“The Hugli River of Cultures Pilot Project : from Bandel to Barrackpore” – একটি দুই বছরের অগ্রণী প্রকল্প যার প্রধান উদ্দেশ্য হল হুগলী নদী বা গঙ্গা নদীর মোহনায় অবস্থিত কলকাতা মহানগরের খুব কাছে গড়ে ওঠা ৫ টি ক্ষুদ্র শহর যেগুলি অতীতে ৫টি ইউরোপিয় দেশের সঙ্গে ব্যবসা বাণিজ্য ও ঔপনিবেশিক সম্পর্কে যুক্ত ছিল। ব্যান্ডেল (পর্তুগাল), চুঁচুড়া (নেদারল্যান্ড), চন্দননগর (ফ্রান্স), শ্রীরামপুর (ডেনমার্ক) এবং ব্যারাকপুর (ব্রিটেন) এই শহর গুলির দ্রুত হারিয়েযাওয়া ঐতিহ্যমণ্ডিত স্থাপত্য ও সংস্কৃতি কে শুধু বাঁচিয়ে রাখা বা জনসচেতনতা বৃদ্ধির প্রচেষ্টা নয়, এগুলিকে বিশ্বের দরবারে পৌঁছে দেওয়া।
❖ এই প্রকল্পটি Newton Fund/GCRF ও The Indian Council for Historical Research- এর যৌথ অর্থানুকূল্যে এবং AHRC – এর তত্ত্বাবধানে পরিচালিত।
❖ Dr. Ian Magedera, Principal Investigator, The University of Liverpool, UK এছাড়াও প্রায় আরও ২০ জন সদস্য এই প্রকল্পটির সঙ্গে যুক্ত, যারা এই মিশ্র সংস্কৃতির শহর গুলিতে বিভিন্ন ঐতিহ্যবাহী ব্যাক্তিগত বাসভবন, সেই ভবনে বসবাসকারী ব্যক্তিবর্গ ও সেগুলি রক্ষনাবেক্ষনের দ্বায়িত্তে থাকা মানুষজন এবং সেই এলাকার সাধারণ মানুষের সম্পর্কে নানান অজানা তথ্য অনুসন্ধান, সংগ্রহ ও লিপিবদ্ধ করে চলেছেন।
❖ যেহেতু এই শহরগুলি ঐতিহ্য ও সংস্কৃতির দিক থেকে এক অনন্য স্থানের অধিকারী, বর্তমানে বিক্ষিপ্ত ভাবে বিভিন্ন জাতীয় এবং আন্তর্জাতিক সংস্থার আগ্রহের কেন্দ্রবিন্দুতে পরিণত হচ্ছে, কিন্তু তাদের সুপরিকল্পিত ও ফলপ্রসূ উদ্যোগের যথেষ্ট অভাব এখনও পরিলক্ষিত হয়। ২০২০ সালের জানুয়ারী মাসে এই প্রকল্পটির পরিসমাপ্তিকালে এই পরিস্থিতির পরিবর্তন ঘটানো এই প্রকল্পটির আরও একটি লক্ষ্য।
❖ এই অঞ্চলের ঐতিহ্য ও সাংস্কৃতিক রীতি সম্পর্কে সচেতনতা এবং আগ্রহ বৃদ্ধির জন্য প্রকল্পের সঙ্গে যুক্ত সদস্যবৃন্দ সম্মিলিত ভাবে বিভিন্ন সময়ে বিভিন্ন সাংস্কৃতিক অনুষ্ঠান, চিত্র ও তথ্যচিত্র প্রদর্শনী, একদিনের হুগলী ঐতিহ্যদিবস প্রভৃতি আয়োজন করে চলেছে এবং ভবিষ্যতেও করার পরিকল্পনা গ্রহন করেছে।
❖ এই প্রকল্পটির ফলে এই অঞ্চলে ঐতিহ্য সক্রিয় ব্যক্তিগণ এবং ঐতিহ্যবাহী বাসভবনের মালিকগণ “Talk Heritage” এর মাধ্যমে বাংলা, ইংরাজি ও ফরাসী ভাষায় তাদের ঐতিহ্যকে জাতীয় ও আন্তর্জাতিক সন্মানের আসনে অধিষ্ঠিত করতে সফল হবে এবং বিভিন্ন সরকারী এবং বেসরকারি সাহায্যের সুযোগ পাবে।
The focus of this project is the five former trading posts and garrison settlements up the Hugli River from the megacity of Kolkata. Together they form a uniquely rich heritage corridor which is only now sporadically becoming the focus of national and individual international heritage initiatives. When it ends in 2021, across all five cities, heritage activists will be upskilled to international standards in the documentation and promotion of both tangible and intangible heritage.
