Saturday, October 12, 2013

World Heritage Sites in Pakistan

Pakistan has inherited a wide array of heritage sites, six of which have been inscribed on the list of "World Heritage Sites", while a new tentative list has been prepared and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for approval. A brief description of sites already inscribed in the World Heritage List is given below:
Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro
The ruins of an immense city, Moenjodaro, which flourished in the valley of the Indus in the 3rd millennium B.C. were inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1980. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of River Indus, about 12 kilometres from Moenjodaro railway station, in Larkana District of Sind.
The well-planned city, built mostly in baked brick buildings, having public baths, and a college of priests, elaborate drainage system, soak pits for disposal of sewerage and large state granary, bears testimony that it was a metropolis of great importance, with approximately forty thousand inhabitants, enjoying a well-organized civic, economic, social and cultural life.
Excavations comprising figures of animals like rhinoceros, tigers and elephants on seals recovered from the site, and the brick-lined street drains, suggest that the region enjoyed heavier rainfall at that time than at present. Wheat, barely, sesamum, field peas, dates and cotton appear to have been the main crops. Discovery of precious stones and other metallic objects, not normally found in this region, indicate trade with foreign countries.
It is not known for certain, how the great metropolis came to a tragic end. A gradual decline of the civilization, before the ultimate end is however, clearly noticeable, and an invasion by the Aryans or the neighbouring hill tribes, appears to have sealed the fate of Moenjodaro.
The remarkable structural remains of Moenjodaro, when excavated in the early 20s, were in excellent state of preservation, but the phenomenon of salt efflorescence on them was soon noticed. Over the years the problem has assumed alarming proportions, leading to damaging of bricks and disintegration of the structures. Another serious threat to Moenjodaro is that of inundation, posed by the River Indus, flowing very close to the site.
UNESCO, approached by the Government of Pakistan launched an International campaign to safeguard Moenjodaro. The international community responded favourably, and the international organizations such as UNDP, provided financial as well as technical resources to address the main problems of River and Ground Water Control. Some equipment for scientific study and execution of work and training of a few specialists was also arranged. Conservation of structural remains however, did not match the speed of deterioration. The International Campaign has since been closed, and the responsibility of maintenance and further conservation now rests with the Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan.
From the ancient neolithic tumulus of Saraikala to the ramparts of Sirkap, (200 B.C.), to the city of Sirsukh, dating from the 1st century A.D., Taxila illustrates the different stages in the development of a city on the Indus, alternately influenced by Persia, Greece and Central Asia and which, from the 5th century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D., was an important Buddhist centre of learning. Taxila was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1980.
The remains of the Buddhist establishments associated with Taxila, are spread over several kilometres on all sides. The large scale archaeological excavations in the valley, exposed vast areas of ancient structures. Most of these are built in lime stone masonry. Measures for conservation taken soon after the excavations, largely stabilized the structures. The wild growth of vegetation, weeds, lichen, fungus, mosses, atmospheric pollution etc. are largely responsible for the deterioration, and still pose major problems in conservation.
In a workshop sponsored recently by UNESCO, the concerned officials were imparted training to deal with these problems. Lately, the Taxila Valley has also become the hub of industrial activity, and several industrial units have been set up in the valley. Moreover, the rapid increase in population is posing new threats to the monuments. To deal with such problems, the Government of Pakistan has established a 'protected zone', which covers all the important areas of archaeological interest. Restrictions imposed in the protected zone, however, have not been very effective. Last year, a sports stadium was built in an open area of the Bhir Mound, the first city site. Orders have now been issued for its demolition.
Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol
These extensive remains of the Buddhist monastic establishment or Sangharama, were placed on the World Heritage List in 1980, and popularly known as the "throne of origins". This archaeological site and its associated secular buildings are located about 15 kilometres north-east of the city of Mardan in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
The Takht-i-Bahi Complex, a gigantic Buddhist establishment was discovered in 1852 by European Lieutenants Lumsden and Stokes. The complex comprises several well-knit units:
i) Court of Many Stupas
ii) Monastery
iii) Main Stupa
iv) Assembly Hall
v) Low Level Chambers
vi) Courtyard
vii) Court of Three Stupas
viii) Wall of Colossi
ix) Secular buildings
All these structures are built in grey-coloured limestone, in mud mortar.
About five kilometres south-west of Takht-i-Bahi, is the modern village of Sahr-i-Bahlol, which occupies an extensive mound containing the remains of an ancient city, dating back to the same period.
The excavations at Takht-i-Bahi and Shar-i-Bahlol have yielded a large number of fine sculptures of Buddha, Boddisattavas and other deities, both in stone and stucco. Other valuable antiquities have also been found in the vicinity.
