Central Vista will become a cultural mandala

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As for the CRTBs (Concerned Retired Top Bureaucrats), who have been moved from the comfort of their homes to enrage over “waste” and “lack of concern for heritage”, I have this to say: do they intend to cling only to our colonial history in the name of “heritage” by wanting the status quo?

The main task and mission of each national museum is to demonstrate the deep historical roots of the said nation – to connect today’s generation with their ancestors by discursively anchoring the nation in the past. The process frequently involves claiming ancient cultures and dynasties that flourished within the geographic territory of the present nation-state. The aim is to reinforce cultural histories with cultural symbols and to provide a full historical account of the people who “always” resided on “this” land.
Beyond contributing to discursively anchor the nation in time and space, national museums are also constantly engaged in the production of memory and meaning, that is to say, defining and modifying the meaning of objects. museums to reflect on and memorize broader ideological frameworks. Simon Knell reminds us that a museum object has multiple meanings and can be used as physical evidence to represent different eras and historical accounts. Once objects are placed in an ideological environment, value and meaning are attached to them, usually through printed texts, wall texts, catalogs, audio clips, selected visuals from the period that broaden the perspective of the period, and in these days of advanced experiential technological modules through 3D multimedia; and through it all emerges a continuous process of articulation and re-articulation of a given representation of a nation’s collective memory.
I wonder how many of those who severely criticize the relocation of the National Museum as part of the Central Vista project know that the proposed Delhi National Museum was prepared by the Maurice Gwyer Committee in May 1946, less than 100 years ago. years. and a year before India gained independence. An exhibition of Indian art, consisting of selected objects from various Indian museums, was organized at the Royal Academy in London. The exhibition was presented in the galleries of Burlington House, London, during the winter months of 1947-48, possibly to introduce the Empire and other advanced countries to the civilizational history of the new India. independent, seen through British eyes. It was decided that before returning the exhibits to various museums from which they had been borrowed, the same collection would be exhibited in Delhi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 1949. This was the forerunner in the establishment of the National Museum. The success of this exhibition led to the decision to “use” this magnificent collection to constitute the core collection of the National Museum.
Thus, no deep reflection, no specialists, no Indian scholars, no museologists who made their invaluable contribution to the creation of the National Museum in the 1950s, nor to consolidate the memory of “so many pasts” as this. earth had been. witnesses of — kingdoms, cultures, objects, artefacts, works of art which could give a glimpse of the richness of our civilizational history and structure around these relics a feeling of belonging. Initially, the building housed just this collection which had shown an interest in England (perhaps because the newly independent natives seemed to have works that symbolized their “quaint”, “ethnic” origins). Think about it.
75 years after Independence, it is a long time to invest our energies in remembering our many “stories”, by investing in several museums in the heart of the national capital, with the most important of all, the “National Museum”, occupying a prime spot on Raisina Hill in the north and south blocks.
As for the CRTBs (Concerned Retired Top Bureaucrats), who have been moved from the comfort of their homes to enrage over “waste” and “lack of concern for heritage”, I have this to say: do they intend to cling only to our colonial history in the name of “heritage” by wanting the status quo? Do they want us to abdicate our responsibility and our right to restructure our deeply rich past through our priceless art, architecture, sculptures and artifacts, and regain our collective memory as a civilized people, who have roamed this land for many? hundreds of centuries? Let’s close our eyes to how poorly housed our priceless treasures are, how only a fraction of the collection can be on display at any given time due to lack of space, how indifferent we are to dark spaces, environments dark, lack of ventilation, damp walls, leaks that damage our museum pieces, in short, how inadequate the current building of the National Museum is to reflect the treasures of this great civilization and its inhabitants?
How many of them, I wonder, even thought about how a national museum should work and what constitutes a museum, for that matter during their tenure? Many, I’m sure, are eloquent about the magnificence of the Louvre or the Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA) or even the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) and must have visited them to take pictures with their families. But have they, when in a position of power, tried to replicate any aspect of these museums, even on a tiny scale in India?
