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This web site is a part of the heritage project taken up
by Prabal Pramanik’s Academy of Arts

Bhamlada, Bhatwan, Punjab-145 022, India
Web site : www.academyartprabal.com
e-mail : prabalpramanik@yahoo.co.uk

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Opening up of the hill state

Chamba, due to its geographical position and the lack of easy access had developed in comparative isolation during the times it remained a kingdom ruled by chieftains and kings in ancient and medieval times.
This seclusion allowed the hill state a degree of safely from invaders and raiders and made it possible to enjoy certain stability resulting in the preservation of traditional art, Temple architecture and life style.
When new ideas about dress, construction and weapons were accepted in this hill locality in olden times, the traditional values were rarely allowed be disturbed.
The secluded valley led a set form of life in relative peace that encouraged the growth of traditional schools of art known in this area.
New technologies were accepted and tried out by rulers who understood the benefits of modern machines when they saw that the British benefitted from such technological application.
The hydroelectric unit introduced by Raja Bhuri Singh during the British times was unique not only in the hills but in entire Indian subcontinent. Some far sighted and enterprising rulers such as Shri Singh and Bhuri Singh not only accepted new technology but also adopted social welfare schemes such public hospitals and schools. Establishment of the museum at Chamba was a milestone in the work of heritage preservation in this hilly area.
New commodities and consumer goods for western residents and people with western exposure began to arrive in Chamba Kingdom in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Slowly new tastes started influencing the opulent class.
The life style of the rural people remained more or less the same as most of the village people were more at home with their traditional local made goods and were too poor to think of buying luxuries brought from outside.
When speaking of development, the psychological aspect is much more important than the material aspect. The understanding of the need to send girls to schools, of the need to be literate, of the need to overcome the boundaries of caste system and the willingness to accept new positive values are some of the psychological aspects of development.
The understanding of the fact that one can expect certain facilities for health and schools for education and even demand such facilities from the government, comes to a society that becomes more mature in modern values. Such values made their impact at a later age.
In a feudal society common people do not expect democratic rights. Beyond their strictly regulated social hierarchy, people had no say, and they had accepted this as a part of tradition.
New values that gave common people the right to expect more freedom and social security, came after the decline of the feudal system.
With the Independence of India from British rule, new values rapidly spread amongst the common people giving hope for a better future.
After the Independence of India and the establishment of a democratic republic, Chamba entered a new phase. Development became an important part of social life. Schools, health centers were established and after the formation of "Himachal Pradesh" this development gained momentum.
Colleges were established allowing common people access to higher education. Democracy allows even a villager in a remote mountain valley to take direct part in the formation of the Government.
Hill states that had been more or less secluded in relative isolation opened up to a world of much greater dimension and became parts of integrated democratic India.
It took a generation to change the old values significantly but the new generation accepted the influences of the world outside with great eagerness.
Greater job opportunities for common people created better standard of life for common people. In certain areas of social structure traditional values clashed with the new ideas yet the surge of the new values was so great that old traditional social structure could not resist the change.
Caste system, ingrained in the old social structure started to loose its significance. The center of power shifted from the cast based privileged class to the officials in powerful positions.
Aristocratic hierarchy that stretched from the king to the local chieftains no longer enjoyed any real power.
The shifting of the power center was an important phase in the modern administrative system.
With the opening up of the hill state and the construction of roads a new "industry" came to chamba.
Tourism industry started to make sizable contribution to the economy of this area. Though many tourists visit chamba regularly now a days, the full potential of tourism is still partly untapped in Chamba and near about places. The administration does not understand the need and methods of attracting more tourists yet.
If the administration cared sincerely, the tourism revenue in Chamba district could have increased many times.
There is a museum, named Bhuri Singh Sangrahalaya but there are very few regular activities there. Regular activities with proper advertisement attracts tourists and helps educational system.
Heritage conservation is not limited to museum compound, and this fact is yet to be tought to the people of Chamba in a wide spread manner.
It is rare to find people from local educational institutions taking real and sincere interest in heritage conservation projects organized by the Museum.
Culture has little value if common people are not a part of the cultural activities.
The officials of the museum should have more dynamic approach towards their work and not attend the work place just as a matter of compulsion.
Without proper and sincere will to implement any progressive and developmental programme on the part of the concerned officers, no real and long lasting development project can be successful.
This is a general rule and is applicable to all development projects. There can be much better cleanliness in Chamba town. Regular garbage disposal system in the town is not as effective as it should be.
Local people should be conscious about the need to have a clean town. Only when local people demand proper and timely removal of garbage, the people incharge of supervision will care to do their work.
Development without necessary maintance is useless. Chamba is a district town and people from local villages also visit the hospitals when necessary. So Shri Singh Hospital should have all state of the art medical facilities.
