When i was young, my mom used to narrate a bed time story to me about a man who faces consecutive hardships in life and loses faith in the worldly pleasures and prays to the God to let him know why he had been made to go through so many hardships. One day, a long lost friend meets the man and the man rants to his friend all the hardship stories that he had to offer. However, the friend tells him that he should be thankful for only facing hardships in life and not losing his loved ones or his own life or something more important in life. The friend in turn narrates his own story of having lost his loved ones over the past few years and his own deteriorating physical and mental health. As a result, the main protagonist realises his folly, identifies his negative attitude towards life and decides to work upon himself. Moral of the story is that even though times are hard for all of us but it is enough that many of us are alive and hale and hearty and staying with our families or in touch with them. This time is surely hard for our businesses and families but as they say, “this too shall pass”!
The word ‘Heritage’ brings out a smile on many people’s faces specially those who know that Heritage depicts a sense of belonging to a place, person or a time in history. I am sure if i say the terms, the Forbidden City, the Taj Mahal, the Great wall of China, the Smokey mountains etc it will transport you in another world while evoking feeling of pride and of course, wanderlust. In the current scenario of COVID 19 and the lockdown, it goes without saying that tourism will be severly hit and countries are pinning hope on domestic tourism to recover faster than International tourism.
This World Heritage day in the midst of a near- global lockdown due to Corona Virus, presents a wonderful opportunity for us to waste less time and effort on work related intra-city travel, and take out some time to ponder on the things we are blessed to have. Notable among those countless blessings is tangible and intangible heritage that have been bestowed upon all of us!
World Heritage Day 2020 theme
The theme for ‘Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility’, reflects the global context of heritage as part of cultural identity at a time of rapid population shift, conflict, and environmental uncertainty. The global theme recognises that heritage in the form of practices, collections, places and landscapes– are valued by diverse groups of people. Thus, the umbrella theme focusses on the relationships between cultural groups and their collective responsibility for the care and safeguarding of the significant attributes, meanings, and values of heritage.
If we go by UNESCO World Heritage sites stats, we can see that there
In the above map, sites marked in yellow are cultural heritage sites, those in green are natural heritage sites and those that are a mix of yellow and green dots are Mixed heritage sites. The red dots on the map depict Heritage sites in danger! 53 UNESCO World Heritage sites are in danger. If one looks closely Europe dominates the section of Cultural Heritage sites but when it comes to Natural Heritage sites, Asia rules the roost.
The following graphic will give more clarity on World Heritage sites:
Country wise Breakup of UNESCO World Heritage sites reveals that China and Italy rule the list, closely followed by Spain, Germany and France and India, in that order.
Case of India
India comes in 6th place of UNESCO World Heritage list with 30 Cultural, 7 Natural and 1 Mixed heritage sites. Considering the rich cultural history of India and its cultural heritage attributed to various dynasties of different origins ruling over the land right from Magadha dynasty (779 BCE onwards) to British empire that ended with Indian Independence in 1947 that led them to build monuments for positive recall. Thus, over a period of approximately 2000 years, there have been numerous monuments boasting of rich historical equity and dating to various periods of Indian history. Many of those monuments are in a bad shape if at all they are in existence.
There are 2 important things to note here:
- UNESCO does not and possibly can not cover the lesser known monuments of any country including India. Thus, the ones that are listed in UNESCO shall be put under surveillance but what happens to the rest of the monuments?
- Are conservation strategies in place for those lesser known monuments? Are we, as citizens ready to realise our responsibility of not harming those rich pieces of history?
Keeping the above points in mind, BnBNation team had explored the lesser known heritage sites in Delhi to gauge the number of heritage monuments and the up keep of such sites. Mr Arjun Kumar, who conducts such heritage walks as a hobby, shared his rich knowledge about each monument.
Heritage walk: Begumpur Mosque, Delhi
Begumpur Mosque, Delhi is considered the Jama Masjid of the Sultan dynasty of Tughlaqs (1321-1414 AD). Of the 64 domes of 9 feet height, many have crippled and fallen down and only a few are left and that too in a bad condition!
Heritage walk: Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi
The beautiful fort in a sprawling area on the banks of Yamuna river was built by Feroshah Tughlaq (1351-1388 AD) of Sultan era. It was built when it was realised that Tughlakad started facing water crisis due to which the city of Firozabad came into existence.
Heritage walk: Hauz Khas, Delhi
The Heritage walk conducted on 23rd Nov 2019 was a special one as it involved many monuments who were hidden from sight and were totally unknown to Delhiites. We revisited the historical heritage of many monuments including Dadi-Poti tomb, Nili masjid, Chor minar and Idgah. Covering all of these in one morning in a period of 3 hours was a mammoth task and only Arjun could have managed to enlighten all the group members with the most relevant information in such a short span of time.
- Rare Gems are rare to find- The foremost observation from the Heritage walks was that Delhi is not just about the Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Humayun Tomb etc. There are rare gems of history hidden all over the city which are vanishing fast and can be explored with a keen eye for detail. This case is similar for other parts of India.
- Damage to lesser known monuments- Due to understaffed Archaeological Survey of India and business-as-usual approach of the government machinery, the lesser known but very significant monuments are getting neglected and falling prey to ignorant citizens who scribble on the walls of the monument, illegal occupation by nearby or needy community and animal feces, which end up in harming the monument in ways more than one.
- Role of Community- It makes me wonder that if Delhi, being the capital of India, can have neglected monuments, it is tough to imagine the state of monuments all over the country! In light of the above observations, the community or a set of communities, be it Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) or religious communities or schools or educational institutions have to take up the role of taking care of the most easily accessible monument.
- Once the COVID 19 lockdown is over and the Corona virus cases stabilize, it is important for every citizen to undertake Heritage walks in order to become aware of the heritage of the land where he belongs. An emotional cum scientific trigger would enable greater participation in the World Heritage Day 2020 theme of ‘Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility‘.
- Sustinable Living- Lockdown due to COVID 19 and the lessons that it has taught us and is continuing to teaching us, is Sustainable Living and Sustainable Travel. The concept of Bed and Breakfast accommodations relies on the tenets of conservation of resources- natural and man-made.