To reconnect people with the past, INTACH, Madurai, is tracking down heritage homes with the help of house owners.

Enterprising members of INTACH, Madurai chapter are on a mission. They want to track down old homes that are more than a century old and find out details that aren’t there in travel guides. According to co-convener Rajesh Kanna, they are on a hunt to uncover old homes and interesting stories and valuable bits of history.

“People are simply not aware of the worth and value of their old houses,” says convener Uma Kannan. Some don’t feel any pride in owning an old home and many find maintaining old buildings a burden. People would rather own a vintage car than a 100-year-old house. “We felt the need to create awareness among people. Behind a drab wall, tucked away in a back street somewhere, could be e hidden a jewel of architecture which needs to be preserved,” she adds.

A city’s history is best understood through old buildings. It is important to count the value and not just the cost of conservation, feel the INTACH members. “Sometimes there are interesting details found inside houses that reveal something about that period, region and its people. Let us not allow our history to vanish,” says Rajesh.

INTACH’s intention is to record people’s history to understand the fabric of Madurai and surrounding region. “As the city changes, documenting and preserving local residences carries history to the next generation. The younger people would then understand and love their city better,” says Uma.

The INTACH hunt has been announced in five districts – Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Sivagangai and Virrudhunagar. Owners of old homes have been asked to directly involve in the project. “There are books and documentaries made by historians on heritage buildings for the serious reader/viewer. But involving the people directly is a first,” says Rajesh.

If you are living in a house that is more than 75 years old, send in your entries in English or Tamil by July 30 to heritagehomehunt@gmail.com. The entries should include details such as the date of its construction, name of the original owner and architect, the master plan, details of any important visitor to the place or any other distinct feature. At least 10 photographs should accompany the entries. The size of the house is not a criterion but authentic information of the building and presentation of interesting facts and photos will matter.

Based on antiquity and history of the house, the top two will be chosen from each district for special prizes, while every participant will be felicitated at a function on August 17 at LAICO Hall. A team of engineers, historians, archaeologists and students of architectures may visit some of the heritage homes for verification. The INTACH members expect a good response following a trial run in Virrudhunagar last September. “We found more than 100 heritage homes within a radius of one km and it has generated tremendous enthusiasm among the locals now,” says Rajesh.

People’s pride in their family, community and homes increases as the family or neighbourhood history is documented. Everyone wants their stories remembered. It gives an opportunity for members of different generations to sit together and sort through boxes of fading photographs, remember word of mouth stories and may be do a bit of research of the original structure.

INTACH will also urge restoration of the heritage homes as many valuable clues to our past is being wantonly lost thanks to lack of knowledge as more and more old buildings are being pulled down to make way for new construction.

To know more call: 9443332292 or 9442103490 or visit www.intachmadurai.org