The Qutb Shahi Heritage Park in Hyderabad is a unique necropolis complex built during the reign of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, which ruled the Hyderabad region in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 2013, the Tata Trusts partnered the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to restore the major tombs and structures at the site. The results — as these before-and-after images reveal — have been striking.
Islamic Cairo is packed with ornate monuments, mosques and mausoleums, and its narrow streets are punctuated with trinket shops, cafes and traditional old homes -- an urban fabric layered in centuries of history.
For Luis Monreal, head of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, refurbishing the area is a never-ending project.
"It's like painting an aircraft carrier: when you finish one side, you have to start over again on the other," he said.
Part of the Aga Khan Foundation, his outfit has been working on restoration projects in the area since the early 2000s.
Penang extends Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Think City collab
Published on 21 December 2018
By Opalyn Mok
GEORGE TOWN, Dec 21 — The Penang government renewed its collaboration with Think City and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for another three years to complete key public realm improvement projects in the heritage zone.
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the three partners agreed to the extension with the aim of completing the North Seafront conservation works at Fort Cornwallis and the establishment of a Maritime Museum in the Syed Alatas Mansion.
“Over the past three years, our focus has been on public realm improvements. Going forward we will need a different approach in order to demonstrate that conservation and development can be self-sustaining,” Chow said in a statement today, after his visit to His Highness Prince Shah Karim Aga Khan at his residence in France recently.
Chow said the three partners have also agreed to expand the role of its special purpose vehicle — George Town Conservation and Development Corporation Sdn Bhd (GTCDC) — to include large-scale master planning especially George Town’s Northern and Eastern Seafront.
Chow said the Aga Khan Trust for Culture established Foundation Chantilly, in close partnership with the Institute de France, which is a financially sustainable model to conserve, activate and develop a tourism economy based on culture.
“A similar model could be applied to George Town,” he said.
The Penang lawmaker, in his capacity as the chairman of GTCDC, led a delegation from Penang and Think City to France this week.
He led discussions with GTCDC partners, including Think City and Aga Khan Trust for Culture, to review the past three years of collaboration since the signing of the GTCDC Management Collaboration Agreement on October 16 in 2015.
GTCDC is a tripartite partnership between the Penang State Government’s Chief Minister’s Incorporated (CMI), Think City and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture that was established in 2015.
The special purpose vehicle, through CMI with strong support from the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), has 17 ongoing public realms improvement and conservation projects at a total cost of approximately RM48 million.
Out of the 17 projects, five projects were fully completed, namely the Armenian Park and Backlanes (2015), the Esplanade drainage and subsoil improvement project (2016), the restoration of the Fountain Garden (2018) and the China Street Ghaut streetscape upgrading (2018).
“GTCDC will be working closely with MBPP to mitigate the effects of gentrification and develop strategies to repopulate the core of the historic area,” Chow said.
He added that 2019 will be a crucial year for GTCDC as many of the projects will come to fruition.
“The GTCDC will also be focusing on capacity building programmes and hopes to make Penang a national centre for conservation works in the country and the region,” he said.
The Emir of Bukhara’s Forlorn Garden (1): Revealing Kabul’s hidden history
Author: Jolyon Leslie
Date: 23 December 2018
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The residential quarters of the exiled Emir, looted and damaged in the 1990s. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2006
The residential quarters of the exiled Emir, looted and damaged in the 1990s. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2006
Kabul is a city of secrets. An outsider needs both curiosity and patience to discover the hidden layers that lie behind mud walls or at the end of dusty lanes. This heritage is however at risk from indiscriminate demolitions and new construction, much of which is uncontrolled. The stories behind places also risk being lost, as some of their names indicate; a busy traffic intersection at Chahrrahi-ye Zambaq (Iris crossroads) may have been a tranquil garden; what is now a refuse-clogged drain once supplied fresh water to the neighbourhood of Ju-ye Shir (Sweet water channel) from a distant spring. AAN guest author Jolyon Leslie, who has campaigned for and contributed to safeguarding built heritage, highlights the threats currently facing historic sites in Kabul, both from physical ‘development’ and loss of memory in this AAN Christmas read.
This dispatch is part 1 of a short series about the last Amir of Bukhara who ended up in Afghan exile in 1921. His country, once Afghanistan’s neighbour to the north, does no longer exist, having been divided between Uzbekistan an Tajikistan in Soviet times. The text is an extended version of ‘Notebook 058: Garden of Exile’ published in 2012 as part of dOCUMENTA 13 art exhibition at Kassel (Germany). Part 2 on 27 December 2018 will look at Amir Alem Khan’s resting place in Kabul and the two countries’ relationship.
Development or destruction?
The brutal changes wrought to the urban landscape over the last decade have obliterated important traces of Kabul’s history, as a tide of money feeds speculative construction, much of which is illegal. Worsening security seems to have little impact on the proliferation of brash multi-storey blocks that now crowd the skyline, often funded from dubious sources. From within their heavily-defended compounds in the central ‘green zone’, Afghan politicians and their diplomatic guests tend to portray this rash of new construction as a sign of development – rather than admitting that it is also a concrete manifestation of the corruption and greed that has dogged many aspects of international engagement in the country since 2002.
A similar disconnect prevails with efforts to safeguard sites or areas of historic significance. Most Afghan politicians are keen to affirm their commitment to preservation of their heritage, but it has proved difficult to enforce controls as long as municipal staff are willing to turn a blind eye to the approach of bulldozers – usually for a small consideration from developers, who might themselves be government officials. As on other issues, the failure to uphold the rule of law tends to be portrayed as a problem of ‘lack of capacity’, although such capacity seems to be in abundance in the lucrative realm of ‘redevelopment’. And with most young Afghans not taught about their culture or heritage in the classroom, awareness as to what they stand to lose is largely absent, presenting a challenge for public campaigns.
City of gardens
There are, however, corners that have thus far escaped the khakbad (dust-devil) of transformation, and hopefully might be safeguarded for future generations. Among these are some of the gardens that were once key to the character of Kabul, and seduced the likes of Babur, the first Mughal, whose memoirs offer a vivid picture of how central these were to court life in the early 16thcentury. A garden bearing his name was re-opened to the public in 2008 following restoration and is now popular for family picnics. (1)
Some distance to the south of Bagh-e Babur lies a less well-known site, approached along dusty tracks bordered by high mud walls over which festoons of white nastaran (dog-roses) hang. On the urban fringe, the landscape here is dotted with qala (family homesteads) with blank defensive outer walls and turrets set among irrigated fields and orchards. One such property, Qala-ye Fatuh seemed on my first visit in 2004 (2) to be abandoned, with its avenues of mature walnut and mulberry trees choked by invasive saplings and weeds. Nature appeared to be taking over the ruins of a scattering of buildings in one corner of the site. Despite this air of neglect, water flowed through open channels and villagers were working on small plots they had reclaimed for cultivation. One of them explained that this is known locally as Bagh-e Padshah-e Bukhara, or the Garden of the Emir of Bukhara.
