A photographic record of monuments, many of which are in a perilous state, thanks to official apathy and natural forces.
“It is impossible to exaggerate the beauty of Hampi,” declares George Michell. As difficult is the task of capturing its sweeping grandeur and intricate detail. But Discovering the Deccan, a panoramic survey of the monuments of that picturesque swathe of India, does a marvellous job. The value of this book lies not merely in the beauty of its pictures, but in that it is a photographic record of monuments, many of which are in a perilous state, gradually degraded by official apathy and natural forces.
In addition, their tourism infrastructure is so abysmal that it is a deterrent even for sites like Hampi while many gems, like those at Bijapur or Badami, simply don't figure in itineraries for domestic tourists, much less international ones. Michell, a trained architect, points out that in any other country, these monuments would have had a clutch of hotels and an airport close by to support the tourism that could be their lifeline.
Awareness even in India is so low, he says, that when he waxes eloquent about these monuments, the response from many Indians is: “Sounds marvellous. But where is the Deccan?” It is a shortcoming that Michell, co-author Helen Philon and photographer Surendra Kumar have set out to address with the aid of lush pictures and not too much text. “This is not meant to be a gee-whiz kind of book nor too academic a volume. It's one way of disseminating knowledge about heritage,” explains Michell.
The book is divided broadly into Hindu, Islamic and European architecture and takes in the forts of Maharashtra like Daulatabad and Murud-Janjira; the churches and temples of Goa; Hampi, Badami and Pattadakal and the monuments of Bidar and Bijapur in Karnataka; the palaces of Hyderabad and little-known gems in Warangal in Andhra Pradesh; and much more in-between.
“Even if you know this area well, there should be a couple of monuments that you wouldn't have known of,” promises Michell. Here's your chance to find out.
Discovering the Deccan; By George Michell & Helen Philon; Photographs by Surendra Kumar, Pictor Publishing, Rs 2,450. In bookstores March 28