There are some nations on our planet who are robustly conscious of their historical heritage. They realize how history and identity are interlinked and how a genuine knowledge of history does not allow seditious forces to mislead you. They also realize how history and commerce are interlinked and how a genuine knowledge of business can allow handsome income. There are many like me who love history and historical places; who would pay good money to conserve places so that they can continue to marvel at the historical constructions and wonder for hours how the lives of the men long gone were. Fantasy is always history based, without history there is no fantasy and without the capacity of fantasy there is no history, only data. Our part of the world has a lot of historical heritage, but somehow our part of the world has little awareness of the import and impact that history can have on present politics and present commerce. We allow ourselves to hate school-taught history (agreed that the school level textbooks are not always as lovable as other lovable stuff) and erase the actual history from our response to tradition; thereby allowing individual political talent and intent to dictate.
We simply love to be told to be outraged because history has been violated, not actually verifying or even questioning how. And we rarely respond to actual violations of irreplaceable relics.
I may have, at some point in the past, mentioned the utter destruction of Tagore Castle in Kolkata. It is an example of how complete callousness can cannibalize a structure as beautiful and unique as Tagore Castle.
History is not merely a pastime for the elite or the academic, and that is where our trainings systems have failed. Most of the general populace is so blind to both the historical and the aesthetic that they obliterate the monuments of the past along with its splendor in the name of renovation or reconstruction. Konark Temple in Odissa is one such example.
It is a wonder as how globalization has not taught us that we can actually market history. In Europe they will package even a bit of ancient wall in such a way that it will be a thing of beauty that will last forever.
They will charge you heftily for entry and that money will be spent in protecting the monument. History is invaluable. The general perception is that if something is cheap then it is insignificant. If you cannot change the mindset, at least you can set the price in such a way that the mind will be awed. A ticket costing ten rupees will tell you that the attraction is ultimately cheap. If it is a hundred rupees then it suddenly becomes more valuable. And if it is free then you can freely impose your own artwork or biological waste on that space without feeling any guilt or remorse.
I will ask you to take a slightly long drive to a few examples of historical ruin/s. It is difficult to reach (quite thankfully) these places by public transport. You may call me an elitist, but too much of the public ultimately results in chaos and utter disregard for cleanliness and sanctity of any historical or natural space. From Kolkata you can go towards Bardhaman and bypass it and continue towards Durgapur. Just before you reach Durgapur take a right turn and quite soon you will reach the lovely and lonely forests of Garh Jungle. After a while the well constructed roads are gone and you are in touch with the soil of Bengal.
According to the holy legends this was the place where the ancient King Surath of Vanga (now known as Banga or Bengal) had first worshipped the goddess Durga under the advisement of Medhas Muni.
There were a number of temples here. But now there are only a few, and that too concrete structures in places where ancient terracotta temples stood.
The Ashram of Medhas Muni (Muni roughly means hermit) is now a fairly modernized place where a decent number of pilgrims go regularly. The renovated Mahakaali temple along with other temples in the Ashram and the Shyamarupa temple quite near the Ashram may satisfy the faithful in you, but it will definitely disappoint the history-seeker.
Unlike the Kanak Durga Temple area near Jhargram the old temples are not allowed to stand. If you are around the Shyamarupa temple do not forget to go up the watch tower.
It will give you a good view of the jungle below the hillock.
And don’t forget to take the steps that go down to meet a path that takes you through the trees into a grassland that seems rather like the savannah.
The Garh of the Garh Jungle will remain elusive. There are plenty of mounds all around and the lore is that there used to be a fort belonging to the Ichhai Ghosh of the Gope Dynasty of Bengal. Nothing of that fort remains.
However, Ichhai Ghosh’s Deul is a wonderful templar structure. It is not far from Garh Jungle.
It has a shape not quite common in Bengal and it will give you a sense of serenity.
It has the commercial Deul Park on one side and fields full of crops on the other. It is not a place that will appeal to the popular imagination, but it definitely is a place to stop and ruminate. Protected only by a fence and a signboard from the Archaeological Survey of India, this is a place where you should spend just a little while.
If you want to further assure yourself that history is something we love to forget, drive on to Valki Machan.
The village gets its name from a mysterious brick structure.
It seems that the structure once hosted hunting parties. The place was infested with bears – Vaal’look in Bengali, hence Valki – and the local royals often came in this then densely forested area for that inhuman sport. The structure stands neglected by the roadside and there is no signage or attempt at protecting it.
There is no information regarding its origin apart from the name that one can play historian with. This is how we choose not to remember. This is how we simply let go of the past. Moving forward is healthy, but moving forward without learning or cherishing the past is not real progress.
Earlier Posts: 1. Old Lucknow 2. Colonial Lucknow 3. Going Downhill - Versey to Dentam 4. Going to Garhwal 5. The Walkers 6. Palamau 7. Rishikesh 8. Kolkata Kolkata 9. The Roar of the Clouds - Santiniketan 10. Of Pests and Men - Uttarey 11. Where Hikers Fear to Tread - Rudranath 12. Old Times 13. History in Ruins - Pushpagiri 14. Once There was a Heaven 15. Serenity 16. Pilgrim's Progress - Kedarnath 17. Unfinished - Gaumukh 18. Ghatshila 19. Nothing Important 20. Manu's Alaya - Manali 21. Santiniketan 22. Little Lhasa - Dharamshala 23. From Varuna to Assi - Varanasi 24. Tunganath 25. Transitory Blues 26. Gurudongmar 27. The Beginning 28. Yumesamdong 29. Bangali in Bangkok 30. Mukutmanipur 31. Rasvanti 32. The Old Town and the Sea 33. Budapest 34. The Last Post of 2019 35. Travel Travails 36. Cluj-Napoça 37. Presenting the Past 38. Far From the Urban Crowd 39. Silent Night Sleepless Night 40. Norwich 41. Photo Essay - The Road 42. Photo Story - The Days of the Goddess 43. Badrinath
3 thoughts on “Monumental Mistakes”
This is a really good post sir.
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A very good post, sir… We live amidst history in every corner of this country but our utter negligence has spelt doom. We forget our history too soon, let alone valuing it if it doesn’t fuel political and jingoistic interests.
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Here in the US we seem to do pretty well at keeping historical buildings in good shape, although our “history” is exactly that: His (wealthy white men) story. I’m in the process of learning US history from alternate sources, and there’s so much not taught in schools or in mainstream history books. For instance, our beloved Mt. Rushmore was carved by a KKK sympathizer (if not member) on land stolen from native Americans.
Love the post and photos, and hope India is some day able to solve the quandary of making monuments special and protected yet available to the public.
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