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VOL. XXII NO. 5, June 16-31, 2012
The plight and the challenge
By Nini

My eyes were drawn to the little box item on the top left corner of a recent Sunday edition of The Hindu which said, 'Temple island endangered'. Just the day before, I had put the finishing touches to a picture feature on Rameswaram and Srirangam, and read about Srirangam's historic structures being on the brink of collapse and about rapid demolition and rampant unauthorised construction that had endangered the temple island.

The State Government had as far back as 1993 declared Srirangam a heritage town. A consultant was appointed to work out proposals to conserve the heritage structures and plan the future growth of the town. But heritage is no more valued, it would appear. Important old buildings have been systematically destroyed and apartments have sprung up in their place in gross violations of rules. New constructions have been put up right inside the Kollidam riverbed. Areas around the temple designated for residential use by the local planning authority are now home to commercial ventures.

Clearly, the recommendations have not been followed. INTACH, set up for this very purpose, to protect our natural, cultural and architectural heritage, unfortunately, does not have the powers to prevent this from happening, and happening it is rampantly all across the country. National bodies like INTACH need the support of the local community as well as the local government.

People have to first realise that what is being destroyed is our heritage, our history, golden moments in our past that should be teaching us how to prepare for the future. It is not for some emotional nostalgic reason that we need to preserve these monuments of the past. They are our physical link to the culture which has made us, just as what we create today will become the physical link for the generations yet to be born. Everything that existed before does not need to be replaced; some things need to be preserved, as there is much to be learnt from them. These lessons from our past are very relevant to us today as they tell us how to live in harmony with everything around us. The solutions to so many of the problems that face us were as much in the past as they are in the present.

The challenge is for our generation to understand this and to do something about it. The challenge will also be how to manage the balance between our needs and wants, leading perhaps to a simpler but richer and more meaningful life. I am sure none of us would like to live in a concrete jungle and miss out on the fragrance of flowers growing on plants in the earth. We would all like to be able to walk on the street without fear of being run over, to breathe clean and fresh air and enjoy a beautiful sunset, sit by the river bank and hear the waters gently flow and the song of the birds, or stand on the beach as the waves lash against our feet. Then, we may come to understand the value of our priceless heritage. – (Courtesy: Sri Aurobindo's Action)

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In this issue

Welcome restoration approach by Government
Garbage collection plans go awry again
Looking back
Driving Down Memory Lane
Masters of 20th Century Madras science
Three looks at heritage
There's heritage in idlis & sundal
The plight and the challenge
More Iyengars of cricket
Butterfly tricks

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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