Tuesday, September 15, 2015

History lives, unwatched, in these — Bidar homes

Bidar, a fort city situated on the Deccan Plateau in the northernmost reaches of Karnataka, has multiple layers of history built into its streets, walls and its very bricks. It's not just the recognized historical monuments in Bidar that speak of its past -the city's vast network of homes, in both its royal and public enclosures, bear testimony to the city's unique, syncretic architecture. A decision by the district administration to identify and restore these homes with the help of the Indian Heritage Cities Network (IHCN) could bring back a measure of the city's lost grandeur, but Bidar has a unique feature -it is a living, breathing city where the homes and streets are lived in, and any attempts at restoration must take into account the impact on residents' eve ryday lives.

But first, the history. Bidar was once, in the 3rd century BC, part of the Mauryan Empire. Later, the Satavahanas, Kadambas and Chalukyas of Badami and Rashtrakutas reigned over Bidar. The Delhi rulers, first headed by Alauddin Khilji and later Muhammed-bin-Tughluq, took control of the entire Deccan, including Bidar. Around the middle of the 14th century , the officers of the Sultan rebelled, resulting in the re-establishment of the Bahmani Dynasty. In 1429 AD, the Bahmanis shifted their capital from Gulburga to Bidar, which was strategically stronger, and had better water resources. In 1430, Ahmed Shah Wali Bahmani took steps to develop Bidar City , and its fort was rebuilt. On the conquest of the Deccan by Aurangzeb in mid-17th century, Bidar became a part of the Mughal Empire. Later, it became a part of Hyderabad state and stayed that way till 1948.

"The remains at Bidar fort stand testimony to its layered history as we can clearly identify some of the layers even today. Historic buildings in Bidar have a combination of Indian and Islamic architecture. It's a melting pot of several styles," says V Govindankutty, assistant professor at the Government College, Chittur (Kerala), and one of the experts at the IHCN, a non-profit organization supported by UNESCO and the Indian Ministry of Urban Development.

In 2012, Govindankutty was surveying the public enclosure of Bidar Fort, and discovered more than 300 houses of heritage value. The basic purpose of the survey was the identification of walking route s." The heritage walk takes one through the microcosm of historic Bidar, covering not just the shortlisted houses but impor tant monuments. These walks help one understand how the community lives and how the city e vo l v e d t h r o u g h time," says the professor.

These homes, many of which are 400 years old (the most recent houses are 200 years old), are within the fortified public enclosure, and claim certain common distinguishable aspects. They are cour tyard houses, lack a setback, and are accessed from the street itself. Houses are grouped to form a cluster and open spaces between the cluster are used as community spaces.Almost every building is acc e s s e d by a n arched entranceway -this is the most distinguishing aspect of Bidar's vernacular architecture, and a telling trait of Bahmani building style.

The doorway is usually framed by a teakwood plinth with a wooden thresh old below. Many buildings also have bay windows, sometimes entirely made of wood, which pro ject into the street and are supported by brackets. Professor Govindankutty explains that most heritage buildings in Bidar are constructed in laterite masonry , very rarely basalt. Timber and lime are extensively used, too. " At present most of these heritage homes are a in dilapidated condition. The present owners may not be able to restore them on their own -for several reasons. One is that most masons and builders lack the ex pertise to recreate the materials used or restore the intricate wood carvings.

The owners are also financially constrained.

Without appropriate support from NGOs and government agencies, these house cannot be restored," says Govindankutty .

Are the residents themselves aware of the unique history and architectural splendour of their homes, and do they make efforts to sustain this? Yes, says the professor.

"But they need sup port to restore these old homes. The people are keen to preserve them, as well. If these houses are restored and part of them converted to home-stays, then there will be enough revenue available with individual households to maintain them." But the changing fabric of Bidar city is a matter of concern. Lack of planning regulations to control organic and unplanned development means the distinct architectural character and identity of the city is slowly being lost as modern buildings come up in a haphazard manner. It is up to the city and district administration to regulate new development, so that its beauty can be preserved. With inputs from Sonnad Mouneshwar in Bidar 

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/History-lives-unwatched-in-these-Bidar-homes/articleshow/48941211.cms

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