Showing posts with label heritage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heritage. Show all posts

UNESCO World Heritage Status for Khangchendzonga/Kanchenjunga National park Sikkim

9:44 PM
Sikkim Gangtok 17th July 2016: Congratulations to The Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Culture, Govt of India and the Govt of Sikkim for successfully ushering in Khangchendzonga (Kanchenjunga) National park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

World Heritage Sites fall under three categories: cultural, natural and mixed. These sites are a legacy from the past, what we live with today and what we pass on to future generations as irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration, as stated by UNESCO. Presently there are more than 1,031 World Heritage sites, of which 802 are cultural, 197 natural and 32 mixed. India has 32 sites: 25 cultural and seven natural.

India's two ministries, MoEFCC through its Wildlife Institute and the Ministry of Culture through its World Heritage advisory body proposed, that Khangchendzonga National Park be inscribed under the mixed category.
UNESCO World Heritage Status for Khangchendzonga National park Sikkim
UNESCO World Heritage Status for Khangchendzonga/Kanchenjunga  National park Sikkim

This category is meant for sites that are an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement living sustainably with ecosystems, with treasure of invaluable traditional knowledge and culture that highlights human interaction with the environment. Such heritage sites have the sort of intangible features that provide an encyclopedia of lessons for vulnerable communities under change of ecosystems. Such lessons are of immense value today when we are faced with the challenge of climate change.

Situated in the eastern Indian state of Sikkim, Khangchendzonga National Park exhibits one of the widest altitudinal ranges of any protected area worldwide and occupies a third of the state's area.

Mount Khangchendzonga and park around are endowed with deep cultural meanings and sacred significance. The multi-layered landscape of Khangchendzonga is sacred to both Buddhists and Lepchas as Mayel Lyang. The expanse represents a unique example of co-existence and exchange between different religious traditions and ethnicities, constituting the base for Sikkimese identity and unity.

The ensemble of sacred texts, the still-performed rituals, the oral history and traditional practices around Mount Khangchendzonga - third highest peak in the world - strengthen human bonds with nature. It conveys and manifests the cultural meanings projected onto natural resources and the indigenous and specific Buddhist cosmogony that developed in the Himalayan region.

The indigenous traditional knowledge of the properties of local plants and the local ecosystem, which is peculiar to local people, is on the verge of disappearing and represents a precious source of information on the healing properties of several endemic plants. The traditional and ritual management system of forests and the natural resources of the land pertaining to Buddhist monasteries express the active dimension of Buddhist cosmogonies and could contribute to the property's effective management.

The participation of Sikkim, which has already shown its extraordinary stewardship by totally converting itself into an organic farming state, in developing the proposal has provided a "bottom-up" approach to the process.

Two international bodies of experts evaluated India's proposal. The International Union for Conservation of Nature assessed the area's natural values and its outstanding universal values. The International Council on Monuments and Sites evaluated the cultural aspects of the nominated property, both visible and invisible.

Both bodies had found undeniable outstanding universal natural and cultural values and clear tangible and intangible authenticity and integrity of the 178,400 hectares of this Himalaya global biodiversity hot spot that has with a buffer zone of some 114,712 hectares.

KNP has now become the second largest World Heritage Site in India after the Western Ghats, which were inscribed in 2012.

Via TheDC

The Albert Park (Darjeeling), 1916: A Heritage treasure on the verge of oblivion

7:37 PM
Writes: Bivek Tamang

The Albert Park built in 1916 completes its 100 years of existence but only to be left with a worn out gate. The important piece of historical structure valuing the significance of “green space” for people and children in particular finds no “space” in the unplanned, unsystematic, and unmindful urbanisation in Darjeeling. The sad part has been our inability to preserve and maintain such unmatched beautiful creation of architecture in the name of urbanization and development. More importantly, the loss of parks and architectures apart from physical loss is the loss of history, too. Possibly, Lloyd Botanic Garden is the only preserved garden/park in Darjeeling amongst many parks such as Donovan Park Victoria, Park Barbourne, and Shrubbery Nightingale Park.

