Tuesday, 11 June 2013

India: Cultural Patrimony and its Preservation: the Idea of 'Heritage'

I have just had the most amazing opportunity to visit and stay in Bangalore, India, for 10 days with my University for a Grand Challenge Dilemma focusing on issues of censorship, heritage, and the arts in India in the contemporary world, and how history has influenced changing culture in India, particularly due to the rapid influence of westernisation. It was a breathtaking experience and a real eye-opener.

The primary aspects we had to bear in mind included:

Heritage is not objective. It is a cultural concept embodying certain values and ideals. Each of us has our own ideas about what heritage is, meaning that these ideas are inevitably conditioned by our own upbringings, experiences and cultural context.

The model and style of cultural heritage in India is very different from that in the UK. For instance, there is perhaps more of a priority on preserving religious monuments in India. The state is much more extensively involved in preservation in the UK, with greater funding.

The western concept or definition of 'heritage' arguably does not translate well into Indian culture, and no attempt should be made to do so anyway, since the respective cultures of both countries are so different from one another.

To what extent is India able to retain and protect aspects of its cultural heritage in the face of various pressures, including modernisation and globalisation? When we interviewed natives, we had many differing answers, which was fascinating.

The trip to India including both academic aspects (lectures) and practical tasks (visits to villages, monuments, temples, the city of Bangalore, and elsewhere). The lectures focused on the core of Indian literature, the vedas, upanishads, darshanas, and Vedi architecture. The lectures were intriguing, given by renowned scholars in India, and encompassed:

- Villages of India: the soul of India lies in its villages, as famously noted by Gandhi. Villages are self-sustaining, agriculture-based, and are not dependent on cities. Villages preserve traditional culture, and it has been noted that around 69% of Indians today live in villages, of which there are at least 500,000.
- Indian Psychology: Exploring Inner Dimensions and Self-management: for me, this was perhaps the most interesting lecture. Unlike western psychology, which is grounded firmly in the external lab, Indian psychology is much more subjective and philosophical and began with the soul before moving onto studying the human mind and then behaviour. Psychology revolves around belief in 'existential awareness' and koshas, with a focus on developing self-awareness and expanding consciousness.
- Ancient Art & Architecture of India: this focused on Ancient Indian art and architecture from the Indus Valley Civilisation to the medieval period.
- Indian culture and its contribution to the world.
- Native aspects of Indian nutrition: we were all rather dubious about this 'scientific' lecture!
- Indigenous games.
- Indian cinema: an introduction: very fascinating lecture on how Indian cinema has grown and developed, celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and how it differs from British cinema in being more readily available to people at lower prices, as a regular way of enjoying oneself rather than being a privilege.
- Indian film.

Of course, the practical excursions in developing our insights into Indian culture today were incredible too, encompassing:

- Visiting a village: many people's highlight.
- Visiting schools.
- Visiting a guruluka (sort of religious school for children).
- Visiting Bangalore.
- Visiting Mysore: a renowned cultural and historical place.
- Visiting temples and the statue of Queen Victoria: showing the continuing influence of the British legacy in India today.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip and it will be exciting to write about our findings for our Grand Challenge, to be presented to the other groups doing the Challenge on Thursday 13 June.

An Indian village.


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  2. Being expert in imaging and scanning large scale objects using the latest technology I wonder if I could participate in a project aimed at preserving Indian historical monuments, buildings, outdoor/indoor points of interest. It needs to be noted that I have a special affinity to India.
    Please, advise

  3. Gilbert Hill is a rare and unique volcanic structure that is now in the danger of collapsing because of haphazard growth of buildings around it.
    The Gilberth Hill is India 65-million-year-old Hill, Gilbert Hill is certainly the best place in suburban Mumbai. It is the only hill of its kind in India; Gilbert Hill was declared a National Park in 1952 by the Central Government under the Forest Act. In 2007, after years of lobbying by geologists, the hill was declared a Heritage Grade- II structure by the Maharashtra state Government and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), and all quarrying and other activities around the monument were prohibited. Over the period of time, the 200-foot-high vertical columns of the Gilbert hill are similar to the Devils Tower in Wyoming, and the Devils Post Pile National Monument in eastern California, USA and Gilbert Hill is one of only two Hills in the world of the same type. The other one is in USA, the Devil's Tower.
    Gilbert Hill which is now been declared heritage-II, by Mumbai Municipal Corporation and a huge area has been earmark as the boundaries of the declared heritage, now it is threatened by a rash of urban constructions around the pre-historical monolith.
    All development in area surrounding Heritage Grade-II shall be regulated and controlled, ensuring that it does not pose any problems or view of Heritage Grade-II.
    Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act–2010 state that the limits of prohibited area and regulated area around the monuments, archaeological sites and remains declared by the Central Government as protected have been specified in the principal Act as 100 meters and 200 meters.
    However the there are huge progress of construction and development of surrounding and adjoining area of Heritage.