Tag: culture

Kalsi – Emperor Ashoka’s Rock Edict

I am familiar with the Rock Edicts of Emperor Ashoka, having been fortunate to have seen the one at Girnar in Gujarat. However, I happened to come across an article recently that mentioned another of Ashoka’s rock edicts, located in a place that I had not even heard the name of until then (I love my geography and traveling, so consider myself reasonably well aware of place names in India).

Kalsi is a small village in Uttarakhand state, located about 30 kilometres to the north of Dehradun (as the crow flies), very close to the bordering state of Himachal Pradesh. The village lies at the confluence of the Yamuna and Tons rivers. The rock edict of Ashoka located here is unique in that it’s the only major rock edict located in present-day North India.

Of the 14 major rock edicts in existence today, 3 are located outside present-day India (1 in Afghanistan and 2 in Pakistan). The rest are distributed across Western, Southern and Eastern India and can be found in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, and the one in Kalsi, Uttarakhand.

Online research reveals a few articles that talk about this specific Rock Edict. It is believed to have been built around 450 BC, making it nearly 2,500 years old! Online pictures reveal the edict to be covered with a dome shaped monument, surrounded by well-maintained lawns at the foothills of the Himalayan range. It looks a very peaceful place.

Google Maps reveals only a little over 350 reviews for the monument, so this is clearly a very off-the-beaten-track place. I would like to think of this as a very important part of our cultural heritage and would be great if more people discover this valuable part of our history.

Adikesava Perumal Temple, Kanyakumari district

Kick-starting my series on lesser know heritage sites in India with this temple located in the Southernmost district of mainland India.

The Adikesava Perumal temple is located at Thiruvattar in Tamil Nadu, about halfway between Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Kanyakumari town in Tamil Nadu. I had the good fortune of visiting this place a couple of years ago while on a visit to Thiruvananthapuram.

I had never heard of the temple before my visit. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The idol of Lord Vishnu is depicted as reclining on his snake couch and has to be viewed through three separate doors. I could not find any specific date of establishment of the temple, but it has been mentioned in texts dating to the 8th – 9th centuries. So the temple must be at least 1200 years old.

The architecture of the temple is an interesting mix of Keralan and Tamilian temple styles, to my untrained eye. The entrance and roof is unmistakably Keralan, while the long columned corridors are typically seen in the temples of Tamil Nadu. The temple was quite and peaceful when we visited. There were repair works being undertaken as parts of the temple needed restoration. It was interesting to watch ‘traditional’ building materials being prepared to ensure structural integrity.

I sadly do not have any photos of this temple. But as a lesser known, but ancient, part of our heritage, this temple is worth a visit.

On Museums

I read an article today in the Hindustan Times about family-run museums. It was an interesting article. I personally find it a bit sad that we in India do not have much of a museum visiting and appreciating culture. Many people, I believe, just do not think of museums are not seen as a must-visit place. It could partly be because our memories of museums, from the time when we used to visit museums as part of school trips, are of dusty places with old artifacts gathering dust.

But the reality is different. Yes, I am sure there still exist some museums where it feels like time has stood still. A good example of this is the Jaganmohan Palace Art Gallery in Mysore. With its priceless paintings of Raja Ravi Varma and others, it would have been a must visit destination in many Western cities. But here, while it had a good crowd of visitors, the exhibits themselves looked in urgent need of some tender care. It would be a shame if these works of art are lost to future audiences due to apathy.

On the other hand, there are many good museums dotted around the country such as the HAL Museum in Bangalore, the Archaeology museum in Hampi, the Naval Heritage Museum and Seashell museum in Mahabalipuram, which are as good, if not better, than many museums that I have been fortunate to visit across the globe. These have interesting exhibits displayed in a clean space with ample facilities. But unfortunately, other than the first one which had a decent crowd the day I visited, in the others, we were pretty much the only people there.

I believe museums have a very vital role to play in the preservation and dissemination of the culture of a place, especially when that culture is in serious threat of vanishing under the ever expanding tentacles cast by the homogenisation of culture due to globalisation. Museums are a place where we can still feel connected to our roots. It is hard to not feel a sense of pride when we observe the Indian exhibits at the British Museum in London, placed alongside similar exhibits from culture around the world.

So a humble request. The next time you visit a place, in India or anywhere in the world, please do take some time off to visit a local museum. If you have kids or youngsters under your care, please take them too and let them soak in the experience and help them understand the significance of the exhibits. Let’s take some small steps to help preserve the memories of our rich culture and heritage.