One of the war-damaged pavilions in the garden. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2006
One of the war-damaged pavilions in the garden. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2006
Curious as to the history of the garden, I came to learn that Muhammad Alem Khan, emir of Bukhara, lived here in exile for more than twenty years. Unlike Babur, who dealt with being forced from his home in Ferghana (in present-day Uzbekistan) by embarking on a series of ambitious military campaigns that eventually enabled him to control much of India, Alem Khan’s exile was spent in this garden, plotting unsuccessfully to reclaim his throne in Bukhara. The forlorn landscape and ruined buildings there bear mute witness to a little-known aspect of modern Afghan history.
The emir in exile
Alem Khan’s family ruled over the Emirate of Bukhara for a century before its incorporation in 1868 as a protectorate of the Russian Empire. A photograph taken in Bukhara in 1911 shows him resplendent in a blue silk chapan (coat) embroidered with tulips and irises. Having initially viewed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution as an opportunity to realise his dream of establishing an Islamic caliphate across the region, Alem Khan soon realised that the revolutionaries’ social and economic reforms were at odds with his conservative views. He began to organise resistance, but his forces were no match for the Red Army troops who occupied Bukhara in 1921, causing the emir to flee. After an unsuccessful attempt to mobilise opposition from the east of his country, he accepted an invitation from the Afghan ruler Amanullah Khan to visit Kabul, crossing the frontier in 1921 from Tajikistan.
Painted mural over the fireplace in the residential quarters. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2006
Painted mural over the fireplace in the residential quarters. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2006
Little did Alem Khan imagine that this visit would became permanent exile. With his entourage, he was initially quartered close to the royal palace, In Muradkhane, on the north bank of the Kabul river, from where his host monitored his attempts to rally resistance to the Bolsheviks, with whom Amanullah Khan – despite some ups and downs – maintained friendly relations. It may have been the exiled emir’s persistence in seeking foreign support – he made several requests to the British Indian government in the belief that the Soviets represented a common foe – that prompted his re-location to the secluded compound at Qala-ye Fatuh.
This move did not however prevent Alem Khan from maintaining contact with Bukharan rebels. On the defection to the rebel side by Enver Pasha, a former Young Turk and Minister of War of the Ottoman Empire but now in exile and sent by Lenin to contain the rebellion, he was promptly appointed commander-in-chief by the emir and went on to organise raids on occupied Bukhara. Amanullah would have monitored these developments closely, for he too dreamed of a confederation of Central Asian states, but with Afghanistan at its centre. Despite having signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviets, the Afghans quietly supplied arms to the Bukharan and other anti-Soviet rebels in the former Russian province of Turkestan. This support proved to be in vain, for the Red Army had largely suppressed them by 1922, killing Enver in that year. (The insurgency continued for many more years – more about this in part 2 of this series.) Despite this setback, Alem Khan seems not to have wavered from the conviction that he would return to Bukhara and regain his throne.
This belief might have made it easier to cope with the straitened circumstances in which the emir then lived, which were in stark contrast to the splendours of Bukhara. The quarters in Qala-ye Fatuh comprised a series of free-standing buildings ranged around neat flowerbeds and ornamental trees – now completely overgrown. Curiously, the residential spaces are tiny, even by Afghan standards, and one can but wonder how the corpulent emir and his entourage coped. This might be why Alem Khan appears rather disconsolate in a photograph taken in one of these miniature rooms in 1922. (3) The stenciled wall decoration visible in the photograph survives to this day, but the carpet at the emir’s feet is long gone, replaced by drying animal fodder. Over a fireplace in an adjoining room is a mural depicting a bucolic scene of castles beside a lake ringed by rugged mountains, perhaps intended to remind the household of happier times. Only the biplane that soars above this painted landscape seems to point to the future.
It was to the future, and the possibilities of modern technology, that the emir’s host Amanullah looked as he embarked on an ambitious program of reforms. Part of his vision for a modern capital was the creation of a new government enclave in Darulaman, where a foundation stone was laid in 1923. Work on the elevated Secretariat building (that was badly damaged during inter-factional fighting in 1993/4) must have been visible from Qala-ye Fatuh, and might even have reminded the emir of his grand palaces back in Bukhara. (4)
Alem Khan’s fortunes were hostage to Afghanistan’s turbulent politics. Soon after Amanullah’s abdication in 1929, the leader of the rebels who had overthrown him, Habibullah Kalakani, called for Bukhara’s liberation from Soviet occupation. (Find more background about him in this AAN dispatch.) The exiled emir appears in several photographs of public events at the time, and his presence may have lent a degree of legitimacy to Kalakani’s rule in Kabul. It was less than a year before he was in turn overthrown and then executed by Nader Shah, who turned a blind eye to Soviet incursions into northern Afghanistan in pursuit of Bukharan rebels.
Today, Qala-ye Fatuh’s forlorn garden and ruined buildings seem to resonate with the sadness that Alem Khan must have felt as he heard news of the Soviets’ consolidation of their grip on Bukhara. One can imagine how he must have struggled to keep up appearances in the tiny spaces in which he now lived, perhaps pacing up and down the avenues of trees to make sense of what was happening in the world outside of the walled compound. A section of an ornate plaster fireplace, now partly buried in rubble, is a reminder of the elegance of some of the buildings, even though its rusting corrugated-iron roof now hangs over ruined walls like a shroud. Nearby, shafts of bright sunlight penetrate through the shattered wood ceiling of a mosque, inside which painted decoration and inscriptions survive, albeit defaced.
Detail of moulded plaster fireplace in one of the damaged pavilions. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2011
Detail of moulded plaster fireplace in one of the damaged pavilions. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2011
This destruction is a clue to the next chapter in the history of Qala-ye Fatuh. Its ruined buildings and overgrown landscape are not only the consequence of a natural process of decay, but of destruction caused by mujahedin fighters who, after the fall of the Soviet- backed government in Kabul in 1992, occupied this area. In another twist of history, these mujahedin belonged to the factions who claim to have forced occupying Soviet forces to withdraw from their country in 1989 – a goal that Alem Khan had pursued for his country from this very garden 70 years earlier. (5)
Along with other sites across the fast-changing urban landscape, Qala-ye Fatuh serves as a palimpsest of an important period in Kabul’s history. Since I first visited the garden in 2004, Afghanistan has experienced exceptional urban growth, as families are displaced from insecure rural areas or move to towns and cities in search of a livelihood. With almost a third of Afghans now thought to be urban residents, according to World Bank figures for 2017 there is huge pressure on land, housing and basic services. It is inevitable that investment to keep pace with this growing demand will come at some cost to urban heritage, but more can and should be done to document and, where possible, safeguard, sites like Qala-ye Fatuh that hold the history of the country – and without which future generation of Afghans will be the poorer.
