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September 2010 Back
 
Artefacts Missing From Old Cemetery

The authorities in Haryana have ordered an inquest into the disappearance of sculpted marble tombstones and other artefacts from the Victorian Age cemetery in Ambala district. “There are reports that a number of metallic embellishments, marble statuettes and even entire tombstones have gone missing from the old cemetery in Ambala Cantonment. This is very serious and I have ordered an inquiry by the municipal commission as well as sought a report from the chief executive officer of the cantonment board,” Ambala deputy commissioner Samir Pal Saro told this newspaper on Wednesday. According to the officer, the Ambala cemetery is one of the oldest in the country with immense heritage value.
 
The Asian Age, 2nd September 2010
Delhi metro gets a handicrafts gallery

A gallery of handcrafted, painted and woven traditional pieces of art depicting the cultural heritage of the country was inaugurated at the INA metro station here on Wednesday.

Part of the upcoming Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar corridor, the gallery is in collaboration between the Union Textiles Ministry and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Union Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy inaugurated the gallery in the presence of Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

The gallery “Crafts of India” with 58 panels features artefacts and murals from different States created by master craftsmen. Aimed at popularising arts and crafts, the gallery is expected to draw more crowds to the soon-to-be-inaugurated station.

Speaking at the inauguration, Mr. Reddy said the metro was the proudest symbol of modern Delhi and has inspired other States and even smaller cities to vie for a metro system.

Mr. Maran said that his Ministry has been enabling the development of handicrafts and handloom sector to ensure that craftspersons and weavers are helped in showcasing their works at an appropriate platform.

He said showcasing the strength of Indian traditional crafts and weaves at metro stations will be an excellent way to acquaint the commuters with their depth and richness. The Ministry has selected paintings and crafts tradition and weaves characterising the ethos and styles from across the country to depict the richness of its tradition and diversity.

Pointing out that the gallery will enhance the station's look, DMRC Managing Director E. Sreedharan said: “We are grateful to the Ministry for gifting us the panels which are now hanging on the concourse of the station. It is a big step by the Ministry for promoting the crafts and also to beautify the station and bring grandeur to it.”

He said the DMRC was willing to extend space at the rest of its stations for similar purposes. He said the DMRC was not worried about the advertisement revenues, but will like to help promote arts and crafts. The Central Secretariat station with its heavy footfalls, Dr. Sreedharan said, would be an ideal station for such ventures.

Dr. Sreedharan said the DMRC had also collaborated with the Textiles Ministry for setting up of kiosks in some stations where handcrafted items will be put on display and for retail sale. “The kiosks are ready at 25 stations and will be opened soon. This too will add revenue to the DMRC,” he said.

Referring to the Ministry's efforts to popularise Indian crafts Union Textile Secretary Rita Menon said: “We have started a project ‘angavastram' where artisans are working on Chanderi stoles with Shera motif for the Commonwealth Games. These stoles will be presented to the medal winners at the Games,”

Of the 58 panels, 16 are of hand embroidery, 10 panels of hand woven artefacts and 22 panels of traditional paintings and murals depicting crafts, weaving style and paintings.

Information panels have been put at each of the three entrances of the metro station providing information about the crafts displayed.

The panels created by national award winning artisans have been strategically installed at the INA metro station as a lot of tourists, especially foreigners, are expected to use the metro to visit the nearby Dilli Haat, which is a handlooms and handicrafts bazaar, designed with the ambience of traditional Indian village markets.

The DMRC will not charge for the display of these murals and will pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the frames. In collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, the DMRC is also installing panels and artworks on historical monuments of the city at all the metro stations on the underground Central Secretariat-Qutub Minar corridor.
 

The Hindu, 2nd September 2010
Govt approves Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission

The government’s licensing authority for medical drugs has served notices on the Indian scientists involved in the ‘superbug’ study published last month, asking them to explain how they collected samples for the research and transported them abroad.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal published the study on a new ‘superbug’ identified in several patients who had travelled to India for medical treatment, and said there were virtually no drugs to treat it. An international team of researchers, including eight scientists working in Indian institutions, isolated a gene called ‘New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase’, or NDM-1, which they said makes bacteria resistant to even the most powerful class of antibiotics called ‘carbapenems’.

The study was trashed by the Indian government and members of Parliament, who took offence to the name ‘New Delhi’, and suggested the study was an attempt by vested interests to hurt medical tourism in India.

Now, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has sent letters to the Indian scientists in the research team, asking for details about the “form and manner adopted in collecting human and biological material from various sites within the country and transferring

THE government has decided to constitute a Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission with the mandate to develop, conserve and preserve places and locations associated with Mahatma Gandhi.

The decision is an outcome of the recommendation of a panel that the government had set up in 2006 to suggest measures to preserve the legacy of the Mahatma, both tangible and intangible. The panel, that was headed by Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi and included people like Nirmala Deshpande, B R Nanda, Narain Desai and Ramachandra Guha, had submitted its report in 2008.

Among its major recommendations were the establishment of Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission, and the development of a website, containing a catalogue of Gandhi’s heritage, to be run and maintained by the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad.

Both these recommendations have been accepted by the government.

The Mission will work on the 39 sites identified by the panel to be closely related with Gandhi’s life and integral to his philosophy. These include Rajkot and Porbandar in Gujarat, Tilak Ghat in Chennai, Mani Bhavan in Mumbai, Beliaghat in Kolkata, Ye rvada jail in Pune and the place in Madurai where Gandhi adopted loincloth as his only clothing. It would also include some foreign locations in South Africa, United Kingdom, Mauritius, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The government has decided to make an allocation of Rs 42 crore to the Mission for this purpose over the next five years. Another Rs 8 crore has been earmarked for the creation and maintenance of the website that is envisaged to become the single biggest electronic library on Gandhi's life and works. The Sabarmati Ashram, which has one of the largest collections of manuscripts related to Gandhi, will be tasked with preparing a comprehensive online archive of all intangible heritage.
 

Indian Express, 2nd September 2010
INA Metro station gets crafts gallery

With the aim of introducing visitors to Indian handicrafts, the country’s leading handicraft and handloom presentations have been put up at the INA Metro station. Minister for urban development S Jaipal Reddy today inaugurated the “Crafts of India Gallery” at the Metro station.

Installed by the union ministry of textiles in coordination with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, these galleries will provide an insight to tourists, especially foreigners who are expected to use the Metro to visit Dilli Haat handlooms and handicrafts bazaar during the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
The station will become operational on Friday, when the Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar Metro corridor starts functioning.

The galleries at INA station document traditional paintings from Warli, Santhal, Patna, Cherial Scroll, Mithila, Kali Ghat, Pat Chitra, Chamba, Thangka style, Mewar, Tanjore and others. Handcrafted mural ceramic tiles, kalamkari, straw work, camel bone murals and brass embossed items can also been at the station.

Handloom fabrics woven with intricate weaving techniques such as Kani Weaves, Paithani, Banares Brocade, Jamdani, Baluchari, Patola, Vichitrapuri, Biman Saree; embroideries of Phulkari, Chikan, Chamba, Kutch along with Barmer, Ajarakhand Bagh printed tie and dye are vividly displayed at the station.

“The galleries will help these traditional products to find new markets; to attract potential buyers and to keep alive the vibrant and intricate designs and techniques which reflect the artisans’ and weavers’ skills and artistry,” said Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit at the inaugural function today.

“A total of 58 panels display popular handicrafts, hand-made garments, paintings and murals created by national award-winning craftsmen and painters. It is a contrasting to see the handicrafts and paintings display at a metro station, which is supposed to be contemporary,” said textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran.

Separate information panels with details about these galleries have been put up at all three entrances to the station. It is expected that these galleries will help in promoting and popularizing Indian traditional folk arts.

The DMRC, in collaboration with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), is also installing panels and artworks about the historical monuments of the city at all the Metro stations on the underground Central Secretariat -Qutab Minar corridor.
 

The Tribune, 2nd September 20100
Life and times of Mahatma just a click away

All you wanted to know about the Father of the Nation will now be a click away, thanks to a mega portal being planned by the government at a cost of Rs 8 crore.

Simultaneously, the government is also setting up the Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission to preserve buildings and places associated with Gandhiji. The portal — recommended by the Gandhi Heritage Sites panel — will be managed by the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust(SAPMT).

Sabarmati Ashram contains the largest collection of carefully preserved manuscripts of Gandhiji's writings during his stay in Sabarmati.

The library and archives at Sabarmati consist of 34,111 letters — either to Gandhiji or by him; original as well as photostat copies.

These letters have been microfilmed and archived in computer files. All documents related to Gandhiji in India and abroad will be compiled in the portal that will serve as an electronic library, documenting his illustrious life and achievements. The objective of the portal is to preserve and perpetuate his invaluable heritage with proper research in an authentic manner.

The portal will be regularly updated by the SAPMT to ensure that all relevant details on Gandhiji are incorporated in one site.

It will be an interactive medium, and provide a virtual tour of the life and times of Gandhi. The Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission is working as per the comprehensive list drawn up by the panel.

The Mission will initiate conservation/restoration and preservation of Gandhi Heritage Sites at 39 places such Porbandar and Rajkot — where he had spent his childhood — Tilak Ghat, Chennai, Mani Bhavan, Mumbai, Beliaghata in Kolkata, the venue in Madurai where Gandhiji took to the loin-cloth, the prison cell in Yerawada Jail, Pune; and the prison room in Aga Khan Palace (Pune) etc.

"Gandhi Heritage sites" refers to two indivisible yet distinct forms of "heritage" — tangible heritage such as structures and sites and intangible ones like the legacy, texts and visuals. The panel's list has covered almost every single place visited and associated with Gandhiji between 1869 and 1948.
 

The Times of India, 2nd September 2010
Most northeast crafts ignored at INA Metro culture gallery

Northeast India, with its large number of craft-making tribes, is known for its varied handicrafts. But the crafts and craftsmen of northeastern states got very small space in the first of its kind 'Crafts of India' gallery at INA Metro Station. The gallery, which showcases 58 panels made by craftsmen and weavers from across the country, has just one hand-woven shawl from Manipur and Nagaland each. No other northeastern state has any representation in it.

In a bid to showcase the rich and varied handicrafts and handlooms of India, textiles ministry and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) jointly installed the gallery. Another reason for the gallery was to give a boost to the commercial activities at Delhi Haat, which is in vicinity of the INA Metro station.

Said textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran while inaugurating the gallery on Wednesday: "This gallery provides a platform to every state which have rich heritage of handicrafts and handlooms."

He said that keeping this in mind his ministry has ensured participation of all states whose craft works are rich.

DMRC managing director E. Sreedharan proposed that the textiles ministry install similar galleries at other stations and in some trains, too, to promote India's crafts and culture.
 

Hindustan Times, 2nd September 2010
Khwaja Mere Khwaja

The most popular attraction at Ajmer is the dargah of the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti. But there are several other reasons to visit the town too.

Several years ago, when I was being driven to boarding school for the first time, I noticed the desert landscape en route to Ajmer.Sparse vegetation, a cracked earth that seemed to cry out for water and the long, black highway, with mirages glimmering around every snaking bend it had a hypnotic effect on me.It still does today. For most people in Delhi, a road trip northwards is all about dhabas and lush green fields. That’s not the case when you’re driving to Ajmer. You feel an all-pervading calm and sense of solitude along the immaculately maintained highway. At times, there isn’t a soul in sight for miles; merely the looming Aravalli hills in a multitude of brown shades, almost telling you that you’re headed in the right direction.

Ajmer isn’t even on anyone’s mind when a weekend trip is being planned. Most are unaware that this little jewel, steeped in history, is a town of many attractions. It is home to different architectural styles and traditions. For history buffs,there are enough reasons to make multiple visits to Ajmer. To begin with, there is the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, one of the most revered places of worship. Every day, hundreds of devotees from all faiths arrive here to seek the blessings of the great Sufi saint who lies at rest here. A walk through winding lanes will lead you to white marble buildings neatly arranged around two courtyards. The Nizam of Hyderabad had donated a huge gate to the complex, while Emperor Shah Jahan built the mosque. According to history, Emperor Akbar would walk all the way to Ajmer from Agra each year in observance of the vow he had made when praying for a son.

There is also Taragarh Fort (built by Ajay Pal Chauhan in 1100 AD), significant because it is believed to be amongst the oldest hill forts in India. The fort watches over the town like a silent sentinel. While at school, we would look up at the hillside at night and marvel at its imposing faade. School, for us, was Mayo College; a tourist attraction in its own right for those interested in history or architecture. Known as the Eton of India, it was established in the 1800s to impart to the Indian nobility a system of education along the lines of British public schools. The main building, a grand white marble edifice built in the Indo-Saracenic style, sits in the centre of a large verdant campus which also contains a number of other historical structures reflecting the styles of the royal houses that founded them. Mayo Colleges Danmal Mathur Museum has a priceless collection of antiques and armoury.

A mix of different cultural traditions is also evident in another of Ajmer’s best-known landmarks. Adhai Din ka Jhompra, originally a Jain temple constructed in 1153,was converted into a mosque by Qutubuddin Aibak post 1193.Notice the double-depth calligraphy inscriptions in the Naskh and Kufic scripts. Interestingly, even though 40 columns support the roof, no two are alike.

Any visit to Ajmer is incomplete without making a tour of the historic Ana Sagar Lake constructed by Prithviraj Chauhans grandfather. Alongside the lake is Daulat Bagh, a garden built by Emperor Jehangir. Shah Jahan later added five pavilions between the garden and the lake.

The neighbouring town of Pushkar, barely half an hour away is also a must visit, especially during Kartik Purnima in November-December, when a cattle fair is held. Camels, horses, elephants, sheep, cows all kinds of animals are bought and sold. The only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma is located in Pushkar. Although the present structure dates back to the 14th century, it is believed that a temple honouring Brahma existed here for 2000 years. It also finds mention in the Indian epics

At dusk when the sun casts a crimson shadow on the domes of temples, visit the Pushkar Lake. One of the most venerated sites in the town, legend has it that the lake was created when a lotus slipped off Lord Brahmas hand when he was looking for a place to perform a yagna. It is believed that water gushed forth from the spot and created a lake.

nce you have enjoyed the tranquillity of the ambience, step into a lakeside caf. Watch street performers and folk musicians as you tuck into a plate of spaghetti or sip a cup of tea. Young travellers from places as far away as the UK, Israel and Russia roam around town, exploring the quaint curio shops selling bags, art, jewellery and other handicrafts. Pushkar has charmed them in more ways than one, but now its time to go back to Ajmer. Share your travel experience with us at

TRIVIA
Mayos first student, H.H. Maharaja Mangal Singh of Alwar, arrived at the school gates in October 1875 on the back of an elephant accompanied by 300 servants and a procession of tigers, camels and horses. The Purani Mandi, Naya Bazar and Kaisarganj are the main shopping areas in the city for jootis, fabric, metal artefacts and souvenirs Some parts of the Hrithik Roshan-Aishwarya Rai starrer, Jodhaa Akbar were filmed in Ajmer. Best visited between October and March.

TIPS

Make sure your head is covered before entering the dargah at Ajmer. Women must cover their arms and legs Ajmers Mahila Mandi, or womens market, has a fascinating collection of dupattas, lehengas and tablecloth. Closed on Tuesdays Don’t miss out on the sohan halwa. The sunset over Ratnagiri hill in Pushkar is worth several rolls of film Look out for the moustache competition at the Pushkar Fair!
 

The Times of India, 3rd September 2010
Tuskers in danger

Save elephants, protect cultural heritage

It is only befitting that the elephant should I be raised to the status of a national heritage animal. Since Puranic times it has been admired and revered for the amazingly diverse roles it has played -from battlegrounds to temples. The jumbo is strongly etched in our civilisational history, appearing in various forms, with the adorable Ganesh even sporting an elephant trunk. The country's most famous elephant festivals in Thrissur and Jaipur, which draw massive crowds from across the world, have their moorings in the same civilisational history. With the majestic animal having such strong linkages with our cultural ethos, one does hope that the new cultural ethos, one does hope that the new recognition will further the cause of its well-being. Although elephants do not face the threat of extinction in this country -we have more than 25,000 pachyderms -not all of them live in happy circumstances. Nearly 15 per cent of these are employed in various forms of labour and are exploited by their masters. Moreover, the impressive figures can prove all too transient, as our experience with our national animal, the tiger, shows. Let us not forget that the big cat's population has dipped from close to a lakh to less than 1,500 within a century as a result of official neglect.

Elephants today face the threats that tigers have encountered in their desperate bid to survive: Conflict with humans, poaching and progressive loss of habitat. The matter was serious enough for the Government to launch Project Elephant in 1992. The fact that elephants are no safer than they were 18 years ago -as recent reports of poaching, deaths on railway tracks that pass through elephant corridors and fatalities on account of `mysterious' illnesses demonstrate -highlights the challenges that lie ahead and the failure, at some level, of Project Elephant itself. There is no disputing that the project has led to a host of measures being initiated, for instance the creation of several elephant reserves -there are more than 25 of them spread in excess of 60,000 sq km -but they have proved to be less than adequate, not least due to paucity of funds to implement the various protection and preservation schemes. Surely we can spend more on an animal which dominates our culture and is known to be a benign friend.

The Project Elephant Task Force has now asked the Government for a substantial enhancement in the budgetary outlay, besides recommending the creation of more reserves and the establishment of a National Elephant Conservation Authority. While the Government has promptly accepted these recommendations, it has to take concrete action since the mere conferment of titles on animals serves little or no purpose. For instance, while the dolphin is our national aquatic animal and the peacock our national bird, no one really knows what the Government is doing to protect them. Rivers are either dying or becoming increasingly polluted, threatening dolphins, while peacocks are being killed for their feathers and flesh. Even our national animal, which is being currently promoted with much enthusiasm through the `Save The Tiger' campaign, continues to live in perpetual danger of extinction. If the elephant were to meet a similar fate, we would be repudiating our cultural heritage and disowning our civilization history.
 

The Pioneer, 3rd September 2010
Culled from Nature

This collection of interesting and informative articles on nature and wildlife largely from South India was released recently to celebrate twenty-five years of Madras Naturalists' Society. Aptly named Sprint of the Blackbuck in keeping with its beautiful cover, the articles are selected from the previous issues of Blackbuck, by the nature writer S. Theodore Baskaran.

Opportunities

The Madras Naturalists Society (MNS) was started in 1978 by a group of wildlife enthusiasts and the Blackbuck was started as a quarterly journal of MNS from 1983 onwards. This publication has been a platform for not only professional wildlife scientists but also for amateur naturalists to share their findings and to record their observations on nature for more than two decades.

In this book, the editor classifies the articles into four categories, namely Wildlife, Habitats, Conservation and Documenting wildlife. These articles are collected from back volumes of Blackbuck written by experienced conservationists, wildlife scientists, wildlife photographers, nature writers, bureaucrats and nature lovers. The important thing about this collection is that it includes authors of yesteryears as well as present-day nature enthusiasts and conservationists.

The editor says in his introduction that the purpose of the book is to generate interest in conservation and nature, and I am sure this book will achieve its goal. There is a diversity in the articles, right from ants to elephants, from scrub jungle to rainforests and from how to conserve nature to what the future of nature conservation in India could be.

There are twenty eight articles; five by the doyen of the nature conservation writing in India, M. Krishnan. No doubt his articles are beautifully narrated and insightful, but my personal favourites are the piece by Janaki Lenin on ‘Life on the Edge of the Scrub', T. Koneri Rao's meticulously collected observations on nesting habits of ‘Black Kites' and an eloquent piece ‘The Diary of a Naturalist' by K. K. Neelanaktan. These are must reads.

Other interesting and useful articles such as those on the Neelakurinji and its conservation and on wildlife photography also add flavour to this compilation. All the articles compiled are related to South Indian wildlife and habitat except for one on the Hoolock Gibbon from North East India by T.R. Sridhar (also known as T. R. Shankar Raman not T. R. Sankaranarayanan as mentioned in the book!).

There are a few typographical errors in some of the articles. Some of the articles could have been classified in more appropriate categories. For instance ‘A Question of Taste' which largely explains the food habits of the Lion-tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Langur should be in either the Wildlife or Documenting Wildlife category rather than in the Conservation category.‘The Tamil Writings of M. Krishnan', by the editor, gives a clear account on the contributions he made on nature writing in the local language. He states in this article that writings on natural history are rare in Tamil and very few magazines publish such articles. As the editor himself is one of the very few leading writers on nature and wildlife in Tamil it may be worth considering and suggesting the idea of including articles on nature in Tamil in the forthcoming issues of Blackbuck.

Looking ahead
During the initial stages the Blackbuck was published regularly; however, in recent years the momentum has not been maintained for various reasons. Hopefully this book will rejuvenate interest among present-day nature enthusiasts, scientists and conservationists to contribute frequently to one of the very few journals from South India exclusively devoted to nature and its conservation. This may in turn draw the younger generation in favour of appreciation and conservation of the diminishing wildlife and its habitats in South India.
 

The Tribune, 2nd August 2010
ASI keeps fingers crossed, hopes to finish bridge in time

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) finds itself in a tight spot rushing ahead with its ambitious conservation project of the British era Mangi Bridge that links the Red Fort with Salimgarh Fort. After over a year of inactivity, the ASI had engaged an expert Welsh firm, Cintec, to conserve the bridge, hoping that the work will be completed in time for the Games. Though ASI officials claim the work should be over, sources in the body maintain it will be a tough job to finish the project in time, especially with a major part of the work pending and the weather playing spoilsport.

