Current Affairs - Indian Art, Culture & Heritage

Rationalization of Centrally Protected Monuments

A recent parliamentary committee report on the 'Functioning of Archaeological Survey of India' has suggested significant changes to the management of India's cultural heritage.

Key Points

  • Rationalizing Protected Monuments: The committee suggests reevaluating the list of centrally protected monuments in India based on their national significance and unique architectural and heritage value.
  • Archaic Era: The report points out that a substantial number of these monuments lack national importance, including colonial-era graves with minimal historical or architectural significance.
  • Government's Proposed Legislation: This recommendation aligns with the government's intention to reintroduce the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) (Amendment) Bill, aiming to redefine monuments and their surrounding areas.
  • Aim of Legislation: The legislation aims to modernize the criteria for protected monuments, possibly moving away from the current 100-year-old benchmark, in line with efforts to disassociate from India's colonial past.
  • Review of Prohibited Areas: The AMASR Act currently imposes construction restrictions up to 100 meters around protected monuments, extending to 200 meters as regulated areas.
  • The report anticipates potential amendments to relax these restrictions, especially for less significant monuments, such as statues, cemeteries, and cannons.
  • ASI Restructuring: To enhance the Archaeological Survey of India's effectiveness, the committee recommends dividing it into two wings: the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the India Heritage Development Corporation (IHDC).
  • Twin Objectives: ASI would focus on exploration, excavation, and conservation, while IHDC would manage revenue-related activities like ticket sales, auctions, and cafe operations.

UNESCO Adds Hoysala Temples of Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapura to World Heritage List

The renowned Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapura in Karnataka have recently gained a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list, marking India's 42nd UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Key Points

  • Nomination Process: The Hoysala temples were India's nomination for consideration as a World Heritage Site for 2022-2023.
  • Inclusion in Tentative List: These temples have been part of UNESCO's Tentative list since April 15, 2014.
  • Protected Monuments: All three Hoysala temples are already protected monuments under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
  • Hoysala Temples: These temples, constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries, encompass Belur, Halebid, and Somnathapura.
  • Architectural Influences: While retaining Dravidian architectural elements, the temples exhibit influences from the Bhumija style, Nagara traditions, and Karnataka Dravida modes, reflecting the exceptional craftsmanship of the Kalyani Chalukyas.
  • Recognition and Preservation: When a site is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it receives increased recognition and appreciation for heritage preservation.
  • Countries can also access financial aid and expert guidance to safeguard these valuable sites.

Santiniketan Added to UNESCO's World Heritage List

On 17th September, 2023, Santiniketan, located in West Bengal's Birbhum district and established by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1901, was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Key Points

  • UNESCO Recognition: This announcement was made during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which will continue until September 25.
  • Historical Significance: Santiniketan becomes the 41st UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, joining the ranks of the Sundarbans National Park and the Darjeeling Mountain Railways, which are also located in West Bengal.
  • Last year, West Bengal's Durga Puja was acknowledged as "Intangible Cultural Heritage of humanity" by UNESCO.
  • Long-Pursued Status: Efforts to secure UNESCO World Heritage Site status for Santiniketan date back to the lead-up to Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary in 2010.
  • Significance of Santiniketan: Founded as a residential school and centre for art rooted in ancient Indian traditions, Santiniketan was envisioned as a place transcending religious and cultural boundaries to promote unity among humanity.
  • In 1921, it evolved into a 'world university' known as Visva Bharati.
  • Nomination Justification: The nomination dossier submitted by India highlighted Santiniketan's tangible connection to Rabindranath Tagore's life, work, and vision, along with the contributions of the Bengal School of Art.
  • It emphasized Santiniketan as an enclave of intellectuals, artists, craftspeople, and workers who collaborated to forge a unique architectural language, ushering in a new modernism in various domains.

Ministry of Tourism and UNWTO Launch G20 Tourism and SDG Dashboard

On 5th September, 2023, the Ministry of Tourism, in partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), introduced the G20 Tourism and SDG Dashboard.

Key Points:

  • Purpose: The dashboard showcases best practices, case studies, and insights from G20 countries, all designed to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the tourism sector.
  • India's G20 Legacy: The dashboard is a lasting legacy of India's G20 Presidency, emphasizing the country's commitment to global cooperation and sustainable growth in the tourism industry.
  • Knowledge Consolidation: The G20 Tourism and SDG Dashboard serves as an online public platform, bringing together the collective knowledge of the G20 Tourism Working Group.
  • Guiding Towards Sustainability: Its goal is to guide the global community towards more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive tourism.

