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Of monumental value
We have to do our bit to save the beauties of the past even if it means disposing that packet of chips in a garbage can, instead at the premises of cultural monument that will bear the atrocity with lips sealed, says PRIYANKA HALDIPUR
What does a trip to Belur, Halebid and Hampi - the architectural wonders of Karnataka, mean to a child studying in class three? Nothing more than a chance to be with her friends all day long and get a dose of biscuits and an orange drink at regular intervals, whilst on a long bus ride.
If fate is favourable, the child might want to return to those very destinations someday and willfully make an attempt at studying the intricacies of the breath-taking structures, that she will understand with age.
It has been repeated ad infinitum that “our state is a storehouse of all things cultural. It has a vast heritage that each of us needs to be proud of...” but how much of this is taken seriously and how many of us genuinely care about the state that these monuments exist in today, let alone proceed with productive measures to preserve them.
World Heritage Day?
Not many people know that April 18 is the ‘International Day for Monuments and Sites.’ To cut a long story short, on April 18 1982, it was suggested in a symposium organised by ICOMOS (International Council for Monuments and Sites) in Tunisia, that this day would be celebrated as ‘International Day for Monuments and Sites.’
|Lalitha Mahal Palace
This magnificent palace was built in 1931 at a cost of Rs 13 lakh as a guest house for European visitors of the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. Renowned Bombay-based architect Mr E W Fritchley designed the palace.
According to some records, the central dome of the palace is said to have been modelled on the lines of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The palace is a majestic two-storey composition of twin Ionic columns, a projecting porch on the ground floor, spherical domes, the circular entrance hall, dominating central dome, stained glass embellishment present a regal touch. The palace abounds in a number of minor ornamentation found in various palaces in England.
The palace is now converted into a five-star hotel. However, the palace projects a royal ambience mainly because of the full length protraits of the Wodeyar Kings, the gracious sweep of the Italian marble staircase, the Belgian cut-glass lamps, heavy ornate furniture, mosiac tiles and some exquisite persian carpets. The picturesque Chamundi Hills can be seen sitting in the palace balcony.
UNESCO General passed a resolution in November 1983 recommending that its member states should explore the possibility of declaring April 18 every year as ‘International Monuments and Sites Day,’ also known as ‘World Heritage Day.’
ICOMOS suggested that the day could be celebrated by visiting monuments, felicitating institutions or individuals who have contributed extensively to the conservation of cultural heritage, providing exposure to monuments through the media, holding conferences by experts on the issue, organising discussions in public spaces, organising photo/painting exhibitions on the theme, publishing literature and stamps on the theme, and creating awareness about culture amongst the youth. Now, it does not take a genius to calculate how many of these plans have actually been executed.
|Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion
The century-old Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion is one of the five royal mansions built by the Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar for his eldest daughter in Mysore. The mansion, which is located in the Manasagangotri campus of University of Mysore, was built in 1905. The mansion was restored to its original glory with funding from Infosys Foundation, Bangalore.
The mansion will soon house a unique university museum complex reckoned to be the first of its kind in the State. As the year 2005 marks the centenary year of the majestic structure, the university authorities are planning to complete the museum complex by 2005. Rare exhibits from folklore, archaeology and geology, collected from different states in India, would be displayed at the museum.
The imposing three-wing building has twin Corinthian and Ionic columns, regal pediments on the first floor, above the north and east porches, pilastered window-sets in variegated ensembles of flat arches, pediments and oval ventilators, all richly moulded.
Who’s who here
Badami, the Chalukyan capital, is home to the famous Badami caves, and also cave temples carved out of sand stone. Painted on the ceiling of one cave temple is - Shiva and his consort Parvati, and a coiled serpent. The 18-armed Lord Nataraja in 81 dancing poses is truly a wonderful sight. Another temple depicts the various avataras of Lord Vishnu. The cave temple in honour of Lord Vishnu reigns in both beauty and popularity. The Badami architecture is indicative of an attempt at Hindu and Jain rock-cut caves. Buddhist influence is also evident.