A team of 15 Cintec engineers had started work mid-July. But sources in the ASI say it has been a challenging for the team to work in Indian conditions, especially with a stiff deadline.

However, over a week ago, after a parallel flyover connecting ISBT with ITO and Geeta Colony was thrown open, a part of the stretch on the Ring Road that runs under the bridge has been closed to speed up the work. Ajay Chadha, Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said, “Even after the conservation work is complete, both carriageways on this road will have one-way traffic from Rajghat to ISBT. Once this stretch is opened up it will only ease traffic further.”

A senior ASI official told Newsline, “Once the conservation work is complete, the bridge will look exactly as it did when originally built. In depth conservation work has been undertaken on the bridge and internal reinforcement is being propped up. We have committed to finish the project before the Games and should be able to meet the deadline. However, conservation is a slow process and to speed it up would mean compromising on the quality of work.”

The inner walls of the bridge were found scraped in April 2009 following which the ASI, Traffic Police and PWD tried to fix responsibility for the damage on each other. While the ASI maintained that the constant relaying of the road by the PWD had increased its height and caused vehicles plying on the route to scrape against the walls, the Traffic Police and PWD refused to take responsibility for the crumbling bridge. Once the ASI realized that it would have to undertake the conservation work on its own, it got into several rounds of deliberations on whether the bridge should get a facelift on the exterior or be strengthened from inside.

Following tenders, Cintec was shortlisted to do the job. Cintec has been associated with several bridge strengthening projects across the globe, but this was its first project in India. The company has now been identified by Indian Railways for work on their arched bridges.
 

Indian Express, 6th September 2010
Delhi's cultural legacy gets a facelift for Games

Even as the capital gears up for the Commonwealth Games with the latest in technology and infrastructure to reach the benchmark of a “world class city,” a chunk of history is being revived for the discerning tourist.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Ministry of Culture and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) working with the Department of Archaeology, Government of Delhi, are the two main agencies involved in conservation, restoration and preservation of monuments in the city for the upcoming Games.

“We identified 46 sites for restoration for the Commonwealth Games,” said ASI Director General Dr. Gautam Sengupta. The list, released by the ASI in 2006, includes Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Old Fort, Tughlakabad Fort, Jantar Mantar, Siri Fort Wall and many such monuments in famous parts of the city. Special attention is being given to monuments near the Games stadia.

The Department of Archaeology and INTACH signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2008 for the conservation of 92 monuments which did not fall within the ambit of the ASI. “In consultation with the Delhi government it was decided that monuments near stadiums or on the route of the Commonwealth Games would be considered for conservation,” said a senior INTACH official.

Fifteen such monuments were recognised, including Mutiny Memorial, Turkman Gate, Gol Gumbad, Bara Lao Ka Gumbad, Phutta Gumbad and Maqbara Paik.

Even as most of the Games-related projects reel under deadline pressures, both the agencies seem confident about completing work well before the international sporting event. “We began work in March, and most of these buildings were unprotected, in very bad shape. Had it not been for the rain, work would have been completed by now,” said an INTACH official. Most of the restoration, he said, was complete and work would conclude by September 15. The ASI, too, seemed confident that work would be completed by 15-20 September.

The Tourism Ministry will provide lighting for all 15 heritage buildings restored by INTACH. According to Dr. Sengupta, 13 monuments have been identified by ASI for illumination. Of these, eight would be illuminated by the Tourism Ministry and five by India Tourist Development Corporation.

Even though the initial proposal for complete conservation of the 46 monuments was estimated at Rs. 2,573 crore by the ASI, the working budget for the Games was Rs. 25 crore from ASI's own funds, of which Rs. 20 crore have been spent so far, according to Dr. Sengupta. All of INTACH's funds — around Rs. 6.5 crore — according to the INTACH official, were provided by Department of Archaeology in collaboration with the Tourism Ministry.

The working methods of the two agencies have been a cause for debate. ASI believes “reconstruction and restoration of damage [to monuments] should occur only if required” since that “is the internationally accepted norm.” INTACH concentrates on overall “geometry, finishing” and conservation of the monument for the future. Calling reconstruction of monuments, as done by INTACH, a “subjective matter, based on experience” an ASI official said there may be “chances” that reconstructed portions blend in with the original, since it was difficult to procure material closely resembling the kind used in these centuries old monuments. Both agencies engaged skilled craftsmen from various parts of the country to work on the monuments.

Security would also be stepped up at most ASI sites, especially at the “sensitive” ones such as the Red Fort, where the Central Industrial Security Force personnel would be engaged in addition to ASI's own guards and private security guards.

INTACH dealt with buildings that were “completely unprotected.” In addition to restoration and conservation, “vandalism, loss of reference and encroachments” were major areas of concern.

An important aspect of the conservation work was engaging with other agencies for approvals and co-ordination at most sites. In spite of the delays caused by permissions and other legalities, the ASI official seemed optimistic. “In spite of the constraints, we are doing our bit to ensure that the Games are a success.”
 

The Hindu, 6th September 2010
Fraser's romantic baoli

Among those who have left their mark on the early 19th century life of Delhi, the names of William Fraser, Col Skinner and the Metcalfes occupy a prominent place, along with those of Col. Ochterlony and Begum Sumroo, whose husband, Walter Reinhardt la Sonbre made his impact felt in the 18th Century Gardi-Ka-Waqt or Twilight of the Moguls.

If Metcalfe's Folly is in Mehrauli, then Fraser's is at the other end of Delhi. Fraser was a bosom pal of Skinner but hated the Metcalfe and (Sir Charles, Sir Thomas) whom he found too pompous. The Metcalfe in turn looked down upon Fraser for his bohemian lifestyle that led to his affairs with several countryside women in the area now known as Haryana. Among them the most well-known was Ambiban, who bore him many children, but there were others also who did so far Fraser Sahib, with the result that there were quite a few villages with blue-eyed children fathered by him.

The Matcalfes were examples of Victorian prudery, but Ochterlony had a dozen odd concubines whom he paraded in Kashmere Gate when he went out on his elephant on pleasant evenings. That earned him the nickname of “Luni Akhtar” or crazy star, though some are convinced that he came to be known as such in local parlance because most natives couldn't pronounce his name, which was more of a tongue-twister for them. Be that as it may, Ochterlony spent his summers in the ambience of Bibi Akbarabadi's Shalimar Bagh on the Grand Trank Road with his mistresses, housed in different tents set up near the big one reserved for him. Bibi Akbarabadi, incidentally was one of Shah Jahan's wives who hailed form Agra.

Fraser was eventually murdered in a conspiracy hatched by the nawab of Ferozepore, Shamsuddin Khan, who suspected the British Resident of dalliance with his pretty sister. But this is a matter open to conjecture because Fraser treated both the girl and her brother as his prestige, going to the extent of being over-protective at times. However local ‘gup' had given him a bad name and the otherwise scholarly lover of Indian life and manners had to pay the extreme penalty for it while riding to his mansion from Kashmere Gate to the Ridge. The mansion or whatever is left of it is now known as Hindu Rao Hospital. It was bought after his death by Hindu Rao, brother-in-law of Maharaja Daulatrao Scindia of Gwalior, another ladies' man.

The mansion had actually been built by Sir Edward Colebrook from whom Fraser had acquired it after the owner fell into digress. Going round the old building one comes across an intriguing baoli or step-well into which one can still descend with some difficulty because it is in a ruinous state.

It is here that Fraser is believed to have enjoyed his moonlight frolics with women friends. Whether Skinner was present at them is not known, though some other companions who shared his interest in Persian and Urdu literature were there. Ghalib was alive at that time but there was not much contact between him and Fraser, though the latter had helped him when the poet had visited Calcutta in connection with his pension dispute. At that time Fraser was attached to the Governor-General's office there. His baoli is still a curious place and deserves preservation, after proper renovation for possible inclusion in the list of tourist attractions on the Ridge.
 

The Hindu, 6th September 2010
Restoration brings more power to House paintings

The 58 historic paintings adorning the walls of the outer circular corridor of Parliament House have acquired a fresh lease of life following a massive restoration exercise. The paintings unfold major landmarks of the 5,000-year history of India.

The painstaking job has been executed by a known authority in the field, I K Bhatangar, a retired professor and head of the Department of Conservation of the National Museum Institute of History of Art, Conservation and Museology, and his five assistants. The work had been, in fact, assigned to the National Museum, which in turn, outsourced it to Bhatnagar, given his experience and skill. It took Bhatnagar and his team seven months to remove dust from the surface, sharpen outlines of drawings and shine them. This was followed up with a chemical treatment, which leaves a transparent film over the paintings.

"At least 28 paintings had been damaged, and we had to undertake their colour integration," Bhatnagar told The Indian Express, adding that "it was possible to restore 16 of them on the spot, but 12 had to be removed to the temporary workshop set up at Parliament House". He said some others had suffered figment flaking. However, none of the 58 panels had escaped distemper splashes. "But mind you, we followed the basic principle of conservation — minimum intervention," Bhatnagar said. He cited the example of a painting by S Sen Roy, depicting King Porus taken prisoner by King Alexander, which has a dark tone though the battle between the two took place during daytime. "However, we struck to the original tone and made no attempt to alter the shades," Bhatnagar said.

He traced the damage to four sources. The first came splashes of whitewash, which were only made worse by the labourers, who, while wiping them off, ended up damaging the paintings more. A number of paintings had splashes of water. There were scratches left by furniture moved carelessly through the corridor while several paintings bore marks of human vandalism.

For the future, Bhatnagar has advised Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to consider providing glass casings to the paintings. He has also offered to hold a one-day workshop for training the staff in their upkeep. One aspect, which has been overlooked while conceiving the idea, is that the entire corridor is not adequately lighted and, therefore, the effect of the paintings is also lost. Bhatnagar, however, is not in favour of spotlighting the paintings, because it would compromise their life. A diffused lighting, according to him, would do.

It was the first Speaker of the Lok Sabha, G V Mavalankar, who conceived the idea of decorating the corridor with paintings, drawn by eminent artists of the country, way back in 1951. A wide range of themes was identified and drawn in water colours. They include "Shiva as Yogi" (H V Ram Gopal, Chennai) and Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh (Sobha Singh, Himachal Pradesh).
 

Indian Express, 6th September 2010
At home with corbett

There is a charming British cottage in Nainital, not unlike many other British cottages peppered across our hill stations. This cottage, Gurney House, has been with my family for over 60 years. I was born in it and spent much of my childhood there. Gurney House is special and has a rich history, and it is special not just for me and my family, but also for many others, as it is the home of the legendary hunter-conservationist and writer, Jim Corbett. In 1870, Mary Jane Corbett took a site on the Ayarpata Hill and built a dwelling on it. She called it Gurney House. She bequeathed the Gurney House estate to her daughter, Margaret Winifred Corbett, Maggie for short, through a will. Her son, Jim Corbett, lived there as well.

My grandfather, Sharda Prasad Varma, belonged to a prominent zamindari family in Bihar. He was the youngest Indian barrister from Cambridge University and practiced law in the district courts at Chapra. As his children grew older, he decided to educate them in the prestigious schools of Nainital and thus began the search for a house. When Corbett learnt that my grandfather wanted to buy a place in Nainital, he offered him Gurney House. The deal was struck for ` 55,000 alongwith all of Corbett’s belongings. Corbett also offered his winter residence in Kaladungi, today the Corbett Museum, for a mere ` 5,000, but my grandfather refused because, at that time, the house was located in the jungles. Through a registered sale deed, on November 21, 1947, Maggie sold the property along with its possessions to my grandparents and they left India for Kenya.

Gurney House estate stands on 1.7 acres. There is a bungalow and two double-storeyed blocks of 13 rooms that are outhouses. The bungalow comprises a drawing room, dining room, four bedrooms with attached bathrooms and a small study with a verandah running along the front of the house. The floors and the ceiling are wooden. There are more than a hundred trees on the estate. Jim left behind his trophies, African drum, Maggie’s chair and piano, his sword, boat and fishing rod, two ‘dandies’, books, furniture, crockery and many other personal treasures.

Jim Corbett is a household name in India and a demi-god in the Kumaon region. Visitors come by the house every day. Four years ago, I undertook the restoration of Gurney House. I have also sought to reinstate it in Corbett’s legacy by commemorating the birth anniversary of this son of Kumaon there, every year.

We often forget that Corbett was not just a hunter of man-eating tigers and a conservationist of great commitment, but also a storyteller of great skill. In fact, it is this gift of writing that keeps his legend alive today. Therefore, it is a fitting tribute to remember Corbett on his birth anniversary, July 25, through a celebration of the literary arts in Gurney House, his home in Nainital, in its secluded and inspiring setting, surrounded by the green and peace of the Kumaon.

Two years ago, actor Tom Alter came to Gurney House on July 25 and read from Corbett’s books. Last year, author Namita Gokhale read from Corbett’s The Man-Eaters of Kumaon and from her own novel, A Himalayan Love Story. This was followed by a piano recital by Justin McCarthy. This year, Rana Dasgupta, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010, read from his novel Solo. As the years roll by, we hope the tradition of writers visiting Gurney House on Jim Corbett’s birthday will become established.

For me, Corbett’s birth anniversary is a time to reflect on the great responsibility that has been left with me. Gurney House will always be kept as a private family home and we will welcome Corbett lovers to visit us. We will continue to collect Corbett memorabilia from around the world. And with a small literary festival taking place there every year, we hope that Gurney House will once again reverberate with words and ideas, as it did when one of the best-loved authors of the country lived in it.
 

Deccan Chronicle, 5th September 2010
Iconic monument in shambles

Think Hyderabad and the first thing that one visualises is the Charminar. Yet when a chunk of the historic symbol broke off on August 29, all that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said was that they would “fix” it.

This is not the first time that the 418-year-old monument has been damaged and Hyderabadis feel it is high time the problem is seriously looked into. “It is time to act. Merely fixing and repairing won’t help. We need a long-term solution. We cannot lose Charminar. No matter what one’s religion is, every Hyderabadi is emotionally attached to the monument,” pointed out Sipoy Sarveswar, a student at Hyderabad University.

City based artist Fawad Tamkanat, who has made many paintings of the monument often, says, “I am associated with each and every part of Charminar. I visit the monument every four months to paint and each time I notice a particular section demolished. It is not being maintained properly. It is depressing to see the Charminar fall apart.”

It has been only a few months since the Rajagopuram at the Srikalahasti Temple collapsed, and if due care is not taken, Charminar might face the same fate, feel many Hyderabadis. Since the time the monument was recognised as a World Heritage Site, the ASI has been responsible for Charminar’s maintenance. According to ASI officials, restoration work on the monument will be complete in a few months.

In 2005, cracks had appeared on the minarets and the ASI had “fixed” the problem then. “Every time there’s damage, the ASI reassures us that it is minor and that there is no threat to the structure itself. It’s almost like we are waiting for something to happen and then act upon it. Even the last time a chunk of the monument chipped off, the ASI did certain repair works and got it over with. Minor, superficial repairs are not the long-term answer to save Charminar,” says President of Forum for Better Hyderabad, M. Vedakumar.

In a report, the National Geographical Research Institute, Hyderabad had stated that the monument’s foundations were being affected by the vibrations of the vehicles around it. The traffic and the pollution are taking a serious toll on the building. “A large number of visitors entering the monument is also affecting the foundation of the building,” says Vedakumar.

Vedakumar adds, “A committee should be formed to look into the matter. ASI has to join hands with the Central and local bodies and take steps before it is too late.”

“The area around Charminar should be converted into pedestrian streets as is done with historical places in European countries. An entire town has been preserved this way in Denmark. The same should be done here,” opines Fawad.

Director of Archaeology and Museums, Prof. Peddarpu Chenna Reddy, agrees with Fawad. “Pollution is the main cause of danger to Charminar. Implementation of the pedestrianisation project would be the answer to all of Charminar’s problems,” he says. When contacted, K. Veerabhadra Rao, superintendent of ASI refused to comment on the matter.

Responsibility of the pedestrianisation project has been handed over to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Cooperation by the Tourism department. A junior executive engineer of GHMC, who has been part of the project since its inception, says, “It is a lengthy process. But we are nearing completion. Widening of the roads is almost complete. After the completion of the project, vehicles will be banned around the monument and only pedestrians will be allowed.”
 

Deccan Chronicle, 8th September 2010
Kayakalp banyan to be second biodiversity heritage site

In Fatehgarh Sahib there is a banyan tree which is increasing its canopy every year and is now set to become the second biodiversity heritage site in the state after Inami Bagh in Hoshiarpur.

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh during the national biodiversity meeting here yesterday asked the state biodiversity board to prepare a proposal to declare the kayakalp banyan tree spread over 4 acres in Cholti Kalan village in Fatehgarh Sahib district a biodiversity heritage site.

The Union Minister, when briefed by board officials on the tree, said he had also come to know about it and was impressed that it had become a religious as well as cultural symbol in the area.

What has apparently impressed Ramesh and is the main reason for proposing to list the tree as a unique heritage site is the fact that it is in continuous expansion over private land in Cholti Kalan. This expansion, which has resulted in around 20 more shoots taking root, is also the reason behind the name kayakalp (transformation). The tree, which is more than 200 years old, is spread over a 4 acre plot owned by several farmers.

Villagers like Mahinder Singh of Cholti Kalan, whose land is adjacent to the tree, say they would not take any step if it spreads into their fields. “Trying to stop the progress of the tree brings grave misfortune”, he said, adding a few farmers had discovered this at great cost.

Biodiversity board senior scientific officer Gurharminder Singh says the tree had acquired religious significance with a temple being established along its main branch.

He said the tree also had cultural significance now with an annual fair being organised under its shade annually on February 15.

The myth surrounding the tree ensures no attempt is made to thwart its progress. Dr Gurharminder Singh, who located the tree after being told about it by Fatehgarh Sahib residents, says the myth surrounding the tree is so effective that people do not even collect rotting wood from the tree for firewood.

The banyan tree is responsible for creating its own unique eco system in the area as it supports a number of birds and insects. “We will take steps to identify this biodiversity”, says Dr Neelima Jerath, Director of the state biodiversity board.
 

The Tribune, 8th September 2010
Digital makeover for Mumbai museum

The oldest museum in Mumbai, the Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, is tapping technology in an attempt to upgrade its image and attract a new generation of visitors. The museum’s revamped website, , will soon offer virtual tours of major exhibits.

Also, a Facebook page has been launched with details of upcoming shows and events. The 152-year-old museum is also starting to exhibit the work of contemporary Indian artists, including students of the prestigious JJ School of Art in Mumbai. It is also installing a high-tech audio tour that uses headsets and infra-red technology.

“We want to make the museum more exciting,” said honorary director Tasneem Mehta. Originally called the Victoria and Albert Museum — after the one in London — the museum has a wide collection of artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that showcase the history of communities that migrated to Mumbai. Back in its heyday in the early 20th century, the museum exhibited the country’s most cutting-edge art.
 

Hindustan Times, 10th September 2010
Those days

Sir John Marshall was director of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1902 to 1928. He was responsible for the excavation of the Indus Valley sites of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. The images are from The Marshall Albums, and contain images taken while he was ASI director.

The focus is on Delhi, Sanchi, Sarnath, Mohenjodaro and Taxila. These were sites of Marshall's archaeological triumphs.

"The photographs represent the coming together of the documentary, the scientific gathering of data, as well as the use of the photographic in more aesthetic terms", says curator Rahaab Allana.

In Delhi, Marshall restored the Red Fort and the ruins of the Qutub complex. The stupa at Sanchi, which was built by Emperor Ashoka, was restored under Marshall's guidance. There is an image in the Marshall albums of the restoration work in progress. It shows workers, clad in turbans and loincloths, atop the structure.

There are other such moments from the past that one can peek into.

Though the albums are named after him, Marshall took few of the photos himself. The photographers include Horatio Biden (1829-1908), James Waterhouse (1842-1922) and Lala Deen Dayal (1844-1905).

These images were acquired by Ebrahim Alkazi and are now part of The Alkazi Collection of Photography. This collection has over 90,000 images from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
 

Hindustan Times, 11th September 2010
A legacy that comes alive

Tales of impregnable and invincible forts stand out in the crisply edited documentary series on these majestic marvels of India, says Nonika Singh.

We see the monuments ... we don’t discover them." This may be the lament of noted theatre personality and documentary maker Gurcharan Singh Chani. But as he, along with his son Gyandev Singh, has just completed a 26-part documentary series Bharat Ke Durg on India’s majestic forts, the forts have not only been revealed to him but also, he promises, will be a revelation to the viewers.

"Forts," he insists, "are not just old buildings but a living testimony to our past providing multiple windows to history, culture and life of the people, who once inhabited these priceless fortified cities."

Thus, as they began documenting these rich repositories, the context, the why, where and when became as important as capturing the physical grandeur. Of course, telling the story through what is considered the tedious format of documentary required ingenuity. The easier option of making a docu-drama was quickly dispensed away with, even though the theatre person in Chani might have been tempted. Instead, they employed the local idiom and the folk forms to embellish their films.

