Walking is the best way of exploring a new place. Cities rich in history and heritage are best experienced on foot and having a professional guide along is an added bonus. Try taking a Heritage Walk next time you’re in Hyderabad.
Hyderabad, the City of Pearls, has a history that dates back almost 500 years. In these five centuries, the Qutab Shahi rulers, the Mughals, the Asaf Jahi Nizams, and the British have created an abundance of tangible history, dotting the city with numerous palaces, buildings, monuments, tombs, minarets, and fortresses. To introduce the local residents and tourists to these historical sites, the Tourism Department of Telangana regularly conducts Heritage Walks.
“A Heritage Walk is a delightful way to explore the history and heritage of a city,” says Ms Madhu Vottery, the Heritage Walk Coordinator of Telangana Tourism. “Regular Heritage Walks were started in 2009, with the efforts of the then Honourable Secretary, Mr Jayesh Ranjan.”
The Heritage Walks take place along four routes.
In 2004, when Madhu had to do a project on the appropriate reuse of heritage buildings, she visited Hyderabad and was mesmerized by the history and architecture of the heritage buildings in the city. During her research she found there was no proper documentation of information about the architecture and builders of the structures in the city. This led her to research and write a book: A Guide to the Heritage of Hyderabad: The Natural and the Built.
In 2009, when the Department of Tourism proposed starting Heritage Walks, the obvious choice for coordinator of this endeavour was Madhu. She was given the task of charting out two routes, covering 12 historic sites on each of the routes. Once the routes had been decided, Sunday mornings became a treat for those who chose to attend the walks.
Over the years, Madhu has trained guides who take tourists on these walks, showing off the heritage of the city with immense pride.
Guiding children on heritage walks is something that Madhu has always wanted to do. These programmes are known as Heritage Educational Programs. Madhu has taken children from almost all the schools of Hyderabad on walks that are specially designed for these kids.
“Taking children on these walks is indeed an experience by itself as they look at history and heritage very differently. What one learns in textbooks is very different from what one learns on a trip to ancient monuments where one gets to see, touch and feel things for real,” she says.
“Teachers who attend our educational events also love the way we appreciate heritage,” adds Madhu.
The four routes earmarked by the Tourism Department for these heritage walks are: from Charminar to Chowmahalla Palace; from Charminar to Badshahi Ashurkhana; from Charminar to Purani Haveli; and from the State Central Library to the City College.
Walkers are accompanied by trained heritage interpreters and by the specialized tourist police.
Pic source: hyderabad-citytour.blogspot.in
Sharing information about the most important monuments seen during each walk, Madhu says, “The highlight of Walk No. 1 is the Chowmahalla palace, which is a set of four palaces. This was the seat of the Asaf Jah dynasty. The highlight of Walk No. 2 is the Badshahi Ashurkhana, which is famous for the 400 year old polychrome tiles laid out intricately like a jigsaw puzzle. These tiles were brought all the way from Milton. The highlights of Walk. No. 3 are the Mir Alam Mandi, once a spice market, and Purani Haveli. In the days of yore people used to come from far and wide to buy spices from Hyderabad. The Purani Haveli, a U-shaped palace, was constructed by Asaf Jah II for Asaf Jah III. The highlight of Walk No. 4 is the Tamarind Tree in Osmania Park, which saved the lives of around 150 people on September 28, 1908, when the Musi river overflowed due to heavy rains and flooded the city.”
World Heritage Day and World Tourism Day are big events for these heritage interpreters. On these days, students, parents, teachers, and tourists opt to attend these walks and visit the museums too.
Madhu says, “Through these walks, we are trying to spread awareness about our heritage and emphasize the need to preserve our historical monuments. Understanding the architecture and appreciating the artistic super structures of these monuments is one of the main aims of conducting these walks. The walk isn’t just about the ‘old well-known structures.’ It creates a link with the lives and dwellings of the people in the old times.”
Conducting these walk has become a capacity building exercise for all those who are involved with the government in this interesting activity.
Madhu and her team of heritage interpreters feel very good about creating awareness among so many people about the natural and the built heritage of the city. In the recent past there have been instances where plans to demolish certain structures have been proposed. Historians and the general public interested in heritage have shown their unhappiness towards these proposals. It is important for more and more people to be aware of the historical wealth around them, only then will they play the role of ‘heritage watchdogs’ when the need arises.
Log onto the Telangana Tourism website for more information on the walks: www.telanganatourism.gov.in.
Heritage walks are conducted by the Tourism Department on all Sundays and on the second Saturday of every month. The walks are from 7:30 am to 9 am. Charges for the same are Rs. 50/- per head, with a simple, sumptuous breakfast at the end of the walks. The routes chosen for the walks are usually advertised in all the local newspapers. Customized routes for personal groups can also be arranged.