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The symbolic authenticity of Kandy, Sri Lanka

The symbolic authenticity of Kandy, Sri Lanka
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  Cultural Landscapes of South Asia Studies in heritage conservation and management Edited byKapila D. Silva and Amita Sinha  First published 2017 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RNand by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2017 selection and editorial matter, Kapila D. Silva and Amita Sinha; individual chapters, the contributorsThe right of Kapila D. Silva and Amita Sinha to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice : Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data  A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data  [CIP data]ISBN: 978-1-13-894757-3 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-31-567004-1 (ebk)Typeset in Sabon by Apex CoVantage, LLC  Introduction Historic environments are protected for their cultural significance, which is articulated through the values and meanings associated with them. While the purpose of their conservation is to sustain those heritage values, the conservation of their physical fabric, however, does not truly guarantee the sustenance of the associated values. As values and meanings are social constructs, due to socio-cultural change they too could change over time. While the physical authenticity of a historic place is conserved, its associated values and symbolic meanings could transform over time, either increasing or diminishing its symbolic importance and contemporary relevance to its community. In addition, as these are intangible constructs, they resist objec-tive analysis, and thus are inadequately understood (Taylor 2004), and their safeguard mechanisms are insufficiently devised. Consequently, in addition to the conservation and periodic monitoring of the physical authenticity of historic places, their symbolic values should also be given periodic attention. I call sustaining these intangible heritage values as sustaining the symbolic authenticity  of a historic place (Silva 2013).The primary concern in sustaining the symbolic authenticity of a heritage site is the extent to which the meanings and values historically associated with the site are continued over time and are relevant to the present context. Meanings historically attributed to heritage places may or may not contrib-ute to the contemporary meanings attributed to those places. Similarly, the spirit of place dimensions – a category of place values – that people perceive in historic places vary across time. Another factor is the difference between the way heritage values and meanings are understood by the heritage experts and the local populace: if the heritage values attributed to historic places by experts do not conform to the community’s conception of heritage, or if the community does not see a socio-cultural significance, the conservation of historic places would not receive wide community recognition and support. In heritage conservation, therefore, it is crucial to inquire whether the com-munity recognizes the heritage places as relevant and meaningful for their contemporary cultural life and times. It is also critical to inquire whether The symbolic authenticity of Kandy, Sri Lanka Kapila D. Silva 9  The symbolic authenticity of Kandy 145the meanings communities associate with their historic places still resonate with their srcinal meanings and past associations. If there is a continuity of the symbolic content, the cultural significance and consequent community support of those heritage places would be greater. The continuation of the symbolic content in historic places, or sustaining the symbolic authenticity of heritage places, could have significant impact on the success of conservation of those historic places, since effective heritage management is concerned with safeguarding the ‘authenticity’ of the heritage site. I argue that the articulation of how this notion of symbolic authenticity defines the signifi-cance of a historic place, and what actions should be taken to safeguard its authenticity and integrity, should be critical parts of any heritage manage-ment project, along with the attention given to the usual discussion on the physical authenticity and integrity of the site.In this chapter, I discuss the significance of this concept in managing cul-tural landscape heritage in general and in those sites in the South Asian context in particular, by using the World Heritage Site of Kandy, Sri Lanka, as an illustrative case. I point out that at present, as in many South Asian historic sites, the heritage of Kandy is narrowly perceived as a monumental ensemble, isolating it from its larger cultural landscape and associated sym-bolic dimensions. I further contend that the symbolic authenticity of Kandy is the central criterion that attributes a high cultural significance and value to the heritage of Kandy; this symbolic authenticity is generated from a combination of historic and contemporary narratives, rituals, practices, and the spirit of place dimensions associated with the city, its natural setting, as well as with its wider cultural landscape.The selection of Kandy as a case study is of prime relevance for the pur-pose of this thesis. Kandy embodies a unique blend of Hindu and Buddhist heritage elements, and thus represents the cultural landscape ideals existing widely in the South Asian context. The conservation of such historic places in Asia requires a deep understanding of the relationship between the tangible and intangible dimensions of heritage and how these dimensions relate to the notion of cultural landscape (Sinha 2010; Taylor 2013). Kandy is also an inhabited place in which the past and the present commingle. It thus provides the opportunity to examine the nature of these intangible place attributes and their impact in the heritage conservation amid the ever-increasing pres-sures for change in an inhabited town. The world heritage in Kandy Located in the central hills in Sri Lanka, Kandy was the last capital of the native monarchy before the city fell to the British in 1815, and is now the administrative capital of the Central Province of the country (Figure 9.1). In 1988, the historic core of the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the cultural heritage category on the basis of Criteria IV and VI (ICOMOS 1988). The applicable attributes for Criterion IV indicated that  146  Kapila D. Silva Figure 9.1  Map of Kandy. Source: Kapila D. Silva the monumental ensemble of Kandy is ‘an outstanding example of a type of construction in which the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth [Relic] of the Buddha are juxtaposed’ (ICOMOS 1988, 66) (Figure 9.2). Pertinent attributes for Criterion VI indicated that this monumental ensemble and the sacred city of Kandy are ‘directly and tangibly associated with the history of the spread of Buddhism’ and the temple ‘bears witness to an ever flourishing


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