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October 2018

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Dilapidated monuments get new lease of life

A 14th century hunting lodge, a 19th century fortress and two tombs dedicated to unknown persons from the Lodi and Mughal periods are among the six monuments that have been recently restored by the Delhi government’s Department of Archaeology in collaboration with Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage’s (INTACH) Delhi chapter. The conserved monuments include Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal, a horse stable and two unknown tombs in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, and an embankment at the Talkatora Gardens. “The conservation work of these monuments is completed. We will start handling them over in 15 to 20 days to the Delhi Archaeology Department,” said INTACH project director Ajay Kumar. Mr. Kumar said Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal is a 14th century hunting lodge, which was built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq, while the embankment inside the Talkatora Gardens is a late Mughal-era work. A fortress built by a Jat zaildar, the head of the local revenue unit or zail, in Bawana that dates back to the 19th century has also been restored, Mr. Kumar said. Out of the two nameless tombs in Mehrauli, one belongs to the Lodi period and the other to the late Mughal period. Until the restoration project began, these structures were in a bad state. “Majority of them were never conserved before. Now the buildings have become stable, chemically cleaned wherever required and the surroundings have been improved,” said Mr. Kumar. Asked about the significance of these structures, Sohail Hashmi, a historian who conducts heritage walks in Delhi, said: “The problematic categorisation of what is significant or insignificant was introduced by the British. For us, each bit of heritage, even a pebble is significant. We have lost 33% of our monuments in Delhi in the last 100 years. It is good that the Archaeology Department is doing the restoration work."

Lined-up projects
These six monuments are among the 18 monuments currently being restored as part of the Delhi Archaeology Department’s program to conserve heritage of local importance. Restoration of another 19 monuments will be taken up in 2018-2019, the Delhi government has stated. A 12-door pavilion or Baradari in Qudsia Bagh and Dara Shikoh Library in Kashmere Gate are among others under conservation. A minaret in Hastsal village, Burjs or towers of Mansur, a dome called Kharbooze ka Gumbad, a small garden or Baghichi at Delhi Golf Club, and the tombs of Mir Taqi and Sayyid Abid are other important monuments that will see restoration work begin this year, the government also said.

- https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/dilapidated-monuments-get-new-lease-of-life/article25085102.ece , Oct 1, 2018

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Mughal-era bridge on Dal Lake to live on

The iconic 17th-century bridge, Oont Kadal, shaped like the hump of a camel and located in the middle of the picturesque Dal Lake in Srinagar, will be restored through a conservation project with the help of Germany. Going under the bridge - which features in old film hits such as Arzoo , Jab Jab Phool Khilay , Kashmir Ki Kali and Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon - on a shikara treats one to the expanse of the Zabarwan Hills, amid which nestle the famous Mughal-era gardens like the Nishat and Shalimar. “Historical images from the 1890s to 1960s show the structure as part of a causeway with a series of poplar trees lining its edges.

This unique frame created a picturesque setting for many international photographers of the time. Later, it became a fascination for Bollywood,” said Saleem Beg, head of the Jammu and Kashmir chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Stone masonry suffers
The passage of time saw severe deterioration in its rare stone masonry. Mr. Beg said that in a few years, the structure would have succumbed to the external agents of erosion. Now, on October 1, the German Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Dr. Jasper Wieck and its Cultural Officer Thomas Schmidt will finalise a conservation contract with the INTACH to restore and conserve the bridge. “Oont Kadal forms an important part of the public realm that constitutes the combined environ of the Dal Lake, the Zabarwan Mountain range and the potential World Heritage Site of Nishat Bagh,” said Mr. Beg.

The bridge, dating back to the 1670s, is on a north-south axis, with the grand archway facing the Nishat Bagh, one of the six heritage gardens. “The restoration of Oont Kadal will bring back the focus on the global, cultural and natural heritage of the Dal Lake,” said Mr. Beg.

- https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/mughal-era-bridge-to-live-on/article25085792.ece, October 1, 2018

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Prehistoric art hints at lost Indian civilisation

The rock carvings - known as petroglyphs - have been discovered in their thousands atop hillocks in the Konkan region of western Maharashtra. Mostly discovered in the Ratnagiri and Rajapur areas, a majority of the images etched on the rocky, flat hilltops remained unnoticed for thousands of years. Most of them were hidden beneath layers of soil and mud. But a few were in the open - these were considered holy and worshipped by locals in some areas.

The sheer variety of the rock carvings have stunned experts - animals, birds, human figures and geometrical designs are all depicted. The way the petroglyphs have been drawn, and their similarity to those found in other parts of the world, have led experts to believe that they were created in prehistoric times and are possibly among the oldest ever discovered. "Our first deduction from examining these petroglyphs is that they were created around 10,000BC," the director of the Maharashtra state archaeology department, Tejas Garge, told the BBC. The credit for their discovery goes to a group of explorers led by Sudhir Risbood and Manoj Marathe, who began searching for the images in earnest after observing a few in the area. Many were found in village temples and played a part in local folklore.

"We walked thousands of kilometres. People started sending photographs to us and we even enlisted schools in our efforts to find them. We made students ask their grandparents and other village elders if they knew about any other engravings. This provided us with a lot of valuable information," Mr Risbood told the BBC. Together they found petroglyphs in and around 52 villages in the area. But only around five villages were aware that the images even existed. Apart from actively searching for them, Mr Risbood and Mr Marathe have also played an important role in documenting the petroglyphs and lobbying authorities to get involved in studying and preserving them. Mr Garge says the images appear to have been created by a hunter-gatherer community which was not familiar with agriculture. "We have not found any pictures of farming activities. But the images depict hunted animals and there's detailing of animal forms. So this man knew about animals and sea creatures. That indicates he was dependent on hunting for food."

Dr Shrikant Pradhan, a researcher and art historian at Pune's Deccan Collage who has studied the petroglyphs closely, said that the art was clearly inspired by things observed by people at the time. "Most of the petroglyphs show familiar animals. There are images of sharks and whales as well as amphibians like turtles," Mr Garge adds. But this begs the question of why some of the petroglyphs depict animals like rhinoceroses and hippos which aren't found in India. Did the people who created them migrate to India from Africa? Or were these animals once found in India? The history of India in one exhibition Cooking the world's oldest known curry. Early civilisation thrived without river. The state government has set aside a fund of 240 million rupees ($3.2m; £2.5m) to further study 400 of the identified petroglyphs. It is hoped that some of these questions will eventually be answered.

- https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-45559300, Oct 1, 2018

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Iconic Oont Kadal in Srinagar’s Dal Lake to be restored

German Deputy Ambassador Jasper Wieck and Cultural Officer Thomas Schmidt signed an agreement with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in Srinagar for restoration of the iconic Oont Kadal in Dal lake. Commissioner Secretary Culture Saleem Shishgar, convener J&K chapter INTACH Saleem Beigh, ex-Vice Chairman, Lakes and Water Ways Development Authority (LAWWDA), Irfan Yaseen and other members of INTACH were among those present on the occasion on Monday. The Deputy Ambassador said restoration of Oont Kadal, a stone masonry bridge built in Dal Lake in 1670s during Mughal era, would bring focus on the significance of the Dal Lake as part of the global cultural and natural heritage. Highlighting the importance and need for restoring the structure, Jasper Wieck said a large number of tourists take a boat trip for taking pictures at Oont Kadal as reminds them of part of the famed Mughal landscape of the historic gardens and the Dal lake.