During my recent visit to Darjeeling on 12-05-2016 I felt as if I was there to witness a remorseful event of uncelebrated centenary of the Albert Park. Strolling down towards Chok Bazar I was sad to see the present state of The Albert Park. What struck me more were the digits 1916 apparent as the year of establishment? The next number which popped up in my mind was 2016. That made 100 or a perfect century. The immediate contemplation; staring at the dreadful state of affairs of the Albert gate (and rightly not of the Park) made me and for that would make any individual feel terribly miserable. It was a moment of disbelief in belief!!!
The Albert Park (Darjeeling), 1916: A Heritage treasure on the verge of oblivion
Remains of the Albert Park in Darjeeling today
Realising the economic, social, cultural and historical values of ancient buildings or structures (and even practices), countries around the world are advocating for those to be listed in the official World Heritage Site List of UNESCO. Conversely, we are almost allowing our historic structures to go unnoticed and uncared for. It is time that we assume the responsibility to care and show respect not just for local community/ interest but also for the world as a whole; as the existence of these structures provide an opportunity for the global community to visit, learn, appreciate and connect to their past. There is so much to learn from such important architectural piece of undocumented history. This may be viewed as an opportunity to sustainable tourism.

Romila Thapar argues “understanding our past is of vital importance to our present” (The Past as Present, 2014). Unfortunately, our books (or syllabus) in schools and above never have had space for our own history, geography, historical monuments, tombs, religious structures, place-names, railways (Darjeeling Himalaya Railways) and connectivity breakthroughs, hydro-electricity (Sidrabong power station), community, cultural and social practices etc. We need to preserve and narrate these historical stories to our children and youth (coming generation). As it is said, each piece of historical architectural has its own story of art, culture, knowledge, technology and progress of human civilisation.

Therefore, we seriously need to revitalise our thought process and reorient our institutional approach towards the study and restoration of such few remaining historical structures before these exclusive treasures are pushed over the cliff or before we lose them completely by ‘wilfully’ allowing them to decay and fade.

Bivek Tamang
Assistant Professor
Sikkim University- Gangtok
(A Central University established by an Act of Parliament, 2007)
Also the author of Political “Uncertainty” (arguably instability) in the Darjeeling Hills: Confusion, Chaos and Crisis. )

Via DT

Darjeeling - another heritage gone, GTA pulls down Sailabash

12:42 PM
Darjeeling, May 31: Darjeeling's rare connection with present-day Bangladesh and a part of the hill town's rich history has been reduced to rubble.

The GTA has pulled down Sailabash, the over-a-century-old summer retreat of the raja of Digapatia, to set up a modern hotel management institute and guesthouse in one of the last few available green spaces in Darjeeling.

Digapatia is now in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

The palace under the tourism department of the GTA near Jalapahar and was brought down about two weeks ago. "The building was in a dilapidated state and recent earthquakes too had caused some damage," said Kishore Ghimire, an executive engineer of the GTA.

In his book, A Concise History of The Darjeeling District Since 1835, which was published in 1922, E.C. Dozey, a writer and historian, said the building had been set up on land that was once owned by Capt J. Masson, the superintendent of Tukvar tea estate, by the "Digapatia Rajah". The retreat was earlier called Girivilash and the name was changed to Sailabash after Independence.
An undated photo of Sailabash: Courtesy Das Studio in Darjeeling
The Late Nayan Subba's soon-to-be-published book, Heritage buildings of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, says Raja Pramatha Nath Rai Bahadur had founded Girivilash whose garden was laid out by a German floriculturist and horticulturist, Morgenstern, and was looked after by 12 gardeners.

Nobody could say exactly in which year the building had been constructed. But its believed it was built in the last decade of the 19th century.

"Girivilash was a favourite place for the British governors of Bengal....The British army took over the palace in 1942. Later on, it was acquired by the government. It also served as a Tibetan school for a while. The palace has lost the historical grandeur of Girivilash," writes Subba.

According to Subba, the colonial building had an attic with miniature gables and a small dome, and an all-weather glazed rotunda with small square windows in classical style. There was a tennis court as well.

"Raja Pramadanath Roy occupied the front suite on the ground floor, which included the library, with its precious screens of velvet and ornate wooden pelmets," writes Subba.

The front suite of the upper storey with the snow view rooms was "for the rani",

Subba writes. It was "beautifully furnished with a curtained brass cot and a chandelier. There was a huge grandfather clock, which indicated the days of the month and the full moon day (Ekadashi). On the ground floor were the drawing room, dinning room, tash khana (card room) and the billiards room," Subba adds.

Despite being in a dilapidated state, Sailabash was still a landmark in Darjeeling and used to house a guesthouse after Independence. Once the building was taken over by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, the office of the hill body's vice-chairman was housed there. For the past 20 years, the building had been lying vacant.

Bharat Prakash Rai, convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Darjeeling chapter), said: "How foolish can we be to dismantle such structures in the name of development. Could it not have been repaired? We have lost a piece of history and that is very sad."

Dawa Lepcha, the GTA Sabha member in charge of tourism, said: "A big-scale hotel management institution will be coming up and the requirements were such that the building had to come down."

