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October 2009 Back
 
Exhibition on martyrs at Red Fort

New Delhi: Visitors to the historic 17th century Red Fort will have an added attraction to see for the next one month. ASI in collaboration with Shaheed — Smriti Chetna Samiti is organizing an exhibition titled ‘Blood — Paintings on Young Martyrs’ that will highlight paintings of children who sacrificed their lives during the freedom struggle near Naubad Khana in Red Fort.

The exhibition will be inaugurated on October 2 by freedom fighter and president of the freedom fighters’ movement association Shashi Bhushan in the presence of ASI director-general K N Shrivastava. Other attendees will be Ajit Cour, freedom fighter and social activist, Abasahib Raut, national president of Azad Hind Munch and artist Ravichandra Gupta, founder of Shaheed — Smriti Chetna Samiti. TNN.

1 October 2009, Times City, Times of India
MCD plans heritage walk for Games visitors

Slice of history awaits Games visitors
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), in the run up to Commonwealth Games 2010, will develop heritage walk routes across historically significant spots in Old Delhi like Ghalib Ki Haweli in Ballimaran, Town Hall and Zeenat Mahal in Lal Quan. The six gates in Old Delhi — Turkman Gate, Lahori Gate, Dilli Gate, Kashmere Gate, Mori Gate and Ajmeri Gate — will be a part of the loop that will also cover famous tourist spots like Lal Quila and Jama Masjid. According to MCD engineer-in-chief Ravi Dass, the development process is being undertaken in collaboration with Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Sources said that the Delhi Government has also approached the heritage conservation body with similar plan.

"Six routes covering historically significant buildings have already been identified by us. We will develop them for heritage walk, where tourists coming during the Games can have a guided visit. Facility to cycle freely will also be made available," said Dass. He said that the project is different from Jama Masjid redevelopment plan. The MCD, said Dass, does not plan large-scale infrastructure development in the vicinity to facilitate walk but simple steps like putting up signage with distinctive heritage colour, remove encroachments, ensure systematic and better streetlights and guarantee cleanliness. "We will complete this project for sure. INTACH has already been roped in to help locate the heritage sites that can be selected for the purpose and also to assist with trained people who can guide tourists," he claimed. The MCD will display the history and significance of all selected sites with the help of historians and conservationists. Plans are to allow display of public sculptures and old wartime tanks on the route also.

The INTACH officials, when asked, confirmed that they have been approached by the civic body. "INTACH has been approached by both the Delhi Government and the MCD to conduct heritage walk during the Games. We are working on the modalities," said AGK Menon, convener of INTACH Delhi chapter. He said that the focus will be on heritage sites that remain neglected. "There are heritage sites in Old Delhi like Ghalib Ki Haveli, Seth Chunna Mall ki Haveli, Begham Razia Sultan's tomb and the Nahar Wali Haveli among others that remain out of bounds due heavily congested lanes and lack of publicity. We will highlight them," said another INTACH official. He said that plans are afloat to popularise and better other sites in the Capital like Bade Lau ka Gumbad --a Lodhi period tomb in Vasant Vihar and about 52 others in the Mehrauli area.

1 October 2009, Pioneer
Walk in Walled City to preserve history

New Delhi: The Walled City, with its crumbling old historic havelis and dirty, congested lanes, may soon get a new lease of life. On Wednesday, MCD and Unesco has joined hands to study how Shahjanabad and its neighbouring areas could be salvaged from further commercialization and encroachment.

Major problems, including conservation hurdles for havelis, were identified in a heritage walk meant to identify and understand the complexities surrounding the Walled City, was taken by urban planners and Unesco officials. What greeted the experts as they walked through the congested lanes of Old Delhi were not only architectural marvels but also the everyday problems that locals have to live with.

The project is part of Unesco’s initiative to address the pressing needs of developing nations and medium-sized cities in a complex urban scenario to safeguard their intangible heritage. ‘‘It is crucial for cities to keep their identity alive. The Unesco chair on social sustainability in historic districts aims at a social and human approach for sustainable revitalization of these districts,’’ said Marina Faetanini from Unesco UN Habit.

Vijay Singh, MCD deputy commissioner (city zone), said: ‘‘We are working with various experts, including Unesco, to highlight the various problems of the Walled City and how we plan to tackle them. Many structures have been identified by us for notification which will be undertaken soon.’’

According to sources, the Walled City accommodates 60% of the city’s wholesale trade, 25% of retail trade and 28% informal trade and services though it has only about 2% of the city’s total population. ‘‘History is seeped in the essence of every building in the Walled City, but with passage of time, we fear that it may be losing its significance. Residents are known to misuse the unique havelis and ruin the original architecture by making alterations to the existing structures,’’ said a historian.

1 October 2009, Times City, Times of India
Heritage tag for 800 Chandni Chowk havelis

MCD Keen To Convert Structures Into Hotels & Guesthouses For Commonwealth Games.
New Delhi: After being ignored for centuries, the crumbling havelis in Chandni Chowk will finally be acknowledged as heritage structures. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has identified 800 havelis — which were not included in the heritage list sent to Delhi government for notification in 2001 — for conservation. The civic agency now wants to convert them into hotels, guesthouses, etc, for Commonwealth Games.

MCD has photographed the buildings from outside and will now carry out a detailed survey of these havelis to see their condition from inside. The havelis will then be graded according to their historical significance and urgency to preserve the structure.

Said deputy commissioner, city zone, Vijay Singh: ‘‘The staff of our zonal office photographed these buildings. Any structure which had some historical element to it was photographed. We would like to include these havelis in our heritage list once the survey is over in another four months.’’

Meanwhile, a list of 775 monuments across the city is still awaiting notification as heritage structures. MCD had identified these monuments and compiled the list which was forwarded to the government for notification in 2001. Some of them have been heavily encroached while others have just given away.

Said Singh: ‘‘The heritage list compiled by us earlier does not include many havelis. The Walled City is very rich in heritage and it is necessary to save these historical structures. If a gate or facade had some heritage value, the building was photographed. We discovered a haveli in Kucha Pati Ram, which is 200-year-old.’’

MCD wants to use at least some of these 800 structures, included in the heritage list, as guesthouses and hotels. It’s permissible under the amended building bylaws. Said Singh: ‘‘We can use these havelis as guesthouses and hotels as there is shortage of guesthouses for Commonwealth Games.’’

According to the amended building bylaws, if the owner of the property agrees to maintain the listed heritage building as it is in the existing state and preserve its heritage with due repairs, the owner can use it for commercial purposes — even if the building is located in noncommercial use zone. The owner will only have to give a written undertaking to this affect and will have to get the approval of the heritage conservation committee.

Many of the havelis in Chandni Chowk are now home to families who pay a meagre amount — between Rs 25 and Rs 200 — to live in what was once a status symbol for the rich. The owners of most such havelis do not reside there any longer and are not interested in maintaining them.

Khazanchi Ki Haveli near Dariba has beautiful carvings and designs on marble pillars, but is in a very dilapidated condition. While its roof has collapsed, some of the pillars have completely given away.

1 October 2009, Times City, Times of India

Joining hands to preserve heritage

The 17th century red stone structure left a bunch of onlookers awestruck. The sheer beauty and proportion of Ghazi-ud-din ka madrasa set the tone for the heritage walk on Wednesday.
Equally awe-inspiring was the intricately carved in marble Ghazi-ud-din’s majar, inside the Anglo Arabic School compound.

fter Ajmeri Gate, the next turn was Chowk Shah Mubarak lane, with a over 200-year-old haveli (house) that originally belonged to a Kashmiri family. An open rectangular courtyard inside the main outer walls of the house gave a glimpse of the architectural style of a bygone era.
The purpose of the walk — conducted jointly by UNESCO-UN Habitat and Department of Urban Planning (School of Planning and Architecture) in association with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) — was to involve stakeholders and decision-makers in the revitalisation of this historical area. Thus MCD Deputy Commissioner (City Zone) Vijay Singh led the walk with Ballimaran councillor Renuka Gupta.

arina Faetanini, UNESCO’s programme specialist, said: “If we do not intervene, these areas would be gone for ever. We are not interested in just buildings but in the living heritage… the way these people live, their lifestyle.”

 diverse group of urban planning professionals, academics and civil servants explored several galis (lanes) and kuchas (neighbourhoods) of the walled city. Kucha Patiram, the bastion of old havelis drew attention, especially of those from abroad. Rukin-Ud-Din Masjid, a nearly 300-year-old mosque with stone carvings, also drew admiration.

he almost two-and-half km sojourn ended at Town Hall, after crossing Chawdi Bazar and Nai Sadak.

