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No guiding hand at city's monuments

Apart from absence of basic facilities such as clean drinking water, non-availability of guides spoil tourist experience. Nivedita Khandekar reports.

delhi Updated: Feb 12, 2013 00:51 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

In the age of Google and Wikipedia, tourists can access general information about a historical monument that they are visiting from the internet, but a guide can tell you a lot more. And this is why trained, professional guides are an integral part of the tourist experience.

An information board at the entrance to the Tughlaqabad Fort, an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected monument on the southern fringes of Delhi, tells you that Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq built it during 1321-1323.

The board offers some more information and another warns tourists of dos and don'ts.

But nowhere can you find information about the legend associated with the fort.

"Ya rahe ujar, ya base gujar (either it remains uninhabited or only Gujars will stay here)", thus went the curse by Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, 800-odd years ago as Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq banned labourers to help the Auliya with the construction of the baoli (step well) near Nizamuddin dargah.

Tughlaq was killed soon after and the fort was never inhabited.

There is neither any authorised guide nor any booklet/brochure giving such information about the place. Monument attendants often offer to take the tourists around. Another fort from another era, the Purana Qila, is located in the heart of the city.

The ramparts enclose sprawling premises, which has a number of structures, including the Qila-e-Kohna Masjid.

But none of the signboard tells you about the purpose of the arches and the rooms below the mosque or that the fort was the site of coronation of Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, popularly known as Hemu, after defeating Akbar's forces at Agra and Delhi on October 7, 1556.

Jangchub Shakya from Tibet faced a similar problem at the Jantar Matar - the early 18thcentury astronomical observatory.

"A lady at the entrance asked me for R100 over above the ticket price. (Then) I was asked if I needed a guide, I said no. A board with rates for authorised guides could help. I am afraid, I can't trust people," said Shakya.

Safdarjung Tomb, the tomb of Mirza Muqim Mansur Khan (1739-54), entitled Safdar Jung, has few information boards, but none that would give details about the beautiful architecture.

"The ministry (tourism) has fixed rates for guides for a group of 1-4 persons, 5-14 persons and 15-25 persons. We offered ASI to deploy our members at designated spots and started a trial at Safdarjung in 2012. A board was installed announcing it, but it was removed in three days," pointed out Sushil Tiwari, vice-president of the Government Approved Tourist Guide Association (GAGTA).

AGK Menon from Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) agreed, "There are no interpretation centres at the monuments. It is a hassle for tourists to find a proper guide. But now facilities such as audio guides, guide books, hop-on hop-off buses are being planned."