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City in Focus: Hansi – a Heritage Ignored

City in Focus: Hansi – a Heritage Ignored, naya haryana, नया हरियाणा

22nd August 2014

Naya Haryana

Go to any part of India and ask if they have heard of Hansi or its significance and there is a very good chance they will be clueless. Now do the same exercise with the common man in Haryana and there is a fair chance he would have heard of Hansi but would be clueless about its significance. So did you know what place Hansi has in our history and what does it symbolise?

Hansi, or Asigarh as it was known earlier, goes way back in history and finds mention in Panini's Mahabharat, where it is referred to as Asi or Asika and the people as Asiagh.

Asigarh Fort: Symbol of defiance

Hansi is known for the Asigarh Fort that dates back to the times of Prithiviraj Chauhan. When Mahmud of Ghazni reached India, he faced resistance from the local residents of Asigarh. Once the fort fell, most men were killed and the fort was looted. The women and children were taken as slaves to Ghazni and sold there. Such is the brutal history of Asigarh, where the fort stands as the symbol of resistance.

The fort itself was a magnificent structure and was one of the best defended forts of all time. It has five gates that still stand as a defiant guard to its glorious past and the height and thickness of the walls, made it impossible to breach. That was until Mahmud of Ghazni arrived. Subsequently, the main structure was destroyed during the revolt of 1857 but the gates still stand in all its glory. It was declared as a Protected Monument of National Importance, by the Archeological Survey (now ASI) in 1937.

So if Indians do not know where Hansi is, who do you blame? Unfortunately, the state has failed to preserve and protect its historical heritage and has done very little to pass it on to the next generation.

Prosperous town

Hansi was a rich thriving town which was once bigger and more prosperous than neighbouring Hissar. It was known for its sword making industry, whose swords found its way to the battlefields of the Middle East and Europe. Later on, it became a major cotton growing region and as a result, it developed a rich industry for cotton-based fabrics. The town was referred as  Mini Manchester .

Its cotton towels were once popular in the streets of China, but with time this industry faced neglect and lack of support from the government forced the farmers to focus more on cultivating rice, which they saw as a better opportunity. As a result, it lost its advantage as a cotton growing and processing centre, while failing to emerge as a major producer of good variety of rice. With time Hansi has lost both its identity and significance and became just another neglected town.

Consequence of Government apathy

Today, Hansi is a town ignored and underdeveloped. The town lacks a proper sewage system, drinking water is a problem, electricity supply is erratic and the streets are dirty with little or no municipal maintenance.

As all focus and economic development shifted towards Hissar, the state government completely ignored developing upon Hansi's strength in cotton and other traditional industries as a result, the town today is a poor shadow of its past glory. So why did the local people allow this to happen? Why is it that the local politicians along with the people of Hansi, not raise this with the current administration and fought for bringing Hansi back to the level of prosperity it was once known for? Why is it that its rich past is unknown to common citizens of Haryana, let alone the rest of India?

Since there has been very little by way of employment opportunities, sports or other activities to keep the youth occupied, the local youth have been drawn into crime and Hansi finds frequent mention for all the wrong reasons. The blame for this situation squarely lies with the state government that has ignored this town for too long.

Restoring Hansi's glory

The Naya Haryana vision is about understanding and recognising our heritage and building upon its strengths to develop Haryana as a vibrant and prosperous state. The first thing that must be done is to document the glory and story of Hansi and bring it to the common man by way of films, songs, documentaries, stage shows, comic books for children and community meetings at various levels.

Hansi is a goldmine for the tourist seeking a peep into the past, and if Hansi is developed as a major tourist destination, both for domestic and international tourism, there can be a boost in local employment. There is an urgent need to develop brand  Haryana , through road shows and exhibitions, across India and overseas, to showcase local history and talent. Hansi has so much to offer, as there is a tale to be told from every old building, if only there was an interested listener. And there certainly are. We just need to bring them to Hansi.

Just focusing on tourism alone will not help unless there is adequate investment in infrastructure development of the area. A good example of restoring the past and commercialising the opportunity is the conversion of a heritage property, Sheikhpura Kothi, into a heritage hotel, by a leading hotel chain. There are numerous buildings that need to be restored on an urgent basis and there will be several people from the rest of India and overseas, who will be as interested in these, as they are in visiting Agra or Jaipur. In fact the region covering Hissar, Jind and Hansi, has enough places of interest that can be developed into a mini circuit. It only needs political will and people involvement for Hansi to be able to re-establish itself on the tourist map and as a prosperous thriving town of Haryana.

Integrated development is the need of the hour for Hansi. There is a need to initiate a New Hansi Development plan, wherein, we upgrade the roads, improve drinking water facilities, improve electricity distribution, encourage new housing colony on the outskirts and ensure at least one major industry is set up here that will then spur downstream projects. Unless this is done, along with making Hansi, a major tourist destination, the town will continue to be neglected and its glorious history, missed by one and all.

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