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Uncovering Karnataka’s hidden gems

Uncovering Karnataka’s hidden gems

By Prema Viswanathan

Network of Women in Media, India- Bengaluru chapter (NWMB) members at a meet in May 2023. Photo by Sandhya Mendonca

Consider this fact: London has 31,432 heritage sites that are protected. New York has 37,600. And New Delhi? A shockingly low 1,271!

Meera Iyer. Photo by Prema Viswanathan

This nugget of information was one of many chilling facts disclosed by Meera Iyer, independent writer, researcher and convenor of the Bengaluru chapter of INTACH, during a talk organised by the NWMB at the Bangalore Press Club on 27 May 2023. If we narrow down the description of heritage to built monuments, India has only 3,691 which are bestowed national protection, of which Karnataka’s share is a mere 747. And of the 6,000 state protected monuments, Karnataka houses 748.

The irony of these startling statistics hits home when one considers the richness and diversity of India’s cultural treasure house.

Given this sad state of affairs, it is unfortunate that any discussion on history and heritage is viewed as a hot potato today, when political sensitivities are as fragile as the artefacts that constitute our collective inheritance. Meera adroitly sidestepped controversy by focusing on the efforts that are under way to preserve our heritage and what civil society can contribute to push the authorities to adhere to legal safeguards.

Photo by Prema Viswanathan

INTACH has been undeterred by the plethora of challenges it has encountered while attempting to change the mindset of stakeholders towards the preservation of Bengaluru’s heritage, pointed out Meera. Indeed, the organisation has lately been working with the government as well as private donors on several projects. For instance, there was a project involving a school building in Bengaluru and another for restoring a building within the city’s police quarters, which belonged to the government, but was privately funded. Another collaborative venture is the ongoing restoration of the railway station buildings, which is again private funded. Alongside, INTACH has also been pushing the authorities to update and strengthen the legal safeguards so essential to protect our collective cultural inheritance.

It’s not just the government that is to blame for ignoring our hidden architectural artefacts. The apathy of residents towards the need to preserve heritage buildings in the city was a disheartening trend, Meera said. She recalled the pathetic state of Devanahalli fort several years ago when she chanced on it. It was that encounter which spurred her to don the mantle of the custodian of Bengaluru’s long-forgotten heritage.

© 2024 Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI).

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