HT Tourism Conclave 2019: ‘Delhi has so much to offer, plays, poetry, mushaira, but these are not being showcased as cultural heritage.’
Swapna Liddle, Convenor, INTACH Delhi Chapter, and Rana Safvi, historian and author, discuss the potential of heritage tourism in India at the HT Tourism Conclave.Updated: Jul 02, 2020 11:37 IST
India has always been known for its rich heritage and ancient culture. It is, therefore, no surprise that heritage tourism is experiencing a boom in recent years. Swapna Liddle, Convenor, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Delhi Chapter, and Rana Safvi, historian and author, discuss the potential of heritage tourism in India at the HT Tourism Conclave with Hindustan Times metro editor, Shivani Singh.
While Swapna has authored books including Delhi: 14 Historic Walks, Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi, Rana’s books include The Forgotten Cities of Delhi, Where Stones Speak: Historical Trails in Mehrauli, the First City of Delhi
The HT Tourism Conclave is ongoing presently at the Hyatt Regency in New Delhi. Excerpts:
Shivani posed the question, “Do you think there is too much focus on built heritage, like monuments, museums? And we are not tapping the full potential of intangible heritage? There’s so much in terms of culture,” to Rana Safvi.
Rana Safvi answered, “There is so much of cultural tourism, there’s religious tourism we can have musical tourism. Let’s take Delhi for instance, we had so much going on here. We had plays, poetry, mushaira, Dastaangoi at Jama Masjid, but these things are not being showcased as cultural heritage. They are indeed happening, but only for a closed circle of people who are doing it.”
Talking about Ghalib’s haveli in Ballimaran, Rana Safvi mentioned the absence of a library there, how there were two statues of Ghalib, his sitting area and not much else, she went on to elaborate that not everyone is that passionate about Ghalib that they will come to see the walls. That though many who appreciate his work might, steps need to be taken to make the experience of visiting the museum more interesting for everyone.
Rana Safvi then spoke about her first visit to Feroze Shah Kotla, she said, “I remember the first time I went to Feroze Shah Kotla, and I asked someone to come along with me, they said “Inn khandharon me kya rakha hai?” You have to make those khandhars attractive, many people, of course, go for the khandhars. But inside the khandars you need to enact a little bit of the history of the place, you can talk about what happened there, it becomes alive for you. It is only when you can connect to a place through its stories that the whole experience becomes much more personal for you than just seeing stones.
Shivani Singh asked Swapna was, “You have been conducting heritage walks for many many years, how do you think such initiatives can be scaled up.”
Swapna answered, “Our focus is not on the tourists, but instead on the people who live in the cities. Because we believe that they need to know what that city is about. At INTACH, it’s what we call unprotected heritage, so our natural affinity is towards those sites which are undiscovered. We first document what we have, because if you don’t know what you have, if the people of the country don’t know what they have, how will you promote it to others? We have seen a tremendous response. It’s no coincidence that heritage has become such an important part of media. Twenty years ago, heritage was not a word that was part of popular discourse.”
She added, “Now there are two aspects of this, in the big cities like Delhi, Agra we should be looking beyond the monuments, we should be looking at what the city offers, but we also need to look beyond the big cities. There is a lot the other cities have to offer, there is huge potential there, and this is a huge untapped avenue and people will go there and in their wake bring development too. The heritage assets are already there, you just need to add some basic facilities, a lot of young people are willing to go to far off places even if there are no big hotels, they can stay in homestays or tented camps.”
Concluding with the most important point, Swapna said, “But the most important aspect of this is that it will take the pressure away from the popular heritage sites.”