The Bold Voice of J&K

Mubarak Mandi—Demolition of the central platform

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Mahesh Kaul

Heritage preservation is both historic and scientific process and it cannot be carried out in ad hoc manner and implemented like other construction and building processes. The main aim of the techniques is to maintain the time frame in terms of architecture and aesthetics of the monument or the building that is being exposed to the heritage conservation techniques so that the restoration process is able to restore to the asset to certain time frame.
But restoration of the heritage monuments has become largely an affair that looses the sheen of professionalism and sensitivity towards the cultural locale of the monument. It is a multidisciplinary issue that cannot be carried out by one set of professionals but requires the expertise  of many like conservation architects, historians, conservators, social scientists, tourism professionals and policy makers and when it comes to the preservation and conservation work  in the country like India then the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has to play a key role keeping in view its role as the sole repository and nodal agency that has stood the test of the time and is the organisation having unparalleled expertise in the heritage and cultural preservation and excavation issues.
It is the lack of vision on the part of the policy makers who have most of the times diluted the role of ASI and professional bodies under the political pressure to please the vested interests who have no expertise in the heritage issues. It has in turn lead to the delay in the heritage conservation projects and allowed the quacks to take over the highly technical and professional arena. Thus making our progeny the victim of ignorance as they won’t be able to look into their past that has rich culture and heritage to be proud of.
Mubarak Mandi complex located in the heart of the Jammu city is not an ordinary heritage asset it signifies the development of Jammu region as the nucleus of the state’s political power and social development index that defined the geo political importance of Jammu and Kashmir by the ruling Dogra dynasty. It is an urban historic city area that houses ten palaces around which came up the city dwellings and exit to the present day. It is matter of serious research as to how this area shrunk over the decades and squeezed it to just the palace complex only. Many heritage structures located in the Panjthirthi area Pacca Danga, Kachi Chawni were integral to it which were raised down, vandalised, left in isolation so that they erase with the passage of time. The Mubarak Mandi Complex, which is the core and nucleus of this urban historic city area has itself been the victim of nearly 35 major and minor incidents of fire, which can be matter of further research and investigation as to who was going to be the beneficiary of these fire incidents-when the civil societies around the world leave no stone unturned to project such heritage assets as the brands and landmarks to preserve and showcase their rich legacy and identity.
The fate of this urban historic city centre has been peculiar. Peculiar in a sense that in spite of being the complete symbol of evolution of the Jammu’s rich cultural legacy it has received least attention not only from the policy makers but the real stakeholders that is the local people; who allowed it to be misused first by the government department and then the vandalisation thrust upon these structures by the nature and man both by subjecting it to isolation. This isolation has been both due to lack of historic sensitivity towards it and indulgence of vested interests in subjecting it to vandalisation to suit their nefarious designs.
The conservation work that is carried all over the world in the places of historical importance having heritage value needs utmost sensitivity. By demolishing the edifice that had been constructed at a particular period of time has aesthetic value and cannot be altered as it violates the ambience of the whole complex of which it has a part.
International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has clearly identified this issue and made clear in its Charter how to deal with the monuments of historic significance and having heritage and cultural value, at the second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, Venice, 1964.This Charter was adopted in 1965.It is an irony that the policy makers and the so called experts have not paid heed to this Charter while demolishing the platform at the historic Mubarak Mandi Complex.
As mentioned above Mandi Mubarak is an urban historic city area and encompasses the habitation besides the complex that has evolved din tune with it. To treat any of these in isolation is tantamount to the violation of the heritage value of the complex and leading to its shrinking, which has already taken place. As the peripheral buildings and structures in the outskirts of the complex that evolved with it have either been demolished or altered. To take care these kind of situation the very first article of the Charter states, “The concept of a historic monument embraces not only the single architectural work but also the urban or rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilisation, a significant development or a historic event. This applies not only to great works of art but also to more modest works of the past which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time.”
The demolition of the platform that has historical significance comes under the ambit of the Article 8 of the Charter. It states “Items of sculpture, painting or decoration which form an integral part of a monument may only be removed from it if this is the sole means of ensuring their preservation.”As it represents the decorative value of this platform for the whole complex.
The addition or alteration of the structure is also prohibited in the Article 13. It reads,” Additions cannot be allowed except in so far as they do not detract from the interesting parts of the building, its traditional setting, the balance of its composition and its relation with its surroundings.”The demolition of the structure of the platform has detached it from the aesthetics of the complex and leading to its alteration and violating its heritage structure.
This has been further clarified by ICOMOS in the historic Florence Charter of 1981. It emphasises the need for the total safeguard of the historical gardens and structures by treating them as one organic unity and forbids to treat the various structures in isolated manner. The clear meaning of these charters when applied to the Mubarak Mandi Complex lays emphasis on treating every minute structure as integral to the main palaces.
The policy makers need to work and devise policies in letter and spirit of the ICOMOS charters on conservation and preservation of the Mubarak Mandi Complex as it represents the evolution of Jammu region as the epicenter of cultural renaissance.
(Writer is a PhD scholar at SHTM, Faculty of Business Studies,University of Jammu).

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