To put it simply, heritage is our inheritance of land, language, ecosystems, knowledge, and culture. It is the truth that connects us to our past. It is a book of mystery, thrill, and suspense that we can’t stop reading. It is a message in a bottle that survived the giant waves of the ocean and swam to the shore. It is a beautiful sonnet that a lover writes for a beloved that he hasn’t found yet.
Oh, how precious this vast heritage that our ancestors left for us. Oh, how wonderful is mother nature who buried it deep in its womb only to protect it from itself and preserve it for the future.
Imagine the delight of explorers when they discovered The Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the mid-18th century or the happiness that British archeologist, Howard Carter must have felt which excavating the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen in 1922 in the Valley of Kings. It took them eight years to empty the tomb and transport its valuable contents to Cairo.
If you have been to China, you must have visited the Terracotta Army of Xi’an which is a world heritage site and was discovered by a group of farmers in 1974. Can you even fathom what these farmers must have felt when they discovered more than 8,000 life-sized soldiers, 130 chariots, and 150 separate horses etc? To discover a heritage site like that is nothing less than a wonder. It’s a wealth much more than material fortune.
To preserve this wealth is our responsibility.
Unfortunately, we haven’t kept our side of the bargain. For years, our heritage has been subjected to immense harm and damage. Take the case of The Buddhas of Bamiyan, the world heritage site which was destroyed by dynamite over several weeks by Taliban, the then operational Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan. In India, the heritage sites have long played at the hands of people who consider them little more than canvases to be abused at will.
There’s no end to the vandalism that these heritage sites have suffered by people who have either feigned ignorance of their importance or simply haven’t cared at all.
Therefore, on World Heritage Day, it is our appeal to each one of you to protect this beautiful heritage that our ancestors have left behind as well as the precious cultures that came along with it. Can’t we care for heritage like we do for our homes?