He added that the structure lay in the midst of the Dal lake as an isolated feature that adds to its charm. Considering the historic and contextual value of the Oont Kadal, an elaborate conservation plan prepared by INTACH was send to German Embassy, New Delhi, for its restoration. After INTACH’s request for considering funding for restoration of Oont Kadal, Political Minister Counselor, Embassy of Germany in India, Arno Kirchhop, visited Srinagar for on spot inspection of the feasibility and potential of proposed project. On the occasion, J&K INTACH Convener Saleem Beigh said in 2010, the Nishat Garden, along with six other Mughal Gardens was placed on the UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites and as such the Kadal is considered as an integral visual component of the Nishat Garden and is delineated as part of the potential World heritage property of Nishat Bagh and as such part of the outstanding Universal associated with Nishat Bagh.

He said INTACH had been working with Cultural Division of the Embassy of Germany in New Delhi for the last few years, during which the Embassy has provided financial support for restoration of Paper Mache Ceilings at the black Pavilion of the Mughal Garden Shalimar Bagh in 2015. They also inspected the sight of restoration of Paper Mache Ceiling at the black Pavilion of the Shalimar Garden. Convener J&K briefed the team about the work done by INTACH.

- https://www.thestatesman.com/cities/iconic-oont-kadal-in-srinagars-dal-lake-to-be-restored-1502691965.html, Oct 3, 2018

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Germany sanctioned 40,000 euro for restoration of Oont Kadal bridge in Srinagarn

To preserve and restore the glory of seventh century old camel hump shaped bridge, Germany sanctioned special grant of 40,000 euro. The Mughal era camel hump-shaped bridge known as Oont Kadal built in the middle of Dal Lake will be restored to its past glory with support of government of Germany owing to the 17th century structure’s outstanding global heritage value. Oont Kadal is a stone masonry bridge which was built in the late 1670s during Mughal rule. The Oont Kadal forms an important part of the public realm that constitutes combined environment of Dal Lake, Zabarwan Mountain range and potential World Heritage Site of Nishat Bagh.

Oont Kadal has always been part of Mughal landscape of historic gardens and as such figures in historic references to Dal Lake as well as Mughal Gardens including Nishat and Shalimar. Before starting the restoration work on Oont Kadal bridge Dr Jasper Wieck, Deputy Chief of Commission of the Germany in India and Thomas Schmidt, Cultural Officer signed an agreement with the officials of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Kashmir chapter.

- https://www.deccanchronicle.com/videos/news/germany-sanctioned-40000-euro-for-restoration-of-oont-kadal-bridge-in-srinagar.html, Oct 3, 2018

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After 250 yrs, historic Jamia Masjid gets a facelift

Almost after 250 years, the restoration work has been started on the minarets of the historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar. The restoration work of the minarets and other repairs of the grand mosque — an iconic building which has historical, architectural and religious significance for Kashmir — is being carried out by the Anjuman-e-Auqaf Jamia Masjid under the supervision of experts. The mosque was built by Sultan Sikandar Shah. Kashmiri Shahmiri in 1394 AD and is the only major mosque in the Kashmir region to have followed the Central Asian Arabic pattern of mosque construction, peculiar for its central courtyard. Damaged by fire three times, the first major restoration of the mosque was carried out by Emperor Aurangzeb in keeping with the original plan.

"Despite limited resources with the Anjuman, the work has been undertaken by them with the help of experts to preserve the minarets and restore them to their original beauty," tweeted Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, patron of the Anjuman-e-Auqaf Jamia Masjid, after taking stock of the restoration work this afternoon. "While repairing the minarets, extreme care is being taken to maintain the originality," Mirwaiz said. Saleem Beigh, the state convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which had earlier carried out the structural analysis of the historical mosque, said the last restoration work at the grand mosque was carried out in 1900. “The restoration work was carried out under the guidance and supervision of John Marshal, then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India.

During the restoration, taken on a massive scale, the minarets were also restored," said Beigh. In fact, the then Nawab of Dhaka, Khawaja Ahsanullah Khan, who was of Kashmiri origin, had also contributed to the funds for the restoration of the mosque. Located in the Nowhatta area of Srinagar, the wooden structure of the mosque is prone to hazards and has witnessed three devastating fires. Despite the setbacks, the mosque has survived as the principal architectural monument of Kashmir, particularly the capital Srinagar.

- https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/jammu-kashmir/after-250-yrs-historic-jamia-masjid-gets-a-facelift/662199.html, Oct 3, 2018

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Thousands of Petroglyphs Uncovered in Western India

BBC News reports that thousands of petroglyphs carved into rocky, flat hilltops have been discovered in western India by a group of explorers who wanted to investigate a few known images revered by local people. Most of the newly found carvings, which depict animals, birds, human figures, and geometric designs, had been hidden under layers of soil. The images are similar to artworks found in other areas of the world, and are estimated to be about 12,000 years old, based upon their designs. “We have not found any pictures of farming activities,” said Tejas Garge, director of the Maharashtra state archaeology department. “But the images depict hunted animals and there’s detailing of animal forms.” Some of the pictures show animals such as hippos and rhinoceroses, which do not live in western India, raising questions requiring further study, Garge added. To read about the discovery of chariots dating back 4,000 years, go to “Indian Warrior Class."

- https://www.archaeology.org/news/7007-181002-india-rock-art, Oct 3, 2018

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Celebrating the water legacy of Gujarat

When about half the world’s population is believed to be living in potential water scarcity, a few concepts and practices of water conservation come handy for the state that boasts of water structures such as world heritage site of Rani ki Vav and practices such as water worship. How should we connect with water and what are the ways we can act responsible towards the elixir of life? These were some of the questions answered by ‘Water Varta,’ a multimedia exhibition organized by Living Waters Museum (LWM) at Ahmedabad University at Vechaar Utensil Museum at Vishalla. The exhibition will continue on Sunday. Sara Ahmed, founder of LWM, said that their idea was to make the exhibition lively especially for the younger audience. “It is a collaborative effort with National Institute of Design and Vechaar where the utensils talk about themselves in panels and multimedia exhibition establishes connection between life, water and heritage,” she said. Swarnika Nimje, a student of the National Institute of Design, has designed the exhibition around creative storytelling, short films, interactive media and music. On Saturday, along with water-themed musical performances, Pradyumna Vyas, director of NID, and Abhay Mangaldas, convenor of INTACH Ahmedabad chapter, talked about aspects such as design for water and water heritage. A film on the pots and utensils to store water was also screened on the occasion.

- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/celebrating-the-water-legacy-of-gujarat/articleshow/66102955.cms, Oct 8, 2018

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Over century-old library to get digital push

The entire collection of books at the Central Archaeological Library is set to be digitised for preservation.

The Central Archaeological Library — a treasure trove of historical texts, publications and pictures — is all set to add another feather to its cap. The entire collection of centuries-old rare books at the library is all set to be digitised for preservation in the coming months. Established in 1902, the library is owned by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and boasts having 1.5 lakh books, including 25,000 precious compilations of manuscripts, sketches, drawings, handwritten notes and images. One of the oldest possessions of the library is a Bengali novel — Gaudrajmala — that was published in 1319. Usha Sharma, director general (DG), ASI, said digitisation of the collection of rare books was an ambitious project, which would take off soon. The unique assortment of published work housed in the library includes Collection of Ishqiyya and Other Trades (philosophy on Sufism by different authors in English, 1332), Sirai-i-Imani-i-Rabbani, the being and biography of Hadvat Shaikh Ahmad, Duyadid-i-aif-e-thane of Sarhind (a biography of sufi saint in English, 1347), Voyage Round the World by John Francis (reference book based on travel accounts in English, 1693), and Journey from India towards England (travel accounts in English, 1797), and Reflection on the Government of Indosland (Politics in English, 1739). A senior ASI official, associated with the digitisation project, said valuable collection at the library is a ‘lifeline’ for scholars and history enthusiasts doing research in archaeology, religious-cultural perspective of India and allied subjects. “Deliberation regarding the matter is going on. Several meetings have already taken place to finalise details and to select an agency for the purpose. Rare books are being sent to science branch to initiate their preservation,” said the official.

