India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage.
It has achieved all-round socio-economic progress since Independence. Historical establishments serve as reminders of the past. This is one of the reasons preserving historical buildings is important. Understanding the past, having reminders of the past even just in architecture will allow people to understand where they are and where they are headed. When people understand what the community has gone through and have visual reminders of their past then they can feel more connected to a place. The historical buildings can allow people to understand what happened in the past and how things could possibly play out in the future. Preserving our past gives us more understanding and hope for the future.
Preserving buildings means you are saving on construction costs by making use of structures that are already there instead of tearing down old buildings just to create new ones. Many old buildings remain structurally sound even if they were built a long time ago. When you save buildings, you are also, in turn, saving the environment. This is because the construction of buildings requires the use of materials such as lumber which will have an impact on the environment. Even the use of cement and other materials and the whole process of constructing new buildings have impacts on the environment. The building is already there, to begin with, it makes better sense for the environment if we made things we built last longer. Existing buildings can still be used for modern uses and processes. Historical preservation also comes in handy for making old buildings usable and earth-friendly. Some repairs may be needed to make buildings more energy-efficient but generally, doing repairs on buildings still uses less energy than knocking down old buildings down and building new ones from scratch.
India has one of the world’s richest and most continuous cultures. Since millennia it has been one of the main contributors of achievements in fields as diverse as medicine, mathematics, the sciences, technology, philosophy, theology, literature, linguistics, not to forget the graphic arts, music, dance and innumerable other disciplines.
Unfortunately, much of India’s staggering heritage is in serious physical danger. For instance, one of the main forms of Indian heritage tradition is the palm-leaf book. Much of India’s written heritage has been passed on in the form of specially treated palm leaves, with writing in ink or engraving. The amount of books on all kinds of subjects which India has produced using this medium is absolutely amazing. According to a conservative estimate by the Oriental Department of the German National Library (Berlin), there is a minimum of 1 million such palm-leaf books, most of them unpublished. The production of the entire rest of the world together is only circa 10 million books. If we add all the other Indian materials (printed books, paper manuscripts, inscriptions, birch-bark texts, etc.), the Indian share of the world’s written heritage as of today comes up to roughly 20% in terms of sheer quantity. It comes as a shock that this awesome heritage is materially, physically falling apart at an absolutely alarming rate.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India :
- Group of Monuments at Pattadakal – Pattadakal is a town in the present-day Karnataka
- Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
- Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
- Kaziranga National Park
- Keoladeo National Park
- Khajuraho Group of Monuments
- Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
- Manas National Park
- Mountain Railways of India
- Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers
- Qutub Minar Complex, Delhi
- Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka and cave paintings
- Sun Temple, Konark
- Sundarbans National Park
- Taj Mahal, Agra
- The Red Fort Complex, Delhi
- Agra Fort
- Ajanta Caves
- Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
- Churches and Convents of Old Goa
- Elephanta Caves
- Ellora Caves
- Fatehpur Sikri
- Great Living Chola Temples
- Group of Monuments at Hampi
- Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is an autonomous non-governmental Indian NGO that seeks to preserve Indian Art and Cultural heritage. In 2007, the United Nations awarded INTACH a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
INTACH was founded in 1984 by Rajiv Gandhi who was also its first chairman. Its headquarters are in New Delhi. INTACH is the only non-governmental Indian non-profit society working for the awareness and conservation of Indian culture and heritage. Art curator and philanthropist O. P. Jain remained the chairman of INTACH for 15 years and went to establish Sanskriti Kendra Museums.
Among the tasks undertaken by INTACH are the restoration of monuments and their management; advocacy for heritage property conservation; public awareness through heritage walks and buses; establishment of heritage clubs in schools; and holding of awareness workshop for teachers of schools and colleges and for the guides at various heritage sites. Over the years, INTACH has taken up restoration and protection of hundreds of monuments that fall outside the coverage of Archeological Survey of India and other government agencies.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), as an attached office under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation. Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance is the prime concern of the ASI. Besides it regulate all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. It also regulates Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
For the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance, the entire country is divided into 24 Circles. The organization has a large workforce of trained archaeologists, conservators, epigraphist, architects and scientists for conducting archaeological research projects through its Excavation Branches, Prehistory Branch, Epigraphy Branches, Science Branch, Horticulture Branch, Building Survey Project, Temple Survey Projects and Underwater Archaeology Wing.
The main activities of the Science Branch are:
- Chemical treatment and preservation of about 5000 centrally protected monuments including 18 world heritage monuments.
- Chemical treatment and preservation of museum exhibits and excavated objects.
- Scientific and technical studies as well as research on material heritage of different building materials to study the causes of deterioration with a view to evolve appropriate conservation measures in order to improve the state of preservation of our built cultural heritage and physical heritage as well.
- To organize awareness programme and workshops /seminars with regard to scientific conservation works
- Technical assistance to state-protected monuments as well as built cultural heritage under the control of trusts in the form of deposit works.
The world could be moving faster than ever but there are benefits to preserving historical sites and keeping things as they were many years ago. There are many ways communities can revitalize and modernize neighbourhoods while maintaining historical buildings. Creating awareness regarding the need to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of India; Organizing ‘Heritage Walks’ and ‘Talks’ on the cultural and historical significance of monuments; Organizing seminars, quizzes, skits, exhibitions or street theatre on the importance and protection of the monuments located in their neighbourhood are ways which will help in the conservation. Also taking up various community sensitization programmes to inculcate a sense of pride among the students, teachers and the community would help in developing young children into sensitive, responsible and progressive citizens of the society. The conservation and protection of these monuments cannot be neglected any further. Indian Youth comprising of children in schools have a special duty towards raising awareness and protecting the rich cultural heritage which is a part of the glorious history of our country.
We have to raise our voice… forward a helping hand… to make our country ‘Incredible India’!!
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