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Heritage plea shifts mela spot

Santiniketan, Nov. 13: Visva-Bharati has decided to shift one of the four Pous Mela venues from near Tagore’s homes as the area has been proposed by the varsity as a world heritage site.

Sources said the decision to shift the venue from the ashram area to the eastern corner of the Bhubandanga grounds was taken by vice-chancellor Sushanta Duttagupta, who felt the move would rid the old ground from pollution caused by the fair.

According to varsity officials, the daily footfall of over 1 lakh was damaging the turf.

“After the three-day fair ends, the area is strewn with plastic cups and bags, sal leaves and earthen pots. A lot of dust is kicked up everyday during the fair. This kind of pollution should not affect an area that has been proposed as a world heritage site,” an official said.

In 2010, the Union ministry of culture had sent a dossier on Santiniketan to Unesco, requesting it to include “Tagore’s abode of peace” in its list of world heritage sites. The proposal is yet to be accepted and the varsity authorities have decided to make a fresh appeal.

The ashram area, which has been proposed for the title, includes the houses in which Tagore lived — Udayan, Udichi, Konark and Shyamali. “The area also houses the Upasana Griha, where Tagore’s father Debendranath prayed,” the official said.

“The vice-chancellor said the purono melar math (old fair ground) should not be used for setting up stalls as it was near one of the oldest areas of Santiniketan. The authorities are preparing a fresh application for Unesco. This move will also save the area from pollution,” said Sougata Samanta, the joint secretary of Karmi Mandali, one of the organisers of the Pous Mela.

The fair is held every year for three days from the seventh day of the Pous month, which usually starts in the last week of December. This year, Pous Mela will begin on December 23.

The fair, which was started by Debendranath in 1894, was held on the old grounds till 1962. As the number of stalls increased, the event was shifted to the Bhubandanga grounds.

However, in 2007, then vice-chancellor Rajat Kanta Ray began holding the fair at four venues. Other than the old ground and Bhubandanga, two other fields near the Indira Gandhi Centre for National Integration were used for the fair.

The old ground was used for stalls by Rabindra Bhavan, Kala Bhavan, agriculture and horticulture departments. The commercial stalls and cultural programmes were held in Bhubandanga.