There is ambulance system and it is important that this system covers nearly all the area of the district. Mobile medical units are necessary on a regular basis for the villages in Chamba district as it is often difficult for people to transport patients who need medical attention and regular checkups.
So mobile medical units should be established for regular visits to remote village areas in Chamba district. Just government organizations can not eradicate poverty and develop the area.
Practical job opportunities are absolutely necessary if an area is to be developed. A community with a high degree of unemployment is not a developed community.
There are government schemes but often people who need help are left out. Panchayets should be made accountable too. Proper, real substantiated accounts of public money should be published on website.
It is not practically feasible to give employment to all unemployed people. Self employment opportunities are necessary to allow the people to work. A society that has relatively less unemployment has less criminal records and is busy in productive work. Active encouragement of handicrafts in an organized manner is necessary to eradicated unemployment in the hill states of Himachal.
Chamba is very rich in handicraft sector. A visit to Hatnala bazar area of Chamba town and to the embroidery centers in the town will confirm this statement. Yet, much more can be done to organize the craftsmen and to initiate sales of local handicrafts. Social security of craftsmen is necessary too, and this is not possible without organizing the craft sector.
Systematic training courses for traditional crafts are necessary for more people to benefit from the traditional skills.
Life-style has been influenced by western ideas and traditional forms are not enjoying the same social importance as they did before.
Better public instruction is necessary to make people understand the benefit of traditional artistry that can easily fit in modern life-style.
I have held many programmes in Chamba town and know personally how difficult it is to make public relation officers to take any real interest in development projects.
Fixed pay packet with little accountability create a system of inefficient officials. If the progressive outlook is lacking in government officials, they will never really care to follow-up the projects properly.
"Minjar" fair and the related programmes are certainly a boost for local people but the real potential of this interesting and important incident is still untapped due to the lack of vision on the part of the organizing officials.
Minjar can be much better organized with systematic and active encouragement to local and traditional music and dance instead of cheap and low grade performance from Punjab.
Proper scheduling of the performances is never thought about by the organizing authorities. Lack of vision is evident on the part of organizers.
During the Minjar fair, Bhurisingh Museum can organize special shows and programmes to attract more people. Lack of proper publicity is another drawback of the "Minjar" festival.
Categorization of the events is necessary to ensure a proper follow-up of the festival and I don’t think that there any one who cares to record a proper feedback of the festival on year to year basis and create a proper statistical record and publish the same on a website for public information.
I know that this means more work for the officials, and the officials may not "like" more work.
It is a golden rule that to do good work you have to put your heart into the work you do, or else if will be shoddy job.
Chamba was once a center of music in northern India. Folk and Classical music was nurtured in this historical town. The department of language and culture should setup proper institute for music and encourage people to learn and listen to music through music festivals and workshops.
This would positively boost tourism too. Tourism potential, if tapped properly will increase the revenue of the district in considerable manner and provide more employment to people.
Chamba is on the route to Manimanesh pilgrimage and many pilgrims from all over India go through Chamba when going to visit Manimahesh lake and also on the way back.
Bharmour is an important town that had a character of its own. That character in life-style and architecture is vanishing fast. The old life-style could have been a tourist booster if suitably presented.
Unfortunately, the officials and the administration of that area have no idea about the presentation of "heritage villages".
Chamba district is rich in forest resources that includes wild life. Poaching does go on and wild goats and even ibex and deer are not spared. The villagers who take "shikar" or hunt as a traditional right have to be properly educated about the importance of wildlife preservation.
Contact with the local population is necessary. Wildlife preservation would also boost tourism and provide employment to many local people as guides and tour operators.
Proper periodical survey and statistical accounts of forest land and wildlife is necessary to preserve the forest area. Building of several small wildlife sancturies with observation points is necessary to boost nature tourism.
Modern style buildings that do not blend with the hills are being constructed fast. Judicial planning can blend modern architectural technology with traditional hill style in an artistic way.
The people of Chamba are yet to learn this in widespread manner. Aesthetic town planning is lacking when towns of Himachal Pradesh are expanded with the rapid growth of population.
Shimla, Dharamsala, Mcleodgung and Dalhousie are loosing their sylvan charm and have become filled with unsightly and unsafe "modern" buildings built in a haphazard manner.
Chamba is following that same path, and in future the town may loose its beauty greatly due to unplanned and unsightly urban growth.
It is high time for the people of Chamba and the government of Himachal Pradesh to be aware of these facts.
What ever may be the development project, it should not endanger environment in any manner. We must also understand that the importance of preservation of heritage is another factor that must be thought of.
This website brings many vital issues to the forefront and in this age of world wide information technology, our sincere and voluntary effort links Chamba to our mega information technology net work. This is our contribution for the development of Chamba.

by Prabal Pramanik


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