1 October 2009, Hindustan Times
Intach objects to digging at Buddhist site

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) has objected to digging up slopes of Thotlakonda to plant trees as the area is of immense archaeological value.

The Convenor of Intach, Ms Rani Sharma, Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (Vuda) in a letter to instruct its forest officials not to start digging in Thotlakonda without consulting the department of archaeology and Intach.

In an earlier letter to the vice-chairman, she had said the hill has not been fully explored and the ancient remains found there have not been studied by the department of archaeology.

Dr Lars Fogelin, a scholar from the US, after scrupulous survey, has documented innumerable aracheological finds which he found on the hill in his book, Early Buddhist Archaeology. ”There is no data on how many of these findings are intact. No government agency has determined the boundaries of protected monuments either,” she said.

Ms Sharma said digging works by Vuda in the past had caused irreparable damage to the site. Big trees like peepul and banyan trees were planted by both Vuda and other private agencies causing serious damage to the 2, 300 year old archaeological remains.

Roots of peepul and banyan trees have weakened the core structure of the Buddhist monastry on the hill.

She said the Vuda had been digging up the site in spite of repeated requests by Intach not to do so.

To recreate the ambience of the ancient Buddhist period, ponna, kadamba, cork or rain tree, lumeria, firangipani and the flowering tree called Ashoka Jonesia tree could be planted, but only on the periphery of the site.

5 October 2009, Deccn Chronicle

HIGH - LEVEL MEET - Rs 15,000 cr to clean up Ganga

The national ganga river basin authority decided by 2020 no untreated sewage would be released into the river
Even as the National Ganga River Basin Authority approved Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) for the Clean Ganga Mission, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar described the proposed institutional framework of the Authority as "weak".

The Authority, with the chief ministers of five states through which the river flows as members, met for the first time on Monday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The PM had constituted the Authority in February, a week after designating the Ganga as a national river.
The Authority decided that by 2020 no untreated sewage would be released into the river.

Domestic sewage contributes 75 per cent of the total pollution of the river while the rest is caused by industrial effluents.

The 2,500-km-long Ganga is one of the most polluted rivers in the world despite the government having spent Rs 916 crore (Rs 9.16 billion) on cleaning it since 1985.

The Ganga river basin is the largest in India, constituting 26 per cent of the country's land mass and supporting 43 per cent of its population. It has an average population density of 523 persons per sq km, making it one of the most congested river basins in the world. The basin has 230 cities and towns.

"While a comprehensive river basin management plan will be ready by December 2010, ongoing sewage treatment projects will be put on a fast track and states have been asked to formulate detailed project reports in critical pollution hotspots and major towns on the Ganga and major tributaries by November 30, 2009,"

Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh told mediapersons.

Welcoming the mission mode approach, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said the proposed institutional framework needs reexamination.

He wanted institutional structure and capacity building at the state level to ensure effective implementation of the projects. "There is no such provision at present," he said.

6 October 2009, Hindustan Times

Indus script linguistically Dravidian: expert

TIRUCHI: The Indus script is Dravidian linguistically and culturally closer to the old Tamil polity than what has been recognised so far, eminent epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan has said.

He shared some of his recent and still-not-fully-published findings relating to the interpretation of the Indus script, in an endowment lecture on ‘Vestiges of Indus Civilisation in Old Tamil’ at the 16th annual session of the Tamil Nadu History Congress, which opened here on Friday.

Mr. Mahadevan said that though the claim could be met with incredulity, the evidence he had gathered over four decades of intensive study of the sources — the Indus texts and old Tamil anthologies — had led him to the conclusion.

Mr. Mahadevan, who specialises in the Indus script and Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions, said there was also substantial archaeological evidence to support the view that Indus Civilization was pre-Aryan. The Indus Civilization was urban, while the Vedic culture was rural and pastoral.

The Indus seals, he said, do not depict the horse and the chariot with ‘spooked wheels,’ which were the defining pieces of the Aryan-speaking societies. “The Indus religion as revealed by the pictorial depiction on seals included worship of a buffalo-horned male god, mother-goddesses, the pipal tree and the serpent, and possibly the phallic symbol. Such modes of worship present in Hinduism are known to have been derived from the aboriginal population and are totally alien to the religion of the Rig Veda.”

There was also substantial linguistic evidence “favouring Dravidian authorship of the Indus Civilization,” he said, citing Brahui, a Dravidian language still spoken in the Indus region, Dravidian loan words in the Rig Veda, the substratum influence of Dravidian on Indo-Aryan as shown by the presence of retroflex consonants in the Rig Veda and major modifications in the Prakrit dialects moving them closer to the Dravidian than the Indo-European family of languages. Computer analysis of Indus texts has also revealed that the language had suffixes only as in Dravidian and no prefixes as in Indo-Aryan or infixes as in Munda.

Clarifying that he was employing the terms, ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian,’ only in linguistic sense, he said speakers of the Aryan languages indistinguishably merged with Dravidian and Munda-speaking people millennia ago, creating a composite Indian society.

Priestly functionary
Referring to the ‘BEARER’ ideograms in the Indus script, he said the frequent Harappan title, ‘Bearer,’ originally meant a priestly functionary ceremonially carrying, on a yoke, food offerings to the deity. The corresponding Dravidian expression, ‘poray’ (bearer) was translated in the Rig Veda as Bharata (bearer).

The symbols inscribed on a Neolithic axe found at Sembiyan Kandiyur near Mayiladuthurai in 2006, a most significant discovery connecting Indus Civilisation with Tamil Nadu, corresponded to the signs of the Indus script. Symbols found on megalithic pottery and potsherds from Sanur and Mangudi in Tamil Nadu also resembled the signs of the Indus script.

10 October 2009, Hindu

UP heritage site picked by panel

Kothi Qila Mahmudabad, located about 60 km north Lucknow, has been selected as one of the four heritage sites from India by the World Monument Watch (WMW) for the year 2010.

The other three heritage sites selected by WMW are the Chiktan Castle in Kargil, Historic Civic Centre in Shimla and the Dechen Namgyal Gompa in Nyoma.

Talking to reporters here on Sunday, Mohammed Amir Mohammed Khan, the erstwhile Raja of Mamudabad, said that the Qila Mahmudabad had been nominated by conservation architect Asheesh Srivastava and is the first such site from Uttar Pradesh.

12 October 2009, Pioneer

ASI panel comes under high court scanner

Legal Row Decision to allow construction near Humayun’s Tomb challenged
The legality of an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-appointed panel, that relaxes construction norms within 100 metres of protected monuments, has been challenged in Delhi High Court.

The six-member experts committee was set up by the ASI in 2006 to consider relaxation of a ban on constructions within 100 metres of protected monuments on a case-by-case basis.

The panel is headed by the ASI director-general and has eminent historians as members.

Though the exact number of sanctions given so far is not known, as per RTI details on its website, it has allowed nearly 100 constructions across India between March 2008 and May 2009.

As per a 1992 notification, areas up to 100 metres from protected limits are treated as "prohibited" areas for construction and further beyond it up to 200 metres, it is a regulated area for purposes of mining operations and construction.

In this case, a construction sanctioned by the panel within 88 metres of Humayun's Tomb in Nizamuddin East, a world heritage site, has been challenged.

The construction by a private builder is coming up adjacent to the property of petitioner Gaurang Kanth, a Supreme Court lawyer.

"By allowing constructions in the prohibited area, the ASI has violated the very object of its creation that is preservation of ancient monuments," Kanth said.

