Bringing the curtain down on its month-long India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF) 2019, Sahapedia organised an immersive session of the Dastangoi tradition of Urdu storytelling on Thursday. The event highlighted Dastangoi as an artform of great antiquity that has witnessed a major revival in the recent past.
The storytelling session, titled Dastan-e-Chouboli, was an adaptation of a Rajasthani tale by one of India’s greatest folklorists, the well-known writer Vijaydan Detha. The story revolved around Princess Chouboli, whose search for a groom landed many a prince in the dungeons. Despite the tricky situation, a brave and valiant mana ttempted his luck to win over the princess in unique ways.
Narrated in a typical Dastangoi style, containing many sub-plots, twists and turns, the tale of Chouboli is a funny, bitter, satirical and lyrical take on Indian life.The dramatised form of storytelling was performed by veteran theatre artists Rana Pratap and Rajesh Kumar, who were dressed in the traditional attire of white kurta and salwar. Recreating a bygone era of prince, princesses and other myriad wonders, the storytellers regaled the audience with their innate skills of virtually transporting them to a lost world.
Speaking about the relevance of Dastangoi in the modern-day context, Mumbai-based Prat apopined that the invasion of digital media in our lives has made storytelling more important than ever, simply because of the sense of isolation that technology has brought about.
“We decided to hold a Dastangoi session as part of Sahapedia’s India Heritage Walk Festival because it is a crucial aspect of South Asia’s intangible heritage, dating back to many centuries. But sometime during the early 20th century the artform slipped into obscurity, until its first modern performance took place in 2005,” said the artist, who has performed at over 120 shows of Dastangoi.
As the performers spun tale after tale in what could be described as an intimate setting at Roseate House, Aerocity,the audience, which comprised of history enthusiasts and theatre lovers, sat spellbound listening to Princess Chouboli’s fascinating story.
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 second edition of the festival, which ran from February 02 to 28,was organised in collaboration with UNESCO. It was supported by NMDC, a state-run mineral producer and explorer. The bookings for the festival were powered by Odigos, a product by the Bird Group and 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.
The third edition of the festival, slated to be held around the same time next year,is expected to be more diverse in heritage experiences, with an aim to have city-specific themes.One of the highlights of Sahapedia’s India Heritage Walk Festival is a series of guided tours, titled ‘Anubhuti’, which are designed for people with special needs and those belonging to economically or socially disadvantaged backgrounds. In this respect, the next edition of the festival is expected to be more inclusive in terms of enabling easier access to heritage sites.
Sahapedia’s SecretaryVaibhav Chauhan, who initiated the idea of a countrywide heritage festival sometime in 2017, believes that IHWF is going strong simply because people have demonstrated a strong appetite for enjoying their own history.
“We wanted 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,” said Chauhan, who is also the festival director of IHWF.
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 festivalengages and sensitizes more people, in particular the youth, about their cultural heritage.”
N. Baijendra Kumar, CMD, NMDC, said: “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.”
Dr. Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group, said: “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, has played the role of a tech enabler for Sahapedia’s IHWF bookings and support the guides community”.
Details about the walks, and other programmes of IHWF 2019 are available on http://www.indiaheritagewalkfestival.com/index.php