By Vrinda Saxena
It’s that time of the year when India’s rich cultural diversity and heritage is celebrated.
The India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF) 2018, a month-long festival is being organised from 1st-28th February. Led by Sahapedia, an open online resource on the arts, cultures and histories of India and YES Culture (a division of YES Bank’s think tank focussed on the promotion, development, and conservation of India’s cultural heritage), the festival is an invitation to explore the cultural expanse that India is generously bestowed with.
What is the programme about?
With its varied line-up, it aims to capture the characteristics that make up the Indian cultural fabric like food, clothing, nature, art, architecture etc., through the medium of walks, talks, and cinema. The programme is curated thematically, encompassing in its spectrum museums, historical monuments, marketplaces, natural landscapes, and areas infamous for their cuisine. The focus is on increased forms of engagement with important heritage spaces, while also ensuring their accessibility to various audience groups, including the likes of specially-abled and economically weaker sections. Aligned with this objective, there are specially curated walks and events for different target groups such as students, travellers, local residents, and professionals like photographers, conservationists etc.
The IHWF 2018 will cover 20 Indian cities over the month. Besides the four metropolitan cities, it will also feature other centres of cultural significance like Jaipur, Udaipur, and Agra, and the relatively less explored ones like Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir, Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripunithura in Kerala.
“This is the first time we are holding a walk to celebrate the heritage of India. Besides walks, there will be ‘baithaks’ for history enthusiasts and ‘Instameets’ for Instagram users”, said a Sahapedia representative.
Different elements of the event
Heritage walks are only but one aspect of this multi-faceted approach to absorbing India’s aesthetics. A lecture series, curated as ‘Baithaks’, will offer an informal, multi-disciplinary platform that promotes discussion and dialogue to understand heritage as seen and experienced by individuals in varying contexts. Primarily aiming at featuring young and emerging speakers to lead the engagement with various facets of India’s history, culture, arts and popular trends, these talks are in the mould of informal, intimate and lively discussions, resembling a traditional baithak. In addition, there are ‘Instameets’, where the idea is to provide an opportunity to a broader audience to appreciate heritage through the audio-visual documentation of experiences on social media platforms like Instagram.
Film screenings, too, are not to be left out. Sahapedia’s YouTube channel will be screening a new film every day, and it will be available until the month’s end for viewing. The festival will feature documentaries by emerging filmmakers and scholars, and some by eminent directors like Satyajit Ray, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Kumar Shahani, Anjali Monteiro, and K.P. Jayasankar. The underlying idea is to cultivate appreciation among the viewers for lived experiences of creative and cultural practitioners in their context. Films like ‘The Shillong Chamber Choir’, ‘Mystique of Murshidabad’ and ‘Little Magazine Voices’ among others, are up for viewing on different dates of the month. As a bonus, the film festival will also sow the seeds for critical appreciation of documentaries and parallel cinema, which capture India and its diversity in all its magnificence.
Penetrating the country
The first event, titled ‘Walking the Sacred Route @ World Heritage City of Ahmedabad’, was held on February 3 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The walk explored the symbolism, art, architecture and associated history of some of these sacred places and their respective communities.
Noted historian Sohail Hashmi will be leading the walk in Mehrauli Archaeological Park in Delhi. Apart from the exploration of New Delhi on February 25th, there will also be other walks to delve into what heritage sites like Hauz Khas and public art in Lodhi Road have to offer. There will also be an event on Sufi culture in Nizamuddin Basti. February 17 will be the day when history buffs can explore Indo-Saracenic architecture in MSU, Baroda, and a Holi Walk will be held in Bikaner on February 25th. February 26th will have a walk in Srinagar along the river Jhelum, and one in Varanasi on 24th February.
“We are happy to have the support of YES Culture for this project. Heritage walks are a fun, interactive and informative way for people to get to know and understand the history, character and built spaces of their cities and hometowns. The festival will not just be an exploratory exercise; we are hoping it will attract a large number of participants and establish heritage walks as a means of bringing people closer to their cities”, said Sudha Gopalakrishnan of Sahapedia.
In the words of Preeti Sinha, Global Convenor, YES Global Institute and Senior President, YES BANK, “they are committed to developing socially inclusive heritage cities in India”. She adds, “India Heritage Walk Festival is a concrete step towards achieving this goal as collective interventions will create opportunities for young people to engage with their cities and understand the latent potential for developing India’s creative and cultural industries”.
The significance of the event
Heritage festivals are immensely crucial in this age. Heritage is at the imminent danger of being obliterated, neglected, forgotten, and lost in the tremendous forces of development and urbanisation. Then there are other factors like environmental hazards which pose a constant threat to heritage upkeep.
Touring monuments and regions of historical significance allow one to see, feel and experience heritage in all its glory. Heritage walks are not only an option in bringing the masses closer to their past but also go a long way in providing intangible incentives for conservation. Anything that people feel connected to, even the red bricks and sandstone—they will be compelled to preserve.
Heritage walks enable that connection for many, so it is not restricted to a selected few. Hence, that feeling becomes mutual—now everyone has an individual emotion attached, and they feel the onus of preservation is on each one’s shoulders. The change will then be visible at the grassroots.
Among the many heritage walks organised, diverse as they may be, there runs a common thread of shared culture, heritage and history—and these events ensure links with that same thread.
Featured Image Source: Pexels
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