Edited by Sari Kouvo and Thomas Ruttig
(1) Implemented by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, whose programme the author managed at the time.
(2) In the course of planning the rehabilitation of Bagh-e Babur, efforts were made to identify other significant walled gardens that survived in and around Kabul.
(3) One of series of photographs taken by Wilhelm Rieck, a German engineer, who was engaged to oversee various construction works in Kabul in the 1920s.
(4) In a curious echo of history, in 2017 President Ashraf Ghani pledged funds for the restoration of the Darulaman palace as part of an ambitious plan for an administrative quarter to be built in much the same area that Amanullah Khan chose for his ‘new Kabul’ – designed in 1921 by French architect Godard but not realised.
(5) A new contingent of ‘guests’ arrived in 1996 in nearby Rishkhor, where an al-Qaeda base was established, only to be obliterated by US missiles two years later. The craters remain to this day.
Tagged with: Alem Khan, Bukhara, garden, Kabul
Thematic Category: Context & Culture
Three historic houses to be restored in Wazir Khan Square
by Shahab Omer
24 Dec 2018
–WCLA takes restoration of at least a century old structures with AKCSP’s technical assistance
–Mulls turning houses into museum, coffee houses or library after successful restoration
LAHORE: The Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA), with the technical assistance of Aga Khan Trust for Culture Services Pakistan (AKCSP), has taken up the restoration of three historic houses located south of the Wazir Khan Mosque Square, which will be completed by December 2019.
As per the details, the structures were the property of the Punjab Auqaf Department and were leased to other people until acquired by WCLA by paying Rs32 million as compensation.
“It was an uphill task to get the properties vacated and we had to pay a huge compensation amount to acquire those properties as families were residing in them. Auqaf Department was also supportive in this process and it was important to do so in order to give the Wazir Khan Square its original feel back. The social mobilisation wing of WCLA has also played a vital role in this,” an official told Pakistan Today.
They added that a few properties were resting on the wall of the Wazir Khan Mosque and were a threat to the mosque’s structure. “All such constructions will be removed whereas the old ones, after being restored, would add a unique feature to the Wazir Khan Square which was recently conserved by WCLA and AKCSP.”
An AKSCSP official told the houses were at least 100 to 150 years old and had an antique architecture as well as stunning woodwork carried out within. “We are starting to restore the structures as their beauty has faded away over the years,” the official said while talking to this scribe.
“I am a frequent visitor of the old city and feel depressed to witness the poor conditions of the ages-old havelis and houses here. I was crossing this chowk when noticed scaffolding being erected around the houses. So glad to see these beautiful structures of the past being restored,” said Azam Saeed, a tourist visiting the Royal Trail.
Restoration will surely give a neater look to the place, he said and lauded WCLA for removing the blacksmiths who had occupied a section of one of the heritage structure.
AKCSP senior architect and consultant Rashid Makhdum said, “One of the houses is some 125 years old and its interior includes remarkable woodwork. We will be restoring it to the fullest of our capabilities while making efforts to return the structure its lost beauty.”
The house resting on one of the walls of the mosque will be removed as well so that the structure of the mosque is not damaged, he said.
“We have started the documentation of the three houses and are using laser scanners as well as electronic distance measuring machines for accurate structure and damage details. We will be consolidating the structure and reviving the old features of the houses,” Makhdum added.
WCLA Conservation and Planning Director Najam Saquib told Pakistan Today that the restoration of the structures was important to bring harmony in the design and shape of the Wazir Khan Square.
“We are also working on the adaptive re-use of these houses and reviewing proposals of turning them into coffee houses, museum or library. Once these houses are restored, they will provide a world-class sitting place for the tourists as so far there are no proper sitting or resting places on the Royal Trail. An estimated amount of Rs20 million would be used for restoring these three houses as there is a lot of intricate work of conservation and restoration involved.”
The writer is a member of the staff. He can be reached on Twitter: @shahab_omer, and on email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transforming Cities, Transforming Lives: The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme
Wednesday, January 9 2019 to Friday, March 29 2019
The District Architecture Center is pleased to host Transforming Cities, Transforming Lives: The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, an exhibition of 27 regeneration projects from nine countries that demonstrate how culture can have a positive impact well beyond conservation. These projects promote good governance, growth of civil society, rise in incomes and economic opportunities, greater respect for human rights, and better stewardship of the environment—even in the poorest and most remote areas of the globe. While some projects are completed, those that remain in progress go beyond mere technical restoration to address the questions of social and environmental context, adaptive re-use, institutional sustainability, and training.
The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Aga Khan Council for the United States.
Min. of Antiquities cooperates with Agha Khan Foundation to restore monuments
By: Mustafa Marie
Wed, Jan. 23, 2019
CAIRO – 23 January 2019: Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani convened with the director of the Aga Khan Cultural Services Foundation in the Ministry of Antiquities' headquarters on Jan. 22 to discuss means of cooperation in the development of Cairo’s historical districts.
The meeting was attended by Assistant Minister of Antiquities for Technical Affairs Mustafa Amin, and Sherif Arian, CEO of Agha Khan Cultural Services Company - Egypt.
Amin commented that the meeting focused on the latest works of the Aga Khan Foundation regarding the Egyptian antiquities and monuments, and on the restoration works of Altinbugha al-Mirdani Mosque in Al-Darb al-Ahmar, pointing out that the coming period will witness more projects and support from the foundation for the development and restoration of historical Cairo.
Anani welcomed the initiative because of its importance to the Islamic monuments in Egypt.
It is worth mentioning that the renovation project of Altinbugha al-Mirdani Mosque comes within the framework of the Ministry of Antiquities and the Aga Khan Foundation's efforts to develop the monuments of Al-Darb al-Ahmar and Bab El-Wazir areas and restore a group of archaeological buildings in the region.
Enhancing the Quality of Urban Life: Fifteen Winning Projects of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Find out how we can improve life for people in cities by looking at award-winning architecture projects from across the globe.
Why join the course?
This open online course looks at the challenges of enhancing the quality of urban life as they have been addressed by projects from across the world that have received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. All of these projects have benefited Muslim communities, but the messages they communicate are universal.
Over 115 projects have received the Award since 1980. Many of these projects directly address the urban scale and essentially are planning projects. A number of them are works of architecture that nonetheless have an impact on the urban fabric.
What topics will you cover?
Architectural projects premiated by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture that belong to the following categories:
Public buildings as urban landmarks.
Urban infrastructure: Transcending the utilitarian.
Co-existing with the surrounding natural context.
Developing public spaces in the city.
Improving housing conditions for the urban poor.
Protecting and revitalizing the city’s built heritage.
Addressing the needs and challenges relating to post-conflict cities.
