February 21, 2009

Conserving tiled houses, agraharams . . .

Where would you source a traditional harmonium?

The Panruti region is your destination. Making this instrument used to be a cottage industry but the business is on the wane.

There are companies which have existed since the 1930s.

Nuggets of information that our 'koothu' artistes from Pondicherry (or Puduchery as it is now called) shared with me on the sidelines of a recent function.

The troupe was there to take part in a street fest.

A fest got up as part of an official function hosted by the Territory.

Vysial Street had won a UNESCO award for heritage restoration. The project was among a dozen and plus more from around the world to be recognised, the only other entry being from Ahmedabad where lots of work has been done to restore the fantastic old city.

Vysial Street is in the Tamil quarter of core town which lies in the Boulevard area of Pondicherry.

Like all other streets here, it sported a unique architecture dominated by local aesthetics.

Over time, most of that heritage was eroded.

More so when the houses were turned into shops, godowns and offices and house owners chose to rebuild the way their budgets and their fancies allowed them to.

When the local chapter of INTACH, a body which works on restoration and heritage got the opportunity to work on a unique project, it chose Vysial Street because there were many houses here which retained the old and the distinct.

It wasn't easy to undertake a restoration project - not when you need to convince about 50 households for whom heritage is surely not a priority.

In the end, about 20 households agreed to get their facades restored. The painstaking work was rewarded and Vysial Street went on to bag many honours including the UNESCO certificate.

The area is now a showcase for tourists and the recognition is encouraging groups like INTACH as well as the territory's government to embark on many similar projects.

Exploring some of these houses that evening led me to images of the village of Kottur in our city. This area has the most striking tiled street houses I have seen so far and many exist even today as others have given way to ugly apartment blocks.

Restoring such unique neighbourhoods is difficult. But if you have the zeal that the INTACH team in Pondy had, it is possible.

An impressed Chief Minister at the Vysial Street function waived property tax for the restored houses and promised more incentives in the budget. Wow!


flowergirl said...

Enjoyed this, and hope it leads to much more such restorations!

flowergirl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.