GTA executive engineer Ghimire said the project cost had been pegged at Rs 55 crore. "Apart from the institution, there will also be a guesthouse with 24 rooms for in-house training. The infrastructure is being set up as per the parameters laid down by AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education)"

The five-acre plot in which the Sailabash was located has Annapurna and Kafal guesthouses, along with a pond built by the DGHC. "The Annapurna guesthouse will be used as an administrative building for the institution, while a part of Kafal will have to be dismantled. The pond will be smaller in size and we will have facilities for rainwater harvesting," said Ghimire.

The engineer said restoration of the building would have cost much more.

Via Telegraph

Kalimpong's MacFarlane Memorial Church turns 125 years old

9:22 AM
The 125th anniversary celebrations of Kalimpong's MacFarlane Memorial Church is scheduled to begin from Monday with a gospel choir programme at Town Hall.

Reverend Samuel Lepcha, a member of the Celebration Committee of MacFarlane Memorial Church, Church of North India, Kalimpong, said groups from different churches and schools in the hill town would participate in the event. "We also plan to hold a host of programmes for youths, senior citizens and women leading up to the 125th anniversary on November 1, 2016," he said.

The church, named after William MacFarlane, the first missionary from the Church of Scotland who visited Darjeeling in 1870, is visible from almost all parts of the town and is the most prominent landmark. The foundation stone of the church was laid on 24 February, 1890, and it was opened on November 1, 1891.

The church was damaged in the Sikkim earthquake of September 18, 2011, and was closed for more than two years. It reopened in December 2013.
Kalimpong's MacFarlane Memorial Church  turns 125 years old
Kalimpong's MacFarlane Memorial Church - Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
"The earthquake had caused extensive damage to the interiors and the bell tower. All the pinnacles, including the big four and the small four of the bell tower, were damaged. A slab on the top-most level had also suffered damage," said Subin Pradhan, an architect from Kalimpong, who was part of a team that worked on the church's restoration.


UNESCO to Survey ‪‎Darjeeling‬ Himalayan Railway Next Month

7:43 AM
Writes: Mrinalini Sharma

A six-member Unesco team will visit the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway for five days next month to conduct a survey of the World Heritage Site.

The visit is part of formulating# a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan - a blue print on conservation, management and sustainable development of toy train.

Officials of the DHR said the team would be here from April 9 to 13 and visit different stations of the hill railway.

"A team of Unesco experts will visit the DHR for five days from April 9 to 13. We have been informed that this is a visit before work on formulating the CCMP begins. The team will visit all stations of the hill railway, including Tindharia workshop," said Narendra Mohan, the area officer of the DHR.

"This will be a field survey of the DHR to understand the landscape on which the heritage railway is, various components of the DHR and other important details about its conservation and management. The team will have three officials from the Unesco's New Delhi office and three Unesco experts from different countries. The preparation of the CCMP will take at least two years," he added.
Darjeeling‬ Himalayan Railway
Darjeeling‬ Himalayan Railway
The CCMP is mandatory for all Unesco World Heritage properties.

The master plan for the DHR will be formulated by the Unesco experts in collaboration with the Indian Railways that would provide the funds.

Unesco has said the plan should cover all aspects like institutional, legal and economic and ensure that the "Outstanding Universal Value" should be protected.

Paul Whittle, the vice-chairman of UK-based Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society (DHRS), wrote an e-mail to The Telegraph about the visit.

"It is great news that work is about to start on this long-awaited DHR Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan, funded by Indian Railways and led by a UNESCO appointed panel of experts. This initial visit is the essential first step in a lengthy and wide-ranging study that will form the basis of a robust and lasting plan for the conservation and sensitive development of this World Heritage railway," he wrote.

"We know that UNESCO will be seeking input and recommendations from a wide body of local organizations and other bodies. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society will certainly be contributing to UNESCO's work," the e-mail read.

Established in 1881, the DHR was accorded the Unesco World Heritage status in 1999.

It is the second railway in the world to be given a heritage status after the Semmering Railway in Austria in 1998.


100 years of Tindharia workshop - DHR, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

12:37 PM
1915-2015: 100 years of Tindharia Works, A UNESCO World Heritage Area
Article by: DHR Sano Rail

This year celebrates 100 years of Tindharia Works. It has always been considered a location relatively safe from landslips but this was to change in 2011.

