Heritage Education in India

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage
 


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Heritage Alerts
September 2017

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NOW, HERITAGE UNDER SMART CITY AMBIT

While the Smart City Mission has long broadcast its ambition to take a step into the future, it appears to have an eye on the past as well. Now, officials have decided to include preservation as an element of this project, and during a three-day-long conference organised at the Bharatiya Vidyapeeth Deemed University in the city, brainstormed the term Smart Heritage to be part of the Smart City Cell, with the aim to promote and conserve the city’s heritage to attract more tourists. Following this, heritage experts also expressed that this new emphasis may help resolve issues faced by locations of historic importance. Pune Smart City Cell CEO Dr Rajendra Jagtap confirmed, “Earlier, the cell had four elements (traffic, transport, solid waste management and water supply). Now, we have decided to add more elements in this list, including health, education and heritage tourism. In the initial phase, we will focus on the technology aspect of these, as also lay stress on marketing for heritage tourism. We will be looking into knowledge- based aspects, like uploading information on our website and a mobile application to help visitors coming in to the city.” While the budget allocation for this task has not yet been assigned, shared Jagtap, it is to be planned later this week. Weighing in from an expert’s perspective, INTACH Heritage Academy principal director Naveen Piplani said, “A Smart City project is incomplete without the incorporation of heritage into it. This new move could help keep heritage alive, as also increase knowledge among the masses over time. Smart Heritage will help promote our existing legacy with the help of technology; e-management of sites of historic importance and mobility in old areas, a matter of concern today, could be sorted to a great extent.” Experts also believe the inclusion of heritage into the Smart City Mission will cast a spotlight on historic sites that are badly in need of conservation and revive them, such as the heritage gallery on Ghole Road and the Lal Mahal in Kasba Peth. Sharvey Dhingra, co-convenor for INTACH Pune, said, “There are many sites in and around Pune that need the immediate attention of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and other bodies for conservation. Out of approximately 250 sites of historic importance listed by PMC, only seven have been worked upon. The new initiative could also help restore sites like the Nageshwar Temple in Somwar Peth, the old stone building of the city post office, Kedareshwar Temple in Kasba Peth, and more, all of which are in a deteriorating condition.” A participant in the recent conference, Ashwini Pethe, who is the joint managing director of the Pune Biennale Foundation, told Mirror, “Without taking along our heritage and history, the progress of any city is incomplete. With this inclusion into the Smart City project, there will be prominent changes and noticeable improvement in heritage tourism.”

- http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/now-heritage-under-smart-city-ambit/articleshow/60297650.cms, Sep 1, 2017

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Stone inscriptions unravel lesser-known narratives of Bengaluru's history