For instance, while documenting the forts of Andhra Pradesh, they have used the folk form of Barra Katha to take the narrative forward. At the Golconda fort, the poetic compositions of Quli Qutub Shah came in handy. Besides, the narrative anchored and scripted by Dr Pushpesh Pant and voice over by Vijai Vardhan interweaves interesting sound bytes by art historians and conservationists. Though each fort, they feel, has a fascinating tale to tell, still there must be a few more captivating than the others?

With enthusiasm, Chani talks of the Kumbhalgarh fort in Rajasthan, which has the largest ramparts, next only to the Great Wall of China. Then, Jhansi might be a small fort but no less significant for it was from here that 150 freedom fighters came.

"The Orchha fort in Madhya Pradesh", he reveals "has a cluster of palaces and the Gingee fort in Tamil Nadu covers three hillocks."

Architectural grandeur apart, Chani has been most astounded by the new vision he acquired en route his journey that lasted a year and half, the time it took him to make the series.

Stereotypes began to crumble and suddenly the new facets of erstwhile rulers as connoisseurs of art and music were revealed. Out went many blinkers as he began to look at Aurangzeb with new eyes, who, he realised, was much more than a fanatic despot. Similarly, he found that Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior was an accomplished dhrupad singer.

With the third eye — the camera — wielded most effectively by A. S. Kanal — feasting on the beauty of miniature paintings etched in places beyond the reach of the naked eye, they realised God lies in details. Often, the vastness and richness of artistic collection in some forts like Bundi, Qila Mubarak and Mehrangarh not only rendered them speechless but also perplexed as to what to use and what to omit.

The very first dilemma they faced was which forts to feature. The preliminary list included nearly 150 forts till they zeroed down on nearly 30.

The series does make out a case for the preservation of the forts. The living fort of Jaisalmer that is clearly sinking does perturb Chani, who can’t fathom how people can be so apathetic towards their legacy. He is equally concerned about the one closer home that is Qila Mubarak in Patiala, which he asserts, "Sadly, right now, it seems to be no one’s baby." He, however, doesn’t think it would be a good idea to convert these citadels into swanky tourist destinations.

"That", he squirms, "would close doors to the common man and become an exclusive preserve of the elite." Nor does he think that forts are better off in private hands. He argues, "There is no hard and fast rule. While the privately owned Mehrangarh fort is well-preserved, the one in Bundi is in a dilapidated condition."

Commissioned by Doordarshan to do the series, he says, " As against the widely held belief, it is the commerce-driven private channels, which impose a host of restrictions and have a long list of dos and don’ts. On the contrary, DD had only a few diktats that were valid on ethical grounds and ones that one would refrain from in any case for these could offend viewers’ sensibilities."

"The purpose", they say, in unison, "is to agitate minds to make people watch their legacy come alive and to compel them to own it."

Offering a kaleidoscopic view capturing the panoramic expanse as well as the finer intricacies, the series takes one beyond seeing and what is available.

And above all, it will remind viewers that real lessons of history are not learnt from history books.

He quips, "To know the real Akbar, you have to see Fatehpur Sikri, to understand what Aurangzeb stood for, visit Daulatabad."

And if you can’t travel the length and breadth of India, at least, watch the series that will be soon telecast on DD. For here’s history re-visited in which tales of impregnable and invincible forts come alive in crisply edited and musically attuned language that both informs and engages.
 

The Tribune, 12th September 2010
A train of memories

The ‘Maharani’s Saloon’ was a coach meant exclusively for the royal women of Mysore. Over 100 years old, the coach is in need of restoration. The Railways plans to sign an MoU with the Regional Conservation Laboratory, Mysore, for restoration work, reports Shyam Sundar Vattam

“Let me proudly proclaim, ‘I am the Mysore Maharani’s Saloon!’ During the year 1899, the honour of making my under-frame was bagged by Hurst & Nelson, England, and my beautiful body was elegantly carved by Central workshops, Mysore South, at a cost of Rs 29,508, quite a big sum for that period.

Fitted with an ornate balcony and a lavishly furnished bedroom with delicately gilded ceilings replete with chandeliers and fans and provided with comforts like an attached bath room and an exclusive kitchen-cum-dining unit, I rolled along narrow gauge and meter gauge tracks with equal ease and poise-the cynosure of all eyes. I am now a grand old lady ageing gracefully. Of course, I do miss my partner, ‘The Maharajas’s saloon’, housed in the distant National Rail Museum, Delhi, and I fondly recall the good old times-Those were the days!”

This is a framed board hung in front of ‘Mysore Maharani’s saloon’, the old favourite of Wodeyars-the rulers of the erstwhile Princely State of Mysore. Once upon a time, this was the prized possession of the Wodeyars.

This wooden coach was meant exclusively for the Maharanis of Mysore. In those days, the Maharanis used this to travel long distance. This coach, once the property of the royal family, is now a priceless possession of the Indian Railways.

The coach has been designed in such a way that it could run on both meter gauge and narrow gauge with minor adjustments. After Independence, the royal family presented this coach to the Indian Railways and it has been put on display at the Railway Museum on Yadavagiri Road in Mysore.

After gauge conversion all over the country, this royal saloon has found its permanent place within the four walls of the museum. Tourists are allowed to see and enjoy this royal splendour from outside.

Enter the ‘Mysore Maharani’s saloon’, and you will be astonished to see the way in which the coach has been furnished, that too 110 years ago. The entire coach is made out of teak wood and other expensive wood available in plenty during those times. Its roof has intricate designs in silver colour and its flooring is made of beautifully carved stones.

Now the flooring has been covered with a thick plastic sheet in order to protect the original grandeur. This holds a mirror to the marvellous ideas of railway engineers of that period. The design is on par with the modern Golden Chariot train.

The coach has electrical wiring and a small but beautiful chandelier. It has fans, cards table, calling bells, a moveable cot, a dressing table, a writing table and artistic lamps. It also has a well-equipped attached bath room.

All of them are in good condition thanks to excellent maintenance by the authorities of the Mysore Division of South Western Railways. The ‘Maharani’s saloon’ is attached to the ‘G’ type dining saloon built by Burn and Colt, Howrah in 1914 at a cost of Rs 49,194.

It has a separate toilet for servants, a spacious dining hall, shower room, bath room, prayer hall, perfume dispenser and a state-of-the-art kitchen with three stoves to be used with charcoal, exhaust fans to ensure there’s no smoke inside the dining saloon.

The coach also has a store room, luggage room, water pumping system, provision for round-the-clock hot water apart from a resting room for cooks. There is a stone grinder inside the kitchen locked to the door. The vessels used during those days are also preserved in this saloon.

Restoration
The Maharani’s saloon is more than 100 years old and is badly in need of restoration. The beautiful silver coloured roofing material is peeling off at many places. The floor tiles are also becoming loose. The wooden pieces attached to the roof are coming apart. The saloon is showing signs of ageing. The railway authorities are now planning the restoration of the coach at the earliest.

MoU with Regional Conservation Lab

Anup Dayanand Sadhu, senior divisional commercial manager, Mysore Division of South Western Railway told Spectrum that the Railways has earmarked Rs six lakh for restoration of both ‘Mysore Maharani’s Saloon’ and ‘Dining Saloon’. It plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Regional Conservation Laboratory, Mysore, which belongs to the Union Ministry of Culture, New Delhi, for the restoration work.

“Both these coaches are not only master pieces but the pride of Indian Railways in general and Mysore Division in particular. “We deemed it a pleasure to restore them as early as possible and give them a new lease of life so that they attract many more generations to come.”

Sadhu said the Railways is not averse to taking the help of any individual or organisation to ensure these coaches are saved. “We welcome anybody who’s willing to join hands with the Railways in this endeavour,” he noted.
 

Deccan Chronicle, 14th September 2010
Glimpses of a glorious past

On paper, Bijapur remains one of the most popular tourism destinations, but poor infrastructure and lack of a heritage conservation plan plague the city’s monuments, writes Azmathulla Shariff

The Adil Shahi rulers invited great architects from Turkey, Persia and Egypt to build landmarks in the then power centre of Bijapur during its golden period. As we browse through the pages of Deccan history, it becomes quite clear that every Sultan tried his best in surpassing the architectural landmarks built by their predecessors as they were all great patrons of art and architecture.

The city of Bijapur in North Karnataka opens up a great treasure for a history lover. Every sight of this city offers the visitor a glimpse of the golden past. On paper, Bijapur remains one of the most popular tourism destinations, but a lack of proper heritage conservation, infrastructure in terms of accommodation, food and connectivity continue to plague the city’s heritage sites.

There has been a considerable amount of revenue generation, but too little or no honest effort has been made to get a world heritage status to any of Bijapur’s monuments. Rampant encroachments and inconsistency on the part of state governments have hampered development efforts.

The city has a huge list of 80-odd protected monuments. In reality, only a handful of them have been barricaded, compounded and protected. Thanks to the efforts of the ASI, the entire Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Roza monument have been compounded. This has stopped people from littering these heritage sites.

The names of two chief architects from Persia Yakut Dabul and Malik Sandal who shaped the destiny of Bijapur will continue to be remembered by historians and tourists alike, for their contribution in erecting landmarks. Who can ignore the magnificent Gol Gumbaz and its massive dome supported by four seven-storeyed octagonal minarets providing access to the whispering galleries leading to the foot of the dome?

The ‘Teh Khana’ (underground) which is out of sight for a commoner is a great work of architecture. The entry to the underground is not open to the public due to poor visibility and security reasons. Light reflects on top of the grave of Mohd. Adil Shah through a small tunnel opening beneath the underground passage. The amazing style of construction throws a challenge to contemporary architects.

Ibrahim Roza

Ibrahim Roza, yet another heritage monument built by King Ibrahim Adil Shah, king of Adil Shahi Dynasty, is an important landmark of Bijapur. The monument has a mausoleum and a mosque opposite it. The chief architect of this versatile structure was Malik Sandal of Iran. Surrounding the exterior four walls of the mausoleum, Quranic verses have been engraved. These verses were sculpted under the supervision of Al-Nakhil Hussain from Persia (Iran). Certain portions of the perforated sculpted verses have broken but others remain intact.

The place was meant to be the burial place for King Ibrahim’s wife Taj Sultana. Incidentally, the king died earlier than the queen and he was buried here, so the monument is named after Ibrahim Roza. It is said that Tippu Sultan, while on expedition to Bijapur, offered his prayers at the Ibrahim Roza mosque. There are certain similarities in style between the mosque at Ganjam at Srirangapatna and the Ibrahim Roza mosque.

There can be no better monument to illustrate Indo-Islamic architecture than Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Roza. The intricate columns and brackets of the outer and inner galleries, medallion on brackets, chain and the mortar work in decorative motifs, window projections, petal niches at the dooms and minarets, load bearing beams and pillars are in perfect harmony with Indo-Islamic architectural style. The Bara Kaman, meaning twelve arches, remained an incomplete remnant of the Adil Shahi Dynasty. Experts say had this monument been completed it would have surpassed both Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Roza.

Malik Maidan gun
The cannon believed to be one of the heaviest cannons is four metres in length and 1.5 metres in diameter, and weighs a massive 55 tonnes. The cannon, protected in the fortress, is famous not only for its size, but also for its composition.

It is believed that ‘Panch Dhaatu’ (alloy of five metals) was used to make this gun, also called the ‘Malik Maidan’ cannon. According to the inscriptions on the gun, it was made in 1549 at Ahmednagar. The cannon was used in battles waged by successive rulers. The speciality of the cannon is that even after centuries it has neither corroded nor has time marred its sheen.
 

Deccan Herald, 14th September 2010
Mudgal’s crumbling fortress

Raichur district in the northern part of Karnataka is known for its arid landscape, full of boulders and rocky hills.

In spite of the perennial Krishna and Tungabhadra flowing through the region, the vegetation here is restricted to sparse jungles and dry bushes.

Notwithstanding the lack of natural resources, the area gained a lot of importance centuries ago as the scene for many historic battles. The high hills that dot the landscape were the ideal spots for building forts and royal residences.

Mudgal, an eponym of a saint, with a massive fortress, though dilapidating, is one such landmark. The fort that sits away on a hillock is worth a visit. The high rising hill in rocky tiers paved for the construction of royal houses at the summit, surrounded by sprawling acres guarded by a series of walls.

Blend of architectural styles

As you approach the summit from the northeast side, the towering fort walls built with large-sized stones come into view. The deep and wide moat surrounding the fort full of water adds life to the otherwise dull exteriors. The bastions look like a ship floating on the water. The entrance reached over a narrow bridge on the moat is imposing with barbican towers on either side complete with the guard rooms and windows.

It is a point of interest to note that the Hindu and Islamic architectural styles have been blended appealingly. While the outer walls have sculptures of gods like the Hanuman, the arch of the gate has a Saracenic touch. The passage leads through another gate called Kati Darwaza, which has iron spikes to intimidate intruders. A whole settlement lives inside the premises much as the subjects did in the days of the kings.

Walking past the shanty houses, I scaled a slope to a wide undulating rocky plateau. The views from here are extensive. The range of hills in the south stand like a defensive barrier while the crumbled ramparts mark the periphery. The sight not to miss here is the array of boulders in odd shapes. The most amazing of them all is a heap of pillow-shaped boulders stacked together.

The top of the hill with the tower-like structures is further west, but the approach is tricky with a deep ravine separating it from the surroundings. On the way to the top is a huge magazine for gunpowder. The summit was where the royalty lived in the bygone days.

Despite the extravagance that seems to have gone into building this fort, not much of its history can be gathered at the site, except that its existence goes back to the period of Yadavas of Devagiri in the 12th century. From the time the Bahamani kings took over, a series of wars ensued with the kings of Vijayanagar till about 14th century. At some point in history, Mudgal was also a part of the Kakatiya kingdom of present-day Andhra Pradesh.

The citadel, also called Bala Hisar, was probably built during the Bahamani rule to serve as the royal residence. Most of the structures have fallen apart over the years and all that remains is a small enclosure with tall towers. Being the highest point of the hill, the scenery from here of the vast countryside beyond the walls of the fort makes the climb worth it. At the western end is a large cistern called Hikrani Baoli. This enormous bowl of about 400 ft holds rainwater all through the year. The fort has another entrance in the west. The walls at many places look cyclopean with the stones neatly placed without mortar.

Getting there

Mudgal can be reached by a bus from Bangalore. If you are driving, then take the NH 4 up to Chitradurga and NH 13 via Koppal. The nearest railway station is Bagalkot ( 30 kms). The nearest airport is Belgaum (200 kms approximately).
 

Deccan Herald, 14th September 2010
Stealing from bear territory?

For millions of years, the hillocks between Daroji of Sandur taluk and Ramasagar of Hospet taluk in Bellary district have been home to bears, leopards and other animals. The proposed steel plant blocks this corridor which may result in genetic inbreeding and their eventual death, write Santosh Martin and Samad Kottur

For many years Bellary meant intolerable heat, mosquitoes, pigs, bad roads, et al. Government transfers to Bellary were considered punishment transfers. Now the entire place has metamorphosised. Thanks to the sudden demand for iron ore by China, Bellary is now linked with power, big money, helicopters and BMWs.

The recently held Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) has brought in lots of investors proposing to put up mega steel plants in the Bellary area. The Government of Karnataka has formed the Vijayanagara Area Development Authority (VADA) to promote industries in the backward area of North Karnataka.

At present, within this VADA area, JSW Steel Limited has set up a 10MTPA plant and is already expanding to 16MTPA. The government has further approved 6MTPA Plant to M/s Arcelor Mittal; 6MTPA plant to M/s Brahmani Steels; 6MTPA to Essar Steel and 2MTPA to NMDC. All these plants will be about 30 to 35 km away from the Daroji Bear Sanctuary and the Hampi site.

The government has also cleared a 6MTPA plant to M/s Bhushan South Steel Limited (BSSL) and the land allocated in Gadiganur village borders the only Sloth Bear Sanctuary in Asia – The Daroji Bear Sanctuary. This has come as a rude shock for many naturalists and nature lovers.

For millions of years, the rock-strewn hillocks that stretch between Daroji of Sandur taluk and Ramasagar of Hospet taluk in Bellary district has been home to bears, leopards and many other animals. Bears in this area have been moving freely in the valley, which is an important corridor. The proposed steel plant blocks this corridor which may result in genetic inbreeding and their eventual death.

Man-animal conflicts grow as their habitat shrinks. The pollution from the steel plant poses a serious threat to the sensitive habitat which is also home to the critically endangered Yellow throated Bulbul.

As per the general guidelines of Karnataka Pollution Control Board and Notification of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) S.O.470 (E), for setting up of industries, permission should not be granted to any primary metallurgical industry within 25 kms to an ecological and archaeologically sensitive area (as measured from the boundary of the industrial establishment).

It is also learnt that according to the guidelines from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (FC division) F.No.5-3/2007-FC(Pt) dated August 19, 2010, environment clearance (EC) has to be obtained from National Board of Wildlife if any projects are proposed within 10 kms from the boundary of sanctuaries/national parks.

Daroji bear sanctuary
The hill ranges in the vicinity of Hampi are believed to be part of the Kishkinda valley in Hindu mythology, ruled by Hanuman and Jambavantha (the bear god). True to this mythology, one can see that sloth bears abound in this region. In October 1994, the Government of Karnataka declared 5,587.30 hectares of Bilikallu reserve forest as Daroji Bear Sanctuary. Later, another 26-sq-km area of Bukkasagara reserve forest was added to the Bear Sanctuary.

A range of flora and fauna mark the only sanctuary in the Hyderabad Karnataka region.

It is home to more than 150 sloth bears, leopards, hyenas, jackals, wild boars, porcupines, pangolins, star tortoise, monitor lizard, ruddy mongoose, pea fowls, partridges, painted spur fowl, quails etc. About 200 species of birds and 50 species of butterflies have also been documented in this sanctuary in a preliminary survey.

The sanctuary has innumerable wild fruit-bearing trees and bushes. Kavale (carissa carandas), jane (grewia teliafolia), ulupi (grewia salvitidia), nerale (eugenea jambolana), bore (zyziphus jujuba) etc. are a few of the scrub forest species which are found in the sanctuary.

These trees and bushes yield fruits one after the other. The bears eat these fruits and the seeds in their droppings help in the regeneration of the forest. The authorities have also started raising custard apple and bore trees within the range of the sanctuary.

Bears are fond of termites and honey, which are also available in plenty. Water holes built inside the sanctuary helps the animals to quench their thirst during extreme summer.

World Heritage Site
The proposed steel plant is also within 25 kms from the archaeologically sensitive area – the UNESCO’s World Heritage site of Hampi. Hampi is both a historical and a religious place in India. This was the capital of the great Vijayanagara empire which ruled south India during 14th to 16th century AD.

Our responsibility
Public participation is the only way in which the sanctuary can be protected. Naturalists, environmentalists and activists across the country have already written letters to Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, asking him to intervene and take immediate measures to ensure that the plant is shifted from the proposed site.
 

Deccan Herald, 14th September 2010
Get the state out of the art

The simple statement that “no one is interested in taking on the responsibility and challenge of reviving our museums” does not represent the real saga of these great repositories of our culture, our identity, our history and our present talent, in particular the National Museum. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Certainly, leadership is the need of the hour if we are to rescue these great institutions from irreparable damage. There are many fine art historians with substantial experience both in India and abroad, who would jump at the challenge of bringing alive the National Museum. But to attract such talent, the government must give up its “mai baap” approach and not interfere in the running of museums. It must create an enabling environment for the experts to succeed.

Of course, relinquishing control is never easy and there are many systemic blocks. But it is a precondition for success. It has been done in other areas, so why not culture?

First, the right person must be appointed as director. No art historian of repute is going to apply, and they need to be persuaded. The government must go out of its way to make jobs at our museums attractive. Certain steps can be taken to improve the working environment. First, the government should grant greater autonomy to museums. The National Museum, for example, is a department of the government. This means that all the financial and decision-making authority vests with the government. The director has limited powers and has to seek approval for all plans — exhibitions, design improvements, education initiatives, recruitments, etc. These approvals can take months as they have to go through a labyrinthine government pathway. And years, if they get questioned by junior officials who do not understand the special requirements of museums and exhibitions. More frustrating, the director has to get government approval to travel overseas to present a paper. This is particularly galling for those whose expertise (and reputation) depends on international exchange and who have to deal with officials who do not appreciate the significance of this participation. Second, the government should grant the director greater authority over staff. The staff at most museums have been around for decades and they often resist the authority of new directors knowing well that they have security of tenure. One hears stories of keepers refusing to open their archives to a director or trying to sabotage new initiatives.

Museum directors in India spend a great deal of their time in and out of courts refuting charges or trying to get rid of troublesome individuals. There is also the problem of unions, mostly affiliated to political parties and when those affiliations are with the opposition political parties, the unions use every opportunity to find fault with the museum’s performance.

Third, the director must be given a free hand in recruitment. Today many posts are lying vacant but it is wrong to infer that young people are not interested in taking up museum jobs. In fact internationally, museums offer a much sought after career. Our youth will be interested if the opportunities at our museums are rewarding, invigorating and the remuneration is competitive with other cultural institutions and art galleries. At the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, for instance, we receive applications every week and many of the candidates have degrees earned at some of the best institutions abroad.