Shimla to New Delhi

The ASI’s central library was founded in 1902 in Shimla following the efforts of its then director general Sir John Marshell, who was appointed by Lord Curzon. He started a dedicated fund of Rs 4,000 for setting up of a library. After assuming charge, Marshell set principles for conservation and restoration of ancient structures that are still followed by modern conservation experts. It was Marshell who started the arrangement of publishing of ‘annual reports of the D-G (ASI)’. The report contains all the works and research activities carried out by the national watchdog of heritage structures and are available in the library. After shifting to Delhi, the library was housed in the barracks on Curzon Road — now known as Kasturba Gandhi Marg — till the 1960s, later relocating to a building near Vigyan Bhawan and then National Archive Annexe around 1970s at Janpath, said Kailash Nath Dixit, former joint director general of ASI. The library, at present, functions from Tilak Marg’s Dharohar Bhawan, the headquarters of ASI which is the national watchdog of heritage structures in the country. The facility moved to its present building in July, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rare collection

Around 12,000 books on various subjects were digitised at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) in 2009. Besides books and periodicals on various subjects — such as history, archaeology, anthropology, architecture, art, epigraphy & numismatics, Indology, literature, geology, and Buddhist scriptures in Hindi, English, Urdu, Sanskrit, Persian, Russian, and French — the library also houses original centuries-old plates, drawings, sketches, portfolios, gazetteers, gazette notifications, and handwritten texts. “We have sketches and portfolios of monuments made in 1878, annual reports, original hand written diary of Alexander Cunningham (first D-G, ASI, 1861-1885) and Marshell (1902-1928). Oriental collections of religious books and those on ancient Indian history, which are with us, are not available in any other library in India,” said a library official. The ASI’s library is also known for original books and inscription of Kharosti and Brahmi. The Kharosti script is an ancient form of writing used in ancient Gandhara (now part of Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan). Brahmi is the earliest writing system developed in India after the Indus script. Shikha Jain, the Haryana convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), said digitisation is an effective method to preserve books, which are out of publication. “The (ASI) library has an excellent collection of old books. Digitisation is important because several old books are out of publication now. It is not possible for all scholars to come physically to the library always. Hence, conversation of rare texts into digital form plays a significant role. Moreover these old books are like artefacts, which need to be preserved,” said Jain, who is also a member of the heritage committees under Union ministry of culture and Union ministry of human resources development. The library, which sees visit ors from India and abroad, has a special collections of Tibetan manuscripts, memoirs, maps, and topographs, which are only available with the survey of India (being used for excavation and exploration purposes), portfolios related to Ajanta, Ellora, and other important sites. Madan Thapliyal, an author and former director (public relations) of the New Delhi Municipal Council, said the library was one of the important sources of information for all scholars. “I have been there on several occasions when I was researching for my book on New Delhi. I took several references for the same. One photograph of Jantar Mantar, which was used, was sourced from the ASI library,” said Thapliyal, who has three books on Delhi penned by him. On digitisation, he said microfilming is a useful tool to preserve books and documents given the shortage of space. “It is a difficult task to keep them safe from rats and termite. If we have technology and resources, we must use it to retain our heritage for the coming generations,” he said. The library remains open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm. Several distinguished scholars like Helmut Hoffmann of Munich University, RC Majumdar, a well-known historian, BR Ambedkar, among others, have visited the library, said an official.

- https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/over-century-old-library-to-get-digital-push/story-GTepwdAvyZ5WwP3rvHB10M.html, Oct 8, 2018

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Indian Railways to Collaborate with Google to Preserve Rail Heritage

Minister of Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal has launched ‘Rail Heritage Digitisation Project‘ of Indian Railways in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture here today through video-conferencing. Chairman, Railway Board, Ashwani Lohani, other Railway Board Members, Vice President, South East Asia and India, Google, Rajan Anandan, Director, Google Cultural Institute, Amit Sood, other Railway Board Officials, Dignitaries from Google, UNESCO representatives and Railway Enthusiasts were among those present on the occasion. He expressed the hope that collaborative efforts will continue to expand the project further and possibly make it the largest such endeavour to preserve Railway Heritage in the world. Goyal described this project as the gift from the 13 Lakh Railways employees to the 130 crore citizens of India”. Introducing this collaborative digital project between Indian Railways and Google Arts & Culture, Rajan Anandan, Vice President, South East Asia and India, Google described it as an extension of their partnership with Indian Railways of providing public with Wi-Fi at 400 railway stations. Director, Google Cultural Institute, Amit Sood, said that Google is committed to preserving and breathing new life into artistic and cultural treasures around the world. He added that the extraordinary wealth of heritage, history and culture that Indian Railways inherits, is truly fascinating, and a treat for both the young and the old. The project can be accessed here:

https://artsandculture.google.com/project/indian-railways

Context:

Railways in India started its journey on April 16, 1853, between Boribunder and Thane. Since then Railways India not only expanded to be one of the largest networks in the world but also significantly contributed to the social, technological and economic development of this country. Indian Railways has also created one of the largest repositories of industrial heritage in the World. Glimpses of Railway history and evolution are captured in 33 Rail Museums and Heritage Galleries, four World Heritage Sites, hundreds of buildings, bridges, locomotives, coaches, other rolling stocks, artefacts etc. Conservation of these industrial relics also helps in promoting tourism, preserving traditional skills and communication with people. Digital heritage also removes the bottleneck of being physically there and thus providing universal access to the large repository of knowledge. With over 151,000 kilometres of track, 7,000 stations, 1.3 million employees and 160 years of history, the Indian Railway is one of the most celebrated railway networks in the world. Bringing this journey to the forefront, Google Arts & Culture’s new online collection is a story-telling marvel, and will make India’s rich rail-heritage and legacy digitally accessible to people in India around the world. Heritage routes with a 360-degree panoramic view of iconic railway stations, including Kalka-Shimla, Nilgiri Mountain Railway Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, and Kangra Valley Railway. The exhibition will also bring alive the lost stories and heroic efforts of people like the track-man, station master, and workshop engineers, to celebrate their contribution.

- http://leagueofindia.com/culture-heritage/indian-railways-to-collaborate-with-google-to-preserve-rail-heritage/, Oct 9, 2018

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Registration Open | Inter School Open Competition at GD Goenka International Udaipur

Udaipur is set to welcome its first grand inter school competition, an open battle on the creative platform. The event, titled “The Bout”, being hosted by GD Goenka International School, in association with INTACH and UdaipurTimes, brings you the creative conglomeration of students from schools around Udaipur. The Bout, happening on 27 October, is all set to bring students together on a single platform, where they come together, communicate, appreciate each others skills and learn while having fun throughout the day. Intelligent Quotient forms the base of a students personality, and is enhanced by the journey they take through school and eventually in graduation. What adds icing to the cake, is Competitive Quotient, which is enhanced by the kind of sports activities the student participates in and the Creative Quotient, which brings out the unique flavor in each child. The Creative Quotient is what will be explored in The Bout, which is designed to be a fun filled event with colors, dialog and nimble fingers doing the talking. No examinations, no mugging, no sweat! Just sit with your paper, drawing board or book and let your creativity and intrinsic interest perform for the child. The Bout will be held on Sunday, 27 October from 9am till 5pm. Idea behind The Bout is to create an event where students from different schools can come together and perform, students get to meet, understand and acknowledge the talent and creativity of their peers. The event is open for registration to students of Classes Ist to Xth from all schools across Udaipur and will be held across the following 7 activity groups, irrespective of age:

Group A: Story Writing | Slogan Writing
Group B: Collage Making | Poster Making
Group C: Face Painting | Photography
Group D: Elocution | Debate
Group E: Solo Singing | Quiz
Group F: Sketching | Logo Designing
Group G: School Band – Battle of the Bands

- https://udaipurtimes.com/registration-open-inter-school-open-competition-at-gd-goenka-international-udaipur/, Oct 10, 2018

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World Post Day: Interesting things to know about the day and the nostalgic service

Snail mail doesn’t give all those thrills as a quick email does. However, when more and more people are choosing to slow down, probably even stop to smell the (proverbial) roses, the days of the snail mails are a sweet reminder of the days gone by. Maybe it’s time to start bringing vintage back into our lives.