Area 10200.0 m2
Project Year 2018
Photographs Simon Norfolk / AKTC
text description provided by the architects. The 12.5 hectare Chihilsitoon Garden laid in ruins for the past 26 years before a project by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture restored the site to former glory, incorporating 10,200 m2 of modernized or newly constructed rammed earth buildings to provide high-quality facilities for visitors.
Formerly a 19th century royal garden transformed in the early 20th century into a state property housing visiting dignitaries, including most notably U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the site had been heavily damaged and looted during the internecine conflict of the early 1990’s.
The project began in early 2015 and was completed by mid-2018 with a €15.1 million budget provided by the German Federal Foreign Office through the KfW Development Bank and entailed extensive partnerships with local communities, Kabul Municipality, and the Ministries of Culture and Urban Development. Rehabilitation of the Chihilsitoon garden is the largest project carried out to date by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which has completed more than 140 restoration and landscaping projects across Afghanistan since commencing its work in 2002.
On the basis of an architectural program developed jointly with local authorities, incorporating existing site functions for sport and recreation, the landscape plan called for the creation of a variety of spatial experiences resulting from the linkage of distinct programmatic spaces through a network of formal paths and trails. A historic formal axial garden forms the core of the site, surrounded by informal patches of dense landscapes and open lawns, with nodes of activities inserted along its longitudinal spine. These include family picnics areas, an outdoor amphitheatre, and the historic formal promenade (containing original marble fountains) which were restored and made functional again.
The continued use of the site for sports activities required the construction of a distinct zone containing cricket batting areas, volleyball fields and two mini-football pitches. An indoor facility was constructed to enable sports teams’ access to changing facilities and showers, promoting the use of the sports fields for competitive matches. In addition to planting more than 5000 new trees, saplings were provided for maintaining the stock of trees and plants within the garden and a commercial horticulture nursery was constructed in order to generate additional revenue towards the upkeep of the site.
Found to have been used in parts of Afghanistan as far back as the 2nd century A.D., rammed earth structures are highly suitable to the climatic and ecological environment in the region. Due to the workability of rammed earth, a range of architectural designs were explored for the various facilities. Reinforced with bamboo trees, steel re-bar, and concrete frame structures, buildings constructed with rammed earth were designed to withstand moderate earthquakes.
New buildings in the garden include an exhibition hall, 300 seat auditorium, visitor management and administrative facilities, and a multi-purpose facility within the reconstructed historic palace. Together these facilities provide essential space for administrative and maintenance functions, while significantly increasing the capacity of the operations to plan multi-purpose events.
Retail units, food kiosks and restaurants have been built into the park to generate sustained revenue for the operation through the hire and use of these spaces. Provisions have been made for on-site utilities, which will ensure that the garden is properly maintained with limited usage of water and electricity, and septic systems that percolate filtered wastewater through subsurface leach fields.
The rehabilitated Chihilsitoon Garden provides users with a safe and secure environment to experience, interact, exchange within landscapes and facilities designed to contain and promote the country’s rich cultural expressions and social history. The garden will be managed by the newly formed independent “Kabul Historic Gardens Trust,” which has been mandated to operate the city’s historic public gardens, building on more than a decade’s experience of sustainably operating Babur’s Garden.
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Rs 70-lakh US grant for conservation of tombs in Hyderabad
It is the second time that the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) grant, a US Department of State initiative, is being awarded to the Qutb Shahi tombs.
Published: 22nd February 2019 11:13 AM | Last Updated: 22nd February 2019 11:13 AM
y Express News Service
HYDERABAD: The US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, who was in the city on Thursday, announced a grant of over Rs 70 lakh towards conservation of the 17th-century tombs of Taramati and Premamati, located within the Qutb Shahi tombs complex.
It is the second time that the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) grant, a US Department of State initiative, is being awarded to the Qutb Shahi tombs.
The grant is awarded to the Aga Khan foundation, which is in the process of restoring the tomb complex. The previous grant, awarded in 2014, supported the documentation of archaeological finds at the Qutb Shahi tombs complex. Earlier in 2009, the program supported restoration at the garden tomb of Mah Laqa Bai at Moula Ali.
Stating he was pleased to announce, Juster said the present grant was only “just one in a long line of projects that we have proudly supported across India. “Through these efforts, we seek to demonstrate the enduring respect of the United States for other cultures and our commitment to conserving the architectural wonders of humanity,” he said.
The restoration’s primary aims will be to conserve the final resting places of famed dancers Taramati and Premamati, and restore the tombs to their original grandeur. CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture Ratish Nanda said the conservation works have commenced with structural repairs, and will require careful removal of 20th century cement, with use of lime plaster applied by master-craftsmen to restore the authenticity of the structures.”
Photo exhibition of US Consulate at RGIA
As the US Consulate in city celebrates its 10th anniversary, the US Mission has partnered with RGIA to launch a photo exhibition chronicling the Consulate’s activities over the past decade. On hand to launch the exhibition were US Ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster; CEO of GMR Hyderabad International Airport SGK Kishore and US Consul General in Hyderabad Katherine Hadda. The Consulate in Hyderabad has curated this selection of 30 photographs after evaluating thousands of photos for inclusion
Published Feb 22, 2019, 1:55 am IST
Updated Feb 22, 2019, 1:55 am IST
The money is from the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).
Hyderabad: The United States ambassador to India, Mr Kenneth I. Juster, has donated Rs 70 lakh for the preservation of tombs of Taramati and Preamati in the Qutub Shahi Tombs Complex.
The money is from the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).
Taramati and Prema-mati were court dancers during the Qutub Shahi regime. Their tombs are right next to each other in the QST complex in Hyderabad.
The funds will be released to Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which is carrying out restoration work in the complex.
The primary aim is to restore the tombs and carry out repairs in structural deficiencies. Cement layers on the walls have to be remo-ved, structural repairs have to be carried out to the foundation and stone plinths. “After that, lime plaster has to be applied by master craftsmen to restore it to its original glory,” said Aga Khan Trust for Culture CEO Mr Ratish Nanda.
This is the second time, AFCP’s fund is being utilised in the QST complex.
A video showing the completed rehabilitation of Chihilsitoon Garden and Palace in Kabul using drone photography and video.
Chihilsitoon Garden is a 12.5-hectare public site, located four kilometres south of Babur’s Garden. Based on the successful rehabilitation and sustainable operation of Babur’s Garden, in 2015 the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) commenced a multi-year rehabilitation programme in Chihilsitoon Garden with the intention of providing high-quality public spaces for social and cultural interaction, educational programming, and sport and recreational activities. The Garden rehabilitation was completed in September 2018.