BIZARRE TWIST The case took an interesting turn when Kanth, after moving the court, realized his property too, 80 metres from the monument, was illegal as no sanction had been taken from the ASI. But he contends he came to know of this fact only after the ASI mentioned it in court.

"The property was bought by my mother in November 2003 while I was abroad without knowing that the previous owner had not obtained the ASI sanction," he said. When the builder of the disputed property and the high court questioned Kanth's right to file a suit with "unclean hands", the lawyer told the court he was ready to vacate the premises and the ASI could demolish it.

"Let my building go. But I simply want to expose the irregularities within the ASI in allowing an illegally formed panel to sanction constructions within the prohibited area," he said.

A two-judge bench had on August 28 allowed the builder to continue with construction by vacating the stay ordered earlier by a single bench.

ASI'S U-TURN
The high court had in July 2004 while dealing with a suit seeking permission to construct within the prohibited limits of Jantar Mantar asked the ASI to consider a mechanism where the 100-m prohibition was relaxed on a case-bycase basis.

But the ASI approached the Supreme Court against the order and obtained a stay.

"In this situation how can the ASI form a committee through an internal notification without the approval of Parliament which passed the original notification in 1992 strictly banning constructions within 100 metres of monuments?" Kanth asked.

When contacted, an ASI official denied the panel was giving illegal sanctions and said it only needed the approval of the Ministry of Culture which it had secured.

He also said construction within 100 metres is allowed only matching with the height of other buildings in that row built before the 1992 notification.

The matter will come up in the court again on Monday.

12 October 2009, Hindustan Times

Call to protect endangered species of medicinal plants

JAIPUR: Experts attending a workshop on medicinal plants here on Monday called for the adoption of an “eco restoration model” for identifying the plants of aromatic and medicinal value and developing nurseries and gardens. This approach is expected to ensure conservation of endangered plant species.

The workshop for the forest officials was organised at the Forestry Training Institute here in association with the National Medicinal Plants Board. The speakers underlined the Forest Department’s role in generating awareness about medicinal plants and ensuring their utilisation.

Nursery development
State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Abhijit Ghosh said the forest guards and rangers posted in the dense forest regions could play a significant role in the conservation of rare plants. He suggested that the nursery development schemes be taken up on a large scale under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

Mr. Ghosh said the forest officials should be given proper training for identification of plants with medicinal value to enable them to apprise the local residents of their significance and conserve them.

Other speakers said the master trainers should be prepared at the village level to facilitate regular training programmes in the remote forest areas.

13 October 2009, Hindu

Conserve every drop of water: INTACH head

Emphasising that utmost attention will be given to conserve every drop of water, S.K. Misra, chairman INTACH, stated that wastage of water must be checked effectively. In this context, he called for a total ban on swimming pools in private premises in Delhi and elsewhere in the country. He added that INTACH is planning to launch a campaign on Water Conservation. “Water is the source of all life. Hence, water conservation is a vital requiment. Scarcity of water is already causing serious concern in most parts of the country. The situation will surely worsen with rainfall deficiency, droughts and other natural calamities as well as global warming and climate change,” said Misra.

13 October 2009, Pioneer

Temples beat floods, offer refuge

Bangalore, Oct. 14: When their homes crumbled and fell and water engulfed them, the villagers of Pattadakal headed for the stone structures that have stood the test of time.

The temples, dating back to the seventh century and built by the Chalukyas, were among the few structures that stood above the water earlier this month as the swollen Malaprabha river flooded nearby villages, bringing down houses mostly built of mud and mortar. The temples too stand on the banks of the river, but on higher ground, which ensured that the water level receded quickly.

But in Pattadakal village, some 500km northwest of Bangalore, almost 800 villagers lost their homes.

“They (villagers) have been staying in the monuments,” said Bagalkot deputy commissioner D.S. Vishwanath, whose district has seen nearly 58,000 houses collapse. “We have shifted them to wherever sheds were available, and additional ones are being constructed.”

Local residents recollected the floods of 1963 but said the September 30-October 3 deluge was worse in terms of destruction. The Malaprabha, a river that originates in the Western Ghats, is a tributary of the Krishna.

“The water came up to only the plinth portion (of the temples),” said an official of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), adding that it appeared as though the Chalukyan architects had chosen their sites by taking into account the possibility of floods.

The structures — where once kings were coronated — were mostly unaffected. Only a wall erected around the monument complex suffered damage in a few places, he said.

The extensive destruction to property and crops the floods have caused across Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh has also raised questions about how much of it could be attributed to the coordination between the two southern states and Maharashtra in managing water levels at dams on the Krishna river system.

Karnataka plans to relocate as many as 219 villages across its northern districts that have been badly hit by the floods, and erect at least 300,000 homes for those who have been displaced.

S.V. Venketeshaiah, the regional director (south) of the ASI, said a team of archaeologists was at Pattadakal to assess the impact of the floods on the dozen or so monuments there. “The actual assessment is awaited,” he said.

Pattadakal is one of the two Unesco World Heritage Sites in Karnataka, the other being Hampi, the once mighty capital of the Vijayanagar empire that stands along the Tungabhadra river.

At Hampi, some 150km west of Pattadakal in Bellary district, some of the monuments have been waterlogged — something that occurs occasionally, depending on the flow from the Tungabhadra dam located about 12km upstream.

“There has been some damage at five to six places,” said G.S. Narasimhan, superintending archaeologist. While the outer prahara of the Vitthala temple has suffered some damage, the “bazaar” area — famous as the street where precious stones were sold in heaps at the height of Vijayanagar’s glory — and surrounding temples has been waterlogged, he said. A detailed assessment will be made after the water has receded from some of the monuments.

15 October 2009, Telegraph

High Court orders closure of all commercial activities in Amber Fort

Cancels all MoUs signed by the Authority with private entrepreneurs
JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court has ordered closure of all commercial activities in the historic Amber Fort near here while holding that the Amber Development and Management Authority – appointed by former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje – was not entitled to undertake renovation and restoration work at the protected monument.

A Division Bench of the Court also cancelled all memorandums of understanding signed by the Authority with private entrepreneurs allowing them to run commercial activities including a luxury restaurant and a coffee shop on lease on the fort premises.

The Bench, comprising Chief Justice Jagdish Bhalla and Justice M. N. Bhandari, pronounced the judgment on a public interest litigation initiated suo motu by the Court when a part of the protected fort gave way due to overcrowding during the shooting of Bollywood film Veer in February this year.

The Amber Development Authority was mired in controversies ever since its inception during the previous BJP regime with Ms. Raje as its founder and former Tourism Minister Usha Punia, IPL chief Lalit Modi’s wife Meenal Modi and several senior officers including the Chief Secretary as its members.

Upholding the contentions of amicus curiae and High Court lawyer Abhinav Sharma, the Court said the Authority, appointed under the Societies Registration Act, was neither entitled under the Rajasthan Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Antiquities Rules, 1968, to take up the renovation work nor authorised to sign MoUs with other parties.

“A bare perusal of the statutory provisions shows that an advisory board can be created for matters pertaining to a protected monument of tourism importance, but not a society,” ruled the Court.

It also said that any activity inside the Amber fort and palace could be allowed only by the Director of the Archaeology Department.

The Bench declared all the MoUs signed by the Amber Development Authority to be in violation of the provisions of law, while observing that it was beyond the Authority’s competence to enter into an agreement with anyone for permitting commercial activities in the fort.

Provisions of law
The Court expressed surprise over a reply filed by State Advocate-General G. S. Bapna – after the Congress was elected to power in the State – stating that the Authority was rightly constituted and was a government body and observed in the judgment: “It is not made clear as to how the Government can issue an order contrary to the statutory provisions of law.”

The State Government has been asked to file its compliance report within two months.

16 October 2009, The Hindu

Lodhi Gardens carves out a green niche to offer butterflies a safe haven

Considered one of the most vulnerable species to changes in climate, the butterfly population has been going down in the city. Now the NDMC wants to play saviour.

