I think it was roughly ten years back when, as students of architecture, we heard that the ASI had formulated a new rule saying sketching of heritage monuments is not allowed. I remember some of our Professors being outraged and several discussions ensued about signing petitions against this. I'm not sure if petitions were ever written or signed.
Last year at the Taj Mahal, I had a small pencil in my bag. I waited half an hour in the queue to get in and then was sent off to the lockers to stash my bag and come back. That was my mistake. After all it has World Heritage status and it is made of white marble and already half a million idiots have defaced it. The authorities are understandably strict.
On Sunday I visited the five Rathas at Mamallapuram. Fine seventh century examples of subtractive architecture. Security is not as tight, and I got in with my sketchbook and pencils but before I could finish a rough pencil outline I was asked to stop. Knowing about the rule, I didn't argue but it got me thinking - what is the exact logic behind banning sketching. That too, rough impressionistic sketches like this one, where I sit quite far removed from the monument. What threat do I or my sketch pose to these monuments?
On the other hand I did notice several droves of families with half a dozen children in tow clamber all over the same, old structures. The surfaces have fine sculptures of figurines depicting mythological scenes and children are propped up on top of these sculptures - on the top of animal figures, on the shoulders of lords so that a photograph may be clicked. Apparently this is allowed and poses no threat to the severely wind eroded sculptures.
I feel we need to re-visit the petition idea. Anyway, after being booted out, I sat under a tree and finished as much as I could based on the rough sketch lines I already had, and once in a while walked back to the spot but just outside the fence to fill in a few details. Finally I finished the water colour wash on a pavement next to a shop. I was lucky to have another sketcher sketch me at this point! So if you are curious to see what I looked like with all my watercolour gear spread out on the sidewalk you can see the sketch here. I think this would be my very first on location drawing done at four different locations!