Crumbling history

As heritage and tourism experts press for National Tourism Heritage Policy at Ranthambhore conclave, a portion of  Jaislamer’s famous Patwon ki Haveli gave way under heavy rains. It raises questions about the government’s sincere conservation efforts, finds out Rajasthan Post

Amidst a demand raised for a National Tourism Heritage Policy at the fourth annual convention of Indian Heritage Hotels Association (IHHA) at Ranthambhore on Wednesday, a portion of history at Jaisalmer’s  famous Patwon Haveli, was lost forever.

A part of this most intricate haveli collapsed on Mondaynight after heavy and continuous rains in Jaisalmer.

Experts question when the government is so intent on saving our heritage and architecture and is spending huge amounts on conservation, how come just heavy rains can damage a strong  haveli wall?

A portion of the Patwon Ki Haveli remains with its owners while another portion is with the archaeological department.  But there are no answers for the damage to its walls.

Meanwhile, the experts and IIHA members argue and press for the National Tourism Heritage Policy. The IHHA president, erstwhile Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur categorically stated that such a policy would go a long way in not only promoting heritage tourism but also conservation of the invaluable natural resource of the country. It would also bring about unification of culture, he added.

The Centre in 1976 had declared the Patwon ki haveli a protected monument. The state government followed suit in 1979 and included it in the list of protected monuments under the Rajasthan Monuments and Antiquity Act, 1961.

Local people say they haven’t seen any repairs for years. Officials on their part claim a portion of the haveli is in “illegal possession of an individual” and department was not able to carry out conservation activity due to it.

A balcony of the haveli had caved in 2011 as well, pointing fingers at its conservation.

The Patwon ji ki haveli is one of the most important amongst all havelis in Jaisalmer. It was the first haveli built in Jaisalmer and is a cluster of five small havelis.

The first among these havelis was commissioned and constructed in the year 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa, which is the biggest and the most ostentatious.

It is believed that Patwa was a rich man and was a renowned trader of his time. He thus ordered the construction of separate storeys for each of his five sons. These were completed in the span of 50 years. All five houses were constructed in the first 60 years of the 19th Century.

The havelis are also known as the ‘mansion of brocade merchants’. This name stuck because the family dealt in threads of gold and silver used in embroidering dresses. However, there are theories which claim that these traders made considerable amount of money in opium smuggling and money-lending.

This is the largest Haveli in Jaisalmer and stands in a narrow lane. This haveli is presently occupied by the government, which uses it for various purposes. The office of the Archeological Survey of India and state art and craft department is situated in the haveli itself.

Nevertheless, even after these encroachments, one can find a good amount of painting and mirror-works on the wall. The other architectural aspects are its gateways and arches and there are different individual depictions and theme on each and every arch. Although the whole building is made of yellow sandstone, the main gateway is in brown color.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Tourism, Mr KD Singh said that the Committee would use its good offices at the Centre for demanding such a National; Tourism Heritage policy. Furthermore, he added with both the tangible and intangible heritage spread across the states, there indeed was a dire need for a National Conservation Policy.

But how far can a national tourism heritage policy save our crumbling monuments is a big question mark. For now the havelis, forts are  peeling.

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