Heritage lovers celebrate Valentine's Day with Patna Collectorate to raise awareness

Patna, Feb 15 (PTI) Choosing a novel way to draw attention to the plight of the city's crumbling heritage, a group of residents celebrated Valentine's Day by hugging pillars of the centuries-old Patna Collectorate, which is facing demolition.

Among those who chose to spend a date with the centuries-old Collectorate on Friday included a US-educated lawyer, a young poet and a few other residents of the city.

'It is sad that a historic building like Patna Collectorate is facing demolition,' said Kumar Shanu, a lawyer at the Patna High Court.

'We wanted to highlight the issue and so chose to spend time with the collectorate. We should celebrate our heritage and not demolish it. All world-class cities preserve their built heritage while building new things. As youth we must come forward to protect our legacy,' he said.

Shanu, 26, who returned to India late last year after completing his masters in law from the prestigious Tufts University in the US, said he was in the neighbouring town of Barh for some work, but came back in the evening to mark the day in a special way.

In the US, many people know Bihar because of its poverty, but they also know about the rich cultural heritage of the state, the Patna-based lawyer said, adding 'many of my friends in America and other countries know about the collectorate, which is facing demolition'.

The call to celebrate Valentine's Day 'with' the Patna Collectorate was given by 'Save Historic Patna Collectorate', a civil society-led movement for historic preservation in Bihar.

Anchit Pandey, a young poet based here, went to the collectorate during the late afternoon and took photographs and selfies.

'A city's identity is not made by its fancy malls and glitzy showrooms, but its old buildings, which carry within their walls the layers of history of the city and our heritage,' Pandey said.

'Unlike London, New York and Venice or even Delhi or Bombay, it is sad that our Patna and its heritage buildings have not been romanced that way. Youths like us should come forward and contribute towards heritage preservation. Government should be wiser and not think of demolishing it at all, rather, reuse these buildings as libraries, museums, cafes or art galleries,' he said.

Heritage lovers went to the collectorate and hugged pillars of the Dutch-era Record Room and took pictures with the buildings in the backdrop. Many even came after dark to mark Valentine's Day with meaningful action.

Located near the Gandhi Maidan, the collectorate includes a portion built by the Dutch in the late 16th century. It also comprises the District Board Patna building, set up in 1938 by the British.

The centuries-old Patna Collectorate is endowed with high ceilings, huge doors and hanging skylights, and is one of the last surviving signatures of Dutch architecture in the Bihar capital, whose fate currently hangs in the balance.

After hearing two PILs filed by the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture (INTACH), the Patna High Court had last September stayed the proposed demolition of the government complex while restraining the state authorities from 'causing any harm to the collectorate building until further orders', bringing some relief to the heritage lovers.

In 2016, the Patna Chapter of INTACH had sent a strongly-worded petition to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to immediately scrap the impending demolition plan, saying it would set a 'very bad precedent and further jeopardise the fate of other heritage buildings in the city and eventually in the state'.

Soon after the proposed demolition in 2016, the then Dutch Ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga and London-based Gandhi Foundation had appealed to spare the demolition of the collectorate, where parts of the Oscar-winning film 'Gandhi' were shot.

Some iconic scenes in the Richard Attenborough movie were filmed at the collectorate, whose Dutch-era Record Room was shown as Motihari jail while British-built DM Office building was shown as a court in the film. PTI KND RDM HMB