New Delhi, Mar 16: Be it the intricately-designed havelis of Old Delhi, the vibrant palaces of Chitpur in Kolkata or the spectacular walled city in Ahmedabad, a guided tour provides inbound travelers and local residents a peek into history and a brush with the heritage, cuisine and culture of a place in the bygone era.
With a plan to expand to 10 cities in India, Sahapedia, an online encyclopedia of arts,
cultures and histories of India, is redefining the concept of heritage tours by “exploring the neglected complexes of cities.”
Unlike the existing plethora of heritage walks, the non-profit organisation has concrete plans to develop its ‘walk tours’ to include interpretations of heritage of monuments, itinerant communities, work cultures and architectural forms. On the anvil are tours that include a pigeon flying walk in Old Delhi and another that explores Ahmedabad’s bazaars.
“We are already operating in Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Pune and will launch our
Bengaluru edition this month. We are also looking to extend our walks to cities like Lucknow and Shillong soon,” says Vaibhav Chauhan, Secretary, Sahapedia.
To commemorate Women’s Day on March 8, Sahapedia conducted a walk titled
‘Remembering the Women in History’ through the Red Fort and the lesser known Salimgarh Fort in Old Delhi. The attempt was to cull out the stories of the prominent women — queens, rulers, princesses, courtesans and poetesses — that are embedded in the art and architecture of Delhi.
“There is so much history in Old Delhi. I just chose to dwell on 15 to 20 points of interest in Red Fort and took the narrative through a women’s point of view. Take for example the
Urdubegis or female security guards in the royal harem, who played an important role in
suppressing a revolt and keeping an eye on palace intrigues. I wove stories from their lives into the tour,” says Swarnima Bhattacharya, the walk’s leader.
With token registration fee that goes towards charity, Sahapedia is aiming to distinguish itself from others in the domain.
The organisation has lined up a series of subject experts and will be experimenting on the formats of the guided tours through mid-week walks and tours that target specific ages and genres, such as school children and housewives.
“Heritage is considered very elite and comes down the ladder for most people and companies. Our attempt is to make it accessible for everybody and foster wider local engagement with histories,” says Chauhan, who has trained in conserving and managing heritage and also
curates specialised tours.
There is an altruistic angle to the walks with the non-profit body also conducting tours for underprivileged children.
“I took 35 children from a Delhi-based NGO Koshish on a tour of the National Museum. It was challenging to introduce them to the archeology, art and culture from the Harappan
period because they did not have any prior exposure to the subject. But at the end of it the children were interested and there was a sense of wonder among them,” says Meenakshi
Vashisth, Research Coordinator, Sahapedia.
Along with roping in subject leaders across different disciplines, the encyclopaedic body is tapping into collaborations with similar organisations to expand its base for its walks.
“We will be documenting all our guided tours as short video modules and putting them online on the Sahapedia website and thus make it accessible as virtual walks to a wider audience,” says Chauhan.
Currently, a large part of what Sahapedia shares is curated in the form of multimedia
modules, made up of articles, expert interviews, photographs, videos of performances,
timelines, walkthroughs and bibliographies.
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