On the occasion of International Day for Monuments and Sites, AuroBharati, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry organized a webinar on the topic ‘Monuments and Heritage Sites of Puducherry: History, Architecture, Culture & International Recognition as World Heritage City’ on 18/4/2023. Objective of this webinar was to focus on monuments and sites of Puducherry including tangible and intangible cultural heritage, historical changes, architectural styles, policy implementation, and international recognition to make Puducherry as a World Heritage City.
Dr. Kishor Kumar Tripathy, Member Secretary, AuroBharati, Sri Aurobindo Society welcomed the participants and briefed about significance of International Day for Monuments & Sites ‘to encourage local communities and individuals throughout the world to consider the importance of cultural heritage to their lives, identities and communities, and to promote awareness of its diversity and vulnerability and the efforts required to protect and conserve it.’ Speaking on the possibility of World Heritage City, Dr. Tripathy said that the Union Territory of Puducherry has unique features of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and it presents Arikamedu, one of the oldest settlements, Franco-Tamil Architecture, cultural & natural heritage, Shaiva manuscripts, and practices related to Intangible Cultural heritage. There is a need to address significant issues concerning history, architecture, conservation initiatives, cultural, natural and eco-cultural heritage of Puducherry and surrounding regions, policy implementation and urban heritage & mass tourism.
On this occasion, Prof. Kishor K Basa, Chairman, National Monument Authority, Ministry of Culture, Government of India presented his message as ‘Heritage is like a biography of a nation and is root of any culture. Therefore, preserving and protecting it becomes an important duty of all citizens. In this regard, one may say that a shared heritage harbors international understanding and nurtures world peace. It is not merely a celebration of the past, it is also a source of ideas about the kind of future society and culture we are aspiring for.’ Prof. Basa expressed his views ‘Puducherry is rich in heritage-archaeological, monumental, colonial and intangible- and hence, it is most appropriate that various issues need to be discussed and deliberated critically especially with regard to the question of its international recognition as a World Heritage City.’
Eminent speakers, Dr. B Venugopal (Former Director, Indian Museum Kolkata, West Bengal), Dr.Sashikant Dash (Principal, Tagore Govt Arts & Science College, Puducherry), Prof. D.C. Choubey (Professor, IGNCA, New Delhi), Dr.Mathimaran Natarajan (Associate Professor, Department of Ecology & Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University). Shri Ashok Panda (Co-Convener, INTACH, Puducherry), Ms. Charu Tripathy (Associate Director, AuroBharati, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry) and Ms. Ananthi Gavoussalya Velmurugan (Architect & Freelance Consultant, Puducherry) participated in the event and shared their views on different aspects leading to cultural and natural heritage of Puducherry.
Dr. B Venugopal Former Director, National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi said about ‘Arikamedu as a World Heritage Site’ including uniqueness of the city as Indo-Roman trading city, Silk Road sites of peninsular India, as an Ancient Maritime Trade Route, Arikkamedu in Trans-National WH Projects and Spice Route Initiative. Dr. Venugopal spoke on World Heritage-transnational and the Silk Road initiatives. He also said about the initiatives undertaken by the Government of India including Project Mausam and efforts for trans-national nominations for World Heritage. Dr. Venugopal emphasized that the establishment of a special project, sustainable development model, and coordination with a large number of government departments, NGO’s can be very useful for the nomination of Puducherry as a World Heritage City.
Shri Ashok Panda, Co-Convener of Indian National Trust for Art, Culture and Heritage (Pondicherry Chapter) spoke about the Conservation Initiatives done in Puducherry, especially the built heritage. He also spoke about the preservation and Restoration of Architectural and Cultural Heritage, City to city networking between Pondicherry and France, Co-ordinating of Heritage Preservation and Restoration projects and Tourism promotion projects in Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu. He told about the history of Puducherry which is a unique blend of civilizations that interacted with each other and contributed to the enrichment of cultural heritage. He mentioned about conservation initiatives which is considered as one of the five core principles of World Heritage Convention and highlighted the activities undertaken in preserving the built heritage of Puducherry including the The Vysial Street restoration project, carried out by the Government of Puducherry and Intach under the Asia Urbs Programme in 2002-2004, was a unique undertaking that received the UNESCO award in 2009. Prof. D. C Choubey from the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Ministry of Culture, Government of India emphasized the historical and cultural values of Puducherry. He said that Puducherry is a very important place not only in India but also connecting South Asia with South East Asia. As a Port City, Puducherry was very famous in terms of an ancient trading site. As a coastal city, it presents a rich eco-cultural heritage which has unique in nature. He informed about the efforts undertaken by IGNCA in conducting programs related to Area Study, especially in the areas of South Asia, South-East Asia, East Asia, Central and West Asia. Puducherry is connected with the land of Rsi Agastya and presents rich and diverse cultural expressions as well as promoting intercultural understanding between communities and cultures.
