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MIPR policy paper makes out a case for seeking UNESCO Living Heritage Status for Mylapore
CHENNAI, September 27: United Nations Body UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation) has defined intangible cultural heritage or living cultural heritage as "traditional, contemporary and living at the same time. Intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part”.

The intangible cultural heritage is transmitted from generation to generation, and is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature, and their history. It provides people with a sense of identity and continuity, and promotes respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

Mylapore Institute for Policy Research Initiative: In accordance with the definition, Mylapore Institute for Policy Research ( MIPR), a new-age think-tank in Chennai, established with initial support from The India Cements, has prepared a detailed policy paper on the scope for securing UNESCO Living heritage status for the two sites of the historic temples in Mylapore - Sri Kapaleeshwar and Sri Adi Kesava - and their immediate environment.

The paper highlights the unique architecture and the rich heritage of the temples which have created a unique eco-system of distinctive character in terms of attracting devotees\tourists as well as supporting local commerce. In particular, it refers to the unique architecture in the two temples, the tradition of music and festivals, preaching followed round the year for thousands of years and the passion of visiting devotees which combine to generate an atmosphere of spirituality and worship sustained over generations at the two temple sites.

Unique dual tradition: The paper has been prepared based on the available records and information on Mylapore and the two Temples in addition to obtaining expert opinion from historians, learned priests in the two temples and experts in the field. The paper highlights how during ancient South India (Kingdoms of Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras and Pallavas) Mylapore was an important hub of commercial and religious activity, the firm position of Tamil as the principal language of worship following the Bhakthi movement spearheaded by Nayanmars - Shaivites and Alwars- Vaishnavites) and the references to Mylapore in their devotional hymns through texts such as Tevaram and Nalayara Divya Prabandham.

It refers to the co-existence of the unique dual tradition of Nayanmars and Alwars in Kapaleeshwar and Adi Kesava temples, each following its own set of preaching, worship, rituals and festivals in their finest respective traditions and in a symbolic combination to provide an unparalleled spiritual experience of sustained energy throughout the year.

This has also fostered a unique atmosphere, drawing in devotees and visitors round the year further contributing to social life. Mylapore has been at the very centre of the evolution of Tamil literature commencing with the great Thiruvalluvar, a local son, who produced Thirukkural, a comprehensive treaty on love, ethics and politics.

A distinct place: The author of the policy paper and President of MIPR, Mr. Shiv Kumar, says, "of the many places of sanctity, worship and divine across India, Mylapore (city of peacocks) occupies a unique place as it is in the very heart of a bustling metropolis (like London) with roots tracing back to the twilight of fable and with a more modern heritage as the flagship city of the colonial expansion into the sub-continent.

Mylapore today, in particular the core enclave around the Kapaleeshwar and Adi Kesava temples, is an epicenter of Hindusim as a way of life shaped over the years into an inclusive, tolerant and social environment. It holds a special place in Chennai as a place of worship, preaching, music and pilgrimage , and is in many ways Chennai’s Cathedral, much like St Paul’s is for London”.

Mr. Shiv Kumar says , “ Mylapore needs to be preserved as a precious heritage area, and, as very much an active and participatory locality, is worthy of seeking and obtaining UNESCO Living Heritage Status. There needs to be a clear plan to obtain this global badge for Mylapore, which, if successful, will draw in the funding to uplift the area and make it even more attractive as a visitor destination on a global scale. This will take time and investment, and MIPR stands ready to help the Tamil Nadu Government in this regard”.

Timely initiative: Mr .V .Balasubramanian, Secretary of MIPR, says, "We feel it is a timely initiative on the tourism front with Tamil Nadu emerging as a top tourist destination among the States in India. Vision Tamil Nadu - 2023 document, released by the Chief Minister in March 2012, has envisaged an investment of Rs 10,300 crore in Tourism and hospitality sectors and attracting 1.5 crore foreign tourist arrivals by 2023”. According to him, Mylapore Institute is keen to work close in co-operation with Tamil Nadu Government in filing an application with UNESCO through Government of India for obtaining UNESCO World living Heritage Status for Mylapore.

"If the living heritage status is granted by UNESCO, there will be influx of funds for restoration and development in Mylapore, benefits of increased tourism and a sharp uplift in property status and global recognition for Chennai,’’ he points out.

A fit case: Dr.S. Venkatraman, Vice-President (Education and Training), The India Cements, and a member of MIPR Governing Council and who worked in UNESCO for 10 years on various projects, says, “Mylapore would fit in better with the description of a living cultural heritage, which goes beyond monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from ancestors and passed on to descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, socio-cultural practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts. Such living traditions and expressions form a very important part of any cultural and living heritage. Thus, a living cultural heritage is a living form of heritage which is continuously recreated and which evolves as the people adapt their practices and traditions in response to their environment. It provides a sense of identity and belonging in relation to culture”.

Mylapore Institute for Policy Research (MIPR) is registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975 with the principal objective of functioning as a Think-Tank for developing innovative ideas capable of being implemented.