Mumbai: Monuments, now open to sketchers

Following a mid-day report, ASI finally amends bizarre law formed in 1959 that prohibited artists from sketching at historical sites like CST

After mid-day carried a report on how certain historical sites across the country are out of bounds for artists who want to sketch on location, the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) lifted the ban on Friday.

The mid-day report dated March 13
The mid-day report dated March 13

The letter was sent to Chennai-based artist Ganpathy Subramaniam, who had launched an online campaign in March on asking the ASI to allow sketching of historical monuments, without having to obtain permission.

According to the letter sent by the ASI, people can sketch henceforth, provided they don't use a camera-stand, stool, chair, easel or any other appliance within the precincts of the monument.

The law prohibiting sketching on site was enforced in the 50s as per the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1959. The last amendment to the Act was in 2010 when a separate National Monuments Authority was formed to serve as a watchdog for all the ASI-protected monuments in the country.

In Mumbai, there are about 5,000 historical sites that fall under the ASI, including the CST station, Worli Village, Jogeshwari caves, Mandapeshwar Caves in Borivli, the monolithic bass relief depicting Shiva at Parel village and Buddhist caves at Kanheri, among others.

When mid-day contacted ASI official Tejas Garge, based in Aurangabad, he was unaware of the developments, but seemed surprised that the ASI had responded "so fast".

"No official circular has been sent to the departments about this. However, it normally takes about 10 to 20 days for the circular to reach us through post," he said.

Subramaniam feels it's a victory for artists who want to sketch without the fear of being shooed away by authorities.

A member of the Chennai Weekend Artists, he was asked to acquire permission in order to render the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram on his sketch-pad. This prompted him to launch an online campaign on asking the ASI to allow sketching of historical monuments, without having to obtain permission.

"I'm delighted that the ASI has finally done away with the archaic law. Obtaining permission was a tedious process for students of architecture and sketchers. A lot of
time would get wasted," he said. Subramaniam, however, plans to carry a copy of the letter during his sketch walks.

"It will take a while for the new rule to trickle down to authorities on ground. To be on the safer side, it's better to carry the document."

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