On Monday, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh inaugurated a butterfly observatory in Lodhi Gardens, one of two in the city, which will provide a habitat to butterflies. A three-acre area in Lodhi Gardens has been converted into a butterfly observatory, complete with a lily pool and a mud puddle, and 28 species of plants which butterflies feed on. There are also plans to develop a butterfly area in a Commonwealth Games Park being created at the junction of Africa Avenue and Brigadier Hoshiar Singh Marg.

“The last time I saw a butterfly in Delhi was in 1981. Since then, I’ve seen them in Bangalore, but in Delhi they have visibly reduced. Scientists say that butterflies are severely affected by climate change. Clearly they need help,” Ramesh said.

“Let us consider butterflies to be winged ambassadors for the environment. With minimum effort and money, we have managed to get butterflies to breed in the observatory. They need very little to live,” said Suhas Borker from the activist group, Green Circle, who first presented the proposal to NDMC.

Butterflies are set to be part of the Commonwealth Games attractions.

“We are developing the Commonwealth Games park where saplings from different Commonwealth countries will be planted. We’re also developing a butterfly section at the park,” NDMC Chairman Parimal Rai told Newsline.

It will take some time, however, before the butterfly can truly range over Lodhi Gardens again. The observatory in Lodi was set up 40 days ago and only had a couple of butterflies.

“For the last 5 years, around 40 per cent of the butterflies in Delhi can no longer be seen. The general perception is that if you plant flowers, you will see butterflies flourish. But flowers are required only in the last stage of the butterfly pupa. Butterflies generally require biodiversity to survive. There are around 76 to 78 species of butterflies in Delhi, but their population has become very localised. Commonly you may see the ‘Plain tiger’ (orange and black) species. But rarer ones like the Bluebottle are likely to be found only in areas like the Rashtrapati Bhawan and Delhi University which have several plant species,” said biologist Faiyaz Khudsar.

20 October, Indian Express

Three consultants to design signboards for monuments

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has roped in three different consultants to develop signages for 46 monuments being spruced up for the Commonwealth Games, starting on October 3 next year.

The selected monuments are being given a facelift as they fall on the way to the Games venues, as part of an attempt to showcase Delhi’s heritage.

Heritage architects and conservationists say three different agencies working on the signages will go against uniformity in overall aesthetic look of the monuments. But a senior ASI official said distribution of work will bring in “healthy competition” and “better output”.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Rachna Vishwanathan and Consultants, and Poonam Thakur of Srishti Consultants are developing the signages for ASI. INTACH, which has about 15 monuments, has already signed the contract; the other two consultants will be signed up this week, officials said.

“Each of them have proposed their own design — we will implement them after the final proposal is approved,” a senior ASI official told Newsline. “This will create healthy competition and there will be better output. None of the designs have been approved so far.”

The official said INTACH’s initial proposal has been passed but the consultants will have to make a prototype at one of the allotted monuments. The prototype design can be implemented at other sites only after it passes an ASI examination, according to the official.

INTACH is also working on signages for 92 smaller monuments under the Department of Archaeology ahead of the Games and has worked out a design that proposes a combination of red sandstone and metal, INTACH’s Delhi chapter convenor A G K Menon said.

“Each of them have proposed their own design — we will implement them after the final proposal is approved,” a senior ASI official told Newsline. “This will create healthy competition and there will be better output. None of the designs have been approved so far.”

The official said INTACH’s initial proposal has been passed but the consultants will have to make a prototype at one of the allotted monuments. The prototype design can be implemented at other sites only after it passes an ASI examination, according to the official.

INTACH is also working on signages for 92 smaller monuments under the Department of Archaeology ahead of the Games and has worked out a design that proposes a combination of red sandstone and metal, INTACH’s Delhi chapter convenor A G K Menon said.

The other design, proposed by Rachna Vishwanathan and Associates, will see signages in different shades of sandstone according to the monument’s look. Vishwanathan, who earlier worked on the Qutub Minar Complex signage, will work on 12 monuments.

“We will use red sandstone in most monuments, as they blend with the Mughal architecture,” Vishwanathan said. “But we might use yellow or off-white sandstone with manual etching for some monuments.”

Vishwanathan said they will not use any metal.

20 October, Indian Express

ASI against Abhishek at Osmanabad temple

The abhishek (ritual in which milk, water and other substances are poured on an idol) of Goddess Tulja Bhawani in an Osmanabad temple is likely to be stopped to save the idol from erosion.
The district administration wants the ritual to stop, following a report of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) pointing to the deterioration of the idol. Instead, an utsav murti (replica) has been recommended for the ritual.

The idol is of polished black granite that has carvings and other details. The abhishek is offered with shrikhand, milk products, curd, bananas, cashewnuts and raisin. It is also cleaned with water using a coir brush and dried with a Turkish cloth after which sandalwood paste and vermilion is applied.

“It was said (that) the main idol was offered abhishek for 400 years but the number of abhisheks has increased now,” said the report, adding that it continued till 12 noon and also for some time in the evening.

The report states that the main idol be offered only one abhishek in the morning with plain water with a Ph of 7.

“If it is not possible to offer abhishek to the utsav murti the next option will be complete silver encasing of the idol till the final abhishek,” it added.

20 October, Indian Express

347 DAYS TO GO COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2010 - Delhi archaeology dept to spruce up 92 monuments for Games 2010

If infant flyovers are being polished for the Commonwealth Games, can venerable, 700-year-old monuments be left behind?

Delhi government's department of archaeology has decided to restore 92 heritage monuments in the city that are not protected by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

"Although we have identified as many as 250 monuments, 92 will be spruced up before the Commonwealth Games," said Keshav Chandra, director of department of archaeology. Delhi has over 1,200 heritage structures; the ASI protects 175 of them, which have been identified as those with national importance. It is the responsibility of the Delhi government and the civic bodies to take care of the rest of the monuments.

Chandra said the focus in the first phase would be on monuments that are either visible from the road or are near the Games venues.

The department has come up with a preliminary notification plan for 27 monuments in south Delhi.
These include, among others, the Tomb of Muhammed Quli Khan in the mehrauli archeological park, the magnificent ruins in south Delhi.

The estimated budget for restoring the 92 monuments is Rs 6 crore and the deadline is June 2010. Chandra said they would now focus on a detailed survey of the monumenst and the area around, a conservation plan, horticultural development and lighting of the heritage structures.
But the restoration may not be a breeze.

An official who did not want to quoted, as he was not authorised to speak to the media said ownership issues are expected to crop up.

"Objections have already been raised by the Delhi Wakf Board over eight monuments in Mehrauli. We are negotiating with the body," the official said.

These monuments will be protected under the Delhi Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act 2004 (Delhi Act 9 of 2005).

The government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage, a non-profit pan-Indian body working for heritage conservation, for this project.

21 October 2009, Hindustan Times

A treasure trove for heritage lovers

NEW DELHI: Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art will conduct a first-of-its-kind auction of antiquities of India here in the Capital later this month.

The auction of Indian and Asian antiquities, books, modern and contemporary art will be held at Taj Mahal hotel on October 29 as part of the 11th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival to be held in the city from October 24 to 30.

Many rare Indian and Persian miniatures, a 10th Century sculpture of Durga from Java along with masterpieces of modern and contemporary art by M. F. Husain, F. N. Souza, K. C. S. Paniker and Bhupen Khakhar will go under the hammer at the auction.

According to Osian’s founder-chairman Neville Tuli, the auction is a fundamental move to bring Indian heritage back into the country. “It will also make treasures of our past civilisations part and parcel of everyday contemporary living. We want our heritage to be displayed with pride in Indian homes. Since the time of the Emergency, our artistic and cultural heritage has slowly and constantly left our shores. They have been smuggled out as part of one of the largest black economies in the world. This black economy has been sustained due to a strange mix of legal ambiguity, lack of awareness and a poor dialogue between the private and public sectors regarding the need to build up a cultural infrastructure.”

