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Of Queens and Concubines: The Mughal Harem of the Red Fort on Feb 23

In Nation
February 22, 2019

The social structure of the harems of Mughal rulers was quite complex. They wereabodes of princesses ,queens and consorts of ravishing beauty and also housedslave girls, concubines and women spies. These were places where political intrigues and machinations were carried out in secrecy.

The thick curtains that surrounded the royal zenana were the boundaries that demarcated the symbolic prisons these houses had become.

The guided heritage walk on Saturday morning (February 23), organised as part of the ongoing second edition of Indian Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF), will take participants back to the time of political manipulation and zealously-guarded love stories, inside the veiled Mughal harem of the imposing Red Fort that was built by Shahjehan.

Diksha Goel, who is pursuing her majors in History from Miranda House, University of Delhi, will be leading this unique walk. With a passion for studying the capital city’s towering minarets and forlorn monuments, she will uncover and recount interesting stories of the harem of the stunning Red Fort.

The month-long, multi-city IHWF 2019 has been organised jointly by Sahapedia (sahapedia.org), the online resource on Indian arts and culture, and UNESCO to encourage citizens to explore the tangible and intangible heritage of their cities and towns.

All bookings for the festival are powered by Odigos, a product by the Bird Group, 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.

Another walk in the city, also on February 23, will take the attendees through the tempting and precarious lanes of the great historic city of Shahjahanabad to delve deeper into the world of antiques and vintage wares that have journeyed across eons and diverse geographies. These are symbols of India’s deep connectivity with its material culture starting with metal – iron, brass and copper.

The first stop will be a quaint neighbourhood in the old city and a store which houses relics that were quintessential part of every Indian’s life for centuries. These objects, carriers of the rituals of hospitality and worship, stand as a testimony to Indian craftsmanship. As the journey continues, the gleam of metal will oscillate towards a splash of colours and modern and aesthetic variations of metals and materials, which continue to brighten the space of the Indian household today.

Suruchi Khubchandani, the co-founder of Artisanal Trails that provides unique walks for discerning audiences, will lead this walk through one of Delhi’s oldest bazaars, providing context to understand important aspects of Indian couture work that make it popular throughout the world. She would also shed light on the rich artistry of India’s varied textiles and craftsmanship in glass, marble and painting. The tour will culminate with a culinary surprise.

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. The February 02-28 festival is being supported by NMDC, a state-run mineral producer and explorer. The events’ bookings are facilitated by Odigos, an app that makes travel and discovery easier in India.

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.”

Junhi Han, Head and Programme Specialist for Culture, UNESCO New Delhi office, said, “The IHWF programme 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, in particular the youth, about their cultural heritage.”

Details about the walks, registration and other programmes of IHWF 2019 are available on https://www.odigosguides.com/India-heritage-walk-festival