Conservation of buildings is a fairly new development in India when compared to the Western world. Scientific systems and the theoretical issues as laid down by the International Charters fall short in terms of execution when dealing with India. Miles Glendinning in his book, The Conservation Movement: A History of Architectural Preservation (2013) and others have dealt with this in great detail.

A trained architectural historian and conservation architect, with a field experience of over three decades (see cv attached) have grappled with this situation, trying to walk the tight rope to balance the work ethics of the Indian mindset and satisfy the International community. A difficult and paradoxical situation. However, by now I have been able to figure out some fundamental issues that plague India and have formulated some theories around this situation.

Firstly, India has a huge population, a cruel tropical climate, and a very deeply rooted architectural tradition. This makes the manpower cheaper when compared to machinery. Regular annual maintenance rather than conservation is needed to keep the buildings in working order, thus involving a continuity in traditions, both in patterns and materials, from past ages rendering the concept of ‘authenticity’ rather weak.

Secondly, India is a developing country and if one has visited it will well know that there are many issues it needs to address before it can spare its money to conservation. Poverty, illiteracy, health, infra-structure development, garbage disposal etc. are some very basic issues that need to be addressed. One can argue that ‘heritage’ can be a very useful commodity in drawing tourism and improving economy. But everyone in the conservation field is aware of the fall out of tourism as an large scale industry; it suffocates that which it intended to restore. But even for tourism a well placed infra-structure needs to be in place.

Finally, the world view of Indians do not allow them to attach any importance to their mortal bodies, leave alone buildings: Just as the embodied soul continuously passes from childhood to youth to old age, similarly, at the time of death, the soul passes into another body.. the material body is perishable; the embodied soul within is indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal. (Bhagwata Gita, Chapter 2). In such a situation, with a world view of material impermanence, a strong continuity of traditions and crafts and cheap man power, pressures of developing world, conservation, as we know it, often takes a back seat. (2015 Architecture and Architectural History: Relationships between the Conception and Perception of Buildings, Architecture, Culture, Interpretation, in Honorem John. E. Hancock. Romania)

One wonders, how then was history carried forth in India and conserved for so many years. A general overview brings to mind traditional paintings, songs, poetry, and story telling through these arts that have long conserved the architecture and history in every part of India; the language of story and arts changed but the essence of the places continued. Ayodhya, Sri Lanka, Vrindavan, Benares, Allahabad, temple sites, and other historical places like Kurukshetra have lived on the memories of people and are still vibrant and alive; buildings have changed, but the sites have endured. The sacred groves are the best example where bio-diversity and native plants have been conserved due to this concept. Architectural history writing then becomes an important mode for conservation through effective storytelling.