ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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HRIDAY in Amravathi

Community-led, Heritage-linked Development

While the Andhra Pradesh government’s efforts to build a new capital city, Amaravati, is in national focus, a government scheme to preserve the heritage of a nearby village with a rich history is floundering. Amravathi, the imagined heartland of the Andhra people that the new capital seeks to represent, has received little benefit from the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana, which has been plagued by failures in capacity-building and community engagement.

This article emerged from a field visit to Amaravati and Amravathi in January 2018, which was sponsored by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements. The author is grateful to the anonymous reviewer for constructive feedback on an earlier draft, which allowed them to refine it further with extensive secondary research. Thanks, finally, are due to Nidhi Sohane, who helped in making the appendix.

The dramatic exit of the Telugu Desam Party from the National Democratic Alliance during the budget session of the Lok Sabha in 2018 brought national focus back to Andhra Pradesh and Chandrababu Naidu’s attempts to build a greenfield people’s capital called Amaravati in the state. However, very little attention has been paid to the quieter revolution underway in Amravathi, some 23 kilometres from the flagship urban dream of Naidu’s government. Amravathi is a village of approximately 3,316 households in Guntur district whose name has been spelt variously, there being no consensus in policy and practice. Amaravati, however, has been consistently spelt so since the beginning of the project. While Amaravati woos investors and industrialists with the promise of a world-class city, Amravathi boasts of an ancient, syncretic history that dates back almost two millennia. The capital of the Satavahana dynasty that ruled much of the Deccan for three centuries, Amravathi was, for long, a centre of learning, religion, and culture in South Asia. It plays host to both Buddhism and Hinduism, boasting of important landmarks such as the Mahachaitya Stupa and the Amaralingeswara Temple.

Today, Amravathi is part of the central government’s Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), an ambitious scheme that aims to reimagine urban heritage management in 12 cities across 10 states. The other cities that are a part of the scheme are Gaya in Bihar, Dwaraka in Gujarat, Badami in Karnataka, Puri in Odisha, Amritsar in Punjab, Ajmer in Rajasthan, Kanchipuram and Velankanni in Tamil Nadu, Warangal in Telangana, and Mathura and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The North East is conspicuously absent from HRIDAY. Scheme documents do not list the rationale behind the selection of HRIDAY cities. Unlike various other schemes related to tourism and heritage, such as the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) and the more recent Adopt a Heritage initiative, HRIDAY focuses less on specific heritage sites and more on the larger sociocultural environment of the cities wherein these sites are located. HRIDAY has operationalised decentralised and participatory approaches to heritage-sensitive urban development. In Amravathi, however, the scheme seems to have been beset with policy, planning, and capacity lacunae which have severely limited its transformational potential. The story of HRIDAY’s successes and failures in Amravathi may well act as directional signposts for the kind of turn governance and planning should take next in order to synchronise regional needs and aspirations for development with national visions of selfhood that are premised on the symbolism of history.

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Updated On : 5th Aug, 2019
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