street-photography-india-portrait-man-jaipur

The Unknown Face Behind Heritage Conservation

On my way back from Ramgarh after undertaking a Ramgarh Water Walk, I took a pitstop at Amer to capture the setting sun. The Amer Fort looked stunning, as always.

Once done with photography, as I walked back to Amer car parking, I saw this person carrying out repairs under the heritage conservation project. Ordinarily, a team carries out the conservation program. I presume other team members must have been engaged with other work since it is impossible to perform this task alone. I walked close to him and initiated the conversation.

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“What’s your name?”

“Chunnilal”

Are you “Kumawat?” (In Rajasthan, the Kumawat community is well-known for its skills in building and construction.)

“No, I’m Mali (gardener)”

“Do you live here in Amer?”

“No. I live on Ramgarh road, not far from here.”

“Would you appreciate it if I click your picture?”

He gave a prolonged pause & looked around before nodding in affirmation. I presume he was afraid the contractor he worked for might object as this 5-minute photography break doesn’t really sound “productive.” A part of him wanted to be photographed. During this conversation, he kept working. But now, he paused and posed for a picture. Here is the picture of one of many people who restores heritage structures in Jaipur.

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I presented him with the pictures I clicked on the screen and a smile appeared on his face. Generally, whenever I click pictures of people in Jaipur, I try handing them out a copy, later. Many people don’t have easy access to a printed photo; it is a sheer joy to witness the happiness on the face of people while handing a print to them.

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Another Face Of Heritage Conservation & Challenges

It is ironic some heritage structures receive so much attention while others suffer their own death. Right opposite where this restoration was taking place, an extensive section of the wall of an old Haveli was crumbling. The reason? It is not visible from the road. We live in a world where window dressing remains the norm. Read my blog on importance of Heritage Conservation Heritage Conservation Why we need to conserve our built heritage

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Here are few challenges in heritage conservation in Jaipur and India, in general.

  • Lack of funds
  • Poor Attitude towards built heritage
  • Lack of business model to generate revenue from built heritage
  • Lack of enough skilled manpower
  • The slow process involved in the restoration

These are some of the reasons but certainly, this is not exhaustive. As I conclude this post, here are two contrasting pictures of the wall of Amer. The first one depicts a restored section, while the other represents a crumbling structure. What are your thoughts on these two pictures? Do you think we should allow the built heritage to die because it retains no relevance? Read Why the loss of Great wall of Amer is inevitable

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click to enlarge the picture
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35 thoughts on “The Unknown Face Behind Heritage Conservation

  1. I read your other post as well. It’s so sad to see such a beautiful heritage being neglected. In some ways, my feelings are divided. I visited Daulatabad Fort years ago and found great beauty in how nature was taking over the building, and almost making a statement of “Everything is impermanent. Even mighty, majestic structures will not outlast the sands of time”. Yet these structures are such a treasure for India. They’re part of the history and culture that make India so wonderful. It seems sad not to at least try to preserve what still can be saved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see your point here. In fact, there is another view as well. What is not useful will rot anyways. That’s the principle of nature. But at the same instance, this is part of our history and how we have evolved, so in that respect, it is important. Appreciate your point of view. 🙂

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  2. I hope that the attitude toward conservation and restoration of India’s cultural heritage will change and more funding for such projects will become available. I am glad you care so much about India’s treasures, Arv!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was surprised that lack of interest in building heritage is a main factor. I met many Indians that were so proud of their heritage, but I guess buildings aren’t included. Or I spoke to only one part of society. Well I’m glad some of these beautiful buildings are being restored. I guess it is too expensive to restore everything in an area with so many heritage buildings. I love that you gave people prints of the pictures you took. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maggie, it is true people are proud of their heritage. There are many aspects related to built heritage. There are ownership issues with many claimants having conflicting issues. The cost of repairing these buildings is astronomical esp. the traditional methods. I feel the government help will make this easier. A print in their hand with a smile on face is priceless. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Maggie. Appreciate it 🙂

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  4. This lovely post reminded me of Tughlaqabad Fort at the outskirts of Delhi, now in ruins spread out on both sides of the road but looks majestic even in that condition. I must have driven past almost 15 years ago but the beauty of those ruins are still fresh in my mind.
    That is what the neglect of our heritage brings us to! Probably the coming generations would revere their treasured monuments. Your efforts at spreading the awakening towards our heritage is creditable arv. Stay blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree even the ruins are majestic; I’m sure it must have been terrific in its true form. I feel these heritage buildings are an important part of our history and culture. This has been my guiding thought. Let’s hope we preserve as many as we can. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. Only a few get recognized. For example, generally, architects gets all the limelight rather than these workers. I’m happy we are on the same page.

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  5. Hi Arv, nice post & I agree that our heritage must be protected, maintained and promoted for domestic & international tourists. I remember in Athens, all we got to see were ruins at a ticket price. Comparatively, India has a huge history and heritage sites that can easily be encashed if we have the mindset. There is no shortage of talent, it’s about our approach which is lacking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. The Greek ruins are ancient and it’s understandable considering the time gap. At least we have something from that period. On the other hand, the structures here were built within 300-500 years. You are right about talent and approach towards heritage. I hope we change it soon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad this post resonated well with you.

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  6. THERE IS PLENTY OF MONEY BUT IT IS BEING DIVERTED INTO THE OCKETS OF THOSE HIGHER UP. Poor people like the Mali work long hours for little or no pay because they have no choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christine, I don’t think your comment is in line with reality. No one works for “no pay” as you put it in India. Everyone has a choice. I can accept that wages might be low but it is never forced labor. As for money being pocketed by the “higher up”, it happens everywhere. Capitalist economies have so many examples, the best is Walmart! This write-up is not about people forcing others, rather it is about recognizing the unsung heroes.

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      1. oh! I wish we had better norms to preserve heritage. This proves authorities often don’t get things right irrespective of the place.

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  7. History is a part of our future and present. Its provides us invaluable inside of our culture, our society and largely our heritage. Efforts should be made to safeguard the legacy and knowledge that our elders have left for us. The unsung heroes who are putting efforts to safeguarding and largely protecting and restoring these remains unknown. Kudos to you ARV on bringing these forward.

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  8. As usual, your posts expand my worldview. Thank you for this beautiful and informative post on heritage preservation. This is a problem that is pertinent to all cultures, I think.

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  9. Thank you for sharing your post at SIPB and for the time you took to give pleasure to the worker by taking his picture. I am sure he will always remember this and will have a lot of pride in his work and for you. RT

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