Mr. Tuli says public awareness is being created about the value of the country’s rich artistic heritage and the need to create a vibrant and strong domestic market for antiquities. “This is the only genuine way to stop outflow. Just as we created a solid foundation and hence a market for modern and contemporary art, it is now time to build up a much larger base for Indian antiquities. If such a small market as modern art has over 1,000 galleries and dealers, why do we not have more than a handful of top-quality galleries for antiquities that deal with over 5,000 years of artefact creation?”

21 October 2009, Hindu

Talks on endangered Indian languages from today

As a matter of fact, India has 196 endangered languages (UNESCO Atlas of the World languages in danger data).

The Himalayan region has a mix of 44 endangered languages and the Bihar, Jharkhand belt, too, has another 42 such languages. The maximum concentration is from the north-eastern states, Himalayan region, eastern states of India etc.

The INTACH that aims at raising awareness on endangered languages is holding a two-day seminar on the subject in the Capital from tomorrow.

Kamalini Sengupta from INTACH said: “Only since last 20 years, the world has paid attention towards the trend of language loss and death. One of the predictions of experts is that by the end of the century, about 50 per cent languages in the world would be extinct. It is an established fact that only 4 per cent of the world speaks 96 per cent of the existing languages.”

“It indicates that small communities speak a welter of languages many more per person then the mainstream languages spoken by the vast majority.”

“The galloping rate at which languages are disappearing today are at par with the galloping rate of global warming and as dangerous,” Sengupta added.

“Apart from the fact that most languages are unrecognised by the state and unwritten, the causes for endangerment include their exclusion from the school systems, irrelevance in the job market and in mainstream arenas, dwindling numbers of the community and other threats to vulnerable communities like mono culturalism and market forces, all of which leads to a loss of identity and displacement,” adds Sengupta.

“Many tribal languages in India are endangered,” says SK Misra, Chairman, INTACH. “Take the case of Tripura, there are various tribal languages in Tripura spoken by small groups of people. These languages are dying, children are not taught these in school and thus, the language is slowly dying. The requisite infrastructure should be in place at least for teaching this language in schools among the primary classes.”

“Look at the dangers associated with the death of a language, often this is accompanied with the loss of an entire culture,” says Misra.

“When a language dies, a culture dies, the poetry, song, literature, stories, history, customs, traditional and valuable knowledge systems, philosophy and wisdom are lost.”

“When a language dies, that is, when no language knower is left, when no documentation, recording, film or written word survives then the loss is very great.”

The aim of this seminar undertaken by INTACH is spreading awareness of the existence and dangers of losing these languages and recommending viable solutions on a future course with emphasis on preserving these.

22 October 2009, Tribune

Heritage Exhibition

Pathbreaking innovations made by ancient Indians in science and technology will be displayed at a permanent exhibition here, which was launched today. Inaugurating the Science and Technology Heritage exhibition at the National Science Centre here, Cultural Secretary Jawhar Sircar said a high level committee comprising officials from ASI, Anthropology Survey of India, National Science Centre and National Council of Science Museums will be constituted to study the scientific interpretation of Indian heritage. “We will constitute a panel to study the scientific interpretation of heritage. Heritage and science cannot exist without each other. The panel will decide ways to bring out without each other. The panel will decide ways to bring out excellent publications in two years time for the future generations, “ he said. The exhibition also displays contributions made by Indians to astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine, metallurgy, art, craft and architecture. The exhibition spread over 1, 600 sq metres area has been built at a cost of Rs 60 lakh.

22 October 2009, Assam Tribune

ASI awaits green signal from Railways to Bridge A Historical Gap

Though part of the Humayun’s Tomb complex, Neela Gumbad, is separated from it by a road. ASI plans to shift the road but blames the Railways for not giving up land for relocation
Almost two years after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) discovered that the 16th century Neela Gumbad was originally part of the Humayun’s Tomb complex, it is still waiting for permission from Northern Railways (NR) to be able to connect the two monuments which are at present separated by a road.

ASI is proposing to shift the road — used mostly by East Nizamuddin residents — to the eastern edge of Neela Gumbad plot, about 20m from the rail tracks. NR, which also owns the property, is using the land for storing track material. It has been dragging its feet over the issue for almost three years claiming ‘‘this is the only available land in Delhi for storing our track material and we cannot give ASI permission to construct a road here’’.

ASI has now approached the chief minister. ‘‘The issue needs to be sorted out at a higher level. We have written to CM Sheila Dikshit and sought her intervention. She is expected to visit the site soon,’’ said ASI director-general K N Shrivastava. Officials said the original entrance — giving access from Humayun’s Tomb garden — to Neela Gumbad was blocked after construction of the road many years ago. ‘‘The blockage has led to significant monument decay and neglect,’’ said sources. The original entrance will be reopened now.

The separating road forms a loop around the tomb and connects East Nizamuddin with Gurdwara Dumduma Sahib. On the proposal to shift this road east towards the railway line, a senior NR official said: ‘‘We signed an MoU with ASI in 2004 for developing a green area and landscaping but nothing in the agreement talks about giving permission for construction activity. If we allow ASI to build a road on this land, it will come in the way of our expansion plans for Nizamuddin railway station. Our plans have already been affected by ASI’s various rules on construction work within 100m and 200m of monuments. Also, we need this land to store our track material and other expensive railway equipment.’’

ASI officials claimed shifting the road would only help railways. ‘‘This new road layout will make access easier for concrete sleepers and other goods to the railway tracks. We will also relocate the barracks of railway protection force to the northern end of the plot and build better facilities with no expenses to the railways,’’ said an official. The conservation work in Humayun’s Tomb complex is being undertaken by Aga Khan Trust for Culture under an MoU signed with ASI.

In 2008, ASI had uncovered arcaded platform stretches near Neela Gumbad proving the monument was originally part of Humayun’s Tomb complex. Lakhs of visitors to this world heritage site are not able to see Neela Gumbad — a monument dating back to mid-16th century that showcases Persian influence on Mughal architecture — due to both ignorance and lack of connectivity.

Linking The Past

With blue and green tiles, Neela Gumbad was originally a river island tomb accessible from Humayun’s Tomb

  • Believed to be the earliest Mughal-era building in Delhi
  • The arcaded platform unearthed last year protected the Gumbad from Yamuna, which once flowed near Humayun’s Tomb ASI officials say allowing access from Humayun’s
  • Tomb would be an added attraction for visitors at the World Heritage Site. The river island tomb will once again have a natural green landscape in front
  • 1 million people visit Humayun’s Tomb every year. Conservation plans for Neela Gumbad have also been put on hold till access is made from the tomb

23 October 2009, Times of India, Times City

Students give heritage a shine, send a message

Trash Removed From Area Around Qutub By Indian & Foreign Students, Lessons Against Defacement
New Delhi: With brooms and dusters in their hands, over 650 students from across the country as well as other nations gathered at Qutub Minar on Friday to spread awareness about keeping heritage sites clean and tidy. The young crusaders could be seen clearing trash around the 13th century monument and telling visitors how crucial it was to preserve monuments. From Qutub, the group moved on to Tughlaqabad Fort.

The cleanliness drive was organized by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in association with United Peace Federation, National Youth Conventional Network, Youth Peace Federation India and volunteers of the National Service Scheme (NSS) from various colleges of Delhi University. Apart from Indian students, there were participants from countries like Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand. Sandeep Kumar, president of W-carp, an international body under the UN’s Integovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), said: ‘‘Our aim is to train youngsters on events that need urgent attention like conservation of heritage or climate change. The organization has volunteers from various countries who are all trying to spread the message of commitment to our heritage and environment.’’

For the 17 international students, the experience of being in India for the month-long project has been very promising. Yutaka from Japan said: ‘‘We have been in India for three weeks already and are learning a lot. We are committed towards heritage preservation and are all here to make a contribution.’’ Freelance photographer Karan Kashyap, another volunteer, said he said was helping out with the documentation part of the project.

Hundreds of students from DU were busy clearing garbage, wiping the surface facade of monuments in the Qutub complex and sweeping the ground. Komal Jain, a second year Maths Hons student from IP College, said: ‘‘We found all kind of trash like chips packets, cigarette stubs and used plastic bags. We hope the awareness drive is effective and visitors to monuments stop littering.’’