The only background information I have of Tindharia is to be found in the late Terry Martin’s books ‘Halfway to Heaven’ and ‘Iron Sherpa’ - although I remember conversations with some local residents of the area over the past 20 years,
100 years of Tindharia workshop - DHR, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Until the early 19th Century, the Darjeeling Hills were heavily forested and largely unpopulated apart from the indigenous Lepcha people. I am not certain as to exactly where the area which is now Tindharia lay in relation to the borders of the kingdoms of Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim before the British Raj purchased land around Darjeeling and Kurseong from Sikkim as sanatoriums and summer resorts.

The first roads into the area, to link Siliguri and Darjeeling, were the Pankabari Road up to Kurseong and then the Military Road across to Darjeeling. However, these were steep mountain tracks suitable only for pack horses rather than wheeled carts. The Hill Cart Road (now NH55 Tensing Norgay Road) was built around 1861 with a steady gradient up which two bullocks could haul a cart. It was largely along this formation that the DHR was constructed in 1879 - 81 to reduce the almost prohibitive cost of taking supplies up to Darjeeling and bringing down the products of the rapidly developing tea industry.

Tindharia was built as a ‘railway town’ by the DHR around its mechanical headquarters. It is said that the location, which is logistically illogical for a workshop, was chosen for being the lowest point in the Darjeeling Hills, on the DHR, where the British employees could work year round. It should be remembered that, at that time, Siliguri was just a very small settlement around the railway junction between the North Bengal Railway from Calcutta (through what is now Bangladesh) and the DHR up to Darjeeling and considered to be a most unhealthy location to spend any time.

The current workshop complex at Tindharia was not built until 1913 - 15. From 1881 until then, it is assumed that the large locomotive shed there, with the godowns around it, was also used as the workshops for major locomotive and rolling stock repairs. This would make sense as the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s bungalow and the Mechanical Department offices were adjacent to it. The original bungalow was a single storey wooden structure with a veranda, similar to many of the Tea Planters bungalows of the period, but was replaced in the mid 1940s with the current two-storey building in the then fashionable Indian interpretation of Art Deco style - which can also be seen at Darjeeling Station. The office building was destroyed during the political disturbances of the mid 1980s - although the remains still exist.

The first railway colonies were built around Tindharia station and the Locomotive Shed and include the bazaar area. Later ones were constructed further down the hill nearer to the new Workshops. I don’t know if it still exists, but the only street map I have seen of Tindharia was (2004) framed in the electric generating plant in the Workshops and also had the power lines into the town marked on it.
The opening of the new Workshops (which are just about to celebrate their centenary) coincided with the major expansion of the DHR system with new lines from Siliguri to Kishanganj (connecting with the metre gauge line to Katihar) and up the Teesta Valley (to develop international trading with Tibet at Kalimpong). Other developments at this time included the hospital at Tindharia, new headquarters offices for the DHR at Kurseong (adjacent to the station), the DHR Club at Kurseong (now All India Radio) and a new railway colony at Kurseong, which incorporating the railway officers’ residences above what is now the Tourist Lodge.

Until the DHR company sold out to Indian Railways in 1947, the method of working the line was very different to that of today. Not only were the now extinct freight facilities considerably larger (and more profitable) than the passenger services but all train operation was based at Tindharia. Therefore Tindharia was home not only to the workshop overhaul staff but to most of the routine maintenance staff, loco drivers, firemen, sanders, guards, jamader / brakesmen etc. Locomotives and their crews all started from Tindharia and worked on a cycle of diagrams which might involve spending one or more nights away from home at Darjeeling or Kurseong or Siliguri. One retired driver told me that at the height of the spring tea season, he had to make four round trips between Tindharia and Sukna each day to clear the loaded wagons off the Hills as fast as possible for a larger loco to assemble longer trains onwards to Siliguri and transhipment onto the Broad Gauge for Calcutta.

In its last year as a private company, the DHR employed at Tindharia:
• 1 Chief Mechanical Engineer
o 1 Chief Clerk
8 Clerks
1 Steno typist
1 Tracer
3 Menials
o 1 Loco Officer
1 Coal Inspector
3 Coal Clerks
30 Drivers
31 Firemen
200 Jamaders and Brakesmen
45 Jackmen and Loco Cleaners
1 Shed Clerk
2 Running Clerks
2 Callmen
o 1 Store Keeper
1 Head Clerk
7 Clerks
9 Menials
o 1 Workshop Foreman
1 Assistant Chargeman
2 Shop Clerks
2 Peons
2 Timekeepers
5 Chowkidars
88 Fitters
27 Drillers and Turners
12 Boilermakers
50 Riveters
16 Blacksmiths
14 Strikers
23 Carpenters
4 Coppersmiths
4 Tailors
16 Painters
11 Moulders
28 Khalasis
1 Tindal
1 Sweeper
• 1 Medical Officer (at Kurseong)
o 2 Assistant Medical Officers
1 Compounder
1 Nurse
1 Dresser
2 Menials
• 1 Commercial Inspector
o 2 Station Masters (including relief)
o 2 Assistant Station Masters (including relief)
12 Guards
2 Travelling Ticket Examiners
• 683 Total

This list does not include Civil Engineering and Permanent Way staff nor other Commercial passenger or freight staff based at Tindharia (as the inventory does not split the location of these establishments).