Did you know: The purpose of World Post Day is to create awareness of the role of the postal sector in our everyday lives and its important contribution in the socio-economic development of several countries. October 9 was declared World Post Day by the UPU (Universal Postal Union) Congress held in Tokyo, Japan in 1969 and has since been celebrated worldwide on this date. Many countries also use this day to introduce or promote new postal products and services.

Here are interesting things to know about the India Post:

1.India was one of the earliest members to become a part of the UPU, a United Nations’ agency, headquartered in Bern, Switzerland.

2.The government recently decided to digitise 1.5 lakh post offices, spread countrywide, which includes 1.3 lakh post offices situated in rural areas.

3.The postal service has 38 heritage buildings having architectural value, including the GPO in Kolkata and Mumbai respectively.

4.The approximate outstanding balance under all the post office savings schemes is over Rs 6 crore. The approximate number of account holders is 33.03 crore.

5.India Post enables instant international money transfer to customers in India sent from 195 countries on a real-time basis. This service is operated in association with Western Union and MoneyGram across locations.

6.Postal stamps and other philatelic products are available on a few e-commerce sites as well as on e-post office, an e-commerce portal of India Post. The department earned about Rs 40 crore in 2015-16 by selling postal stamps and stamp-related products.

7.The postal department has installed GPS devices in the mail vans to ensure safe and timely delivery of goods.

8.In early September this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also launched the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB). IPPB offers three types of savings accounts, namely regular, digital and basic. This will be a zero balance savings account providing an interest rate of 4% per annum.

Some bizarre facts about the postal service around the world:

There is a facility that deals with illegible handwriting: In the United States, The Remote Encoding Center in Salt Lake City, Utah receives the most impossible-to-read mail. The center’s workers are known to be able to translate a scribbled envelope into legible, usable information in about four seconds. Mules are employed to deliver mail: Imagine being somewhere in the Grand Canyon and yet receiving mails? That’s because ‘mule trains’ are at work to ensure you don’t miss your mails. The local Havasupai tribe receives its mail, food supplies, furniture etc. after an 8-mile journey covered by 50 horses and mules. It’s also interesting to note that the post office where this route originates is located in Peach Tree, Arizona which has walk-in freezers to protect perishable items. Stamp cave: SubTropolis, an excavated limestone mine in Kansas City, 150 feet underground, is an ideal hub for stamp storage and distribution. Remember how Dorothy told Toto she felt they weren’t in Kansas anymore? She could have been visiting SubTropolis in an alternate universe! Mail in the pail: The J.W. Westcott, a 45-foot mail boat has a contract to deliver mail to ships sailing on the Detroit River or passing through. The custom, called mail in the pail got its name because this postal service has to deliver mail to all Americans, even those aboard ships. The J.W. Westcott pulls alongside larger vessels which receive their correspondence by lowering down a bucket on a rope. The boat has a special ZIP code assigned to it too: 48222, the only floating ZIP code in the United States.

Master of Posts: King Henry VII established a position called Master of the Posts. This has since evolved into the office of the Postmaster General. First Postmaster General: Benjamin Franklin served as Postmaster General until November 7, 1776. United States of America’s present Postal Service (USPS) descends from the process laid down by Franklin. The Last Telegram. Stop: The Telegram service in the UK was abolished in 1977 while India sent its last telegram in 2013, after using this once revolutionary technology for 163 years. The first telegram was sent from Calcutta to Diamond Harbour in the year 1850. Highest Post Office: With 1.5 lakh plus post offices and 5.6 lakh plus employees, India has the largest postal network in the world. The world’s highest post office too, is located in Hikkim at Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh at 15,500 feet.

- https://www.hindustantimes.com/art-and-culture/world-post-day-interesting-things-to-know-about-the-day-and-the-nostalgic-service/story-GBYrhclnjiRvOfRbyn4OCM.html, Oct 10, 2018

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Deptt of Archives, Archaeology and Museums to hold workshops on Paper Conservation, Calligraphy, Art Photography

Aiming to create awareness among the Gen-next about the rich culture, heritage and art of the state, the department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums has come up with a series of events in upcoming months. Director Archives, Archaeology and Museums, Muneer-ul-Islam while revealing the calendar of activities during winter season, said that Kashmir has been known for rich cultural heritage from centuries together and the department is duty bound to identify, preserve and create awareness among the younger generation about the rich cultural heritage of the State in different forms including workshops, exhibitions and debates He said the department is organizing a workshop on Paper Conservation in collaboration with Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts New Delhi and INTACH. Muneer-ul-Islam said the aim of the workshop will be to make the stakeholders aware about the conservation and packaging of age-old books. He said the workshop will be open for government departments and private institutions and individuals who posses age old artifacts especially books so that those assets can be preserved properly. He said the department is also organizing a 5-day workshop from November 15, on ‘Calligraphy’ and ‘Paper making’ that will be attended by noted calligrapher Mohammad Idrees Qirtas from Karnataka. He said the aim of the workshop will be to make the concerned artists aware about paper and ink making for calligraphy. The department is also going to organize 10-day workshop on Heritage and Art Photography in collaboration with Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII). He said there is a need to make the youngsters aware about their cultural heritage and such programs will sensitize them about their heritage and make their aware about the rich cultural heritage they have inherited that will ultimately help in conservation of heritage. Muneer-ul-Islam said that the department aims to provide a forum for a creative and critical dialogue through performances, exhibitions, multi-media projections, conferences, seminars and workshops between and amongst the diverse arts- traditional and contemporary. (KNS)

- http://www.knskashmir.com/Deptt-of-Archives--Archaeology-and-Museums-to-hold-workshops-on-Paper-Conservation--Calligraphy--Art-Photography--30578, Oct 11, 2018

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Heritage Club formed at Seedling

In a first for Udaipur, Seedling school has formed a Heritage Club in association with INTAC (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) to bring awareness towards preserving heritage of the city. 30 students of Seedling are the founder members of this club. In the current technology oriented and fast paced life, with competition are every end, focus has shifted from traditions to modernity. With each and every one vying for a bigger pie in the modern world, it is imminent that the rich culture on which our society has been formed, is forgotten, or if ever remembered, only like the wink of an eye. The management of Seedling, assuming the role of task masters, have taken the initiative of inculcating the respect to tradition that it deserves, among students. The formation of Heritage Club seeks to ensure that along with spreading awareness towards the rich heritage of the city in society, the students learn in the bargain. The launch of the club involved a formal briefingby Dr BP Bhatnagar, former Vice Chancellor, RVU and convenor of INTAC’s Udaipur chapter. He was accompanied by SK Verma, Principal Advisor to the National Heritage Divison, INTACH. The two seniors briefed the students about the working of this club and the role of students in preserving our Art and Cultural Heritage. 30 students who were chosen to be members of this club, will be assisted by two teachers, Anjali Khabya and Manisha Sharma. Bedla Mata Temple is the first heritage site that the Heritage Club has chosen for their project. The members of the club, will be conducting activities and interacting with the local community to bring awareness towards care for our heritage.

