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From Plunder to PreservationBritain and the Heritage of Empire, c.1800–1940$
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Astrid Swenson and Peter Mandler

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265413

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265413.001.0001

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Monument Preservation and the Vexing Question of Religious Structures in Colonial India

Monument Preservation and the Vexing Question of Religious Structures in Colonial India

(p.171) 8 Monument Preservation and the Vexing Question of Religious Structures in Colonial India
From Plunder to Preservation

Indra Sengupta

British Academy

The principles of conservation spelled out in the first law on preservation for the whole of India — the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act of 1904 — were indicators of the ways in which conservation policy was made in colonial India: determined by the state, and heavily influenced by principles of preservation derived from Europe, based on a specifically colonial understanding of India's history and heritage, and of the ‘guardianship’ role of the colonial state. Yet attempts to implement pre-colonial religious structures could have unforeseen results, as local, indigenous religious groups began to utilize the opportunities for funding opened up by the new Act and succeeded in using the provisions of the Act in ways that best suited their own interests. This chapter looks closely at the interface between preservation policy and practice in colonial India in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, and calls into question colonial hegemony as an explanatory framework for understanding a complex process of cultural practice.

Keywords:   heritage, preservation, religious monuments, preservation law, historicism, colonialism, British empire, India, indigenous agency

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