18 Apr 2021  |   04:05am IST

Heritage: Goa’s lost treasure

Its World Heritage day yet again but celebrating it will not hide the fact the situation on the ground in Goa is an absolute mess. People involved in trying to right the wrongs had a lot to say
Heritage: Goa’s lost treasure

Ajit John

It’s World Heritage Day and

some people are organizing webinars to discuss the state of the heritage of the state. Depending whether they work for the government or a private organisation comments will be made either supporting or criticizing the efforts to protect the heritage of the state. One however does not need to dig really deep to realise that things are just not fine. Efforts to protect the heritage are either mired in court or in politics. This state of affairs had its critics.

Heta Pandit Chairperson, Goa Heritage Action Society was very blunt when she said “We’re like some people who are throwing out the parts of a plane in mid-air simply because we don’t know what the parts are for! We are grossly neglecting Goa’s treasures simply because we don’t know their true value. Our heritage is not just for the tourists, it is also for our future generations. Besides, what is unique about Goa if everything starts looking like any other city in India? We are destroying Goa’s unique architecture, culture, intangible cultural wealth and the uniquely Goan social fabric. Nobody else has this fantastic way of looking at life! If we’re not careful we’ll lose it.” She went onto say the situation was absolutely dismal. There were no inventories done, or proper listing or regulations or guidelines for property owners to follow. There were no lists of do’s and don’ts that could be followed. She felt all this would have to be done to ensure everything fell into place. She ended by asking a rather pertinent question “Surely our heritage deserves more than that?

Another person who has been crying himself hoarse over the rather poor state of affairs is Prajal Sakhardande Associate Professor, Dhempe College of Art and Science felt it was very good April 18th was being celebrated as World Heritage Day. He felt it was important to celebrate the natural, historical or built ,cultural , linguistic tangible and intangible heritage and preserve it for posterity. Prajal said “ As compared to all other countries, our country is rich in classical temples , the Himalayas , festivals , food , culture , monuments, palaces forts etc that no other country can boast of this variety and diversity. This view is borne by the act that I have travelled to 20 countries”. He said aboard they cared for their heritage unlike in India where people scribbled graffiti on fort walls. There was scant respect for our own heritage he bemoaned. Indians he said learned through fines. He questioned why those defiling monuments were not fined. He said the e Goa Heritage Action Group have been in this field for the last 20 years preserving and fighting to save Goan heritage. He said “We need to have our heritage policy in place. It’s the need of the hour. Such valuable pieces of our history are lying unattended to. Many forts are littered with garbage. The Goa state archaeology has not updated its list and brought more monuments and sites under their control. Yes we appreciate the conservation of the Historic Halarn fort, Saptakoteshwar temple that was carried out. But the dept needs to be more proactive in bringing more monuments under their control by engaging increased manpower”.

Poonam Verma Mascarenhas conservation architect did not dance around the bush while talking about the state of affairs. She said the constitution of India mandated that everyone had to look after the heritage but the people had everyone else to look after it and importantly find fault in those efforts. She said “If we really cared to participate then we can really celebrate. Instead we have allowed heritage politics to come onto it, party politics and all kinds of nonsense. The idea of taking forward the past and now with the climate crisis none of it matters. It matters we do what we can today so that the next generation does not pay for our mistakes”. She pointed out that it was not just about the monuments but every building that was existing had a value because it was carbon neutral. She asked whether we could start after what we all had instead of not thinking of them as a way to make money. The tragedy of this age was that everyone had acquired the use and throw away attitude. This she said was about being responsible for the next generation and that encompassed the meaning of heritage for her.

Another architect who is focused on conservation Ketak Nachinolkar felt it was a problem with the mindset of the people. He said “People believe that heritage means looking at the past not forward looking, I am ofcourse talking about a certain section. The idea that heritage is an asset is missing. We are yet to settle down in our minds. Of course the situation is better in Goa as compared to the rest of the country. We should have awareness programs year around and not be on one day. It should also be part of the curriculum and they lean in greater detail about their own heritage. This will bring about a change in attitude.”

Fernando Velho is an architect who has been a keen observer of the dismal state of affairs and felt a start could be made by having a heritage policy. That he said would help. He said “People look at it as a white elephant that eats a lot of money instead of something that could add to the experience in Goa. Once the policy comes in place then things will slowly move.” Speaking about the Basilica he said it was very important that it be plastered because if it stayed in its present condition, it would be beyond repair after a couple of monsoons. He said the stakeholders needed to get their act together.

Perhaps that is what is needed, everyone getting their act in order. An inability to do so would be tragic.


Iddhar Udhar