- https://udaipurtimes.com/junior/school-news/heritage-club-formed-at-seedling/, Oct 12, 2018

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Ishfar Ali: The painter calligrapher making his mark

Once at an exhibition in Mumbai, an art lover was so much impressed with his work that he got his painting titled Pathetic Life, based on Kashmir turmoil for Rs 60000. Ishfar was just a student at that time. In around 2000, Shaheen Public School in Downtown engaged a painter to paint some legendary poets on the walls of their institute. However, the painter never showed up for work on the appointed day. Disappointed with his behaviour, the School management decided to look around and among the students to check whether anyone could paint. A class 9 student who was known for his doodling in notebooks was asked whether he could do the job. The hesitant boy was not so confident, however, the teacher knew his talent and encouraged him to take up the opportunity and showcase his skill. The student relented and brought colours from his home to paint Mirza Ghalib on the school walls. The result was magnificent and a similar excellence emanated from the following portraits of Iqbal and other poets. It was the turning point in the career of the young student by the name of Ishfar Ali. “My life changed after that. People appreciated my work and I started to get orders to do similar projects,” said Ishfar 32 as established artist in the field of Painting and Calligraphy. “Both my teachers and well wishers, who knew my art encouraged me to pursue the field and choose subjects in this stream only.” The seeds of his artistic talent were sown in his childhood. Being the son of a Papier Mache artist, Ishfar was always in the vicinity of a field of colours, design and art. He used to pick up brush start draw random things which later progressed into sketches, flowers and landscape. Ishfar later joined Institute of Music and Fine Arts and completed his bachelors in Fine Arts. All during these years he continued to fine tune his skills and continued to garner more projects. His next breakthrough was when INTACH took up the project of restoring the Baladari (Pavillion) at Nishat garden. They were looking for a design of paper mache ceiling as part of their restoration work. Ishfar sent his design based on similar designs in Shalimar garden, which was approved. “The collaboration with INTACH went a long in furthering my career,” said Ishfar who was appointed as constable in 2011 in JK Police. “In the police department too I was given work of art and was lucky to be mostly off the field.” In the meantime INTACH was working on a Shrine in Shadipora and Ishfar was roped in to design painting cum calligraphy specimen on the famous Naat Sharief of Jan Mohammed Qudsi (RA). He came up with a calligraphy specimen 8ft X 6ft that went on to beautifully showcase the neat “Marhaba Sayyad e Makki Madani ul Arabi,” (PBUH). The Naat is a legendary one and its first two lines are said to have become base for around 5000 Naats all around the world. “This gave a huge fillip to my career as I discovered altogether new field of Calligraphy and its potential in Kashmir. So many orders poured in after people saw the art at the shrine,” said Ishfar. “The calligraphy exhibition held at Nowhatta added another chapter to it. This calligraphy proved to be a game changer for the calligraphers like us. It was as if suddenly we the artists were thrown infant of a huge audience.” There was a rush of orders from people who wanted to decorate their houses with Quranic verses painted in calligraphy. Though the market is still small, but according to Ishfar it is increasing. “In my opinion walls in a house shouldn’t be blank and there should be something like painting or calligraphy specimen to decorate it. This kind of taste is increasing in Kashmir,” said Ishfar. Experts says that the reason calligraphy got fillip in Kashmir in recent times is due to the fact that it has already been in vogue here but had been forgotten. Mohammad Hussain Kashmiri was the greatest of Kashmiri Calligraphers. He was a master of nastaliq style whose genius was said to be at par with the greatest Persian masters. He was highly regarded and venerated by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and later by Jahangir as well. Such was the beauty of his art that he was given a place among the famed navratnas of Akbar, who also bestowed on Mohammad Hussain Kashmiri the title of Zarrin Qalam. Even Abu Fazl addresses him as Jadoo raqam (magical Calligrapher) in his magnum opus Ain-i-Akbari. Meanwhile the orders for Ishfar’s work have not only come from other states in India but also from Pakistan. Most of the people want calligraphy work to be done. The verses or wording usually recommended by the client. On the painting front, Ishfar had the distinction of taking part in art exhibitions in Jahangeer Art Gallery Mumbai and the galleries in New Delhi. Once at an exhibition in Mumbai, an art lover was so much impressed with his work that he brought his painting titled Pathetic Life, based on Kashmir turmoil for Rs 60000. Ishfar was just a student at that time. His other work regularly sells for thousands of rupees. He has worked for JK Bank by painting portraits of their 09 previous chairmen. For Regional Institute of Medical Science Dobiwan, he has painting portraits of Nobel laureate persons in medicine and done similar work for SKIMS Soura. On an average he makes around 60 portraits a year and each one earns anywhere from Rs 5,000 to 12000. A portrait may take anywhere from one day to a week to finish, depending on variety of things including the mood of artist. One of his biggest projects was to make portraits of the Prime Ministers of Australia. Amitabh Mattoo, Honorary Director of the Australia India Institute in Delhi and Advisor to the J&K government, had sent Ishfar a picture of Alfred Deakin, the second Prime Minister of Australia (three terms between 1903 and 1910), to sketch. The results were impressive enough for the Australia India Institute, New Delhi to commission portraits of seven other Prime Ministers — including Sir Robert Gordon Menzies (1939-41 and 1949-66) and Sir John McEwen (1967-68) — along with one of Sir Donald Bradman. The entire collection was displayed at a special exhibition held in New Delhi. His favourite painter is Masood Hussain, who has also remained his teacher. Occasionally he also works with Masood for some projects. He is also impressed with painter Zahoor Zargar. In calligraphy his favourite is one Hussain Masoodi from Iraninan who is known to work beautifully in single brush strokes. Ishfar was recently selected as Papier Mache instructor in the Handicrafts Department, where he teaches students with the new methods of designing, art and craft. “In police department I had a similar kind of job, but my latest job is more suited to my personality,” said Ishfar. Ishfar says that art and craft flourishes in the genes of Kashmiris but the lack of innovation is killing it. “We are using same old designs like that of chinar leaves or almond shape. We have not been able to innovate on them and match the tastes of modern times. In addition to it the weavers are given less wage and in turn they don’t put efforts to produce finest products. Our big export houses don’t utilise services of designers and instead leave it upto low wage craftsmen to make the carpet, shawl or any other work. The result is that our quality is going for a toss,” said Ishfar. At his present job he has already produced 10-15 designs, a record of sort. Being born and brought up at a place that is known for producing some of the finest crafts in the world, Ishfar hopes to give back to the society whatever he has imbibed from it. “Definitely we will value the art and crafts. It will take some time. But for it both government and society has to strive,” said Ishfar. “Our biggest impediment is that we don’t have any art gallery that could have showcase work of artists regularly. Few years back a single exhibition at Nowhatta did wonders for the art of calligraphy. Now imagine what can such exhibitions achieve if they are organised continuously.”

- https://greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/ishfar-ali-the-painter-calligrapher-making-his-mark/299450.html, Oct 12, 2018

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17th century Pari Mahal in ruins

Failure of authorities to take sustained measures for conservation of 17th century Pari Mahal on foothills of Zabarwan range here is taking a heavy toll on the Mughal era monument. In absence of regulation, walls of the heritage structure at several places have been covered with newspaper cuttings and splattered with paint. Ironically, the government forces putting up in monument have even set up a kitchen in one of the rooms. “Historic space is being vandalised at Pari Mahal.