The suggestions above are validated by my own experience with the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum (the Mumbai city museum and the second oldest museum in the country). It has made the leap from decay to dynamism because of several factors. First, a special purpose vehicle based on a public-private partnership was created through the establishment of a management trust which includes INTACH, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) which owns the museum, and the Bajaj Foundation, which gave the money for the institutional and architectural overhaul. The restoration won UNESCO’s highest award of excellence. Second, the board approved a set of terms that granted INTACH full autonomy for restoration and revitalisation of the museum. Third, the MCGM created a corpus to give financial autonomy to the museum. The board sets the broad parameters but within that, the director has been granted substantial discretionary authority. Finally the staff has been hired on a contract basis with sufficient safeguards built in. Museum directors in India are expected to be jacks of all trades. Major museum functions like curation, exhibitions, education, colle- ction management and conservation, research, marketing and operations are specialised activities, and should be given over to experts.

The culture ministry has started the process of change but they face strong vested interests. They cannot remove incumbent directors. To do so, they have to go to the courts and suffer the delays of our judicial process with the knowledge that, after years of litigation, the courts will most likely rule in favour of the incumbent. However despite all these challenges, the ministry must continue the process. With determination and the willingness to open up and seek the partnership of civil society, it will be able to bring about much positive change.

The writer is the managing trustee and honorary director of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, vice-chairman of INTACH, and chairman of the CII task force on museums and heritage.
 

Hindustan Times, 15th September 2010
Historic Assam gurdwara on rail map

There is good news for pilgrims looking forward to visit the historic 17th century Guru Tegh Bahadur or Damdama Sahib gurdwara on the bank of mighty Brahmaputra in western Assam town of  Dhubri.

The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has put the historic shrine on the railway map by setting up a link between Fakiragram and Dhubri towns separated by a distance of 66 km.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee flagged off the Dhubri-Kamakhya fast passenger on Monday. The daily train service will now run between Dhubri and Kamakahya in Guwahati via Fakiragram in western Assam and will facilitate Sikh pilgrims coming to visit the gurdwara from outside the state.

President of Sikh Pratinidhi Board, eastern zone, Tahal Singh, said: The new railway line connecting Fakiragram to Dhubri railway station will be a boon for pilgrims visiting gurdwara in Dhubri. Earlier, pilgrims had to get down at New Cooch Behar Railway station in West Bengal and then take a long and tiresome bus ride from Cooch Behar to Dhubri. Now, they can alight at Fakiragram and travel the rest of the distance (66 km) to Dhubri by a connecting train.

An gurdwara official Joginder Singh said: “We usually receive around 200 visitors daily. The rush of pilgrims is much more during the Martyrdom Ceremony of Guru Tegh Bahadur in November-December.Now, with the railway link, there will be definite increase in the flow of pilgrims.”
 

The Tribune, 15th September 2010
Record monsoon gives Sanjay Jheel a miss

The record-breaking rainfall in the city may have left its streets water-logged and the River Yamuna swelling, but the Sanjay Jheel in Mayur Vihar has been left untouched by it. More than half of the artificial lake, which dried up a couple of years back, has not been replenished by the plentiful rainfall that Delhi received in August and September this year.

“On one hand, the Yamuna is in spate and on the other a major part of the lake is lying dry. Till a few years back, clear water used to flow in the entire two kilometre stretch of the lake,” said YP Singh, who takes a walk in the Sanjay Jheel Park every morning.

The Sanjay Jheel Park, which is barely two kilometres from the Commonwealth Games Village, is a popular jogging and morning walk spot among the residents of Mayur Vihar and nearby areas.

According to experts, the replenishment has not happened as there is no well developed catchment area (a drainage basin) to feed the lake.

“For an artificial lake to survive, an artificially created and well planned catchment area is mandatory. In this case, it is missing and that’s why the rains have failed to replenish the lake,” said Jyoti Sharma, president, Forum for Organised Resource Conservation and Enhancement (FORCE), a Delhi-based NGO working on water related issues.

“We were expecting that the area would be developed before the Games owing to its proximity to the Games Village but that has not happened,” said Rajesh Sehgal, vice-president, Federation of Residents Welfare Associations, Mayur Vihar, Phase II.

Delhi Development Authority (DDA) spokesperson Neemo Dhar said, “The chief engineer has informed us that the lake has not dried up.”

But a part of the park has been developed by the Delhi Tourism Development Corporation , even which looks shabby. “We agree that the area requires some redevelopment. According to the feedback from residents, the requirement is of walkways, promenade and beautification,” said Reena Ray, managing director, DTDC.

The rest of the park is ragged. The walkways have become narrow due to encroaching grass; the lake has dried up and is now serving as a road.
 

Hindustan Times, 15th September 2010
Shifting of Nizam Museum on the anvil

Royalty has an enduring appeal. The Nizam of Hyderabad continues to baffle and dazzle the senses. But some of the fabulous royal collections have fallen on hard times. Insects and negligence are playing havoc with the ‘ shahi' (royal) costumes displayed in the world's largest wardrobe at the Purani Haveli.

The glittering sherwanis and other accessories, showcased in the two-storey wardrobe, are in varied stages of decay. Concerned at the state of affairs, there are plans to shift the entire museum collection from Purani Haveli to the Chowmahalla Palace near the Charminar.

It is proposed to move all the objects, including the 240-foot-long wardrobe and the wooden lift lock, stock and barrel. The proposal is awaiting the nod of Prince Mukarram Jah Bahadur, grandson of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan.

The prince, who is currently in Turkey, will be flying down to Hyderabad in November for the opening of the Falaknuma Palace Hotel. Coinciding with his appearance, the palace authorities want the Nizam Museum also to be thrown open at the Chowmahalla Palace.

“It is all the legacy of the Nizams. And it would be better if everything is displayed at one place,” said Vijaya Shanker Das, senior counsel of Prince Mukarram Jah.

For tourists, shuttling between the sprawling Chowmahalla Palace and the Nizam Museum at Purani Haveli consumes a lot of time. As such, shifting the Purani Haveli collection will be of immense advantage to the tourists. Besides, it would help protect the work of arts, said Chowmahalla Palace director G. Kishan Rao.

The Nizam Museum, opened in 2000, has a fascinating collection of articles presented to the seventh Nizam in 1927 for the silver jubilee celebrations of his rule.
 
The Hindu, 15th September 2010
West Delhi village conserves its legacy

Residents of Mitraon have come together to protect a little-known monument which they claim was built to honour the village founder

A small village in west Delhi is working hard to shine as a tiny dot in the rich historical landscape of Delhi. Villagers of Mitraon near Najafgarh are pooling in their resources and money to conserve a little-known structure.

Located in the heart of the village, the structure Dayaram Ki Chhatri was built in 1882 in the memory of Dayaram who locals say was the first settler in the village and was an influential landowner. But after braving years of rough weather, the dome-shaped building started falling apart. Concerned over the crumbling structure, the villagers have now come together to conserve it. They feel that the heritage structure the chhatri is listed by INTACH Delhi Chapter and graded B in terms of archeological importance would place their village on Delhis tourist map ahead of the Games.

Almost half the inhabitants of this village claim to be descendants of Dayaram. Locals say that it was built by Dayarams son Chaudary Laxman Singh and since then it has been looked after by his descendants. The chhatri is our pride and heritage. We have been looking after it for decades and the last repairs were undertaken over 50 years ago. We want to protect this building for the future generations, said Balram Gahlot,a 10th generation descendant of Dayaram.

The chhatri an octagonal canopy with arch openings on each side of the 8 faces is built on a chabutra. Inside the dome, there are lovely paintings depicting mythology. These painting are being chemically cleaned. Most of the restoration work is taking place on the dome with extensive tile work and essential repairs. The original tiles started coming off. We are replacing them with new tiles keeping in mind the original look of the building. Plaster work on the facade is also taking place and it will take another four to six months. Landscaping is also on the agenda, said Gahlot.

Over 150 families in the village of 5,000 people claim to be descendants of Dayaram and claim to have lived in Mitraon village all their life. The Chhatri is very important for us. During any auspicious occasion, villagers come here to offer their prayers. We consider it the heart of the village, said another local Ram Kumar. Till date, no government agency has shown any interest in protecting the structure but the villagers have no complaints. The Chhatris maintenance is our responsibility, said Gahlot.

Local Legend

Located in the heart of Mitraon village near Najafgarh in west Delhi, Dayaram Ki Chhatri was built in 1882
Many residents of this village claim to be descendants of Dayaram, who they claim was an influential landlord of the region. Now, they have vowed to conserve the structure
Intricate paintings, seen inside the domed structure, are being chemically cleaned
Dome is undergoing extensive repairs and tiles are being relaid. The conservation work is likely to take 6 months
 
The Times of India, 15th September 2010
SC moots opening Fatehpur Sikri gate

The Supreme Court on Wednesday mooted the idea of reopening Hathi Pol of Fatehpur Sikri to ease congestion at the other entrance, the Buland Darwaza. Hathi Pol (elephant gate) has been shut for more than 100 years. Seeking the Archaeological Survey of India’s response on its advice, a bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari gave four weeks to ASI counsel A.D.N. Rao to place the department’s affidavit.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation on restoration of the monument built by Akbar.

The direction came after senior advocate Altaf Ahmed, assisting the court in the matter, said it was time to reopen the gate as Buland Darwaza was congested. "It becomes a problem for tourists to enter the monument," he told the court.

When Akbar resided at the palace, spread over 12 acres, Hathi Pol was meant to be used by the king only.

Hindustan Times, 16th September 2010
India may hold key to tiger conservation

India could play a critical role in preventing the extinction of tigers in the times to come. A new report says that India is home to 18 of the world’s 42 core tiger sites, but doubling funding to $82 million a year to protect these sites is vital.

The study published in American journal PLoS Biology adds that tiger populations are so low in countries like Cambodia, China, Vietnam and North Korea that there is little chance of them recovering to sustainable levels. It recommends abandoning the protection of tigers in the wild and using funds for “ruthless priority setting” to focus on the 42 core sites. Outside of India, these sites are in Russia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos.

Needed: Focus, funds
The report compares tiger conservation with African rhino protection and declares: “Only where protection efforts either were focused on small to medium sized areas (like Kenya’s rhino sanctuaries) or were well financed (like Kruger National Park) did rhinos persist. The immediate priority must be to ensure that the last breeding populations are protected.”

 The recommendation will be at the heart of the “tiger summit” in St. Petersburg scheduled for November when leaders of 13 countries come together to discuss how best to allocate resources. “It’s forcing hard decisions,” according to Simon Stuart, a co-author of the report. “There’s no way you can protect them across an entire landscape, because the costs are too high.”

Wild tiger numbers have fallen from more than 40,000 in the 1950s to 7,000 a decade ago and to less than 3,500 currently. According to the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, there are more tigers in captivity in Texas than in the Asian wilderness.

Stuart and his fellow co-authors believe that well-meant but misguided early efforts by conservationists, which led to resources being spread too thinly, may have contributed to the continuing decline of wild tigers. “Beginning in the early 1970s, conservation initiatives helped establish a large number of tiger reserves, particularly in India, Nepal and, to a lesser extent, in Thailand, Indonesia and Russia,” says the report. “Probably the most successful of these, at least initially, was Project Tiger in India, which was launched in 1972 with the support of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

“With hindsight, it also became clear that protection and management of many reserves remained inadequate (the extirpation of tiger reserves in the Indian tiger reserves of Sariska reported in 2004, and Panna, reported in 2010, is illustrative).”

Although loss of habitat and over-hunting has played a role, poaching remains a major factor in the tigers’ decline. Chinese medicine values tiger parts so highly that a dead tiger can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. Tiger eyes are highly prized as a cure for malaria and epilepsy, the tiger penis is used in a soup for virility and its crushed bones are used to treat ulcers, rheumatism and typhoid.

The Tribune, 16th September 2010
What a gate!

It is so rooted to the place that few realise it’s there. Ajmeri Gate (circa 1644-49) needs a setting in which it can smolder as sexily as, say, Humayun’s Tomb. Instead of landscaped grass, open space and placid pools, it is tucked within a free-for-all traffic square. One road heads to the nearby New Delhi railway station; another to GB Road, the red light district, which is also the city’s largest bazaar for toilet fittings; and a third to Chawri Bazaar, a market that boasts of Delhi’s deepest metro station. One back alley that ends at the Gate is so dangerously peopled with knife-yielding goondas that you better stay away from it.

During the Mughal times, this sturdy signpost was the principal exit point for royal processions on their way to Ajmer, the sufi town in Rajasthan. Built as one of the 14 gateways in the great wall of Shahjanabad, today’s Old Delhi, Ajmeri Gate lies disconnected from its past.

The wall that it guarded has disappeared. Also lost to time are most of the wall’s gateways; only four survive — Ajmeri Gate, Lahori Gate, Mori Gate, Kashmere Gate.

Ajmeri Gate is also disconnected from the present. The surrounding scenery of commercial signboards carries forward no progression of any artistic style from the area’s principal landmark. This single-arched gateway, in terms of architectural merit, is unimpressive. The turrets, niches, battlements are commonplace. Tourists don’t come here. If the MCD demolishes the gateway tonight, the city will not be poorer, aesthetically.

But some historical buildings are important for the continuity they give to a place. Mughals fell, British fell, Gandhis fell; Ajmeri Gate remained erect. Everyday thousands of migrants step out of New Delhi railway station and the first significant landmark they see, or see through, is Ajmeri Gate. So do the daily-wage labourers walking past the ruin, dragging heavy loads with their bare arms. Dope addicts take siesta on its border wall. Autos and rickshaws are parked at its entrance. Hundreds of women from India’s poor villages come every year to live in the gateway’s immediate vicinity to work as prostitutes.

Situated in such a grim and noisy region, Ajmeri Gate is strangely one of Delhi’s most quiet monuments. Once abused as a urinal and garbage dump, it has been cleaned of filth. Often locked, you can get the caretaker inside to open it for you. The last time we went there, it was raining. The stone-paved ground was mossy-green. Three peepal trees stood in the courtyard. Inside, the curved archway looked to the clutter of Old Delhi.

The Rehmani mosque, the ‘New Chicken’ kebab shop, a branch office of Indian Labour Union, an abandoned police post, as well as fruit stalls and omelette carts were just across the railing but that could be a different continent. As still as a grave, the gateway was at peace with the changing world around it, but on its own terms. It absorbed nothing of the outside chaos. Instead, the damp rubble wall exuded the calming vibes of a meditative yogi. Standing under the gateway’s roof was like being on a mountain peak.

While leaving, we spotted a lone pot in the courtyard. It had a cactus plant. Cactus grows best in the desert, and Ajmeri Gate is like a cactus: an oasis of solitude in a wasteland of multitudes.

Hindustan Times, 17th September 2010
ASI makes swift progress at Ta Prohm temple

The Archaeological Survey of India's Rs. 17-crore project on conservation of the Ta Prohm complex, third most visited site after Angkor Wat and the Bayon temple in the Angkor region, has made brisk and visible progress since the work began in 2006. This has set to rest fears and some criticism in international quarters about the ASI's technical capabilities and aesthetic vision.

On her visit to Cambodia, President Pratibha Patil repeatedly highlighted India's mission to restore Ta Prohm. Although no fresh funds were committed for the project, the speed with which the ASI restored some of the architectural elements of the original temple and its environs, making the complex both accessible and safe for tourists, had elicited praise from APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of the Angkor Region), government body in overall charge of this famous World Heritage Site.

For tourists to Angkor, the attraction of Ta Prohm, a monastic complex built in the early 12th century by Jayavarman VII, most famous of the Khmer rulers in honour of his mother, lies in the mysterious way nature has encroached upon the temple. The trunks and roots of gigantic trees twist around and through the temple's walls, pillars and floors.

Over time, the action of nature prised the structure apart, reducing much of it to mounds of huge sandstone blocks that obstructed passages and halls.

The ASI has been given permission by the International Coordinating Committee, a body representing more than 30 countries and international funding agencies that oversees restoration on the historical sites in Ankor, to work in five specific areas of the temple.

Akin to assembling the pieces of a jigsaw, the ASI has reconstructed parts of the temple from the stonework strewn around. It has created a wooden walkway through the complex for tourists, and done a careful job of creating steel and wood supports in areas that threatened to collapse. While the visitor may find the sight of steel girders an intrusion upon the ethereal aura of the ancient temple, without these props the structure would eventually collapse.

“The challenge of Ta Prohm is to conserve a structure that reflects a unique combination of nature and heritage. The Cambodian government is appreciative at the speed at which we are working,” said ASI unit Devinder Singh Sood.

The work of the ASI at Ta Prohm will continue till 2013-14.

The Hindu, 17th September 2010
Soft power unleashed with cultural fiesta

From October 3, the city will be playing host to not only over 7,000 athletes but also a host of artistes and Bollywood personalities as well. Shankar Mahadevan, Kailash Kher, Hariharan, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Hariprasad Chaurasia and other well-known musicians and singers will be in the capital — helping Delhi celebrate the Commonwealth Games.

Said Rina Ray, principal secretary (culture), Delhi government, "The idea is to showcase the Delhi Games 2010 as a fortnight-long festival. Everyday, there will be a cultural event in diverse parts of the city. For this, we have invited a galaxy of artistes to participate." The cultural extravaganza, billed as Delhi Celebrates, will not only bring singers and musicians to the city but also theatre personalities, well known chefs, artisans, poets and litterateurs.

The names confirmed by Ray are certainly impressive. While hard-core classical music fans can look forward to concerts by Hariprasad Chaurasia, Vishwamohan Bhatt, Sujat Khan and Chunnu Lal at the Kamani auditorium, those looking for modern music can head to Qutub complex, where Kailash Kher, Mohit Chauhan, Shankar Mahadevan, Louis Banks and Shivamani will perform. Theatre buffs, meanwhile, can look forward to not only a theatre festival at the National School of Drama (Jashn-e-bacchpan) but also at the Ansari auditorium in the Jamia Millia Islamia in Jamia Nagar (Jashn-e-dilli). The latter in fact, is scheduled to take off from September 18, and will have plays by Tom Alter (Ghalib), Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar (Kaifi aur Mein) and a children's play (Idgaah) by Munshi Premchand. Musicals will be on at the Sangeet Natak Academy and Shri Ram centre as well.

Those interested in ghazals and qawwallis can head to Town Hall in Chandni Chowk, where maestros like Jagdish Singh, Nida Fazli and Radhika Chopra will perform. At Central Park, the government is planning a youth festival. Amateur rock bands from colleges and schools will perform in the evening here while laser shows and fireworks will also go on. In the daytime, kite flying and giant puppets from Dadi Padamjee will dot Central Park.

Film aficionados needn't worry. A film festival will start from October 4 at the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) in Dwarka, where films from India and the Commonwealth nations will be showcased. Here, tourists and other visitors can also indulge in hands-on experiences like pottery, Madhubani painting and regional martial arts. Across town in the Indira Gandhi National Centre, a photo-exhibition in association with INTACH will start from October 4.

It's not just theatre and music though. Foodies can also look forward to the Delhi 2010. A series of culinary festivals have been planned for the Games period. In fact, at Dilli Haat in INA, a festival, the Best of India, showcasing handicraft, handloom and cuisine has already started, and will go on till October. Each day here, there will be a state day with food from that state being showcased, besides a pavilion for Dilli ka khana, which will be mostly from the Walled City. You can also get a taste of exotic cuisines with the international festival at the Dilli Haat in Pitampura. Cuisines from countries like Thailand and UK will be on offer here, while along the Baba Kharag Singh Marg, the Delhi government in association with the ministry for tourism will host the Incredible India festival, where food and handicrafts will be displayed.

The cultural events will take place every evening. Meanwhile, the shopping and food festivals will be day-long events. The concerts will have two artists performing each day. Most events are scheduled to start from October 3 and will go on till October 13-14, though some will start off a bit earlier.
 

The Times of India, 18th September 2010
The eternal feminist

Art Heritage is showcasing the new works of 86-year-old painter-thinker-teacher, K.G. Subramanyan, a student of the ‘Shantiniketan school’ of Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ram Kinker, who retired as professor in painting of Visva Bharati. An Art Heritage 1984-85 catalogue describes

Subramanyan as a “a modern traditionalist”, whose paintings had resurrected, “with effortless abandon and gaiety, the skill and trenchant satire of the Kalighat artists. Beneath the humour is the dry mockery of the sceptic”.

He was a bridge between the crafts-oriented Shantiniketan and the artists of the Baroda School for whom the pursuit of modernism had institutional backing.

Key to the appreciation of the 74 paintings (made between 2007-2008) on display is the artist’s portrayal of the ‘eternal feminine.’ There is no idealisation of the female, whether as woman, mother or goddess.

Goddesses ride the bull. Women are shown to stomp on men. And the relations between the sexes, captured in lewd and ironic gestures, points to the double vision of Subramanyan’s paintings. Says Ebrahim Alkazi, director, Art Heritage, pointing to a painting: “His subjects are drawn from domestic life and the life of the nation as a whole. Look at how the man is shown to attack the bull and the woman then attacks the man. It’s provocative and unsettling.”
 

