Saving heritage buildings is not against new urban development, it is inherent to the ethos of urban space

As in the cities such as  Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai, in Bengaluru   in addition to classified heritage structures, there are hundreds of  government and privately owned old structures like   bungalows, hostels, clubs and others  including  palaces, forts or temples.   Some of them are almost like monuments unclassified  and  under non monument-heritage category.  You will be shocked to know that they are all disappearing fast like morning dew.  Reason: Urban madness, space crunch,  devoid of interest to preserve our history, culture and ethos topped by the government officials' apathy and ubiquitous redtapism. 

Residency road / st.Marks road intersection

Among the 823 iconic structures in Bengaluru, carefully re-surveyed by INTACH in 1985,  in  2005 only 354 of them are left  to stand, most of them pathetically.  No wonder they may be too facing the risk of  being pulled down by the wrecking ball or slowly falling on their own due to sheer prolonged negligence or unnecessary court cases.  Loss of roughly 40% of structures of heritage value in a span of 15 plus years in the city is too serious a matter. 

Historians, heritage lovers, prominent citizens of this city have been crying hoarse for decades about the loss of amazing old buildings that once adorned the cityscape; They crumple  under our very nose,  heritage lovers can only stand aghast grief-stricken over them, no matter  whichever party comes to power either in the state of Karnataka or elsewhere no concrete action is to be taken by the ruling party.  In the midst of profusion of bad news about the slowly disappearing heritage sites in Bengaluru, Mysuru and elsewhere the dedicated effort to save the  HVN bungalow, once the residence of H V Nanjundaiah, the founder-president of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat in 2021 ought to be appreciated. .

Negligence of monuments and heritage sites by the officials is not confined to Karnataka alone In the neighboring state of  Tamil Nadu the HR & CE, a government department in charge of Hindu temples, not only mismanages the ancient temples and diverts the temple income for other purposes, but also fails to carry out  periodic maintenance   If they do carry out the repairs, the contractors use substandard materials  for the structures under repair and you may soon see cracks developing in the repaired portion. A good example is the recent (August 5, 2023) fall of a long section of sunshade from the first  fier of the East Gopuram at the most popular Sri Ranganathar temple, Srirangam. The Madras terrace portion on the gopura in other parts above the entrance-exit gate has damaged wooden rafters that are  being supported by wooden props from  casuarina trees. No steel props are used. If portion under repair is improperly propped up, it will spell disaster in the future.

Erumbeeswarar Temple in Thiruverumburen.wikipedia.or

Malai Kovil near
7th -8th CE .Malai Kovil near Tiruchirappalli

Above images:  Erumbeeswarar Temple dedicated to god Shiva in Thiruverumbur near Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu can be taken as yet another example of official negligence.  A protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India and managed by the TN Govt's HR & CE there is no continuity in the countless  Chola  stone inscriptions because when the renovation took place several years back, the stones with inscriptions were removed and misplaced wrongly. The gravalam  path around the hill is not being properly managed. Close to the monuments (discarding the legal limit of 300 meter radius from the site),  there are buildings,, houses, etc and last year the Madurai branch of Madras High Court asked the ASI & HR & CE to remove the encroachment and take steps to renovate the temple.

Missing monuments of

Vanishing Indian monuments.

In the case of Bangalore city, a chaotic situation  arose  roughly 18 years ago when the  then   S.M. Krishna government dissolved the Bangalore Urban Arts Commission (BUAC). It was equal to opening the Pandora's box. Till then  buildings coming up on the  important roads had to get a licence as  per BUAC’s guidelines.

With the BUAC guidelines having been made toothless  and thrown into the garbage,  there had been steady demolition  of non-heritage structures and the heavy duty cranes  with wrecking ball moved in and had started working  overtime to level the places where had stood the historical buildings that can never be resurrected.  With their loss,  the local history is buried  deep in the huge mounds of trash.

After the  2014 amendment to the Companies Act that made ‘protection of national heritage’ a legitimate activity under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Bengaluru  two government-owned heritage buildings were restored back to old glory. 

