in Karnataka. Built in 1914, it belonged to a trader called KA Mohamed Ismail, as mentioned in a faded plaque at the entrance. The project is quite a catch for the museum, as it represents the Muslim heritage of the region. Similarly, the two-storey laterite-and-timber house, acquired from a Menon family in Calicut, is representative of early 20th Century middle-class houses in the Central and Northern parts of Kerala. Even as we walk in and out of these architectural marvels, certain elements in the house, such as an old black-and-white photo of the owner, a rusted plaque, or a slight chipping on the wooden wall, remind us that these were once private spaces that have seen family fights, intimate conversations, tears, laughter, and a tonne of memories. And that’s when we tread a little lighter, and almost reduce our conversations to whispers, as respect to the homes that have come a long way from their owners. This is the third of a five-part series that explores museums of the city.

- http://www.thehindu.com/society/discover-south-indian-heritage-at-dakshinachitra/article18529504.ece, May 23, 2017

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Heritage Charkha Museum spin tales of Indian legacy

In what comes as the first initiative to link charkha with tourism, BJP president Amit Shah unveiled the Large Steel Charkha and Heritage Charkha Museum – consisting 14 vintage charkhas – at Palika Bazar Park in Delhi's Connaught Place, amid much fervour and gaiety recently. Hailing this initiative, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his special message to Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) Chairman, said: "As Mahatma Gandhi himself believed, the Charkha is a symbol of our Swaraj and self-reliance. The museum and the monument for the Charkha in the Capital will be a proud tribute to the Charkha's historic importance in our nation. This will economically empower the lives of several weavers associated with the Khadi industry." KVIC chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena, in his welcome speech, said that Charkha, like the memorial to unknown soldiers, is memorial to the unknown rural masses, who took to the demonstrated ways of self-reliance and dignity of labour following the call of the father of the nation. "The KVIC, in association with New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), has set up this Heritage Charkha Museum, showcasing 50 to 100 year old charkhas, gifted to KVIC by the owners of these charkhas. The charkha, run by the PM on Oct 18, 2016 at Ludhiana, has also been kept permanently in the museum for display for general public," he said, adding, "Located in the heart of the Capital, it will certainly catch the eyes of foreign tourists coming here. The sparkling white marble statue of Mahatma Gandhi and the Large Steel Charkha will be visible from all four sides of Baba Kharak Singh Marg." BJP President Amit Shah said that from time immemorial Charkha had been the symbol of economic empowerment of our nation. "It is really a commendable job from the part of KVIC and NDMC that both the organisations have come up with a novel mission with economic model to promote tourism. I hope that the spinning wheel would symbolise the mission of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India'." Corroborating similar views, Kalraj Mishra, Union Minister MSME, said that Charkha would script the story of economic Independence of India in coming days. In his thanksgiving note, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) Chairperson Naresh Kumar said that it would not only give a direct exposure to the vision to the New Delhi area about 'Charkha'– a symbol of nation's prosperity – but also to values and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture. "Charkha is not only a symbol of simplicity and economic freedom by Swadeshi but also a symbol of peace and harmony, hence it will promote Prime Minister's vision for 'Make In India'," he said, adding, "The NDMC will deliver its best to up-keep and maintain the Charkha and Heritage Museum spin tail of Indian legacy. The Council is striving hard for transforming the efficient, effective and livable New Delhi area through the intervention of modern digital technology." The 2.5 tonne large steel charkha is made of high-quality chromium nickel stainless steel and is corrosion resistant, non-magnetic and not hardenable by heat. The order to make this 12 feet tall and 25 feet long spinning wheel was given to Prayog Samiti, KVIC unit, near Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat. The high quality stainless steel for the charkha was donated by Steel Authority of India (SAIL). On this occasion, besides gifting 500 new model eight-spindle charkhas – with a cost of approximately Rs 70 lakh – to the women spinners of nine states, a live charkha demonstration was also held by 10 women inmates of Tihar Jail. A film on Mahatma Gandhi was also screened, after a philatelic exhibition on 'Father of the Nation'.

- http://www.millenniumpost.in/features/features-243229, May 23, 2017

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India celebrates International Day for Biodiversity, national celebrations held in Goa

In India, the International Day for Biodiversity (IDB-2017) got celebrated on May 22 by various organisations and institutions. The national level celebrations of IDB were held at Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium, Kala Academy in Goa, with Chief Minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar as the chief guest, stated an official release. Parrikar stressed on the need for a strong community connect and people's participation for Biodiversity Conservation. He called for afforestation and responsible development through effective and scientific pollution control system. He cited the example of the solid waste disposal of Goa, which is a model system for others to emulate. He inaugurated an exhibition with exhibits from 12 states including Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh besides stalls from UNDP, GIZ, Zoological Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, Goa Forest Department, Goa State Biodiversity Board and NBA, added the release. Dr Amita Prasad, referring to the theme 'Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism' of the observance said that the development and protection of the environment needs to be integrated. She highlighted the challenges and opportunities that sustainable tourism presents, while supporting nature conservation. Dr B Meenakumari and Marina Walter also addressed the audience on the need of protection of biodiversity and strengthening of ecosystem services. On the occasion of IBD event, a newsletter 'Biodiversity Matters' was launched, and some knowledge products and communication material were also released on the occasion along with honouring outstanding bio-diversity conservationists with awards.