The Excel sheet is filled with colours green, yellow and red. The end count says: 41 intact, 17 not traceable, 04 destroyed. This one sheet of inventory, as PL Udaya Kumar calls it, represents his relentless search for stone inscriptions that tell a different tale of Bengaluru. Two months ago, Kumar was one among the many grey-collared engineers of the IT city. That is, until the history buff came across a stone inscription near his Rajajinagar home. It narrated the history of a neighbouring village called Kethmaranahalli, which was gobbled up by an exploding Bengaluru more than a decade ago. Kumar was intrigued by the date 1300 AD, which made the village a full two centuries older than Bengaluru and its founder Kempegowda. “I set out on this self-funded documentation of the 200-odd inscriptions strewn across Bengaluru,“ said Kumar, a Bengalurean who claims that he got to know his city , its people and their stories of their evolution “inside out“ only after making sense of historical inscriptions. Kumar's ambitious project is only 30% complete now. While the engineer intends to eventually hand over his online documentation -photographs and research notes from epigraphic texts -to government officials, Kumar is unsure if the inscriptions would be intact until then.Most of his searches found heritage stones drowning among footpaths, construction debris, garbage, matts, temples, private homes and apartment complexes. They have survived the onslaught of development, changing borders and booming infrastructure, but will vanish if not protected soon. Sample this: An 1308 AD Kannada inscription about a land grant made by the chief of farmers during the Hoysala rule is being used to line a roadside drain alongside a few other veeragallus (hero stones).Another 1508 AD Telugu inscription, a territory marker for the land belonging to Vira Narasinga Raya, the brother of Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya, lies unprotected in Marathahalli, on a road that sees heavy traffic flow. Kumar states that psychological fear is what protects most of these abandoned stones. “People do not want the curses or punishments mentioned for the stone's destroyer to be transferred to them,“ he says. If only these inscriptions were protected and their contents documented, he continues, we can redraw historic timelines to gain new insight about the city. The most recent excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) tell us how exactly inscriptions can change conventional historical narrative. The Halmidi inscription dated at 450 CE (currently preserved in the Government Museum) is considered as the oldest usage of the Kannada script. However, according to ASI officials, an engraving unearthed in Talagunda village of Shivamogga last week is 70 years older than Halmidi. While that discovery is being studied, a 10th century Ganga dynasty hero stone with striking resemblance to the Bengaluru inscription that first spoke of a battle in a place called 'Bengaluru' was found near the Roerich and Devika Rani estate in Tataguni. “Almost 85% of these excavations have been made in the past 50 years,“ says historian Prof S Settar of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). “The challenge is that these findings and their subsequent documentation and publication are highly scattered. It becomes difficult even for academicians and scholars to access and make sense of them.“ To make these works intelligible and accessible to the next generation, Settar has been on a mission for the past 15 years. He is classifying inscriptions according to a timeline with details of how words and contexts have evolved over the centuries. His work, published in eight volumes by the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana, will be out this December. Settar, however, cautions that just because their meanings have been translated on paper, it does not mean one ignores the stone structures. “Texts are just derivations. Inscriptions are a direct source of information of what happened and much more. They should not be undermined at any cost.“ While popular perception is that inscriptions talk only about obvious things like dynasties and dates, historians believe that they also throw light on religious practices, social structures and ecology .“At face value, one might conclude that some of these `run-of-the-mill' inscriptions had no great historical information. But, in fact, they help us paint a picture of the past. There are things you can learn even about food and agricultural habits,“ says Meera Iyer, co-convenor, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Iyer explains how etchings in Ajanta and Pitalkhora depicted how early Buddhist caves were built largely with donations from people like carpenters and oilmen, while a few centuries later, it was royalty that largely donated. “Who knows what new tools might be developed (in the future) that might help new information from old inscriptions come to light,“ Iyer continues. “There may be clues waiting to be unravelled depending on where, how and which direction in a landscape something is placed.“ Harini Nagendra, professor of sustainability at Azim Premji University , agrees with Iyer. Her 2016 book `Nature in the City' studied a changing Bengaluru through an ecological lens. Ancient inscriptions in and around 10 km of BBMP boundaries were her research tools. “I gained immense insight about the topography of the city . Like how the earliest settlements in Bengaluru were located in the flatbeds of the East and it is only due to lack of space during the Hoysala rule (12th to 14th century AD) that they extended to hilly areas in the West, which we call Malnad today ,“ she says. Near the Agara Lake, Nagendra found inscriptions talking about farmers being granted rights to irrigate land in exchange for lake maintenance, and near Kanakapura, stones talked about man-animal conflicts or hunting expeditions. Some spoke of the 75 villages that existed even before Kempegowda `founded' Bengaluru in 1537. Almost all engravings described wetlands, trees, lakes and wells as signs of a place's prosperity. This brings up the question of how these inscriptions can be preserved so that the future has a clear view of the past. Iyer suggests that educational institutions nearest to a particular stone could 'adopt' the artefact and be given informal responsibility of its protection. Preservation and technological interventions, however, are not happening at a good pace. As Nagendra puts it: “While historians, academicians, epigraphists and scholars join hands to preserve these inscriptions, there is need for more concerted government attention and effort."

