Dr. Chithra Madhavan, post-doctoral Fellow, Indian Council of Historical Research, on raising the awareness quotient among youth at different levels.
I find that the youth today, (other than those who come from traditional backgrounds or those whose parents instil some important aspects of our culture in them), are not too aware of India’s ancient culture, heritage and monuments.
They know of only some of the very famous monuments like the Thanjavur temple and the Taj Mahal. These appear often in documentaries or are shown in movies. It is sad that in a country that is filled with exquisite structures of the ancient and medieval ages, constructed with great engineering expertise, there is so little awareness on this subject.
One way in which students can be made more sensitive to our heritage is to alter the history syllabus to accommodate more by way of the cultural history of India, especially with an emphasis on monuments.
Instead of cramming the textbooks with just terse and hard facts, the chapters should be in a language that captures the imagination of the students.
Would a student not be awestruck if told that each ton of granite for building the massive all-stone Thanjavur temple came from about 30 km away, or that the world’s biggest monolithic Nandi in the village of Lepakshi is 8.25 metres (27 feet) long and 4.60 metres (15 metres) in height?
The fact that the architects, engineers, metallurgists in India had attained a high degree of perfection and excellence should be emphasised. An added attraction could be high resolution photos of eye-catching monuments/sculptures or power-point presentations.
Schools could also take the students on field-trips to places of archaeological/historical importance.
For example, if students are taken to a place like Hampi, the ruined medieval capital of the Vijayanagara empire, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it would surely ignite their interest in our heritage and culture. The schools should ensure that a historian or archaeologist tell the students about the site and monuments at that place or ahead of their visit so that they know its importance. Surely, no one standing before structures like the stepped-wells in Gujarat could turn a blind-eye to the architectural perfection of our ancients!
The second factor is the home-front. Parents simply must instil heritage-awareness in their children, both culturally and naturally. The flora and fauna of our land were given much importance and the reason behind the sacred trees and groves was to preserve important species of our flora. When explained from a scientific perspective, with proper proof, there is no doubt at all that students will be drawn to our heritage and monuments.