Heritage - a matter of pride
A street in Vizag Old Town.
It was a motley group of people- architects, doctors, students, journalists and business persons- that gathered at the Hawa Mahal by the beachfront for a very special occasion on April 18 - to celebrate the World Heritage Day.
Organised by the local chapter of the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the event also saw representatives of erstwhile royalty of the region like Daspalla, Kurupam, Bobbili and Jeypore coming together and evincing keen interest in the finer points of architecture, matters of heritage, restoration and the like. That the venue of the gathering - a beautiful structure overlooking the sea - was itself a heritage building, was not lost on those present.
Earlier on September 27, 2001, INTACH organised a "Heritage Walk'' on the World Tourism Day. The idea was to generate awareness about the organisation and heritage issues.
INTACH, is the premier body in the country in charge of preservation, restoration and promotion of architecture and cultural heritage. Its local chapter was reconstituted in March 2001 with an architect, G Srinivas Murthy, appointed co-convener, the Collector being convener.
Murthy, a young person, as it were, looking at heritage, is the right person for the job. He seems to possess an aiding commitment, the knowledge required and an immense drive.
``My agenda is to get people back into the fold. An organisation like INTACH has to be people-oriented. It is their heritage and unless people come forward and do their bit to protect and preserve it, nothing big can be achieved,'' he says.
A survey undertaken by him revealed that a majority of heritage buildings were privately owned by erstwhile royalties. To his surprise, none of them was even aware of the INTACH's existence and its field of operations here. So contacting and roping them in became a priority.
At the moment, he is excited as he believes that members of the erstwhile royalty have agreed on coming out with a "Vizag Heritage Declaration" to which both the Government and private owners of heritage properties would be signatories. This would state that henceforth they would take responsible steps towards preservation and protection of heritage properties.
``This is a huge step since properties earlier were being sold or broken down for commercial exploitation.'' Significantly, the local chapter has undertaken listing of heritage buildings and precincts from across the district with a detailed format being developed. More than 200 buildings have been identified and classified on the basis of age, architectural and archaeological importance and socio-historic context.
The INTACH Conservation Centre at Bhubaneswar has taken up restoration of the Kurupam monument near the Shanti Ashram in the city. Work is expected to be completed by September this year. Also, the erstwhile royal family of Jeypore has initiated the process of restoring the Hawa Mahal. There is a proposal to convert it into a heritage hotel and resort with an art gallery and museum also being planned.
INTACH is also supporting efforts at preserving the Dutch heritage in Bhimili and has started on a documentation for the town. "These will include development of certain heritage precincts into tourist attractions," says Murthy.
V. S. Krishna
Photo: C.S.S. Gourinath
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