- http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/fulfil-climate-vows-india-to-rich-nations/articleshow/60319804.cms, Sep 1, 2017

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Retired curator finds hero stones

A retired curator of the Government Museum, Vellore stumbled upon a treasure trove of antiquities from Yelagiri gramam near Tirupattur. It included two hero stones and a merchant guild stone. M. Gandhi, the former curator along with R. Mani, retired conservation assistant from the Archaeological Survey of India visited the village earlier last month (August). The village is located on the foothills of Yelagiri. “S. Chinnathambi, retired superintending engineer, Public Works Department asked me to study the antiquities in his village. We studied the temples and archaeological objects for three days. We found two hero stones, one merchant guild stone, a nagini stone and a damaged Tamil inscription belonging to Vijayanagar King Devaraya,” he said. In the three-and-a-half-foot tall hero stone, a warrior is seen wielding a bow and a dagger. Two of his enemies, whom he had attacked, are seen fallen around him. ‘Linga,’ ‘nandi,’ crescent moon, sun have been depicted on the top of the hero stone. On the basis of the style, Mr. Gandhi said this hero stone might belong to the 9th century AD. A stone featuring slaying of a tiger has been erected on the edge of an irrigation well in the village. In this stone, a warrior holds a bow in his right hand, while his left hand stabs on the head of a tiger that had attacked him. The animal is depicted as biting the hero’s left thigh, and warrior has been portrayed in full action of slaying the beast. Based on the style, the stone could belong to the 11th century AD, he said. Alongside the tiger slaying stone is a merchant guild stone. On the face of the stone, Goddess Sridevi is depicted in a seated pose with her two hands holding lotus flowers. A swan, horse, bow and five types of musical instruments find place on the stone. Apart from this, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Mani also found an image of Tirthanakara housed in a small shed-like structure near an abandoned well. He noted that the villagers worshipped this sculpture. At Chennarayaperumal Temple in the village, the inscription of Kulothunga Chola I was seen in the plinth, while another temple, Malayathamman Temple (Saptamatrika Shrine) has late Chola age - nearly 11th or 12th century - images of seven mothers, he added.

- http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/retired-curator-finds-hero-stones/article19595753.ece, Sep 1, 2017

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Archival records of city to be available in digital form

People who wish to have a peek into the rich cultural heritage of the national Capital can readily do so as the records of Delhi Archives are going to be available in digital form and be just a click away. The Delhi Archives has nearly 10 crore pages of archival records and as part of the first phase of the project, which was inaugurated today by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, four crore archival pages will be digitised and microfilmed in around 30 months. “It is a unique project of the government and perhaps the first of its kind in the world under which a large number of archival records will be digitised and microfilmed,” Sisodia, who also hold the portfolio of Art and Culture said. Under the project -- Digitisation and Microfilming of Archival Records -- the four crore pages will be digitised and microfilmed in 30 months with a cost of Rs 25.40 crore, said the minister in a statement issued by the government. "With this the government also aims to encourage appreciation of archival heritage and enable the public to have an access to the records with a click of a mouse," added Sisodia. A repository of non-current records of the government of Delhi, the Delhi Archives has a collection of records from year 1803 to 1990 and other major historic episodes, such as the trial of last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, declaration of Delhi as capital by the British in 2011 and acquisition of private land thereafter, photos of freedom fighters, old heritage structures, archaeological sites of the city and so on. The records of “farmans and sanads of Mughal ruler Shah Alam; records of the First War of Independence, 1857; land acquisition records for the Lutyens' Zone; infrastructure development record of British era such as establishment and expansion of railway lines, establishment of electricity department, growth of education, telephone. Besides having records of major heritage buildings in Delhi such as the Legislative Assembly, Metcalfe House, Ludlow Castle, and Commissioner's Office. This is not all. The Archives treasure also has old maps and plans of Delhi, gazette of governments of India, Punjab and Delhi, records of freedom fighters of Delhi, CID and Waqf Board records, maintenance of internal security records, conviction records of Central Jail, Tihar, and property registration records for the period 1870-1990. The Delhi Archives also houses 300–400 years old manuscripts on Ayurveda, medicine and religion. Instituted in 1972 with the objective to preserve the archival heritage of the historic city, it is responsible for preservation of the archives and making them available.

-http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/delhi/archival-records-of-city-to-be-available-in-digital-form/460335.html, Sep 1, 2017

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Reclaiming our Heritage- A Gothic-style dargah for a Sufi who didn't speak

It is a microcosm in its own right, functioning within gateways and scores of small and large arches. With a heritage award-winning unique sanctum at the centre, it is known as the final resting place of a revered Sufi who is said to not have uttered a single word so as to avoid confrontation. It also a unique blend of Islamic and Gothic architecture. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Nampally, only a stone's throw from the political hotbed of Darussalaam, is the Dargah Hazrat Shah Khamosh. It was on account of its architectural features and remarkable upkeep that it was awarded the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) award. "The internal arcade of the dargah has classic Gothic arches. Gothic architecture has been extensively used in churches.

