Archaeologist Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan has been appointed by the State government for nominating Kerala monuments to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Her larger mission is to place the Padmanabhapuram Palace and Edakkal Caves on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. But archaeologist Elizabeth Thomas Tharakan knows the journey to that starts with creating awareness among people and changing their perspective about such monuments being more than just old historic structures.
And that is why Ms.Tharakan, who has been appointed by the State government for nominating Kerala monuments to be considered for the coveted listing, wants to start heritage walks in the city.
“Everyone wants the monuments to be on the heritage list. But first we should conserve and protect the historic structures in and around us. Unless we show that we care about our heritage and culture, why should the UNESCO extend its help,” she asks.
She was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of an awareness class on ‘Kerala’s Heritage Sites’ for students at Government Women’s College, Vazhuthacaud, organised by Open Space, a city-based youth forum, on Friday.
While a number of monuments from other States figured on the list, Kerala, which has a lot to boast about in terms of its architectural heritage and culture, had none. She is currently in the process documenting the monuments, which is expected to be completed in a year.
“These two places [Padmanabhapuram palace and Edakkal caves] have been chosen because of their universal appeal. There is a lot of work to be done before they can compete to get a place on the tentative list at least. This includes ensuring adequate infrastructural facilities by the State government and projecting the cultural and heritage value of the sites among our people,” she said.
While development is inevitable, she feels there should be a balance between developmental activities and preserving the historic structures. A heritage restaurant accessible to common people is what she would choose over a modern one.
According to her, construction of cement structures as part of the beautification of the Napier Museum here was unnecessary. “If such works are crucial, then it should be done in such a way that they blend in with the present setting. There was no need to leave the historic buildings unoccupied as they will only crumble. They could be made accessible to the people instead of razing them in the name of development,” Ms.Tharakan said.
(The Department of Museums and Zoos has suspended the decision to construct a pathway around the Museum following objections from environmentalists.)
The schoolchildren are perhaps the best ones to understand the value of such heritage walks. And there is need to revive the heritage clubs in schools to include more activities that will help the children understand and appreciate the symbols of their heritage, she says.