The Mechanical Engineering Department did not function as separate Open Line and Workshop divisions - only maintenance (all types) and train crews.

Although all the above employees were based at Tindharia, some of their work-output was actually for the DHR extension lines from Siliguria to Teesta Valley or Kishanganj, not the DHR main line to Darjeeling.

It is probable that the above establishment levels were much higher than those in the 1930s since the DHR had only just started reducing its operations after World War II - when road traffic was restricted, many special trains were run for the Army (both rest leave and medical convalescence in the Hills) and Tindharia Workshops was undertaking production of many Broad Gauge railway components to allow other railway workshops in India to increase output of military hardware.

Today, Tindharia is best described as a ‘ghost town’; a shadow of its former self. The DHR no longer runs services to Teesta Valley and Kishanganj or freight trains and the remaining passenger services are now based at Darjeeling and Siliguri. Only a much-reduced establishment at the Workshops, the last in India to give heavy repairs to steam locomotives and wooden bodied coaches, remains to give local employment. Even the passing trade of cars, taxis and buses up the Hill Cart Road requiring refreshments has ceased because of landslips either side of the town in 2010 - 12 and again recently.

It is hoped that the soon-to-commence UNESCO Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) for the DHR will recognise that all the non-railway, environmental, social and cultural criteria of the World Heritage Site listing (as well as the obvious railway elements) are summarised in the railway town of Tindharia and that a sub-plan can be developed to give the area a sustainable future and hope.

Garg responds on Hotel Mount Everest after outcry in the social media and Gurung's statement

9:21 AM
Vivek Chhetri

Bimal Gurung today said the GTA would oppose the dismantling of Hotel Mount Everest and demanded that the new structure proposed at the same site be in tune with "the aesthetic value of the place".
Hotel Mount Everest Darjeeling
Hotel Mount Everest Darjeeling
East India Hotels (EIH) Limited, which owns the Oberoi and Trident brand of hotels, had recently announced that it had sold the property to a consortium of businessmen led by B.M. Garg, a Darjeeling-based multiplex owner, for Rs 11 crore.

In a Facebook post, the GTA chief executive welcomed the purchase of the hotel by Garg. "I have just come to learn from news reports regarding the purchase of the Heritage Mount Everest Hotel. I am happy that the purchase by a private company has materialised. After a period of 30 years of remaining as an eyesore, it is a welcome sign," he said in the post.

Terming the hotel, which had once hosted Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Amitabh Bachchan among others, as part of Darjeeling's "folklore", Gurung said: "...The Hotel is so deeply integral to the lives of the people of Darjeeling that the dismantling of the place would not be the right solution. It has a History of it's own which is woven with the History of Darjeeling."

Reminiscing about how he used to "stand in awe and admire the place from the road", Gurung said: "The GTA will oppose any form of dismantling of the Iconic Heritage architectural structure. The new venture that is being proposed must be inline with the existing structure and construction must be undertaken without dismantling the aesthetic value of the place."

He has also demanded that the earlier employees of the hotel be reabsorbed.

Soon after Gurung issued the statement, Garg today took the media to the property to show that the structure was on the verge of collapse -the beams of the three-storied structure had fallen and the concrete floor had cracked.

"It seems the rooms in the hotel were about 120sqft each. But modern hotels now have rooms of at least 410sqft. The toilets are also small," said Garg.

He had said the 100-year-old structure would be dismantled and a housing complex and a new hotel would come up in its place.

Responding to Gurung's statement as well as the outcry in the social media over the plan to pull down the hotel, Garg said: "As someone from Darjeeling, who was born and brought up here, I understand the aesthetic value of the place. We might have to alter the structure depending on the advice of architects. But we will use the same construction materials (stones) and we will come up with the same design. I assure everyone that the new hotel will be even better and will be in tune with the architectural value of the existing building."

Garg also said the new hotel would be named Mount Everest.

"My attachment to the hotel is immense. My sister, Premlata Agarwal, who climbed Mount Everest and six other peaks across the globe, had her engagement ceremony here at this hotel in 1982," said Garg.

The hotel was devastated in a fire on October 19, 1978, and was ultimately closed in June 1984.

Source - Telegraph

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