- http://www.merinews.com/article/india-celebrates-international-day-for-biodiversity-national-celebrations-held-in-goa/15925142.shtml, May 24, 2017

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Renovation of Victoria town hall begins

Renovation of the heritage Victoria Town Hall building here for which the state tourism department has sanctioned Rs 1.44 crore has began. The task of renovation of the century-old building, which began yesterday, has been entrusted with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), officials said. “It is planned to develop the building into a cultural centre where a museum will be developed. Besides restoration work, there is a plan for exterior beautification of the building, said district Collector Samarth Verma. It is considered to engage a private agency to operate the proposed museum after restoration work is completed, he said. A member of INTACH’s Sambalpur Chapter, Deepak Panda said Queen Victoria died in 1901 and the British Government decided to establish buildings after her name in different places in India and Sambalpur was one of them. The foundation stone of the building here was laid in 1902. The then superintending engineer of central province, J B Leven Thorpey prepared the design and Chief Commissioner of the central province, J P Hewety inaugurated the building in 1904, he said. The building was later used for different purposes. A school, office of Sambalpur Development Authority and a women s college had once functioned in the building, he said.

- http://www.india.com/news/agencies/renovation-of-victoria-town-hall-begins-2160322/, May 24, 2017

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Meet 17-year-old Prashaant Ranganathan, winner of the Intel international environmental engineering award

As part of a school project when Prashaant Ranganathan, a student at Carmel Junior college school in Jamshedpur, visited fields neighbouring the city, he was struck by a modern myth. Farmers believed their yield was proportional to the amount of pesticides they used. Their fields were awash with chemicals. “Sometimes you could even smell the pesticide in the air,” Prashaant recounted. It left him disturbed and worried. The effects were blatantly visible to the 17-year old, the farmers hadn’t seen a single beehive around their farms for almost two years. Using excessive pesticides can have wide-reaching impacts not just on the targeted species but others that depend on the ecosystem. He knew it was a problem.”This is really scary because bees pollinate nearly a third of the food we consume and without them, we would descend into a terrible food crisis,” he said. This anxiety about an impending food crisis also underlies the ongoing debate in India surrounding Genetically Modified crops that our food crop productivity is not keeping pace with population growth. GM food is an extreme technological solution to the problem. “This is where I got my motivation to work to solve this problem which is plaguing farms across India and the world,” he said. That motivation has taken him far. Last week he won one of the most prestigious international science prizes for pre-college students. His project was the winner in the environmental engineering category of the Intel international Science and Engineering Fair. Prashaant has developed a more effective way of breaking down chlorpyrifos, an ingredient in pesticides that kill ticks and mites. In India, it is the only low-cost termiticide available after Aldrin was banned, because of its reported use in lethal doses in farmer suicides. An organophosphate compound, chlorpyrifos, can also be moderately toxic to humans, especially for children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has restricted the use of chlorpyrifos and is reviewing its neurodevelopmental effects. Its use is regulated and even banned in many countries. In India, the biggest problems are the unchecked use and the lack of regulatory oversight. “Pesticides are used on a wide scale here farmers are able to use them directly,” Tanu Jindal, director at Amity Institute for Environmental Toxicology, said. ”Our farmers are generally not well educated and get misled by industry representatives.” Let alone rural populations, even in urban areas people tend to ask for termiticides to used in liberal quantities as part of pest control measures. “There is no need to use pesticides on such a large scale. We should use them when there are absolutely other alternatives,” Jindal added. Use of pesticides might be a necessary evil, the problem is that they persist in the environment. In general, only 1 percent of the pesticides that are sprayed go to their target, the rest goes into the atmosphere, according to Jindal. “Extensive use of chlorpyrifos contaminates air, groundwater, rivers, lakes, rainwater and fog water,” a 2015 paper that Jindal co-authored, found. “The over usage of chlorpyrifos is alarming in view of high persistence and its toxic effects on the living system. “ This is why efforts like Prashaant’s are important. “My project was on biodegradation of chlorpyrifos using native soil bacteria and Triton X. In which I used bacteria which was already found in the soil and increased its efficiency of biodegradation using a non-ionic detergent,” explained Prashaant. Jindal, however, pointed out that the real challenge is applying these solutions in the fields. If there is a high concentration of chlorpyrifos in fields and water bodies the real question is how to apply the bacteria-based solution to the affected landscape. The 17-year-old may not have all the answers now but he is planning to persist in his undertaking. The prize money he has won with the Intel award will go towards his education. He plans to study biology in college. He made an early start. As a 4-year-old, experiments like growing peas in plastic cups kindled his interest. He went on to work on projects including developing an iron-based fertiliser, using a commonly found fungus to rid industrial effluents of carcinogenic chromium ions. The Intel award has spurred him on. “It opens more opportunities to develop my project and get the word out and a chance to inspire the younger generation,” he said. “Winning ISEF enables me to work with people and institutions I look up to and admire, which makes me move closer to my bigger goal of making a difference through science, which I guess is cool. “

- http://www.hindustantimes.com/health/meet-17-year-old-prashaant-ranganathan-winner-of-the-intel-international-environmental-engineering-award/story-ZERVdkiwTQKQok3xrtYUDI.html, May 24, 2017

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