Of time present and time past...

Development

Of time present and time past...

Standing on the banks of the placid Tungabhadra river, I watched coracles ferrying tourists from Anegundi, to the World Heritage Site of Hampi. The legendary Kishkinda, the kingdom of the monkey prince Sugriva, was once the cradle of the historic Krishnadevaraya dynasty of the glorious Vijayanagar Empire.

Currently, Anegundi is credited as one of the pioneers in Endogenous Tourism Project, a niche tourism product partnered by United Nations Development Programme and Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in 36 destinations across India. With the active involvement of The Kishkinda Trust (TKT), the implementing agency of Endogenous Tourism in Anegundi, this semi-rural town with its strong, agrarian and inherent crafts culture has become a role model in heritage conservation and sustainable rural tourism.

Generation of self-employment

The Rural Tourism Project has transformed the lives of the local populace by involving them in programme initiatives as employees and stakeholders and through the generation of self-employment schemes. Realising the need for grassroots development and the immense potential for tourism activities, TKT devised programmes to ensure that they benefit economically and culturally, through conservation of their heritage.  

“Preservation of vernacular heritage was our prime concern. The Rural Tourism ‘hardware’ scheme provided a great opportunity for the Kishkinda Trust, as it helped us to boost our efforts in integration of conservation and empowerment,” says Shama Pawar, Founder Trustee of TKT. Ruminating over the success of the schemes, Shama adds, “Since Anegundi had several ruined houses badly in need of renovation, as part of RTP, many old unused houses were restored and converted into business incubators without marring their original beauty. Restoration of vernacular architecture in traditional houses transformed into guest houses rented out to tourists and managed by locals opened up employment opportunities. This helped the tourism initiative become a reality for the village community and brought joy, a sense of pride to the community and an engaging exposure to the visitor.”

Renovation of dilapidated houses

In keeping with the principles of vernacular architecture, only locally available materials were used. The UNESCO Guest House housing the reading room was the first historic vernacular building to be rehabilitated. Executed by TKT in collaboration with TEMA of Sweden and UNESCO, it will be handed over to the owner, an artisan, once the lease period expires this year. Other dilapidated houses were restored and converted into Guest Houses like Peshkar, Champa, Naidila and Ooramma which sport basic interiors like cow dung flooring, raised platforms serving as built-in bed, niches, carved wooden pillars, handprints on doorways and aesthetic furnishing with local crafts effects. Special tourism initiatives also include the setting of an internet café, a crafts shop and a restaurant (Howa) providing traditional cuisine.

Involvement of women’s SHGs

Explaining the success of the rural tourism scheme, Shama Pawar, the motivating force behind these several innovative programmes for the economic empowerment of the locals says, “We conducted different workshops, seminars to provide value addition to the existing artisans’ skills and also encouraged their participation in several exhibitions across the country. Some of these women were trained in preparation of traditional cuisine, housekeeping and also provided training in different designs and styles.”  

The crafts shop has on display a wide range of handicrafts and rural art products like bags made out of banana stem and river grass. Women of the village recycle banana plant waste, converting it fibre for making attractive bags and curios. With the active involvement of the Women’s Self Help Groups, the vibrant banana-fibre cottage industry really took off.

Some of the remarkable achievements of TKT are riverside landscaping, beautification of some streets and village centre, and development of parks, sculptural garden, fencing, improvement of roads within the Panchayat limits, illumination of streets with solar lights and installation of signages at various strategic locations in Anegundi. A signage at the entrance of Talwarghatta indicates the facilities available and an inscription in front of Gagan Mahal, a 16th century structure in the village centre displays the history of Anegundi and its presence in Indian mythology. Other interesting features of the RTP include the display and distribution of books to schools, story telling sessions, screening of regular film shows and Panchatantra videos.  

Solid waste management scheme

Improvement of village infrastructure through a Solid Waste Management (SWM) programme has been initiated under the RTP to provide clean and hygienic conditions within the village and making it more tourist friendly. TKT has evolved a strong, scientific approach to SWM practice in the village and given it a new perspective. A place has been demarcated to dump the total waste generated. The villagers have also been trained in waste segregation, disposal of plastics, reuse and recycling of plastic and vermi-composting. To provide clean and safe drinking water for the community, existing water tanks were redesigned and additional taps installed, and hygienic surroundings created with proper drainage facilities.

The Trust has initiated programmes in organic farming, a natural fibre cottage industry, education through the performing arts, promotion of water sports, camping, rock climbing and bouldering for tourists. For the less adventurous, there are special customised packages like bird watching and swimming in natural lake. For eco-friendly modes of transport for movement within the tourism zone, there are bicycles and coracle rides across the Tungabhadra river. These projects have provided ample employment opportunities to the locals, enhancing their lives and enriching the visitor’s experience.

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