Dr. Sashikant Dash, Principal of Tagore Government Arts & Science College, Puducherry said about the history of Puucherry with special emphasis on the monuments and sites of Union Territory of Puducherry including Pondicherry, Mahe, Karaikal and Yanam. He specified about many significant aspects of the possibility of Pondicherry as a world heritage city by giving the examples of Ahmedabad, as a World Heritage city. Dr. Dash highlighted the cultural and natural heritage sites of Puducherry including monuments, temples, churches, beaches, ponds, lakes, ashramas and intangible practices which has made the city as a unique one. Emphasizing onh the conservation and management of cultural heritage, Dr. Dash said about the changing dynamic of heritage by giving the examples of the ongoing activity undertaken by him. The Tagore Govt. Arts and Science College has been transformed into lush green urban forests and the whole campus is shielded by rich greenery providing a cool and pleasant ambience. Dr. Mathimaran Natarajan, Associate Professor, Department of Ecology & Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University focussed on the Perspectives of Natural heritage. He emphasized on the initiatives of UNESCO on World Heritage Sites which include both Cultural and Natural sites ‘Significant natural habits for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.’ He said that the biodiversity system of Puducherry including mangrove forests, sustainable coastal and marine eco-system, and scenic beaches presents the unique features of eco-system. It also houses a range of fauna, wetlands and terrestrial environments, collectively supporting a broad array of plant and animal life. Prof. Mathimaran gave special emphasis on Agriculture as a Natural heritage and said about the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) Sustainability extends between the GRA and organic farms. He concluded his speech with a special focus on Promotion of eco-tourism which can be a powerful instrument to preserve the natural heritage of Puducherry.
Ms. Charu Tripathy, Associate Director, AuroBharati, Sri Aurobindo Society & Former Tagore Research Scholar, Ministry of Culture, Government of India emphasized on Pondicherry as a World Heritage City: Convention & Policy initiatives: linking the protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage.’ She spoke about world heritage mission/convention which comprises the natural and cultural sites that belong to all the people of the world, irrespective of the territory in which they are located. The emphasis on the core principles of world heritage convention including credibility, conservation, capacity-building, communication and communities. Speaking on Pondicherry, as a World Heritage City, Ms. Tripathy focussed on tangible and intangible cultural heritage including monuments, sites, temples, Franco-Tamil Architecture and natural sites. The intangible cultural heritage of Puducherry, including Vedic tradition, fairs and festivals, Inscriptions, Manuscripts and Indigenous Knowledge System were discussed. She also said about the activities undertaken by the Sri Aurobindo Society on many aspects in preserving the natural and cultural heritage of Puducherry.
Ms. Ananthi Gavoussalya Velmurugan (Architect & Freelance Consultant, Puducherry) spoke about ‘Urban Heritage, Mass Tourism, Gentrification and Sustainability in the Pondicherry.’ She spoke about the history of Puducherry including the different settlements including Tamil Town and French Town. She emphasized how the evolution of the architectural heritage is being changed due to new construction and focussed on sustainable measures for the protection and preservation of the heritage for all the stakeholders which is one of the key aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals with recommendations for establishing Heritage Cell and Heritage Tourism Committee.
Efforts of the Government of Puducherry including listing of heritage sites, and buildings and the formation of Heritage Conservation and Advisory committee were discussed in detail. Significant discussion regarding cultural heritage conservation and sustainable measures was initiated by experts representing the Ministry of Tourism, Pondicherry University, Universities and Non-governmental organizations. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Kishor Kumar Tripathy said that as per UNESCO’s Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, “UNESCO takes into consideration not just the built heritage, but also intangible heritage, such as the cultural value, of the place.” He said about the initiatives undertaken by Sri Aurobindo Society in the areas of cultural heritage conservation, intangible cultural heritage, documentation of monuments and heritage sites, community engagement and capacity building programs for artists and cultural professionals. He emphasized that effective co-ordination between the Government and Non-Governmental organizations with specific policy implementation and community engagement can be useful to work for nomination of Puducherry as a world heritage city.