METRO PLUS

World Heritage status

Housing many heritage buildings... Fort St. George

Housing many heritage buildings... Fort St. George  

IF BOMBAY'S Victoria Terminus — now Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus — can be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, why can't our own Fort St. George? Because no one in authority in the State or in New Delhi is pushing for it, is the only answer I can think of, for, otherwise, the Fort should be at the top of any heritage list of the Colonial era.

Mamallapuram's splendid sculptures, the magnificent Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, and, now, of the three temples inspired by it, the ones at Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram, have deservedly been put on UNESCO's World Heritage List, though why the third of the great Chola temples — at Tribhuvanam — was ignored, I can't understand. I also hear that another deserving case is likely to be approved shortly, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, though its sad dieselisation between Coonoor and Ooty has caused the listing authorities a few concerns. But if all these are merit-worthy cases, surely Fort St. George is also - if UNESCO is considering the Colonial period, as it seems to have done in the case of Victoria Terminus, which was designed by F.W. Stevens and inaugurated in Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year, though work went on for another year.

If Victoria Terminus was chosen for its Indo-Gothic architectural splendour, then Chepauk Palace, built a century earlier, is a more significant contribution to India's architecture having been the forerunner of the Indo-Saracenic School of Architecture which Chisholm, Stevens and others followed. On the other hand, if it is historical significance that is being considered, Victoria Terminus fades into insignificance in comparison to Fort St. George.

Pioneering contributions

In almost every field, from education to medicine, from surveying to science, from the military to the ecclesiastical, from jurisprudence to municipal and other governance, Fort St. George has made pioneering contributions to Modern India, its lead followed by the other Presidencies. From Stringer Lawrence and Clive to Wellesley and Hastings and, in more recent times, Rajaji, Kamaraj, Annadurai, C. Subramaniam, V.V. Giri and R. Venkataraman, Fort St. George has contributed a leadership to India over nearly 350 years that is unparalleled. And looked at in terms of architecture, as K.T. Narasimhan of the Archaeological Survey of India says, there is no more a perfect fort in modern India with more heritage buildings in it that Fort St. George.

Considering its immense pioneering contributions to modern India, I can't think of a more deserving modern Indian site to be put on the World Heritage List than Fort St. George. Will the authorities in Fort St. George launch a campaign to this end?

S. MUTHIAH

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