The forces must move out of the monument to prevent further loss of historic material by their undue interventions in the heritage structure,” Muhammad Saleem Beg, convener Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) J&K chapter told Greater Kashmir. Pari Mahal or ‘Abode of Fairies’ was constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jehan’s son Dara Shikoh in mid-17th Century. Having pavilions and six terraced gardens, Pari Mahal had a residential school of Sufism headed by his spiritual guide Mullah Shah Badakshi, a sufi saint. The entry to the garden is from third terrace through an arched doorway having chambers on both sides. It is believed that Pari Mahal was constructed for astronomical observations and teachings or astrological calculations under Mughals.

The Mahal has a domed ceiling with gardens laid out on six terraces around. Arched retaining walls support the terraces. A pavilion or baradari can be found on the fourth terrace and another one connects the fifth and sixth terrace. Due to its ambience and neatly laid terraced gardens with water channels, Pari Mahal was one of the major tourist attractions in Srinagar. However, the heritage structure was taken over by forces in early 1990s. Pari Mahal is an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) protected site. The ASI, under union Ministry of Culture, is the premier organisation entrusted with maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites. “The main gateway comprising haman, hall and library is on the verge of collapse in absence of repairs. We cannot undertake restoration of the place as it is taken over by government forces,” an official of ASI wishing anonymity told Greater Kashmir. “We have several times taken up the matter with concerned authorities, but to no avail. We cannot undertake major repairs till forces don’t vacate the structure,” he said. “ASI has undertaken repairs on footpath and damaged doors and windows in other parts of Pari Mahal, but the problem is with main gateway.

We hope that Governor will take cognizance of the matter,” he added. Owing to its historic importance, the Mughal Gardens in Kashmir including Pari Mahal were included in tentative list of World heritage sites by UNESCO Conservation architect at INTACH, Saima Iqbal, said the “authorities have definitely failed in their attempts, both in making forces to vacate the heritage site or protecting it.”“Being on Tentative list of World Heritage Sites and also a nationally protected site, the state is duty-bound to make sure the monument suffers least damage. Most of the ad-hoc facilities the forces have set up inside the monument have vandalised it and it will be very difficult to reverse these inappropriate alterations even if the ASI ever decide to restore the heritage property," Saima said. She said being an ASI property the garden and the built features within Pari Mahal are legally protected from such things as encroachments, vandalism, additions or alterations. “But unfortunately an unjustifiable abuse of the heritage property at the hands of the government forces is being witnessed which is progressively destroying the monument on a daily basis,” she said.

‘Pari Mahal is part of the Mughal heritage of Kashmir and given the philosophy it is designed and laid out on, it is not just an important site from cultural tourism point of view but also for scholarly research works. Mughal gardens are of global importance and their restoration is extremely significant," she added.

- https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/srinagar-city/17th-century-pari-mahal-in-ruins/299806.html, Oct 15, 2018

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The Remote Hilltop Edakkal Caves in Kerala is Finally Open to Travellers

The highlight of these remote hilltop ‘caves’ or more accurately a small series of caverns, is the ancient collection of petroglyphs (images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art) in the top cave. They’re thought to date back to over 3000 years. Situated in Ambukuthi hills, Edakkal caves are popular for its Stone Age rock engravings. These engravings indicate the presence of ancient human settlements there.

Located about 1200 ft above the sea level, they’re also known for the ancient burial spots. The caves, a major tourist attraction in the area, had shut down after a huge stone collapsed during the monsoons. That had led to closing the entry to the first cave, which is estimated to open only after the study by a team of experts is completed. The team consists of scientists of the National Centre for Earth Science Studies and experts of the Archaeology Department.

Banning entry to the first cave hasn’t however stopped travellers from visiting the second cave. A secondary route is constructed specifically for such situations. The Archaeology and Archives Minister has decided to restrict the number to 1,930 travellers a day and only a group of 30 people are allowed at a time.The engravings are not the only attractions at Edakkal. The Muniyaras, or ancient burial sites that have been discovered in these hills that have yielded a rich collection of ancient earthenware and pottery.

Most of the artifacts discovered here are housed in the Wayanad Heritage Museum. You can visit the caves on all days except Mondays.

- https://www.india.com/news-travel/eddakal-caves-is-the-only-place-in-india-with-stone-age-carving-3383142/, Oct 16, 2018

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10 Indian crafts that need your attention now

Standing between centuries of tradition and extinction, these crafts are literally on the verge
Handicrafts are often the distillation of the culture and practices of an entire region. They are perfected over generations and centuries, and reflect changes in customs and sensibilities of the people who make them. Here is the story of 10 handicrafts from across India, that at one time were ubiquitous in their respective regions. But time left these ancients crafts behind. This is also the story of the craftsmen who persevered, keeping their traditions and beautiful art alive, even when others deserted the styles and traditions for more modern livelihoods.

PALLAVA STONECRAFT, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
The many ornate statues that litter the studio that Thangavel Bhaskaran (pictured above) shares with his group of artisans all started out as ugly blocks of grey granite. Then, over 25 days or so, he and his band of sculptors cut, chisel, bevel, and polish away like artists before them have done around these parts for more than 1,300 years. The end products are distinctive-looking sculptures, characterised by a rounded form with exaggerated features, that traditionally adorned Hindu temples in the erstwhile Pallava kingdom. The empire flourished until the 9th century in parts of what are now Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. From here, the statues were exported and became popular in Southeast Asia, where the style had a major influence on the architecture of the region.
“I was a student at the Government College of Architecture and Sculpture in Mamallapuram when I first learnt about the Pallava school of design. I spent some time recreating statues of deities like the ones that can be found in the Cave Temples of the region,” he explains. “But the craft was in decline. There were no quality artisans who understood the history behind it, and this is essential to the style,” he says. And so, in 1992, he started Creative Sculptors, a collective of four artisans who shared Bhaskaran’s love for this craft. Together, they have revived it in a way that is faithful to the original aesthetic.
Encouragingly, the numbers of artisans Bhaskaran has mentored has grown to 45. And last year, the craft was awarded a Geographical Indicator tag, recognising its uniqueness and its origins in Mamallapuram. “We all work here together and even today, we continue the long Pallava tradition of exporting our sculptures all around the world, from Europe to the Far East.”(94433 42097; from Rs8,000)

PINJRAKARI (JAALI), Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Intricately trellised, geometry-heavy jaalis or pinjras line the balconies and windows of traditional homes that still stand in Srinagar. These delicate screens with religious motifs, made without the use of nails or screws, are a thing of beauty and trace their history back to the 14th century, when Islam first appeared in the valley. Their superior handmade construction is the only reason the ones you see today have survived. “Nowadays, in modern homes, people have done away with jaalis altogether and the ones that do have them have the cheaper, machine-made variety that are neither as intricate nor built to last,” says Mohammed Ashraf. The walnut wood carver from Srinagar used to eke out a living repairing old jaalis when he first met Sandeep Sangaru, a Bengaluru-based furniture designer. “I was on a trip to Srinagar in 2004 when I fell in love with the style, but I could not find a single artisan in the valley who was still making jaalis.
I wanted to include the design in some of my furniture and I drew the blueprint based on traditional jaalis and asked Ashraf if he and his team of artisans would make them for me,” says Sangaru. And that is how this craft came to be revived. “Sandeep’s designs inspired me to expand my repertoire and continue making traditional jaalis. Now I am one of the only people who still makes these jaalis by hand around these parts,” says the 58-year-old, who is also training his team in the craft. He carves and measures, making sure every bit is made precisely as per the blueprint he has drawn for the piece. Working with rudimentary tools, he puts all the components together until they sit flush. “It takes time, but the end result is very satisfying,” he adds. (96224 60423; from Rs1,800)