It was a time when the St George's Church in Abids was constructed. Therefore, the influences are clear. Further, it is my belief that both Islamic and European architecture have the same root and are derived from Graeco-Roman architecture," says Intach co-convener Sajjad Shahid. The dargah was built in the late 1800s, a time when European influence began to be witnessed in Hyderabad architecture. Drawing rooms and living rooms, primarily a European feature, became a part of homes of those with some means. Experts say that since the complex was constructed in the same era, it is most likely that those involved in designing the building brought in these elements.The crown of arches on the outer arcade have motifs which are visibly European.

According to dargah mutawalli and sajjada nashin Syed Ali Akber Nizamuddin Hussaini, the complex was constructed soon after the death of Syed Moinuddin Hussaini, popularly known as Hazrat Shah Khamosh, in 1288 AH, which corresponds to the 1872 CE. The dome of the sanctum was constructed by Sir Asman Jah, one of the important nobles of the Paigah family. "This date is mentioned on the dome. The dargah complex was built by Hazrat Syed Mohammed Hussaini.Saalu Bai, one of the wives of the fifth Nizam Afzal-ud-Daula, too was in volved in the construction," he says. But how did the title, Shah Khamosh, come into being? Hussaini offers an explanation: "Syed Moinuddin Hussaini is called Hazrat Shah Khamosh because he spoke little. He was working at the langar when he had a difference of opinion with his peerbhai (brother in faith).He brought this to the attention of murshid Hafiz Mohammed Musa Manakpuri, who advised him "Tum khamosh hojao" (maintain a dignified silence). The other explanation is that Khamosh was the name he used in his poetry."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/reclaiming-our-heritage-a-gothic-style-dargah-for-a-sufi-who-didnt-speak/articleshow/60373246.cms, Sep 6, 2017

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10 heritage structures identified for restoration

Ten heritage structures have been identified in the city for restoration and, of them plan of action drawn up for two, Municipal Commissioner M. Hari Narayanan has said. At a meeting with stake-holders on heritage structures, he said taking up work on restoration of the two structures was getting delayed because of time taken for getting technical experts. Debasish Naik, expert, gave a presentation on the effort that had gone into getting Unesco Heritage City recognition for Ahmedabad.

Smart City consultant Vishal Kundra, APTDC executive director Sriramulu Naidu, Assistant Director, Archaeology, K. Chittiababu and representatives of Intach participated in the meeting. , As Reported By Hindu.

- https://www.nyoooz.com/news/visakhapatnam/909878/10-heritage-structures-identified-for-restoration/, Sep 6, 2017

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DIGITAL INDIA TO TRANSFORM TOURISM

Are you having trouble as a foreign visitor, negotiating your way around India? Just dial 1363, till date the most detailed tourist helpline in 12 languages. Get an e-ticket for the Taj before leaving your home country and spare yourself the long queue. In fact, junk the audio guide. Your mobile can now become a combined Audio Visual guide with venue-specific barcodes encapsulating complete information. And if you still need the human touch, you can dial a "tourist friend." Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India is quietly changing the travel experience for both domestic and international travellers. How will you avoid unsavoury experiences? Just sign up for the new tourism website that has authenticated reviews, how-tos, services, prices, comparables and certified experientials to make your discovery of India an indelible, not just an incredible experience. Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma, who will be launching the website on September 27, is planning a slew of measures to e-enable and e-empower the tourist. Not without reason. While worldwide, the growth of tourism has been 4.6 per cent, in India it has been 17.3 per cent for the corresponding period. "Yes the numbers are up. Last year we had shown a growth of 14 per cent.

This year, the number has gone up to 17.3 per cent. This is the highest in recent years," Sharma told The Pioneer. With Prime Minister Modi emphasising tourism as a growth driver and a key component of Brand India, Sharma is backing it up with initiatives. "The 1363 helpline in 12 languages is a unique effort. It is available nowhere in the world. You may find the local language and English but here we have a mix of languages spoken by tourists. So there is an ease of experience. We have made e-ticketing for 116 monuments where you do not need to stand in a queue. Now you can start from your hotel or even your country with the e-ticket for that particular monument. There is a barcode chart accessible on your mobile that has complete information on a site or organisation," he said.

