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Preserve City?s medieval splendour

THE LIVING Heritage Alliance, the organisation for promoting conservation of heritage structures, has rendered a remarkable service to Bhopal and to the State by holding an exhibition on the architectural heritage of the City in New Delhi.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 01:18 IST

THE LIVING Heritage Alliance, the organisation for promoting conservation of heritage structures, has rendered a remarkable service to Bhopal and to the State by holding an exhibition on the architectural heritage of the City in New Delhi.

Not only the exhibition would enhance awareness about the town’s splendid architecture of the nawabi era, it also is likely to bolster tourist traffic to the town.

The exhibition was held last month at the well-regarded venue of the Art Gallery of India International Centre. Showcasing the architectural splendour of Bhopal, the exhibition was an exposition of the work jointly carried out by students of architecture of Prof  Savita Raje of the local Malana Azad National Institute of Technology and Prof  Serge Santelli, Dean of the famous school of Architecture of Paris during the eponymous “Bhopal Workshop” that they conducted in early 2004.

Perhaps, such a detailed study of the architectural heritage of Bhopal was never conducted before. No wonder, it has taken them around two years to put together the results of their labour to be able to display them in an  exhibition.
It is well and good that the exhibition was held at Delhi. One would, however, like it to be mounted at Bhopal as well.

After all, it would be educative for the local people to look at their inheritance that they, wittingly or unwittingly, have allowed to go to seed. More than the common  people, perhaps, it is the local authorities concerned who need to be made aware of the neglected rich heritage of the town which they should, at least from now on, start restoring and preserving for the benefit of current and future generations.

Displaying photographs and drawings of various heritage structures of the town, the exhibition justifiably gave primacy to the remarkably planned Chowk area – the commercial hub that has come down to us from the erstwhile nawabs. Curiously, though at least a couple of centuries old, it has received scant attention from the archaeological and civic authorities.

Lacking a sense of history, the authorities never gave it the attention that they have lavished on the (so-called) New Market. Established around only 40 years ago, New Market has needed repeated care and attention for improvement of its appearance and ambience.

Unfortunately, every time it quickly lapsed into its usual chaotic ways, returning to the slum-ish appearance that it has always tended to wear. Even presently, a massive redevelopment work is underway to bring about further improvements. (It is not quite clear whether funding is being made out of JLN National Urban Renewal Mission. Under the Mission priority is to be accorded to redevelopment of inner (old) city areas.

Thanks to the short-sighted planning, the needs of the New Market, seemingly, outstripped those of the Chowk, which may have to wait a while for its turn for a face-lift.

The Living Heritage Alliance, from all evidences, has contributed more than its share to bring the enviable architectural wealth of this town on to the centre-stage.

It is now for the government to step in and, with active participation of locally available departmental experts and academics, draw out a practical road-map for restoration and preservation of the heritage structures in the town.

While the entire Sadar Manzil area merits to be declared as a “heritage complex”, the Chowk deserves a comprehensive package for revival of its medieval ambience and to make it more user-friendly.

A census of ancient and historical structures, suggested in these columns in 2004, needs to be carried out not only in the capital, but all over the Sate, littered as it is with decaying ancient monuments. A database, needless to say, would be of advantage to the government, the professionals and the  curious.