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Celebrating our heritage

Manjunath Sullolli, April 16, 2013, DHNS: 20:17 IST
TREASURE HOUSE: Karnataka is home to many monuments such as this fine Ugranarasimha statue in Hampi. (DH File photo)
Every year, April 18 is celebrated as a World Heritage Day. Karnataka too has a wealth of ancient monuments that range from pre-historic rock shelters to a variety of edifices such as rock-cut caves, temples, tombs, mosques, churches, forts, palaces, reservoirs, bridges etc, belonging to different dynasties. Today, several of them are in a very bad state. The problem of preserving these priceless edifices for posterity is a challenging task, and this task has been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The ASI and its conservators have been recognised as one of the best in the world in the art of safeguarding the ancient monuments. Old methods of preserving the monuments, with the fallen portion remaining as it is, huge stone masonry buttresses adjacent to the bulged walls, stone masonry pillars supporting the broken beams and lintels, have been changed. Today one can see that a majority of the monuments are given a new life by adopting these methods in conservation.

There is a big problem of encroachment of historical monuments in the north Karnataka region.

Many monuments have been encroached upon in Bijapur, thanks to new housing layouts coming up around the monuments.

The most brilliant epoch in the history of Karnataka is that of the Chalukyas of Badami. The temples at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal unfold a divine story. Chiseled and brought to life by the master craftsmen of yore, each stone temple is a poem.

Known as the ‘cradle of Indian architecture’, Aihole has over 150 temples scattered around the village. The ASI staff of Dharwad division have beautified the monuments in Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal. Encroachments have been removed. Reconstruction of Jain temple in Pattadakal has received praise from UNESCO.

Aihole has monuments which are encroached upon, but the government has identified 204 acres of land near the village and released funds to rehabilitate the whole village of 415 families. Similar rehabilitation work is being planned in Badami. Hampi is a complexity that archaeologists, historians and scholars are constantly trying to unravel. A lot of research and excavation have been carried out at Hampi ever since 1976. Over the last three decades, Hampi has constantly unfolded something new to excavators, explorers and historians. Hampi is not only of interest for its historical prestige and magnificent remains; its remarkable landscape, religious association and ongoing archaeological investigations make it a destination of significance. An international team of archaeologists and architects has been working at the site since 1981, under the direction of John Fritz and George Michell, as a part of the Vijayanagara Research Project. The monuments were declared World Heritage Monuments by Unesco in 1987. Scholars George Michell and Jone Fritz opine that the site is at risk as no overall authority exists to protect the heritage. Quarrying of granite endangers the heritage sites, and that needs to be studied.

Preservation of ancient monuments is becoming more and more complex with the expansion of towns and with the development of modern technology. Environmental pollution, ever-growing building activity and the consequent pressure on land, modern constructions cropping up in very close proximity to important monuments are seriously affecting the aesthetic value and the landscape etc, thereby creating further complications in maintaining the monuments.

Karnataka’s architecture has attracted a large number of scholars, and the State has been home to many styles of architecture which resulted in innovative and unique structures.

There is a need for coordination and planning among the various agencies which have the opportunity of doing archaeological work in the State. They should come together and chalk out a phased programme towards conserving rare monuments.

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