The temples at Aihole exhibit the primary structure of Indian temples with the Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), the roof termed shikhara and the Garbhagriha. The Chalukyas were also associated with Bidar, which only rose to prominence under the sultanate regime. Bahamani Sultan Ahmad Shah Wali constructed the Bidar fort. The Gulbarga fort, built by Raja Gulchand, has a mosque within it, which bears a semblance to the great mosque of Cordova in Spain.
This magnificent structure is Mysore’s prime landmark. The palace was built in 1912 at a cost of Rs 41.50 lakh in the Indo-Sarcenic style, a combination of Hindu and Sarcenic features.
According to records available at the palace, the construction of new palace was started in 1897 after the old wooden palace was destroyed in a major fire. Mr Henry Irwin was the architect of the palace and Mr E W Fritchley worked as consulting engineer.
The elevation is composed of intricately detailed and variegated elements - a profusion of rounded and slightly carved arches, canopies, slender columned colonnades, some with Hindu features in Rajput style, intricately executed multiple mouldings, marble architraves, stained glass, pavilion, durbar halls, panels, fine carvings of birds, foliage, animals in Hoysala style.
The palace will be the centre of activity during the famous Mysore Dasara festivities. The glory of the majestic palace stands out when it is illuminated.
The Mysore palace, in its Indo-Sarcenic style has now become a museum, where the Wodeyars’ paintings, royal apparel and ornaments, can be witnessed in all their splendour. The Durbar hall has a exquisite ceiling and some pillars have even been painted with gold.
Tipu’s Fort is another important monument with an Indo-Islamic touch to it. Bangalore’s own Bull Temple built by Kempe Gowda in the 16th century is also prominent. The bull has been carved out of single granite rock. Belur, Halebid, Shravanabelagola... the list of places with significant monuments could go on.
|Mysore Medical College
This is a two-storey heritage building which was built in 1924. The building has an arcaded verandah of classical key-stoned arches, sturdy columned entrance, classical side-blocks with pantheon like lanterned domes. The college is the first government medical college in the State. The structure was built in memory of the 27-year rule of Maharaja Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar on August 8, 1927. Including Mysore Medical College, many of the heritage buildings are state owned and some are private properties. Some of the premises are used by the State for research establishments.
Mysore Medical College was the first medical college in the state of Mysore and only the seventh in the whole country at this time. At the request and insistence of Sri Krishnadevaraja Wodeyar the College was shifted from Bangalore to Mysore in 1930. The Mysore Medical School continued functioning in Bangalore for a few years and was eventually shut down a couple of years after Bangalore Medical College came into existence in 1954.
Says Suresh Jayaram, art historian and Principal, Chitrakala Parishath: “Though the preservation of the monument or its restoration needs scientific treatment, at the end of the day, ‘maintainence’ boils down to keeping it in atleast a basic state of cleanliness, providing hygienic toilet facilities and handing out authentic historical information about the spot, through brochures and pamplets.”
Restoration of a monument can be a tedious, long-drawn process. Pankaj Modi, conservation architect, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), and a joint-partner in Adhaar - a firm that works at restoring monuments, says: “The first step is to assess the structural problems of the monuments. A strategy is worked out to restore it. The last step is to recommend ways to alter the monument.”
|Lal Bagh Gardens
In the era before British rule, the city’s ruler, Hyder Ali, planted the Lal Bagh, a 240-acre rose garden that became his retreat. His son, Tipu Sultan, enriched its botanical variety by acquiring exotic plants and tree-species from destinations as distant as Mauritius.
With the British taking over in 1831 after Tipu's fall and over the next 50 years, the British continued the work of expanding the garden’s collection.
Now it is maintained by the Department of Horticulture. Over the years, Lal Bagh has acquired India's first lawn-clock and the subcontinent's largest collection of rare plants.At the heart of the expanse of greenery is situated the Glass House. Its design was obviously inspired by the Crystal Palace, London.
The Bangalore Palace, constructed in 1880, is built in the Tudor style of architecture. Modelled on the lines of the Windsor Castle, the Bangalore Palace can take the visitor by surprise with it’s very ‘propah’ British look.
