The Historic City of Ajmer-Pushkar: mapping layers of history, use and meaning for sustainable planning and conservation

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Welsh School of Architecture (ARCHI)

Abstract

The project will create a network devoted to developing more inclusive, informed and sustainable planning decisions for public spaces in historic Indian cities, by carrying out a pilot study in the walled city of Ajmer and nearby Pushkar in Rajasthan. These are thriving centres of pilgrimage for different faiths, attracting thousands of devotees at festival times. A rapid growth in tourist numbers has exacerbated the stress on infrastructure. The research will focus on the role of the beliefs and associations, ritual processes, and behavioural patterns of devotees and visiting pilgrims, in order to establish these as crucial factors in the design and conservation of public spaces with religious significance. The primary objective is to create prototypes of digital tools to contain images and information about the city, its history and heritage and, most importantly, to allow reflection, exchange and dialogue among different groups. The tools to be developed will be based on an interactive map of the historic areas as whole, and 3-d interactive scans of key public spaces. Once the basic work on these has been done, an interdisciplinary workshop with participants from India and the UK will be held in Ajmer. This workshop will be the starting point for the continuing network. Relevant public bodies and community representatives will take part. Varied expertise and perspectives will help to refine the tools, and the methods for gathering further data on differing perceptions of the city and on the activities within its spaces. The interactive models will be put online to be supplemented and critiqued. Findings from the study will be fed to the relevant authorities, and it is expected that the tools and approach will be applicable in historic cities throughout India, and worldwide.

Planned Impact

The simultaneous occupation and interpretation of spaces by different groups is a universal condition of pubic space within historic urban areas. This intense and specific study will be used to explore the potential for more qualified judgements to be made in such contexts.

The potential for interactive interfaces to contribute to better planning decisions has been a long held ambition. Today, the greater availability and access to handheld media offers the opportunity to play out such ambitions. It would potentially be a protypical "Serious Game" interface for the contemplation of planning decisions. The emphasis of the research here, is however, not on developing the technology, but on developing the methodology and upon testing the actual value of persuing such lines of inquiry for the implementation of design decisions. The technology deployed is already in common usage, the dialogue between citizens and planning authorities remains fractured.

The potential for the better communication and deliberation of both historic and current practices to contribute to the formulation of better strategic decisions should be obvious. Nevertheless, it can be inestimably difficult to balance or take account of such factors given the restricted periods for consideration and restricted channels for consultation. This project is a pilot and as such its pathway to impact is to develop a prototypical approach. The successes and failures of which have potential to be transformative in the context of these complex contexts but also as exemplars for deployment in paralell conditions of multifaceted urban conditions.

The following bodies are expected to participate in the mid-February workshop: Municipal Corporation of Ajmer, Pushkar Municipal Board, Superintendent Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India Jaipur Circle, Rajasthan State Archaeology Department, Rajasthan Local Self Governance Department, Town Planning Department, local INTACH Chapter (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritge), Temple Trusts, Dargah Committee.

The following engagement activites are planned, to initiate communications of the project findings to relevant groups:

Meeting with Ministry of Urban Development for policy level recommendations at national level

Meeting with Town Planning Department and local bodies in Rajasthan to integrate methodology in future planning.

Meeting with Municipal Corporation of Ajmer and Pushkar Municipal Board in implementing the design recommendations in association with locals

An exhibition of the work will be mounted by DRONAH in association with HCN (Indian Heritage Cities Network)-UNESCO at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur

Meeting with IHCN (Indian Heritage Cities Network)-UNESCO New Delhi, for policy level recommendation from the research to be presented at 'Habitat III" UN Habitat Forum in 2016 and to UNESCO, Paris.
 
Title 3d flythrough of Laxmi Chowk, Ajmer 
Description Flythrough of laser scan and virtual mesh of Laxmi Chowk by Oriel Prizeman 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact This video of a 3d Laser scan and mesh made of Laxmi Chowk in Ajmer was first presented at ARQUEOLÓGICA 2.0 - 8th International Congress on Archaeology, Computer Graphics, Cultural Heritage and Innovation. Since posting on YouTube, with no reference to the conference, it has had 8121 views to 19th Feb 2021. 
URL https://youtu.be/H-mYskQiZAg
 
Description The project partner DRONAH Foundation organised a workshop on HRIDAY cities with the National Institute for Urban Affairs and Ministry of Urban Development, which took place in Delhi on 15th March 2017. In the context of our findings, social mapping was accepted by the Ministry as an important component to be included in the revised guidelines for HRIDAY We can also point to two small instances of impact at this point. At the urban level, recommendations by DRONAH Foundation for certain ritually important areas to be pedestrianised are to be implemented by the Ajmer municipality. At the individual building level, the owner of a gota (embroidery) factory installed in a historic haveli with mural paintings, has already acted on advice for protection of the structure. An exhibition of the project findings will be held in Ajmer in April, with the aim of contributing to further impact.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Conclusions from the project are mentioned in the publication "HRIDAY Reflections: a Monograph on the Heritage City Augmentation Yojana, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Govt. Of India, published by CEPT and ICOMOS India, was launched in Dec 2017 during the ICOMOS General Assembly.
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Cardiff University seedcorn funduing (for Dr Oriel Prizeman) for Rakhigarhi project with ITRHD (Indian Trust for Rural Heritage Development)
Amount £2,250 (GBP)
Organisation Cardiff University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 06/2017
 