The idea is to help the traveller move around on his own without relying on second-hand information. The tourist police are now going to be complemented with Paryatak Mitra or tourist facilitators. "We are inducting ex-Armymen for the purpose and we hope this will help us ensure a sense of safety," the Minister said. The new Ministry website, which is proposed to be launched on World Tourism Day, will be a single-window delivery platform that collates every bit of information on India.

"As an interactive window, you can reach hotels, get a lowdown on natural sights, be it mountains, deserts, wildlife, snow. Any query related to other websites on tourism will also be linked and answered here. You can say it is a one-stop shop compendium." However, a major part of the website will be devoted to medical tourism. "Medical tourism has been growing by almost 25 per cent over the last two years. There is a huge potential but there have been complaints about mishandling of visiting patients, financial irregularities and misdemeanours by touts. We have taken these up very seriously and are now standardising practices through the Medical and Wellness Tourism Board. Visitors can now register on a portal and get complete and transparent information about medical treatment, services and rates provided by our hospitals and wellness institutions.

We are providing facilitators for a set fee. The idea is to guarantee value for money, quality and efficiency in services," said Sharma. As part of ensuring a feel-good experience, the Tourism Ministry is working closely with the Surface Transport Ministry to meet infrastructural issues like connectivity, cleanliness, safety and wayside amenities along highways connecting tourist destinations. Coming up are two more spiritual circuits, the Tirthankar and Sufi trails. While the first is intended to guide Jain pilgrims, the latter is intended to highlight the inclusive philosophy of India. As the Minister said, "So far the emphasis has been on Amir Khusro and Nizamuddin Auliya. But there are Sufi shrines like Ajmer and many more which are integral to our consciousness. We are tying them up through these circuits to highlight our spiritual traditions." Insisting that he was not directly selling out ITDC properties but giving them out on a long lease basis to verified hotel industry players, Sharma said the hotels retained by the Government are in for an overhaul.

"We propose to revamp Ashoka and Samrat in a big way so that they are at par with other private hotels," he said. Sharma is also linking culture to a holistic tourist experience rather than just tailgating it. "Culture is intangible. We have proposed that all our cultural activities should be linked to a tourist experiential. We propose that anybody who visits Delhi or any of the nearby places, where our organisations and institutions are situated, drop in at a hub as part of his itinerary. A tourist to Delhi should watch a play at the National School of Drama, attend an artist workshop at the Lalit Kala Akademi and so on. In fact, our website is listing all cultural organisations and their schedules. This way we can ensure that they buzz around the year," Sharma said. Meanwhile, work on the culture mapping of India is on full throttle. "We have 6,20,000 villages with folk artistes and performers.

Now to give them a platform we have launched this scheme for Rs 477 crore to be completed in three years. We propose to identify and document all artisans and artistes, their heritage and skill set. We hope to register them. Once registered, we will even hold competitions to encourage talent. Once the document is ready, patrons and event organisers, both at home and abroad, can have access to that database," the Minister said, describing a one of its kind attempt at sustaining living heritage.

- http://www.dailypioneer.com/todays-newspaper/digital-india-to-transform-tourism.html, Sep 6, 2017

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Intach worries for trees in future 'Smart City'

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) has expressed concern that the plans for Smart Cities will cause increased construction and destruction of existing wildernesses. Plans for the development of these cities focus on construction and infrastructure at the expense of natural landscapes, and could work to undermine commitments the nation has made at international fora like the Paris Climate Change Summit of 2015, where over 190 nations agreed on plans to mitigate global climate breakdown. There are four cities from Rajasthan in the 109-city Smart Cities list - Kota, Udaipur, Ajmer and Jaipur. Intach's Kota chapter has drawn up an elaborate map of existing green cover within municipal limits. All natural landscapes, clusters of trees, sacred groves and even old trees of considerable girth have been listed, by a team under the leadership of botanist Krishnendra Nama. The document will be presented to the municipal commissioner and collector, so that awareness is generated about the richness of natural life within city limits that must not be sacrificed to any 'Smart' plan.

