Rising up in a metropolis like Agra, the place a chunk of residing historical past awaits at each flip, transferring to the startup hub of India—Bengaluru—was a wierd feeling. As a self-proclaimed historical past fanatic, I discovered myself lacking the presence of heritage within the metropolis. This modified after I related with different historical past lovers in Bengaluru, discovering that there’s a wealthy historical past tucked away in some hidden spots.
Throughout town, many individuals have been organising heritage walks and preservation drives to avoid wasting this hidden cultural wealth. One such particular person is Meera Iyer, who has devoted greater than a decade of her life to discovering and restoring unexplored heritage buildings, making certain they’re preserved for future generations.
The 53-year-old labored as a contract author earlier than she determined to affix INTACH (Indian Nationwide Belief for Artwork and Cultural Heritage), a non-profit charitable organisation devoted to the conservation of unprotected architectural heritage throughout India, to protect Bengaluru’s forgotten heritage.
“It’s each surprising and disheartening that many residents of town are unaware of the presence of heritage buildings. These constructions, some courting again a whole bunch of years, are slipping into obscurity with nobody to protect their historic significance,” Meera Iyer, the convenor of INTACH tells The Higher India.
For the love of town and its heritage
Raised in Bengaluru, Meera has at all times harboured a eager curiosity in exploring town’s wealthy heritage. “I used to go to many lesser-known constructions across the metropolis. As an fanatic, I loved uncovering these hidden gems and had at all times aspired to make a significant contribution,” she says.
Earlier than becoming a member of INTACH, Meera labored as a contract author, specializing in matters associated to forests and science. “I maintain a PhD in forest ecology and spent a while within the US. After I returned to India, I initially pursued freelance writing earlier than discovering my true ardour for heritage preservation,” she remembers.
A pivotal second that redirected her profession path was a go to to Devanahalli Fort. “Throughout my go to, I realised that there was a lack of understanding on-line about its historical past and heritage. This 18th century constructing is regularly fading into obscurity, dropping within the particles of time,” she says.
“The importance of this place will not be solely historic but in addition architectural. In every other nation on the planet, there would have been individuals passionately advocating for its recognition, however right here, it was as if nobody even knew about it,” she provides.
With the dedication to avoid wasting as many heritage buildings as doable, in 2007 she joined INTACH.
“That realisation turned the catalyst for me to become involved. There are numerous such neglected locations, however this one, particularly, was a serious turning level. Visiting these places, and particularly discovering an entire absence of knowledge on website, fueled my dedication to take motion,” she says.
Discovering town via a historic lens
Talking on the subject of what really constitutes historical past within the eyes of individuals, Meera feedback, “There are millions of monuments within the nation protected by the ASI. Nonetheless, there are additionally small temples, buildings, faculties, and houses that maintain historic significance. The problem lies in preserving them. I perceive that it’s not possible to guard each fragment of the previous, however there have to be a approach to doc and lift consciousness about these websites in order that extra of our historical past will be retained.”
At INTACH’s Bengaluru Chapter, Meera knowledgeable they cowl largely two points of heritage preservation. “First, we host heritage walks to familiarise individuals with their metropolis’s heritage. Our walks primarily give attention to the area people, concentrating on the residents of town. Whereas we do welcome vacationers and travellers, our emphasis on participating the native inhabitants is clear. This dedication is mirrored, as an example, in being one of many few organisations within the metropolis that conducts walks within the native language, Kannada. Our objective is to make sure that individuals from all walks of life are acquainted with town.”
Meera initiated outreach efforts via the publication of a e book known as, ‘Discovering Bengaluru’. It delves into the historical past and evolution of 9 older neighbourhoods within the metropolis.
She says, “It’s a assortment of 11 fiction tales set in Bangalore, incorporating historic parts like time journey and narratives spanning varied eras, was launched. These literary works contribute to our outreach efforts, aiming to attach with a broader viewers.”
The group has completed a whole bunch of heritage walks within the native language.
The second half is the place the organisation is definitely engaged on the conservation of heritage, the precise conservation and restoration of buildings. “The crew at INTACH begins from on the lookout for a potential constructing, then securing funding after which discovering architects and engineers that are perfect for the undertaking,” she says.
“We’ve got labored on a number of initiatives within the years thus far. Each constructing that we restore turns into an essential a part of our routines. It is rather laborious to revive a constructing and hold its historical past and heritage intact. It’s one thing that wants endurance and a pair of delicate fingers,” she says.
Up to now years, they’ve restored buildings in and round Bengaluru equivalent to Mayo Corridor, Tipu’s Armoury, Gangubai Hangal, Museum, the Outdated OPD Constructing at NIMHANS which is now a museum, the Oriental Analysis Institute in Mysuru amongst others.
“We’ve been concerned within the building of two buildings in Shimoga for the Shimoga Sensible Metropolis initiative. One is the Authorities Center College, and the opposite is the Shimoga Company constructing, each accomplished final 12 months. At the moment, our focus is on the continued initiatives, together with Mani Villas, the institute, and a practice station known as Nandi Halt,” she provides.
Speaking in regards to the varied difficulties her crew faces she says, “We face quite a few points, with funding being the key hurdle. The federal government doesn’t persistently allocate funds to us, compelling us to hunt help from non-public sources. Nonetheless, securing funding from non-public entities is sort of difficult since not many are inclined to spend money on intensive restoration initiatives. Though a number of firms have CSR funds, these funds sometimes prioritise initiatives associated to well being, ladies, and youngsters.”
“The disinterest in preserving this heritage can be as a result of, for many individuals, the concept of heritage is a fort or a temple,” she provides. “Nonetheless, we’ve been fortunate sufficient to by some means discover enthusiastic people desirous to contribute in addition to authorities funding right here and there to outlive.
One other problem that Meera brings up in our dialog is the dearth of stringent preservation guidelines in Bengaluru.
Discussing the state of affairs in locations like Mumbai, notably South Bombay and the Colaba space, she notes, “Many buildings there have been formally declared protected and designated as heritage by the Metropolis of Bombay. In distinction, in Bengaluru, though we theoretically have an identical idea, town lacks an efficient implementing company. In sensible phrases, we don’t possess a sturdy regulatory framework for heritage safety in Bengaluru. This poses a big problem and a substantial problem.”
“Moreover consciousness and restoration, we’re at all times attempting to work with the federal government to try to get them to do one thing about getting heritage laws,” she notes.
Speaking in regards to the future, Meera says, “My final objective is to search out myself with out a job. This situation signifies the proper state of affairs the place heritage is totally protected, and the neighborhood as a complete is deeply invested in its preservation. In such an excellent state, there wouldn’t be a necessity for an energetic position in heritage safety anymore. Whereas the realisation of this objective could also be unsure and never fast, it stays a big aspiration.”
You will discover INTACH Bengaluru chapter work right here.
(Edited by Padmashree Pande)