Bijapur's forgotten memorial

Last Updated 25 March 2013, 14:21 IST

The tower erected in Bijapur, in commemoration of King Edward VII, stands forgotten. Once upon a time, the marble structure and the park around it added to the allure of this city of monuments. Raju S Vijapur reports.

The City of Bijapur is known for its many medieval-period historical structures. From a tiny building to gigantic edifices like the Gol Gumbaz, the City has a number of heritage sites that have been attracting tourists and historians since centuries. However, a lack of concern among the local people and officials has pushed a majority of the historical structures to the verge of extinction.

A case in point is the structure erected in commemoration of King Edward VII and the park around it, located behind the district indoor stadium in Bijapur. Though it is situated in the heart of the City — adjacent to an important government office — the pathetic condition of the site shows the lack of interest among people towards heritage.

Once upon a time, the marble structure and the park that were developed to commemorate King Edward VII enhanced the allure of this city of monuments. Today though, this structure is just a blur in the memory of the locals. Wild bushes, garbage, litter and animal waste are seen in and around the monument, putting people off. Earlier, a godown had come up encroaching the park area. Now, the district Lokayukta office has also occupied a part of the space.

A City-based contractor had recently declared that he would renovate the monument. But, unfortunately, work has been left incomplete.

The history of the park and the  tower go back to the beginning of the 20th century. The foundation stone for this monument was laid by Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy of India, on November 2, 1913.

The marble structure bearing the bust of King Edward VII, built in Indo-Islamic style, was the centre of attraction for children who used to play in the park once upon a time.
 The structure had beautiful fountains and taps on all sides, providing drinking water to the visitors.

A favourite haunt

It was also a favourite hangout for youngsters. For the old, it was a favourite spot to relive the past, while for tourists it provided a cool refuge from the scorching sun. The memorial park came to be known in later years as ‘Rani Bageech’ (queen’s park). It was the only place in the heart of the City where children could spend their evenings. For Bijapur’s residents, it was the equivalent of Bangalore’s Lalbagh or Cubbon Park. Its pond had colourful fish, another attraction for children.

The most attractive part of the park was a circular structure covered on all sides with creepers. But the park was destroyed, like much that was beautiful in Bijapur has been. The government proposed to set up a deer park in the place but then changed its mind and planned to build a ‘Ranga Mandira’ there in the 70s. But the chief architect of the State government did not approve the site “as it had the queen’s park”, and he would take up the project only if the whole park was bulldozed.

Later, a godown came up on the site. After some years, the State government built Kandagal Hanamantharaya Ranga Mandira and the Information Department’s building in the garden’s space. Recently, the district Lokayukta office came up in the vicinity, shrinking the acres of the memorial park area to a few feet now. Today, no one would believe that there was a beautiful park around the King Edward VII statue, which stands as a testimony to the neglected heritage.

The State Archaeology and Museums Department, whose prime responsibility is to save and conserve the unprotected monuments in the State, needs to pay attention towards this rare structure. The Lokayukta Department, for which maintaining the statue and surrounding area may not amount to much, could take up steps to bring life to the heritage spot. It needs to be seen if the king’s plea for attention will be heard.

(Published 25 March 2013, 14:21 IST)

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