Hindustan Times, 18th September 2010
Jashn-e-Dilli to showcase visitors India’s heritage

Delhi Tourism on Friday unveiled bonanza of cultural activities titled ‘Jashn-e-Dilli’ for the residents and visitors of the Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth Games will not just be restricted to sporting events. It is going to be one of the biggest shows Delhi has ever hosted showcasing country’s rich and diverse culture along with dance, art, music, theatre and culinary expertise. While the sporting extravaganza would run for 10 days, the ‘Delhi Celebrates’ festival will entertain tourists — both Indian and foreigner — till November 4.

Starting from Saturday, a play on Ghalib will be staged at Ansari Auditorium in Jamia Milia Islamia University. The impeccable command over Urdu and acting skills make Tom Alter the perfect choice for the director of play Ghalib for the role of the legendary poet. According to Alter, he also identifies himself with Ghalib on some accounts. He has played the role of the poet since 2008. “I love poetry like Ghalib did and yes I am impulsive like him,” he said.

In the first part of the Jashn-e-Dilli festival, three plays would be staged that include Kaifi aur Main on September 20-21, written by renowned lyrist Javed Akhtar. Bollywood actress Shabana Azami and Akhtar have played the lead role in the play. While the third play Eidgaah is based on the story of Munsi Premchand and will be staged on September 22-23. Notably, children from different schools in the national Capital will act in this play.

Unveiling ‘Delhi Celebrates’ cultural festival calendar in the presence of Bollywood actor and veteran theatre artist Tom Alter, Tourism Secretary Rina Ray said that top artists, singers and troups would take part in the programme. “Bollywood singers Alka Yagnik, Abhijeet, Daler Mehndi, Palash Sen, Kumar Saanu, Amit Kumar, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Pandit Shiv Kumar, Pandit Debu Choudhury, Jagjit Singh, Rajan and Sajan of classical music would be part of the Delhi Celebrates festival,” she said, adding that most of the places where these festivals or programmes would take place are well connected with the Metro.

“The festival has everything to cater to the people of different nationalities, age groups and people of different genres. In order to reach out to the international tourists, especially from the countries participating in the Games, the cultural bonanza will also have film screening, poetry and musical shows from the Commonwealth nations,” said Ray. Delhi Government’s Tourism Department is organising youth festival, theatre festival, dance festival, folk festival, film festival, food festival showcasing the cultural heritage of the country.

At the part two ‘Jashn-e-Dilli’ programme would be held at Town Hall in Chandni Chowk, where musical programme like ghazal, mussaira and Qawaali would be organised. Beside this, Qutab festival, bhakti utsav, nat sankirtana music festival of Manipur, Delhi classical music festival would also be organised to showcase the classical and vocal music trends. The Government has also organised exhibitions on issues like masks, puppets, nature bazaar, books, history of India. An exhibition on Commonwealth Games based on historical records with rare photographs and other contemporary materials would also be held at Central Secretariat.
 

The Pioneer, 18th September 2010
Hyderabad’s Chowmahalla Palace gets UNESCO award

Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad, a spectacular 18th century monument, has been selected for the Heritage ‘Award of Merit’ by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for cultural heritage conservation for 2010.

The imposing Palace, which used to be the royal court of the Asaf Jah dynasty, was among three monuments to be selected for the award for restoration work out of 33 entries from 14 countries. The other two winners are Fu’long Taoist temple in Sichuan, China and Old Houses in the World Heritage Fort of Galle in Sri Lanka.

Located in the heart of Old City, the palace complex once covered an area of about 30 acres, but by the turn of the 21st century, it had been reduced to 10 acres. The complex is a set of four palaces -Afzal, Aftab, Mehtab and Tahniyat mahals. The construction of its palaces around gardens began during the reign of Nizam Salabat Jung (1751-1762) in the 1750s.

The palaces, among the finest royal edifices in India, served as venues for most of the ceremonial functions of the Asaf Jahi dynasty including gala state receptions for British Viceroys and imperial emissaries for nearly two centuries.

The palace exhibits two distinct architectural styles - palladian neo-classicism of the mid-18th century royal palaces of the southern courtyard and the Islamic Revivalist style of the 19th century structures of the northern courtyard facing the Khilwat Mubarak.

Princess Esra, wife of Prince Mukarram Jah Bahadur, the VIII NIzam of Hyderabad, took up the conservation project for the royal palaces in August 2000, involving a multi-disciplinary team of architects, urban designers, conservationists, museum experts and others.

According to G Kishan Rao, Director of Chowmahalla Palace, a nine-member team from UNESCO visited the palace for inspection four months ago. “I have been informed over phone about the selection of the palace for the award” he said.
 

The Tribune, 19th September 2010
Preservation of Culture

And The Capacity For Holistic Healing
PEOPLE, who are weighed down by multiple identities, feel the urge to strengthen and manifest their identity by cultural expression. In India, one and the same person can maintain the identity of, say, a Bengali, a Hindu, a Brahmin, a self-employed businessman, and a family man with two children. In Kolkata, such a multiple identity constitutes a mainstream existence. But as soon as the same person moves slightly away from his common environment, he will take on a minority identity. Suppose that person settles in a Muslim-dominated area, or in a government housing complex, or visits a monastic ashram. In each case he enters into a minority existence. In this way, especially an urban Indian’s identity is in a constant flux with shifting emphasies throughout a normal day. These various identities are to be nurtured, so they continue to render strength and self-assurance. At the same time, these identities need to be constantly adjusted to diverse social contexts in order not to give offence.

To my mind, it is a boon to all Indians to be surrounded by and be part of such a multiplicity of different identities because it offers an unprecedented opportunity for growth into maturity, both as an individual and as a group member. Persons rubbing shoulders with people of other faiths, other ethnic and linguistic groups and social classes are able ~ if they so wish ~ to mould their outlook on life on a much broader social and emotional canvas than people who interact only with their own kind all day long. In Germany, I have seen plenty of people who confine their life within their own class, become emotionally somnolent and intellectually dull.

If we in India often withdraw into ourselves and fortify our internal and external defences against outside influences, this is probably the result of an over-dependence on the childhood comforts of family life which, after all, has moulded our identity more powerfully than anything else. Therefore, few want to give up the contentment of family life and expose themselves to an uncomfortably complex outside world.

This reflection has a direct reference to the enormous project of the preservation of culture. By that I mean that we respect, maintain, if necessary, restore, the treasures of the culture which has shaped us. It means a living relationship, a relationship of dignified pride ~ without fanaticism, of course ~ with the culture which nurtures our values. Culture is not only language, literature, music and art, but it entails architecture, artefacts, folk art, dress, modes of decent behaviour and moral values.

This will to preserve culture arises as the result of a broad and mature identity. We opt to expand our life’s base beyond the family circle and absorb the influences of our multicultural world. Identity is built up by a conscious choice, which influences to accept and which ones to reject. In the process, we form our opinions and our life’s cultural and psychological strategy. Once this strategy becomes clear to us, the urge to preserve whatever of worth has been handed to us from the past, is a natural follow-up.

Preservation cannot be anything but an act of love. The care our parents have given to us spontaneously flows into the care we, their daughters and sons, accord to them in their old age. Equally, the cultural environment that has nurtured us in our childhood and youth and has guided us into maturity, is necessarily meant to be preserved and kept vibrant by us in return. In Kolkata, we see crumbling old buildings plagued by neglect, badly maintained libraries, virtually empty museums, jobless artisans whose craft will become extinct with their demise. We see people no longer wearing their traditional dresses even on festive occasions, people no longer using their mother-tongues. We need dedication to read the classics of literature and religion. I notice, however, that the traditions of the family remain fairly strong. But can the family incorporate or compensate for the wealth of an entire culture? Again, culture must spread beyond family traditions; in fact, cultural activity ought to bring family and the society at large into an interactive harmony.

This summer, I spent two months in the German town of Marbach, near Stuttgart, working on a new book. Marbach is a picturesque town on the river Neckar with a lovely medieval centre. It attracts tourists and, therefore, the town administration keeps the environment noticeably clean and beautiful, free from structures which would not fit into the town’s context. This is what happens in many towns which have a similarly long history. What sets Marbach apart is that Friedrich Schiller, after Goethe Germany’s most celebrated classical writer, was born there. His birthplace is a museum now. In his honour two museums and the German Literature Archive were erected on a hillock overlooking the town. It contains one of the largest collections of German literature as well as thousands of manuscripts of many of the best-known modern writers. A tour through the vast underground double-storeyed, air-conditioned vaults is a mind-boggling experience. Hall after hall of steel shelves built and set up to store the maximum number of books in a minimum of space! A meticulously thought-out system ascertains that books that are ordered by readers from the library’s reading-room can be placed on their desks within one or two hours. A security system makes damage from fire and theft practically impossible. With this system in place underground, we experience quite a different ambience above. The huge reading-room with its large windows is well-lit and radiates a hallowed atmosphere. Privately, I call it “the cathedral of Marbach”. The librarians are forever helpful giving the readers as much time as they need. Each reader has his or her own table and access to a computer.

The catalogue has been almost completely digitalised so that you only have to key in the title and author of a book to find and order it. Silence and decorum are being maintained painstakingly, so a new reader cannot imagine the work that goes on behind the many doors throughout the day: ordering new books, accessing them, sifting through newly arrived manuscripts and correspondences, repairing old books and so on. Photo-copying from books is made expensive so as to keep it at a minimum, because it damages a book. Books are not allowed to be photo-copied on a flat surface as this may break the spine of the book which then would cause the pages to come loose. Instead, copying is done at an angle, one single page after another. Why do I tell you this? The quiet efficiency of the Deutsche Literaturarchiv is held together and moves ahead by one force which I felt throughout: by the love of books, of literature, of culture.

The motivation is that in 200 years from now people may still read what has been written and published today. The dedication of the librarians is not only a means of fostering the research of the numerous professors and research students who work in the reading-room; the understanding is that literature and, culture as a whole, is a life-giving and life-preserving instrument, a driving force, similar to religion, towards the discovery of life’s and death’s meaning. In the 150th year of Rabindranath Tagore’s birth it is wholesome to reflect that culture is not a mere diversion, a means to relax, a way to show off or to please one’s ego. It is a life-force which we need as badly as fresh air and clean water. Culture has the capacity for holistic healing. For that very reason it needs to be preserved within and outside the family. Those of us who lead a family life, showing children and grandchildren the way into the future, should have a passionate interest in preserving and providing culture for future generations.
 

The Statesman, 19th September 2010
Cashing in on faith

A calendar print and pichhwai make one wonder if works of commercial art were created to cash in on the demand
When nations grow old, the arts grow cold and commerce settles on every tree.

- William Blake

The purpose of commercial art is not to get people to think or feel. It doesn’t care if it changes the world or makes a profound statement about humanity or nature. All it wants to do is get people to buy.

- Melissa Donovan

Two things, different but somehow related, are pushing me towards writing this piece. One, a pichhwai, and the other a calendar print. I have been working on a book on pichhwais in the collection of the Calico Museum of Textiles at Ahmedabad. There are some great pichhwais — the large painted textile hangings used in Krishna worship at Nathdwara in Rajasthan, and other related shrines — in the collection painted with devotion and, for the devotee, charged with the power to transport him or her to another time, another place.

Over a period of time, they have kept on being painted: some devoted to festivals, others to seasons, still others to shringara. In nearly all of them, the figure of Krishna appears, receiving homage in his divine but static form as Shrinathji: a black marble image showing him standing, left hand raised in the act of lifting the Mount Govardhan, right hand on hip, lotus-large eyes with their gaze turned downwards as if to shed grace upon anyone, who approaches him with love.

But there are others in which he appears differently: with his companions, delighting them with playing upon his flute; leading the cows back to their pen in the hour of cow dust; dancing the circular raas dance with the gopis: "Cowherdess and Nanda’s son, alternatively,

Like a dense cloud and lightning all round;

The dark Krishna, the fair Braj women,

Like a gold and sapphire necklace."

And so on. There are other themes that are seen in these pichhwais: the family tree of the acharyas of the sect, for instance; the topography of the Vraja region to which the devotee can go on a mental pilgrimage; flocks of peacocks gathering together in lush surroundings. But Krishna is never far from anyone’s thoughts. It is a world of pure delight that the painters were inviting people to enter.

In this very collection, however, are also a few pichhwais that startle one a bit, for they are neither printed nor embroidered, but made of lacework and produced on a machine. The surprise is that they were made neither in Nathdwara nor in Udaipur but in Germany or Belgium, using an old handicraft referred to asnetznadelarbeit: literally, net-needle-work.

The themes are related to Krishna, as in the painted pichhwais of Nathdwara. The pichhwais that is reproduced with this piece is quite delicately worked: domed pavilions set in the midst of elegant groves; a lake with two boats from which a bevy of maidens has just disembarked; sakhis still standing in water but huddling around a nimbate companion, almost certainly Radha. A frieze of cows surrounds the scene; flower vases are disposed along the border.

One can see that the aim, taking off from an Indian painting, is to build an air of anticipation, of the quiet festivity that will ensue when Krishna comes. Technically, it is all very neat, very orderly: every leaf in place, every line perfectly formed. The point, however, is whether there is any feeling in the work. Or is it that, without being excessively concerned with that question, someone sitting there in Europe, some company with an access to the latest technology, guessed that in India there will be an avid market among the followers of the sect for this?

The second thing: Not long ago while staying at Kochi at the wonderfully appointed place of a friend, Abhishek Poddar, I happened to see on one of the walls a framed picture, an oleograph, which looked very familiar. Rama seated on a throne, flanked by Sita and Lakshmana, with the great devotee, Hanumana, seated on the floor, kneeling in homage: the ‘Rama Darbar’ in other words. One sees the ‘scene’ everywhere: on pavements where shiny calendars are sold in all towns, inside wayside shrines, placed on mantelpieces in homes: a Raja Ravi Verma imitation. But this image looked rather old and I began to look at it with some care.

Slowly, despite some fading, it revealed itself. All around the image was a broad border placed within which, at regular intervals, were little vignettes: coats of arms, logos featuring eagles and lions and prancing unicorns, images of some European buildings, factories perhaps. Above, in the centre, was a circular medallion showing a gateway with tall towers in the midst of which appeared the letters "IG" twined into a pattern.

In another medallion, just a little way off from it appeared the letters "A.G.F.A." All collectors of popular art, perhaps, aficionados of textile labels and old matchboxes, know this well and volumes have been devoted to calendar prints of this kind: Christopher Pinney’s Photos of the Gods, for instance, or Kajri Jain’sGods in the Bazaar.

But I did not know what "IG" stood for. It was not difficult to find out, however. It was an abbreviation for I.G. Farbenindustrie, a German chemical conglomerate formed in 1925 soon to become the fourth largest company in the world. This ‘Rama Darbar Calendar’ was evidently produced by this company, exported to India in massive quantities, and given away free perhaps as an advertisement for its products. Again, someone, sitting in Europe, without the least amount of feeling for its contents, had thought of and produced ‘a work of art’ for which there were takers in India.

Does all this say something? I do not know, but I do remember that the very first fountain pen I had was given to me by my father when I entered the fifth standard in my school. On the clip of the pen was engraved the word ‘Krishna’, and on its body appeared the words: "Made in Germany".
 

The Statesman, 19th September 2010
Kerala ‘small’ train chugs into history

For the people living in the area between Punalur in Kerala’s Kollam district and Sengottai in Tamil Nadu, it was like the end of an era as the last train on the metre gauge mountain route connecting the two places whistled by on Sunday evening, marking the end of end of more than a century of small-train service on that route.

It was also the end of metre gauge train travel in entire Kerala. If everything goes according to the Railways’ plan, big trains on broad gauge rail tracks would follow the same path after two years and after spending over Rs 400 crore. Work on conversion of the 45-km tracks into broad gauge will start on Monday.

The commuters who used to take that train daily and the farmers and workers who kept track of time based on its schedules bid farewell to it in style. People kept aside all engagements on Sunday to take that beloved train on a route so beautiful with passages through jungles, crossings above deep ravines and slither through dark tunnels.

“I just can’t think that it won’t be there anymore,” said Yunus of Aryankavu, a vegetable vendor who brought his merchandise every morning from Tamil Nadu on this train. “It is painful. I decided not to do business so I can bid farewell to our train by travelling on it on this last journey,” he said.

The last metre gauge train left Punalur railway station at 6.00 pm Sunday and panted into the Sengottai station 115 minutes later to be relegated into oblivion, marking the end of some of the most refreshing train journey experiences one could get anywhere in India, perhaps after Darjeeling and Ooty.

The British had started work on the Kollam-Sengottai metre gauge railway line in 1890 and completed it in 1901. The regular train service started in 1904 and from then on this railway line and those trains were integral parts of human life in the area. Services on the section between Kollam and Punalur were stopped earlier as part of conversion in to broad gauge.

However, the thrills of the journey would not end with this but would continue after two years. The broad gauge line would be laid through the existing alignment. The trains of future would also follow the same sceneries, waterfalls, monkeys that barge into the compartments, the awe-inspiringly high bridges over the ravines, etc.

“Except the width of the compartments and the size of the train, nothing will change,” said Mohan Kurien, a settler farmer in Thenmala, known for its eco-tourism project. “Looking out of the train windows even then, we would be seeing the same paddy fields, jungles, Palaruvi waterfalls, deer of Thenmala and all that,” he said.

Some of the metre gauge train engines that used to climb the steep inclines and negotiate the sharp curves of this mountain route would be packed off to the railway museum as historical artefacts. Some others would be exported to certain African countries after overhauling at the Golden Rock Workshop at Trichy, Tamil Nadu.

Officials of the Railways say that the old loco engines from India could fetch handsome prices in countries like Tanzania, which are preparing to start metre gauge railway systems. Some Indian industrial giants also are bidding for the engines for transportation purposes in their facilities.

The stoppage of the train – though for two years – would put into hardship thousands of office-goers, plantation workers, merchants, students others who had been using the eight services on this route. The State-run KSRTC has promised to start additional services in view of this.
 

The Pioneer, 20th September 2010
TN CM is full of karuna and nidhi for temples

When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi announced the 1000th year celebrations of the Brahadheeswarar Temple (Big Temple) in Thanjavur in July, two comments of his took people by surprise.

One — after the car festival of the Sri Thyagarajaswamy Temple, he said: “When I was young, I raised an issue whether a car festival was necessary for Lord Thyagaraja when farmers were in poverty. Later, when I came to power, I took steps for the conduct of the festival because I thought the economic condition of farmers had improved. I think my views were correct if we consider the situation that prevailed in those times.”

Two – apart from announcing the millennium celebrations of the Big Temple as a salute to King Rajaraja Chola, Karunanidhi declared that he was not against Brahmins, but only against Brahmanism. “Brahmanism practised by people of any caste will be opposed by me and my party.”

Karunanidhi, also the DMK chief, who was an integral part of the Dravidian movement that was involved in tearing of sacred threads of Brahmins, breaking Hindu idols and protesting against religious activities, seem to have changed his views. In fact, in his current regime, he has done a lot more for the temples than any of his predecessors had done, by way of renovations.

Earlier this month, the 2000-year-old hilltop Sri Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy Temple in Sholinghur in Vellore district found a new life as the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE)

Department of the Tamil Nadu Government got it renovated at the cost of Rs 25 crore.

This is just a part of the Rs 420 crore spent by his Government.

He has not turned religious, but a champion of Tamil language and preserver of Tamil culture, he says. And, he is showing it by renovating temples of the State and initiating various welfare schemes for the temple priests, employees, patrons and institutions connected to temples.

In this regime, Karunanidhi has shown great interest in the HR&CE Department and strengthened it with more budgetary allocations. So HR&CE Minister KR Periyakaruppan is perhaps one of the most important Ministers in Karunanidhi’s Cabinet and has been a busy man.

“The phrase Ondre kulam oruvane daivam meaning ‘one God and one community’ reveals the egalitarian society of life led by the ancient Tamils, who built temples which still remain more than mere worshipping places and religious institutions; these are as the treasure of our culture. Temple constructed by kings and philanthropists stand as the archaeological and historical symbols, which reveal the culture, history and the sense of art among ancient Tamils. Temples are the treasure trove of literature, music, dance, architecture, sculpture and painting,” explains the HR&CE policy note of the current year.

Returning to power in 2006, Karunanidhi met many religious gurus, including Satya Sai Baba, Mata Amritanandamayi, Jaggi Vasudev, etc. When eyebrows were raised, Karunanidhi explained that he found nothing wrong in coordinating with religious persons willing to contribute towards the welfare of the people.

In fact, Sai Baba had donated funds for irrigation projects and Jaggi Vasudev conducted a State-wide programme of planting trees, which began with planting of a sapling at the CM’s own house.

It was the HR&CE department which organised the rupees multi-crore Worlds Classical Tamil Conference in Coimbatore in June and currently the Karunanidhi Government is all engrossed in the millennium celebrations of the Big Temple in Thanjavur to be held later this month. Karunanidhi has even roped in the Centre to contribute towards the renovations of the Big Temple. A total of Rs 50 crore are being spent on the celebrations.

Temple renovations are part of the main agenda of the Government. According to the policy note, funds are mobilised from various sources, including public donations, surplus from affluent temples, Government grants, common good fund, temple development fund, village temple renovation fund and temple renovation and charitable fund. In the 2009-10 fiscal, the Karunanidhi Government gave permission for renovations and kumbabishekams of 4,020 temples, costing Rs 387 crore.

