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India Heritage Walk Festival 2019: Spotlight on Multi-city Heritage Walks

In Nation
January 31, 2019

NEW DELHI:
The second edition of Sahapedia’s India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF) will kick off with a series of multi-city heritage walks for people with special needs and underprivileged children, together termed under the programme Anubhuti.

As part of the online resource’s long-standing objective of making Indian art and culture accessible to all groups of society, the walks have been specifically designed and curated for communities that have few opportunities of engaging with cultural heritage deeply. The IHWF, which received the prestigious PATA Gold Award 2018 for its maiden edition organised last year, is a one-of-its-kind month-long festival covering 37 cities, with nearly 100 heritage walks and outreach events.

Organised in partnership with UNESCO, the festival will be held from February 02-28, supported by NMDC, state-run mineral producer and explorer. All the events’ bookings are powered by Odigos, a product by the Bird Group, which is an online marketplace that connects tourists to certified guides in India. Odigos app provides a seamless way for travellers and locals alike to understand and explore the iconic sites of our country.

With a focus on making heritage education experiential and inclusive for those groups who have barely any access to different forms of heritage resources, Sahapedia has collaborated with local partners such as schools, NGOs and other social welfare organisations, across the country to bring the Special Walks to cities like Kolkata, Shillong, Mumbai, Bhubaneswar and Delhi.

“The primary objective of the Special Walks is to provide access to historical sites for persons with disabilities or any other form of social or economic disadvantage, so they are not excluded from India’s heritage. This has been our focus through the year, beyond the IHWF. Over the past one year, Sahapedia has organised and curated more than 50 heritage events for about 2,000 differently-abled persons,” said Vaibhav Chauhan, Director, IHWF, and Secretary, Sahapedia.

The first walk, titled ‘Experiencing the Kalinga Temple Architectural Style at Mukteswara Temple’, will be held in Bhubaneswar for visually impaired students on February 03, at 3 pm. Conducted in partnership with Centre for Youth and Social Welfare (CYSW) and led by walk leader Nituranjan Dash, the main objective of the walk will be the exploration of the Mukteswara Temple, often described as a gem of Odisha’s architecture.

Situated in a compound with numerous small shrines, a tank, and a magnificent ornamental torana, the 35 ft-high temple is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Shiva. While the complex has a number of sculptures in different poses, some scholars have also noted the role of the temple as a centre for Tantric initiation.

One of the highlights of the Special Walks is a walk for visually and hearing impaired students at Mumbai’s 200-feet high Gilbert Hill, a 66-million-year old rock that can only be found in three places around the world, one of which is located in the city’s Andheri suburb. The hilltop, accessible by a flight of 180 steps, offers a panoramic view of suburban Mumbai. Two temples are also located in the complex. The walk, led by Siddhant Shah, Founder, Access for All, will be held on February 18 at 11 am.

In Kolkata, walk leader Swati Mishra, from The Makers Collaborative, will be leading a walk for underprivileged students at The Nehru Children’s Museum, which is dedicated to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and houses a huge collection of dolls from 88 countries across the globe. The clay models depicting various scenes and events from the epics are a delight for children.

“In this walk, we will take children with learning deficiencies from Hope Foundation on a tour of the museum galleries. This will be done after initiating them a couple of days beforehand with the ‘Social Story on the Nehru Children’s Museum’, which has been developed by The Makers Collaborative in consultation with experts to prepare children with special needs for the museum visit,” said Mishra.

Other features of Special Walks include a walk for underprivileged children at Shillong’s Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, a 17-gallery museum that preserves the rich cultural heritage of North-East India, with a focus on the region’s Catholic churches, different tribes, musical instruments, craft items, and traditional attire. Led by archaeologist and history teacher Naphibahun Lyngdoh, the walk will be held on February 16.

With the aim of encouraging urban dwellers to grow their own food, Ashim Bery will be conducting a workshop for the underprivileged children from Magic Bus Foundation on February 14 in Delhi. The workshop will help participants explore and learn different potting techniques, from drum towers (one that grows over 20 veggies in a 2 ft. x 2 ft. space) to crate and kettle farming.

Apart from the Special Walks, Sahapedia has lined up an exhaustive array of thematic heritage walks, social media and photography-based Instameets, Baithaks and other parallel events in major Indian metros as well as tier-2 and tier-3 cities and Union Territories. In Delhi, a group of distinguished writers and scholars will conduct a baithak, ‘Looking for Shahid’, focusing on the oeuvre of celebrated poet Agha Shahid Ali, on February 03.

Spread across all regional zones of the country with over 40 local partners, IHWF combines nationwide reach with an emphasis on grassroots engagement. The first week of the festival will witness around forty heritage walks in different Indian cities, facilitated by local-level partners and experts, focusing on hidden treasures and relatively lesser-known aspects of the country’s heritage.

Junhi Han, Head and Programme Specialist for Culture, UNESCO New Delhi office, said: “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.”

For complete itinerary and registration of IHWF — http://www.indiaheritagewalkfestival.com/index.php