The 30-strong group of Team members and their associates collaborate with citizens in the region to co-create a diverse toolkit of cultural documentation including a substantive Heritage Management Strategy, an hour-long documentary film, architectural drawings, a postcard book, a photographic exhibition, recorded eyewitness testimony, an augmented reality App, all underpinned by academic research and directed at securing funds for preservation and access based on mutual consent and for the benefit the greatest number of sectors in civil society. For example, this allows project heritage activists and owner-custodians of the grand houses of Hugli to ‘talk heritage’ with nationally and internationally accredited documentation and visuals in the local Bengali language (and in English and French) to private sector interests and to the local and national government. The same applies to educators from a wide range of schools in the region as well as those involved in creative industries such as artists and filmmakers.
The Hugli is a branch of the Ganges and a major navigable river flowing from the foothills of the Himalayas into the Bay of Bengal. On its lower reaches lies the megacity of Kolkata. This project focuses on five rapidly changing hinterland cities, southwards downstream towards Kolkata: Bandel, Chinsurah, Chandannagar, Serampore, and Barrackpore.
The two-year Hugli Rivers of Culture project responds to a heritage emergency in a corridor of five towns upriver from the 14m-strong megacity of Kolkata. The public spaces and buildings of these towns have traces of the presence of Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, British and French trade and martial control since the Portuguese settlement in the early 1600s, but the project aims to help burgeoning grassroots volunteer groups better understand and promote C20 Indian-European hybrid domestic architecture, contemporary cultural practices, and memory now at extreme risk due to India’s rapid urbanisation. The goal is not to preserve these in aspic, but to work with the people in these places to adapt and use them for their own purposes. The twelve project outputs include a heritage management strategy (with colleagues in Architecture) and a Hugli Heritage Day (with colleagues at the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, Birmingham, and in Architecture and Geography at the University of Liverpool). The project is funded by the Newton Fund/GCRF and administered by the AHRC.
The focus of this project is the five former trading posts and garrison settlements up the Hugli River from the megacity of Kolkata. From upriver in the North towards Kolkata in the South they are: Bandel established by the Portuguese in the 1660s, Chinsurah developed by the Dutch in 1650s, Chandannagar founded by the French in the 1670s, Serampore urbanised by the Danes in the 1750s and Barrackpore developed by the British in the 1770s. Together they form a uniquely rich heritage corridor which is only now sporadically becoming the focus of national and individual international heritage initiatives.
Owner-custodians of major domestic heritage buildings will have their properties documented as will the citizens participating in the annual festivals. A focused Heritage Management Strategy will be disseminated. Thus there will be a careful combination of resource enhancement and the building of human capital by knowledge exchange across the 5 riverside Hugli cities. Just as the Research Assistants and heritage activists have a proven track record in volunteering, the resources enhanced have been visited by the UK PI Magedera and CI Jackson and the area was the birthplace of the CI Banyopadhyay. The project team thus document sociologically and architecturally for the first time both the hybrid European-Indian style of the riverside mansions in the region such as those in Gondalpara. Further, it will use boat-borne exhibitions and symposia on the river to revitalise the Hugli as a connective conduit to empower owner-custodians and heritage activists from Bandel in the North to Barrackpore in the South. Building trust with owner-custodians via an informal network over the project’s three-year life span from 2018, the team members would collaboratively produce a diverse toolkit of cultural documentation including a substantive Heritage Management Strategy, an hour-long documentary film, architectural drawings, a postcard book, a photographic exhibition, recorded eyewitness testimony, an augmented reality App, all underpinned by academic research. This will allow the Hugli heritage activists and owner-custodians to ‘talk heritage’ with nationally and internationally accredited documentation and visuals in the local Bengali language (and in English and French) to private sector interests and to the local and national government. This confidence will be centred around two new annual Hugli Heritage Days – ‘Huglir Oitijhyo Dibos’. The first two heritage days will be supported within the lifetime of the project. The impact of the second heritage day involving all five threshold towns will be maximized by the sharing with Indian activists and researchers of the project team’s documentation of the role of the mobile architecture of the ‘floats’ and their immersion in the river at the climax of the festival as well as their analysis of Jagadhatri Puja, a two-week-long devotional festival in Hugli involving hundreds of thousands of people (similar in regional impact to the Rio Carnival, but not internationally known), which is tied to the river via the immersion of huge mobile as it shifts the cultural centre of gravity from the core in metropolitan Kolkata to the periphery of the Hugli corridor every year in October/November.