Description GCRF Fragile Heritage Hub with Bradford University Shikha Jain and Dronah to be partners too with 26 countries
Amount £100 (GBP)
Organisation Research Councils UK (RCUK) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2018
 
Description Invited participant Newton-Ungku Omar Fund: Heritage Refurbishment Assessment Scheme (HeRAS), Penang Malaysia 14th-18th August 2017
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2017 
End 08/2017
 
Description Large Grants - Heritage in the Context of Rapid Urbanisation in India
Amount £202,043 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 02/2020
 
Description Tamil Temple Towns: Conservation and Contestation
Amount £175,194 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/R014302/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 02/2020
 
Description nvited participant Newton-Baba Fund ICHR, AHRC UK-India Workshop on Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India 23rd, 24th and 25th May 2017 Constitution Club of India, New Delhi
Amount £900 (GBP)
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 05/2017
 
Title Rapid Mapping for Public Consultation in Heritage Planning 
Description The project aimed to develop methods for enhancing interaction between occupants, developers and planners in a city that has almost no accurate maps. This aim to develop community participation in conservation management has a significant legacy in both theory and practice. Here rapid prototype models, both physical and digital were used to record participant contributions, oral histories and over-layered timetables. The aim to transcribe these to a 3D model for public consultation was tested in the context of a small 'Chowk' or public node in the city. The extent of the space leads from a crowded road intersection surrounded with shops and businesses, through courtyards of an adjoining nineteenth century 'Haveli' or courtyard house and beyond that to its private shrine. Ethnographic methods were also used to collect data, and architectural conventions to model and map it. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact See main impact section. 
URL https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/research/explore/find-a-project/view/the-historic-city-of-ajmer-pushkar-ma...
 
Description Internship with DRONAH - Ajmer. 
Organisation DRONAH Foundation
Country India 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Supervision of intern.
Collaborator Contribution DRONAH Foundation is carrying out community surveys in the Naya Bazzar, Ajmer and lakefront area in Ajmer with an intern Anu Khandal, MA in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies, Rutgers University, USA, Feb.- May 2018.
Impact None
Start Year 2018
 
Description Project partners (already collaborators for previous project on Ajmer) 
Organisation DRONAH Foundation
Country India 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The collaboration is continuing with the Tamil Temple Towns project. The information given in this section currently applies to the earlier Ajmer project: Adam Hardy (PI) was responsible for management and coordination of the team, and carried out research into the architectural history of the Ajmer region. Dr. Oriel Prizeman (Co-Investigator) created and developed digital scans at Ajmer, and liaised with the team in India over their use as a tool for further investigation.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Shikha Jain (Co-Investigator) directed the research team based with DRONAH, co-ordinate the workshop organisation, and set up a programme for dissemination to statutory bodies and community groups, as well as further workshops. SPA Bhopal, coordinated by Prof. Ajay Khare (Co-Investigator), carried out documentation of the urban fabric of Ajmer and Pushkar, and of medieval temple remains.
Impact These are the outcomes of the project.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Project partners (already collaborators for previous project on Ajmer) 
Organisation School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration is continuing with the Tamil Temple Towns project. The information given in this section currently applies to the earlier Ajmer project: Adam Hardy (PI) was responsible for management and coordination of the team, and carried out research into the architectural history of the Ajmer region. Dr. Oriel Prizeman (Co-Investigator) created and developed digital scans at Ajmer, and liaised with the team in India over their use as a tool for further investigation.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Shikha Jain (Co-Investigator) directed the research team based with DRONAH, co-ordinate the workshop organisation, and set up a programme for dissemination to statutory bodies and community groups, as well as further workshops. SPA Bhopal, coordinated by Prof. Ajay Khare (Co-Investigator), carried out documentation of the urban fabric of Ajmer and Pushkar, and of medieval temple remains.
Impact These are the outcomes of the project.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Reviewer for UNESCO / ICOMOS voting delegate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact I was selected by ICOMOS to act as reviewer for UNESCO World Heritage Nomination and as a voting member for the 2017 General Assembly http://icomosga2017.org/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://whc.unesco.org/en/newproperties/date=2017&mode=list
 
Description Workshop on findings of the research, Delhi. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Ministry of Urban Development, Govt. of India, organised a workshop on the findings of the research project in March 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://smartnet.niua.org/sites/default/files/ATT00016.pdf