Bangalore's strength lies in its intangible heritage

The city's heritage is not visible on the main road, but in the little lanes, not in commercial restaurants, but in its kitchens, says Sathya Prakash Varanashi, architect and convener of INTACH, Bangalore chapter

Published - October 19, 2011 07:44 pm IST

Fading glory: Local festivals like the Bangalore Karaga, which are celebrated every year, almost go unnoticed in this metropolis. File Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Fading glory: Local festivals like the Bangalore Karaga, which are celebrated every year, almost go unnoticed in this metropolis. File Photo: K. Murali Kumar

If you randomly ask a visitor to the city what they think of Bangalore, they will, in all likelihood, call it a modern metropolis. Or the IT city.

While their perception is not wrong, what people tend to overlook are the many underlying layers of Bangalore. The city has multiple images, communities and languages.

The strength of Bangalore lies in its intangible heritage. The city's tangible heritage — temple, tanks, forts and monument — are not as rich as that of Mysore and Madurai. However, with its intangible heritage, Bangalore definitely makes a place for itself in the heritage map of India.

It is not visible on the main road, but in the little lanes. It is not in commercial restaurants, but in the kitchens in individual homes.

There are annual festivities such as the ‘Kadalekai Parishe' and ‘Bangalore Karaga'. Bangalore was formerly a cluster of villages and even now, each village has its own festival. These local festivals are celebrated every year, but go unnoticed.

Bangalore's visible heritage — old buildings, for instance — are threatened, but we can still save them. But it is the intangible heritage that is more difficult to conserve. There is no statutory that can stop the changing lifestyle in Bangalore. But we do find that many people, including the younger generation, are feeling the loss. So hopefully, in another generation to come, what we save could be more than what we lose.

Tangible heritage is being lost at a rapid rate too. Historic buildings, precincts and the ambience that are all a part of urban space are disappearing. The major obstacle seems to be land value, where the city is considered to be an instrument for speculation. In such a scenario, land value will rise while the heritage value will diminish.

We need to bring about a mechanism where land with a historic building is given special provision so that its heritage value is also recognised.

Today, development is mistaken for the provision of infrastructure. While facilitating the city is important and required, investing on the city for “non-tenderable” activities (expenditure on culture and craft, for instance) will ensure that Bangalore will retain what it was known for.

Or else we could be left with a Bangalore that has a Metro and glossy bus-stations but no people who can sing, act and paint.

Bangalore's natural heritage has come under siege too. It is among the few cities in India bestowed with a rich diversity of flora, geological formations, lakes and trees.

However, the growth of the city seems to have immensely affected this natural heritage.

Even now it is not too late to develop and conserve these using professional methods.

As told to Sharath S. Srivatsa

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