SITALPATI MATS, Goalpara, Assam
Once synonymous with Assamese summers, these mats are made from murta reeds that grow in the marshes around the state. These are dried and stripped, then bound together by hand-weaving. In some cases, the dried reeds are dyed using natural pigment extracts while others are hand-painted with traditional Jamdani designs, once artisans finish hand-weaving it.
Sitalpati stays cool even in toasty weather, and hence the cottage craft’s popularity in eastern India. But deforestation and loss of wetlands in the state means that the raw material used to make the mats is often hard to come by. The other problem is plastic alternatives. “These are easier to make using machines and they are much cheaper,” says Ranjit Kumar Dey. He still makes sitalpati mats the way he learnt from his mother and embellishes them like his uncle taught him. He is one of the few remaining craftspeople in the area still eking out a living making sitalpati in northern Assam’s Goalpara district, believed to be the home of these mats.
The unique style, with the tight weave of the thick murta reeds and the beautiful, hand-painted patterns, is unmistakable. “They take about three days to make, so they are labour-intensive. And if we can’t sell enough of them, it doesn’t make a lot of sense carrying on. But for now, I am going to keep this going.” (95081 27216; from Rs1,200)

PHAD PAINTING, Shahpura, Rajasthan
Long before the printing press was ever invented, and people still relied on oral traditions to pass down their collective history, Vijay Joshi’s ancestors had a brainwave. “After listening to priests in temples singing legends of Hindu gods, they came upon the idea of drawing them on a long scroll in a sequential manner,” explains Joshi. “And that is how phad, which means to read a mythological story through pictures, first came to be.” And while he and his immediate family have maintained the colourful, detailed hand-painted tradition of the Shahpura school of phad painting, they have had to adapt to the times. “Back in the day, we painted epics such as the Ramayanaand Hanuman Chalisa and deities such as Pabuji, Devnarayan and Ram Dala with the accompanying prayers on 5x30ft khadi tapestries that told the whole story,” says the 40-year-old.
“But now, people don’t have homes big enough for that. So, we now make smaller pieces, with snapshots of stories, that you can hang up in apartments in the cities. Also, on occasion, I branch out to different subject matters. In the past I have done a phad painting about Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan as well as on WWI.” Despite these occasional novelties, both the process and subject matter are remarkably similar to what they used to be 700 years ago, when the Joshi family first started making phad. “We still use the same red, yellow and indigo stones to make the five colours that feature in all our paintings. We still use the same painstaking process, which means detailed pieces can take months to make.” (94146 77750; from Rs1,000)

NAMDA, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
The story of namda is one of a remarkable turnaround. First devised around the 11th century to make a thick covering to keep horses warm in the bitterly cold winter, the art of using felted wool on fabrics thrived in communities around the Himalayas. Dyed sheep’s wool was applied on embroidered patterns to create beautiful throws and shawls that were hugely coveted. One of the major centres of this craft was the Srinagar neighbourhood of Nowhatta, “so much so that the entire neighbourhood was called Namdagarh,” says Arifa Jan (pictured with her artisans), who has a Craft Management and Entrepreneurial Leadership degree from the Craft Development Institute in Srinagar. By 2012, when she was writing her final assignment, on namda, there was only one artisan left in the entire neighbourhood who could help with her research. Since then, Jan has almost single-handedly revived namda. By using higher-quality merino wool and paying higher wages, she has been able to bring back a handful of namda craftspeople from the admittedly more lucrative professions they had abandoned the centuries-old craft for.

Her tapestries and rugs have slowly, but steadily, gained an excellent reputation both in India and overseas, although their heaviness and warmth make them better suited to cooler climes. “Each piece, from the embroidery to working the wool, can take up to two weeks to complete. But the final product is unparalleled in quality and will last for generations,” the 31-year-old entrepreneur explains, with a justified hint of pride. (96227 63330; from Rs1,000)

ROGAN, Nirona, Gujarat
In the woods outside the village of Nirona, Rizwan Khatri (pictured) oversees the process of boiling down castor oil—a precise process that turns it into a thick jelly. He then mixes it with natural dyes to create a palette of vivid colours. Mixing them in his palm, he uses a metal stick to delicately stretch the gelatinous paint onto fabric, creating beautiful patterns in half, then folds the fabric over to create a mirror image to complete it.

The resulting product is beautiful, painstakingly made and incredibly coveted, gaining popularity when Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted it to US President Barack Obama a few years ago, as an example of the best India has to offer. Despite this, only two families in Kutch can make rogan, an art form that was brought to Kutch from Persia by way of Sindh. The exact process, a trade secret they have guarded fiercely for more than 350 years, has kept it this way. And Khatri knows that if things don’t change, the art he loves so dearly may die out, if not in his generation, then in the one that comes after him. So, for the first time, the 25-year-old is grooming a group of Nirona women in the same way his father taught him the craft many years ago.

He understands this is the only way to popularise and keep this craft alive. “I have to make the art more accessible and produce it in larger volumes to sustain it,” he says. Other things are changing as well. The Khatri family now makes rogan on everything from small tapestries to jeans and t-shirts, not just on the elaborate ghagras as was the norm back in the day—a response to the relentless march of time and changing sensibilities. (96013 24272; from Rs5,000)

BIDRI ARTWORK, Bidar, Karnataka
During an MBA project to create revenue streams for a cottage craft, Amarnath Shetkar rediscovered bidri, a struggling 14th-century craft, stunning in its uniqueness, from his hometown of Bidar in northern Karnataka. During his research, he met Muhammad Abdul Rauf and Rashid Qadri, two of a handful of master craftsmen or harfanmaula left in the town. “We use the term to refer to anyone who knows all the various steps involved in making bidri artwork,” explains Shetkar. And the craft does have plenty of steps. Modelled using a wooden cast, bidri is made from an exact alloy of zinc and copper. After hand-filing and smoothing the cast alloy, the product is dipped in a copper sulphate solution to blacken it and then the harfanmaula carves intricate patterns on it. With a chisel and hammer, silver wire is then inlaid in the grooves.

Many hours of polishing and smoothing later, the piece is dipped in a solution of water and sand only taken from a dark, little-exposed corner of the 15th-century Bidar Fort, and the product finally takes shape. It is finally dipped in ammonium chloride that blackens everything but the silver inlay, giving bidri its unique look. The complexity of the process and diminishing returns in sales over the years almost killed the craft. Rauf, now 62 years old, remembers a time when their neighbourhood, known as Bidri Gaon, used to have enough artisans to warrant the name. He and Qadri work with Shetkar, training young artisans in the ways of the craft that is believed to have originated in Persia.

Their collective is called Curio 38. “For three generations, our family has been proudly creating these pieces that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Now I am also training my sons in that tradition. I hope they don’t give up on it, like so many others have, in search of a profession where they can earn a quick buck,” says Rauf. (99863 99663; from Rs1,000)

KHARAD CRAFT, Kukma, Kutch, Gujarat
Tejshih Dhana (pictured) and his family fondly remember a time when their ancestors traversed the desert that stretches between Kutch, Rajasthan and Sindh, unencumbered by artificial borders. “We used to make and sell kharad all over the region,” he says. “And this had been the case for as long as humans and animals had co-existed around these parts.” The Dhana family uses dyes made from the natural pigments of indigo, pomegranate and flowers to colour wool spun from camel and goat hair. “We then weave them in geometric patterns and even include motifs from local legends and vartas (stories) in our kharad.” The process, today, is completely unchanged from how previous generations made kharad rugs and tapestries and the family even uses the same hand-powered charkha that it always has. “We’ve had the same equipment from before Gandhi popularised his charkha,” Dhana explains. The only difference is that while back in the day, there was a whole nomadic community who used to make kharad, now there is just the Dhana family.

