'Delhi is worthy of Unesco recognition'

heritage city

After years of consideration and missing the deadline once, Delhi has finally been nominated as India’s pick for Unesco’s World Heritage City title.

Though the Delhi Government had been contemplating it for long, and, caught in bureaucratic regulations, it missed the file-submission date in 2012, the Union Ministry of Culture has finally zeroed in on Delhi’s dossier and will hand it over to Unesco by
January 31.

Historians, archaeologists and experts are keeping their fingers crossed as a status like Unesco World Heritage City brings along several benefits and entitlements.
The Delhi convenor of Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), who also worked tirelessly on Delhi’s candidature, Professor AGK Menon, says, “First and foremost is the pride attached to having your city listed as world heritage. There are 220 such cities listed by Unesco but sadly none of them in
India. We have several historically important sites in Delhi, three of which – Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar – are already Unesco World Heritage Sites, but
sadly, the city hasn’t got the status yet.”

It will bring about a total change in how we perceive our heritage, says Menon, “Do you know, Shahjahanabad is listed as a slum in government records when it is one of the seven imperial cities of Delhi with a string of iconic palaces, temples and mosques? Once Delhi is recognised as a world heritage city by Unesco, the government will be bound by law to take care of these establishments, or else, the title will be taken away.”

The international conservation funds and expertise that the status will accompany is another reason for history enthusiasts’ excitement. Activist and writer Sohail Hashmi says, “It will be a big advantage for Delhi. Our monuments will not have to decay in the absence of the right know-how and monetary support. Also, imagine the kind of international attention it will bring to Delhi. Right now, tourists come to Delhi, stay for a day here and then move on to Agra and Jaipur. Delhi will greatly benefit from the exposure and foreign exchange.”

History lovers in Delhi are only too excited at Delhi finally, potentially, getting its due recognition. Vikramjit Rooprai of the Youth for Heritage Foundation, says, “Delhi has been the centre of trade, religious and cultural transactions across Asia for centuries. Look at our architecture. The Birla Mandir and our Jain temples are a fine example of Gujarati workmanship. Kings came from Telengana to build the first octagonal tomb in India at Nizamuddin. We see Persian influence in garden monuments and the Turk style in hamams.”

Not just that, Vikramjit says,the classic language Urdu was born and evolved in Delhi, a fact unknown to many people. “Amir Khusro merged Hindi and Persian to develop Hindavi, which later came to be known as Urdu. The famous song Zehal-i Miskin, which has featured in Hindi movies too, has alternate lines in Persian and Brajbhasha. It was penned by Khusro.”

Himanshu Verma of Red Earth, who leads heritage walks across Delhi, adds that the Government is also promoting beautiful festivals and fairs in the city actively, these days. “The cultural calendar of Delhi is chock-a-block with events whether it be Surajkund, book fairs, dance and music festivals. Delhi is one happening cultural hub even in today’s time. It is worthy of Unesco recognition and all the appreciation that it
can get.”  

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