What is The Future of India’s Past?

Article for Blog Post Writing Competition 2011 | by Rohit Kannojia & Yagyawalkya Singh

May 20th, 20115:40 pm

We often saw a popular television commercial in which Mr. Aamir Khan appear on the television screens and give the message that “Atithi Devo Bhava” this campaign is related to behavioural awareness programme among the general people. This campaign also carries with it the message of preservation of the Indian historical monuments and heritage for promotion of tourism industry in India.

We always talk about preservation of heritage in India as in the case of above mentioned television commercial, but do we know in real sense meaning of heritage? Heritage is often confused with monument of historical and archaeological importance. But Heritage sites include:-

a) Buildings, Art crafts, Structures, Areas and Precincts of historic and aesthetic and architectural and cultural significance and environmental significance.

b) Natural features of environmental significance and of scenic beauty including sacred groves, hills, hillocks, water bodies, open areas etc.

India is an ancient land of extraordinary natural beauty and artistic wealth. While governmental agencies are able to protect a few thousand monuments. There are thousands of beautiful historical sites that remain unprotected. There are two type of heritage structure in India one is the “Protected” and another is the “Unprotected”. Protected heritage is protected by law. There are various governmental departments which take care of these structures such as ASI i.e The Archaeological survey of India but it protects only those monuments which are of national importance. Another is the State Archaeology department which protects the monuments of regional importance at the state level. There are also Municipal laws for the protection heritage structures of particular locality eg. NDMC.

History of the Heritage Laws in India

France was the first country to enact a law in 1809 for the protection of cultural property. India enacted in 1878, The Indian Treasure Trove Act. The main points were that if an object exceeded the value of Rs.10 and was more than 100 year old it was declared ‘treasure’. Later on it was followed by Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Egypt.

In 1904, the  Ancient monuments Preservation Act was passed for preservation of monuments, to exercise control over exploration in certain places and for the protection and acquisition in certain cases of ancient monuments. Archaeology was made central subject under government of India Act 1919. After independence the parliament passed ‘The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains act’ in 1958. An act provide for the preservation of ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance, for the regulation of archaeological excavations and for the protection of sculptures, carvings and other like objects. Only those monuments are deemed as ancient and historical monuments which are declared by Ancient Monuments and Archaeology Sites and Remains Act, or by States Reorganisation Act, 1956.

In India there is no law relating to heritage and the term heritage is often confused with monuments.  Even though if it confused with monuments then also only those monuments are protected which are of national importance. If we take example of Delhi there are 1208 heritage structure among which 174    are protected by The Archaeology Survey of India and 100 structures falls in the category of State Department of Archaeology. About 925 heritage structures are still unprotected. So for this unprotected buildings municipal bye-laws should be made and heritage regulation should be implemented in each and every state of the country.

International Scenario Regarding Heritage Laws

There are many countries in which heritage laws and acts are already implemented. For example United Kingdom National Heritage act 2002. The act provides for preservation of all Heritage sites within the country. In UK buildings more than twenty five years are considered as heritage structures.

In Sri Lanka there is Central Cultural Fund Act,1980. An Act provides for the establishment of fund called “The Central Cultural Fund” to meet the expenses incurred in developing, restoring and preserving cultural monuments and development of religious and cultural activities in Sri Lanka and abroad, and to provide financial assistance to artists, craftsmen, writers, painters and others who are engaged in promoting cultural activities.

In Norway there is Cultural Heritage Act. The purpose of this act is to protect archaeological and architectural monuments and sites, and cultural environments in all their variety and detail, both as part of our cultural heritage and identity and as an element in overall environment and resource management. There is Cultural Laws in Philippines and there is also Czech National Law which provides for establishment National Council, 1987, on state care of monuments. In the country like India where every city has thousands of heritage sites similar kind of legislations is required.

State Regulations in some of the states

Delhi: The standing committee of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi had considered a draft regulation on November 27, 2002. As a result of writ petition and other efforts in Feb. 2004, Government of India have modified the Delhi buildings bye laws and added clause 23 entitled conservation of heritage buildings, heritage precincts and natural feature areas. This the first sectioned regulation in India which deals not just with man- made heritage and natural features of environmental significance but also covers natural features of scenic beauty.

Punjab: Punjab regional Town Planning Act, 1995 was formed on the lines of Maharashtra Town Planning Act, 1966. For the first time in any act Natural features of environmental significance have been specifically included in definition of heritage sites. The amendments act provides for protection of heritage sites not just for areas within municipal limits but also for areas outside municipal which come under the purview of regional plan.

Measures to be taken :

Legislative measures

1) A Model Heritage Bill could be prepared by the centre and sent to all the state governments with suggestion to enact the same. This could be either by separate enactments or by amendments to the existing town and country planning Acts as was done in the case of Maharashtra in august 1974.

2) Centre can enact an act by, inter-alia availing of the powers under entry 20 list III or under article 253 of the Indian Constitution.

3) Heritage regulations can be framed under Environment Protection Act, 1956.

4) Amendments can be passed in the Cantonments Act. This act governs sixty two cantonments in India which covers some of the finest built and natural heritage.

Organisational measures:

1) Nodal Ministry

Currently, other than for Archaeology sites, there is no ministry at the centre which caters to heritage sites. This needs to be rectified, and department of physical heritage needs to be created, both at the centre and the state level.

2) Field Organisation

The Archaeology Survey of India and state department of archaeology cater only to archaeological monuments and sites. There should be a Heritage Survey of India or Indian Heritage survey which would be an expert advisory body of Nodal ministry.

3) Heritage Advisory Committees

On the lines of Petroleum Ministry advisory committee on Environment and planning there should Heritage advisory committee.

4) Heritage Cantonment Committee

Similar to Poona Cantonment heritage committee there is need in every cantonment to constitute these types of committees for preservation of heritage structures in the cantonment area.


One of basic concern should be that “what is the future of India’s past”. A heritage lost once is lost forever. In recent years many historic monuments have been destroyed. Invaluable works of art and manuscripts are discarded without documentation and records. No one ever knows how many are lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair. Even only one part of the handwrittern Ramayana of Goswami Tulsidas is available now other part are lost this shows our lack of concern for Indian heritage. At this rate our future generation may never be able to experience the richness and wonder of our heritage.

We have a responsibility to protect our environment and our heritage whether it is preserving the character, beauty and greenery of our locality or conserving the glory of those monuments which are of national importance. It is also a fundamental duty of a citizen under article 51A of the Indian Constitution to conserve and preserve our monuments. It is national responsibility to safeguard these resources as scientific source material and as an enduring basis for the experience of present and future generations and for their self awareness, enjoyment and activities.

Only the campaign ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ is not suffice because atithi are coming to see the heritage so first there should be maintenance of our Heritage than we can attract more tourists and the motto of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ can be fulfilled. To attain all these goals government should implement legislation because legislation is the cheapest and most effective method of heritage protection. It does not help in the restoration of the building but it prevents it from Bulldozer which is the biggest threat.

The first step towards protection of our heritage is the development of heritage policies, regulations, and guidelines at national, state, regional and local level.

Article by-

Rohit Kannojia and Yagyawalkya Singh

Students, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow

[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]


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