A key venture in renovating the temples is promoting tourism, as temples are a key source of income for the tourism department. The HR&CE department in collaboration with the tourism department is providing all kinds of facility to devotees and tourists at various temples to promote temple tourism. The two departments together put in Rs 25.20 crore to provide facilities to 54 temples.
 

The Pioneer, 20th September 2010
‘Walk-in show’ at Red Fort

Aiming at showcasing India's cultural heritage, a first of its kind 'walk-in show' will unfold at Red Fort for visitors during the Commonwealth Games.

Conceived and prepared by Aamir Reza Hussain, the one-hour show will include multi-media and water projections.

"The light and sound show going on at the Red Fort for more than 30 years has been discontinued now. The new show with more songs and music will be kicking off from the first week of October," said a Tourism Ministry official.

Unlike the earlier light and sound show before the Diwan-e-Khas, the new event is a "walk-in show" which begins from the Nahabat Khana, the entry point of the Fort itself.

"The show set up at an estimated cost of about Rs 6 crore will engage the visitors right from the entry gate and continue upto the Sawan Bhado premise in front of the fountain at the Red Fort," said the official.

The trial will begin on September 27 and it will become operational before the Games.

"The show will feature India's cultural heritage during Mughal period," the official said.

Besides, a light and sound show that include monument-based multimedia projection will become operational at the Old Fort during the Games.

"Mukesh Khanna, who played Bhishm in Mahabharat, has lent his voice and Kailash Kher has sung in the Old Fort show," the official said.
 

The Statesman, 20th September 2010
Shedding light on a buried wall

ASI has excavated portions of 14th-century Siri Fort wall and will illuminate it to attract tourists during Games

You may have passed by the remains of Siri Fort wall on the busy Khel Gaon Marg several times without even noticing it. But now the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will shed light on the historical 14th century fortification wall, built during the regime of Alauddin Khilji.

The ASI has excavated buried portions of the wall near Gargi College on Siri Fort Road. These portions will be illuminated to attract visitors using this stretch during the Commonwealth Games.

According to historians, the entire area from Gargi College to Siri Fort Auditorium near Shahpurjat is rich in history and one can find innumerable archaeological remains there. Till now, one could see portions of Siri Fort wall only on Khel Gaon Marg while going towards the auditorium. We decided to excavate the buried portions of Siri Fort wall near Gargi College for the first time. Nothing was visible in the area because of the dense vegetation. The stretch is likely to be used frequently during the Games as it leads to the Siri Fort Sports Complex, one of the venues. We, therefore, wanted people to see the fortification wall as they drive past it, said an official.

Sources said excavation of almost 1-km stretch of the wall took up to four months. We raised the height to about 4-feet above the ground so that the wall can be seen by onlookers. As most of the work has been completed, we will soon hand over the site to DDA for landscaping and illumination of the wall, said sources. The iron bridge erected on the road by the Army to connect to a parking lot will be removed after the Games and ASI officials said permission for this was only temporary.

Recent excavation at the Siri Fort wall has led to discoveries in the form of gates, bastions and ramparts. Earlier, only traces of one of the seven existing gateways could be found in the debris near the auditorium but over the last several years fresh evidence in the shape of the fortification wall has been unearthed. Historians claim there could be a buried palace complex within the Siri Fort wall ruins.

Touted as a new tourist destination for the city, excavations have been carried out at Siri Fort wall for the past few years. Experts said as the site is huge, they have to choose different points for digging where there is more evidence of buried ruins. Most of the other excavations of the wall have taken place on both sides of the road leading to Shahpurjat. We want to expose the whole circle of Siri Fort wall in the same way it was done with Qila Rai Pithora some years ago, said officials.

Officials said there were chances of stumbling upon forgotten artefacts like glazed pottery or vessels during excavation. If one chronicles history, one realizes there is a possibility of discovering skeletal remains of Mongol warriors in the fortification wall and officials are hoping to unearth something new that will shed light on the era of Alauddin Khilji.
 

The Times of India, 20th September 2010
Conservation vs colour-play

In response to the article dated September 7, “Grotesque gold on white landmark”, I want to ask: why shouldn’t the Metropolitan Building be coloured? After all it shows that the government is at least “doing” something.

Also, going by the rising price of gold, may be this is the government’s way of popularising the next-best thing — gold-painted jewellery!

On a more serious note, it is sad that the state has not been able to “imitate” the West’s positive qualities. Beautification and maintenance of the city and its rich heritage is a far cry in Calcutta. The indifference of citizens is also a problem in developing the city.

The most shocking part of the article was the mayor’s ignorance about Metropolitan Building. While the previous one proved his callousness by claiming the abundance of greenery in Calcutta after a severe storm, the present mayor is ignorant of the entire city! Most of the times he appears unprepared and fails to act confidently. Should such a mayor be in power?

Amrita Mallik,
Salt Lake

I do not think the new colour combination of Metropolitan Building (white and gold) as chosen by the conservation committee is ugly. In fact, I feel the golden caps make the building look more beautiful than if it were all white.

The restorers of a heritage building must bear in mind that the structure should be restored to its former glory. However, I support the new colour combination of Metropolitan Building. Our city has to grow colourfully while keeping the pristine simplicity intact.

Sanjib Dawn,
Address not given
Banish the bandh

In response to the report “Shutdown strikes wrong chord ”, September 8, I would like to point out that bandhs are not taken seriously in Calcutta anymore. This is because most of the people are not even aware of the reason behind a bandh. Even if they know there is a bandh, they are least interested in knowing the cause or the party involved. Bandhs have become just another excuse to stay home.

Pratika Gupta,
Address not given

I defied the bandh by going to work. Even our employees came to work as they also understand that these bandhs are pointless and can never do any good.

Umang Lalani,
Address not given

Bandh has been the most common menace in Bengal for a long time. I think people should realise that a political party that calls a bandh has only its own interest in mind and thinks nothing of the hardships it inflicts on the people. I think the people should raise a voice against bandhs as they affect the common man the most.

Samir Cassim Ariff,
Amartalla Lane
I do not agree with your report on many Calcuttans defying the September 7 bandh. All the people Metro met that day were seen at shopping malls, multiplexes or restaurants. But how many attended office or college? Chilling out is no defiance of a bandh. I would have saluted them if they had been found at their workplaces.

Ankita Singhal,
Agarpara
I am from Calcutta but presently work in Hyderabad. I believe the September 7 bandh was a countrywide shutdown, but Calcutta was the worst affected.

Bandhs are damaging the reputation of our beloved city. This will obviously be followed by serious economic consequences.

Bandhs offer no solutions to problems. Please say NO to bandh. Come out and work. These political buffoons can do no harm. Once the common man becomes conscious about bandhs, the enforcers will cease to matter.

Deboleena Ghosh,
Hyderabad

I defy every bandh, whether called by the Left or otherwise.

I make it a point to attend office during every bandh as a mark of defiance more than anything else. On a couple of occasions I’ve reached my office before 6am.

But what saddens me the most is the attitude of a majority of Calcuttans. How can an entire community sit idle at home on a working day with a ludicrous smile on their faces when questioned as to why they have not attempted to go for work? You would not find this attitude elsewhere in our country.

We can of course debate forever whether it is “safe” to venture out on such days when political goons unleash their terror of cowardice on the general public by snatching away our fundamental right to go to work, but my question is, how many of us have even attempted to get to work on a bandh day?

I had gone to the market the evening before the bandh and was astounded to see the mad rush for buying fish and mutton.

But never mind, despite being at the mercy of these goons for all these years, we will all obediently stand in a queue under the hot sun sometime next year and vote for these jokers!

Biswadeep Mazumdar,
Garia
Great wall of books

Kudos to the Aviva Great Wall of Education (September 1 to 5). Under this initiative, it was heartening to see educated people coming forward to offer their books for underprivileged children so that they get a glimpse into the world of joy, entertainment and knowledge. We hope that our little fellow citizens will be immensely benefitted by the books.

Mousumi Ghosh,
Barasat

I wish that such book donation drives are organised in the future too. It was overwhelming to see Calcuttans donating over 3 lakh books. I had purchased textbooks from classes I to X for the wall.

Name and address withheld on request

My sister and I received many books as prizes in school. Over the past 12 years, these books have been very close to our hearts. But when we got to know about the Aviva Great Wall of Education in The Telegraph, we realised that our prized books could be best utilised by donating them to children who have always dreamt of books but never got to read them.

Shilpi Agarwal
Dum Dum

The enthusiastic response from children to elderly persons of Calcutta to donating books in several languages and on various topics shows their great kindness and humanity. Our citizens always come forward for any worthy cause.

B.N. Bose
Dum Dum Park
Hospital horror

Your report “Rat bites patient’s hand”, September 1, has not come as a surprise.

Patients often get bitten by rodents, civets, and strays in state-run hospitals. The health minister, instead of wasting his time ranting against frisking at hotels, should improve the working of the state hospitals and medical colleges.

The deputy superintendent of Medical College and Hospital should be suspended for his irresponsible act of asking a patient’s relative whether he had rats in his house while trying to justify the rodent menace at the hospital.

A.S. Mehta,
New Alipore
Nibbling of limbs of patients by ants or rodents in government-run hospitals is becoming a common occurrence. A referral hospital like Medical College and Hospital is no exception.
We cannot blame the hospital authorities alone. Patient parties also have the responsibility of ensuring the cleanliness of each ward for greater interest of the critically ill patients. Heaps of garbage and mounds of medical waste is a common scene in all government hospitals. At Burdwan Medical College and Hospital such unhygienic waste can be spotted close to the infectious cholera ward, which is dominated by stray dogs and cats.

The situation is worsened by the reluctance of group ‘D’ employees to do their work properly, thanks to the blessing of Citu and other unions. There should be display boards throughout the hospital premises informing visitors not to spit, urinate or litter except in designated areas.

As alleged by the sister of the patient in question, the misbehaviour of nurses in government hospitals is also a common complaint. These nurses act as if they are doing charity for the patient.
A secured government job is the principal impediment to the desired services. Thus one sees dedicated services at private elite hospitals by nurses and attendants. They are very friendly and caring towards patients even without the expectation of tips. However, one must point out that in many of these “elite” hospitals and nursing homes, nurses are quite underpaid.
 

The Telegraph, 21st September 2010
Tourists’ info café to project Delhi as brand

In the last-minute preparations for the Commonwealth Games, Delhi today got its first-ever tourists’ information café at the Red Fort.

The information cafe is an extension of the government-to-citizens (G2C) kiosks. It aims at giving a brand name to Delhi. These kiosks will provide tourists and visitors with immediate information about the city.

The café was inaugurated by Mayor Prithviraj Sawhney.

The huge touchscreens installed at the café will give information about the Commonwealth Games (CWG), Delhi's tourist attractions, culture, shopping, food, accommodation and night life. Along with the description of these places, people will also get to know how to reach these places using various modes of transport.

The itineraries on the touchscreen will be displayed in eight languages, including foreign ones. Information about NCR, Agra and Jaipur can also be accessed from the touchscreens. These screens will also provide information about ATMs, police stations and hospitals along with important contact numbers. They will be used to flash important news or messages to viewers.

The information can be downloaded using bluetooth on mobile phones and mail IDs.

The civic agency has planned to set up 40 such tourist info-cafes at prime markets of the Capital.

"Delhi has a fair representation of handicrafts, textiles and food from all states of the country but lacks a strong branding of its own. Therefore, some souvenirs have been developed carrying the name-- 'Delhi Memories'.

These limited editions of souvenirs include T-shirts, caps, bags, crockery, chocolates, stationery and key chains. The coffee-table books on Delhi will be available at the café counters," said Sawhney.

Another counter at the café offering beverages and quick bites of jalebies, golgappas and chat has been added to make the concept of café complete. It shall be manned by staff trained and sensitised in public dealing, especially foreign visitors.

"The experience has been unique and satisfying as it has created social cause-generated employment. It is an opportunity to come together for a common cause of branding Delhi and pay tribute to this wonderful city," he said.
 

The Tribune, 21st September 2010
Ambaji to be Gujarat's golden temple

The historic Ambaji temple is going the Golden Temple way. This temple, located on the Gabbar hills in Banaskantha district, and one of the 51 shaktipeeths, will soon have a shikhar of gold. The temple administration has recently pledged to make an offering of 25 kg gold, worth Rs 5 crore, to the deity.

"We shall use donations from devotees who flock to the temple from different parts of the country, to gold-plate the temple's shikar covering the sanctum sanctorum," said chairman of the Shri Arasuri Ambaji Mata Devsthan Trust and collector of Banaskantha district RJ Patel.

Patel added: "Devotees and members of the trust recently held a meeting where the decision was taken. We then sought permission from the state government for making changes in the shikhar. We have now got the permission. Devotees have already be gun donating small quantities of gold. The biggest contribution coming from an Ahmedabad-based builder who has pledged one kg of gold." This donor is Mukesh Patel, 40, a builder based in Khoraj village near Gandhinagar.

"Since the last 25 years I have been among the lakhs of devotees who undertake padyatra to Ambaji to offer prayers during this time of the year. When I started, I was unemployed and hailed from a modest financial background. Today, with the grace of Ambaji, I run a fairly successful building construction company. My offering to Ambaji is miniscule in comparison to the grace she has showered on me and other devotees."

In 2009, Mukesh had also donated Rs 75 lakh to the Umiya Mata Mahotsav in Unjha. The annual ritual of lakhs of devotees walking down to Ambaji from all corners of Gujarat and even other states has begun.

This year temple trustees expect 22 lakh devotees. Eight of the kalashes on the top of the smaller domes of the temple and the main shikhar are already gold plated apart from 350 other small domes. All of these will be covered with gold leaves.

"Within six months we are confident of getting enough gold after which the work to cover the shikhar with gold will begin. The trust has already got Rs 300 crore in its treasury. But, this money shall not be used for this project," said Patel.
 

The Times of India, 21st September 2010
JNTU to run strength check on Charminar

Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, will henceforth monitor the structural strength of the historic Charminar and suggest repairs, if any are required, to strengthen the structure.

The Archaeological Survey of India, which maintains the 419-year-old monument, has asked JNTU to inspect the structure and submit a report. This comes after pieces of the floral facade of the monument peeled off last month.

xplaining what it proposes to do, the principal of the JNTU College of Engineering, Dr N.V. Ramana Rao, said, “We will use ultrasonic tests where pulses of a certain frequency are sent into the walls of the structure. Depending on the speed with which these pulses reach the receiver, one can estimate how intact a structure is.”

The JNTU will run the tests next week and submit a report to the ASI a week after that. The tests will be performed by the special structural engineering group from the university, comprising seven professors in civil engineering, which will be headed by Dr Rao.

The ASI plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with the university in order to get permission to use its services for periodical inspections of historic monuments.
 

Deccan Chronicle, 21st September 2010
Chandigarh’s heritage to be auctioned

The furniture was designed by Corbusier’s cousin & architect-designer Pierre Jeanneret

The furniture was designed by Le Corbusier’s Swiss cousin, architect and designer Pierre Jeanneret who passed away in 1967. The items are being sold by Bonhams auctioneers here as part of their Post-War and Contemporary Art and Design Sale.

Bonhams confirm there have been attempts to halt the sale and question marks over the provenance of the furniture. “We went the extra mile with this,” a Bonham spokesperson told the Tribune. “We felt the provenance was waterproof and decided to go ahead with it. We are not in the habit of selling items of questionable provenance.”

When Le Corbusier was selected to plan and design Chandigarh in 1951, he made it a condition of his appointment to involve Jeanneret, who had worked with him on and off for the previous four decades.

An article in Bonhams magazine earlier this year commented: “The two cousins liked to design everything from the overall plan to the individual pieces of furniture... the architects’ involvement ran from the placement of buildings and districts to the tapestries Le Corbusier designed for the Law Courts...”

It was Jeanneret who designed many of the furniture items for the official buildings in Chandigarh, including an Indian rosewood and leather desk and teak and cane chair from the Administrative Buildings (estimate £4,000-6,000), a Magistrate’s chair (estimate £3,000-5,000), three Senate chairs from the Legislative Assembly (estimate £7,000-10,000), a set of six library chairs (estimate £5,000-7,000) and a pair of easy chairs from Panjab University (estimate £4,000-6,000).

Although Le Corbusier left early, Jeanneret stayed on as Chief Architect of the City until 1965. When he died in 1967, his ashes were scattered in Chandigarh’s Sukhna Lake, as per his wish.

Some of the items for sale in London are from the private collection of London architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry who worked in Chandigarh with Corbusier and Jeanneret.
 

The Tribune, 23rd September 2010
Root recall

A festival celebrating earth as a living system will be held in Delhi on Gandhi Jayanti

“Bhoomi The Earth Festival” was conceived by Navdanya long before Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh refused stage II forest clearance to Vedanta's bauxite mining in Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa. The development has indeed added to the happiness and fervour of Navdanya's first ever “Bhoomi – The Earth Festival”, a day-long event on October 2 at India International Centre.

After all, the organisation committed to the issues of bio-diversity, conservation and organic farming was part of the process that finally led to this momentous decision by the government. Mobilising public opinion, getting Dongria Kondh tribals of Niyamgiri Hills to express their views openly, holding conferences, filing PILs on land issues, the outfit played its part. This national awakening, slowly becoming visible on the horizon of the nation is what the festival seeks to celebrate.

For quite sometime, the organisation put together a festival that focused on organic farming but actively fighting illegal mining in the Lanjhigarh area, it realised the need to shift the focus to earth. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth in the UN was another valid reason to have a festival revolving around the earth. “There is a gradual reawakening to the mother earth as a living system and now we want a national awakening. We plan to do this festival for next ten years and on a bigger scale,” says Vandana Shiva, noted environmentalist behind Navdanya.

The Bolivian government had initiated a process to introduce in the U.N. the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and it even established a Ministry for the Rights of Mother Earth. The plenary session on the ‘Rights of the Earth' will have Shiva along with the other environmentalists and country ambassadors of the Bolivian Alliance speak on the subject.

Sacred earth
“Atharva Veda, the indigenous tribal culture and poetry…there is no dearth of reminders that earth is sacred. Sri Aurobindo wrote about it, so did Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu and Mahatma Gandhi in their poems,” tells Shiva.

A book comprising poems that have earth at its core will be released during the festival. It will also have poems from the regions of Manipur and Punjab “to show that their reference point of mother earth is not pre-historic. It's live and contemporary,” she adds.

The festival will showcase three films — Jhing Chik Jhing, a recently made fiction film in Marathi about a boy who grows up amidst farmers' suicide and debt in Vidarbha by Nitin Nandan, the classic Do Bigha Zamin and Niyamgiri: The Forest Speaks by Surya Dash.

However, the day-long programme will kick off with an invocation to Mother Earth by rock group Ibadat. Be it the thumris of Vidya Rao, the folk music of a three-member team from Bihar or the paintings by Shakti Maira, everything, Vandana Shiva tells us, will be centred around the earth. An interesting part of the festival is the exhibition and interaction with the seed keepers.

Struggling against the crisis of agricultural biodiversity, Navdanya began saving seeds and established 54 seed banks in 16 states across the country. The visitors will get to see more than 1000 varieties of rice, pulses, millet, bajra, wheat to name a few. “There will be lot of forgotten food on display like ragi, jhangora, buckwheat, jowar, bajra and many of these ingredients will be used in the organic dinner that day,” informs Shiva.

Culling various known and unknown ingredients from the diverse Indian food basket, the organic dinner “Roots and Shoots” will have recipes like brahmi flavoured buttermilk, mixed tandoori platter of roots, and tubers, Nandigram “aloo” chaat, mili juli saag (cooked in clay handi), navrangi daal, mixed herbs parantha, raw papaya salad flavoured with aami adrak (a mango flavoured garlic).
 

The Hindu, 23rd September 2010
Wildlife activist seeks justice for tigress killed in accident

Wildlife activist Shehla Masood has decided to launch a campaign on International Tiger Day on September 26, for getting justice to the Jhurjhura tigress, which was killed in an accident at Bandhavgarh National Park in May this year. Masood in a statement has informed that she will start a campaign along with wildlife lovers to bring justice for the Jhujhura tigress and the orphaned little cubs.

She has alleged that it was now 18 weeks since the hapless tigress was killed and still we are waiting for the perpetrators of the crime to be apprehended and arrested. The third litter of Jhurjhura tigress constituted of three cubs, two female and a male delivered in late 2009. They have become orphaned after the death of their mother, claimed Masood.

She added that although nothing could be done to bring back this tigress but she hopes that the perpetrators of this wicked crime will be brought before the court of justice and would pay the price for their selfish intrusion into the tiger reserve at night and slaying the tigress.

The Chakradhara tigress delivered four cubs in 2002. There were three female and a male cub in that litter. The male cub disappeared but the female cubs became Chorbehra, Mahaman and Jhurjhura tigresses. The Jhurjhura tigress delivered two cubs in her first litter, one male and one female, who left the territory after attaining adulthood. The Jhurjhura tigress delivered three cubs in her second litter, two female and a male, from the male Bokha in 2007. These cubs have grown up successfully and they are living in their mother’s area at present.

However, following the death of the Jhurjhura tigress, the Central Government had probed the matter and the report had inculpated the park officials for the accident. Later the State Government handed over the probe to the CID but action is still awaited in the matter.
 

