Sometime back, there was a small news article about a 400 year old monument, Rani Mangammal Palace, which was razed to the ground in Madurai. The news was accompanied by a feeling of sadness upon realization that India has no value for the much touted monuments that everyone (particularly, the politicians) makes such a ruckus about. The sorrow was especially taking into account the world stage context: the celebrated Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia (which happens to be the main income for that entire country) is about 1,000 years old; the famous works of the European painters Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo which are the main attraction for tourists at the Louvre in Paris and the Sistine Chapel in Italy are from the 19th century; and no man-made structure in the United States of America is probably less than 150 to 250 years old.
But then many, many more urgent and important happenings took place (including the Durga Shakti case and the sand mafia, the rising dearness of living, the constant drama around Narendra Modi et al). The murder of one building that existed since 1689 seemed unimportant.
Monumental failure: The CAG Report
But some more news filtered in unobtrusively amidst the entire justifiable rage against the gang-rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai – there are a number of “missing” monuments in India.The hijacked / abducted / stolen monuments are not just random landmarks that people remember in their hometowns. No, these are monuments listed with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI): the guardian and custodian of Indian heritage. ASI is supposed to list, protect and maintain the 5,000 year old Indian heritage being continually unearthed in India. You will find the ‘Under Protection of ASI’ board at most heritage sites.
As per a CAG report, in all there are about 92 “missing” monuments in the country – mostly from the Mughal and British periods. The report also says that in many cases the ASI staff members itself were not able to identify or locate listed monuments. About 955 heritage monuments are being used for religious activities. Interestingly, the ASI is clueless whether it had granted such permission to any religious group. About a week or ten days after the CAG report, the ASI actually went “hunting” for the missing monuments. As on September 5th, in Maharashtra, they “found” one in Mandapershwar, Borivali, Bombay; but three in Pune are still “missing”!
Who took away our monuments – statues in bazaars, buildings, arches etc.? We did
One of the largest cities dating back to the days of Indus Valley civilization has been found near Hissar, Haryana. It is supposed to be even larger than Mohanjodaro, the most known city of that period. The discovery is now decades old. Yet, the site is untended and unattended. Locals wander around with impunity picking up what they like and using other spots as outdoor latrines.
Indian values and pride in the “Indian way” seems to show its not-so-pretty-anymore hypocritical head only when it comes to Valentine’s Day, haranguing young couples in parks and on seashores, or when women choose to go clubbing or partying – and now, even when women choose to work, it seems. At all other times, it is meekly tucked away under a very large pallu of apathy.
By Sujata Garimella