A built-up area of around 45,000 sqft, this 110 year old monument built by the Wodeyar King of Mysore, is a popular tourist attraction. The beauty of the palace is further enhanced with its turreted parapets, battlements, fortified towers and arches all built in mellow Bangalore granite. For years the gardens were tended to and maintained impeccably making it look like a fairy tale, but today sadly it is used more as a back-drop for rock shows and beauty pageants.
St Patrick’s Church
Right in the heart of what is now the commercial cantonment area of Bangalore city is the St Patrick’s Church. The foundation for St Patrick's church was laid in July 1841, and the church itself was built and completed in the next 3 1/2 years, by the end of 1884.
Part of the Mysore diocese the Bishop Charbonnar of Mysore made it a cathedral in 1845. It was built to serve as a place of worship for the British troops who were stationed in the Bangalore cantonment area. The interiors of the church still hold the original stained glass windows which are circular and stunningly beautiful. Unfortunately the brass pipes of the magnificent church organ were stolen and so it is silent since then.
Attara Kacheri - High Court
Bangalore's first instance of heritage activism came into force 1982 when a public interest litigation saved the High Court building, the flaming red Attara Kacheri, from demolition. The order was passed in the same court building and today it stands in regal splendour as a showcase of the city’s heritage and past. The Attara Kacheri is a two-storeyed building of stone and brick. Attara Kacheri literally means ‘The eighteen offices or departments.’ They originally comprise of the general and revenue secretariat of the State government. It now houses the High Court of Karnataka State. The Attara Kacheri, as the High Court building is known in these parts, was built in 1864.
- Marianne De Nazareth
“Maintainence of the monument includes everything from cleaning cobwebs that have settled on it to collecting funds to restore it,” he adds. The important monuments are readily taken up for restorations, but the lesser known ones are not as lucky, complains Suresh Jayaram. “Also, ‘monuments’ cannot be confined to just stone structures. Even artifacts in terracotta and wood have to be treated with equal prominence,” he adds.
Easier said than done
As the story goes with most government institutions in our country, even the ones responsible for the well-being of cultural and historical monuments, are drowning in an ocean of problems. “There is a serious lack of designers and architects, experts in the field, who could assist the government with restorations,” reiterates Vikram Sardesai, consultant exhibition designer, Archeological Survey of India.
Sultan Battery - A man-made wonder
Mangalore: People always find peace and tranquillity in beauty whether it is manmade or natural. Sultan Battery is one such place! Sultan Battery is situated in Boloor, 6 kms away from Mangalore city bus stand. It was built in black stones by Tipu Sultan to prevent warships from entering River Gurpur. It is now a deserted spot, but its construction is bafflingly exquisite. Although it is a watch tower, it gives the impression of a miniature fortress, with its arrangements for mounting canons all around.
Fifteen years before his death in 1784 AD, Tipu Sultan built the present Sultan Battery, which was known as Sultan’s Battery (English word ‘Battery’) in those days. Firing of canons was known as ‘battery’ (English word battery, again) then. Haider Ali captured Mangalore in 1763 AD, Haider regarded Mangalore of strategic importance as a naval station and established a dockyard and an arsenal. Mangalore, well fortified and converted into a naval station, could very well be used by him to intercept English shipping on the western or Arabian Sea. In 1766 AD, a war broke out between Haider Ali and the English at Mangalore and the English captured the city without much difficulty. The capture of Mangalore was perhaps considered by the British at that time as a significant event in the history of their expansion in India. On the receipt of the news, Tipu made a lightning attack on the English and took back Mangalore from them.
But the English kept laying siege to Mangalore. This was made easy by an easy access to Mangalore via the River Gurpur. Ships of the East India Company with the soldiers had an easy point to enter Tipu’s domain. In order to control that, for defence purposes, Sultan Battery was constructed.
Mangalore: There is an underground chamber found at Sultan Battery, which was constructed to store gun powder, since storing gun powder required a dry place. According to archival records, there was a grinding stone too, which was used to grind and prepare the gun powder. But the grinding stone is not found now.