In today’s world of polarizing ideologies, the need to understand each other is critical. Gardens serve as a connecting space, bringing people of all walks of life together to promote tolerance and understanding through the divine beauty of nature. A garden fills a unique need for the community that surrounds it - peace, resilience, hope, interaction, and connection. Moreover, in a world where we are constantly connected by waves and wires but can feel profoundly alone, gardens allow for physical, emotional, and spiritual connection that is the essence of our humanity. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Join AIA Georgia in inviting Kennesaw State University professors, Zamila Karimi and Dr. Arief Setiawan in a talk and viewing of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme Exhibit at the AIA Georgia and Atlanta offices.
ABOUT: In its third decade, the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP) works on regeneration projects in historic areas in ways that spur social, economic and cultural development. Its central objective is to improve the lives of the inhabitants of these historic areas while promoting models that will sustain these improvements. The Programme has shown how the creation of parks and gardens, conservation of landmark buildings, improvements to the urban fabric and the revitalization of cultural heritage – in many cases the only assets at the disposal of the community – can provide a springboard for social development.
Light bites and drinks will be provided.
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HOW TO FIND CALM AND CULTURE IN DELHI'S VERSION OF CENTRAL PARK
As soon as you enter Sunder Nursery, your pace automatically slows as you see a vast expanse of lush green, well-manicured lawns ahead. Walk a little farther and the pink bougainvillea trees greet you along with the amaltas (golden shower trees) and silky oaks. It’s summertime in Delhi and this magnificent 90-acre heritage park, with its riot of color, serves peace to a weary mind.
This nursery, which also houses several UNESCO-declared monuments, was neglected for almost 100 years before it was meticulously renovated and turned into a heritage park. Opened to the public last year, after 11 years of restoration efforts by thousands of hands, the Sunder Nursery Heritage Park is now touted as a mini version of New York’s Central Park: a transformative oasis of calm and green — and inclusivity — in the heart of bustling Delhi.
With striking sandstone pathways, vibrant flower beds and fountains, Sunder Nursery immediately captures your attention. But visitors will be quickly distracted by Sunder Burj, a small, dome-shaped tower near the southwest park entrance. Inside (visitors can enter most of the structures in the park) the ceilings are carved with intricate star designs reminiscent of Persian wooden ceilings, and Arabic verses are etched into the marble surfaces. Stand in the middle of the Burj and turn in a circle: You’ll get a different view of the park from each of the four arched exits.
Sunder Nursery — previously known as Azim Bagh (meaning “great garden”) and established in 1913 by the British — is home to five other Mughal-era buildings, which have also been restored. A sixth, the stunning Lakkarwala Burj, is at the end of a line of tall trees with bright yellow blossoms and stands on an 8-foot-high platform. Step inside one of the four arched openings to see Arabic verses from the Quran inscribed inside the walls and delicate lattice stone screens. Then wander the park’s ecological and nursery grounds containing around 300 varieties of trees and 45 rare plants — a haven for butterflies and around 80 species of birds. There’s also a lake and an amphitheater.
The move to rejuvenate the park began in 2007, bringing together a public-private partnership between three parties: the Archaeological Survey of India, the municipal corporation of Delhi and the Aga Khan Development network (a nonprofit agency). The project’s aim was to preserve and rehabilitate landmark buildings in Nizamuddin, the South Delhi neighborhood where Sunder Nursery is located, and to improve living standards for inhabitants of the area.
World Largest Picture Wall is becoming Pakistan’s biggest tourist attraction!
A pleasing ambiance and positive vibes surround you when you stride into the Lahore Fort.
The walls of fort recount the tale of rich legacy left by Mughal emperors.
I was flabbergasted and enchanted with the fact that we have the world’s largest picture wall is in the heart of Pakistan, and I don’t even need to get a ticket or travel long to get a sight of this mural wall.
So I didn’t even put it in my to do list plan, I just grabbed my phone, made a call to the Walled City Authority fellows and within an hour, I was standing in the gateway of Lahore Fort.
I always get awestruck with the charismatic spell of this mesmerizing heritage site. With every single breathe; I try to draw the entire aura and the splendor in my soul.
Pakistan is so rich in culture, art and heritage. Lahore is not the capital, but the enriching asset of the country that opens doors to a rich historical bequest to the natives and the visitors as well.
The symbol of Mughal royalty and grandeur, Lahore Fort, is worth a visit to all who are fond of emblematic art, serenity and elegance and it was named on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981.
Protocol will allow the investigation and preservation of the archaeological site Ribat da Arrifana
Porto Canal with Lusa
Aljezur, Faro 08 Jul 2019 (Lusa) - The research, preservation and dissemination of the archaeological site Ribat da Arrifana, in the municipality of Aljezur, are the objectives of a protocol that will be signed on Wednesday in Lisbon, announced today the protection of Culture.
The signing of the protocol is scheduled for Wednesday, at 18:30, at the Ismaelita Center in Lisbon. Its partners include "the governmental area of ​​Culture, the municipality of Aljezur, the New University of Lisbon and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture" , and will deepen knowledge about a site "classified as a national monument" and "one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 21st century," said the Guardianship.
Based on this protocol, the partners will be able to "define a multi-annual plan of action for the creation and management of an interpretive center of the Ribat de Arrifana," referenced "as a monastery of Muslim warrior monks" that "began to be built in the middle of 1130 of the Christian era on the initiative of Ibn Qasi, "the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.
Ibn Qasi was a Sufi Muslim leader, with his history linked to Silves, and led the opposition to the Almoravid dynasty during the Arab occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, becoming "temporarily allied with the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques", stressed the guardianship.
"The strategic partnership between the governmental area of ​​Culture - through the Directorate General of Cultural Heritage and the Regional Directorate of Culture of the Algarve -, the New University of Lisbon - through the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and the Institute of Archeology and Paleocities - and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture aims to ensure the legal protection of the archaeological site, preserve the landscape context in which it is located, conserve the existing archaeological heritage and promote academic research, "said the same source.
The protection of the Culture considered that the protocol will allow an "unequivocal valorization of this site" archaeological and "its enjoyment by an increasing number of citizens."
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is a philanthropic foundation created by Aga Khan IV, Imam of the Ismailis since 1957, designed to promote the Muslim cultural, social and political legacy around the world.
The Ribat da Arrifana is a "fortress-convent dedicated to prayer and vigilance of the coast". It consists of structures such as "a necropolis, a succession of mosques with oratories (quibla and mihrab)", "dependencies intended for both monks and to the pilgrims "and by" vestiges of a minaret ", according to the definition of the site made by the Camera of Aljezur in its page of the internet.
"This important monument located at Ponta da Atalaia, about a kilometer north of the current Arrifana Beach, was allegedly built around 1130 by the Sufi and Madi master, Ibn Qasi, one of the leading figures in the political and religious world of Al-Andalus, a contemporary of D. Afonso Henriques, with whom he established a pact against the governor of Silves, Ibn Wazir, and the Almohads, permitting the king of Portugal to conquer territories between the Mondego and Tejo rivers, "the same source.
