By Ravishankar Bale
The front page report titled “God Save Devaraja Market” by K.B. Ganapathy, Senior Journalist, was timely and I liked the article because, it was objective and attachment-free, on the pathetic state-of-affairs with the Devaraja Market (Star of Mysore dated Aug. 16, 2023).
India is a land of billion people, mostly poor by many standards, but with a rich history of several millennia with its evidence, found densely in a zillion monuments of 100 years to 1,000s years old. Relics are even more ancient spread across neighbouring nations.
There are over 300 heritage structures in Mysuru city alone, listed and published by INTACH and Mysore School of Architecture, under the leadership of Ramakrishna Rao Desirazu. Hence, there are far more important structures of far more heritage value, in terms of age, grace, beauty, design, originality, history, events, personalities, tourist attractiveness, et al and, of course, maintainability. So what, many of these may not be built under the direct patronage of the royal families or named after them.
These factors for prioritisation, along with the cost of continuing maintenance from the tax-payers’ funds, the longevity of such maintenance, the risk of lives of both occupants and visitors thronging to the market daily, etc., clearly outweigh the benefits of retaining the Devaraja Market structure in its original form, with continuous patch works to make it look good for a few more years. But it will never feel good.
We have to ‘Let it Go’. We often exhibit too much attachment or ‘Moha’, to the non-living beings at the cost of human (and animal) lives or safety, human relationships, price, living standards and several other priorities to be paid attention to, in a developing country, State, district and even city like ours.
We have swung like a pendulum in the past decades. We did not care to protect places like Hampi for the last five centuries until a western traveller stumbled upon its stones. Our ancestors did not care so much to scribe the glorious history of Vijayanagara; they were detached to the old ones as the new ones got built. Our historians relied upon and simply relay what was written by the Persian, Chinese and Portugal chroniclers about Hampi and Vijayanagara. We are still excavating the Hampi ruins, long after Collin Mackenzie first scratched its surface in the 1800s. That’s one extreme.
Now we go all the way to the other extreme to make hue and cry of 50-plus year old structures. Like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other. From utter apathy to emotional attachment. Like our grandfathers on the death beds clinging to his father’s heavy empty treasure box lying under his bed, with an inch of dust on its lid.
India and especially our State is known for brand new projects, new temples, new office buildings each one called Bhavanas, while instantly ignoring the previously used and loved structures (even the ones under use), with no care of maintenance and planned custody transfers. There is also shortage of historical awareness, quality resources, lethargy, affection, but no dearth of self-interest expenses. Look at the big Palaces and Mansions as KBG has pointed out.
Therefore, mantra of quality over quantity should prevail. We may target top 100 oldest and grandest monuments in the city as economically viable, privatise some for more efficient usage so they earn their own funds needed for preventative maintenance. We have to let go the remaining, like Buddha said about law of impermanence.
Who knows, Devaraja Market can still bounce back and live on, with a new body and old spirit, without hurting anyone.
[Ravishankar Bale, who retired as an engineer in Canada, presently resides in Mysuru.]