The subsequent regressive amendment of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (or AMASR Act) to allow public infrastructure to be built within 100 metres of protected monuments became  retrograde and would negate the advantages of CSR acts.   The silverline is  the BDA's  revised master plan put forward in 2017 to save the remaining  heritage structures including the ones owned by them 

There  are countless buildings on Avenue Road and Commercial Street, and in Basavanagudi, Malleswaram and Richmond Town that need to be saved as they are  for a long time languishing  and becoming structurally weak. 

Saving heritage buildings is not a roadblock to progress and modernity in urban spaces.  They have not only potential economic value, but also are inherent to the ethos of the cities.  Heritage tourism is a money spinning business  in the last one decade and is gaining currency in some historic cities . It increases the value of the space. The important advantages are saving the old structures from destruction and  carefully putting them to reuse instead of building a  new structure

States like W. Bengal, Kerala, Pondicherry and recently Tamil Nadu are charting out heritage corridors and trying  to save the dying structures with a view to reusing  them. This way they save money and retain the old-styled buildings. In many cities tourists have understood the value of  guided  heritage walks which are quite educative. 

Proper planning and adequate funding from the government will help a lot to give a new lease of life to the old buildings. With thousands of heritage and historical sites across the country, India has a vast scope for tourism and it can be exploited  by focusing on  proper maintenance, infrastructure development, cleanliness and clean presentation of tourists spots. 

With new mushrooming new buildings in the place of old ones, , Bengaluru is struggling to protect its heritage and its old charm.

The following are some of the structures in Bengaluru that have been lost in the past

1908 -2006. Cash

Residency road / st.Marks road intersection

Above image:  A landmark building  at the Residency road / st.Marks road intersection. Nearly 100 years old  Cash Pharmacy was pulled down in the past and here one could  get all kinds of medicine including  life-saving drugs unavailable elsewhere in the City.  Its unusual elevation made it stand out from the regular tiled-roof buildings around and a wooden facia and trellis ran around the first floor  verandah.

19th-century heritage building in Malleswaram

Above image: Another old Bengaluru charm has been relegated to the pages of history. You can see it in the photos or pictures. Villa Pottipati, a privately owned heritage building dating 19 CE in the prime area of Malleswaram was demolished in Aug. 2018.  Prohibitive  maintenance cost made the owners part with the building. The state govt. could have saved the building............

 Govt. Tamil Higher Primary School, Bengaluru.

 Govt. Tamil Higher Primary School, Bengaluru.
Above images:  A view of the one of the oldest buildings in Bengaluru  - Government Tamil Higher Primary School in Ashoknagar, Bengaluru, Close to Garuda Mall; built in colonial style in 1930.   Once famous, now closed it is on a prime land of 15,500 sqft worth several crores.   Authorities have no intention to restore and save it for the posterity. Quite disgusting is  the school is without power because electricity bill has not been paid for a long time.  The left-out students were shifted to another school; now the school is vacant.  

Murphy Town Public library, Bengaluru.

Above imageThe Murphy Town public library Another link to the past  was snapped with glee in the heart of Bengaluru by the then government . The Murphy Town public library, 104-year-old Murphy Town market, a heritage stone was pulled down in the third week of July 2017 to fulfill the then government's ambitious project - Indira Canteen project; it was set for an Independence Day launch. BBMP that razed the building that was not carrying the heritage tag, but was listed one among the 800 plus heritage structures, used the pretext that ''the stone walls and roof were crumbling and water seepage damaged books''. It was so damaged that ''it was on the verge of collapse and could have been dangerous to inhabit.'' The disgusting fact in many places heritage structures  are demolished without public knowledge or some kind of referendum. Heritage structures are shared spaces that belong to the public. Government should not take arbitrary decision and allow them to vanish.................

an old building in Bengaluru.

The Victoria Hotel, Bengaluru.

The Victoria Hotel, once  a famous restaurant was a typical old Bangalore bungalow  with  high roofs, monkey-top windows, a pointed hood and canopy of clay tiles over a window,etc with typical fine pieces of colonial furniture. It was almost like a British House.................... 

Protection of heritage buildings would help the city  retain its past glory world-class cities  like  Singapore, New York, London, etc are modern but without losing their past identity. Old structures in a new modern space enhance the  character of the city.   Already cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai are trying hard to protect the old structures and have enforced regulations  to protect them under the ambit of strict laws. It will promote cultural tourism in the future.