The recently restored Qala Ikhtyaruddin, in Herat, November 30, 2011. Some historians believe that Alexander the Great built a fortress on the site when he travelled through Afghanistan around 330 BC. The current walls, which date from around the 14th Century, were crumblng before the Aga Khan Trust for Culture began restoration work in 2008.
The ampitheatre at the recently restored Qala Ikhtyaruddin, in Herat, November 30, 2011. Some historians believe that Alexander the Great built a fortress on the site when he travelled through Afghanistan around 330 BC. The current walls, which date from around the 14th Century, were crumblng before the Aga Khan Trust for Culture began restoration work in 2008.
Pharaohs’ treasures, Roman ruins, medieval mosques—see it all in this timeless city.
5 p.m. Wind down with a stop at Al-Azhar Park, Cairo’s greenest urban attraction. The gated park was originally a landfill, and was transformed into a park in 2005 under an initiative by Agha Khan IV, the 49th Imam of Nizari Ismailism. Sprawling over 74 acres of central city land, it is a veritable oasis among the urban hustle of Cairo.
Bordered by a 12th-century wall from the Ayyubid Dynasty, the gardens in the park follow traditional Islamic architecture, with prominent waterways and walkways gently dividing the green space into cozier enclaves. A variety of food courts and restaurants overlook wide views of the city, including the historic Mosque of Muhammad Ali on the western horizon. You’ll find the park filled with yoga classes, couples sitting by fish ponds, and children playing by the fountains. Visit an hour before sunset to bask in the golden light and watch the city transform.
India’s magnificent stepwells are relics of a nuanced history
A restoration drive is reviving their glory—and uncovering their wisdom
Until recently that water was filthy. The tank was full of rubbish; the neighbourhood’s raw sewage flowed into it. Worse, the structure, which is more than 160 feet (49 metres) deep, was in an advanced state of dilapidation. One section of its walls of grey Delhi quartzite had collapsed. Other parts were bulging alarmingly—and, for the dozens of families who had built homes atop them, perilously.
India has thousands of surviving stepwells, but the great majority are similarly run-down. Many others have vanished, often filled in and built upon. This neglectful attitude is extraordinary, for they are one of India’s unsung wonders. At last, through restoration efforts by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (aktc), among others, they are starting to get the recognition they deserve.
Restoration of the Walled City of Lahore, Punjab (Pakistan)
As a masterpiece from the time of the brilliant Mughal civilisation, which reached its height during the reign of the Emperor Shah Jahan, the Picture Wall is partly responsible for the Lahore Fort’s UNESCO World Heritage listing in 1981. However, the Picture Wall has suffered long periods of abandonment, improper use and neglect, and past conservation efforts have left behind a host of problems and issues.
Beginning in 2017, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s current conservation intervention on the Picture Wall started as a pioneering intervention. Due to the sensitivity of a World Heritage listed site and the level of deterioration of the structures and decoration, it became obvious that a set of criteria was necessary in order to maintain the site’s authenticity. The proposed conservation methodologies involved minimal intervention.
Current conservation work employs a series of artisans specialised in traditional construction methods and introduces modern conservation practice to Pakistani conservators through training and capacity building by international experts.
Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently completed a trip to Pakistan, where they visited a number of AKDN projects. One stop on their tour of the country was Lahore. As a vital part of the Mughal Empire, Lahore was famed as one of the world’s most cultured cities. Since 2007, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Government of Punjab have strived to reinstate this historical legacy.
Providing insight into a world foregone, into a life of majesty, of ancient kings and emperors, the conservation and revitalization of heritage not only revives the past, but bridges an important gap — as only with the past firmly within our grasp are we able to fully understand our present and think creatively about our future.
As much as the majesty of the Alhambra Palace and the Royal Alcazar Palace are lauded and appreciated centuries after their grandeur, ruin, and subsequent restoration; South Asia, the former ground of Mughal splendor, renowned the world over, is home to many such sites of exceeding cultural and historical significance, albeit many in disrepair.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) hopes to change that. The agency strives to be a catalyst for a better quality of life through: the preservation and revitalisation of cultural assets; the reinvigoration of cultural traditions; the creation of education programmes that foster mutual understanding; and, the identification of architectural excellence that positively impacts the way people live, work and interact.
The Trust’s Historic Cities Programme seeks to activate culture as an intellectual, economic, and aspirational generator for ideas that positively shape the future in ways that are meaningful, beneficial, and that will enhance quality of life. Having operated in Pakistan for over 30 years, AKTC has successfully restored and rehabilitated over 100 monuments, historic buildings, and public spaces. All this while demonstrating how culture — in many instances the only asset at the disposal of poor communities — can be a conduit for social and economic development. In doing so, AKTC has received a number of accolades, including prestigious heritage awards from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The Walled City of Lahore was one such unique undertaking, and the site’s restoration was challenging by its very nature. Home to many notable Mughal-structures, such as the Wazir Khan Mosque, Badshahi Mosque, the Shahi Hammam and many more, the fact that the Walled City also housed residents, had to be taken into consideration, so as to not upend them.
Of the significance of the Walled City of Lahore, the CEO of the Aga Khan Cultural Services, Pakistan, an affiliate of AKTC, Mr Salman Beg noted that “Lahore encompasses the richest and densest concentration of historic Mughal sites across South Asia. Whereas India has sites scattered across various cities such as Agra, Delhi, etc., Lahore is home to some of the most glorious historic monuments that holds much cultural significance.”
Having revived lost forms of artistic skill and capacity such as the glazed tile mosaics, frescoes and calligraphy, the restoration aims not only to preserve these structures, but to make them relevant to contemporary needs by bringing new use and new life to them, thereby seeing them reintegrate into the urban fabric of daily life in the Walled City.
“It is only through restoration that AKTC can bring to light the technical competence of Muslim civilisations and highlight their wisdom and knowledge,” Mr Beg says on the significance of the revival of the Shahi Hammam, restored by AKTC in conjunction with the Walled City of Lahore Authority.
Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke of the spirit of revival and the history of Islamic architecture at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Ceremony in Granada in 1998, saying “Skill, knowledge, and vision in the realm of architecture were once a hallmark of Islamic civilisations, and central to the identity of its peoples. The overarching goal of the Award is to stimulate the reawakening of that inheritance, and nurture its continuing evolution in contemporary terms, by seeking examples of creative solutions to the wide range of needs for buildings and public spaces.”
The Picture Wall, housed within the Lahore Fort, was also completely restored. Spanning half a kilometer and featuring one of the world’s largest murals, it was deemed worthy of inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981. All in all, the overall impact of AKTC’s intervention has largely impacted the quality of life, particularly with regard to improved housing conditions and urban services for local residents; as well as the presence of rehabilitated historic structures and improved access to landmark sites for tourists and residents alike..