I am sure that most of this group of CRTB did not even bother to visit the National Museum and the National Archives, which seem to have become their main preoccupation today. If only they had visited these museums, meditated on the magnificent collections that are there: coins, sculptures, textiles, figurines, bronzes, paintings, manuscripts, relics of a million varieties; understood the collective character of our human history; invested in thinking and taking action on how to improve the conditions in which these antiques were stored and displayed, they might have deserved the right to speak now. With the exception of two isolated senior officials, Venu Vasudevan, who has worked to increase museum attendance, and the current Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Raghavendra Singh, who has collaborated to involve students and researchers. proactively with the National Archives, there was no one for the past three decades. even remotely interested.
Every country today, including China (which rebuilt its museums and cultural history after everything was decimated during the Cultural Revolution), have museums on everything. They may be small, large or medium, but these museums on all subjects are full of history, documentation of belonging to a “period” or a “time in history” which are kept for posterity to show. the continuity of a people, language, culture, scientific achievements, astronomy, oceanography, agriculture, industrialization, railways, aeronautical technology to space. Some of the unusual ones that I have visited in England, Japan, China and the United States that I immediately remember are porcelain, war, navy, textiles, shoes and even dinosaurs.
Most of us are aware that national tragedies are also documented for posterity in museums – the Holocaust History Museum in Israel, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum in Poland, or the Crimes Against Museum. humanity in Bosnia. They inform, educate and revive memory and conscience to reflect on genocide and inhumanity.
A museum is intended to speak through objects to the people of today, of a people of the past through an insightful knowledge of a continuous past moving into the present.
“The deliberately selective accumulation of material objects in museums does not preserve ‘the’ past; on the contrary, each institution provides the structure (architectural and ideological) within which much more specific “pasts” are conceived, structured, reinforced and promulgated ”, explains Molyneaux.
The Central Vista plan proposes the establishment of several museums, in harmony with world-class cities around the world. The National Museum, as I said earlier, will be housed in the South Block and the North Block, taking pride of place in the most prestigious part of the National Capital, opening these heritage buildings to the public. , once they have been restored. designed and modernized to display our national treasures.
A document from the Ministry of Culture says: “The National Museum of India will be India’s largest museum and one of the world’s leading cultural destinations exploring India’s glorious past, illuminating the present and imagining the future.”
The Indira Gandhi National Arts Center (IGNCA), another bone of contention for politics, is to be transferred to Jamnagar House, a prestigious venue in Hexagon C with state-of-the-art facilities. Until the premises of Jamnagar House are ready, IGNCA will be located at the Janpath Hotel, which has been completely renovated for this prestigious artistic institution.
The current IGNCA building, which will fortunately be demolished, was built after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Many in the arts world were horrified when the horrific structure appeared in the heart of Delhi as an arts center. There was nothing artistic about this building: no performance halls, no rehearsal studios, no conference rooms, no professional art galleries, not even a well-designed amphitheater. No cafes, no gift shops for books, trinkets, no bodies of water or fountains dotted with pleasant sculptures that create the feeling of entering a creative space. Considering that it prided itself on being an arts research organization, there were no cutting edge libraries or friendly spaces, where creative minds could just sit and read or think and meditate. Performances, exhibitions, etc. The success stories that have taken place at the IGNCA premises are due to the tremendous resilience and beauty of Indian arts and artists, who receive so little infrastructural support but create such a wonder through their talent.
IGNCA’s lawns were votive pandals at best, where great artists produced god-worthy art and where public enjoyment was oblivious to technical flaws. Invite international groups to perform there and you would have seen the horror on their faces. Because they weren’t used to performing in shamianas, built stages, with makeshift green rooms, toilets a mile and a half away (open if you’re lucky) and mosquitoes having fun. Is a serious artist, cultural actor sorry to see him go? Not at all. A new India needs a “National Arts Center” that is up to the best in the world and meets international standards – no more jugaad for us.
The current heritage building of the National Archives will not be affected, according to sources. New state-of-the-art buildings will be constructed in the annex, to meet the current and future needs of the National Archives of India.
In addition, informed sources reveal that the existing Parliament building will also be turned into a museum. Imagine a Central Vista, with all its greenery and untouched open spaces, dotted with several museums and art centers. When it finally takes shape, maybe 5-7 years from now, we’ll have something that will create new memories: a world-class, art and ideas capital with multiple museums and art spaces.
The present “Central Vista” will turn into a magical “Cultural Mandala”.

Prathibha Prahlad is a distinguished classical dancer, educator, sociocultural feminist and cultural visionary. PadmaShri and Sangeet Laureate Natak Akademi, she is the founding director of the prestigious Delhi International Arts Festival.
[email protected] / @ PrathibhaP


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