The Pioneer, 24th September 2010
Tipu artefacts to go under hammer

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya made headlines eight years ago when he bought the famed sword of Tipu Sultan for a record price. Since then, only a few Tipu treasures have made it to auction rooms. Now, two upcoming sales in London will feature art and antiquities related to the Mysore ruler who reputedly vowed that it was better to live a day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep.

Bonhams is all set to auction an elaborately crafted tiger head on October 7. Part of a magnificent throne, the jewel-encrusted, golden tiger head was one of the spoils of war after the Tiger of Mysore was defeated and killed in battle with the British East India Company in 1799.

It is from the collection of an unidentified Canadian family who had no idea that stowed away in a trunk of souvenirs inherited from Scottish ancestors were 200-year-old heirlooms. Claire Penhallurick of Bonhams said the family didn't have a clue about their value till recently. The lower sale estimate is £200,000 (Rs 1.4 crore). "It's an important symbolic object as Tipu had refused to mount the throne till he had defeated the British," she said.

Tipu's tenacious resistance to the British is also depicted in a set of 24 paintings that are going under the hammer at Sotheby's on October 6. The collection of paintings show the famous Battle of Pollilur in which the East India Company army surrendered to Tipu and his father Haidar Ali and suffered a high number of casualties, representing one of the worst defeats the British suffered on the subcontinent.

To celebrate the triumph, Tipu commissioned a mural and the paintings, which show splendidly attired Haidar and Tipu seated on elephants advancing towards the British, preceded the mural. Sotheby's has estimated their value at £ 650,000-800,000 (Rs 4.6cr - 5.7cr).
 

The Times of India, 24th September 2010
Miraculous escape for devotees as fort wall collapses

It was a miraculous escape for several devotees this morning when a nearly 100-foot long wall of the 1,800 years old Bathinda Fort collapsed suddenly on the langar complex of the Kila Mubarak Gurdwara in the heart of the town.

No one was injured but the food that was being prepared in the kitchen for the devotees was spoilt as the debris came rolling in the utensils.

The fort is under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that has initiated steps to restore its pristine glory. A sum of about Rs 1 crore has been spent on the work so far.

The wall is believed to have collapsed due to incessant rains during the past few days. Another stretch of about 50 ft of the recently repaired wall on the other side had collapsed two months ago.

The gurdwara in charge, Gurcharan Singh, said the wall collapsed at about 7 am when several men, women and children were offering the morning prayers. An alarm was raised when initially a few bricks fell on the tin roof of the langar complex and those present there fled to safety. Within minutes, the thick wall collapsed and the debris came down.

The langar complex was damaged but those inside managed to escape, he added.

An official of the ASI said the place was unsafe and notice had already been served for its vacation. The gurdwara was temporarily shifted to this site a few years ago when the portion of the fort housing the original gurdwara suffered damage, he said.

The first Muslim woman emperor of India, Razia Sultan, was put under arrest in the Bathinda fort in 1239 AD after her defeat in a battle.

It is worth mentioning that from time to time the fort has suffered extensive damage because of poor maintenance. The ASI was not getting adequate funds for its restoration as a result of which the work was progressing at a slow pace.
 

The Tribune, 24th September 2010
How karana sculptures in Big Temple were discovered

While a grand dance spectacle, involving 1,000 Bharatanatyam dancers, awaits on September 25 on the premises of the Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur, there is an interesting story behind the discovery of the karana sculptures.

In Bharatanatyam, 108 karanas form the basic movements. There are beautiful sculptures of 81 of the 108 karanas inside the chamber of the first tier of the vimana (tower) above the sanctum. Siva, Lord of dance, is portrayed as performing these karanas.

Eminent dancer Padma Subrahmanyam, who will choreograph the dance event, said the karana sculptures were discovered in 1956 when Balakrishnan, an employee of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), was removing the weeds on the vimana. He found a passage leading to the first tier of the vimana. He reported the matter to K.R. Srinivasan, Superintending Archaeologist of the ASI (Madras Circle), and the latter opened the passage that led to the chamber inside. But bats' excreta had piled up in the chamber to a height of several feet. The excreta had caked up so hard that labourers had to shovel them off. Many workmen fell sick owing to the stench and arduous work.

Dancing Siva
“After a month of cleaning, Srinivasan found that there were beautiful sculptures of dancing Siva on the wall,” said Ms. Subrahmanyam.

Srinivasan sent a note to ASI Joint Director-General T.N. Ramachandran. “Ramachandran came and it is a day to be remembered in the history of the Big Temple. For, it was he who identified the sculptures as karanas portrayed in the fourth chapter of [Bharata's] Natya Sastra,” said Ms. Subrahmanyam, while speaking at a recent seminar organised by the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, Chennai, on the 1,000 years of the temple.

Ms. Subrahmanyam called the karana sculptures Raja Raja Chola's “documentation of the frozen moments of the movements.” Dancing Siva is portrayed in these reliefs with four arms.

Indonesian temple
“The sculptor has shown animation with the intelligent use of the four arms of Siva,” she said. She marvelled at how Raja Raja Chola, who built the Raja Rajesvaram temple, received the idea to sculpt the karanas. Perhaps, he got the idea from the temple at Prambanan in Indonesia, which had karana sculptures.

Ms. Subrahmanyam, who had visited the Prambanan temple, said it was built 150 years prior to the Brihadisvara temple.

There were karana sculptures in the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram and Sarangapani temple in Kumbakonam.

If the karanas in the Brihadisvara temple portrayed one part of the movement of dance, the Chidambaram temple portrayed another and the Sarangapani temple depicted yet another, she said.

Ms. Subrahmanyam, who earned her Ph.D. for her dissertation on the karana sculptures in these three temples.
 

The Hindu, 24th September 2010
Palace of the dove grey Princesses

The news about a gorgeous palace in Hyderabad having been invaded was disturbing and had to be investigated.

The cream-gold and beige Chowmahalla Palace was found a ten minute drive away from Charminar. But the news was actually delightful because the invaders are an army of pigeons!

As you enter this very stunning palace which looks like it has been dressed up by Vogue in very simple, gold and milk white tints, you are first greeted by the invaders - pigeons adorned in their own shimmer of blue-grey, white, biscuit and cream and sitting around the amazing hall (Khilwat Mubarak) of 19 chandeliers like they own it!

In every ledge and window sill, dome and arch of splendor, sit pigeons companionably, in pairs, snoozing or watching the visitors gawking at the chandelier magnificence.

The pigeons are also on the roof of this palace, adding their blue-grey and white calm and innocence to it, reminding us that Hyderabad is the pigeon loving city and ornaments its windows and doors and all public places with this soothing bird's grace.

It takes some time to get used to drinking in awesome chandeliers with 100's of pigeons noting every move! And then you are finally wooed by the feathered, gentle, grey-blue princesses who are holding this palace captive!

And not even one chandelier has been harmed by the birds while some very naughty boys trying to grab at the treasures around had to be restrained by the staff.

The palace has many beautiful paintings and vintage cars, ancient treasures like a watch that tells the time for visitors, kitchen ware, glorious walls and windows etc. but you are only held captive by the pigeons roosting over a palace that seems to hide inside its golden and white peace and its family of chandeliers having stolen the peacock green, silver-gold pages off the leaves of the best Rex Begonias in the Universe.

The 19 awesome chandeliers live in the Khilwat Mubarak, the heart of the palace, with pure marble platforms where the Nizams held their darbars!

Chowmahalla Palace (4 palaces) was the home of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, the official residence of the Nizams. It is supposed to imitate the Shal of Iran’s palace in Tehran.
The cost of the visit is a paltry Rs. 25 for Indians and Rs. 150 for foreigners, and another Rs. 25 if you want to photograph the palace and its dove grey princesses: the safe and solemn body guards of the Nawab’s treasures!
 

Deccan Herald, 24th September 2010
Tug of war over Connaught Place

The Connaught Place re-development project in the Capital which has already had more than its fair share of controversies finds itself at the centre of a storm again with the New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Urban Art Commission locking horns over the nature of completion of the restoration project.

The NDMC is of the view that the civic body is not obliged to approach the DUAC for obtaining a no-objection certificate after the completion of the CP project nor is it binding upon the civic body to incorporate the DUAC recommendations regarding the nature of restoration work and other aspects. The DUAC on the other hand maintains that it is mandatory for the civic body to approach it for an NOC after the project's completion and also incorporate its suggestions given at the time of taking sanction for the project from them.

The NDMC had earlier submitted the plans for façade restoration of Connaught Place C Block to the DUAC on a sample basis and went ahead. Following this submission and subsequent completion of works on three sides of the façade, a joint site visit was undertaken by the Commission on July 14, 2008, after which certain observations were made by it regarding the nature of work completed. The Commission had pointed out problems with vehicular movement planned in the Inner Circle and raised objections to the nature of restoration work carried out in terms of alteration of original geometrics, symmetry, profile of arches, use of granite flooring instead of sandstone, spacing of plaster grooves and signage system to ensure authenticity and quality and adherence to conservation objectives.

After making these observations and making recommendations to the civic body to rectify the “flaws”, the Commission gave the nod to the NDMC to go ahead with the façade restoration work of the entire CP and approach the DUAC again after finally completing the project for the NOC. However, the NDMC is now denying the need for any such procedure to be followed.

The entire CP restoration project which includes construction of subways, underground services tunnel apart from façade restoration is likely to be completed only next year. DUAC chairman K. T. Ravindran says: “The DUAC is a statutory body. However, its recommendations are binding upon the local civic bodies and it is mandatory for them to approach us both at the time of sanction of the project and its completion for the grant of NOC from us. When the NDMC finally approaches us we would be comparing the final CP project to the original recommendations given at the time of sanction and then accordingly take the call on the grant of the NOC so the ball is in their court.”

However, a senior NDMC official says: “The DUAC clearance was required only at the time of sanction of the project and it is not binding upon the NDMC to approach the DUAC after the project completion for the NOC. While our attempt is to incorporate as many of the suggestions made by DUAC [as possible] but since they are meant in only an advisory capacity we are not obliged to follow them. We had appealed to them for use of granite flooring to which they did not agree but after that we have not approached them.”

According to sources, the undercurrent of disagreement between the two bodies could be sourced to DUAC's act of turning down approval to an earlier project proposed by the NDMC which envisaged developing a park in an open space right next to the Ring Road stretch near Hotel Hyatt.
 

The Hindu, 25th September 2010
Surfeit of inscriptions in Big Temple

With the 1000th anniversary celebrations of the building of the Raja Rajesvaram temple under way in Thanjavur, there is an air of festivity in the town.

Built by Raja Raja Chola (who ruled from 985 -1014 Common Era), the Big Temple is not only a magnificent edifice with its majestic vimana, sculptures, architecture and frescoes, but also has a surfeit of Tamil inscriptions engraved on stone in superb calligraphy.

“This is the only temple in the whole of India,” says R. Nagaswamy, former Director, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, “wherein the builder himself has left behind a very large number of inscriptions on the temple's construction, its various parts, the daily rituals to be performed for the Linga, the details of the offerings such as jewellery, flowers and textiles, the special worship to be performed, the particular days on which they should be performed, the monthly and annual festivals, and so on.”

Raja Raja Chola even appointed an astronomer called ‘Perunkani' for announcing the dates, based on the planetary movements, for celebrating the temple's festivals.

Again, this is the only temple in India where the King specifically mentions in an inscription that he built this all-stone temple called ‘kattrali' (‘kal' meaning stone and ‘tali' a temple). This magnum opus, running to 107 paragraphs, describes, among others, how Raja Raja Chola, seated in the royal bathing hall on the eastern side of his palace, instructed how his order should be inscribed on the base of the vimana, how he executed the temple's plan, the list of gifts he, his sister Kundavai, his queens and others gave to the temple.

List of 66 bronze idols
The inscriptions provide a list of 66 beautiful bronze idols Raja Raja Chola, Kundavai, his queens and others gifted to the temple. The inscriptions elaborate on the enormous gold jewellery, inlaid with precious stones such as diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, corals, pearls, for decorating each of these bronzes.

Interestingly, the measurements of all these bronzes — from crown to toe, the number of arms they had and the symbols they held in their arms — are inscribed. Today, only two of these bronzes remain in the temple — that of a dancing Siva and his consort Sivakami. All the jewellery has disappeared.

Dr. Nagaswamy, who recently authored a book, Brhadisvara Temple, Form and Meaning, said highly specialised gemmologists classified the gems according to their quality and weight. Even the lacquer used inside the beads and the thread employed for stringing them together were recorded. There were references to white pearls, red pearls, chipped ones, those with red lines or skin peeled off.

Gifts to the temple
Raja Raja Chola gifted gold vessels to the temple, and their weight, shape and casting were mentioned in the lithic records. Even a small spoon, ‘nei muttai,' for scooping out ghee, finds a mention. The inscriptions throw light on the temple's revenue from various sources, the mode of payment and the meticulous accounting procedures. “It shows the care and attention with which the temple property was entered in the registers and the responsibility fixed for handling them. Raja Raja Chola had an extraordinary administrative talent, unsurpassed either before or after him,” Dr. Nagaswamy said.

The inscriptions even speak about the temple's cleaners, sweepers, carriers of flags and parasols, torch-bearers for processions at night and festivals, cooks, dancers, musicians and singers of Tamil and Sanskrit verses.
 

The Hindu, 25th September 2010
Five days to light up monuments

The Commonwealth Games are almost here, but India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) hasn't yet finished illuminating 13 heritage monuments — a task it started more than three years ago. The ITDC had embarked on a project of lighting up the monuments in 2007. The Ministry of Tourism has  sanctioned R23.75 crore for the same.

The ITDC had promised to complete the work on the monuments by July 2009. But later, the ITDC dropped two structures, Kotla Firoz Shah and Najaf Khan's tomb at Jorbagh, from their list, citing technical reasons.

But now, with just eight more days to the Games, work on only four monuments has been completed. The ITDC has cited "technology change" to "no response to tenders" as reasons for the delay.

First, the agency went from using LED technology to a state-of-the-art design emitting yellow light. "There is lot of ambient lighting in Delhi around monuments. We have to consider this fact while carrying out illumination," said Ravi Pandit, Vice-President (Engineering), ITDC.

Another reason for the delay, was "lack of response to tenders". He said because the job was highly technical, ITDC could find a qualified bidder only in June 2010 after opening tenders for the fifth time.

Pandit, however, asserted that work on the remaining will be complete by September 30.
 

Hindustan Times, 25th September 2010
Shadow over the past, only 6 of 14 sites illuminated

Grand plans to illuminate Delhi's historical monuments before the Commonwealth Games are in disarray. The Ministry of Culture had identified fourteen centrally-protected monuments to be lit up before the Games over three years ago. But less than ten days before the sporting event, eight sites are yet to be illuminated.

It's a race against time now as executing agency ITDC has given an assurance to ASI that lighting equipment and fixtures are in place at all the sites and the work will be completed by September 28. The illuminated sites are Purana Qila, Khairul Manzil, Sher Shah Gate and Masjid, Subz Burj and Safdarjung Tomb while the monuments still waiting for the lights are Kotla Feroz Shah, Khani-i-Khana at Nizamuddin, Barah Khamba in Nizamuddin, Khooni Darwaaza, Choti Gumti at Green Park, Sikri Gumti at Green Park, Biran ka Gumbad at Green Park, Dadi Poti at Green Park and Najaf Khan Tomb at Jor Bagh.

Sources indicate that even if ITDC steps up now, not all the identified sites will be illuminated. Najaf Khan tomb at Nizamuddin will not be illuminated due to lack of time. At several other sites too, fixtures are yet to be placed. Work in a hurry will also mean that illumination trials will no longer be carried out at the selected sites and experts warn that the work may even damage monuments.

When contacted, ASI director-general Dr Gautam Sengupta declined to comment and directed all media queries to joint director-general Dr B R Mani, who remained unavailable. However, sources in power discoms BSES Rajdhani and BSES Yamuna the electricity supplier for illuminating monuments confirmed they were yet to receive applications for providing power. "Normally when we receive applications for providing power at monuments monuments, it takes a week to put the necessary infrastructure in place. But in this instance, we will try to do it within a day,'' said a top discom official.

The idea for illuminating monuments was to make them more visible for visitors during the Games and highlight Delhi's rich history.. All the identified monuments are located at strategic locations where the lighting will also beautify the surrounding areas and catch the attention of passersby.
 

The Times of India, 25th September 2010
The ‘Butcher of Allahabad’ lies in a museum attic

The statue of James Neil who massacred thousands during the Sepoy Mutiny, once presided over Mount Road, but is now gathering dust in the Madras Museum

When ‘history’ gets pushed into the realm of ‘anthropology’, one can well imagine the resentment and outrage that must have quietly legitimised it, more so with statues of erstwhile British rulers. Perhaps Col James Neil’s statue is no exception to this unwritten rule as his gigantic figure sculpted in bronze has been languishing for long years, in the ‘anthropology section’ of the Madras Museum at Chennai.

Except for the Museum staff very few from the outside world must have had an opportunity to see the statue of that notorious British Army officer, ever since it was carted into the complex way back in 1952.

After being removed from Chennai’s public space, bowing to nationalist sentiments, when the late C Rajagopalachari became the first ‘Premier’ of the erstwhile Madras Presidency in 1937, by a resolution of the then Madras Corporation, Neil’s statue was kept for some years in the ‘Ripon Buildings complex’ in Park Town area of the city which houses the City Corporation.

“In 1952, Neil’s statue was formally handed over to the Madras Museum,”

recalls an official. And then for many years, it has safely been under lock and key in the Anthropology Section, he says.

That section itself has not been open to public viewing since the mid-1995. Thus the much-hated Army officer, clearly one of the biggest statues in the Museum measuring over 10 feet in height, has been keeping company for at least over a decade now with pre-historic stones, tribal objects, old musical instruments including folk arts, and objects of physical anthropology like a skull of the early man. The reason was that the section was shut down for renovation and the work has just got over.

“There has been nobody to take an active interest after Dr Devasahayam, an eminent scholar and curator of the Madras Museum who retired in the late 1990s,” remarked another official. Most people now may not have even heard of Neil, had it not been for a rare document on him displayed at the ‘Madras Week’ celebrations recently.

Neil’s statue is a huge presence in the Anthropology section with a plaque behind it giving details about how he led his military campaign against the ‘1857 Uprising’ and from where he raised his soldiers on the way. “He (Neil) killed one lakh Indians just for uttering the word ‘Independence’, and how can we forget that?” fumes Mr. Kalathi, Educational Officer at the Madras Museum.

On an average, the number of visitors to the Madras Museum daily is about 650 including foreigners (August 2010 figures) and it is the latter who take a keen interest in viewing statues of historical personages. For all the controversy surrounding Neil, his statue might at last see the light of day for a whole new generation of Indians, when the renovated Anthropology section will in all probability be thrown open to the public in October.

Col James Neil of the ‘Madras Fusiliers’, a European unit, commanding at Allahabad then, who was summoned from Madras after the Mutiny broke out in 1857, had with “ruthless and horrible” methods quelled the mutineers, ordering “entire villages to be burnt down and inhabitants hanged” as he marched towards Cawnpore (Kanpur).

Neil was killed in combat at Lucknow in September 1857. The British rulers then chose to honour him by erecting a statue of him on arterial Mount Road in (then) Madras in 1860. The inscription on the pedestal of Neil’s statue read: “Universally acknowledged as the first who stemmed the torrent of rebellion in Bengal.” Thus records the ‘Madras Hand Book 1871’, a rare testimony to the horrific side of India’s 1857 uprising that saw Hindus and Muslims united in their struggle against the colonial power.

Decades later when nationalist fervour swept through Madras Presidency, the ‘Tamil Nadu Volunteer Corps’ began an agitation to remove the statue of the notorious British Military officer whom they condemned as the ‘Butcher of Allahabad’.

During a visit to Madras in September 1927, Mahatma Gandhi “lent his support” to the demand but with a condition that the agitators strictly adhere to the principles of ‘Satyagraha’. Several resolutions were moved in the Madras Legislative Council to remove Neil's statue, but to no avail.

The nationalists had to wait till 1937 when under the first Rajaji-led Congress Ministry then, the Madras Corporation through a resolution ordered the removal of Neil’s statue and placed it in the Madras Museum. (The first-ever election to the newly-constituted Provincial Legislative Assemblies under the ‘Government of India Act, 1935’ , was held in 1937.)
 

Deccan Herald, 26th September 2010
Strands of heritage

You can hear the clanking noise the handloom makes and an electric fan buzzing close by as you step into this room, in the corner of a small town called Patan in Gujarat.

Adorning the dull-coloured walls are frames of beautiful designs — emphatic and bright — on cloth. Walk around the room and you come across a picture of Sonia Gandhi flaunting a design during a political rally and Om Puri and Dipti Naval getting their hands on this work of art in another. And then, you come across 30 year-old Ujjval Salvi, beaming at his six-yard masterpiece. He is a proud man and why wouldn’t he be? He along with his four brothers are one of the only three families in the world who are keeping their tradition alive — of weaving silk threads into the evergreen patola saree. This is the only place where you will find an authentic patola saree.

