Thursday, 24 October 2013

"... and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage"

My sister, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, called home few days back to tell us about her trip to a small town called Killybegs in Donegal. She was explaining about her sight-seeing experiences and then jokingly said, “Those people have preserved a tiny stone inscription that is just few hundred years old, and they were so proud about it!! We have so many buildings in our country that are thousands of years old!” We laughed about it for some time and after a pause, we realised how sad we all were.

Yes, we do have so many buildings that are thousands of years old, almost in every city, every town and every village in India. But are we really taking pride in the fact that our country has such a rich heritage? Is it just because, there is so much in abundance that we are very ignorant about it? If that is the case, aren’t we all committing a deadly sin?

There is always an argument about how westernised our “culture” is becoming. Maybe it is time, we start worrying about certain things that we are not western about - celebrating our heritage structures. It is a known fact that, our country boasts of so many historical monuments which date back to thousands of years. What about the other half, the monuments that we have forgotten to celebrate? What about the ones that is already in the process of dying? What about the ones that have already been buried beneath our feet? Well, what can we do after all! We are normal Indian citizens. We have enough issues to worry about like the petrol prices and the onion prices – where is the time to preserve all these old buildings? But yes, we do have time for protests about dress-codes, rallies against how our “culture” is getting spoiled due to western influence!

We have learnt and unlearnt so many things from the West. But I feel, one of the most important things that we have somehow not learnt or probably forgotten, over the years, is – celebrating our history!

Every time I visit an old temple, it always amazes me that I am walking on the stone that was laid by skilled craftsmen thousands of years ago. When I touch the walls and the sculptures, I imagine how sculptors would have done this back then. I always feel wonderful that I am alive to see this structure, walk around and feel the spaces that were made centuries ago. But the feeling disappears when I see scribbling like “I love you Hema”, images of heart with an arrow, signatures, cell phone numbers,etc., on that wall. I think these people should start using their bathroom walls for their emotional let out (as well)

It is very disheartening to see these beautiful old structures turning into large garbage dumping yards, a forest of thorny bushes or a doodle wall for “creative cartoonists”. These structures were once the dream of a royal king. His dream would have been to create a monument, so powerful, that will stand tall for centuries to tell his fame. It did stand alright. If only he knew what was going to happen to it, he would have probably created them in wood or mud that would have been demolished long back.

Some well preserved monuments DO exist in our country. The number is very very negligible, considering the rich history of this land, we are all proud of. Even among these well preserved monuments, some of them are in fact well preserved, just because they are religious in nature. Why does it always have to be either religious or political? For example, a very famous temple in India would also be a historically and architecturally significant building. But unfortunately, we end up highlighting only the “religious” part of the structure, and fail to appreciate the beauty of the structure and the whole vision with which it was built. Is it because I am an architect, that I feel this way? I don’t think so.

It is just not fair to these beautiful structures to come under just one tag – “religion”. It should be much more than that. People should be made to realise the significance of that building in history, made to realise why this was not done in any other part of the world before, why our land is filled with rich heritage. People should be banned from smearing oil or kumkum all over the temple walls. Temples and religious structures built by the kings were not only meant for worship. It was a stamp of their powerful establishment, a standing proof of what they were capable of, an exhibition of their skilled craftsmanship.

If not celebrate, let’s at least try not to destroy them. Let us preserve that last few traces of our rich history at least for our kids. The irony is, to those few people who travel all the way from the west to learn about our culture, we welcome them with a bold sign that says, “non- hindus not allowed inside”

I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of itWell, we don’t really mean it! Do we?