The volunteers also took an oath to protect monuments. ASI Delhi circle chief K K Mohammed said: ‘‘We have been running the adopt-a-monument scheme for the past few years where students take on the responsibility of keeping these heritage buildings clean. On Saturday, the cleanliness drive will move to Red Fort.’’

Volunteers were given a demonstration of chemical cleaning of monuments. The process of cleaning marble by using Multani Mitti was also shown to them. Students from Shyama Prasad Mukherji College, Laxmi Bai College, Ramjas College, IP College, Janki Devi College, DCAC, Ral Anand College and JMC participated in the drive. ‘‘Students and volunteers told tourists about the importance of not defacing monuments,’’ said Mohammed.

24 October 2009, Times of India, Times City

Good idea of the week - No buts in this park

BUTTERFLY PARK Experts, activists say it is good for Delhi's ecological health Of the species reported in Delhi three decades ago, many have vanished.

C . R . B A B U, CEMDE Butterflies are the bio-indicators of ecological health.
Constantly denied a secure habitat, the small winged wonders were fast vanishing from the city. The Butterfly Conservatory at Lodhi Garden will definitely give a boost to their population in the Capital.

"Spread over three acres of especially landscaped area which has been carved out of the 90-acre Lodhi Garden, the conservatory boasts of more than 35 trees and 48 species of nectar and larval food plants for butterflies," said K K Singh, deputy director (Horticulture) of NDMC.

The conservatory is a joint effort of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), University of Delhi's Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE) and Green Circle, a group of green activists.

The inspiration for the Lodi Garden conservatory came from the success of the Aravali Biodiversity Park.

CEMDE's C R Babu, who has been associated with the Aravali Park and has worked on this project, said: "Of the species reported in Delhi three decades ago, many have vanished."
Babu said the Aravali park experiment was excellent. "When it started three years ago, there were barely 17 species and now we have as many as 74 species there," he said.

Lodhi Garden has everything -- sun, shade, dampness, air circulation and isolation (from public) -- to encourage butterfly population.

"It can be a wake up tool for environment education," said Suhas Borker, founder member of Green Circle. "We go in for protection of tigers. But smaller things like butterflies are the bio-indicators of ecological health." Bikram Grewal, a bird expert and author of several books on birds, said they were an integral part of a long food chain.

"Species like butterflies, bees and insects are also important pollinating agents," he said.

Now, what could be better news than this for environmentalists and nature lovers?
A butterfly park at Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri is in the pipeline.

24 October 2009, Hindustan Times

Portraying the legacy of Indian art

Noted historian films country’s rare mural paintings
Noted art historian Benoy K. Behl’s film titled “2,000 Years of Painting” on the continuous tradition of painting in India since ancient times will be screened at India Habitat Centre here this Sunday.
The film highlights rare mural paintings that are the fountainhead of a deeply connected tradition of art. Centuries-old manuscript paintings and schools of miniatures from across the country have been showcased in the film.

Sharing the glorious tradition of the art of painting, Mr. Behl says the Indian traditional art has always had a pre-eminent position. “Paintings have been considered to be one of the greatest treasures of humankind. We’ve a living tradition of over 2,000 years of painting in this land. Indian art has absorbed fine influences which have come from other cultures. Yet it has retained a distinct identity which is deeply rooted in the eternal philosophy of India,” he says

The film takes viewers on a journey through the pages of the history of Indian art -- from the earliest surviving mural paintings from the 2nd Century B.C. on the walls of the Ajanta caves to the painted caves of Pitalkhotra, Badami and Bagh in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. It traces the development of the tradition of Indian miniature painting from the celebrated Mughal school to the lesser known exquisite Deccani miniatures.

For this film Mr. Behl travelled to Tamil Nadu, where the 7th Century Shaivite paintings of the Kailashnath Temple in Kanchipuram display the continuation of the classic tradition of Indian art.

24 October 2009,Hindu

Siri Fort to get green makeover

New Delhi: Months after the Delhi Development Authority ((DDA) was hauled up by the courts for demolishing the green cover near Siri Fort sports complex, the agency has come up with a recovery plan. As part of the landscaping, the agency is planning to plant more than 4,000 trees. This is besides the extensive greening that will happen along the Siri Fort wall. The wooded area will also have seating arrangements, food outlets and garden-beds dotting the landscape.

A DDA official said, ‘‘the landscaping plan includes protection of all existing trees, besides plantation of over 4,000 new trees. More than 700 saplings have already been bought by the horticulture department for the green nursery we are setting up at the stadium site.’’ The trees, which are expected to be planted from next month as the site clears up partially post-construction, will cover the area along the Siri Fort wall, a protected heritage site. At present, only around 200 trees remain from the earlier green cover. DDA sources admitted not many of the fauna could be saved, with only 200 of the almost 800 plus trees that were cut being transplanted around the stadium complex.

‘‘The landscaping will ensure the area is green again. The complex is 10.91 acres, with the stadium taking up 26,500 sqm — less than 50% of total area. The rest is all going to be landscaped,’’ said the official. As part of the landscaping, DDA’s horticulture department plans to plant neem, pipal, siris, chitvan and amaltas. ‘‘All plants have ayurvedic qualities and are known to check air pollution,’’ said the official. The height of the new trees being planted have been kept at 8 feet so that the building is camouflaged, as per directions from authorities concerned, said DDA sources. The agency also plans to light the wall during the Games.

Sources claimed the paved paths within the wooded area would ensure walking tracks are available, specially since the entry for spectators to the stadium would be via the landscaped part of the complex. Admitted Neemo Dhar, DDA spokesperson, ‘‘we are going to do plantation and the necessary permissions have been taken from all authorities concerned. The concept and exact planning is being done.’’

DDA is also planning to build a foot-overbridge along the Siri Fort road, which will lead to the stadium complex. This was done as the ASI refused to allow a permanent entry along the Siri Fort wall, which is 3m above the ground, said officials. The FOB, which will be retractable, will allow spectators to park and ride from Sadiq Nagar, where a school and a park will be turned into a parking spot.

Preparing For The Games
DDA to plant more than 4,000 trees in the new stadium complex at Siri Fort sports complex Landscaping plan also has seating arrangements, eateries and garden-beds
Stadium entry through an FOB on Siri Fort road, which will be retractable. This will avoid disturbing the heritage Siri Fort wall.

A dedicated entry for sportspersons and officials through the Siri Fort sports complex on August Kranti Marg Stadium’s underground parking will not be functional during the Games due to security reasons.

25 October 2009, Times of India, Times City

Heritage walk at Charminar

Come Sunday, enthusiasts can walk down the pages of history in the City of Nizams. Heritage walk, an initiative of the state tourism department, will become a part of city’s culture.

Designed to give people a feel of the Nizam ers, the heritage walk will start at Charminar and go through Laat Bazaar, Mahbubnagar and Amir-e-Paigah to ultimately reach Chowmahalla Palace. This 90 minute walk will be held on five days every months.

“People are often at a loss when it comes to knowing their own city. This walk will educate people about the rich culture this city boasts of, “said Mr Jayesh Ranhan, the state secretary of the tourism, archaeology and museums.

“We will explain about all the important lanes and buildings as we go along the stretch, “said Ms Madhu Vottery, conservation architect who has worked in collaboration with the department to earmark the lanes.

Heritage Walks are already an integral part of historic cities like Delhi, Lucknow and others.

25 October 2009, Deccan Chronicle

ANTIQUE RETURN

LOST TREASURE Much of India's heritage is lost to the country. Now, with an easing of laws, some of it can come back
A piece of sub-continental history went up for auction at Bonhams's New Bond Street salesroom in Mayfair, London on October 8 this month -a 19th-century, emerald and seed pearl necklace worn by the wife of the last Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh. The highlight of Bonhams's `Islamic and Indian Art' sale, the piece fetched more than Rs 42 lakh, double its reserve price of round Rs 19 lakh.

