Understanding community-based heritage values

The case of the Tamil Brahmin settlement in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

Authored by: Vaisali Krishna Kumar

The Routledge Handbook on Historic Urban Landscapes in the Asia-Pacific

Print publication date:  January  2020
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138598256
eBook ISBN: 9780429486470
Adobe ISBN:


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Heritage laws and practices in India are rooted in the nineteenth century western paradigm which follows a monument-centric, top-down, and expert-driven approach. They are, therefore, largely devoid of the perspective of the ordinary people and the places. The local community represents key stakeholders of a heritage environment and can be a driving force in conserving the living heritage. However, communities protect only what is valuable to them; therefore, it is critical to understand and assess the values that a community ascribes to its heritage. This chapter explores how community-based heritage values could be understood and be assessed effectively to form a collective understanding of the values that could then feed into heritage policies and practices. The study is focused on the Padmanābhaswāmy Temple and the associated Tamil-Brahmin settlement in East Fort Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India. The residents identify the sense of community, sense of sacrality, liveability of the place, and historicity of the settlement as core heritage values. They also characterize the shifts in the appreciation of the temple, bureaucratic incompetency, lifestyle changes, tourism, and ageing of population as threats to the sustenance of the community and their heritage.

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