“People used to treasure our kharad and we used to do brisk business,” he says. “But now, people think because it is wool, it is too warm to be used in a hot country like India.” The beautiful rugs and tapestries have found a market overseas, though, and there are a few discerning clients in India who still appreciate them for their aesthetic qualities and their longevity. “A kharad can last several generations of a family.” For now, the family continues the tradition, taking orders for bespoke pieces over the phone and welcoming customers and guests to their home in Kukma, from where they sell their products. (99134 91374; from Rs500)

PITALA MACHA, Belaguntha, Odisha
In Belaguntha, a temple town that’s 170km from Puri, Pradip Maharana and his cousins labour over tiny rings of brass that they fashioned out of sheets. They stitch the rings, standing in for the four different parts of a fish body, together in a vertical weave using a thin brass wire. The labour and math-intensive process takes about two days and is done exclusively by hand. The finished product is a brass fish that can move about and thrust its tail about as if it were flesh and blood. The Maharana family inherited, as a family heirloom, the closely guarded secret behind this craft that was developed almost 300 years ago by Gangadhar Maharana, a maker of brass temple statues and weapons for the royal family that ruled this part of Odisha.

“He was fascinated by the way fish propelled themselves and he successfully developed a technique to replicate it using brass,” says Pradeep. Family legends are all part of the story of the Belaguntha moving brass fish. “Since we were kids, we were told Gangadhar’s fish could actually move about in water as well, but he killed himself before he could teach that bit of the process to his wife,” the 50-year-old says. As word spread about this magical fish, it brought the unwanted attention of the British representative in the region who demanded to know Gangadhar’s secret.

“Our forefather chose to kill himself rather than give it up,” Pradeep says. While the Belaguntha fish’s fame is a shadow of what it once was, the family still faithfully continues the tradition to this day. (99376 38787; from Rs450)
CHAMBA RUMAL, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh
This Pahadi craft of making hand-spun muslin handkerchiefs with do-rukha (two-faced) embroidery, involving drawings of religious and natural motifs, was once considered fit only for royalty. Once the basic outline was done by a miniature artist, the royal women of the region would embroider these by hand. And when royalty ceased to be, so did these gorgeous rumals. The craft’s survival is testament to the will of a determined few. With the intervention of Delhi Crafts Council (DCC), a not-for-profit organisation that promotes traditional crafts, and a tiny group of skilled Chamba women like Masto Devi, the ageold tradition carries on today. “A handful of women always retained the craft. They used to make it for themselves and their families as gifts on special occasions,” says Masto Devi. “I was lucky to meet one such lady who taught me just how someone had taught her. While she is no more, I am happy I am continuing this tradition,” says the 49-year-old.

She works with DCC, training 10 women in Chamba and even fewer Pahadi miniature artists. “Each piece is done from start to finish by one pair of hands so the stitch is consistent. It takes about three months to complete a piece.” Owing to the exacting nature of the process, the handkerchiefs are only made to order. (Website; from Rs8,000)

INTO THE FUTURE
Vaishanvi Ramanathan and Brijeshwari Gohil, researchers at Piramal Art Foundation, spent six months documenting some of these crafts, resulting in an exhibition, From Nature to Culture: Crafts of India, shown in Mumbai last year. “Creating chances for people to travel can help,” says Gohil. “When states organise festivals and invite these artisans, they get the exposure that might help their craft survive."

- https://www.cntraveller.in/story/10-indian-crafts-need-attention-now/, Oct 16, 2018

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Cultural heritage has a lot to teach us about climate change

Museums, archaeological sites and historical buildings are rarely included in conversations about climate change, which tend to focus on the wider impact and global threats to our contemporary world. Yet these threats impact everything, from local cultural practices to iconic sites of outstanding universal value. In light of this, it’s worth exploring the relationship between our heritage and the changing global climate in more detail. More powerful storms, flooding, desertification and even the melting of permafrost are already destroying important sites at an alarming rate. While we race to preserve or record these places before they are lost forever, it is also the case that some sites – especially those that are or have been highly adaptable and flexible – can also be assets in understanding adaptation strategies more generally.

These questions are currently being explored by an expert working group, which we are part of. Our aim is to unpack the intersection between our changing climate and the world’s cultural heritage, specifically world heritage sites. Building on the Paris Agreement, which notes the importance of traditional and indigenous knowledge when thinking about adaptation strategies, we are exploring how global heritage can be used not only to stress urgency about the dangers and risks of climate change, but also as an asset to enforce community resilience and develop adaptation strategies for the future. Take Russia's Treasures of the Pazyryk Culture. Located in the Altai mountains, this landscape of burial mounds (kurgans) and rock carvings derive from the Scythian nomadic culture of 2,500 years ago. A few of the two- to four-metre tall stone mounds have been excavated in the past.

They reveal an incredible array of artefacts, complex funerary practices, and (most famously) tattooed individuals – all preserved due to the sub-zero conditions. The melting of permafrost due to rising temperatures is expected to significantly impact frozen tombs at the site by the middle of this century. The chemical and biological deterioration of the organic and inorganic contents, previously inhibited by the freezing conditions, is likely to accelerate rapidly, while associated ground movement could cause structural damage to the tombs themselves. The threat to these tombs from rising temperatures has been met with efforts to survey and protect them. While many indigenous people and heritage conservators aim to preserve the burials without disturbing them, it is not yet clear if this can be achieved.

Rising waters
Elsewhere, rising sea waters and erosion are having a similarly disastrous impact. The Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania, for example, are at considerable risk from the impact of increased surf, exacerbated by the loss of mangrove forestry on the island. This site was founded in the ninth century and became a major trading centre by the 13th century. It was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981 as an exceptional testimony to the expansion of Swahili coastal culture, and to the spread of Islam in Africa in this period. Ongoing efforts are being made here to strengthen the sea wall protecting the site, and to encourage alternate land use strategies to increase natural protection. The area’s iconic heritage is helping to deliver important messages concerning climate change. In Easter Island, meanwhile, rising sea levels and increasing storm surges are eroding the platforms (ahu) upon which famous statues (moai) are stood.

Almost all of these statues are on the coast. It is very clear that climate change is having an adverse and worsening impact on these sites. This damage will destroy parts of the archaeological resource, including subsurface archaeological deposits that are particularly under-researched. The loss of these statues could have a significant negative impact on the tourism economy of Easter Island, affecting the livelihoods and resilience of the islanders.

Lessons from heritage
But we can learn a lot from some communities’ response to threat at such sites in the study of climate change resilience. While increased flooding and extreme weather conditions represent a considerable challenge globally, coastal and river communities have been living with (and adapting to) similar events for centuries. A good example of this localised adaptation can be found on the river island of Majuli in the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India. Majuli is a landscape of both natural and cultural significance. The island is also home to over 30 ancient monasteries, known as sattras, which are repositories of both tangible and intangible culture. Here, annual flooding has led to significant erosion of the river and the displacement of communities, many of which live outside of the protective levees constructed in recent years. Over hundreds of years, communities on Majuli have developed modular and portable building techniques using local materials including building on stilts.

The river and its annual flooding have become part of the everyday experience of living on Majuli and is a part of the local worldview. More permanent structures of the sattras are not immune to the impacts of the river and some have been moved up to five times over the last 300 years. These places and their associated cultural heritage have evolved to be portable, a valuable skill in a landscape which changes regularly. It should be stressed that, even with these adaptations, the current pace of climate change is unprecedented and its impact on river and coastal communities will be disastrous. Yet, by better understanding places like Majuli, we will learn much about resilience and adaptation to the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Written by:
Cathy Daly, Senior Lecturer in History and Heritage, University of Lincoln Jane Downes, Director, Archaeology Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands William Megarry, Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast

The Convesation
Header Image Credit : Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

- https://www.heritagedaily.com/2018/10/cultural-heritage-has-a-lot-to-teach-us-about-climate-change/121933, Oct 17, 2018

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