Learning at Every Step


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Charminar in Hyderabad.

Walk down the Banarasi food trail in the holy city of Varanasi, opt for the textile trail through the block printing neighborhoods of Jaipur, visit the Western Gate of Itafort in Itanagar or put on your shoes for a morning stroll through the garden city of Bengaluru. The month-long India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF) celebrates the act of walking while absorbing and learning.

The festival kick-starts on February 2 in Ahmedabad and focuses on the religious history and co-existence of multiple faiths in the city. Walks will also be held in cities such as Chennai, Delhi, Udaipur, Puducherry and Pune. Led by Sahapedia in partnership with UNESCO, IHWF is in its second edition and packs the calender with walks, discussions, workshops and insta-meets, among 110 events planned across India. The aim is to explore the diversity of culture of the country, such as food, heritage, nature, art and architecture in over 35 cities. The festival is also supported by NMDC, state-run mineral producer and explorer and Odigos, an online platform that connects tourists to certified guides in India. The first edition received the PATA Gold Award in 2018, from the Macao Government Tourism Office.

“We want to democratise the access to local history and culture. One might be living in a neighbourhood for years, but there is a big chance that an important landmark, tucked away in a back alley, has been missed and forgotten. IHWF is that opportunity to discover the hidden gems linked to the history of a place, town or city,” said Vaibhav Chauhan, festival director and secretary, Sahapedia, at the launch the festival at the Press Club of India in Delhi recently.

In Delhi, among the numerous heritage trails, there is a new one that introduces one to Sanjhi, a stencil style papercutting art which has origins in Vrindavan. In Mumbai, stride through the bylanes of Bandra and for an experience of nostalgia.

“We have also directed efforts towards groups for whom engagement programmes in heritage spaces are commonly unavailable, such as children, the differently-abled, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” added Chauhan. For the for visually impaired students, there are walks around Bhubaneswar’s Mukteswara Temple, a stone temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and believed to be a centre of tantric initiation, and in Mumbai’s ancient Gilbert Hill.

For underprivileged children, there is a walk through Kolkata’s Nehru Children’s Museum, which houses a huge collection of dolls from all over the world.

A highlight of the festival will be thematic discussions led by academics, design professionals and heritage experts to explore the connection between heritage and education, while looking at the possibility of an educational framework on pursuing and managing diverse heritage resources. In this regard, Tony Joseph, author of Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, will be sharing the story of our ancestry in a baithak to be hosted in Delhi.

Similarly, there will be a baithak with Prof Supriya Chaudhuri about the spaces between the older native quarter of North Calcutta, and the newer European quarter in the south of the city, referred to as the “grey town”, which houses communities from all over the world.


Written by Loknath Das