Saturday, July 09, 2005

World Monument Fund Watch 2006

I was just reading on the always-informative MetaFilter, that the World Monument Fund has released its 2006 Endangered Monuments List. As the post says, the WMF has taken the unprecedented step of putting the entire country of Iraq on the list. Of course, for those of you not familiar with Iraq, historically known as Mesopotamia. it was the seat of some of the most ancient and advanced civilizations. Read more about that here.

Personally, I just wanted to see if there was anything in India that was on this watch list. Lo and behold, there are actually 8 in the entire Indian subcontinent and 4 in India itself ! These are:

* Watson's Hotel in Bombay : The earliest surviving example of cast-iron architecture from colonial India, built around 1869.
* Dalhousie Square in Calcutta : A 2 square KM area in the heart of Calcutta - once the epicenter and capital of the Raj.
* Dhangkar Gompa in Himachal Pradesh : A forgotten monastery (gompa = temple) on the Indo-Tibetan border from at least 600 years old.
* Guru Lhakhang & Sumda Chung Temples in Sumda Chung : Two of the oldest (11th century) Buddhist temples used for worship to this day.

Although the conditions of all of these monuments is deplorable - and points to the relatively scant attention that the Indian government pays to its historical heritage - I am particularly saddened by the situation at the Watson Hotel, because I have actually been there and seen it. Despite the complete lack of attention by the current owner and the defiling balconies, the beauty still shines through. Recently, three of the balconies collapsed and killed 1 person. I hope that this shines light on the urgency of the situation and that WMF is able to persuade the government to let the proposed restoration and conservation work go through.

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