Chhelaji re mhare hatu, patan thi patola, mongha laavjo re (a Gujarati folk song where a woman longs for a patola saree) he sings. A few samples Ujjval displays leave us in awe. They are glistening in the sunlight, that seeps in through the windows. The first one is the Narikunjar saree sample in bright red and has a distinct pattern of white elephants with intricate flowers and a golden border; the other is more subdued and classy — a golden saree with a maroon border. You would love to be the proud owner of any of these and that is when Ujjval reveals the price. “Patola sarees will cost you anywhere between Rs 1 to 2 lakh.” The family also offers products like handkerchiefs, table cloths, dupattas and wall pieces, which cost between Rs 2,000 to Rs 50,000.

Taking a break from working on the loom, he agrees to lend us some of his precious time and share with us the glorious history of this 2000-year-old meticulous art form. Traditionally, it is believed that the art of weaving patola originated in Karnataka and Aurangabad in Maharashtra. It was brought down to Gujarat in the 12th century by silk weavers belonging to the Salvi caste. As Ujjval explains, “Kings of Jhalna near Aurangabad used to wear patola cloth during their religious ceremonies and never allowed export of fresh patolas, thereby, irking Kumarpal, a ruler from the Solanki dynasty, who later invaded Jhalna and brought down 700 families to Patan who would then make the resplendent patola.” Sadly, just three out of those 700 families remain and they too are trying hard to keep the art form alive.

Patola sarees are woven with pure silk using natural or chemical colours; designs are age-old but can also be customised. Sourcing raw silk from China, Surat and currently, from Bangalore, the Salvi family gives reasons on what makes the patola, radically distinctive from other sarees. Many other sarees are woven first with designs printed or painted on them later (block print for instance) or are churned out by the dozen using machines. Patola is one of the few sarees where each strand has the design and colour etched on and then woven together. “The double ikat design system — a dyeing process similar to tie and dye — is used on both the warp and weft fibres of the cloth. There are other forms of textile too that use double ikat, but the patola scores above them because of the length involved,” adds Ujjval.

Another USP of this weaving wonder is that it can be worn both ways, and of course has a ornamental value. As the saree can last for more than 80-100 years, it is definitely an investment of a life time, feels Ujjval. He then recites a Gujarati phrase — Padi Patole bhat, fate pan fite nahi (Even if the the patola cloth tears, the design on it will never fade away) signifying the cloth’s uniqueness and strength. He himself has been practicing the process since he was 18. “It took me more than eight years to master the art,” he shares.

And although everything is going for the patola — clients across the world including countries like Italy, Singapore, UK, US and a impressive clientele including the Gandhis, Ambanis and Bachchans, among others, a plethora of awards from the government, demand that exceeds supply and recognition from all quarters of the world (a patola saree is on display at a museum in Switzerland) — unfortunately, it is a dying art. It takes five to six months to make one saree and since there are just three families with just a few production units at their disposal, meeting demands is a far-fetched dream.

As Ujjval puts it, “I am the youngest of the lot, which is proficient in the manufacturing process. In our family, although we have been trying to train people, our efforts always turn futile as people today hardly have to patience to learn the process from scratch to finish, especially because it takes years and involves a lot of hard work. Many give up in a mere six months!”

Why wouldn’t they? For the returns they receive on their investment, it is hardly a good bargain for anyone to dedicate eight to 10 years of their life. Efforts to revive the art by ATIRA through Calico Mills in Ahmedabad and attempts by students of US and Japan who want to replicate the process using machines, haven’t been successful. The least the government can do is to provide subsidies in procuring raw materials and more handlooms, man power or even decent remuneration for workers in order subserve the art form.

Says Ujjval, “But I doubt if it will still will be of any help. I devoted my life to learn the art of making a patola, but I wonder if my children would do the same. They would rather choose to get a regular income.”

All we may be left with will be the patola and weaving units lying idle in museums. We may also at some point see patola sarees only through glass cases as the art of weaving patola would be extinct.
 

Deccan Herald, 26th September 2010
Exquisite and intricate

In Tamil Nadu, for 100s of years, no marriage was supposed to be complete unless the bride had been gifted a Pattamadai mat.

These famous korai grass mats have been part of popular culture for a long time but entered the modern Indian handicraft scene only in 1953 and the reason is interesting. The Pattamadai mat weavers wanted publicity to capture the international market for these mats and one of the local supporters in 1952 gifted an elaborately designed mat as a coronation gift to Queen Elizabeth.

This mat, publicly displayed along with other coronation gifts, came to the notice of the All India Handicrafts Board and brought the then doyen of the industry, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya to Pattamadai. She with her foresight encouraged the weavers to form a handicrafts cooperative society. The gift to the British Queen is now displayed as a wall hanging in her residence the Buckingham Palace in London.The smoothness of the mats depends on, how finely the korai grass, which is grown on river shores in the Tirunelveli district of Tamilnadu, is split.

For the finest variety, the reed is split into nearly a 100 pieces. It is then soaked in the running water of the river for three to seven days, after which the grass strips are kept in a water dye solution. Then the mats are woven on a loom with a cotton wrap and the creative process begins. While the medium pattamadai has less count and is woven with cotton thread in the weft, the superfine pattamadai mats uses silk pattu) thread for weaving, which gave it its other name — silk mat or pattu paai. Use of silk thread gives a royal sheen and definite appeal to the mat.

Traditionally, woven on hand-looms, these mats are now mass produced on power looms to meet domestic and international demand.

So exquisitely fine is the weave of these mats, that a mat of of 140 count size and three feet by eight feet expanse can be slipped into a pocket folded like a handkerchief. The wondrously textured and woven mat is a tribute to the weaver’s impeccable skills. The pattamadai mat is mostly woven by muslim women and there is an innate sense of harmony in creating beautiful decorative-functional objects out of something as humble as a reed. The weavers are able to weave not more than six inches per day of this fine variety. A 100 count pattamadai mat takes a fortnight to be ready.

The 120 and 140 count mats take even more time and cost more. A standard three feet by eight feet mat in the 100 count range, will cost about Rs 1500 and in the 120 count range, will cost Rs 3500. A mat in the 140 count range will cost Rs 5000 if bought from the weavers cooperative. Both medium count and superfine pattamadai mats were traditionally designed with a natural “gold” textured body offset by blue and red stripes and carried woven imprints of the owner’s name as well as numerals. Today, the pattamadai mats on display come in dazzling range in colours from deep blues and reds to ivory and beige. Contemporary design inputs have created stunning new imagery.

While the medium range mats are woven with traditional designs, the silk mats are brilliant designer pieces, sporting minimally elegant stripes on the melting ivory texture of the finely woven mat. Apart from six feet by four feet mats, there are smaller size wall hanging mats, prayer mats. Of late, spurred by the interest yoga has created in the West, the Pattamadai weavers are specialising in yoga mats.

Though the weavers used the natural dye extracted from the plant, Sappan (Caesalpinia sappan) till some decades ago, the herb vanished due to excessive exploitation, forcing them to switch over to cheap and bright synthetic dyes. But due to the environment problems, the organic dyes have come back in the lime light and of course mean cost more to the buyer.

Over the years, traditional designs are giving way to contemporary patterns, designs and custom motifs. In recent years, local craftsmen such as National Award winner, AS Peer Muhammad have been making not only just simple mats for sleeping but also wall hangings, table mats, runners etc. For the Middle East market a great number of mats are woven with Islamic motifs.
 

Deccan Herald, 26th September 2010
Picturesque devotion

As you wind your way up the hill it is easy to mistake the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation Hotel as the famous Bhimakali temple of Sarahan built as it is in its crude imitation.

You can see it hanging precipitously over you but there are more bends in this hill road before you can see the real thing. Sarahan, like most small hill stations in Himachal is a pilgrim town — an overgrown village really — where life revolves around its local God. The temple that enshrines the deity is ancient, so are the myths and legends that keep changing depending on whom you talk to.

No one minds the daily loud chimes of the temple bells mornings and evenings and my mother who is travelling with me as a pilgrim sighs out aloud on hearing the first distant bell. Sarahan however has something for both the pilgrim and the traveller. I don’t share my mother’s passion for the Sarahan God but am intrigued by the history, the unique landscape, and the views.

Culturally unique
Sarahan has an unusual landscape. It is not really a plateau. It is a huge piece of relatively flat landmass jutting out from a steep hillside. From the highway you cannot imagine that a town exists up here with flourishing apple orchards, a revered temple, rich history and hill folklore. Most tourists just pass it by as they cannot see it from the highway and move on to what they can — the mountains of Kinnaur that lie up ahead. But once up here, you are rewarded with great views and culture, unique to this part of Himachal.

Sarahan overlooks a steep valley and you can see Sutlej flow in its crevice. Up in the skies looms the Srikhand Mahadev mountain snowcapped and majestic. Though only 5227 meters high, the close proximity to the 2150 meters Sarahan town gives it a skyscraper imminence. It is early evening by the time we arrive at this strange landscape and we immediately get down to what we came for. We head straight to the temple for the evening aarti while I fix a wide angel lens on my camera and look for a vantage point.

I realise the best place to shoot the entire Sarahan town along with the Srikhand mountain is to climb the hillside. A narrow path leads up the hill and disappears after a few meters. I am in someone’s apple orchard. The owner is in the distant pruning his apple trees and on noticing me he gestures animatedly. At first I think he is shooing me off but soon realise he is urging me to climb up higher. “Go on top near that pine tree. Better picture from there,” he shouts in his sing-song Hindi.

Apparently, he is used to footloose travellers like me tramping his orchard beds for a better shot. It has not exhausted his patience but he is a willing conspirator. This is just as well. Sarahan like most Himachali villages has the simplest of folks. They are not only ready to help you execute your whims on the journey but enthusiastically partake in them. Sarahan is an apple-growing region and most of the people work in their orchard and when not in the orchard, they bask in the sun around the temple complex discussing local politics.

Himachali architecture
The famous Bhimakali temple is located in the middle of Sarahan. It is a twin tower structure with an Indo-Tibetian architecture, the roof distinctly pagoda-shaped. One of the towers is a new temple reconstructed recently over a much older temple that was so old and worn that it would have collaged sooner than later. Bhimakali is regarded as the reincarnation of Goddess Durga. The temple gained notoriety for human sacrifices in the 16th and 17th centuries but animals are still put to the knife on Dusherra to appease the gods.

Like most temples, this one was also patronised by the local kings before Independence. The rulers of Bushahr State — a relatively wealthy and pro-British state in Himachal, picked Saharan as their summer capital. Palaces of the Bushahr rulers with beautiful Himachali architecture stands in all towns they ruled.

An empty palace stands in Sarahan too and is now owned by the heir and former Chief Minister of Himachal (now Steel Minister) Virbhadra Singh. The gates to the palace are open to everyone except on days when Virbhadra Singh, who is still treated as loyalty in these parts, comes to pay a visit.

Apart from this temple and the palace, a small attraction for bird lovers here is a tiny aviary tucked amidst the pine trees some distance from the palace. Apart from the regional birds of Himachal including the state bird monal, there is the endangered western tragopan. A captive breeding programme to restore its population runs from this aviary.

Sarahan is small and a two-day trip is good enough for both the pilgrim and the traveller. My mother with her assortment of temple offering and me with memory cards full of pictures are both satisfied as we turn the bends again making our way gingerly down to the highway.

Travel tips
Sarahan is 564 km from Delhi and 174 km from Shimla. The best way to get here is to first reach Shimla by road, or train (till Kalka), or air (Chandigarh is the closest airport) and then travel to Sarahan by road. From Shimla, taxis or jeeps can be hired and a bus service is available for the six-hour journey.
 

Deccan Herald, 26th September 2010
Aging gracefully

Sitting on the banks of the river Betwa, Orchha is sprinkled with a rich history. On their recent visit to the town, Hugh and Colleen Gantzer were captivated.

Like a beautiful, timeless woman, Orchha’s been glowing gracefully for almost 480 years. 16 kilometres from Jhansi, our road wound through the eroded, rugged, scrub-lands of Madhya Pradesh. Here, legends of valour and villainy are still the stuff of bardic ballads sung in the saffron-dusted dusk. The Betwa, that legendary river, chuckled to herself, then snarled as black rocks dared to impede her progress. She threaded itself, shimmering in the moonlight, foaming in the noon, around knolls, and hillocks and eminences.

Dreamy township
On these high places, gazing down at the moating river, were watch towers crenellated forts, regal palaces and temples and cenotaphs with pinnacles like knobbly pinecones. And there was a high wall encircling these battlements and much of the old town. But there’s no need, now, to protect the town from bandits and marauders and galloping mercenaries who once stormed across the plains looking for plunder and princes and princesses the could hold for ransom. And so in the flatlands between the fortress, palaces and temples, today, a hamlet grew and spread and continues to live. Here there are narrow streets where the tiled roofs and the turquoise coloured facades of the cottages hide cool, secluded, courtyards. Life in the hamlet has changed little since the days when the Bundela kings built their palaces and raised great gates that still stand guard over the dreaming township that was once a city.

We drove through one of these gates, across an arched stone bridge spanning a curve of the Betwa created to serve as a moat for the royal estate, and climbed a rising fortress road. At first, we wound between thickets of custard apple, and then we were on a flat, wide, court gentled by a cool breeze rising from the hamlet and its green fields below. To our left was the mass of the fortress-palace — the old Raj Mahal. To our right was the Jehangir Mahal, screened from the public eye by the palace. In front of us, like a bridge between the two, was the sybaritic addition of the luxury suite, and the terraces and domes of the Sheesh Mahal. Here, high above the hamlet, fort and palace was a secluded haven for royal pleasure. Before its renovation, its ceiling had inset mirrors and a further set of cheval mirrors gave uninterrupted views of the bathroom from the king-sized bed.

Clearly, the Bundelas had very regal tastes, greatly influenced by their Mughal overlords. Both the Raj and Jehangir Mahals were built in their assertive style featuring labyrinths of corridors, halls, living quarters, terraces and high copulas. It’ll be a long trudge if you’re determined to see everything. Far more advisable, however, is to hire a guide and ask him to show you the more interesting murals and point out the ingenious system of light-trapping shafts, fretted stone grilles and the friezes of coloured ceramic tiles particularly those decorating the main gate of the Jehangir Mahal. Legend has it that the Jehangir Mahal was built to shelter Salim, the rebel son of Emperor Akbar — he later became Emperor Jehangir.

We make it a point to stroll on the slopes behind the palace complex. Here are the ruins of the old elephant stables, the hamam, a very interesting complex, and the sadly neglected mansion of Rai Parveen. She was a superbly talented poetess, singer, dancer and mistress of one of the kings. She fended off the attentions of Emperor Aurangzeb by a clever verse that compared the Mughal Emperor with carrion eaters for wishing to taste the ‘left-overs’ of a Bundela king!

We make a journey across the Betwa and watch dusk flare gold and scarlet on the serene cenotaphs of the old Bundela rajas. The large birds that take wing from those attractive spires are vultures, among the world’s most efficient natural recyclers and hygienists. In fact the ancient Egyptians, very wisely, worshipped the vulture and even today it is the emblem of Egypt Air. You’re not, however, likely to encounter these magnificent flying environmentalists in Orchha town.

Of particular interest in the town are three temples built in distinctive styles. The architecture of the massive Chhatrabhuj Temple always gives us the impression that it was originally built as a mosque for Jehangir and his followers, and only later converted into a temple. The Ram Temple looks like a mansion because that, according to a local tale, was what it was when an idol of Lord Rama was placed there temporarily. Since it refused to budge from its resting place, the mansion was converted into a temple. The Laxminarayan Temple, with its murals of hunting, war and drinking foreigners, was probably a cool, elevated, evening retreat for the princely family before it was dedicated as a temple, and an idol of Lord Ganesh installed in a breezy central pavilion.

Remembering history
In this rather hot, dry, region, cooling systems were in great demand. Ask your guide to take you to the subterranean halls beneath the tall wind-towers or dastagirs. These Persian devices draw off hot air by natural suction and keep the halls below cool and dry through the hottest summer days. Alternatively, the bachelor prince, Hardaul, used streams of water drawn up by animal-power to spout in fountains and spray down in a rain-pavilion to simulate a monsoon shower. We always visit Hardaul’s palace and we always see local folk reverentially placing their wedding invitations on his cenotaph. The only major change in this somnolent, historic, town is that, now, visitors can do a short spraying encounter with the Betwa when she foams with anger at the rocks that stand in her path. The river-rafting here is in the skilled hands of the MP Tourism Development Corporation’s boatmen. One of us does not swim and yet we would like to do this bucketing ride over and over again.

Orchha may be a timelessly beautiful woman, but when she flounces her frothy white petticoats on the Betwa she couldn’t be younger.… or more exciting!

Travel tips
Travel to Gwalior by air and then 119 kms by road by taxi to get to Orchha. Also, one can travel by rail to Jhansi and then 16 kms by road, either by a taxi, autorickshaw or bus to get to Orchha.
 

Deccan Herald, 26th September 2010
Art show to mark 150 years of Income Tax

Exactly 150 years ago, the Income Tax (IT) Department came into being in India, when a bill to levy taxes was introduced by James Wilson, the first finance minister in Council. That was in the days of the British Raj. Today, in independent India, the IT department looks back and celebrates its 150th anniversary with a traveling art exhibition. The exhibition is being hosted by PP Shrivastava, chief commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai, and has been inaugurated by artist Anjolie Ela Menon. The exhibition features works of artists like Arzan Khambatta, Paresh Maity, Lalitha Lajmi, Ajay De, Baiju Parthan, Jogen Chowdhury, among others.

Starting with an art camp in Kolkata, where both established artists and IT employees participated, this exhibition will travel to at least 16 cities in India, before ending with a final show back in Kolkata.

About 40 artworks were selected from the camp by a special jury and, as the show travels to each city, more artworks by upcoming artists will get added giving them a big platform to display their work.

More celebration
The exhibition is only a part of the celebratory programmes lined up throughout the year. Bharat Tripathi, commissioner of Income Tax, who has organised the exhibition and is an artist himself, says, “We wanted to do something that will give vent to our creative sides. Many of our employees are good artists and can now be recognised for their talent.”

The IT employees participating in the show include Neena Singh Pandey, Seema Pawar and Bharti Dubey, among others. Tripathi’s own paintings bring out the essence of the IT department. One of his paintings show a coin divided in black and white to represent black and white money, while another displays the new international rupee symbol of India.

Synergy in taxes
Tripathi says, “I wanted to create something to harp on the synergy between the tax payer and the department. The final message is that the tax we collect goes into India’s development.”

The bill passed on July 24, 1860, paved the way for income tax, as we know it today. The IT Dept has witnessed many changes henceforth; its resource mobilisation has shot up from Rs 1.33 crore (1860-61) to about Rs 380,000 crore last year.
 

Hindustan Times, 27th September 2010
At last, a quality shop for the National Museum

Leading museums like the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Louvre in Paris have one thing in common apart from the quality of their exhibits: a large, well-stocked shop selling books, artefacts and gifts, usually in designs linked to their collections. On September 28, the National Museum in the Capital will take a big step in that direction with the opening of a new shop of its own. And unlike the ‘out of stock' sign that has greeted visitors who have tried to buy the reproductions advertised at the sales counter on the ground floor for years now, the new shop on the first floor is chock-full of beautifully designed things.

The tastefully designed shop is also unique: it is the fruit of a partnership between civil society and the Government-run Handicrafts and Handloom Export Corporation (HHEC), besides the National Museum administration.

A walk through the small but attractive shop gives visitors a quick introduction to some of the best traditions of Indian art. Its attractions are many – be it paperweights resembling a Harappan seal or a Gupta-era coin, jewellery inspired by Indian art across centuries, bronze sculptures reprising the Chola era or t-shirts with miniatures of Mughal paintings.

Souvenirs
Other items on sale at the shop include articles of daily use like handbags, notebooks, diaries, mugs -- all embellished with Indian art and craft motifs. The shop also sells art books and miniatures of Mughal paintings depicted on a wide array of items like plates, cups and trays, besides t-shirts. Another exquisite souvenir from the Mughal era on sale at the shop -- replicas of pietra dura works in white marble; made famous by the Taj Mahal.

The shop also succeeds at another level because of the high quality of workmanship that has helped reproduce the ancient art forms on various media. The plates and bowls made with papier mache by Kashmiri artisans and the Bidri-ware from Bidar's artisans comprising flower vases, daggers and inkstands bear testimony to this craftsmanship.

While most of the items are priced affordably, the most expensive items in the shop are the reproductions of the Chola-era sculptures in bronze, exquisitely crafted by a stapathi from Chennai.
The revamped museum shop has been conceptualised by four women from civil society -- Malvika Singh, Mohini Menon, Lalita Phadkar and Neha Prasada -- who pitched the idea to HHEC and secured a corpus of Rs 5 lakh to make the idea of providing affordable, top quality merchandise to museum visitors a reality. The four worked closely with designers like Vivek Sahni, Neela Mehta, Shameem and Mitch Crites to create unique products for the shop. Architect Adil Ahmed designed the shop. A 30-foot long painting of the Delhi cityscape by artist Premola Ghose also adorns the shop's walls. All of them have worked free to set up the shop.

The shop is opening in time for the Commonwealth Games and hopes to attract visitors keen on buying Indian curios. Malvika Singh, one of the four, says she hopes the Museum Shop will soon become a prime destination for tourists looking to buy high-quality Indian souvenirs. Neha Prasada says the four women will not be involved in the day to day running of the HHEC shop, but will be part of an Advisory Committee formed to keep tabs on its progress.
 

The Hindu, 27th September 2010