'Plan a career in archeology'

The only way to reach every nook and corner of a heritage site is to perhaps seek a career in archaeology.

It is a beautiful feeling to be able to dig a trench to excavate and relive history,” says Vasant K Swarankar, chief superintending archaeologist.

The 41-year-old ASI Delhi circle chief has landed in Delhi after spending some years in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

“For years, I studied the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad district and then the forts in Jaipur. One always feels thrilled in Delhi thinking how one city houses so many monuments.”

Swarankar feels irked thinking of the increasing trend of mall culture among children.
“Does the memory linger in the young minds once they come out the mall?

Instead, if children visit heritage sites, they will mull over it and be able to connect the experience to their history textbooks.”

To bridge the gap between heritage sites and youngsters, and highlight the importance of monuments in the “cultural hub”, Swarankar is all set to take the aid of technology. “I realised one has to be innovative to be able to connect across generations.”

Recently, he came up with a Facebook page to encourage dialogue on heritage sites.

The page is currently being operated as a closed group. The page already has 647 followers.

“I am planning to hand over the technical expertise to someone so that we can enhance discussion on the capital’s heritage sites.

Every day, a meaningful post will come up which will encourage people to care more for their heritage,” says Swarankar. To woo tourists, he also launched a “free ASI application” over a month back.

New app in store

“The idea struck me when my son insisted on downloading free games from Play Store. Teenagers are always toying with Android-based phones. I thought it would be a game-changer to promote monuments through a free ASI app.”

The file size being 5 MB, it is easy to download. So far, there have been over 600 downloads.

You can get a glimpse of the capital’s ASI-protected monuments through this application. Once you click on a monument, a page opens giving its historical details.

A section ‘Published References’ comes up next, giving you an idea of  the reading material on the monument.

You can either ‘Save’ or ‘Share’ the information.

“Tourists can even plan their itinerary through the application instead of relying on anybody else. Depending on your location, the application will suggest the monuments of highest importance and proximity,” says Swarankar.

He realises the family outings of Delhiites have shifted to more attractive recreational spots.

On World Heritage Day, he opened the excavation site at Purana Quila to visitors.

An exhibition of antiquities discovered so far was a bonus.

“It was an overwhelming response. People came in batches to see the ongoing excavation. Children took active interest and were found asking so many history-related questions to their parents.”

While the first day saw a footfall of over 10,000, the second day witnessed around 6,500 visitors at the site.

A gold medalist in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology and a PhD holder, Swarankar believes citizens need to be sensitised to realise it is their responsibility to conserve heritage.

 “This sense has to be instilled from an early age. We encourage tie-ups with school. Teachers, who bring along students, tell them of the national importance of monuments.”
Archaeology is a challenging career option, he says.

“While more youngsters should be encouraged to join this field, the number of posts that ASI has on offer should be enhanced.

Manpower is always a problem. The pay scale should also improve so that it is seen as a viable career option.”

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