Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Preserve Tataguni Estate for posterity

Preserve Tataguni Estate for posterity
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: The beautiful Tataguni Estate, the home of Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich and his actress wife Devika Rani, has finally been given a facelift. After years of neglect and indifference by the State Government, persistent Russian efforts seem to have finally paid off.

The estate on Kanakapura Road is slowly springing back to life. Signs of restoration are all over the place even as it is been thrown open to the public till October 31 for the Roerich Centenary.

While various government departments have done a splendid job while renovating the heritage structures on the 468-acre estate, the government must see to it that the rich heritage of the couple is not lost. They must strive to preserve it.

One way of keeping the spotlight on the estate, the couple’s works and the Indo-Russian bond intact would be to throw it open to the public from time to time. That does not mean leasing or renting out shacks that sell food, artefacts and other such nonsense inside the premises to drive tourism. In fact, to keep their legacy alive, the government should show it off to the world without altering it an inch.

It is also heartening to learn that the estate will soon be declared a heritage site. It had turned controversial after the demise of Devika Rani in 1994 as several persons claimed ownership by exercising the late actress’ will or otherwise. It was acquired by the State Government by an ordinance in 1996. However, the ownership-related legal tussle still continues.

Among the sights inside are the 11-acre lake which is being rejuvenated by the Lake Development Authority (LDA). The LDA has desilted it and the water body is now full after the seasonal rains. Six ducks and 5,000 grass and silver carp have been introduced into the reborn lake to conserve its ecology.

LDA has also undertaken landscaping of the seven-acre area around the lake with flowering plants and Mexican grass. The stone benches, including the one on which Jawaharlal Nehru sat when he visited the Roerichs, have been remodelled. A vantage point is being constructed on higher ground to give visitors a panoramic view of the estate, lake and the Bannerghatta forest beyond.

The Bursera oil extraction unit on the estate that was built and run by Roerich and was shut down after his death in 1993, is being given a new lease of life. The factory is still in working condition. Great care is being taken not to destroy or replace antiques there, in order to preserve the vintage-era structures.

The Roerich cemetery (where the couple have been laid to rest) has been renovated with white marble by Mysore Minerals.

The residential building and Roerich’s studio are being renovated by the PWD.

The sprawling structure is home to thousands of parakeet and 27 other rare species of birds including peacock. Apart from sheltering smaller wildlife like rabbits, gaur and jackal, a part of the estate forms an elephant trail which pachyderms from the Bannerghatta range frequent. Efforts should be made to keep off encroachers, land grabbers and monkeys so that the estate remains intact in memory of the couple.

After all, they did live their twilight years here and this would be the best tribute to them.


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