Over a period of time, Sultan’s Battery became Sultan Battery for the local persons and has continued to be so, in the process losing the very purpose it denoted in its name.
There is also a myth that the underground chamber has a route that leads to Srirangapattana, Tipu Sultan’s capital city.
If one climbs the stairs of the watch tower (miniature fortress), one will get a spectacular view of the Arabian Sea, which can leave one spellbound! The cool breeze blowing alongside the Arabian Sea also acts as a soother to one’s soul. Thus, Sultan Battery, along with being an architectural marvel, enables one to enjoy the magnificence of nature, which makes it quiet unique and attractive in its own way.
Sultan Battery is a perfect example of a place where nature’s beauty blends perfectly with this man-made beauty and lends various hues of joy and excitement. A feeling of euphoria and tranquillity invades a person when one gets there. This is the reason why Sultan Battery is increasingly becoming a sought after place by both locals and tourists.
“There might be 100-odd agencies working on monuments in a specific location, but there will be absolutely no co-ordination amongst them,” he adds. Pankaj Modi sighs, “First of all there is a lack of funds. Sometimes there is also a lack of will.”
The concerned resource persons in the field unanimously agree that the government is doing its best to maintain the monuments well, but there is definitely scope for improvement.
“The government has to be open to intervention from private sectors. That will really perk things up and make them more organised,” says Vikram Sardesai. “Half of the laws and legislations in this respect are redundant today. The least that could happen is for them to be updated,” he adds.
|Jagan Mohan Palace
Mysore: This is another palace located in the heart of the city. Built in 1861 by Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the building is in predominantly Hindu style. The huge pavilion at the front of the palace has been used for holding meetings of the representative assembly and the convocations of the University of Mysore.
The installation of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV took place in this pavilion in 1902, which was attended by Lord Curzon, the then viceroy and governor-general of India. The royal family lived in this palace till the construction of the new Ambavilas Mysore Palace in 1912. Today, a portion of the palace is housing the Art Gallery exhibiting paintings of Raja Ravi Varma and others.
St Philomena’s Church
Mysore: St Philomena’s Church, now known as St Joseph’s Cathedral, is the largest church in South India. Thousands of devotees and tourists visit the church round the year. The church was built as a miniature reproduction of the Cologne Cathedral by Rev Rene Feuga, Bishop of Mysore, in the early 1930s. The church, which about 50 mts in length, has twin spires each of about 50 m in height, according to Mysore Visitor Information Centre (MVIC). The whitewashed walls and high vaulted gothic ceiling impart a pearly white ambience to the inside of the church. Colourful stained glass representations depict the birth of Jesus, the last supper, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. The catacomb under the altar features a reclining statue of St Philomena and is regularly visited by devotees from all regions. A large organ situated in a gallery above the nave is another interesting feature at the church.
“People should be made more aware of the monuments. Children should be taught to respect these monuments and told about the importance of their well-being. Websites should be developed to provide a reader with much more than the basic information that’s being provided. Very few people are capable of providing authentic knowledge about cultural sites. The historians should also take their job seriously,” says Suresh Jayaram.
All said and done, apart from relying on the government and concerned institutions to slog towards preserving and restoring cultural monuments, it is obvious that we, as citizens with civic sense could put in our two penny’s worth (or much more) of efforts towards the noble cause.
WORLD HERITAGE SITES
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a specific site (such as a forest, mountain range, lake, desert, building, complex, or city) that has been nominated for the international World Heritage program administered by UNESCO.
The cultural criteria are that the sites should be of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science; from the aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view. They should represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; or bear a unique testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared.
With respect to natural criteria, the sites should have natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view; geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Karnataka’s claim to fame worldwide are monuments at Hampi and Pattadakal which have been conferred the status of being world heritage sites. Pattadakal was the second capital of Chalukyas. It is fascinating to see that temples here can be divided into those that follow South Indian architecture and those that hint at the North Indian style. Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagara Empire has its Vithala temple as a world heritage site.
Pictures are by DH Photographers