ASI's Innovative Adopt a Heritage 2.0 Programme

On 4th September, 2023, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) launched its Adopt a Heritage 2.0, aimed at preserving India's diverse cultural heritage by involving corporate stakeholders in enhancing amenities at over 3,600 monuments across the nation.

Key Points:

  • ASI's Cultural Heritage Initiative: ASI's Adopt a Heritage 2.0 programme invites corporate partners to utilize their CSR funds to improve amenities at historical sites, contributing to both cultural preservation and economic growth.
  • Corporate Participation: Under the program, corporate stakeholders can adopt specific monuments or amenities through a dedicated web portal, offering comprehensive details about available monuments, gap analysis, and estimated financial requirements.
  • Selection Process: Stakeholder selection involves consultations, due diligence, and assessments of economic and developmental opportunities at each monument.
  • Selected stakeholders will develop, provide, and maintain amenities in hygiene, accessibility, safety, and knowledge categories.
  • Their participation earns them recognition as responsible and heritage-friendly entities, with an initial appointment term of five years and possible extensions.
  • User-Friendly Mobile App: ASI will launch the Indian Heritage mobile app, featuring details and photographs of heritage monuments, geo-tagged locations, public amenities, and a citizen feedback mechanism.
  • E-Permission Portal: ASI introduces an e-permission portal to streamline permissions for filming and photography at monuments, addressing operational and logistical challenges.

Rajmash and Sulai Honey from Jammu and Kashmir Awarded GI Tags

Recently, Rajmash (red kidney beans) from Bhaderwah and Ramban Sulai honey of Jammu and Kashmir have secured Geographical Indication (GI) tags with the backing of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

Additionally, three more products from the Union Territory are in the final stages of obtaining GI tags, as confirmed by an official on Tuesday.

Key Points:

  • Bhaderwah Rajmash: This premium red kidney bean variety, cultivated in Chinta Valley of Doda district, Jammu, is known for its smaller size, distinct texture, sweet nutty taste, and usage in various delicious recipes.
  • Ramban Sulai Honey: Sourced from Sulai plants in the Himalayas of Ramban and Doda, this honey boasts a premium and exotic reputation globally for its unique taste.
  • NABARD's Role: NABARD, in collaboration with the Department of Handicrafts and Handloom and the Department of Agriculture, initiated the process for GI tagging of nine products in December 2020.
  • Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the GI tags for these two products have now been successfully obtained, bringing the total to six GI-tagged products in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • Benefits of GI Tags: Geographical Indication (GI) tags serve as a form of intellectual property right, identifying goods originating from specific geographical locations, known for their distinct nature, quality, and characteristics.
  • GI tags prevent unauthorized use of these registered goods, boost exports, enhance brand promotion at the international level, contribute to the economic prosperity of producers, and contribute to the country's GDP.

Large Number of Megalithic Hat Stones Unearthed in Kerala

During a recent archaeological salvage excavation near Tirunavaya in Kerala, the State Archaeology Department discovered a substantial quantity of megalithic hat stones, also known as Thoppikkallu in Malayalam.

Key Points:

  • Unprecedented Find: This excavation is believed to possibly hold the largest collection of hat stones in an unprotected archaeological site in the state of Kerala, raising concerns about their inadvertent destruction by local residents.
  • Lack of Awareness: Many local inhabitants were unaware of the historical significance of these hat stones and inadvertently destroyed them while clearing land for construction.
  • Megalithic Burial Sites and Relics Uncovered: A distinctive rock-cut laterite burial chamber was discovered during pipeline work, leading to the retrieval of numerous earthen urns and iron implements with distinct characteristics.
  • Insight into Ancient Life: These artifacts are expected to shed light on the lifestyles and culture of the people who lived in the region over 2,000 years ago.
  • Special Ashes: Ashes found within the pots recovered from the chamber, as well as beneath the hat stones, are of particular interest to archaeologists, offering unique insights into ancient burial practices.

ODOP and DAY-NRLM Collaborate to Unveil 'ODOP Wall'

Recently, the One District One Product (ODOP) initiative and Deendayal Antyodaya Yojna - National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) have jointly introduced the 'ODOP Wall'.

