A country with a rich history, India is teeming with cultural landmarks. However, not every monument here has been extensively documented. In order to bring focus to the country's forgotten monuments, Amit Pasricha started 'India Lost & Found' (ILF) in 2018.
"I realised that a lot of our heritage was not just hidden, it was dilapidated because of a lack of understanding of its history," shares the 58-year-old photographer from East Delhi. ILF is a crowd-sourced campaign that chronicles India’s built heritage to establish a dialogue about conservation of heritage sites.
The Heritage Mapping Project is ILF's main vertical. Through this, photographers share their documentation of lesser-known monuments to create a digital museum of stories. The volunteers visit different heritage spaces in India, click photographs, and learn about the monument’s history.
However, over time, ILF has also grown to include a range of researchers, graphic designers, among others, in this Project. Currently, they have about 450 volunteers across India. The team allows submissions from anyone who is enthusiastic about heritage - volunteers range from school students to 65-year-old adults. "The idea is to create, learn, and carry this heritage forward together," adds Pasricha.
Prathama Nathu (23), who currently heads the research wing of ILF, mentions how much she has learnt about the importance of heritage through this Project. A masters in archaeology from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Nathu shares, “So many people are unaware of the heritage of our society. The only way to inform them is to have people like us work towards creating awareness.” Similarly, Alolika Sutradhar (21), a first-year masters’ student of Delhi University, who heads the ILF Radio team, tells us how interacting with people with varied perspectives on heritage has broadened her horizon.
Rediscovering the forgotten
Beyond documentation, ILF has also launched smaller initiatives to aid their Heritage Map. They have a virtual open-library, a community radio, and other programmes such as working with Indian royalty who have been residing in heritage sites for generations. "This gives a personal touch to history. These people can narrate their experiences of the monument," Pasricha shares.
Another project started by IFL, in partnership with students, is 'Map your own town'. "We spend a lot of energy discovering areas that are outside our lived spaces. This project, therefore, attempts to push youngsters towards discovering the marvels in their own cities," he says.
Pasricha also shares that the enthusiasm shown by locals while he documents these heritage spaces and monuments only makes him wonder how detached most people usually are when it comes to India’s heritage sites. "It amazes me that something so significant and beautiful is on the list of World Heritage Sites," he shares.
Speaking of why such a project is extremely important, Pasricha concludes, "In a country with no standard definition of heritage, we are unaware of how many heritage sites we have. So we need to move forward in a way such that these lesser-known spaces [and heritage sites] are not lost forever."