At the very first cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture presented at the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore in 1980, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “We must learn to understand them [the monuments] well, not simply to preserve them as museums of past glories, but to feel in every part of them – a stone masonry, a brick dome, a window, an ornament, or a garden arrangement – that unique spirit, that unique way which made these monuments Islamic. Only then will we be able to impart the same spirit to the technical means and to the forms of today.”
“Pakistan possesses some of the wonders of classical Islamic architecture, like the gardens which surrounds us, some of the most genuine vernacular traditions… and some of the most important contemporary efforts within the Muslim world.”
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, through its initiatives, is dedicated to not only improving society’s physical environment but, at an intrinsic level, provide an expression of human civilisation by reviewing the past, at a fixed point in time in the present, so that future generations may enjoy these tangible monuments to study humanity and understand their history and heritage in a broader cultural context.
How corporates, civil society can play key roles in preserving heritage
Resistance from stakeholders to revamp the one-km stretch from Town Hall to the Golden Temple in Amritsar sometime in 2013 bears a marked resemblance with public opposition at Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi when a redevelopment plan was unveiled in August 2018.
This speaks of a prevailing temperamental aversion towards conservation of legacy. Local traders and shopkeepers resisted the Rs 1,000-crore Golden Temple heritage street project tooth and nail. A lack of public interest in conservation of India?s rich past delayed the proposal initiated to bring some order in Shahjahanabad, the historic imperial city established by fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Fifteen years after the project?s foundation was laid, the redevelopment ? pedestrianisation of the Walled City?s main street Chandni Chowk ? started on the ground in December 2018 only after court?s intervention.
The court order compelled multiple government agencies and other stakeholders, including traders and shopkeepers, to brainstorm together and finalise the blueprint of the project. The joint efforts bore fruits, propelling the project, which would be completed by March next year.
Similarly, the heritage street project was completed in a record time of three years in Amritsar only after active participation of local traders. The redevelopment of Golden Temple heritage street and Chandni Chowk are stellar cases of government-public coordination yielding rich dividends, when stakeholders start taking onus of our heritage and regard its preservation as their moral duty.
Here the role of public-private partnership (PPP) and corporates also comes into play because the government can?t be solely burdened with the responsibility of protecting heritage that ultimately boosts the tourism sector. Noted author and historian Swapna Liddle says,?Though these projects need refinement and not just footfalls, the communities must work in partnership with experts and private parties, where heritage can be a great engine for development. Until we, as stakeholders, take interest and responsibility, preservation is not possible.?
She advocates experimentation with different PPP models for achieving heritage conservation goals. ?Like the Drishyakala art exhibition this year, put up in the colonial barrack No 4 (B4) at the Red Fort, Delhi, by the Delhi Art Gallery in association with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), was a PPP. It had depth of information, showcased 450 artworks and had even conducted outreach activities in this space to expand the possibilities of making art accessible to a larger audience. Since the ASI does not have the expert capability ? engineers and architects ? specialised in history, it?s important to engage with experts from private players.?
The ASI is the owner of most heritage sites in the country, including the significant ones, and is the prime agency responsible for the preservation and management of heritage. Several sites of historical importance are decaying due to negligence and lack of resources ? funding being the foremost reason. Monument conservation and maintenance require continuous efforts and uninterrupted flow of funds. So, the government is looking at innovative models to leverage expertise and resources of the private sector.
The Partition Museum in Amritsar, set up in partnership with the Punjab government, is a prefect example to cite. The government has provided the building, while non-profit trust The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust (TAACHT) took care of the rest. TAACHT has gathered the collection, raised funds, curated galleries and now operates the museum.
Mallika Ahluwalia, CEO and curator of the museum, says, ?Models like ours can prove to be successful examples of partnership. Many other models can be explored ? and indeed different sites will require different models. For us, the maintenance is done with the help of donations from individuals and corporates, who believe in the importance of documenting this history.? She adds: ?Private parties and the government need to work together to conserve heritage. And, definitely, communities and civil society can also play a role ? especially in preserving our intangible heritage like crafts.?
?Monument Mitra? (Adopt a Heritage) is one initiative by the Union ministry of tourism and culture to encourage corporates to partner in heritage preservation in the country. It started with 93 ASI-ticketed monuments and would be expanded to other natural and cultural sites across India. Under the scheme, corporates maintain and develop public facilities for the comfort of visitors at major tourist attractions.
So far 11 MoUs have been signed, including the ones with Adventure Tour Operators of India (ATOAI) for the area surrounding Gangotri Temple and trail to Gaumukh in Uttarakhand, and with Dalmia Bharat for the Red Fort in Delhi and Gandikota Fort in Andhra Pradesh. The corporates will install benches and dustbins, advanced equipment for sound and light show, build visitor centres and will also be responsible for maintenance of toilets and water kiosks.
However, when the government?s decision about handing over the 17th century Mughal citadel to Dalmia Bharat Group in December last year was reported, it kicked up a controversy. Questions were raised on the expertise of the group in conservation and the rationale behind the handover of the country?s historic monument to a private party for protection. It was even dubbed a monumental blunder.
The involvement of private parties for maintenance and conservation of heritage sites first came under public scrutiny in 2016 when the ASI received complaints about the ?quality? of restoration at the Humayun?s Tomb in Delhi. It constituted a committee for a probe. The work was going on under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). But the fact remains that since 2007, the Trust has been successfully preserving about 60 monuments and structures on the Mughal tomb campus, which were crumbling before its arrival on the scene. However, the ASI didn?t respond to mails and texts sent to seek its comment on the matter.
Jama Masjid in Delhi, built as the centrepiece of Shahjahanabad, suitably makes another case for non-government funding for preservation. The mosque is still not on the list of protected monuments. The Delhi Wakf Board (DWB) is the custodian of Shah Jahan?s dream project, but it?s day-to-day affairs are managed by Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, a descendant of the first Imam of the mosque appointed by the Mughal king himself. On his request, preservation work has been undertaken by the ASI under special arrangement. The 361-year-old mosque is in need of a comprehensive conservation plan, which may be easily executed with non-government funding.
Some other examples of private players? heritage conservation initiatives under CSR are ? InterGlobe Foundation?s (on behalf of the InterGlobe group of companies) partnership with AKTC and ASI for renovation of the tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khanan in Delhi; conservation of a historical step well in Delwara in Rajasthan, in collaboration with Seva Mandir. Under Adopt a Heritage, Resbird Technologies (part of Bird Group) launched Audio Odigos ? mobile audio guide app for travellers ? at some monuments in Delhi. The group is likely to be involved in the upkeep of Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Gol Gumbad and Bara Lao Ka Gumbad in Delhi and the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh. Havells is working with AKTC on Interpretation Centre project at the Humayun?s Tomb in south Delhi and conservation of Sabz Burj in its vicinity.
Anil Rai Gupta, chairman and managing director, Havells, says, ?It is important to realise the need to preserve our heritage so that we can pass it on to the future generations in the best possible condition. More corporates must collaborate to work towards development, maintenance and preservation of heritage. If the government lacks funds, it also lacks vision.?
