Heritage buildings in state of disrepair
QUERIES POSED to residents about heritage structures in the City inevitably throw up two answers; Lalbagh Palace and Rajwada. Those recently arrived in Indore could be forgiven for thinking that these were the only two noteworthy examples of built heritage in the City.india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 14:31 IST
QUERIES POSED to residents about heritage structures in the City inevitably throw up two answers; Lalbagh Palace and Rajwada. Those recently arrived in Indore could be forgiven for thinking that these were the only two noteworthy examples of built heritage in the City.
A fact that seems disconcertingly strange considering that Indore and its surroundings have been inhabited by humans for over 6,000 years. Excavations conducted on the banks of the Khan River by the State Archaeological Department in ’73 yielded clay, copper and ivory artefacts dating back to 4,100 BC.
The saga of modern Indore can be traced back to the aftermath of the Treaty of Mandsaur in 1818 when it replaced Mahidpur as the state capital. A British resident was headquartered at Indore in what came to be known as the Residency area.
The residency, including the Chhaoni (cantonment), was under the Resident’s direct control and the writ of the Holkar administration did not run here.
In 1854 the Resident became the Agent General of the Governor General (AGG) for Central India. This enhanced the City’s importance and many of the chiefs of princely states in the region constructed their kothis (guest houses and lodges) in and around the Residency. Prominent among these were Gwalior Boarding House, Dewas Kothi, Sitamau Kothi, Rajgarh Kothi, Ratlam Kothi and Mehndiwali Kothi.
Although they were later adapted for reuse, the old part of the City, is littered with the vestigial remains of the palatial buildings which form the bulk of the City’s built heritage.
Most of these buildings, as well as several others dating back to the ‘20s and ‘30’s, are today in a state of disrepair; as much a result of public apathy as it is of Governmental neglect.
Unfortunately, little is known of the provenance of most of these heritage structures. The knowledge that does exist is in no way definitive being coloured by popular perception and myth.
In this series the Hindustan Times shall list little-known heritage structures of the City along with whatever historical information exists about them. Although the series is basically meant to acquaint residents with little-known aspects and instil a sense of pride in their rich structural heritage, we hope it will also move the authorities into adopting measures to conserve these buildings.
Mission School/Seminary: Situated across the GPO on the bustling AB Road the Mission school dates back to 1882. Valued at over Rs 12 crore the property is currently mired in an ownership dispute between the Bhopal diocese of the Church of North India, Indian Canadian Presybterian Mission and Joseph Parihar, a defrocked priest from Sehore.
Constructed mostly of brick and lime with timber used for embellishment the two-storied building boasts a classical façade with clean lines that is distinctly colonial.
The Mission School came about as a result of restrictions imposed by the Holkar Durbar on the activities of Christian missionaries. Unable to procure land for new schools because of the strictures missionaries of the United Church of Canada led by one Rev Burke appealed to Rajmata Bhagirathi Bai who donated a tract of land near GPO.
Displaying great haste the missionaries completed the building in no time at all and started the Canadian Mission School for Girls in the very same year the land was allotted. The high school was upgraded to a college in 1887 and shifted to its new premises of Christian College eight years later.
The girls’ school was later shifted to Masihi High School. The old school premises today go by the name of Seminary compound. The front portion of the building today hosts a bookstore while residential quarters of church staff lie to the rear. The first floor plays host to the liturgical offices.
Power House Building: Located off the Polo Ground Road the building was constructed by Shivaji Rao Holkar in 1906 at a cost of Rs 2,71,000 to supply electricity to streetlights. Two hundred and fifty three chimney lamps had been installed to illumine City roads, then largely unmetalled.
In 1903 the chimney lamps were replaced by gas lamps. The system, however, proved ineffectual. This led Shivaji Rao to commission the construction of the power house building to house the streetlights which were installed on wooden poles. Initially, the streetlights were kept lit only for a part of the night. However, from 1914 onwards the lights were kept switched on throughout the night.
Today the structure is largely forgotten and lies in a state of utter neglect. The, now defunct, Indore circle of INTACH petitioned the State Archaeological Department several times to preserve the structure in the early ’80s but to no avail.
(To be concluded)