Key Points

  • Promotion of Unique District Products Under this collaboration, products with distinctive qualities and cultural significance are being identified from various districts.
  • Places of Origin: These include handicrafts, handloom items, and agricultural products that hold a strong connection with their places of origin.
  • Empowering People: The partnership aims to drive consumers towards emporia, increasing sales and promoting SARAS products, thereby further uplifting indigenous crafts and rural Self Help Groups (SHGs) of women.
  • Strengthening Indigenous Craft and Artisans: This collaborative effort holds the potential to strengthen the position of indigenous crafts and artisans.
  • By promoting and showcasing unique district products, the 'ODOP Wall' initiative contributes to the recognition and growth of rural artisan communities.
  • ODOP: ODOP program, administered by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, strives to make India and its people self-reliant by fostering balanced regional development in every district.
  • The program identifies, promotes, and brands a unique product from each district, encompassing various sectors, including handlooms and handicrafts.

Chikri Wood Craft and Mushqbudji Rice from J&K Receive GI Tag

Recently, the artistry of Chikri wood craft from Rajouri district and the distinctiveness of Mushqbudji rice from Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir have been officially recognized with Geographical Indication (GI) tags.

Key Points:

  • NABARD's Role in GI Tagging: NABARD initiated the GI tagging process for nine products in collaboration with the Department of Handicrafts & Handloom and the Department of Agriculture in December 2020, during the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic.
  • Chikri Wood Craft: Chikri wood is a fine-grained softwood with a pale, honey-colored appearance, prevalent in the hill ranges of Rajouri district in Jammu province.
  • Rajouri's Chikri wood craft is renowned for its intricate carving and detailed workmanship, making it a distinctive and culturally significant art form.
  • Mushqbudji Rice: Mushqbudji rice stands out as a premium variety of short, bold, and aromatic rice, cultivated in the higher altitudes of the Kashmir valley, particularly in Anantnag district.
  • The cooked Mushqbudji rice boasts a unique combination of flavours, aromas, and rich organoleptic properties, making it a culinary delight.
  • Impact on Farmers and Region: The GI tagging of Mushqbudji rice is anticipated to benefit farmers in Sagam and nearby villages, promoting the growth of this local agricultural treasure.

Seven Indian Products Secure Geographical Indication Tags

Recently, the Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai awarded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag to seven products from different regions of India.

Key Points:

  • Products with GI Tags: The products that received GI tags are: ‘Jalesar Dhatu Shilp’ (a metal craft), ‘Goa Mankurad Mango’, ‘Goan Bebinca’, ‘Udaipur Koftgari Metal Craft’, ‘Bikaner Kashidakari Craft’, ‘Jodhpur Bandhej Craft’, and ‘Bikaner Usta Kala Craft’.
  • Mankurad Mango from Goa: The All Goa Mango Growers Association filed the application for the GI tag for Mankurad Mango, also known as malcorada or Goa mankur.
  • The name 'malcorada' given by the Portuguese means 'poor colored,' which later evolved into 'mankurad aamo' in Konkani.
  • Goan Bebinca: The GI tag for Goan Bebinca was filed by the All Goa Bakers and Confectioners Association.
  • Bebinca is a traditional Indo-Portuguese pudding and is often referred to as the 'queen of Goan desserts.'
  • Jalesar Dhatu Shilp from Uttar Pradesh: Over 1,200 small units in Jalesar, Uttar Pradesh, are engaged in making decorative metal craft and brassware known as 'Jalesar Dhatu Shilp.'
  • The Thatheras community residing in Hathuras mohalla creates these products, including anklets and bells.
  • Rajasthan Crafts with GI Tags: Four crafts from Rajasthan were granted GI tags, including 'Udaipur Koftgari Metal Craft.'
  • The craft involves intricate ornamentation of weapons through a process of etching designs, embedding gold and silver wire into the metal, and polishing it.
  • Bikaner Kashidakari Craft: The GI tag was secured for the 'Bikaner Kashidakari Craft,' which features fine stitches and mirror-work on fabrics like cotton, silk, or velvet, primarily used for marriage-related gift items.
  • Jodhpur Bandhej Craft: The 'Jodhpur Bandhej Craft' received the GI tag, representing the Rajasthani art of tying and dyeing.
  • Muslin, silk, and voile fabrics are used, and cotton thread is used to tie the fabric.
  • Bikaner Usta Kala Craft: Also known as gold nakashi or gold manauti work, the 'Bikaner Usta Kala Craft' uses untreated raw camel hide and is crafted by the Dapgar community of leather craftsmen. The craft is known for its long-lasting golden colour.
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