A muddy path snakes its way between eucalyptus plantations, stone quarries and fields of tomatoes to reveal a hollowed-out hill at Uddappanahalli in Kolar district. Dried eucalyptus branches, which are burnt to crack the stone underneath, litter the hill. The entire hillock has been carved out, leaving just a small fort on top.
“Every night, 2 to 4 truckloads of stones are taken from the hill... the mining has been happening for decades by some influential people,” said a villager.
Over the years, quarrying has come to the edge of the fort. Now, blocks are removed from right under the fort. “The fort won’t last long,” said the villager. The origin of the fort is unclear, with some historians believing that the structure could date back to the 17th century, where it was used as a defence post for the army. It is from this post, that they could get a view of the plains stretching till Bengaluru.
However, there is no legislation to protect the structure.
No recognition given
The unprotected site is just one of the estimated 30,000 historical structures dotting the State’s landscape that has not been recognised under either the Central Acts governing the Archaeological Department or State laws for the State Archaeological Department.
Experts believe a majority of these structures, like the Uddappanahalli fort, are under threat. Their fears were communicated to Tourism Department officials during a recent meeting on protecting such monuments.
“There has been no survey of unprotected monuments since 1942. Surveys do not cost much, and there are enough archaeologists and students who can do it. It needs to be done before we lose out on a lot of history. We’ve already spoiled megalithic burial (10,000 to 30,000 years old) sites in most places of the states,” said N.S. Rangaraju, a former Archaeology professor and a member of the Heritage Expert Committee.
A few years ago, he and his students had taken up a pilot of three districts in south Karnataka. Over 550 unprotected structures were identified. “These monuments are over 100 years old, and many of these are religious structures under the Muzrai Department, which does not have the expertise for conservation,” he said.
S.K. Aruni from Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) said a majority of these unprotected structures represent hundreds of years of village histories.
“There needs to be a micro-level documentation of history. But, it needs involvement from the people and the panchayat first. If they can get a preliminary document of the historical structures in the village, then researchers can build upon it,” he said.