Protect Old Monuments – The Navhind Times

People come together to safeguard heritage structure of St Cajetan Church

THAT Indians have utter disregard for heritage or ancient monuments is well-known. The proof is there for everyone to see: names scribbled on monuments, especially of lovers or friends, and figures scratched on them using stones or sharp objects are common sights at our monuments. The situation is the same, be it in Kashmir or Kanyakumari; Indians just can’t resist leaving behind signs of their visit for the visitors that follow. A couple of years ago, a video went viral of some youth pushing down a pillar at the ruins of a temple at a Unesco site in Hampi; it was just symptomatic of how we are destroying our history.

The seventh schedule of the Constitution declares “Ancient and historical monuments and records, and archaeological sites and remains [declared by or under law made by Parliament] to be of national importance.” The Directive Principles of State Policy say that “It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest, [declared by or under law made by Parliament] to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export, as the case may be.” The laws are all there but what is missing is the intent. Reams and reams have been written about the poor condition of structures maintained by the Archeological Society of India, even those that have been declared world heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), but little has changed on the ground.

It is, therefore, quite heartening to see locals, activists and historians come out in strength to protect the heritage and character of Old Goa. The latest protest was held on Sunday, and hundreds of people turned up to protest against a construction in the protected areas. Under the banner of the Save Old Goa Action Committee, they gathered near the church, demanding that the construction – being undertaken within a 1 km-buffer zone of the Unesco World Heritage site of Old Goa – be demolished. They fear that Old Goa could lose the Unesco status if any new constructions are allowed in the region.

According the Unesco, the seven monuments in Old Goa exerted great influence in the 16th to 18th centuries on the development of architecture, sculpture, and painting by spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist, and Baroque art and architecture throughout the countries of Asia, where Catholic missions were established.

After Goa was taken over by the Portuguese, many magnificent chapels, churches, convents, and cathedrals were built. The ones that survive are the Chapel of St. Catherine (1510); the Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi (1517, rebuilt in 1521  and 1661); the Church of Our Lady of Rosary (1549); Sé Cathedral (1652); the Church of St. Augustine (1602), only a part of which is standing; the Basilica of Bom Jesus (1605); and the Chapel of St. Cajetan (1661).

The architectural styles followed those in vogue in Europe; these were adapted to suit native conditions by the use of local materials and artefacts. The buildings represent the roots of a unique Indo-Portuguese style that developed during Portuguese control of the territory, which lasted for 450 years until 1961. This period deeply influenced the way of life as well as the architectural style, which spread to missions beyond Goa, creating a unique fusion of Western and Eastern traditions.

It is thus surprising to note that permission was granted by the authorities for the new construction in the area, despite its recorded significance. The first step is to cancel all the licences and orders given for the new construction; the government must make haste to set up a proper preservation plan. Any construction or mining activity must be strictly prohibited close to the protected site. Regular monitoring and conservation works must be carried out to safeguard the integrity of structural and surface features. Management strategies must be evolved, with the involvement of the local community, and sufficient funds must be allocated for the same. Only then will we be able to safeguard the tangible and intangible value of our heritage, and ensure that they are maintained for the future generations to come.

Source: Einnews

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