New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday said that the government would conserve the country’s heritage and create a new legacy.
An official spokesman in a statement issued on Press Information Bureau (PIB) here said that inaugurating the International Museum Expo 2023 at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, the PM said that around 240 ancient artifacts had been recovered and brought back to India in the last 9 years in contrast to less than 20 for several decades after independence.
He said that the smuggling of cultural artifacts from India had also reduced considerably in these 9 years.
Modi expressed delight that various countries had started returning India’s heritage amidst the increasing reputation of India in the world.
He gave examples of the statue of Maa Annapurna stolen from Banaras, the statue of Mahishasurmardini stolen from Gujarat, the idols of Nataraja built during the Chola Empire, and the sword decorated with the name of Guru Hargobind Singh.
The PM pointed out that many artifacts had been taken out of the country in an unethical manner before and after independence and urged everyone to work together to put an end to such crimes.
He urged art connoisseurs around the world, especially those associated with museums, to further increase cooperation in this field.
“There should not be any such artwork in any museum of any country, which has reached there in an unethical way. We should make this a moral commitment for all the museums,” Modi said.
He also inaugurated a virtual walkthrough of the upcoming National Museum at the North and South Blocks and took a walkthrough of Techno Mela, Conservation Lab, and the exhibitions showcased on the occasion.
The International Museum Expo is being organised as part of the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to celebrate the 47th International Museum Day with the theme of the year ‘Museums, Sustainability and Well Being’.
Addressing the gathering, the PM congratulated everyone on the occasion of International Museum Day.
Highlighting the significance of the occasion, he said that while India was celebrating ‘Amrit Mahotsav’ on 75 years of independence, the different chapters of history were becoming alive with the inclusion of technology on the occasion of the International Museum Expo.
“When we enter a museum we engage with the past and the museum presents fact and evidence-based reality and it provides inspiration from the past and also gives a sense of duty towards the future,” Modi said. “Today’s theme ‘Sustainability and Wellbeing’ highlights the priorities of today's world and makes the event even more relevant.”
He expressed the hope that today’s efforts would make the young generation better acquainted with their heritage.
The PM also mentioned his visit to the museum before arriving at the venue for Thursday’s event and praised the planning and execution efforts, which helped in creating a huge impact on the mind of the visitor.
He expressed confidence that Thursday’s occasion would be a huge turning point for the world of museums in India.
Underlining that a lot of the heritage of the land was lost during the period of slavery, which lasted for hundreds of years when ancient manuscripts and libraries were burnt to the ground, Modi said that this was not just a loss to India but the heritage of the entire world.
He lamented the lack of efforts after independence towards reviving and preserving the long-lost heritage of the land where the lack of awareness among citizens created an even bigger impact.
Recalling the ‘Panch Pran’ or the five resolutions taken by the country during the Azadi Ka Amrit Kaal, the PM emphasised ‘taking pride in our heritage’ and underlined that a new cultural infrastructure of the country was being developed.
He said that in these efforts one could find the history of India’s fight for independence as well as the thousand-year-old heritage of the country.
Modi said that the government was running a special campaign to conserve local and rural museums along with the heritage of every state and segment of society.
He said that the development of ten special museums was underway to immortalise the contributions of the tribal communities in India’s freedom struggle, which would be one of the most unique initiatives in the world to provide a glimpse of tribal diversity.
Giving examples of conserving the heritage of the land, the PM mentioned Dandi Path where Mahatma Gandhi marched during the Salt Satyagraha and the memorial built at the spot where he broke the salt law.
He also mentioned the redevelopment of Mahaparinirvana Sthal of Dr B R Ambedkar into a National Memorial at 5, Alipore Road in Delhi along with the development of Panch Teerth related to his life, in Mhow where he was born, in London where he lived, in Nagpur where he took initiation, and the Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai where his Samadhi exists today.
Modi also gave examples of the Museum at Sardar Patel’s Statue of Unity, Jallianwala Bagh in Punjab, Govind Guru’s memorial in Gujarat, the Man Mahal Museum in Varanasi and the Museum of Christian Art in Goa.
He also touched upon the Pradhan Mantri Sangrahalaya dedicated to the journey and contributions of all the former PMs of the country in Delhi and requested the guests to visit this museum once.
The PM said that when a country starts conserving its heritage it gives rise to closeness with other countries also.
He gave examples of holy relics of lord Buddha, which were conserved over the generations and now uniting followers of lord Buddha all over the world.
Modi mentioned sending four holy relics to Mongolia on the last Buddha Poornima, the arrival of the holy relics from Sri Lanka to Kushinagar.
“Similarly, the legacy of St Ketevan of Goa is safe with India and remembered the enthusiasm in Georgia when the relics were sent there,” he said. “Our heritage becomes the harbinger of world unity.”
The PM suggested that the museums should become active participants in conserving the resources for the coming generations.
He suggested that museums could conserve and present the signs of many calamities that the earth had faced, and presentation of the changing face of the earth could also be done.
Mentioning the gastronomic section of the expo, Modi talked about the growing profile of Ayurveda and Shree Anna Millets due to India’s efforts.
He suggested that new museums could come up about the journey of Shree Anna and other grains.
The PM said that all this could be possible when preserving things of historical significance becomes the nature of the country.
He elaborated how this could be achieved and suggested that every family creates a family museum of their own family and that simple things of today would be an emotional property for the coming generations.
Modi exhorted schools and other institutions to create their own museums and also asked cities to create city museums.
“This will create huge historical wealth for the future generations,” he said and noted that museums were becoming a career option for the youth.
“We should not view these youth as mere museum workers but as youth associated with subjects like history and architecture that can become the medium of global cultural action,” the PM said. “These youth will be very effective in taking the nation's heritage abroad and learning from them about their past.”
He mentioned the collective challenges of smuggling and appropriation of artifacts and said that countries with ancient cultures like India had been struggling with this for hundreds of years.
Union Minister for Culture G Kishan Reddy, Union Ministers of State for Culture Arjun Ram Meghwal and Meenakshi Lekhi, and Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi Manuel Rabaté were also present on the occasion.