Hari Singh Palkiya of Intach, Rajasthan said, "The talk has all been about civil engineering and contractors. We are concerned that natural heritage, which also serves as natural carbon sinks, will be sacrificed. The plan to erect more buildings and widen roads could come at the cost of tree cover. We could add much more concrete, plastic and electronic waste.

This will cause a spike in temperature and only go towards worsening global warming." Recently, a Hindi newspaper pointed out that erecting a concrete platform for taking selfies near Ajmeri Gate, Jaipur, as planned under the Smart City effort would choke traffic even more. The ill-considered plan was later dropped. News website Scroll.in reported only days ago that the Bureau of Indian Standards was forced to shelve its efforts to chart out precise standards for declaring a city 'Smart'. Since 2015, when the Narendra Modi government first announced the scheme, BIS had been working on drawing up precise standards for measuring Smart City outcomes that would involve 46 core and 47 supportive indicators, including economy, environment, health, education, energy, governance, transport, safety and shelter, besides levels of pollution, energy consumption, employment and infant mortality. The urban development ministry, however, was uncomfortable with the attempt at precision and threw its weight behind a more fuzzy "liveability index" that serves no purpose other than to rank all cities already declared 'Smart' by the government.

- http://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/now-heritage-under-smart-city-ambit/articleshow/60297650.cms, Sep 8, 2017

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IIT-Madras to study ‘structural distress’ in President Palace

The National Centre for Safety of Heritage Structures (NCSHS) in IIT-Madras is working on an important assignment. Its engineers have been roped in to investigate the cause of ‘structural distress’ encountered by the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan, official residence of President Ram Nath Kovind. While the Delhi chapter of the Indian Nati­o­nal Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is preparing a comprehensive conservation management plan (CCMP), the NCSHS of IIT-M has been entrusted with the job of diagnosing st­r­u­c­t­ural problems and finding solutions while keeping the heritage property intact. Arun Menon, Associate Professor, Structural Engineering Laboratory, IIT-Madras, told Express, “We will be conducting a detailed structural analysis of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and our inputs will be used by the INTACH to prepare the CCMP. This is the first such exercise being carried out in 86 years. We have already conducted non-line­ar tests on portions of the Presidential pala­ce. For instance, we have been examining the behaviour of the central dome. We have unreinfo­rced masonry, reinforced masonry and rein­forced concrete layors.

So, we have three layers acting together and there is structural distress; we tried to understand where it came from. We have done some non-linear analysis and the initial test results indicated why cracking happened. There are also problems with sunshades,” he explained. Menon said the institute has already submitted the interim report of the analysis carried out during previous Presidency. “Now, we will be carrying out tests on left-out portions and submit a detailed report. The Central Public Words Department (CPWD), which is the caretaker of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, will be executing the CCMP. Though Rashtrapati Bhavan is a single unified complex, for pragmatic reasons it was decided to break the project in two phases - first the precincts and then the main building of Rashtrapati Bhavan. In 2015, in the first phase of CCMP, two clock towers in Schedule ‘A’ and Schedule ‘B’ areas of Rashtrapati Bhavan (heritage structures built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924 and 1925 respectively) were restored. Restoration work of both the clock towers was done by INTACH while repair of clocks was done by IIT, Delhi. Now, the focus is on the main building, sources said. Built as a residence for the Viceroy during British rule, Rashtrapati Bhavan is the second largest residence for any head of State in the world, next only to the Quirinal Palace, Rome, Italy.

It took almost 17 years for the construction of this huge monument. Its construction started in 1912 and ended in 1929. Now, the 86-year-old building is showing signs of deterioration. The structure includes 700 million bricks and 3.5 million cubic feet (85,000 m³) of stone, with only minimal usage of steel. It has 355 decorated rooms and a floor area of 200,000 square feet and is consisting of four floors.