Being of outstanding quality and significance, the remains of Takht-i-Bahi have received much attention of the conservators. Consequently, conservation work on the site has been carried out periodically. The recent conservation works are a good example of a judicious mix of traditional as well as modern conservation practice. However, the residential buildings too, need the attention of conservators.
Historical Monuments of Thatta
The remains of the city of Thatta, inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1981, and its dilapidated necropolis provide a unique view of the Sind civilization. The capital of three successive dynasties and later ruled by the Mughal emperors, Thatta is a symbol of the glorious past of Sind from the 14th to the 18th centuries A.D. During this period, Thatta was one of the major seats of learning, fine arts and handicrafts.
The architecture of Thatta bears the distinct marks of its variant ancestry, its hallmark being the variety of forms and techniques of decoration. The brickwork found on the buildings of Thatta, is a superb example of craftsmanship.
The buildings, the tombs and the great necropolis of Thatta are now in shambles and need immediate attention. The Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, is responsible for the site's maintenance and conservation. A detailed study had been conducted a few years back, in consultation with national and international experts. In the light of the findings of this study, the proposed conservation measures entail an amount of US$ 63 million, far beyond the government's resources. Efforts have been made by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, to capture the interest of visitors, by installing general and individual information boards on the monuments. But much needs to be done to make the site more presentable to attract tourists and other visitors.
Fort and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore
The history of Lahore can be traced back to the 2nd Century A.D. with the city having enjoyed the status of a capital for about a thousand years - sometimes of an empire and at other times that of a province. Each dynasty of its rulers - the Ghaznavids, Ghaurids, Turks, Sayyads, Lodhis, Mughals, Suris, Sikhs and the British - has left its imprints on the city.
Excavations conducted in the Lahore Fort revealed existence of the city in the early historic period. It is therefore believed that, the Fort was built with the founding of the city itself, its chequered history bearing testimony to the vicissitudes it suffered. The Mughal rulers however, brought this exercise to a halt, by providing it real stability.
The Fort is the only monument in Pakistan, which represents a complete history of Mughal architecture, as it was renovated, added and improved upon by subsequent Mughal rulers, after Emperor Akbar.
After the collapse of the Mughal authority, the Fort suffered again due to poor additions, alterations and an aggressive siege in 1841. After having demolished its southern fortification wall, in 1927, the British Government handed over the Fort to the Archaeological Survey of India, which took measures to remove systematically, all the additions and alterations carried out during the British rule, in an attempt to restore the original layout of the buildings and gardens.
Since Independence in 1947, the Department of Archaeology of the Government of Pakistan has been carrying out conservation work, on a limited scale though. Moreover, the pace of deterioration has rapidly outstripped the conservation efforts. The southern portion of the fortification wall and the Matbakh or the Royal Kitchen have demolished, while the ceiling of the Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) is on the verge of collapse. Efforts are being made, in cooperation with UNESCO experts, to save the latter, after a detailed research into the cause of its decay.
The Shalimar Gardens, laid out at the command of Emperor Shah Jahan, reflect the genius of the Mughal landscape architecture, and embody the Mughal concept of a perfect garden: an enclosed area divided into symmetrical patterns of turf, containing water canals, ornamental tanks, and fountains, lined by cypresses and rose bushes.
Having lost much of their original splendor and beauty, at the hands of Sikh plunderers during the rule of Ranjit Singh, the Gardens were handed over to the Department of Archaeology in 1913. Since then, sustained efforts have been made to preserve the buildings, restore the Gardens to their original appearance and, recreate the former atmosphere.
UNESCO has time and again, provided expert advice through experienced consultants and encouraged the authorities concerned, to take appropriate measures to create awareness among the masses, to help preserve the Gardens.
The Lahore Fort and the Shalimar Gardens, the two exceptional examples of the splendor of the Mughal era, were inscribed together, in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1981.
Rohtas Fort
Qila Rohtas or the Rohtas Fort is an exceptional example of early Muslim military architecture in Central and South Asia, for it was built essentially for military purposes. Following the defeat of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in 1541, Sher Shah Suri built a strong fortified complex at Rohtas, a strategic site about 16 kilometres north-west of the city of Jhelum.
The gigantic fort is founded on steep rocks jutting into the river Kahan, its ramparts protected on the west and north sides by the river and by high hills on its east and south. It was never taken by assault and survives intact to the present day. The main fortifications consist of the massive walls, which extended for more than 4km; they are lined with bastions and pierced by monumental gateways.
There are indications that more structures had existed earlier, which either collapsed due to neglect, or were demolished in Mughal or later periods.
The Rohtas Fort is now a protected monument under the Antiquities Act 1975, and maintained by the Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan. Owing to its marvelous qualities of strength and solidity, and being the finest specimen of medieval military architecture in Pakistan, the fort was inscribed in the World Heritage List, by UNESCO, in 1997.

No comments:

Post a Comment