In a sustained initiative that encourages people to explore the country’s rich cultural heritage, Sahapedia, in partnership with UNESCO, will launch the second edition of its award-winning India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF), from February 02-28, expanding its footprint to 37 cities, with a focus on heritage education and walks for people with special needs.
The IHWF, which received the PATA Gold Award 2018 for its maiden pan-India event, will kick-start with a heritage walk in Ahmedabad on February 02, focusing on the religious history and co-existence of multiple faiths in the Gujarati city. The inaugural day of the festival will also have parallel heritage walks in other cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Guwahati, Pune, Udaipur, Kolkata, Puducherry and Chennai.
Announcing the launch at the Press Club of India here, Vaibhav Chauhan, Festival Director (IHWF) and Secretary, Sahapedia, said: “We want to democratise access to local history and culture. One might be living in the same neighbourhood for years, but there is a big chance that an important landmark, tucked away in a back alley, has been missed and forgotten. The IHWF is that opportunity to discover the hidden gems linked to the history of a place, town or city.”
A primary objective of the festival, which will conclude with simultaneous walks in multiple cities, is to widen access to various aspects of India’s tangible and intangible heritage. Through 87 heritage walks and over 100 outreach events, which have been planned across the country, the event will explore the cultural fabric of India, focusing on museums, historically significant monuments and markets, natural landscapes, areas known for rich cuisine, and locations that are rooted in women-oriented narratives.
“The IHWF program addresses knowledge of local architectural heritage, sustainable tourism, with a special focus on gender-related issues and accessibility in cultural heritage facilitating more inclusive and better outreach. The festival is expected to involve, engage and sensitize more people at large, in particular the youth, about their cultural heritage and to encourage reflection among the community by their engagement with urban heritage, oral histories, community knowledge,” said Junhi Han, Head and Programme Specialist for Culture, UNESCO New Delhi office.
Given the wider scope of IHWF’s second edition, the festival’s programming has been divided into five state-wise zones: east, west, north, south, and central. Across 20 states and three Union Territories, the multiple outreach events, apart from the walks, will be in the form of photography and social media-based Instameets, informal and multi-disciplinary baithaks, a number of workshops to re-discover waning art practices, and walks for users with special needs. The registration can be done on the official website — https://www.indiaheritagewalkfestival.com/ .
The festival is supported by NMDC, the state-run mineral producer and explorer. “Initiatives like IHWF involve local communities which is integral for promoting India’s heritage. NMDC has been working in the remotest tribal areas of Bastar and Bailadila Hills for the past 60 years and also has closely promoted tribal culture, and other forms of Indian heritage. We are supporting Sahapedia in its efforts to increase civil society participation in understanding our nation’s heritage,” said N. Baijendra Kumar, CMD, NMDC.
For the second edition of IHWF, Sahapedia has collaborated with about 40 local-level partners to conduct its pan-India heritage walk festival. Some of the notable names include Kerala History Museum, The Kochi Heritage Project, INTACH Srinagar Chapter, Art Deco Mumbai, Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation and Oxford Bookstore.
Additionally, the festival bookings are powered by Odigos, an online marketplace that connects tourists to certified guides in India. “The Bird Group is always looking towards the future, and an important part of the future is understanding and cherishing the past. This association with Sahapedia brings us a step closer to achieving our vision of making Indian arts and culture inclusive and interactive. Odigos app by Bird Group, that aims to streamline guided travel tour experiences of travellers, will play the role of a tech enabler for Sahapedia’s IHWF bookings and support the guides community,” said Dr. Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group.
As part of Sahapedia’s continuing endeavours to make Indian history more accessible to people from all walks of life, the festival has curated heritage engagement programmes for those groups who tend to be excluded from heritage. These groups include children, differently-abled people and those belonging to economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Elaborating on IHWF’s plans for Special Walks, Chauhan said: “In order to facilitate interaction of people with special needs and those from the disadvantaged backgrounds with the local heritage, we have collaborated with history enthusiasts, walk leaders and experts who can use their skills to help conduct these walks smoothly.”
The itinerary for special walks includes Bhubaneswar’s Mukteswara Temple, a magnificent stone temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, which is believed to be the centre of tantric initiation. The heritage walk will be organised for visually impaired students.
Other venues for special walks are Mumbai’s ancient Gilbert Hill (for visually impaired students), and Kolkata’s Nehru Children’s Museum (for children from Hope Foundation), which houses a huge collection of dolls from all over the world.
Another key feature of the festival will be a thematic discussion led by academics, design professionals and heritage experts to explore the connections between heritage and education, while looking at the possibility of an educational framework on pursuing and managing diverse heritage resources.
For instance, Tony Joseph, author of the book “Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From”, will be sharing the story of our ancestry in a Baithak hosted in New Delhi. Similarly, there are multiple Baithaks being organised in six cities across India, including Guwahati, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.
Hugely successful among walk leaders, history enthusiasts and tourists, the festival will also include curated walks for other groups such as students, travellers, local residents, photographers, conservationists and history enthusiasts.