Kashmir's crumbling monuments get restoration boost
24 August 2007
Jammu: Hundreds of Indian Kashmir's monuments are dilapidated and crumbling, prompting authorities and restoration experts to step up efforts to save the restive Himalayan state's unique cultural heritage. The north Indian state has over 1,100 monuments - ranging from Hindu temples, Muslim shrines, Buddhist monasteries and old forts - all of which are listed as national heritage sites. But unplanned development, increasing rainfall, lack of funds as well as a separatist struggle which has been waged in the region for 17 years have all taken their toll on the monuments. 'All of us, as responsible citizens, have to play a role,' said Saleem Beg from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage in Kashmir. 'We are trying to involve more and more people and other stakeholders in a bid to revive the culture and heritage of Srinagar city and beyond it.' In June, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) listed the city of Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, in its top 100 most endangered sites in the world. The city's most famous monuments, including the Shalimar and Nishat Gardens, were built after the Mughal emperor Akbar captured Kashmir in the 16th century. The city also has many mosques, temples, hammams and bazaars. 'Unplanned and unregulated development schemes and a lack of basic amenities make Srinagar perhaps the most threatened yet valuable site in India,' said the WMF in a statement. Kashmir's northern region of Ladakh - dotted with centuries-old Buddhist monasteries, murals and mud and clay stupas - is also seeing its monuments being destroyed mainly due to increasing rainfall and lack of funds and expertise. 'Paucity of funds and lack of expertise has resulted in the delay of restoring dozens of our crumbled heritage sites and monasteries', said Lama Lobzang Angchuk, president of Ladakh Gompa Association of monastries. Officials said scores of experts were coming to the region from India and abroad to help in efforts to restore the monuments and a plan to preserve these sites was being worked out. A programme called 'Miras' (Heritage in Kashmiri) on the state-run television station is broadcast daily to inform the public of their rich history. Authorities are also setting up a heritage society to help restore the famous Mubarak Mandi Palace complex in Jammu in the south of the state - which dates back to 1824 and was the seat of the Dogra rulers.