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Kangla map hiccups

It is there for everybody to see that today the Kangla is becoming an important tourist destination not just for outside visitors to the state but also internal sightseers. People, young and old are flocking the place practically every day of the week, but especially on Sundays and holidays. The government ought to do everything to promote this and it must be added, it indeed is doing it, although perhaps not to the extent expected or demanded by the situation. One of the big hitches is, on holidays and Sundays, the gates of the state Archaeology Department, which has occupied a spacious bungalow within the Kangla complex remains shut, and with it, the adjacent bungalow which was once the living quarters of General William Slim, the Field Marshal of the World War period who is often credited with having turned the fortune of the Allied troops in their fight against the Japanese. Without doubt, the latter is one of the main attractions especially for foreign tourists and its closure on holidays would have disappointed many. This is unforgivable on the part of the Manipur government, and atrocious on the part of the Archaeology Department, for the Kangla is first an important heritage site and then only a place where the department has been given an office space. It cannot be the other way around under and circumstances, as the department seems to think is the case.

A good example to illustrate this point would be the Vice Regal residence in Shimla, which now serves at the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study, IIAS. When India’s capital moved permanently to New Delhi after Independence, the then president, Dr. S. Radhakrishna, thought it only befitting that this important and sprawling heritage of modern Indian history should become a research institute of the highest order, and therefore recommended that the IIAS be set up there. It however soon became clear that this heritage site cannot be left exclusively to the IIAS for it is also very much an important historical and public place, and therefore a place where tourist would flock to. Right from the start, there have been pressures from certain quarters that the IIAS should be shifted to another site, so that this heritage site can remain solely as a heritage site, receiving tourists, and tourist revenue. At one time this was nearly done, and a decision to the effect had to be abandoned only because of the protest of the IIAS staff and fellows. The compromise then was for the IIAS to remain open to tourists on all days, and carry on its activities despite the daily streams of tourists. This notwithstanding, there are still pressures for the IIAS to be shifted to another place, and who knows what its fate will be someday. This must be the lesson for the state Archaeology Department too. It cannot treat its office complex or the adjacent Slim Cottage as its exclusive domain. The government must instruct the department to leave these sites open to tourists on all days, though the department can lock up its office on such days and have caretakers to ensure there are no vandalism. This is the compromise the department must be ready for, or else the government must think of shifting the department outside the Kangla.

There are a few more things which must be pointed out in the manner the Kangla tourism is handled by the Archaeology Department. The department has a printed map of the Kangla indicating on it 39 important sites inside the complex. It is another matter that many sites and structures remain unmarked on this map, but even those which had been marked are not always accurate, and sometimes atrociously wrong. As for instance, on the map, it marks Site 9 as “Manglen” or the site where most of the kings of Manipur had been cremated. At the Kangla, Site 9 is the Samadhi of Maharaj Nar Sing, and not marked as the Manglen. Here it is Site 6, the Samadhi of the last king of Manipur, Bodhchandra, which is indicated as the “Manglen”. Again Site 2 and Site 27 marked separately on the department’s map are the same. No. 2 is “Memorial of Assam Rifles” and No. 27 is “AR Memorial Stone”. There are more serious flaws on this map. Site 2 which it names as “Memorial of Assam Rifles” on its right hand column, is represented by a picture of the “Hijagang” or the shed where the royal boats are housed, on its left hand side column. At the Kangla as well as on the right hand column of this same map, this is Site 3. The right hand of the Archaeology Department, it seems, does not know what its left hand is doing. It is unfortunate this is happening to such an important heritage site as the Kangla, and this too when the Kangla is beginning to glow with a new life.



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