The World Monuments Watch (WMW) has listed Tiretta Bazar of central Kolkata as “one of the 25 heritage sites of extraordinary significance, facing pressing challenges”, where the “World Monuments Fund’s partnership with local communities has the potential to make a meaningful difference”.
Tiretta Bazar has long been a popular breakfast site for Kolkatans. Every Sunday morning, the streets of Tiretta Bazar turn into a food hub with the local Chinese community offering Cantonese fare.
However, the number of such stalls is diminishing because many of Kolkata's Chinese are moving elsewhere for better prospects.
Several small Chinese businesses continue to run, including salons, sauce shops like Pou Chong and others in the neighbourhood. Tiretta Bazar also has six old Chinese temples built by the Chinese in the 18th century that are extremely syncretic with a distinct character of their own.
The area, however, is dilapidated with garbage dumps, slums and illegal parking and is in need of urgent revitalisation.
The listing of the area by WMW will bring attention to the area as it did for Dalhousie Square when it was listed by WMW in 2005, says G.M. Kapur of Intach, Kolkata, which works for preservation of heritage.
Through WMW, the New York-based World Monuments Fund (WMF) collaborates with local partners to design and implement targeted conservation programmes to improve human well-being through cultural heritage preservation.
Recently, Sohinee Pyne, a conservation architect from the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi, had applied for the inclusion of Tiretta Bazar in WMW in 2021 as an individual. Sohinee did her PhD on the area.
"The review process took till December 2021 where they looked at factors like cultural significance, global challenges like climate change and the feasibility of restoration and revitalisation of the area. What made them choose Tiretta Bazar among the 225 applications is its under-representation and imbalance tourism," she said.
Nam Soon temple at Tiretta BazarSourced by the correspondent
Intach, Kolkata, along with Rinku Bhowmick from Singapore undertook a project in 2012-13 that sought to highlight Tiretta Bazar.
"We conceptualised a project for the urban regeneration of the city with specific reference to the Heritage Precinct of the Tiretta Bazar area which was the bustling ‘Grey Town' of the city at one time with Armenians, Jews, Parsis, Anglo-Indians, Chinese as well as other European settlers living in harmony. Our project included rehabilitation of the street hawkers, and has been discussed with the tourism department of Bengal, the municipal corporation, Kolkata police and local stakeholders," said Kapur.
Among other sites chosen for the 2022 WMW list are Hitis (Water Fountains of the Kathmandu Valley), Heritage Buildings of Beirut, Hurst Castle UK.
The WMW advocates for the significance of Tiretta Bazaar and the Chinese community that made it a thriving commercial and cultural centre.
"While individual temples are recognised and protected, recognition as an historic district will safeguard the entire neighbourhood and draw attention to the need for better services, while encouraging its integration into citywide development plans. Working with the community to understand their needs and aspirations will ensure that planning for the future of the neighbourhood is respectful of its unique local heritage and traditions. This is a clarion call to preserve the diversity of India’s heritage," says the WMF website.