“Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility”
In the journey of mankind, human beings always looked to progress and make this world a better place. While it is debatable whether all the paths pursued to achieve the success are progressive, it has been recognised that we should traverse back in time and recognise the extraordinary ability our ancestors possessed. There are architectural wonders, built centuries ago, be it, Brihadeeswara Temple, in South Indian town of Thanjavur, Rock-cut cave monuments of Ajanta or great pyramids of Egypt. These remind us of the ingenuity and extraordinary ability of the people who lived in the past. With the passing of time and in the hurry to modernise, the world is losing out on many of these priceless wonders. World Heritage is mankind’s priceless possession and it becomes our responsibility to preserve these assets to the generations to come. To ensure that these are protected, World Heritage Day is being celebrated on 18 April every year. What was started as a movement to protect the monuments by International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has grown into becoming world Heritage Day approval by UNESCO and each year it is celebrated with a theme. At a time when the world is going through many human-made situations like climate change, environmental uncertainty, population explosion, increasing disparities, this year the world heritage day is being celebrated as the one with ‘Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility’.
While the efforts of UNESCO and cooperation from governments of the world over, care is being taken to protect and preserve large monuments, there is another aspect to our heritage. Do you remember as a child, playing with mud-dolls bought from the village fairs or the handmade bamboo fans, wooden puppets etc., how much we used to love them! Several countries are blessed with indigenous arts and handicrafts. Especially a country like ours, is gifted with such talented artisans. Every district, every state and even villages are known for their culture and artwork. Every corner of India is recognized for its rough tenor, be it the colourful dresses, turban, shirts, skirts which gives us feel of Rajasthani art, and craft or the silver and copper prayer wheel of Ladakh. Can we forget the sighting of Durga Puja festival, celebrated with gaiety and community participation, each pandals depicting Goddess Durga decorated in a unique way reflecting the art and talent of the artists?
The craftsmanship of the country, its beauty can also be known from its unique textile. As many variations in shawls and sarees will be seen here, you will not find anywhere else in the world. From Kashmir shawls to Himroo shawl, Rectangular Woollen Shawl, Patka and other many designing shawls will show the artistry here. Can we miss out mentioning the beauty of Kanchipuram Silk, or the fineness of Venkatagiri Sarees? Many types of crafts are made using fabric. The skills to make these are passed on from one generation to the other generation. Some of the communities moved from Central Asia through Afghanistan, Kashmir and settled in Rajasthan, Gujarat. Through such a long journey and crossing different cultures, they bring their experience on clothes through their artistry. The diversity is immense so is the talent.
When we celebrate world Heritage Day, it is important to recall the great artisans who made this country proud, heritage is what is built in the past by the ancestors and left behind for us to remember. More importantly, it is our traditions and the large number of artisans who brought beauty into the lives and to our homes. Let us recognise and celebrate what we have inherited. I had the privilege of living most of my life near to the heritage site Mahablipuram. The monuments are reminders to us that our ancestors did it centuries ago and we should be able to do it now (Fondly recall what late Dr Baldev Raj used to say).
When we are at a juncture, where the world is battling to conquer COVID epidemic, and doubts linger in some corner of the minds whether mother earth would remain the same, celebrating the world Heritage Day would be a great booster.
Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility, after all, it is the sharing which would get it enhanced. Let us celebrate the great heritage we have inherited.