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  • Written by – Sruthi Sadhasivam


India is known for its rich culture and heritage. The country has taken a wide range of measures to protect and safeguard items of national importance. The conservation of monuments and ancient items is not only to promote and preserve the country’s historical traditions and happenings but also to develop the state’s economy. In India, the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture work hand in hand to secure the national heritage by closely scrutinising and preserving the national heritage, introducing courses and other educational opportunities for awareness and also by conducting research in the respective fields.

The UNESCO has listed cultural heritage sites such as Agra fort, Ajanta caves, Ellora caves, Sun Temple, Konarak, Taj Mahal etc and natural heritage sites such as Kaziranga National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Sundarbans National Park, Western Ghats etc in India.

Recently the UNESCO had bestowed the world heritage tag to the Ramappa temple, Telangana which is named after the sculptor who built it.


The state has introduced several laws for the protection and conservation of monuments and materials of antiquity.  

The archaeological survey of India (ASI), a joint office under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is responsible for preservation and environmental progress of centrally protected monuments and sites, including World Heritage Monuments and other antiquities. The ASI provides a 2 months’ notice to receive any objections regarding bringing any material of national importance such as a monument under its supervision and protection and makes its decision regarding the latter thereupon.

Antiquated Monuments and Preservation Act, 1904 and the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972 was passed to ensure the proper preservation of monuments and artifacts.

The 1972 act defines antiquity as any coin, sculpture, painting, epigraph or other work of art or craftsmanship; any article, object or thing detached from a building or cave; any article, object or thing illustrative of science, art, crafts, literature, religion, customs, morals or politics in bygone ages; any article, object or thing of historical interest; any article, object or thing declared by the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, to be an antiquity for the purposes of this Act, which has been in existence for not less than one hundred years; and any manuscript, record or other document which is of scientific historical, literary or aesthetic value and which has been in existence for not less than seventy-five years.

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, defines an ‘Ancient Monument’ as any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription, or monolith which is of historical, archaeological, or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years. It can include remains or ruins of an ancient monument, site of an ancient monument, such portion of land adjoining the site of an ancient monument as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving such monument and the means of access to, and convenient inspection of, an ancient monument.

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, prescribes punishment for a period ranging to a quarter of a year, or with a fine which may stretch out to 5,000 rupees, or both depending on the nature of crime for those who decimate, evacuate, harm or cause changes, damages, endangers or abuses a secured landmark.


The Institute of Archaeology, New Delhi, intends to provide advanced training in multidisciplinary field of Archaeology, Epigraphy, Numismatics, Museology, Conservation, Antiquarian law and many more.

The National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities was constituted in 2007. The main objectives of the mission involve preparation of a national register for built heritage, sites and antiques and constituting a state level database on built heritage, sites and antiquarian wealth for information and dissemination to planners, researchers, and proper administration of such cultural resources.


Despite the tremendous efforts of the government, many monuments are in the verge of degeneration due to public negligence, government ignorance and environmental destruction, protection of monuments from vandalism, war and natural weathering, Indian artifacts given to other states during the colonial period have not yet been returned and smuggling of antiquates is a huge cause of concern. Structural conservation and chemical conservation of monuments are the need of the hour. The government needs to be wary of the possibility of exploitation of the national heritage due to the aforementioned factors and must take adequate measures to tackle the same for preservation of national heritage in the long run.



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