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Hampi cries for conservation

Hampi cries for conservation

Author: Gouri Satya
Publication: Business Standard
Date: February 4, 2008
URL: http://www.business-standard.com/common/news_article.php?leftnm=10&bKeyFlag=BO&autono=312445

A distance of just 32-km, from Toranagallu to Hampi, takes an hour and a half. This is testimony enough to the infrastructure in this part of the country.

Scholars from India and abroad voiced their concerns at a seminar held there recently, calling for better infrastructure at the UNESCO Heritage Site, apart from conserving the monuments and the artifact, integrating it with the people living in the area.
With over 2,000-listed monuments and many more unlisted ones, scattered over 26 sq km, Hampi and its environs attract a large number of tourists, pilgrims and enthusiasts of archaeology, either to see and study the monuments and stones or to pray at the 15th century Virupaksha Temple.

This 'largest open-air museum in the world', however, offers them few facilities. With not even the basic facilities like toilets, drinking water and accommodation, the large number of visitors to this city of yore of grandeur and wealth of the Vijayanagar kings who ruled during 1336 and 1565, cries for attention today. The roads are in such state, it can takes six to eight hours to traverse the 133 km. The only consolation is water tanks are used to water these mud and potholed roads to save the visitors a dust-bath.

There are other issues too afflicting the heritage site. There is unfounded fear among the locals of being evicted from Hampi to save its monuments as it is a Heritage Site. They apprehend that this city, would be turned into a dead city of deserted monuments. The officials dub it a bogey of those who have encroached the monuments and the stone pavilions.

These and other issues figured at an international seminar on 'Taking Vijayanagar's Past Into the Future', sponsored by the Hampi Foundation of the Vidyanagar (Toranagallu)-based JSW Steel Ltd. The foundation has taken up the task of formulating a master plan for the management of the Hampi region.

Cornell University (US) Professor Michael Tomlan said at the very outset, "There is growing concern across the world about this heritage site. With its World Heritage designation, it has translated into an important heritage site of the world. However, the problem is of the access to the centre. You have to have infrastructure to tackle the wide range of issues like sanitation, water and such others," Tomlan said.

He was not for relocating people living here, but wanted the economic advantages of it to be seen.

Director of the Vijayanagara Research Project John M Fritz of US spoke on the human association with the place. "Whether there has to be a continued destruction of the archaeological record or conservation, it is ultimately India's choice," he said.

London-based architect and historian George Michell explained through an illustrated presentation how the damages to the heritage sites have continued over the years. "The early photographs of Vijayanagar compared with the subsequent years reveal there are many lessons to be learnt," he said.

There was a general opinion that the controversial bridge should be built five km from the present place across the Tungabhadra.

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