India is the seat of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Ironically, we have grown blasé and indifferent towards our rich history and cultural legacy. According to a recent report, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), responsible for the care of India’s ancient relics and monuments, admits that 35% of the ancient relics and monuments in its supervision have disappeared due to negligence.
The Taj Mahal has no doubt been maintained impeccably, but what about the deplorable state to which walls of ancient fortresses, havelis, and palaces have been reduced? Used as public latrines or as canvasses for graffiti, saying something like ‘Rohan loves Sudeshna’, these national monuments have now a sad tale to tell. Vandalism of ancient buildings and shrines and using them as haunts to sell drugs, as garbage dumps or as extended storerooms is agonizing, given the fact that these buildings have once witnessed a very romantic era of Indian history. Perhaps it’s better for these ancient monuments and relics to be lost than bear the evident neglect of the ASI. This contemptuous attitude towards history and antiquity is nothing but a projection of our current political traits and contemporary culture.
In Mandi, the heritage buildings and monuments are in a state of sad dilapidation because the district administration, municipal council of Mandi, nor even the ASI have any concrete plans for the restoration and conservation of these ancient monuments. The Panchavakhtar Temple has become a drug den, a dwelling for the homeless, and of course an unpaid sulabh complex. Take a look at the heritage structures and monuments in Keonjhar which lie in total neglect and have decayed to a wretched state. Doesn’t it seem a farce when the state governments plan to observe the World Heritage Day in an elaborate way involving workshops, rallies and what not?
Heritage sites like the Baldev Jew temple, Rajnagar Matha, Sidha Jagannath temple, the king and queen’s palace –the pageants of the erstwhile princely state of Keonjhar are in a state of complete dilapidation due to the apathy of the authorities. Priceless belongings depicting Sikh history have been rotting in historic sites located in Patiala. It is an undeniable responsibility of the government to preserve and restore these crumbling relics of India depicting various eras of glory in Indian history.
In a city like Kolkata, there are numerous heritage buildings, the restoration of which can add to Kolkata’s fading glory. But the West Bengal Government is thoroughly negligent about it. They are more concerned about installing Trident Lamp Posts in an attempt to make Kolkata “a second London” to quote a famous politician.
Organizations like the the Archaeological Survey of India should be given a thorough shakedown so that they break out of their complacent stupor and undertake serious projects to restore the innumerable heritage monuments and relics of India. Here we should particularly learn from the foreign countries like the U.S. which have successfully preserved heritage sites .
India is a third world country no doubt. But it’s undeniable that we have a rich heritage. Isn’t it the duty of the government to allocate a portion of the annual budget to conserve and restore the heritage sites and follow it up seriously?