By ALOK DESHWAL : The Heritage Week in India is traditionally observed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) from 19th – 25th November, every year to create awareness among people about the rich heritage of India particularly the built heritage. There are 3675 ASI protected monuments in the country and thousands others under the protection of States government Archaeological Departments.
This year the Week was inaugurated on 19th November, 2011 at Qutb Minar in partnership with Itihaas, an organization dedicated to bring heritage to children. ASI had engaged the professional help of Itihaas to expose the children to the Qutb Minar in a most meaningful and interesting manner. Qutb Minar is the tallest tower of India and is one of the most remarkable architectural monuments. The foundation of the minar was laid in AD 1199 by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak who capture Delhi in 1193 and it was completed by his successor and son-in-law Shamsu’d- Din Iltutmish for the purpose of use of mu’adhdhin of the Quwwatu’l Islam Mosque to call the faithful to prayer. It is also said that the minar was damaged by lightening in AD 1326 and 1368 and was repaired by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and Firoz Shah Tughlaq, respectively. Two more storeys were added at later years thus bringing the total number of floors to five. Qutb Minar measures over 14 m at its base and 2.75 m at its apex and 379 steps wind their way through five storeys each with projecting balconies and inscribed with decorative bands supported with series of brackets. It was in the early 19th century, Major Smith replaced the minar’s cupola which was damaged in an earthquake with new ones.
To the north-east of the Minar is another important monument Quwatu’l-ul-Islam Mosque which was also built by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak in AD 1198. It is one of the earliest extant mosque built by the Delhi Sultans. Later, a lofty arched screen was erected and the mosque was enlarged by his successor and Ala-u’d Din Khalji.
The Iron pillar in the courtyard bears inscriptions in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of 4th century AD in memory of king named Chandra. The deep stocket on the top of the ornate capital indicates that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it.
The children were involved in walks, games and other participatory activities during the course of which young heritage leaders emerged from among them who were recognized as such. A total of about 500 children participated from different schools. Trained Itihaas organizers and mentors conducted the children around the monument thereby providing them with quality exposure to their rich heritage.
The Union Ministry of Culture launched two new schemes on the occasion. The first Scheme to give financial support upto Rs. 10 lakh a year, and in exceptional cases, upto Rs. 20 lakh, to magazines and journals dedicated to India’s Culture and Heritage. Titled ‘Scheme of Financial Assistance for Publication of Magazines and Journals dedicated to Indian culture and Heritage’, it will also include publication of books on Indian Culture and Heritage. These Journals and Books have been struggling for survival for several decades and as such they are perceived to have no commercial value and required to be supported by the Government.
Another scheme – Cultural Heritage Young Leadership Programme was launched with the aim to promote cultural awareness among school children, to develop a love for India’s rich cultural heritage. The focus is on the less-privileged children residing in backward areas through regional languages as a medium of communication as far as possible. The Scheme would broadly consist of distribution of existing audio-visual (AV) materials related to culture amongst schools, production of new AV material including publications related to culture. It will support visits to monuments and museums by students of less-privileged schools. The financial assistance by the Ministry of Culture would consist of upto Rs. 5000/- per set of DVD in case of AV material; upto Rs. 1 lakh for production of CDs/DVDs/Publications for children and upto Rs. 500 per child, per trip in case of visits to monuments, which will include the cost of conveyance, food, entry fee for ticketed monuments/shows etc. The Ministry may double this assistance in cases of exceptional merit.
India is a culturally vibrant country, with more than 60 percent young population. The latest efforts of the Government aim at enriching the awareness of culture amongst youth and develop love for India’s rich heritage. Heritage is not to be kept confined to history books but for each and every citizen to enjoy and cherish. Heritage Week attempts to bring people closer to history as built heritage is testimony of our History.