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Delhiites take to walks in a big way

Baishali Adak, Dec 18, 2012, DHNS: 19:18 IST

Heritage high

Weekends no longer seem to be the time for Delhiites to laze at home with a book or the TV. History enthusiasts – students, professionals from all fields and senior citizens – are going on ‘walks’ to discover their City.

Several institutions like INTACH and IHC, groups of history students like ‘Delhi by Foot’ and ‘Delhi Heritage Walks,’ besides historians like Sohail Hashmi and Biba Sobti, are taking people around monuments, informing them of Delhi’s rich history. All of them charge Rs 100-1000 for each walk but citizens don’t seem to mind.

‘Delhi Heritage Photography Club’ combines walks with photography. Vikramjit Rooprai - an IT professional started it after realising that he had travelled the world over but never explored Delhi. “One day, I started with a list of 22 major monuments in the City. When I reached the Meh­r­auli Archaeological Park, it dawned on me that this site alone has 72 monuments. Delhi has such a wealth of built heritage that one needs a lifetime to see it. That is when the idea of organising heritage walks occ­u­rred to me.”

“I soon formed an FB group with friends and we decided to use photography to document our walks. In 2010, we held our first walk at Mehrauli Archaeological Park with 40 people and since then, have conducted 85 walks with over 10,000 people. In fact, for one of our walks, we had 300 participants and had to buy walkie-talkies so as not to lose anybody.” Vikramjit emphasises that he gets participants from all professions – doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists.”

‘Flavour of Art’, formed by former students of Delhi College of Art, conducts painting sessions at monuments. They believe that since art was the first form of preserving heri­t­a­ge, the tradition should be maintained. Its convenor Raj­iv Kakria says, “When we beg­an in 2011, participants consi­s­t­ed of mostly artists and their families but soon, filmmakers, designers, illustrators and even housewives signed up.”

“To a common man,” he adds, “Lal Qila and Humayun’s Tomb would all be the same, but you won’t believe the architectural details we discover while putting them to canvas – the engravings, designs of the domes, pillars. It’s beautiful.”

Till now, they have covered Lodhi Garden, Lotus Temple, Jamali Qamali, Moth Ki Masjid, Tughlaqabad Fort, several baolis etc., and are soon going to put up their works at galleries.

Renowned historian Sohail Hashmi was one of the first ‘experts’ to start heritage walks about eight years back. He explains the phonemenon thus: “Till some time back, Delhi had only first or second generation residents who would catch the first train to their ancestral places for week­ends and holidays. Nowadays, third and fourth generation Delhiites have no ‘native village’ to go back to. Therefore, they want to stay in Delhi, explore and know more about it.”

“At the moment, there are several people conducting walks in Delhi but frankly, this centuries old City has so much to showcase – architecture, religions, festivals, food and natural heritage – that there can be 5000 extra, and, surely, there’ll still be room
for more.”

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