Private partnership: A booster for growth
CSR projects have even served as major tools to generate employment. Named as the Humayun?s Tomb-Sunder Nursery-Nizamuddin Basti project in Delhi, the AKTC has worked towards adopting a craft-based approach in conservation, employing hundreds of craftsmen using traditional tools, materials and building techniques to revive the creation of the original builders. The conservation project has led to two million people visiting the Humayun?s tomb annually ? up from 1,60,000 a decade ago ? generating about Rs 12 crore from ticket sales. The project also benefited 20,000 people living in the vicinity of the tomb, and created 14 lakh man days of work for master craftsmen and 1,900 jobs for women in Nizamuddin Basti. The proposed Interpretation Centre will be the largest public cultural facility in Delhi since the building of the National Museum. Ratish Nanda, conservation architect and CEO of AKTC, maintains that ?In India, we have not even scratched the surface yet. Our demonstration projects aim to establish conservation standards and improve the quality of life. Hence, conservation must have access to all the required human, archaeological and financial resources. It is a solution to understand the problems of India,? he says. The Trust is also carrying out conservation and landscape restoration at the Quli Qutb Shah Tomb complex in Hyderabad.
Challenges other than funding
Besides funding and expertise for regular upkeep of heritage properties, the authorities have been struggling to create awareness and a sense of belonging among citizens regarding architectural wealth.
Vandalism and defacement are two big challenges that neutralise most conservation efforts, though it has come down to some extent following the ?Incredible India? awareness campaign by the ministry of tourism, involving Bollywood actor Aamir Khan against defacement of valued historical buildings.
According to Priyanka Singh, head, InterGlobe Foundation, citizens also have a huge role to play in protecting what is there. ?Awareness and education programmes need to be designed to make the public aware of their responsibility. Market and media have a big role to play in creating value chain and branding,? she says.
Right vision and approach
In addition to its ambitious ?Adopt a Heritage? scheme, the central government has introduced initiatives such as development of heritage circuits in nine states/UTs under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, PRASAD scheme (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive). Recently, Prahlad Singh Patel, minister of state (independent charge), ministry of tourism and culture, stressed on the participation of the private sector and government?s role as a catalyst. The government and policy makers are aware that tourism and culture can act as vehicles of employment generation, income growth, national integration and boosting international relations. A discussion on the issue was held in August this year, when the ministries of tourism and culture met at the 15th Finance Commission, headed by chairman NK Singh. The officials also discussed conservation policies, which need to promote local community?s stewardship toward the heritage as well as provide socio-economic benefits for local communities. Though the government?s efforts are in the right direction, comprehensive planning and policy-level interventions are required to encourage private participation. Nikhil Sahni, group president, strategic government advisory and government banking, Yes Bank, who has worked through nationwide cultural festivals, heritage walks and workshops, feels a repository of heritage tourism resources and projects needs to be created and supported by a dedicated ?heritage fund? for the upkeep of such resources.
?The state tourism policies should have a well-defined mechanism for private sector participation in heritage conservation. Players can join hands to create a pool of funds, which can support heritage development and conservation projects. The private sector can also be roped in for development of literature on monuments that are not well documented, sponsor skill-development training for local communities and training of guides in foreign languages. Other areas of intervention could be tourist amenities, information centres, signage, thematic development of vicinity, parking facilities, marketing support,? he says.
KK Muhammed, renowned Indian archaeologist and former regional director, north, ASI, says, ?CSR funds must be channelised into developing meaningful tourist facilities at monuments.?
He stresses on the adaptive reuse of a monument ? a process of retrofitting old buildings for new uses that allows structures to retain their historic integrity while meeting the needs of modern occupants ? for organising heritage city shows, building lifestyle museums to showcase the communities of an era.
?This makes the monument very lively and a visitor can be transported to that era. We have heritage but not marketing skills,? says Muhammed, adding, ?We must engage think tanks to build a larger domain of heritage wing for marketing. Also, there is a need to engage scholars and individuals willing to participate as tourist guides or get foreign visitors for excavation who are ready to stay in India for a month or so, charge a fee and bring them to Gaya or Nalanda to participate and gift them a certificate. This way we can accomplish the mission, get the money and do the marketing.?
Surabhi Gupta, director of Rasika Research & Design, associated with conservation projects in Delhi and Haryana, maintains that there is exciting scope to develop tourism around the centuries-old Harappan civilisation. ?Right now, the authorities have only IAS officials and no field expert. It must be a combined effort of the bureaucrats, experts and public opinion. A large international centre with museum is part of the site in Rakhigarhi in Haryana . Why can?t a site like Rakhigarhi display artefacts to the world with joint initiatives of private players who can use their CSR funds,? she says. While the government is opening its doors to private players to help in heritage conservation, the agreements treat them more as contractors rather than partners. ?This relationship needs to change so that better work can take place,? says Ahluwalia.
According to Singh, ?Heritage preservation in India will lead to economic gains on multiple fronts ? enhanced tourist footfall will directly contribute to the economy, the preservation process will create opportunities for the craftsmen to earn as well as use their traditional skills, which are often on the verge of dying. Heritage preservation is necessary for economic, aesthetic and social reasons.?
Heritage and tourism go hand-in-hand
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) survey indicates that approximately 40% of international tourist in the world consist of cultural tourists.
Globally, historical cities are among the most-preferred tourist destinations. ?India is blessed with a rich heritage dating back to the Indus Valley civilisation. We have 38 Unesco world heritage sites ? sixth-highest globally ? and countless other monuments, each with a fascinating story. These monuments and the vibrant culture are the face of Incredible India. It is imperative to preserve this heritage, not only for the associated economic value, but also to stay connected to our roots,? says Sahni.
However, heritage is not just about taking pride in developing city parks or inherent culture but is a simple way of life. ?Heritage must become part of town planning process of every department (municipal bodies and urban development), and it must not concern only the tourism or culture authorities. Unfortunately, with the city?s fast developing pace, the old construction is losing its inherent charm and the havelis are being replaced by solid blocks of multi-storeyed commercial complexes. It is a net decrease in the quality of life due to degraded construction. A number of historic sites, where pieces of political, military, cultural or social history have been preserved, help in improving areas not only for tourists but also for better life of city people,? feels Liddle.
The message is clear. Since heritage conservation is done in adherence to the established Indian and international conservation principles, it provides a sense of identity to bring communities together through a shared understanding of history and culture.
Herat's restored synagogues reveal Afghanistan's Jewish history
After decades of neglect, one of Herat's six synagogues was restored through a collaboration between AKDN and private donors.
"Even though they [the Jewish community] are not here, this belongs to their history as much as it does to us. We are preserving this, their history for them to return to." – Ghulam Sakhi, site caretaker.
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