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A legacy revisited

World heritage day
Last Updated 17 April 2015, 14:48 IST

World over the image of a city is inextricably woven with its iconic buildings and these stand as a testimony to a rich past. With ‘World Heritage Day’ here, the question to ask is whether one has done enough to preserve the heritage buildings in Bengaluru. There are many citizens here who say that this city has neglected its prized buildings due to rapid urbanisation. So how can this heritage be best preserved and what more needs to be done?

Sathya Prakash Varanashi, an architect, says, “Bengaluru is the only city with heritage being given the least priority. People have ignored heritage buildings because of urbanisation and an increase in land value. There is negligence of old buildings, lack of stringent regulation and lack of enforcement. People need to be aware that preserving heritage is the structural aspect of any society.” “Preserving the heritage of a society is the best way to learn about the culture and tradition of that society. India never had a ‘Heritage Day’. It’s a movement that has come from the European nations. Europe was in the process of losing its heritage monuments and people there felt that it had to be revived to preserve their culture. Now we are following suit,” he adds.

The City’s heritage buildings include the Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore Palace, Mayo Hall, GPO, Central Library among others and are a matter of pride. The important thing is to preserve the past for the future and create an awareness, especially among the young, on the need for keeping them in good condition and appreciating them.
Roger Joseph Lurshay, a young professional, feels that youngsters are unaware about the City’s heritage. With malls and pubs coming along, one’s heritage is completely forgotten. “Monuments of the City unfold a whole new world of historical, cultural, architectural, traditional legacy and past of Bengaluru. I would like the existing monuments that have stood the test of time to be maintained well and revive the ones that can be restored.” He also adds that the buildings made during the colonial period should be preserved.                                                                        
Meera Iyer, co-convener of the Bangalore chapter of INTACH, explains, “Studies in many places around the world have shown how residents identify more strongly with a city that has retained its heritage and have less of a sense of belonging in a city that has not preserved its past. Identifying with a city leads to a sense of belonging, which is an important aspect of people’s well being. In other words, heritage leads to positive things that may not be quantifiable with current tools.

Labelling or declaring it as a heritage monument is the best way to ensure that it is protected. The remaining part of Bangalore Fort, for example, still survives only because it is a heritage monument protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Otherwise, it might have gone the way of the rest of the fort which was dismantled to make way for roads, schools and hospitals.”

 “For the ASI, a site cannot be a heritage site unless it is more than 100 years old. But now a site can be less than 100 years old and still be considered heritage. Age cannot be the only criterion for something to be considered heritage. There can be other considerations like maintenance, architectural integrity, value to the cityscape and representative of a particular period in history,” she adds. 

But young people do feel that one can still do a lot to preserve the heritage buildings. Ullas, a young architect, feels that conducting cultural events, heritage walks and presenting awards is an innovative way to preserve and introduce people to the rich heritage. “Bengaluru is not just about Vidhana Soudha or Tipu’s Fort. There are a lot of other places like Vidyarthi Bhavan, Mahila Seva Samaj, LIC building and more that are also part of our rich heritage which have been ignored.  So having such events will introduce people to understand the roots, history and a sense of belonging to the city.”

Mark Rasquinha, a teacher, sums up, “Heritage sites are difficult to maintain. It also depends on how many tourists a heritage site can attract. The need to generate income is universal. In such situations, having events is a great way to attract crowds and generate some income which should be used to preserve the site.”

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(Published 17 April 2015, 14:48 IST)

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