Iqbal Ahmad

Preserving heritage buildings

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The state of Jammu and Kashmir has got a repository of such historical buildings in shape of archaeological monuments, historical shrines, Palaces and forts which have earned a special place in the renowned heritage and archaeological manuals across the globe. All the three regions-Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, comprising the state of Jammu and Kashmir have got tremendous heritage significance. Besides, there are a number of Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim shrines carrying varied architectural features and designs and are located at a number of places in the state.

Historical buildings, especially at Mubark Mandi Jammu, Old-Secretariat, Srinagar, Bilawar, Akhnoor, Poonch, Leh towns are classic example of rich heritage. The well-ornamented palaces and buildings of the Dogra period symbolize the Anglo-Indian architecture and incorporate the Mughal as well as the local feature in glorious edifices.

Surprisingly several of the buildings serve as the office complexes for different departments. Lack of proper maintenance and conservation has made these buildings dilapidated. Several of these were destroyed, and in their place new complexes were erected. These jewels of our architectural heritage need proper repairing and maintenance we can also develop heritage tourism and thus raise funds for their proper conservation and protection.

Religious shrines constitute another rich wealth of our cultural heritage. Jammu is known as the city of temples. Well-ornamented old temples can be seen in the Jammu City. Leh and Zanskar had a treasure of their own monasteries and Gumpas, while as the Kashmir valley serve as the living museum for wooden Sufi shrines.

However, this heritage wealth is being looked after traditionally by few government organizations and by local agencies and committees. They renovate it as and when required and in the process of repairing and renovation, most of these agencies hardly take care of its previous architectural design and technique.

In most of the Muslim shrines wooden panels formed of lattice work and pillars are replaced by glass sheets and concrete structures. Similarly, the monasteries of Ladakh built of mud are being renovated with concretes. If this practice is not discouraged well in time we would lose several classical architectural monuments of the state.

if we really want to preserve our built heritage; the conservation of heritage building is significant step towards this direction. In the process of maintenance of our monuments and heritage buildings, after its identification and classification, conservation is the most important factor. Before exploiting these sites for our growing tourist industry we need to conserve it first.

In most of the states of South Asia, heritage tourism has been flourishing rapidly. The government of these states has been exploiting their varied cultural properties to boost up their respective tourist industries. Nepal is one such state where cultural tourism is very popular. The state has preserved very rich cultural material. Rajasthan that does not possess so rich adventurous    tourist attractions has explored its archaeological and architectural monuments for its tourism. The state has developed adequate infrastructure at its historical monuments. The facilities offered to tourists at these sites include availability of Hotels and Restaurants, Cafeteria, Parking and small emporium of folk handicrafts besides archaeological guidebooks and other relevant literatures about these sites are also made available to the visitors.

The West Bengal government very earlier had setup heritage commission to explore more heritage sites and monuments and to bring them in purview of heritage tourism. This has been functioning very well.

In other states of India the cultural wealth stands well  established  and it has been contributing a big share in promoting their respective tourist industries. There are such

States where they have preserved very less cultural wealth but those states have also introduced their minor cultural properties for the industry.

Kashmir is perhaps the only unfortunate state where despite rich cultural heritage not a single cultural site was opened for the field. The land of different cultures, identical monuments, pyramid roofed shrines, forts, palaces ,  temples, historical museums, archaeological sites, festivals, wazwan and magnificent handicrafts has a very rich potential for boosting the states tourist industry.

As it has been observed by the tour and travel traders that most of the people who visit this land are not merely interest in scenic and climatic beauty, there are such visitors who have got a taste of intellectual nature, they are more interested in its cultural beauty. They vow to see the works of the man of this land, both past and present. Some are interested in its long history and vow to know more and more about its past events. Many are inclined to its handicrafts. Some are anxious to know more about its massive ruins of its archaeological monuments, forts and palaces while to   several people the pyramidal roofed wooden shrines are great treasures. Many tourists visit this land to listen Kashmiri music and know something about its tunes and instruments. Several   tourists are seen asking for books on Kashmir to known the cultural traditions of this land and its people.

Although, the land is a rich seat of learning and showcase of its glorious monuments, but the difficulty the tourists face here is the lack of basic infrastructure. Hardly any kashmeri monument is equipped with any basic tourist faculty. Not to speak of hotels, restaurants, site markets, transport, there are several sites which are not even listed in tourist map of the state

It has been observed that cultural beauties are more attractive for tourists. In Maharajas period European missionaries and other common visitors had been provided facilities to visit the Kashmir monuments. This monument has been serving the important tourist attractions. But soon when the government came into the hands of the democratic setup, the land monuments and heritage sites lost its tourist value. These sites got neglected and gradually   became inaccessible to   the tourists.

It was only from lost two decades that the democratic rulers have understood the importance the state’s heritage wealth and have come forward with certain initiatives. Despite of awakning the major heritage are not yet maintained to the extent of other states.  Archaeological monuments of   Haripurbet, Parahaspura, Martand, Pathan, Bonyar, Lalmandi Mubark mandi, Aknoor, Bilawar, Poonch, Bhimgrah, Ramnager are not equipped with its basic tourist infrastructure.  Several of these monuments are yet to figure into the tourist map of Kashmir. As such there is no arrangement of package tours and tourist circuits. There has been certain initiative by the private enterprise, the tour operators to promote the heritage tourism.  Gulshan publications   private limited has also taken up an initiative of publishing the heritage tourism related   literatures which have been inviting more and more tourists of intellectual taste towards Kashmir.

This time there is no lack of information of about the heritage tourist sites, but certainly there is lack of basic tourist infrastructure. Take the example of Hari purbet fort, neither any transport nor any cafeteria facility is available at the site. Similar is the case with ruins of Monasteries and palaces at Parhaspura and Martand.  Although the   Leh has been to certain extent quipped with its basic facilities but   Jammu Palaces and forts are facing the same problem.

The state government which is learnt to have proposed the constitution of the heritage authority and passed its heritage preservation law is expected would also take up necessary steps to provide the basic tourist infrastructure at least to the most significant monuments of Jammu and Kashmir state.  In this context the Haripurbet fort and Mubark mandi palaces which are the prime tourist attractions of Srinager and Jammu sites shall be given priority.

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