Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Heritage conservation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASI

Mains level: heritage conservation

heritage Context

  • Despite all the public talk of the importance of conserving our national heritage, the budget of the ASI, the primary institutional guardian of monuments, in 2021-22 has been reduced by more than Rs 200 cr.

How do you define heritage?

  • Heritage is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture. Most important, it is the range of contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviours that we draw from them.

Threats to Indian Heritage

  • Theft: The incidents of thefts have been observed usually from unprotected monuments, ancient temples. The thefts cases have also been seen in the protected monuments and museums as well. It is due to negligence of security guards in museums, monuments etc.
  • Smuggling: illicit traffic and smuggling in antiquities. Illicit traffic is motivated often by profit and sometimes by the demand for luxuries.
  • Tourism: Unregulated tourism, tourist activities run by touts, private agents have affected the art heritage places. The Culture Ministry of India has reported that up to 24 Indian monuments have been declared “untraceable” or “missing” by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
  • Issues with security of museums: Most of the museums are poorly guarded due to shortage of manpower leading to theft of artifacts, fire accidents etc.
  • Duplication: Fakes paintings and art forms leading to threat to livelihoods of artists.
  • Poor Maintenance: The state of the wall paintings in Ajanta caves is continuously getting worse, which can be attributed to humidity as well as to a lack of care.
  • Encroachment on monuments: Another miss from the ministry has been encroachments of monuments. Over 278 centrally protected monuments have been encroached upon or have illegal occupants, as per government data.

heritage Why should we protect our heritage?

  • Evolution of human consciousness is a continuous process: History here serves as a laboratory and the past serves as a demarcation to understand the regional laws and social structures. This understanding helps in our progress towards an ideal society.
  • Pride of country: The art heritage is the identity and pride of our country. It is duty of every citizen to protect, preserve and perpetuate the cultural richness.
  • Tourism potential: for art monuments and museums is very high. Tourism generates revenue for the state as well as private artists due to the money-multiplier quality.
  • Infrastructure development: takes place in and around the areas. Eg. Hampi despite being a small town has excellent infrastructure.
  • Jobs: It creates jobs for a lot of people from art industry and tourism industry as well
  • Sense of belonging: It creates a feeling of oneness and a sense of attachment by enhancing a sense of belonging to a culture or a region.
  • Strengthen conviction: Every historical site has an important story to tell and these stories have inspired many people to strengthen their convictions and commitment to fight injustice and oppression.
  • Soft power: Art and culture is also a part of soft power in world politics.

About Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

  • The ASI is an attached office of the Ministry of Culture.
  • It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.
  • Under the provisions of the AMASR Act of 1958, the ASI administers more than 3650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
  • These can include everything from temples, mosques, churches, tombs, and cemeteries to palaces, forts, step-wells, and rock-cut caves.

Initiatives by ASI

  • Museums: ASI’s museums are customarily located right next to the sites that their inventories are associated with “so that they may be studied amid their natural surroundings and not lose focus by being transported”. A dedicated Museums Branch maintains a total of 44 museums spread across the country.
  • Publications by ASI: Epigraphia Indica, Ancient India, Indian Archaeology: A Review (Annually).
  • Library: Central Archaeological Library in the National Archives building in Janpath, New Delhi.

Issues and Challenges ahead of ASI

  • To restore or not: Issue is that technically speaking- ruins are seldom “restored” in original state. This is because in absence of documentation- archaeologists are left to conjecture what buildings may have looked like when they were originally built.
  • Personnel Management Issues: Higher Authorities of ASI are traditionally from IAS Cadre. In-house specialist must be promoted for better coordination b/w technical and managerial aspects of restoration
  • Issues explored in CAG Report: 92 monuments are untraceable with no database on artifacts. Poor Documentation of Protected Monuments/Artifacts. Paucity of funds (Eg- Red fort gardens lie unkempt).


  • It is the duty of every citizen to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture. Preservation and conservation of India’s rich cultural heritage and promotion of all forms of art and culture, both tangible and intangible, is essential and assumes a lot of importance.

Mains question

Q. Safeguarding the Indian heritage is the need of the moment. What are the challenges faced in safeguarding them? What steps would you suggest to protect them?



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