July 15, 2024

Heritage for Future Generations

No other country in the world can boast of so many architectural sites and a variety of cultures, languages, arts, music and dance. Very little are they valued and efforts made to conserve them. Forgotten is the concept that we hold them in trust for future generations.

In 1979 a group of people decided on action and the INDIAN HERITAGE SOCIETY (IHS) was registered in New Delhi. The same year a Chapter was established in Mumbai under chairmanship of Late S. P. Godrej, a respected citizen of Malabar Hill. The activities of this Chapter grew and to ensure strict compliance to Income Tax & other laws, the body was registered in Mumbai under the provisions of the Societies Act, 1960 and the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950, in 1997.

The aims of the Society are to ‘awaken the consciousness of the people in the diversity and richness of their architecture, culture and natural resources’. Over the last nearly 4 decades efforts have been made to achieve these aims and to assist others wishing to do so. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was assisted to rebuild the beautiful wooden conservatory in the Botanical Gardens in Byculla; the Mumbai Port Trust was assisted to internally remodel their residential building on RamchandaniMarg to meet their needs in the 20th Century; and the Indian Navy was assisted to restore their Hospital in Colaba. Our latest success has been the efforts over 20 years for the restoration of the University of Mumbai’s Rajabai Tower and Library – so that those iconic structures can live on as our ‘Timeless Heritage’. (Photograph of University buildings)

 IHS assisted in the first listing of heritage buildings, had a nominee on the MCGM’s Heritage Committee, and a representative was appointed by the Mumbai High Court to study & suggest restoration of the five caves in Mumbai under the protection of the Archealogical Survey of India.

To appreciate individual and institutional efforts to conserve heritage structures in their custody, a programme was introduced to give awards & citations. Some of the important recipients of these awards on Malabar Hills have been the Raj Bhavan complex, the All Saints Church, the Municipal Commissioner’s Bungalow, the small Dabholkar Temple near Chowpatty. They all proudly display the plaques given to them.(Photograph of Awards Function)

In 1991 it was learnt that there were plans to fill the historic Banganga Tank and construct more high rises on the site. This wanton destruction had to be stopped, but how? Most Mumbaikars didn’t even know of its existence or historical importance. The bright idea to ‘Use Live Music to Save Heritage’ was born, and the Banganga Festival became a much awaited annual event on the Festivals of India calendar. Artistes of International repute played there and sang praises of the site. Late PanditBhimsen Joshi was so enchanted that ‘he wanted to continue through the night’, but IHS has always been respectful of the laws and silence zone restrictions that were introduced by an Order of the Honourable Mumbai High Court in 2006. Efforts were even made for 3 years to disperse the musical notes around this vast area, to an audience of over 5000 persons atsite and even more on Indian and International television channels, but these failed. IHS would not give up and moved the venue to the steps of the Town Hall. It continues here on the 2nd weekend of every January, in its new avatar of “Mumbai Sanskriti’, with continued support from HSBC & TCS

 Various activists in Mumbai have brought to attention the need to save the city’s Open Spaces. In 2013 IHS decided to assist in this by introducing ‘Art in the Park’ in the existing gardens in different areas. To use these gardens for cultural activities and give an opportunity to young talents, denied opportunities because of exorbitant costs. Children from aided schools, disabled, differently challenged are all encouraged to display their artworks, perform on stages and enjoy themselves. On Malabar Hills it has been possible to hold these programmes in the Priyadarshini Park with support from the Malabar Hill Residents’ Forum and financial assistance of Everest Industries, whose young Chairman AdityaSomanitakes a very active lead.

All IHS programmes are totally free.There are no economic or religious distinctions. All are invited to participate in the workshops as well.

However, there have been failures along with successes. Our inability to save the old wooden structure of Sahyadri or to continue with the Banganga Festival, and thus reform the whole area, will always be reminders of our failed efforts.

 We invite all to save your area, because YOU CAN DO IT BEST.

Carry forward what you inherited to your future generations.

Ask yourselves what you want to leave to your grand children

By : Anita Garware, Chairperson, INDIAN HERITAGE SOCIETY