The Hugli River of Cultures Pilot Project is constructed with a series of internal feedback loops and ongoing self-documentation. The loops are marked by the milestones of the meetings in February and March 2018, the land-based exhibition in April and the river-borne meetings and exhibition in May and June 2018, and the river-borne meeting in July 2018. They ensure that the project has assessed the heritage needs, not only of the heritage activists and the owner custodians but also of a wide range of interested citizens, with whom the former will have engaged during the public outreach events such as the land-based exhibition. Their aim of this is to integrate the civil society users of the research (the owner-custodians, heritage activists third sector organisations such as The Friends of Chandanagor [sic] Heritage based at the Rash Behari Research Institute and led by Kalyan Chakrabortti into the project outcomes on an ongoing basis). Aided by the members of the UK and India project team, the Hugli civil society participants will benefit by taking part in an experiential project which allows them up-skill and to view the mansions and their city and the wider riverside region in a new way, appreciating its unique built and event-based heritage as their plan and execute a new heritage event of their own supported by the Indian and UK project team members. Furthermore, the Chandannagar members are facilitated from May 2018 to cooperate with their counterparts in the other cities, these counterparts have been identified but they are currently working sporadically or alone or both. A key feature of this project is, therefore, to change this via the non-academic project outputs to impactful co-ordinated working which will represent a gain via cultural heritage for all interested citizens across the five cities. Apart from fishermen and the occasional tourist boats, the Indian public does not generally venture out onto the river and the A to B ferries take the shortest and most direct route across. The change in perspective of seeing their cities from the river is a watershed moment which re-establishes a participative connection with the sacred that is part of the way that many heritage activists and owner-custodians view the Hugli which is part of the Ganga (Ganges), but which is not yet linked to heritage.
Ian Magedera (Principal Investigator)
Andrew Davies (Co-Investigator)
Soumyen Bandyopadhyay (Co-Investigator)
Helle Jorgensen (Co-Investigator)
Iain Jackson (Co-Investigator)
- identified key heritage precincts and cultural landscapes with buildings and streetscapes and river frontage for each of the five cities
- started to document these
- increased public awareness in term of elected politicians, teachers, students, owner custodians
- upskilled heritage activists
- published a 256-page bilingual book on heritage and distributed it free to 150+ school and college students and their teachers
- held photographic exhibitions to the general public to demonstrate the value of heritage
- engaged with the regional level city and town planners to canvas their opinions on the feasibility of a Hugli Heritage Management Strategy
- developed and launched the Hugli River AR App
- organised two Hugli Heritage Days in a Heritage Properties
- engaged with the French Consul for Calcutta
- filmed seven hours of footage for a docudrama on intangible cultural heritage in the region
- exceeded our original objectives because of the engagement of 25 locally based academic project volunteers. Local buy-in needs to be proven before impact heavy awards
- communities and Social Services/Policy, Creative Economy, Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software), Education, Environment, Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism, Government, Democracy and Justice, Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
The project has collaborated closely with one of the most active heritage preservations in India, the Pondicherry Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Their Co-convenor and senior architect have been able to give practical advice to owner-custodians of grand houses, many of which are domestic heritage in danger.
The project has also benefitted greatly from the expertise of local NGOs such as Chandernagor Heritage and leading conservation architectural practices such as Aishwarya Tipnis Architects, New Delhi.
The project has delivered a series of impact activities for different constituencies such as owner-custodian meetings, a public photographic exhibition, a planners’ round table at the British Council in Kolkata, and a river symposium for NGOs and local activists.
The project is also proud to have provided the resources, documentation and training to its young heritage activists to allow them to deliver heritage walks. The recent project HeritageFest, consisting of quizzes, drawing competitions, interactive lectures and debates for students and their teachers, saw a project book distributed free-of-charge to all participants. The event was extensively covered in the local and regional press in both Bengali and English.
Work on this project first started on 14 February 2018 with an AHRC/Newton/GCRF Major Award and is being taken further thanks to a GCRF Global Impact Accelerator grant awarded in November 2018 and Follow-On funding from January 2020
Antara Mukherjee (ed) Chandernagore mon amour: the Citadel of the Moon (Liverpool: Liverpool University, 2018), 259 pp.
This bilingual English/Bengali collection of essays by project members and invited specialists provides new interpretations of Chandernagore’s tangible built heritage, and its intangible cultural heritage from pre-colonial, through colonial and onto post-colonial times. The book is richly illustrated with original colour and black & white photographs and contains a timeline and links to digital resources such as photostories.
Follow-on Funding: Implementation Action Team (IAT)
Follow-on Funding in 2019, the project team and the Principal Investigator were successful in a competition open to all previous GCRF and Newton Grant holders in the UK to gain Follow-On Funding that enables them to continue to apply for a whole additional year, the project’s research in a practical manner for the good of the citizens in the region. The name of organization that will deliver this is the Implementation Action Team. Put simply, it will seek to implement in the most practical way possible the most promising initiatives proposed in the project’s Hugli Heritage Management Strategy. The IAT harnesses cultural heritage to promote quality of urban life and sustainable development in the at-risk urban periphery of the megacity of Kolkata. The new funding will allow the project team to carry forward seven new sub-projects (including drone-supported environmental assessment led by colleagues in Environmental Science at the University of Liverpool and a sensory garden masterplan developed by colleagues in Architecture). The aim is to create a scalable toolkit that we hope willing Indian authorities will adopt after the end of the project to safeguard the unique hybrid grand houses of Hugli, to create wealth through heritage and to include even larger numbers of people in the safeguarding of cultural and built heritage in a region affected by both rapid urbanisation and climate change.