The next day, at a Christie's `Works of Art & Textiles' sale, one of the highest grossers was an early 19th century watercolour of `A Sikh Battle Scene'. It sold for nearly Rs 31 lakh -- almost ten times its estimated price.

Clearly, there is a huge market for Indian antiquities. But it's a market that only exists abroad, limited to auctions at Sotheby's, Christie's, and Bonhams in London and New York, and a few galleries such as Simon Ray and Bernard Shapero. In India, in contrast, there's very little trade in antiques, mainly because of the restrictions put on it by the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.

All that could change soon. As per a March 2009 commerce ministry order, you no longer need an import licence to bring in antiques from abroad. You simply pay 17.5 per cent as import duty and register the antique with the Archaeological Survey of India, once it is here. Following on this easing of regulations, Osian's, the Mumbai-based art auction house, will hold an auction of antiquities at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi on October 29 -- the first such auction in a long time.

The last one, organised by Bowrings Fine Art Auctioneers in 2002, was mired in controversy over allegations that Bowrings was selling antiques without a licence from the ASI, as mandated by law. Earlier, in 1999, Sotheby's India had organised a sale in Delhi where it offered some really old bronzes, among miscellaneous late 19th century-early 20th century European artifacts. That auction had a smoother run but Sotheby's never held another one in India.

Neville Tuli of Osian's too had a runin with the authorities over an auction he'd put together in 1999; he was accused of selling a 200-year-old shahtoosh shawl without registering it with the wildlife authorities. "No such piece had ever been registered before in India. It took eight years of fighting in court for the charges to be dismissed," says Tuli.

There are no shawls at the Osian's auction this time, but some really old objects on offer -- a 10th century Durga from central Java (Rs 64 lakh-80 lakh), an 11th century Narasimha Avatar from central India (Rs 24 lakh-30 lakh), several leaves from a 16th century illustrated manuscript of Firdausi's Shahnama (Rs 12 lakh-60 lakh), etc.

All of these have been sourced from international collectors who had, in turn, bought them from Sotheby's, Christie's or Bonhams -- so at least their provenance is unquestionable.

Antique collectors are however not satisfied. "The Antiquities Act should be scrapped. The trade in antiques was only partially illegal before 1972, after that it became wholly illegal," says Suresh Neotia, chairman emeritus of Ambuja Cements who built a vast collection of antiques before the law came into force.

"It has completely destroyed scholarship, research and interest in antiques. Earlier you had scholars like Anand Coomaraswamy, B.N. Goswamy and Rai Krishna Das, but without patronage there's no one left. Does anyone today even know a Nainsukh (an 18th century Pahari painter)?" Agrees Nitin Bhayana, an art collector. "All the law has done is drive people towards contemporary art, leading to speculation. Also, the argument that we need to preserve our national heritage does not wash. What about the National Museum? How much of its collection is on show? Has the collection ever travelled to Mathura, Kolkata or elsewhere? Artifacts of national importance must not leave the country. But not everything old is valuable. It's time to get real." This necklace, "lastly worn by...The Late Maharanee Jeddan Kower", wife of Ranjit Singh, was auctioned this month at Bonhams. It was taken from the Lahore Treasury, where the British also found the Kohinoor and Timur ruby This 10th century Durga from Central Java is the highlight of Osian's upcoming auction of antiquities.

Carved in andesite, a variety of volcanic rock, the statue has a reserve price of Rs 64 lakh-80 lakh

25 October 2009, Hindustan Times

Call to preserve endangered languages

NEW DELHI: The Centre should consider a scheme for revitalisation of endangered and potentially endangered languages that did not feature in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution but were recorded by the Census of India as also those languages that had not been recorded in any published document.

This was stated by Udaya Narayana Singh, professor at Rabindra Bhavan Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, here over the weekend while speaking on the final day of the two-day International Seminar on “Endangered Languages in India”.

Prof. Singh recommended the setting up of an independent national commission for languages which could submit annual reports to the Central and State governments about the status of Indian languages and also suggest steps to be taken for the sustenance and support of the languages concerned.

It was also important to know the role of languages in education, knowledge production, informatics, science, technology, commerce, media, literary production, law and governance, he added.

Recommending that data with respect to smaller language groups -- for example mother tongues spoken by less than 10,000 people -- should be released, Prof. Singh said archival detail of these languages should also be released. Also, the scientific community of linguistics and language specialists in India should endeavour to modify the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (2009) database so that a more correct assessment of endangered languages could be had. Efforts could be made to draw international expertise in the process of revitalisation.

Presentations concerning endangered languages were also made by UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (2009) General Editor Professor Christopher Moseley and Asia Project, India International Centre, Chair Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan.

Prof. Moseley gave a thorough description of the making of the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger and its special features as well as the methodology.

26 October 2009, Hindu

2,000 places visited by Bapu proposed for heritage status

List prepared by a group headed by Gopal Krishna Gandhi
Shimla: A sub-group of the Union Culture Ministry headed by Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi has submitted a list of 2,000 sites across the country, visited by the Father of the Nation during the freedom movement, to the government for development as heritage sites.

The list was submitted to the Ministry after collecting details about the places, Mr. Gandhi, who is also the Governor of West Bengal, said here over the week-end.

Mr. Gandhi was here for a conference organised by the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies on the occasion of completion of 50 years of the journal Seminar.

The list of the sites has been arranged alphabetically beginning with Aat village in Gujarat which Bapu visited during the course of Dandi march and ending with Zulfipur in Bihar.

He said Mahatma Gandhi had visited Shimla, the summer Capital of the erstwhile British Raj 11 times between 1921 and 1946.

On these visits to the Queen of the Hills, Bapu was often accompanied by Madan Mohan Malviya and Lala Lajpat Rai. Some of the places in Shimla visited by the Mahatma included Manorville, residence of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur in summer hill locality, now under the control of AIIMS, New Delhi.

Mr. Gandhi said the trial of Gopal Godse in the assassination case of his grandfather had taken place at Peterhoff which at present is a luxury hotel under Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation. -- PTI

26 October 2009, Hindu

HC multi-level parking hits heritage hurdle

NDMC May Put Brakes On Work As Notified 16th Century Tomb Lies At Construction Site
New Delhi: A multi-level parking lot for Delhi High Court lawyers coming up next to the National Stadium has run into trouble with NDMC’s heritage wing. The civic agency says it is likely to stop the ongoing construction work as a heritage structure — a 16th century tomb — stands right in the middle of the frenzied construction activity. Now that listed NDMC heritage sites have been notified, any development work around these sites require approval of the heritage conservation committee. Officials said it is the HC which will need to get the approval.

The tomb, dating back to Sher Shah’s period, stands on a raised platform at the construction site where DMRC is building the three-storeyed parking lot under a contract agreement with Delhi HC. A senior NDMC official said: ‘‘The land allotee — Delhi High Court — will have to re-apply for permission to build the parking lot as under the recently notified NDMC heritage list, any redevelopment plans around these listed structures would require approval from the conservation committee.”

DMRC officials, meanwhile, said that the land was transferred from LNDO to Delhi High Court for construction of a parking lot and they were merely the contractors. ‘‘In any case, the monument does not fall in the construction zone,’’ said an official. K C Mittal, former president of Delhi High Court Bar Association under whose tenure the parking lot project started, said: ‘‘The monument where the parking lot is coming up is unprotected. Both ASI and the central vista committee have given permission for the work so there is no problem. The monument is in a small portion and no one will touch it. The surrounding area will also be beautified. This parking lot is all underground and there is no construction on the surface level.’’ Conservationists, however, claimed the construction of a three-storeyed underground parking lot could damage the foundation of the monument.

Sources said the HC was earlier refused permission for the parking lot by the heritage conservation committee. It did not re-apply. ASI has given an NOC for the project which falls in the regulated area for the Sher Shah Gate. It has also imposed a condition that the monument has be carefully preserved. ‘‘The site is located within 200m of Purana Qila, a regulated zone. We have given permission but put conditions the monument at the site remains undamaged and the agency constructing the parking lot conserve the monument under the guidance of ASI if required,” said a senior ASI official.