The British architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the archiect. Working with UNESCO to restore monuments in Myanmar IIT-Madras is also officially collaborating with UNESCO and providing structural inputs as part of a pilot project in Bagan in Myanmar. “Bagan is an archaeological zone where there are about 3,200 monuments of which 398 monuments have been damaged in the earthquake. We are looking at unique vault constructions and some of these structures are retrofitted and strenghtened with reinforced concrete after massive earthquake in 1975. It is a global effort with partners from different parts of world, but the conservation plan is being prepared by an Indian company and we are working with UNESCO,” he said.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/sep/07/iit-madras-to-study-structural-distress-in-president-palace-1653538.html, Sep 8, 2017

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Preserving our vanishing tribes, their heritage, language and wisdom

The breathtaking Nilgiris are home to a number of indigenous tribes, one of which is Toda. Unfortunately, the once thriving tribe has fewer than 1,000 members today. Based on the yardstick set by our modern education system, these tribesmen and women are considered illiterate and backward. However, one has to visit their homes, interact with them and see their craft to truly understand the depth of their knowledge, art, traditions and sensibilities. The Toda tribe is largely dependent on buffalo herding and embroidery for its livelihood. Its members are incredibly skilled artisans known for the red-and-black embroidery on white fabrics that has even earned them a GI (geographical indication) tag. They live sustainable lives, in harmony with nature where all their resources are available. The Toda tribals have their own language, which does not have a script. Over the last century, their numbers have been dwindling. The sharp decline in their population is largely related to the decline in agriculture land, much of which has been lost of afforestation. With their dwindling numbers, their art, craft and traditions are facing a slow death.

If not preserved, the day is not far when their unique embroidery, for instance, is lost forever. The Todas are an extremely closed community, barely connected to the rest of the world and, thus, deprived of the opportunities connectivity offers. They are not alone in leading marginalized and excluded lives. Overall, Scheduled Tribes account for 8.6% of India’s population, according to the 2011 Census. If we focus on language alone, almost every indigenous tribe speaks its own language or dialect. In fact, according to the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, as many as 780 different languages are spoken and 86 different scripts are used in the country. However, only 22 of them are recognized by the government as scheduled languages. What is even more disappointing is that India has lost nearly 250 languages in the last half century, and 196 more have been declared endangered by UNESCO. As many as 120 of these 196 languages are spoken in the North-East. With most of these languages spoken by tribes and lacking a script, it has been particularly difficult to preserve them. However, digital media allows for their documentation in audio-visual formats now. Simply recording audio or video of folk songs/folk tales in different languages can help preserve not just the language/dialect but also the folk culture. In the same manner, the traditional knowledge about sustainable living, medicines, farming and architecture that tribals store in their memories can also be documented for preservation and dissemination. This is what motivated us to work with the Sahariya tribe in Baran, Rajasthan, in 2007. Here, the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) established a 200 km community network and connected it to a local server.

This way, even if the Internet is down, the community can share content and access content through the local server, thus creating an intranet or community network. This has also encouraged the community over the years to create a localized database and archive its oral and traditional knowledge, art as well as culture. Just like the Sahariyas, the Toda tribe too is a rich repository of culture, craft and heritage. So when the All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association reached out to us, seeking help to digitally archive the Toda tribe’s knowledge, we were more than happy to help. Together, we are now developing a platform that captures the history, heritage, culture, ecology, traditions, art, craft and stories of the Todas. The idea behind setting up a digital archive in the form of a website is to not just create a repository of this information for the purpose of preservation but also allow the rest of the world to see—without compromising the uniqueness of their craft or designs—the richness of the Todas.

The Internet has a lot to offer to tribes living secluded lives in the forests. Connectivity can ensure better access to government schemes, entitlements and rights; digital market linkages can enable tribal communities to exhibit their craft and agricultural produce to the world for an improved livelihood; access to the Internet can keep them updated on government notifications and other relevant information; digital documentation can preserve and showcase their richness for posterity. All of this, along with more, also has a direct connection with social as well as behavioural changes within a community. We envision digitally empowering as many tribes as we can.

We wish to bring the tribes of India under the umbrella of digital inclusion to expose them to the services and opportunities the internet has to offer. However, the intention is not merely to teach community members to operate a computer but to provide them contextual, relevant and timely digital literacy, so that they can access the internet to consume the information it offers and share the knowledge that they hold with the rest of the world. Osama Manzar is founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation and chair of Manthan and mBillionth awards. He is member, advisory board, at Alliance for Affordable Internet and has co-authored NetCh@kra–15 Years of Internet in India and Internet Economy of India.

- http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/AhrviHfdlAluJ6ffBBpUQN/Preserving-our-vanishing-tribes-their-heritage-language-an.html, Sep 8, 2017

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