Thursday, December 3, 2009


Historical sites in India have gone missing...

When it comes to the ‘missing act’, world renowned magician, Mr P C Sarkar, would lose hands down to certain realities in his own land. If Mr Sarkar could make an entire train or a monument disappear in front of thousands of people, here in India, hundreds of historical monuments are disappearing in front of a billion people. The only difference between Mr Sarkar and the later is, that whatever the master magician made disappear, reappeared, but in the later case, whatever has disappeared has disappeared forever! And here I’m referring to none other than those 34 historical monuments which have gone ‘missing’, as stated by Ministry of Culture!!

A few months back, the cultural ministry admitted the fact that around 34 monuments are untraceable. Around 12 monuments are missing from Delhi itself - Moti Gate, Phool Chadar, Mubarakabad, Barakhamba and Alipur Cemetery, Joga Bai Mound, Shamsi Tallab, Mehrauli and Nicholson statue; eight from UP – from Lucknow, Banda, Hardoi and Jalaun, and few others from J&K - the rock carvings of Sitala, Narada, Brahma, and a cave temple. Similar missing incidents were also found in Karnataka - a pre-historic site, Gujarat - an ancient site in Surendranagar, Haryana - Mughal Kos Minar and Rajasthan - Nagar Fort – to name a few!

The concerned authorities blamed the whole ‘disappearing act’ to the growing urbanisation, commercialisation and infrastructural projects. This clearly indicates complete lack of co-ordination between the cultural ministry and other different departments that deal with developmental initiatives. Hence, the authorities or the ministry that gives clearance for developmental projects - neither have any idea of the presence of the historic monument in the site area nor did they find it worth preserving the same. Neither did the cultural ministry keep a check nor did anyone raise any alarm. Otherwise it is practically impossible to remove a huge monument and build something else overnight or in a few weeks time.

However, learning from past mistakes, the culture ministry has finally decided to recruit 10,000 attendants in order to safeguard the remaining 3,675 monuments. But then with idols and other artefacts being stolen and openly sold in international markets, mere recruitment of attendants will not solve the problem in the long run. There had been numerous cases where symbols/ idols and precious items of historical and cultural importance were found stolen. In spite of having attendants, many sites like the ancient copper-plated temple, ancient cave temples in the northern town of Basohli have been reduced to ruins.

The solution to this could be adapted from various initiatives taken up by various governments, globally, with a singular objective of restoring their historical legacy. London, for example; boasts of having somewhere around 500,000 well-maintained heritage structures, which also attracts scores of tourists. This is what India needs to learn and replicate – a proven PPP model, through which we need to make sure that our historical sites are professionally managed and well-maintained. To further this initiative and make this model more economically viable we must also need to make them ‘tourist-friendly’, to earn revenues, which could then be used in maintaining of such sites. Firms like Getty Foundation, Dharmothana Trust, Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels are doing wonders along with maintaining its historical essence, in India itself. All in all, we, the stakeholders of our legacy need to realise that history cannot always be recreated, and once lost, it is lost forever!


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