Interestingly, the monument also figures in the list of monuments to be notified by Delhi government’s state department of archaeology. ‘‘The monument is yet to be notified and is under process. Notification should be done in the next few weeks. When it was brought to our knowledge that work is going near this tomb, we visited the site to ensure the portion around the monument is kept as it is. A joint meeting will be held with ASI and DMRC in this regard,’’ said a senior official from the department. Officials said they would monitor the work to ensure adequate distance is kept between the monument and the construction. ‘‘Otherwise after the notification, we can take action under the Delhi Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 2004,’’ said an official.

26 October 2009, Times of India, Times City

NDMC steps in to save heritage tomb

TIMELY Asks DMRC to stop work on underground parking lot
A day after HT drew attention to the threat posed to an unnamed tomb on Sher Shah Suri Marg by an upcoming under ground parking across Delhi High Court, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC)issuedanurgent `stop work' notice.

The council's chief architect has issued a stop work notice to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
Chennai-based Consolidated Construction Consortium (CCCL) and Samjung Tech Consortium (design and build) are carrying out the construction work with DMRC being the consultants for the six-level underground parking.

"We issued a stop work notice to DMRC," confirmed NDMC spokesperson Anand Tiwari.
The unnamed tomb of the Sher Shah Suri-era (15th century) figures in the list of 141 heritage structures in NDMC area notified by Delhi government.

It means, no alterations or demolition can be made to any of the structures in the list without referring the proposal to the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC).

NDMC officials said" "We will refer the case the DUAC and the HCC once the DMRC completes the documentation."

DMRC spokesperson Anuj Dayal agreed they had received the stop work notice but said only preparatory work was being carried out at the site.

"...full fledged work will start only when we have all requisite permissions."

"As far as the safety of the monument is concerned, plans are afoot to ensure the monument remains safe. We will take all adequate safety measures for its protection," he said.

Dayal said they had written to the Archaeological Survey of India but it does not come in the list of ASI-protected monuments.

"However, in spite of that, the DMRC will ensure full protection of the monument," Dayal added.

27 October 2009, Hindustan Times

Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan gets conceptual approval

The proposal submitted to the Delhi Urban Arts Commission also includes revival of tram service and restricted vehicular movement
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s ambitious plan for redevelopment of Chandni Chowk, including a proposal for revival of tram service and restricted vehicular movement, might soon become a reality with the Delhi Urban Arts Commission granting preliminary conceptual approval to it this past week.

The DUAC has recommended introduction of low-floor open tram transportation system with controlled movement and accessibility from both sides while suggesting that “the life and texture of the old city should be reflected on the streets”.

The proposal is part of the Rs.15 crore redevelopment plan to decongest the road from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid in Old Delhi and give it an attractive look.

According to the plan submitted by the civic body, four metre-gauge trams, each having a capacity to carry 20 people, will run on the southern carriageway of Chandni Chowk from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. There will be two tracks -- one from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid and the other from Fatehpuri to Red Fort. Meanwhile, the northern carriageway of the Chandni Chowk stretch will be used for vehicular traffic from H. C. Sen Marg or from the Fatehpuri Masjid side. Traffic will not be allowed to enter from the Red Fort side.

At present, CNG-run minibuses are plying in the area after a ban on cycle-rickshaws by the Delhi High Court and the development plan aims to further de-congest traffic and revive the heritage glory of the old city.

In response to the plan submitted by the MCD, the DUAC has suggested that motorised movement should be allowed on access roads only. According to its members, this could be achieved by preventing vehicular parking in Chandni Chowk and using the road provided for servicing emergency vehicles or processions.

Though the MCD proposed a ban on hawking in the area, the DUAC said that aspect of hawking could also be seen in the context of the National Hawking Policy regulations.

According to the members, the facade of heritage buildings should be coordinated with the treatment of the floor of the city. This redevelopment plan conceptualised by the civic body almost four years ago was finally submitted to the DUAC for approval in September this year.

DUAC chairman K. T. Ravindran said: “We have given an initial conceptual clearance to the tram project as part of Chandni Chowk re-development plan. We found the proposal submitted by the MCD acceptable and have made a few observations. We expect the MCD to come back to us after incorporating our observations and submit the detailed plan to the Commission for the next stage of consideration. Our main observation was that the spirit of Chandni Chowk should not be lost under the plan and it should be retained,” he added.

Apart from revival of tram service and restricted traffic movement, other components of the project include provisions for modern street furniture, street-lighting, modern sign boards, attractive elevations, convenient footpaths, benches and a common cable system.

Once the plan is implemented, the stretch between Red Fort and Fatehpuri Masjid will have a 3.5-metre wide motorway on both sides, besides an eight to 15-metre-wide pedestrian footpath. The stretch will have a 1.2-metre-wide street furniture strip. Landscaping will be done and trees will be grown in clusters of three all along the stretch. The plan also makes way for micro-tunnelling of underground ducts for service cables, hence clearing all overhanging wires.

27 October 2009, Hindu

Tagore’s house to be renovated

KOLKATA: The nearly 120-year-old ‘Bichitra Bhavan,’ which served as the living quarters of Rabindranath Tagore in the city and was pivotal in the life and works of the Nobel laureate, is going to be restored by the Rabindra Bharati University in preparation for the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the poet.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) would release Rs.17 lakh to carry out the restoration of the building, said Anindya Karforma, director-general of the KMC’s project management unit.

The project might commence soon and be completed before 2011, the 150th birth anniversary year of Rabindranath Tagore, said Arunendu Banerjee, consultant to the university’s Jorasanko Thakurbari Heritage Conservation Committee.

“The building requires urgent repairs. Once the structural restoration is done the museum inside the building’s premises will be upgraded to a state-of-the-art facility,” he added.

Elaborating on the significance of the building in the nation’s cultural landscape, Mr. Banerjee said that not only was it the site where several of Tagore’s works were written, it also served as the platform for the launch of the first Art movement in Bengal.

It also served as the site where the political movement to oppose the 1905 partition of Bengal was planned.

The 10 rooms of the two-storey house have hosted several luminaries, including Mahatma Gandhi, Annie Besant, Chittaranjan Das, C. F. Andrews, and Patrick Geddes.

The project is part of a larger initiative to restore Jorasanko, the ancestral home of the Tagore family.

28 October 2009, Hindu

Court declares ASI panel illegal

IN TROUBLE Permissions granted to be reviewed
Criticizing the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Delhi High Court on Friday declared "illegal" an experts committee formed to allow constructions within the prohibited limits of protected monuments across the country.

The ASI has been restrained from giving any further permission for construction or renovation within 100 metres of any monument.

It has also been asked to take steps within a month to reconsider all permissions granted by the committee since its formation in July 2006 and take steps after giving the parties a hearing.
The six-member panel, headed by the ASI director general and comprising eminent historians and town planners, had over 400 applications from across the country.

Out of the 150 requests from Delhi, sanction has been given in 116 cases.

"The committee has been set up without any legal basis...entire exercise being undertaken by them is without authority of law. The ASI, entrusted with the statutory responsibility of ensuring preservation of monuments, is, in fact, facilitating violation of the 1992 notification which prohibits construction within 100 metres," said Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice S Muralidhar.

Construction by a private builder within 88 metres of the Humayun's Tomb in Nizamuddin has been stayed.

The court upheld contention of Supreme Court lawyer Gaurang Kanth, who brought the illegality to attention of the court, that the ASI had no right to form the committee when they had challenged in the Supreme Court a direction by the Delhi High Court in 2004 to the Centre to reconsider limits around monuments and obtained an interim stay.

"The least ASI should have done is to await the outcome of their appeal," said the Bench.
Interestingly, the court asked the Centre to issue show cause notice to Kanth also as to why action cannot be taken against his property situated adjacent to the disputed property near Humayun's Tomb and was within the prohibited limits.

Kanth has already filed an affidavit in the court saying that if his property was illegal, the ASI could demolish it.

31 October 2009, Hindustan Times