Our country has a very glorious, rich and varied heritage. It is also unique in many respects. It is the foremost duty of the state and the people of our country to preserve it at all costs because it is the most valuable source for the reconstruction of our history. The question arises as to why we must preserve this national asset.
Provides knowledge of the Origin and Progress of Our Culture
Our heritage i.e. old monuments, buildings, sculpture, paintings, pottery, old tools, weapons, coins, inscriptions etc. provide us knowledge about the civilization that took birth in India in the remote past. R.C. Majumdar observes, “India takes her place side by side with Egypt and Mesopotamia as a country where we trace the dawn of human civilization”. The articles of our heritage tell us how man lived in pre-historic age, how he became a food grower from good gatherer and began to lead a settled life, how he gradually developed the art of making pottery weaving cloth, building houses and smelting metals. We also know how the villages came into existence and the town developed.
Storehouse of Literature
Great works of religious and secular literature were written in our country in different periods of our history We have preserved abundant literature which is a great source of our knowledge. The four Vedas, the two great epics— Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Upanishads, the Puranas of the Hindus, the sacred books of of the Buddhism and Jainism form the heritage of our religious literature. Besides, we have secular literature like dramas and poetry written by innumerable scholars like Bana Bhatt, Chander Bardai, Kalidasa, Harisena, the historical works and literary works written in medieval and in the British period, influence on scientific thought in Arabia and other Islamic countries arid indirectly in Europe. We learn that in ancient India, the science of metallurgy was far advanced than in many countries of the world. The Mehrauli pifiar stands as a silent witness to proclaim the excellent skill in working metals of the metallurgists of ancient India. The discovery of several huge copper statues of the Buddha represent the triumph of the metallurgical skill of ancient India.
Helps in the study of development of art and architecture in India
The study of our architectural heritage is necessary to know the development of art of building in our country. Numerous beautiful temples, stupas, palaces and Viharas were built during the ancient period. Some of them have come down to us. These monuments are unique specimens of art and architecture in the world. Many specimens of sculpture and painting have survived the ravages of time I have been preserved by the archaeologists. The capital of the Sarnath column of Ashoka has been adopted by the Indian Government as national symbol.
The paintings at Ajanta have been lauded by all the lovers of art in the world. The lines and colours used at Ajanta display the excellence in skill which is not found in the world before the end of 15th .A.D. The beautiful buildings built during the medieval period like the Qutub Minar, the Taj palaces at Fatehpur Sikri and Red Fort etc. form the magnificent specimens of our heritage. During the British period as well, the rulers built magnificent buildings like Victoria Memorial at Calcutta, the Victoria Terminus railway station at Mumbai, the Rashtrapati Bhavan etc.
Source of Knowledge about the economic condition of the country
Many articles have come down to us which help us in the construction of economic history of our country. We have preserved in our museums many articles produced by our artists and craftsmen during
the medieval age. We learn how industries like cloth weaving, metal smelting, leather industry, iron and steel industry, weapon making industries, ivory work, ornament making industry etc made progress. In ancient times, India had flourishing trade with many countries of the world and earned large quantities of gold in exchange for her exports. India also built ocean going vessels to promote trade.
Our heritage throws light on the growth of social life
Our literary heritage such as the Vedas, the two epics, dramas, poetry written by scholars during the ancient times, and historical and literary books of the medieval and the British period tell us how the social institutions and practices developed which greatly influenced the lives of the people. We learn how the caste system developed in ancient India and how it influenced the social life of the people. We also get knowledge about the joint family system, the position of women, the evils of untouchability the practice of child marriage and female infanticide.
Helpful in the Reconstruction of history
The coins and the inscriptions discovered by the archaeologists are much helpful to us in the reconstruction of our history These contemporary records are of reliable character. The inscriptions have furnished us with the names of the kings. Some inscriptions record chronologically important events of ancient Indian history The edicts of Ashoka on rocks and pillars help us in reconstructing the whole history of his reign. They enable us to form the idea of the extent of his empire. The Allahabad Pillar Inscription composed by Harisena is the most important source of history of the reign of Samudragupta, his wars against the northern kings and about the route of his southern expeditions. Without the Allahabad Pillar Inscription, we would have been completely ignorant about the political achievements of a great king like Samudragupta. A large number of coins belonging to the ancient, medieval and British period have been collected and preserved. The legends on the coins help us by providing important clues for solving the chronological puzzles and tell us several new things which we do not get from other sources. The coins of Indo-Bactrian kings clearly prove that they ruled over northern India. The coins of Kanishka show that he was the follower of Buddhism. Several coins found in Deccan establish the fact that the Indians had trade relations with the Romans.
Similarly the coins belonging to the medieval and British periods indicate the economic and political condition of the contemporary period.
Our heritage provides knowledge about the system of Government in India
The monuments and the literary works, both secular and religious, such as Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Magesthenese’s work Indica, Kalhana’s Rajatranginz, Banabhatta’s Harashacharila, Abul Fazal’s Ain-i Akbari, Tuzak-i-Jahangiri Abdul Hamid Lahori’s Shah Namah (biography of Shah Jahan) etc. tell us about the system of government in the country in the ancient and medieval times. For instance, the literary sources of ancient India show that republics and local self-governing institutions flourished in ancient India. In the republics, there were councils elected by the people to run the administration. The councils took decisions by majority votes. In the Vedic Age, the kings had councils or Sabhas which were democratic in nature. The rulers considered it their foremost duty to look after the welfare of the people. There were also self-governing institutions in the villages and towns. The village Panchayats dispensed justice and took measures for the welfare of the people. During the Sultanate period, most of the kings were despots. The Mughal rulers made much improvement in the system of administration. Among the Mughal rulers, Emperor Akbar was the most enlightened ruler and followed a policy of religious toleration. The British rulers passed many constitutional laws to rim the administration of the country But most of these Acts were passed for the benefit of the British and not for the welfare of the Indians.
Knowledge about growth of different religions
Indian religious literature throws much light on the birth of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. In the end of the 15th century, the Sikh religion took birth in the Punjab. We have abundant literature which helps us in the study of the growth of Sikh religion. The people belonging to these religions lived together and exhibited a spirit of religious toleration. We have Islamic literature which helps us in the study of history of this religion in our country.
Links of Indian culture with the cultures of other countries
Our ancient heritage had close links with the cultures of the South Asian countries in ancient times. A mass of foreign inscriptions written in Sanskrit, Japanese, Siamese, Khmer, and Chinese have been discovered. They all have yielded much information about the activities of the Aryan colonists and the Indian culture in those distant lands. This information has fortunately been supplemented by the noble architectural remains of Indian colonial art in these regions. The great temple like Ankor-Vat in Cambodia and Barabudur in Java bear testimony to the colonial and cultural activities of Indians in ancient times.
The accounts about India left by the Chinese pilgrims are a part of our heritage. Fahein, Hiuen Tsang who visited India during the 5th and the 7th centuries A.D. describe the social, economic and political condition of India in ancient times. About Hieun Tsang’s account, Dr. Smith remarks, “His book is a treasure house of accurate information indispensable to every student of Indian enquiry”